Being one of the largest cities in the continental United States, Dallas is one place you’ll never tire of. This is the kind of place where you can get your fill of the most delightful barbecue while your eyes feast on the most stunning skyline. Dallas is the kind of city that still thrives on southern charm yet is contemporary enough to accommodate the millions that travel through its doors day in and day out. It’s true that Dallas is a travel hub. Its central location makes this city a great layover for flights, but it also makes Dallas a good starting point for many day trips. If you find yourself in Dallas looking for an adventure or just something new to see, here’s a list of the best day trips you can take from the city.
Just roughly 2.5 hours away from Dallas is another great Texan city. Austin is like its own country. It’s unique and inventive. Being that it’s considered to be the Live Music Capital of the World, you know for sure that you can enjoy some great sounds while visiting. Many people say that the barbecue is even better in Austin than in Dallas. You’ll have to be the judge of that when you go visit.
19. Fort Worth
If you’re looking for a taste of some good ol’ American west, Fort Worth is the place to be. Get yourself some authentic cowboy boots and watch the herd cross down Exchange Avenue—this is a sight you won’t want to miss. You can visit the Stock Yards here to experience and learn about the Western heritage of the city. Whatever you do in Fort Worth, make sure you carve out some time to spend at the world’s largest honky tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas. It’s only about a half hour drive from Dallas.
18. Broken Bow Lake and Beavers Bend State Park
If you’re up for a true day trip, why not cross the state line? This time head on over to Oklahoma to Broken Bow Lake and Beavers Bend State Park. You’d have to plan to leave extra early as it’ll take you about 3.5 hours to get there, but the drive is absolutely worth it. At this state park, you’ll get to experience the mountainous regions of southern Oklahoma. The views are immaculate and the activities are exciting. It’s the kind of place where you can either relax or get wild with nature or both.
17. Pedernales Falls State Park
The Dallas heat is serious, and unfortunately you can’t just escape to the beach to cool off because the closest beach is hours away. If you can spare 4 hours of driving, you can get to the next best thing and go to the waterfalls instead. At Pedernales Falls State Park, you can swim, tube, or wade down the river—at your own risk. It’s the perfect day trip to take during the hottest summer days.
You might be wondering why you should drive 2 hours east just to go to a place you’ve never heard of. Jefferson may not be on the list of most popular places in Texas, but it’s on this list for a reason. This town is one of the most preserved historical towns in the area, and a leisurely stroll through Jefferson is like a walk back in time. It’s actually almost eerie to see. Speaking of eerie, make sure not to leave Jefferson without doing one of its famed ghost tours. It just so happens that the town is also infamous for multiple inexplicable paranormal activities.
It may be hard to imagine but the Rose Capital of America is actually located in Texas—in Tyler, Texas. Being the largest grower of commercially grown rose bushes in the US, you can imagine what a sight it must be to behold during season. But don’t worry if flowers aren’t your thing. Tyler also boasts of the best-rated golf courses in the state, and there are plenty of recreational activities you can do in the area including fishing, boating, swimming, and even shopping.
We all know Waco now. But not many people knew about Waco outside of its perimeters just a few years ago. We can all say our thanks to the wondrous Gaines household for putting Waco on the map. The fact is this: they didn’t just put Waco on the map; they actually made Waco what it is now—a thriving tourist destination. Before the Gaineses spread their magical touches of shiplap and farmhouse decorating all over the place, Waco was just another small sleepy city. These days, the Magnolia name is everywhere and is frequented by HGTV Fixer Upper fans. Even if you weren’t a fan, the Magnolia Market is worth the hour drive from Dallas.
13. Dinosaur Valley State Park
The name of this place alone warrants a visit. Dinosaur Valley State Park is as cool as it sounds, and it just so happens to be only a little over an hour drive from Dallas. Located in Glen Rose, Texas, Dinosaur Valley is the perfect day adventure. You can literally look for dinosaur tracks here—hence the name. You can spot them by the river. And once you’ve had your fill of anthropological activities, you can enjoy many of the park’s other activities and amenities. Or just revel in the fact that you’re standing where dinosaurs once roamed.
12. Lake Texoma
The name might be confusing, but Lake Texoma is actually in Oklahoma—not Texas. Here’s another lake trip option, but you’d be surprised at how great this one actually is. Texomaland, as the lake is known to locals, is only about an hour away from Dallas. It sits just between the two states and is absolutely massive. You can be one with nature here, but you can also spend your time enjoying the spa or the nightlife and restaurants around the lake.
Just 40 minutes outside of Dallas lies another city known for its music, art, and colossal state fair. Denton, Texas sees hundreds of thousands of people during the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo. It’s 9 days of incredible fun in the summer—great food, great music, fair rides, and the rodeo of course. When it’s not state fair season, Denton is still worth the visit. There are plenty of cultural places you can immerse in here for a single day from the Bayless-Selby House Museum to the historic Sidewalk Café.
10. San Antonio
Remember the Alamo! A visit to San Antonio is surely unforgettable, even if it’s just for a day. If you could visit one place here, the Alamo Mission is a given. There is the drawback of the 3.5 hour drive from Dallas, but we say it’s absolutely worth it especially if you’ve never been. History is alive at the Alamo Plaza, and there’s so much you can explore in just the surrounding area. You can walk to the botanical gardens from the plaza and maybe even step inside the Cathedral of San Fernando for a bit. You can have lunch along the incredible River Walk or visit the National Bridge Wildlife Ranch. Whatever you do in San Antonio, you’re definitely going to leave wanting more.
9. Possum Kingdom State Park
Although it’s most popular for its camping amenities, Possum Kingdom State Park is also great for day trips. Built during the depression era in the 30s, this state park features the usual amenities you can find in most state parks—marina, hiking trails, kayaks and boat rentals, resorts, and the like. One unique feature Possum Kingdom has that you won’t find anywhere else is Hell’s Gate. Hell’s Gate is characterized by two gigantic cliffs that act as a gate into a cove in one part of the lake. Hell’s Gate is considered to be party central in this area. And if you want a truly one-of-a-kind experience, make sure to visit the park and Hell’s Gate on any given July 4. This place is home to the biggest Independence Day fireworks show in the state of Texas.
If the name sounds German to you, it’s because it is. Fredericksburg, Texas was founded by German immigrants in 1846. Since its founding, the city has managed to retain many of its German history, heritage, and architecture. It’s truly a sight to see. Spend some time at the Enchanted Rock State Park or have lunch at one of the fabulous German restaurants on Main Street. The only problem is Fredericksburg is over 250 miles away from Dallas. To make this trip a day trip, you’re going to have to fly there to make the time worth it. Fortunately, flights to Fredericksburg from Dallas averages at about $30.
7. Caddo Lake State Park
Two and a half hours away from Dallas is a true road trip getaway. Visiting Caddo Lake State Park is like going inside a fairytale land. The piney woods in the area and the still lake is absolutely picturesque. You should know that Caddo Lake is actually Texas’ only natural lake, and it’s also home to the largest bald cypress tree forest in the entire world. Not bad for a day trip. There are plenty of ways you can explore Caddo Lake in a day. There are boating tours and forest trails you can enjoy. We highly suggest visiting Caddo Lake during the fall season when the leaves have changed their colors. The effect is simply magical.
If you’re ready to hit another big city, Houston is but a 3-hour drive away. There’s no need to rush over to Houston. You can start your day there by having a Tex-Mex lunch downtown. You can spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the city. There are plenty of museums to visit and galleries to see. You’ll have the best time enjoying the night life in Houston, as the most populous city in Texas comes alive after hours.
5. Davy Crockett National Forest
Named after the pioneer, the Davy Crockett National Forest offers hundreds of thousands of acres of nature. The best time to visit Davy Crockett is during the spring, when the greenery is lush and the wildlife is active as ever. This national forest is perfect for a day hike. Pack a light lunch to enjoy in the afternoon and make sure to bring a camera. You’ll likely spot some deer along the way. If you’d rather drive than walk, Davy Crockett will give you nice views on the road also. But you might want to get out of the car after driving 2.5 hours to get there from Dallas.
Just under an hour away from Dallas is the home of First Monday Trade Days. Canton, Texas is home to the largest flea market in the entire US. If that doesn’t sound too exciting for you, imagine this picture. It’s not just about the shopping; it’s the whole atmosphere. The energy buzz from the flea market is enough to get anyone in the shopping spirit. If shopping is not your fare, there are plenty of other things to do in Canton—farms, waterparks, and the Van Zandt Veteran Memorial is on our list.
3. Colorado Bend State Park
It may be about 3 hours away, but driving to the Colorado Bend State Park is absolutely worth it. If you truly want a different scene, this park will give you one. There are so many sights to see in this one park, and this is actually one you’re going to want to spend as much time as you possibly can to explore. There’s Gorman Falls and Gorman Springs, which could both easily take half the day. There are also a couple of canyons you can hike that will give you breathtaking views. Expect to be tired after this trip; that’s one of the best signs that you’ve had a great time.
What’s there to do in Athens, Texas? It may not seem like much from the outside, but Athens is a thriving rural community that offers more activities than you might think. Athens has a winery that’s a must, and there are many agricultural-themed places to visit. One of the best things to do in Athens is a ziplining adventure at Soar at New York. You’ll enjoy the view of rocky hillsides and various other scenic east Texan views. The best thing is Athens is only under an hour away from Dallas, so it’s an easy trip to take at any given day.
1. Turner Falls
Who knew there were so many waterfalls in the Texas vicinity? We’ve only suggested a few, but we’ve saved one of the bests for last. Turner Falls is a favorite just because of how beautiful it is. No wonder entrance sells out during the summer seasons. Turner Falls is located in Davis, Oklahoma, but it’s only about a 2-hour drive from Dallas. With a total of 77 feet of waterfall height, the experience of seeing Turner and being in close proximity to the falls is just incredible. A visit to Turner Falls will be an unforgettable day trip you’re going to want to do over and over again.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn