So you want to visit the best places in Texas? Then get prepared to embrace the open road because the Lone Star State is far from small!

While it’s possible to visit a number of Texas' big attractions in one trip, combining several popular destinations will likely require a rental car and a long drive – or two. If you want to see both Austin and Big Bend National Park, for example, be prepared for an eight-hour road trip (one way).

If you want to visit both San Antonio and Dallas, gear up for a five-hour trek on Interstate Highway 35. Although there are enough Willie Nelson albums to fill over 70 hours of driving, we’ve grouped some of the state’s best destinations by region to help you get around more easily and make the most of your time in the Lone Star State.

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1. Austin

Best city for live music

Austin became the capital of Texas in 1846, and the University of Texas was established in 1883. For about a hundred years, the city remained a sleepy college town and political seat until the tech boom of the 1980s attracted more businesses and residents. Known for its rich history of live music thanks to televised performances from the Austin City Limits studios, the city is still the best spot in Texas to catch a troubadour on every corner.

Be sure to browse the local boutiques on South Congress Avenue, such as Allens Boots. Founded in 1977, the store’s red boot sign and extensive collection of Western wear have made it a go-to shopping destination for decades. Two-step across the street to South Congress Hotel for a drink in the hotel’s lobby bar before catching live music at the legendary Continental Club down the street.

Planning tip: If you're visiting in summer, join the locals and escape the city heat with a kayaking adventure on one of Austin's many waterways.

Sunrise Over Enchanted Rock State Park, TX
Stunning autumn sunrise in Enchanted Rock State Natural Area © Dean_Fikar / iStock / Getty Images Plus

2. Texas Hill Country

Best place for breweries and vineyards

A trip to Austin or San Antonio pairs well with a day trip or short venture to Texas Hill Country, where wine lovers and beer experts will feel equally at home. Visit Altstadt Brewery for a tour and taste of German-style beer, or head to William Chris Vineyard in Hye for an afternoon among the grapes.

Southold Farm and Cellar is another top vineyard in the region, but if alcohol isn’t your thing, make a pit stop at any of the local peach stands along Highway 290 for a sweet taste of summer. For an outdoor adventure, take in the views from nearby Enchanted Rock, or watch the bats emerge from the abandoned railroad tunnel at Old Tunnel State Park.

3. San Antonio

Best place for top Texas attractions

Some of Texas' best things to do are in San Antonio. While no trip is complete without a visit to The Alamo, there are several other worthwhile museums and attractions in San Antonio. Be sure to wander the Pearl Brewery Complex, where the swanky Hotel Emma holds court as queen of luxury. Try a drink in the hotel’s Sternewirth bar, where you can sip a cocktail in one of the renovated silos from the bygone brewery.

A short drive to the Witte Museum will give you an immersive experience of Texas history, while an afternoon at the McNay Art Museum is the ideal spot for a picnic on the grounds after wandering the galleries.

Planning tip: Stretch your budget by visiting the Witte Museum on a Tuesday – it's free to enter between 3pm and 6pm.

4. Houston

Best place for space exploration

Houston also boasts its share of galleries, especially the Menil Collection, whose vast exhibits span human history from the Paleolithic era to the 20th Century and contemporary art. But the biggest draw to Houston is NASA’s Johnson Space Center, home to Mission Control, which led the Gemini and Apollo missions and the first lunar landing.

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the history and future of space exploration, as well as a glimpse of artifacts such as spacecraft and the largest collection of moon rocks on public display.

Planning tip: Visiting Houston with the tots in tow? Check the Space Center's schedule and book the kids into a day-long Explorer Camp that will have them reaching for the stars.

People sunning on Galveston Beach in Texas
Galveston is one of Texas’ best beach towns, but its history is a draw, too © Eric V Overton / Shutterstock

5. Galveston

Best place for a beach party

Not far from Houston is the port town of Galveston, which was once one of the largest port cities in North America before it was devastated by a deadly hurricane in 1900. Today, the island city remains a top Gulf Coast destination and one of the state’s best beach towns.

Go ghost hunting at the historic Grand Galvez or head to the Bryan Museum for a chronological exhibit of Texas history and an impressive collection of local art. Animal lovers will enjoy the aquarium and rainforest exhibits at Moody Gardens, while architecture aficionados will appreciate a walking tour of the historic churches and homes like Bishop’s Palace.

6. Shiner

Best place to become a brewmaster

About halfway between San Antonio and Houston, Shiner is home to one of the state’s oldest and most popular breweries, the Spoetzl Brewery. Take a tour of the brewery, which started as a tin house in 1909, to learn how the Bavarian beer was first made by Kosmos Spoetzl. Then, sample different Shiner brews from the current brewmaster, who is only the sixth in the history of the company.

Combine the trip with a drive through Gonzalez, where the first shots of the Texas Revolution were fired in October 1835. Or venture slightly further for a walk through the jungle-like trails of Palmetto State Park.

7. Dallas

Best place for sports fans

Among the many reasons to visit Dallas is the plethora of professional sports teams in the area. Whether you’re a fan of football, baseball, basketball or hockey, Dallas is home to several state-of-the-art arenas and stadiums, such as the American Airlines Center, which hosts both the NHL’s Dallas Stars and the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

Nearby Arlington hosts both the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and the MLB’s Texas Rangers. Downtown Dallas is also a great option for art lovers, and the Nasher Sculpture Center and nearby Crow Museum of Asian Art are quieter attractions for a rainy day.

Planning tip: Adventure fans, this is your time to rejoice! The first ever Six Flags theme park was established in Dallas and is still thrilling visitors to this day. Bring the whole family – there is no shortage of rollercoasters for everyone.

Senior woman walking on trail trough cactus, yucca plant and rocks in Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA
Take a hike through Big Bend National Park and enjoy the incredible visibility at night © Getty Images

8. Big Bend National Park

Best place for hiking in the great outdoors

Texas’ only national park is also one of the largest in the country, as well as the least visited thanks to its remote location. Separated from neighboring Mexico by the Rio Grande, Big Bend National Park is known for its scenic vistas and many hiking trails. Over 1200 plant species call the park home, along with over 450 species of birds. The South Rim Trail is also one of the best hikes in the whole of Texas.

But celestial beings remain one of the park’s biggest draws – certified as an International Dark Sky, the park boasts some of the best stargazing in the continental US. The Santa Elena Canyon is a main attraction, where temperatures can rise above 110F (43C) in the summer. Enjoy slightly lower temps in the Chisos Mountains, which offer lodging and unforgettable views over the whole park.

This article was first published September 2021 and updated August 2023

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