9 Vacation Spots in Texas you need to add to your bucket list now
No self-respecting article about Texas would be complete without the saying “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” So, now that we’ve used it in a sentence, we can continue. But in all seriousness, given the sheer size of Texas (2nd largest only to Alaska), there’s no shortage of vacation spots in Texas to keep you busy.
But with that size and its numerous options often comes hard decisions or even indecision about what to do and where to go.
However, if you’re set on taking your next vacation to the vast Lone Star State, check out these 9 vacation spots in Texas, each with more things to do than you can shake a stick at (in Texas lingo, that means “there’s a lot to do”).
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Map of Vacation Spots in Texas
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Texas, also called The Lone Star State, is one of the most underrated vacation destinations in the United States. It may surprise you, but Texas isn’t just all oil fields and tumbleweeds.
This huge once-independent-nation-turned-state is remarkably diverse in its landscape and culture and has several tourist attractions scattered across the state.
The weather is great, the barbeque is divine, the beer is cold, and the music is live.
Oh, did we mention that there are over 400 wineries in Texas?!
If you haven’t been to any of the great vacation spots in Texas yet, it’s probably because someone once told you, “Don’t Mess with Texas.”
Well, we’re here to tell you that you should ignore that swagger and visit these 9 vacation spots in Texas (and that the Don’t Mess with Texas slogan started as part of an anti-littering campaign back in the day).
Austin, Texas, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the US, with numerous well-known corporations moving their operations to the area.
Austin is considered the Live Music Capital of the World, edging out Nashville for the honor, with every bar/restaurant/venue seemingly having someone with a guitar and a microphone.
Something very unique to Austin is that every year, about 1.5 million bats migrate to the area and fly out from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge every night! It’s quite the sight.
Austin is also serious about their booze. All kinds of it, too.
The brewery scene is alive and well (well-known Jester King is just outside of Austin and king of all things funky), but there are also numerous wineries on the outskirts of the city, distilleries around town, and even an authentic saké company!
And cocktails are the name of the game at the Roosevelt Room, where you can try numerous different classic cocktails from many different eras all while watching the bartenders put on a show.
After all this boozing, you’re bound to be hungry. Thankfully, Austin does it right with their breakfast tacos and barbeque.
Let this be your warning if you visit Austin – if you don’t eat breakfast tacos and BBQ while here, why did you even visit?
There are so many breakfast taco options to choose from, so you really can’t go wrong, but you’ll definitely see the iconic Torchy’s Tacos around town. Also, Texas BBQ is an entire experience, and Salt Lick BBQ (about 30 minutes outside of Austin) fits the bill, including being able to bring your own booze.
If you are ready to book your next vacation to Austin, be sure to check out these Austin Breweries, Wineries and Bars.
Even if you’ve never been to San Antonio, you still likely know about the iconic attractions of the Alamo and the Riverwalk. And if you didn’t know about these before, well, you do now.
San Antonio is Texas’s second largest city (behind the next city on this list) and was founded back in the early 1700s. Today, it’s full of historical reminders, culture, fun, and booze (of course).
Probably the most recognizable attraction in San Antonio is the site of the famous 1836 Battle of the Alamo.
The Alamo, a Spanish mission (and Texas’s most visited landmark), was the site of a 13-day battle between Texas and Mexican forces (the US/Texas actually lost this battle, but it’s considered a turning point in Texas’s battle for independence from Mexico, hence “Remember the Alamo!”).
You might not have known that there are 4 other missions in the city, and together with the Alamo, these 5 missions make up the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas.
The Riverwalk is another well-known San Antonio feature and was originally developed as a way to protect the city from damaging floods. Today, you can stroll the 2.5-mile walkway along the appropriately-named San Antonio River and experience food, shopping, museums, and more.
Looking for some boozy fun? Well, of course, you are. That’s what makes this journey through vacation spots in Texas so fun!
San Antonio’s historic Buckhorn Saloon still offers a truly-Texas special – bring in a pair of antlers and trade them for a free beer. Seriously!
Or you can head over to Maverick Whiskey Distillery, named after do-it-all San Antonio resident Samuel Maverick (lawyer, politician, land baron, rancher who didn’t brand his cattle, Battle of the Alamo fighter, and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence), whose name is the source of the term “maverick,” meaning independently-minded.
Other than the bars above and the numerous breweries, one of our favorite stops in San Antonio was Bar 1919, a Prohibition era-inspired speakeasy with thousands, yes thousands, of bottles of liquor and some absolutely awesome cocktails.
Take our word for it and try the Sweet Potato Bomb!
Read more >>> A Boozy Weekend in San Antonio Texas
As we alluded to above, Houston is the largest city in Texas with about 2.3 million people and is the 4th largest city in the entire country. It’s a sprawling city with highway systems circling and spidering all over the place…which also means some horrible traffic.
With its massive population, Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the country too, with more than 140 languages being spoken (second-largest Vietnamese population in the US)!
Houston is big on their sports too, supporting the Astros (MLB), Rockets (NBA), Texans (NFL), Dynamo (MLS), and several colleges including the University of Houston and Rice University.
The Astrodome, which was the first domed sports stadium in the world (and deemed the “8th Wonder of the World”), was home to the Astros and the now-Tennessee based Houston Oilers.
Houston boasts an awesome food scene with over 10,000 restaurants covering just about every type of cuisine you can think of. This is probably why Houstonians eat out more times a week than in any other city in the country.
Houston also boasts the badge of honor of being the first (human) words spoken from the moon, with the exciting words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.”
If you’re into all things outer space, definitely make a trip to the NASA Johnson Space Center for a day. It is such a cool experience to see the inner workings of our outer space explorations. If astronauts, rockets, and outer space don’t do it for you, head about an hour south of Houston for a beach getaway in Galveston.
And who would we be if we didn’t mention Houston’s booze scene?
We spent a weekend visiting the local drinking holes and these are the 7 breweries you can’t miss when you visit Houston. Some of the highlights were Urban South HTX (awesome small-batch beers and incredible sours) and Saint Arnold Brewing Company, Texas’s first craft brewery and named after the patron saint of beer.
If you’re looking for cocktails, head to Anvil Bar & Refuge where their spirits list is 63 pages long! To help you narrow things down, they’ve developed a list of 100 of their favorite classic cocktails, dubbed The 100 List.
Or you can head over to West Alabama Ice House for a true dive bar experience (think Shiner Bock and Lone Star beer in cans), complete with a kick-ass authentic taco food truck across the street called Tacos Tierra Caliente.
Let’s start by saying this: Big Bend National Park isn’t a place you will just stumble upon. This park is so far out of the way that you really have to be meaning to visit to get here. But it should absolutely be on your list of vacation spots in Texas as it really surprised us with its beauty.
Located along the southern border of Texas where the Rio Grande River bends, Big Bend National Park offers over 150 miles of great hiking and some serious isolation. Our favorite hikes were the Lost Mine Trail, the Window Trail, and Emory Peak.
Remember that this is a desert park, so you’re going to want to do your hiking early in the morning or in the evening to beat the heat. And make sure you stay out late to see the insanely dark skies! We’ve never seen so many stars.
If you’re heading down to Big Bend from El Paso, you’ll likely pass right by a very unique landmark on the way…a Prada store.
Just outside of Marfa, Texas (another great spot for star-gazing), there is a freestanding building that doubles as a permanent art project in the form of a Prada storefront.
It’s completely random and in the middle of nowhere, but a fun site to see (not a must-see) along an otherwise boring drive. In case you were wondering, it is a non-functioning Prada store. Whomp whomp.
Keep reading >> Everything you need to know about Big Bend National Park hikes
The city of El Paso, also called “Sun City,” is on the far western side of Texas (the only part of Texas in the mountain time zone) and is well-known for its heavy Mexican influence as it shares a border with the Mexican city Ciudad Juárez.
One of the cool things about the border in El Paso, and something that makes this one of the more unique vacation spots in Texas, is that you can walk across the border between the US and Mexico very easily.
In fact, in the span of about an hour-and-a-half one afternoon, we walked over to Mexico for some tacos, beers, and margaritas and then happily strolled back to the US!
It’s a fairly young city age-wise, no doubt aided by the college students attending the University of Texas at El Paso. And when the students aren’t in class or at a Miners football game, you can likely find them at an El Paso institution, Chico’s Tacos.
Chico’s Tacos, now with several locations around the city, doesn’t serve up what you might think in terms of regular tacos, either. These are rolled tacos, or taquitos, that are doused in a special sauce that is tomato soup-esque and smothered in shredded cheese.
Looking at the simplicity of this place and its cheap prices, it’s no wonder that this is a hangout for college students, residents, and tourists alike.
Other things to do in El Paso include the Museum of Art, the Franklin Mountains State Park (the largest urban park in the nation), the National Border Patrol Museum, and numerous wineries around the area.
Another fun fact: El Paso is closer to San Diego, California, than it is to Houston, Texas. Just a friendly reminder that Texas is BIG.
Click here to read more: El Paso Breweries and Beer Bars: where to go and what to get
Dallas is the northernmost of Texas’s large cities (Houston, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso) and is one of America’s most popular cities and a definite must when considering vacation spots in Texas.
Dallas is home to at least twenty Fortune 500 companies, so it is definitely a hub for business, but the city also boasts the largest urban arts district in the country, the appropriately-named Dallas Arts District.
You can see the Dallas Cowboys, aka America’s Team, at a football stadium so big that it could fit the Statue of Liberty inside it when the roof is closed. You can visit the fateful spot (there is literally an “X” on the street) where John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 while riding through Dealey Plaza in a motorcade.
Or you can visit one of the most well-known and longest-running state fairs in the country, the State Fair of Texas, held on the grounds of Fair Park and the Cotton Bowl stadium.
Dallas also has its fair share of booze, too, including the claim that the frozen margarita was invented here.
Celestial Beerworks has tons of New England IPA’s, Peticolas Brewing has the ever-popular 9%-ABV Velvet Hammer Imperial red ale that is all over the Dallas area, and Manhattan Project Beer Co. has a full coffee shop to go along with its great beer (an upper and a downer).
If the big-city feel of Dallas isn’t what you’re looking for, head about 30 minutes west to Dallas’s neighbor of Fort Worth.
While still large in its own right, Fort Worth felt a little more home-y and laid back.
And plus, where else can you see a twice-daily cattle drive where cowboys and cowgirls drive massive cattle right down the middle of a usually-busy street as flocks of people look on?!
Fort Worth also has a vibrant and walkable downtown area, including the Sundance Square Plaza filled with restaurants, shops, and nightlife.
And in a city filled with cowboys and cowgirls, it’s no wonder you can visit the world’s largest honky-tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas, which has over 100,000 square feet of indoor space and hosts some awesome concerts from some pretty big names.
Booze is definitely on display here too, as Acre Distilling Co. was named “One of the Ten Best Craft Distillery Tasting Rooms in America” by Vinepair and Martin House Brewing makes some very unique beers like their sour pickle beer, a Buffalo wing sauce beer, and the Puppy Chow stout which tastes just like that Chex snack with peanut butter, chocolate, and powdered sugar.
If you’re looking for more “regular” beer, head over to Rahr & Sons or Maple Branch Craft Brewery.
Now that we’ve covered the big cities of Texas, it’s time to talk about some of the smaller cities in the vast state of Texas. First up, the northern city of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle.
Amarillo is considered by some to be the helium capital of the world because most of the world’s helium supply comes from the nearby area. There are also numerous cattle ranches around Amarillo and some have dubbed it the cattle shipping capital of the world.
With the abundance of cattle, it’s no surprise that you can participate in the 72 oz. Steak Challenge at the touristy Big Texan Steak Ranch. In one hour, if you can finish a shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad, bread roll, and, of course, the 72 oz. steak, then your meal is free.
Otherwise, you’ll be coughing up $72!
Amarillo is also the gateway to the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which is the second largest canyon in the US behind the Grand Canyon. It’s about 120 miles long and has an average width of about 6 miles.
The area offers some awesome hiking trails through the canyon, including the approximate 6-mile Lighthouse Trail, which ends at a lighthouse-shaped rock formation with some great views of the surrounding landscape.
About two hours south of Amarillo, the college town of Lubbock, Texas (Texas Tech University), is another to add to your list of potential vacation spots in Texas.
Something we were very happy to find out was that Lubbock and the surrounding areas account for more than 80% of Texas wine grape production, so the wineries are all around town.
Also, though it seems like this sentence should be in the section about Austin, there are more music venues per capita in Lubbock than any other city in Texas.
And this city just loves their local rock n’ roll legend, Buddy Holly.
If you’re looking to entertain the kids for a bit, head over to Mackenzie Park where you can see the Prairie Dog Town, which dates back to the 1930s.
These little, yet very loud, furry creatures are adorable and fun to watch pop in and out of their burrows. To be fair, while this is definitely entertaining for kids, we, as self-proclaimed adults, also found enjoyment watching these little guys go.
Photo Credit: Visit Corpus Christi Facebook
Lastly, a local favorite, Padre Island is the longest barrier island in the world and the second-largest island by area in the US behind New York’s Long Island.
Padre Island, with its white sandy beaches and warm waters, is located along the southern coast of Texas on the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the top vacation spots in Texas. It’s a slice of paradise in a state filled with big cities, oil fields, and cattle.
Padre Island is a great place for fishing, boating, watching sea turtle releases, and even bird watching as the birds migrate here for the winter.
The bay that is protected by the barrier that Padre Island creates is considered a hyper-saline” bay, which just means that the salt content is higher than the rest of the ocean. In fact, the only saltier body of water in the country is Great Salt Lake in Utah.
Overall – Vacation spots in Texas
Given its size, and as you can tell from the above, there is no shortage of vacation spots in Texas.
There is plenty to do across this vast state including walking across an international border to Mexico, hiking the beautiful outdoors, exploring large cities with lots of history, eating some awesomely-diverse-and-authentic foods, drinking some absolutely delicious booze, getting lost in outer space, and even relaxing on a beach.
You can experience it all here.
While putting these vacation spots in Texas together would make for quite an epic road trip through one of the country’s biggest states, you might be better served picking a few of these Texas getaways at a time so you can experience more of each stop on your trip.
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About Boozing Abroad
We are Samantha & Chris and we are Boozing Abroad (literally). Both stateside and overseas, we are connecting people with local cultures through local booze!