Dallas, Texas is an exciting and vibrant destination for any family vacation. With an abundance of Southwest-themed activities, restaurants, and museums to choose from, you may never want to leave. But during your Dallas vacation, if you have the chance to step away from the fantastic city, you can always take a day trip and enjoy Texas’ natural beauty, unique cities, and museums. And who knows? It might be hard to go back to Dallas.
1. Athens, TX
For a small town experience that puts you in touch with the heart of Texas, visit Athens, Texas. When the people of Athens noticed that their town was dying due to a lack of traffic, the community came together to plan a better downtown experience, one that is known for today. With shops, galleries, theaters, and restaurants, Athens is the perfect place for a friendly small town experience. As well as fun shopping and dining, Athens is home to three wineries, an Arboretum and Botanical Society, zip lining, and scuba diving in Athens lake. All this, and so much more, is just waiting to be discovered in Athens, Texas.
Website: Athens, TX
2. Mineral Wells, TX
Home of healing waters and ghosts alike, Mineral Wells is a unique city with both historic and healthy-living value. During your Mineral Wells visit, you can float peacefully down the Brazos river or see blooming flowers in the Clark Gardens Botanical Park. Dig for dinosaurs at Mineral Wells Fossil Park or fish and swim at Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Tramway.
For a spooky adventure, visit the Baker Hotel and take the Ghost Walk to learn about the history of the town and its dearly departed inhabitants. Who knows? You might even run into one. If you’re just wanting to relax, take a mineral bath at The Crazy Bath House, where the famous soothing water of the town will help you unwind.
Read our article to learn more about the best things to do in Mineral Wells.
Mineral Wells, TX
Website: Mineral Wells, TX
3. Dr. Pepper Museum
If you love soda and especially Dr. Pepper, you need to visit the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas. This three-story building used to be the home of a Dr. Pepper bottling factory. Today, it is a museum perfect for the whole family. With exhibits about the product, free enterprise, and a demonstration of how the drink itself is made, you will be amazed at how much work goes into every bottle.
Dr. Pepper Museum
Address: 300 S 5th St, 76701 Waco, TX
Website: Dr. Pepper Museum
4. Dinosaur Valley State Park
At Dinosaur Valley State Park, you can step back in time—literally! Ninety minutes outside of Dallas, this beautiful nature park is home to the fossilized footprints of dinosaurs. Formed long ago from dinosaurs taking a stroll alongside an ancient ocean, the steps have since hardened and withstood the test of time for you to see. During your visit, you will be able to walk in the giants’ tracks along the bed of the Paluxy River. Besides finding dinosaur tracks, the park offers camping, picnic areas, hiking, mountain biking, swimming, fishing, and horse riding.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Address: 1629 Park Rd 59, 76043 Glen Rose, TX
Website: Dinosaur Valley State Park
5. Lake Texoma
Amazing fishing awaits at Lake Texoma. On the border of Texas and Oklahoma, this lake is home to the Striped Bass. Two state parks and 54 other parks surround the lake, perfect for hiking, camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, four-wheeling, and more. Every year, hundreds of sea fossils are found preserved in the limestone walls bordering the lake, keeping visitors in touch with the past while enjoying the present day of play. Conveniently situated between Dallas and Oklahoma City, Lake Texoma is perfect for a day trip or a stop on the way from one big city to another.
Address: Lake Texoma, Texas, Oklahoma border
Website: Lake Texoma
6. Turner Falls, OK
Cool off during the summer and escape the Texas heat at Turner Falls, Oklahoma. Only two hours away from Dallas, the 23-meter (77-foot) waterfall and cold, refreshing streams are perfect for swimming. Hiking trails, caves ready to explore, cabins, and food are also at the park, perfect for a day of adventure or an overnight stay.
Fish in the trout-stocked streams and look for the wildlife that is often seen roaming the area. Perfect for the whole family, Turner Falls is a natural resort just waiting to be explored.
Address: US-77, 73030 Davis, OK
Website: Turner Falls
7. Possum Kingdom State Park
Spend a day on the water at Possum Kingdom State Park. With clear, blue water, and striking scenery, Possum Kingdom is perfect for multiple outdoor activities. Boat across the water or dive in to escape the summer heat.
Hike the surrounding trails in search for native flora and fauna or camp under the stars. Looking for a place to dive? The park allows for scuba diving and snorkeling to explore the lake’s depths. With over 500 kilometers (300 miles) of shoreline, the lake is perfect for a day trip or weekend getaway when visiting Texas.
Possum Kingdom State Park
Address: 3901 St Park Rd 33, 76429 Caddo, TX
Website: Possum Kingdom State Park
8. Hamilton Pool Preserve
Since its discovery in the 1800s, the Hamilton Pool Preserve has been a popular destination for families from all over the country. The pool occurs three-quarters of a mile upstream from Pedernales River where Hamilton Creek spills over limestone outcroppings and becomes a gorgeous 15-meter (50-foot) waterfall. The water takes a dive into a steep box canyon forming the famous pool.
Don’t worry about water levels during your visit; while dry weather can cause the waterfall to barely trickle, the pool’s water level stays consistent. Diverse species of birds and vegetation make the preserve a perfect place for pictures and exploration. Because of the pool’s popularity, reservations are required during the summer. So plan your day ahead, and enjoy this escape from the Texas heat.
Hamilton Pool Preserve
Address: 24300 Hamilton Pool Rd, 78620 Dripping Springs, TX
Website: Hamilton Pool Preserve
9. Enchanted Rock State Park
As the backdrop of many a local myth and legend, Enchanted Rock has been a campsite, mine, and disputed territory for thousands of years. Today, the large granite rock is perfect for hiking and mountain climbing. From the top, you will see Texas’ beautiful plains and admire the reddish-pink shade of the mountain itself. At night, the park becomes one of the best public stargazing locations in Texas, so pick a spot anywhere in the park and enjoy the view.
Enchanted Rock State Park
Address: 16710 Ranch Road 965, 78624 Fredericksburg, TX
Website: Enchanted Rock State Park
10. Gruene, TX
Since the 1970s, Gruene, Texas has been growing into a lively haven for Southwest culture and history. At the heart of Gruene is Texas’ oldest dance hall where many celebrities got their start and thousands flock to dance each year. Minimal rebuilding has been done to the dance hall since its construction in the 1800s, adding to the integrity and antiquity of the structure.
Several other buildings in Gruene have been similarly updated, making many businesses look like they have stepped out of the past. Running alongside the charming town is the Guadalupe River where many tourists and locals alike gather each summer for kayaking and tubing in the water. Visit in November to reconnect with the town’s German heritage and enjoy Wurstfest, a festival full of food, games, carnival rides, music, dancing, and especially, German and Texas beer!
Website: Gruene, TX
Address: 178 Landa Park Dr, 78130 New Braunfels, TX
With everything from diving to hiking to pop-culture museums to historic towns, Texas will keep you entertained for your entire vacation. So load ‘em up, move ‘em out, and experience Texas.
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