From big city fun to beautiful beaches, shops to museums, Texas is home to destinations that can fulfill your longest vacation. But if you’ve only a weekend to head west, we’ve got a rundown of 10 great getaways that will leave you eager to plan your next Lone Star State jaunt.
Mention Houston and the superlatives fly: fourth largest city in the country; world’s largest medical center; world’s largest rodeo. The city is home to world-class performing artists, professional sports teams, and award-winning restaurants — as well as some of the state’s top visitor attractions. The Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Children’s Museum, and the Downtown Aquarium are major family draws. The Museum of Arts Houston and the Menil Collection are must-sees for art lovers. Hermann Park offers 445 acres of downtown relaxation including the Houston Zoo.
Bay Area Houston
Don’t search for “Bay Area Houston” on Texas maps: you probably won’t find it. This fairly new moniker is now used to roundup the fun found in the towns of Kemah, Seabrook, La Porte, League City, Clear Lake and Nassau Bay. Start with a visit to NASA’s Johnson Space Center and its visitor center, Space Center Houston, then head to the fishing town of Kemah with the Kemah Boardwalk for carnival rides, shops, restaurants, an aquarium and other attractions.
The Lucas Gusher, the largest oil geyser ever seen and a landmark of the American oil industry, still blows — just water these days — at scheduled times at the Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown Museum. Special events also send water gushing out of the world’s largest working fire hydrant, located outside the Fire Museum of Texas. The waterworks are far quieter at the Big Thicket National Preserve, one of Texas’s most unusual parks, a place where time seems to stand still in densely shaded forest and placid lakes.
Football buffs know Bryan–College Station as the home of Texas A&M University and its spirited Aggies but these twin cities have more to offer. The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum houses replicas of the former president’s offices on Air Force One and at Camp David. Visit Messina Hof Winery to see how the winemakers borrowed from German and Italian traditions to produce wines that you can sample during your visit. (Don’t miss the elegant B&B, too, if you’d like to make this your home base.)
Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex
“Big D” is home to the country’s largest urban arts district, offering fine dining, cultural opportunities and world-class shopping. For all of its city slicker image, however, a true Texas atmosphere is never far away. Not only is Dallas home to the month-long State Fair; a short drive west takes you to Fort Worth, “the place where the West begins.”
Located on picturesque Galveston Island, the city itself, tucked on the eastern end of the island, is home to The Strand, a 36-block historic district filled with restaurants and shops. Downtown’s Pleasure Pier features old-fashioned family fun with rides and games. Entertainment continues at Schlitterbahn, the indoor-outdoor waterpark, and nearby Moody Gardens where glass pyramids showcase rainforest, space and aquarium exhibits.
Every month, the population of tiny Canton welcomes over 400,000 shoppers during “Original First Monday Trade Days.” Scheduled for the Thursday through Sunday immediately preceding the first Monday of the month, this shop-until-you-drop extravaganza combines flea market with antiques show in an atmosphere where negotiation is welcome.
Over a century ago, Jefferson was known as the “Riverport to the Southwest.” When a natural logjam on the Red River broke and the water from Cypress Bayou drained, the city’s steamboat commerce ended — but the city has never forgotten its historic roots. Tucked beneath tall pines and moss-draped cypress trees, this town now lets visitors step back in time with antiques shopping, B&B stays, historic train rides and riverboat tours.
Just down the road from Galveston, this tiny beach community is about as laid back as its name suggests. Beach house rentals far outnumber hotels and, even during peak periods, you’ll find plenty of elbow room on the expansive beach. This getaway is recommended for travelers who want to get off the beaten path — even if that’s a sandy path.
If you’re a fan of the uber-popular HGTV hit “Fixer Upper,” you’re familiar with Magnolia Market at the Silos. These historic grain silos have been transformed by Chip and Joanna Gaines into a national destination featuring shopping, a new bakery, a lawn for family games and a garden (families: don’t miss the tepee photo op).