When this is all over, you’re going to be antsier than ever to get out. We all will. But travel’s going to look and feel different.

You may be wary of planes and throngs of tourists. You may be struggling to make ends meet while needing a mental break more than ever. After being cooped up with the kids, you may crave alone time, or to reconnect with a significant other. You may be itching for adventure, antsy to stretch your legs, looking for new trails to explore. Or maybe, a mindless oceanfront escape sounds appealing, one where you can watch the waves instead of aimlessly binging on Netflix. Perhaps you missed the buzz of cities, that next great meal, or a stiff drink made by your favorite bartender. Or maybe, you simply want to get off the grid even more.

However you choose to get away; instead of immediately venturing overseas, take some time to explore the US.

It’s a way to get away without the worry of flying, without the crowds, or putting excessive financial stress on your family. Instead of rushing to book that flight, hop in the car and explore your own backyard or see what a neighboring state has to offer. Reemerge with fresh eyes. See what hidden gems exist in America. You might just be surprised by what you find. When you’re ready to shake it off and start planning your next getaway, look inward, and explore everything your own country has to offer.

The World Can Wait – Explore the States.

If you’re looking for a destination that truly has something for everyone, one state that really surprised me was Texas. It’s bigger than many European countries, so diverse you could travel the world without leaving the state, and in case you forgot, it actually used to be its own country. From the bayous and the gulf to the panhandle plains, each city and region has its own culture, quirks, and roadside attractions worthy of a road trip. If you need some inspiration, here are over 75 things to do in the Lonestar State alone.

Things to do in the Houston Area

  • Visit the Windmill Museum in Nederland, Texas. Once a Dutch Settlement, it looks like it was transported right out of the Netherlands because it is an exact replica of one across the pond.
  • Hold, swim with, and feed baby alligators at Gator Country in Beaumont, which is also home to two of the largest gators in captivity.
  • Snap a selfie at the insanely photogenic Umbrella Alley in Baytown, which is part of their innovative art scavenger hunt.
  • Go crabbing or fishing along the Gulf Coast.
  • Party it up with the krewes, king cakes, and Cajun culture in Beaumont, the Mardi Gras Capital of Texas.
  • Photograph the phenomenal BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Stafford, a Hindu temple that’s serious #architecturegoals.
  • Indulge in Southern food gems like oyster nachos from J. Wilson’s in Beaumont and eat your way along the Crawfish Trail.
  • As one of the only cities in the world without an ethnic majority, Houston’s diversity makes it an amazing food mecca. Be sure to try “Vietjun,” Vietnamese and Cajun fusion that’s local to the region and experience one of the best Asiatowns outside the continent.
  • Drink up! Texans like to let loose, and bars like Little Woodrow’s have swings and firepits on the patio plus drinks like Topo Chico Coolers. Don’t miss boozy tiki drinks with bananas shaped like dolphins at spots like Poly Pop in Brazosport.
  • Get a day pass to the Marriott Marquis Houston, which has a Texas-shaped swimming pool. It’s pretty drone-worthy from above, but if you’d rather lounge by the lazy river, no judgment here.
  • Eat for the Insta. Indulge in everything from sushi rolls shaped like dragons and caterpillars at Tokyo in Beaumont to freak shakes and dessert porn at places like Unicorn Dessert Bar in Houston and La Real Michoacana in Beaumont.
  • Become a selfie queen. Colorful murals abound with iconic walls like the “Hey, Y’all” and “Made in Texas,” found around the Shops at Houston Center.
  • Get an after-dark adrenaline rush at Legal Street Racing at the Houston Raceway.
  • Catch a concert. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in the Woodlands is one of the premier outdoor amphitheaters in the world. They have free orchestra performances throughout the year plus many other must-see headliners.
  • Try authentic Tex-Mex at spots like Ninfa’s in Houston. Simply drive down Esplanade on Navigation to be magically transported south of the border.
  • Home to the fourth-largest museum district in the country, Houston has tons of art and history, but there are also more unique cultural institutions like the American Cowboy Museum and a museum dedicated entirely to funeral services (I didn’t say Texas wasn’t weird).
  • Act like a kid at the Kemah Boardwalk, which has amusement rides, games, and fare food like a Southern Jersey Shore.
  • Spend a weekend letting loose in Galveston, Houston’s Island City. Enjoy Pleasure Pier, watersports like flyboarding and motorized surfboards, and the Longhorn Museum.
  • Relive your astronaut dreams at the Houston Space Center. You can see a real rocket, train like a space explorer, and see what it takes to travel to Mars.
  • Learn about the history of black gold. Trace the oil industry through Texas’s boomtown days with recreations and reenactments at places like Spindletop in Beaumont.
  • Get back to nature and give birding a try. Over 250 species can be seen annually on their spring and fall migration routes.
  • Gawk at quirky roadside attractions like the World’s Largest Working Fire Hydrant in Beaumont, which just so happens to be Dalmatian-printed, a trail of Painted Pears in Pearland, and a house made out of beer cans in Houston.

Things to Do in the Austin Area

  • Beat the heat at swimming holes like Barton Springs, Hamilton Pool, and Deep Eddy. Their unique turquoise colored waters have to be seen to be believed.
  • Go BBQ crazy. Texas is known for its smoked meats and sauces with famed venues like Franklin Barbecue regularly having lines at 6 a.m. For something a little different, try Loro, a collab between James Beard award winners, Tyson Cole of Uchi and Aaron Franklin for some Asian ‘cue. Your taste buds will thank you.
  • Stalk the food trucks. Food truck clusters are a way of life in Austin with everything from mini donuts to tacos a major draw for foodies.
  • Mural hop. Iconic wall art like the “I love you so much,” “you’re my butter half,” and “Greetings from Austin” are necessary vacation memories.
  • Get batty. Post up by the Congress Bridge at sunset to see the largest urban bat colony in North America take to the skies in unison.
  • Surf’s up! Austin had the first inland surf park in the country, NLand, which was recently purchased by Kelly Slater. The new venue, Surf Ranch, will reopen soon with even fancier mechanical wave technology.
  • Do your part to keep Austin weird. From Chicken Shit Bingo at the Little Longhorn Saloon to a cathedral made of junk, a trip here is memorable, to say the least.
  • Think Texas doesn’t have a wine region? Think again! Hill Country has over 50 vineyards to taste and tour around Fredericksburg.
  • Just an hour away in San Antonio, the Alamo and River Walk are quintessential bucket-list attractions.
  • Shopaholics, rejoice. San Marcos has the largest outlet mall in the US to score screamin’ deals.
  • Stay in a treehouse. Go glamping at Cypress Valley Canopy Tours, where yurts and nests are suspended from the sky. They also have zip lines and other treetop adventures.
  • Float down the river in New Braunfels, which has tubes specifically designed to fit coolers and cans. We’ll cheers to that.
  • Go on a safari at Exotic Resort Zoo, which has over 600 exotic animals you can admire and feed from an open-air 4×4 vehicle.
  • Go back in time to the golden era of travel by taking a ride on the Austin Steam Train in Cedar Park.
  • Explore underground at Inner Space Cavern, one of the best-preserved cave systems in Texas. Take a lantern tour and keep your eyes peeled for prehistoric remains.

Things to Do in the Dallas Area

  • Explore the urban and edgy Deep Ellum district, which is full of galleries and concert venues.
  • Get a spot of American history. The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is where JFK’s assassinator was found. Next, head over to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum to take a picture in the replica Oval Office.
  • Salivate over food from celebrity chefs like Dean Fearing, the “Father of Southwestern Cuisine” and John Tesar, four-time James Beard winner and Top Chef contestant.
  • Take a trolley tour around the city to see over 100 points of interest.
  • See the city from new heights at the Reunion Tower and dine at the top with stunning 360 views of Dallas.
  • Channel your inner cowboy at River Ranch Texas Horse Park, where you can go for trail rides and learn all about the rich equestrian history in Texas.
  • Pay homage to “Dallas,” one of the longest-running TV shows in history, at Southfork Ranch in Parker.
  • Follow the path of outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. Their infamous trail has landmarks hidden in plain sight around the city.
  • Appreciate the arts. Dallas has the largest contiguous urban arts district in America, which is a whopping 19-blocks of museums, restaurants, and theaters.
  • Dress the part. Shop for Western wear at Wild Bill’s, where you’ll be greeted by a giant longhorn. They’ve welcomed countless celebrities from Bon Jovi to Mick Jagger.
  • Try two-stepping. The traditional country western line is taught at a number of dancehalls, none more famous than Round Up Saloon in Dallas or Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, the world’s largest honky-tonk.
  • Root for America’s team. Cowboys Stadium is a coliseum devoted to football and the world’s largest domed structure. Seating a whopping 100K fans, you can tour the stadium year-round and see their impressive art collection.
  • Experience a cattle drive at the Stockyards National Historic District in Fort Worth. Herds run through the streets twice daily, while a weekly rodeo provides an authentic look into cowboy culture. Don’t miss the Cowboy Hall of Fame while you’re there.
  • Get the meat sweats. Real meat and potato people, you’ll never get a better (or bigger) steak than at one of Fort Worth’s saloons (and maybe even witness a shootout in the process).
  • Take a day trip to Athens, the birthplace of the American hamburger. When you’re ready to work it off, you can actually SCUBA dive in their town lake.
  • Pose by a replica Eiffel Tower in Paris without having to fly across the pond.
  • If you like antiques, collectibles abound in Canton, which has one of the largest flea markets in the country.
  • Take a ghost tour of the very haunted city of Terrell. During Halloween, it’s home to Thrillvania, one of the scariest haunted houses in the country.
  • Walk in the footprints of dinosaurs at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose.
  • See the beautiful buds along Tyler’s Azalea Trail.

Elsewhere / Everywhere in Texas

  • Explore the whopping 80 state parks with habitats ranging from piney woods to Oak Savannah.
  • Plan a beach getaway. Texas has almost 400 miles of coast, which is one of the most in the country.
  • Stop and smell the roses…or bluebonnets. Bluebonnet season blooms from March through April with beautiful buds springing up across the state.
  • Experience a gas station chain that white labels everything from underwear to onesies with their iconic beaver logo. Their turkey sandwiches are better than most city’s top BBQ spots. I love you, Buc-ee’s.
  • Whataburger, Texas’s answer to In-N-Out proves everything really is bigger in Texas (just make sure you get the secret sauce, the spicy ketchup).
  • Visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef, and one of the highest peaks in Texas.
  • Plan a getaway to Corpus Christi, a protected national seashore that has horseback riding on the beach and windsurfing.
  • Snowbird South. South Padre Island, Texas’s spring break destination and resort town, has everything from skydiving to dolphin tours.
  • Get off the grid and get boho. In Marfa, Texas’s small desert city and arts hub, you can stay in teepees and IG-worthy airstreams.
  • Pay a visit to Big Bend National Park, which is home to deserts and mountains, hot springs and limestone cliffs. It’s perfect for a scenic drive, hiking, or camping.
  • See the extraordinarily weird Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo. Graffitied cars stand up out of the desert sand at this oasis meets art installation.
  • Stay in a lighthouse at Lighthouse Hill Ranch in Johnson City, which has waterfall grottos and ATVing.
  • Drive part of Historic Route 66. The halfway point on the long trek from Chicago to Los Angeles, you can have a meal and rest up at MidPoint Cafe in the town of Adrian.
  • Catch an outdoor concert at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, a mini version of Red Rocks amphitheater in Colorado.
  • Visit the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock and pay respects to the legendary rocker.
  • Stay at a traditional dude ranch to learn skeet shooting, roping, and have meals by the open fire. There are ranches around the state, none more popular than Flying L Ranch Resort in Bandera.
  • Go sandboarding at Monahans Sandhills State Park and hike the dunes.
  • Watch baby sea turtles hatch at Padre Island National Seashore.
  • Get an authentic, locally made cowboy hat, spurs, and boots.

What’d I miss? What hidden gems does your state have to offer?

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6 replies
  1. Nadia
    Nadia says:

    We have family in Austin and Houston…guess now we won’t have time to visit family with 75 more excuses to visit this awesome state!

    Reply
  2. Taylor
    Taylor says:

    This is such a great guide! I’ve only been to Houston and Austin, but there is so much more of Texas I would love to explore. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Susan Pazera
    Susan Pazera says:

    As a Texas girl myself with most of my family in Austin, I loved this post! And it made me a little homesick 🙂 Great advice to folks about doing a “stay cation” and exploring their home country once the virus threat has passed. As expats in Colombia, we are planning on doing the same, visiting as many towns as we can in-country once we have to all-clear for domestic travel. I think that’s going to be the rule for just about everyone until international travel becomes more feasible (and I think that’s going to take a while). Thanks for the great post!

    Reply

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