Texas is the second-largest state in the US when it comes to size (behind Alaska), and there's a range of amazing places to visit within its borders. Bustling urban cities, national and state parks, desert and mountain regions, beaches, and more are scattered across the Lone Star State. It's no surprise it has a history of trying to become a country of its own.
But whether it's your first time visiting or you've been a native Texan your whole life (like I have), a good Texas road trip always offers a new adventure. To help you figure out what you'll want to check out during your vacation to the South, we created a 12-day road trip itinerary that will help you hit most of Texas' best places.
Our road trip starts as if you're coming in from New Mexico, and you'll spend about 30 hours in the car trying to cover all that land. But if you're not planning to spend that much time in the state, you can easily pick and choose where you want to go, what you want to hit, and how long you want to stay there.
How to Fit a Texas Road Trip into 12 Days
Days 1-2: Amarillo to Fredericksburg
Starting your day in the Texas Panhandle (can you guess what part of the state that is?), visit and take fun pics at Cadillac Ranch, the popular hippie roadside attraction on Route 66 in Amarillo. Then make the six-hour drive across the northern part of Texas to get to Dallas by late afternoon.
Dallas has plenty of amazing places to eat at for dinner and hang out at for a chill night. I wrote about all the cool things to do in Dallas if you have less than a weekend to spend there, and you can find that here.
If you have the extra time, consider taking a detour to Fort Worth. Another great North Texas city to explore, you'll get to check out where the oldest stock show and rodeo in the country is held, and other historical sites like the Stockyards Hotel, one of Bonnie and Clyde's hideouts from the law. But after spending another morning in the DFW area, start making your way towards wine country through Waco.
End your night at a winery in Fredericksburg, where you can plan to spend the night in the gorgeous Texas Hill Country.
Days 3-4: Fredericksburg to Austin
Leaving the Hill Country, begin your morning by heading to Enchanted Rock for an early but beautiful hike before driving into Austin. If you want to visit some of the best swimming holes in the state, then book a time to visit Hamilton Pool or Jacob's Well on your way in.
Once you get into the city, grab some craft coffee and spend the day visiting monuments such as the State Capitol and taking pictures of the many art murals that line all the streets downtown. Eat some great BBQ or delicious local tacos, and walk around to find live music playing around every corner. Then end your night by hanging out at a dive bar or local brewery.
Check out our list of some of the best Airbnbs to stay in while in Austin.
Day 5: Austin to Houston
In the morning, knock out the three-hour drive to Houston (the largest city in Texas) so that you can take a tour of the NASA Space Center. Then drive a little farther down south to have a yummy seafood lunch on the beach in Galveston. If you have extra days or want to plan a small beach trip, check out our beach detour itinerary below.
Beach Detour: Galveston, Corpus Christi, South Padre Island
If you have time or want to plan a southern beach getaway, you have a couple of options. While the beaches in Texas aren't exactly as aesthetically pleasing as other popular beach towns around the US, they're still worth visiting if you're in the area. Galveston Beach is just an hour away from Houston, but Corpus Christi sits on the Gulf of Mexico, about four hours away from Galveston.
Corpus Christi's beach is worth visiting for bird watching and the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles. But you can also go bird watching at one of the most southern tips of Texas, South Padre Island.
A three-hour drive from Corpus Christi, the resort town features the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, a five-story watchtower, and the South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center, where you can go on boat tours.
Days 6-8: Houston to New Braunfels
No matter the beach in South Texas you're coming from, make your way back up to San Antonio to see the Alamo and have lunch and dinner along the River Walk. After spending the night in this big city, you have a couple of options for your next stop, especially if you brought your kiddos along.
Forty-five minutes northeast of San Antonio is New Braunfels, where you and your family can spend the day at Schlitterbahn, one of the largest water parks in the world. If you'd rather keep moving along the path of our itinerary, start the six-hour drive to Big Bend National Park.
Days 8-10: Big Bend National Park to Marfa
On your way to Big Bend National Park, stop by the Terlingua, also known as the Ghost Town. You'll get to see some eclectic desert art that you would only expect to see in other parts of the Southwest and enjoy some chili in the city known as the Chili Capital of the World.
Big Bend is a favorite Southern natural attraction for those who love the outdoors. Many hike and kayak through the popular Santa Elena Canyon, a gorgeous canyon carved out of rock by the Rio Grande River. So spend a day or two camping and exploring the national park before heading to the artistic city of Marfa.
Days 10-12: Marfa to Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Marfa is a small town known as a popular art hub where creatives go to slow down and be inspired by the desert. Spend the day exploring the many art museums and installations, such as the Chinati Foundation or the Prada Marfa sculpture. And plan to stay the night in a vibrant, colorful yurt, teepee, trailer, or tent at El Cosmico, a stylish nomadic hotel.
Make your way into West Texas and drive three hours to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Hike and camp in the mountainous area and explore the highest natural point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak.
And if you want to make a day trip to one of the most western points in Texas, the drive to El Paso is just under two hours. Sharing the Mexican border with the city of Juarez, El Paso is a great city to end your Texas road trip in with some amazing Tex-Mex cuisine.
What's the best road trip you've ever taken? Share your experience with us on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!
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