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Texas Travel 365

gorman falls one of the hidden gems in texas

20 Magical Secret Spots And Hidden Gems In Texas

August 25, 2021 //  by  Texas Travel 365 //   1 Comment

Are you looking for hidden gems in Texas, if so then this article is for you? We will walk you through hidden vacation spots in Texas, secret places in texas, and texas hidden gems.

Texas is the second-largest state in the USA and when it comes to Texas as a vacation destination it has a lot to offer. The state offers something for everyone with lots of attractions, beaches, deserts, mountains, and incredible outside space. It’s a diverse state not only in culture but in terms of geography, vacation possibilities, towns, and cities. 

If you are a nature lover, a small-town advocate, a bit city lover, or a fan of the strange and unusual Texas has it all. 

In this article, we are going to cover the lesser-known Texas attractions. These are the things that often don’t often get the attention they deserve. While we can’t cover all the hidden gems in Texas we hope this encourages you to perhaps visit some of these lesser-known tourist spots.    

So are you ready to see the Texas hidden gems we have picked for you?

Lake reflecting the pink moss covered rock one of the hidden gems in Texas

Have A Close Encounter At Marfa

This town has less than 2000 residents but garners a lot of attention. It’s not the current residents that people flock here for but the ‘visitors’, let’s just say in Marfa you are not alone. 

Yes, this town is a hotbed of believed UFO activity with many claiming to see white, yellow, red, and orange basketball-sized spheres floating above the ground for hours. 

Believer or not this is definitely one of the most unusual things to do in Texas. Make sure you can your camera at the ready to catch any activity.  This is definitely one of the hidden gems in Texas.

Marfa sign on pink wall with water tower in the background

Cool Off At Jacobs Well 

If you fancy cooling off in the Texas heat then head for Jacobs Well about an hour from Austin. This natural wonder is a cool 68 degrees beautiful spring extending up to a mile below the surface.  

The well was revered by the Native Americans and it seems its allure has never gone away. The underground cave system has lured divers here and this spot has become known as ‘one of the most dangerous diving spots in the world’. You have to be an experienced scuba diver to dive here. 

Lounging around on the sides of the well and dipping your feet in the cold water though is very refreshing. Please however be careful here and don’t do anything risky. It is one of our favorite hidden gems in the South because it is so unique and pretty!

jacobs well is a hole in the ground and one of the most unique hidden gems in texas

Marvel At Gorman Falls.  

In the heart of Hill County, Gorman Falls is nothing short of spectral. One of those Texas hidden gems that will take your breath away. It’s also situated in Colorado Bend State Park so you get to for the prices of one here. 

The waterfall is somewhat of a little oasis surrounded by lush greenery it has a tropical vibe. But the most unique thing about this waterfall is that it is constantly getting bigger.  

The water contains a high concentration of carbon dioxide which leaves mineral deposits over time hence it keeps growing. You cant swim here and the area around the falls is restricted but we still love it and think it is worth a visit. 

Three beautiful waterfalls flowing down. One of the hidden thing the rock face surrounded by greenery. One of the hidden gems in Texas.

Be Inspired At Enchanted Rock

Anything with the name enchanted makes us want to immediately visit. And to make it even better this is a massive pink dome so cameras at the ready. 

This ancient dome is situated in the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area which offers some great scenery, incredible rock formations, and a whole lot of legends. Hike, camp, rock climb, stargaze, or just takes pictures.

One of the hidden places in Texas well worth a visit.

Autumn Sunrise Over Some Rocks In The Texas Hill Country

Relax At Pedernales Falls State Park

Just 30 miles west of Austin this hidden gem in Texas is a tranquil place to relax and recharge, The river is beautiful flowing over and around huge limestone slabs. You can swim or hike in the area and camp overnight if you wish. 

This tranquil place has a darker side though so please be careful. Without much notice, the gentle river can turn into a raging torrent in minutes. Flash flooding here is commonplace so if you notice the water rising leave immediately.  

Sunset Over The Pedernales River Waterfall At Pedernales State Park

Visit a Cathedral Of Junk

This is definitely one of those unique Texan things a structure comprised of other people castoffs. 

In a suburban backyard in south Austin Vince Hannemann has created what has become known as the Cathedral Of Junk. He started in 1989 and has accumulated about 60 tons of discarded items.

Vince asks for a $5 donation per adult and you must call ahead to make an appointment. You can even rent the cathedral for parties if you wish. 

This is definitely one of those seeing is believing things.  

A tire staircase in the Cathedral of Junk one of the hidden gems in Texas

Take A Dip in Krause Springs

Krause Springs is a 115-acre property that is listed on the National Registry of Historic Sites. Privately owned the property has 32 springs and makes a perfect destination if that Texas Heats gets too much for you. 

You can also camp here and there are some RV spots. One of the hidden gems in Texas you will not regret visiting.

A serene waterfall flowing into a spring surrounded by trees one of the hidden gems in Texas

Pan for Gemstones At The Caverns of Sonora

Internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful show caves on the planet these caverns really do deserve a visit. Located 15 minutes southwest of Sonora and guided tours are available. 

You can also pan for gemstones, hike the area, buy some homemade fudge, or camp overnight. Believe us you won’t want to miss this one.

Inside a cave with stalactites and stalagmites one of the hidden gems in Texas

Visit a Saloon In Luckenbach 

A town with just 13 residents, yes it does exist outside of movies and its Luckenback in texas. For only 13 residents though this town has got it going on and is well worth a visit. 

Founded in 1849 by German farmers the town was named after early settlers. The town also has the original saloon and dance hall and is somewhat of a country music mecca. The town went up for sale in the ’70s and was bought by John “Hondo” Crouch made created a place where music and magic came together.

If you love country music then visiting this town is a must for you.

Explore Hueco Tanks State Park

What is a Huecos you might ask? Pronounced “whey-coes’ are natural rock basins where rainwater often pools. People don’t so much come to see these as they do to marvel at the imagery left by those ancient people who relied on these to drink from. 

You can hike, rock climb, picnic, stargaze or just take a self-guided tour of the imagery. Whatever you choose to do this place has a way of transporting you to times long ago. 

The park is mainly a day park but here a few limited campsites.  The numbers allowed unto the park are limited so make sure you make a reservation.  

The Sun Setting Across The Mountains At Hueco Tanks

Take A Swim At Tonkawa Falls

In Crawford the Tonkawa Falls really are beautiful. Named after the Tonkawa Indians there is still a lot of evidence here from the days the tribe inhabited this area. 

Burial sights were discovered here and Petroglyphs are visible on the creek bed at low water levels.  Now this palace is a popular swimming hole and picnic area.

About a 30-minute drive from Waco this place is the perfect spot on a hot day. The falls are pretty small at 15 feet high and many people slide and jump off but obviously be cautious.  

A rock outcrop hanging over with trees in the foreground.

Go Underground At Longhorn Cave State Park

90 minutes from Austin the park’s main star in Longhorn Cave created by the river below.  The cave is over 1 mile long and the tour takes about 90 minutes.

You can take a guided cave tour or just enjoy or just enjoy the beauty of the park. Make sure you have appropriate clothing and shoe wear on. There are lots of stories linked to this cave which makes the place much more mysterious.

Teenager Is Sitting On A Rock Entrance To The Longhorn. One of the hidden gems in Texas

Climb At Big Rocks Park Glen Rose

Located on the Paluxy River as the name might suggest the park is full of well, unusually large rocks. It’s a place to climb, explore and cool off in the river and just enjoy life for a while. 

There are plenty of areas for children to explore and make sure you take a picnic to enjoy under one of the many trees. The park is completely free to enter.

No alcohol, or BBQs are allowed in the park and dogs must be kept on a leash. 

Big Rocks surrounded by water at Big Rocks Park one of the hidden gems in Texas

Get Off The Beaten Track At Boca Chica Beach

Fancy visiting a beach that’s off the beaten track? Boca Chica Beach is near the Mexico border and honestly feels like a deserted island.

It’s quite rugged and often you will be the only ones on it.  If you want a truly relaxing beach experience in Texas this is it.  

An isolated beach with small dunes with grass on

Dive In The Blue Lagoon

If you are a diver you are going to love this spot but its swimmer friendly too. This swimming hole is lined with limestone rock and the crystal clear waters are a great place to relax. 

It’s in a beautiful location and full of small fish. If you want to cool off in a beautiful location this is one of the hidden gems in Texas for you.  

Do Strange Things in Terlingua

Fancy a trip to a ghost town well it’s texas of course they have a ghost town. Terlingua was a mining town and the Chisos Mining company established in 1903 become one of the nations leading producers of quicksilver. 

Production declined in the 1930s and the company files for bankruptcy in 1942. With no more use of the town and it became empty. 

Now it’s a tourist hot spot and the views for the porch of this ghost town and truly stunning. This town is somewhat of an odd affair and is home to a lot of wild and wonderful things.

You’ll find everything from a pirate ship to a sand-locked submarine and the Statue of Liberty and beer drive-through of all things. Let’s just say this town has to be experienced to be believed.  Oh, and It’s also the site of the famous chili cook-off in which started in 1967.

Two stone pillars with crosses on top at the entrance to Terlingua Ghost Town

Visit Castle Falkenstein

We were sold of the name and the castle is a stunner with the inspiration coming from the Neuschwanstein Castle.  

The 14,000 square-foot castle sits upon 113 acres of beautiful countryside. The castle is surrounded by forest and is protected by walls and a portcullis.  

You can stay in the castle if you wish to. It’s a little Bavarian experience in the Texas Hill Country.

A beautiful castle on the top of a tree covered hill

See Fall Colors At Garner State Park

If you are looking for autumn foliage in Texas then might we suggest Garner State Park. It’s one of the best places to see fall colors. 

The park follows along the Frio River and rises to an elevation of 1800 feet with incredible views of the changing colors of fall below.  

With over 16 miles of hiking trails, you will have lots of ways to view the fall colors and be among them. Explore the seams, canyons, cliffs, and wooded areas.  This place really is one of the hidden gems in Texas.

Fall colors around a lake at Garner State Park one of the hidden gems in Texas

Get Spooked At A Haunted Location

If you are after a spooky experience then Texas can offer you that too. For the textbook haunted experience head to the Yorktown Memorial Hospital.

The hospital is said to be overrun. with the spirits of thousands who died here. Founded by the religious group known as the “Felician Sisters” the hospital originally served as a rehabilitation center for those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse

Reports of glowing eyes, talking dolls, black apparitions, and lights that turn on and off. The building is available for guided paranormal tours so make sure you inquire and don’t trespass on the property.

Enjoy The Open Road On Pinto Canyon Road

Fancy a little driving with a difference then head out on the Pinto Canyon Road. It stretches over miles and desserts and seems to go on and on. 

The scenery is stunning and the road eventually ends and you will find yourself on a dirt road which is a bit of a wild adventure.  Then road takes in quite a few sights including an abandoned mine, the Rio Grande floodplain, Kingston Hot Springs. 

This is a a real way to experience authentic Texas just make sure you has a full gas tank and supplies.  

A road running through an canyon over a river

As you can see There are many hidden gems in Texas. Whichever of these hidden vacation spots in Texas you visit we know you will have an amazing time.

Come back and let us know how your trip goes and which ones of these Texas hidden gems you visit.

a-frame cabins in texas with fairy lights at night

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May 27, 2022 at 7:04 pm

I can’t believe that Palo Duro Canyon wasn’t included in one of places to visit in Texas.

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The Crazy Tourist

Home » Travel Guides » United States » Texas (TX) » 23 Amazing Hidden Gems in Texas

23 Amazing Hidden Gems in Texas

One of the largest states in the U.S, Texas has it all: deserts, pine forests, the Gulf Coast, and the Rio Grande, the river that marks the border of Mexico with the U.S. Affectionately known by its locals as the “Lone Star State”, Texas was briefly its own nation after gaining independence from Mexico and before joining the United States. This unique and fierce sense of independence adds flair to this state’s personality, which, when coupled with its magnificent natural paradises results in a Texan identity wholly unique to the rest of the country.

Don’t just take our word for it, go explore yourself! We’ve even put together a list of the best hidden gems that await you in Texas!

1. Boca Chica Park and Beach, Brownsville

Boca Chica Beach

Part of Boca Chica State Park, the beach is located on the Boca Chica Sub delta of the Rio Grande in Cameron County. Open to the public since 1994, this natural preserve was originally owned to Ygnacio Trevino as part of the Potrero de San Martin Grant. Many years later during the Mexican American War, a floating bridge was built across the bay to transport military supplies. You can still see what is left of the floating bridge today!

There are plenty of activities in this hidden corner of Texas, like having a picnic on the beach, or swimming, surfing or fishing on the beach. Check out the dunes that spread across the beach or go camping here when the weather is good. There is also bird watching so bring your binoculars! Enjoy this secluded stretch of beach and soak in the sun, or take a hike along one of the trails in the park!

2. Blue Lagoon, Huntsville

Blue Lagoon, Huntsville

Located an hour and a half north of Houston are two limestone quarries, filled with warm, blue-green spring water. Known as the Blue Lagoon, this area is privately owned and charges an entrance fee – but it is well worth the experience. The surroundings are gorgeous – pine trees shade the water, and admission is capped to avoid overcrowding so be sure to get here early.

Ideal for scuba divers, there is a gear shop on sight and some divers will camp overnight. Swimmers are not permitted to camp, however, so be sure to get there right when the Blue Lagoon opens to get a space if you’re just swimming. It’s a perfect day trip for anyone looking to play hooky and get away from the city for a few hours, so pack a cooler and hop in the car! Don’t forget the sunscreen!

3. Marfa, Texas

Marfa Lights Viewing Center and Rest Area

Marfa is a small desert city in west Texas, and is also an arts hub: the Chinati Foundation displays huge indoor and outdoor installations on the old army base. There are also exhibitions hosted by the Ballroom Marfa organization, and films and concerts that draw in visitors. However, as wonderful as art is, that is not the most interesting part of this hidden Texan Gem.

For years, people have reported what they call “Marfa Lights” and claim that this distant desert town is either haunted by ghosts or visited by UFOs. These can be viewed from a platform in town, or talked about at the well-known Marfa Myths music festival. While scientists believe it is the result of reflections of headlights, a consensus has yet to be reached, so come out and decide for yourself! Everything about this town is unique, from their eclectic shops to casual dining experiences, but it is a unique environment worth experiencing.

4. San Felipe Springs

San Felipe Springs

Located in Val Verde County, the San Felipe Springs are the fourth largest springs in Texas, with over 10 springs extending more than a mile along San Felipe Creek. Documented in 1849 by Captain French, these springs were described as “beautiful springs of water” that emptied into the Rio Grande, whose banks were shaded with large groves of nut trees.

Visit yourself to realize that this beauty still exists; the San Felipe Springs offer a welcome break from the heat during the warm months. Visit these springs to cool off or enjoy a refreshing swim. Stop in at any of the many springs located along the creek, such as the Horseshoe Park, Blue Lake or Lions Park. You can also stroll along the San Felipe Creek Walk between Horseshoe and Lions Park for a lovely river view.

5. Hueco Tanks State Park

Hueco Tanks State Park

Located in an area of low mountains in El Paso County, Hueco Tanks is on a high-altitude desert basin between the Hueco Mountains and the Franklin Mountains. Named for the depressions filled with water that riddle the boulders of the park, the word “hueco “ appropriately means “hollow” in Spanish. The park is under protection because of the historic artifacts remaining from the Native Americans, plants and wildlife found here.

Hueco Tanks State Park contains three granite mountains on 860 acres, and is a popular destination for birdwatchers and bouldering lovers. If you’re here in February, be sure to catch the Hueco Rock Rodeo, an outdoor bouldering competition, or stop by anytime. Bring your hiking shoes and explore the mountains; there are trails dating back to those used by the Native Americans, as well as the drawings they left behind: rock images of handprints, dancing figures, horses and more that show stories of tradition and conflict. A true historical legacy, this natural paradise is both enlightening and perfect for the history and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

6. Jacob’s Well

Jacob’s Well

Jacob’s Well is a spring flowing from the Cypress Creek in Wimberley Texas. Only 12 feet in diameter, the spring is still a popular swimming spot for a refreshing swim. The well descends vertically around 23 feet before angling downward through silted chambers, reaching a depth of approximately 137 feet. Swimming is seasonally permitted; May 1st through October 1st.

It is the second longest fully submerged cavern in Texas reaching almost a mile in length.  The spring is flowing from the Trinity aquifer and is the headwaters of Cypress Creek. It is a cool 68 degrees year round.

The well is located in the Jacob’s Well Natural Area which is opened year round for exploration.

7. Claiborne West Park

Claiborne West Park

Located 12 miles west of Orange, Texas, Claiborne West Park was dedicated as a living memorial to Claiborne West, who fought for Texan independence from Mexico back in the day. The park extends over 453 acres of wooded land, and is a wildlife and bird sanctuary. A pond is also maintained with Rainbow Trout for fishing in January and February.

Follow the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail to see the bird sanctuary, or bring your bike to trek the mountain bike trail. If you’re a tennis fan, bring your racket and hit the tennis court. There are also softball fields, a disc gold course and a horseshoe area.  For those seeking to continue the outdoor adventures, there are campgrounds available to continue this adventure overnight!

8. Copper Breaks State Park

Copper Breaks State Park

Copper Breaks State Park is located in Hardeman County, and spans over 1,800 acres filled with two lakes and miles of trails. The land was originally occupied by the Comanche and Kiowa, before being passed to a private landowner. The government then obtained the land and opened the park in 1970, adding a portion of the official state Texas longhorn herd and preserving the undeveloped land that now awaits your visit!

Hike out to Copper Breaks Lake or Big Pond. The landscape is covered in mesquite, juniper and cottonwood trees, as well as wildflowers. You should also keep an eye out for mule deer, rabbits, roadrunners and great blue herons, among many other animals! Bring a fishing pole as well; Lake Copper Breaks is stocked with trout each winter. If you’re here sometime between April to October, check out when their International Dark Sky Park stargazing program is held, the night sky is absolutely stunning when seen in a place so far removed from city lights!

9. Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve is located west of Austin, Texas, in Westlake Hills. Founded in 1974, the preserve consists of 227 acres and contains 2.5 miles of hiking trails. Follow Bee Caves Road and a mile north of that off of Loop 360 you will find the entrance to the preserve.  Open sunrise to sunset, come if you’re in search of a true natural getaway, away from almost everything, bikes and pets included.

For a relaxed hike, start on the Easy Access Loop, which is just 0.5 miles long. Walk out to the small waterfall along Bee Creek, or to the Scenic Overlook for some good photos. There is also a 1.5 mile loop around to the creek and back if you fancy a longer walk. It’s a perfect place for families with smaller children or those in the mood for a leisurely afternoon hike instead of a strenuous all day outing.

10. Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

The Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge is located on the coast of Texas, east of Angleton and Lake Jackson. It is a wildlife conservation area bordered by a bay on the Intracoastal Waterway and behind a barrier island of the Gulf of Mexico. Established since 1969, the refuge was created to provide a place for migratory fowl to pass the winter and provides wetlands for over 10 species of birds.

A perfect trip for a birdwatcher, in winter, thousands of snow geese, Canadian geese, cranes and ducks fill the preserve, and in summer, the herons, egrets, larks, sparrows and many other types of birds nest here. No entrance fee is required to visit the park, so stop by and visit the Big Slough Recreation Area for information about the park, and begin your exploration on the Big Slough Trail for some great birding opportunities.

11. Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge

Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge

Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge is a 150 acre preserve open since 1995 and dedicated to caring for and rehabilitating abandoned, abused or neglected big cats such as lions and tigers. Currently home to more than 40 of the magnificent creatures, come out and spend a day here learning about the species and how to ensure their continued survival.

Walk along the paths and enjoy being surrounded by nature as you see these cats up close and personal. The tour guides will take you around to educate you on the animals and each cat’s individual journey to this refuge. An education and fun experience for all ages, Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge will inspire you to contribute more to animal conservation.

12. Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Green Jay, Laguna Astascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is a large protected area of natural habitat in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, spanning 98,000 acres. Located mostly in Cameron County, they have gradually been reintroducing captive-bred falcons to the preserve since 1985, which is now home to over 40 pairs! Several other endangered species also inhabit the refuge, such as the Texas ocelot and the Gulf Coast Jaguarondi. A great place for animal lovers, the park is open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset.

Explore the several trails, hit the trails on your bike, or take an auto-tour to learn more about the wildlife protected here. Check their website to see which wildlife related activities are offered at the time of your visit, but do bring your camera to capture shots of the animals as you explore. If you’d like to extend your state, you can camp at Adolph Thomas Jr. County Park. Enjoy experiencing nature and its wildlife in their natural habitats, and feel the satisfaction of contributing to making this possible.

13. Palmetto State Park

Palmetto State Park

Palmetto State Park is located in Gonzales County, and was opened in 1936. The Civilian Conservations Corps constructed the park, building a water tower, refectory and the park headquarters. Named after the dwarf palmetto tree that grows abundantly in the park, it looks a little like the jungle with its dense vegetation surrounding the bogs that fill the park. It boasts some diverse flora and fauna, like the white tailed deer, nine-banded armadillos and several species of birds.

The San Marcos River runs through Palmetto State Park, which also contains Oxbow Lake. Come out to spend an afternoon in this beautiful jungle-like atmosphere. Head out on the water to swim, tube, fish or canoe. You can hike or bike the Palmetto Trail, or stay at their tent or camp sites! Go fishing on Oxbow Lake, or canoe down the San Marcos River to add the final touch on a relaxing day.

14. Cathedral of Junk

Cathedral of Junk

Austin, Texas may be the capital of the state and known for its culture and diversity, but it also has quite the weird side, as illustrated by its Cathedral of Junk. You might miss this landmark if you’re not looking for it – it stands in a backyard of a small house in suburbia, built by a quiet local who calls it his clubhouse. First started in 1988 and continually evolving since then, Vince Hanneman has built it gradually over time, and estimates it contains over 60 tons of junk!

Over the years, the cathedral has become intertwined with Texas vegetation, winding its way in and out of the hollow framework of castoffs such as car bumpers, ladders, and cables among other things and lending an eerie effect. Beer signs and clocks shine brightly, powered by hidden cables (Vince has also added outlets to the structure). Interestingly enough, a lot of the pieces of this cathedral were brought to Vince by locals to add to it. Even up to city building codes, come visit when the artist is home. He enjoys showing people around and has even hosted weddings here!

15. Cameron Park

Cameron Park

Cameron Park is a 416 acre urban park in Waco, Texas, was dedicated in 1920 in honor of lumber man William Cameron. The land was donated in an effort to meet the citizens’ requests for more green space in an ever developing urban community, and gradually, different chunks of what is now Cameron Park were donated by different private citizens to form the large park that it is today. Cameron Park was recently renovated and is now a popular city park.

When here, don’t miss out on Lovers Leap, a lookout point on the Cameron Park cliffs that has two pavilions and a plaza, along with a short walking trail that overlooks a peaceful view. You can also head out to Mouth of the Bosque that boasts a waterfront vista of the Brazos and Bosque Rivers. Or, check out the panoramic views at Circle Point. Enjoy stretching your legs as you venture out to these places, and don’t forget the Cameron Park Zoo. If you’re feeling brave, climb Jacob’s Ladder, a zigzagging staircase that leads you up to a rock shelter. A true oasis in the middle of Waco, this park is one of Texas’ hidden gems.

16. Regency Suspension Bridge

Regency Suspension Bridge

Locally called the Swinging Bridge, this one-lane suspension bridge spans the Colorado River where Mills County Road 433 intersects with San Saba County Road 137. The Regency Bridge was first built in 1903, then rebuilt in 1939, mostly by hand, and finally restored in 1997. Since 2005 it has been the only remaining suspension bridge in Texas to accommodate automobile traffic.

Take a detour out here to see the bridge in person, to really experience how high the bridge is above the water. Snap some photos of this old style wood bridge and the view of the Colorado river, while taking a moment to appreciate the history that this bridge represents.  Just don’t be surprised when the bridge moves as your car crosses over, remember, it’s a suspension bridge.

17. Pinto Canyon Road

Pinto Canyon Road

Not for the faint of heart, Pinto Canyon Road stretches over miles of deserts and sometimes seems to never end. If you’re in the mood to hit the road and head out into the middle of nowhere, this is the route for you. Pick up the road at Marfa, and follow the road as it is gradually swallowed by the high grasses outside of town. You’ll see the Chinati Peaks in the distance, gradually growing closer as you keep driving.

This is where the adventure really starts. The pavement ends and you will find yourself on a dirt road that descends into Pinto Canyon. See the ridges decorated with scrub oak and mesquite as you wind through about ten miles of canyon road. You’ll pass an abandoned mine before reaching the Rio Grande floodplain. If you take a right-hand detour here, you’ll end up at Kingston Hot Springs, where you can relax in the desert for a few days before continuing on your journey, wherever it might lead you, whether back to Marfa or out to Ruidosa. It might be a bit of a solitary journey, but you’ll experience gorgeous deserts and rural Texas like you’ve never seen before.

18. Westcave Preserve

Westcave Preserve

Westcave Preserve is a true Texas gem hidden away in Southwest Travis County. This 30 acre preserve is home to a beautiful variety of wildlife in their lush natural habitats that include a canyon, grotto and gorgeous cave. Make sure to book your guided tour since this ecosystem is so delicate, entrance is only permitted with a guide.

Eat beforehand as only water is allowed on the tour, and arrive early to explore the Warren Skaaren Environmental Learning Center and learn more about the geology and weather of Westcave. The hike takes a few hours and is a little less than a mile long. Bring hiking shoes and be prepared to stop at various points to hear about the trees and birds, as well as to appreciate the views! The best part of the Westcave Preserve is at the end of the hike, when you reach the cave and grotto, a truly magical place. Bring your camera to capture these unforgettable moments.

19. Galveston Island State Park

Galveston Island State Park

Galveston Island State Park runs the width of Galveston Island from West Galveston Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, and located about 15 miles from downtown Galveston. With its flat, treeless terrain, you can see for miles around down to the beaches and out to the water. An ideal place to do some beach camping, there are 150 campsites here, leaving plenty of space for you!

Bring your swimsuit, sunscreen and camping gear and get ready for an outdoors weekend! There are over 4 miles of nature trails for day hikes, as well as barbecue pits and picnic tables. Bike through the Strand and historic district, and hit the bars around the Galveston seawall for a good time. Enjoy being a beach bum for a few days and relax in this beautiful state park.

20. Cattail Falls Trail and Big Bend National Park Hike

Cattail Falls Trail

There is a great day trip awaiting you in Big Bend. Take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive in Big Bend and pay attention once you hit mile marker 3. You’ll see signs for the Sam Nail Ranch overlook; take the opening at the scrub brush and follow the dirt road! You’ll reach a remote parking area where you should leave the car before continuing on your way.

Once you’re out of the car, follow the road down to the barricade and go around it, keeping right when the trail branches. Go up the hill and hike for about 1.5 miles and over some large boulders to reach the end of the trail, which ends at the pool at the foot of Cattail Falls. If you catch it after the spring rains, the water flows freely and makes for a beautiful picture! Enjoy this lesser known and secluded, gorgeous corner in Big Bend!

21. Museum of the Weird

Museum of the Weird

One of the lesser known museums in Austin, the Museum of the Weird is actually a rare find. It has attempted to preserve the tradition of the “dime store museum”, first started by P. T. Barnum in the late 1800s. While a bit more expensive than a dime, this museum, created by artist Steve Busti, and features many of the oddities you would have probably encountered in the original dime store museum, had you had the chance.

The displays are offbeat, wacky, and definitely not your typical standard museum exhibit. Among featured items you will find: a cyclops pig, a feejee mermaid, a two-headed chicken, mummies, and items from camp horror films. Certainly not for everyone but definitely for the curious visitors, this museum keeps true to the saying to “Keep Austin Weird” and is worth the time if you find yourself in the area.

22. Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center

Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center

The Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center are some private botanical gardens and a nature preserve located in Orange, Texas. Initially founded by H. J. Stark in 1942, they were not fully established and opened until 1961. The gardens contain over 300 plant species as well as a bird blind to view the birds nesting in the heronry.

Visit these expansive gardens to appreciate the unique ecosystem and to participate in the hands-on exhibits at the Nature Center. It is an earth-friendly project that attempts to educate people on how to live in harmony with nature, and offers an oasis for retreat and renewal within its 9 botanical exhibits. Visit these gardens to get a taste of that elusive Shangri-La paradise we are all ultimately seeking.

23. Blue Hole at Riding River Ranch, Leakey

Blue Hole at Riding River Ranch

This small oasis is located at the private Riding River Ranch, and is only accessible to overnight guests. A trip well worth the overnight stay, this beautiful, secluded ranch is perfect for a vacation, boasting diverse wildlife, mountains and most importantly, private spring-fed springs and lake called the Blue Hole that are for guests’ use only! Book a cabin and get ready to relax!

Once you’ve settled in at your cabin, hit the trails that crisscross this expansive ranch. Swimming and fishing are also available! If you have a Jeep, be sure to bring it because there are long Jeep trails going deep into the 3400 acre ranch. However, most importantly, pack your swimsuit to spend as much time as possible at the Blue Hole. The beauty and nature makes this overnight trip even more special, and the fresh water will rejuvenate you! This could be the time away you’ve been needing to recharge.

23 Amazing Hidden Gems in Texas:

  • Boca Chica Park and Beach, Brownsville
  • Blue Lagoon, Huntsville
  • Marfa, Texas
  • San Felipe Springs
  • Hueco Tanks State Park
  • Jacob’s Well
  • Claiborne West Park
  • Copper Breaks State Park
  • Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve
  • Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge
  • Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge
  • Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
  • Palmetto State Park
  • Cathedral of Junk
  • Cameron Park
  • Regency Suspension Bridge
  • Pinto Canyon Road
  • Westcave Preserve
  • Galveston Island State Park
  • Cattail Falls Trail and Big Bend National Park Hike
  • Museum of the Weird
  • Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center
  • Blue Hole at Riding River Ranch, Leakey

THE 10 BEST Hidden Gem Activities in Texas

Best texas hidden gem attractions.

  • Downtown Dallas
  • Uptown Broadway
  • Downtown Fort Worth
  • Hidden Gems
  • Budget-friendly
  • Good for Couples
  • Good for Kids
  • Good for Big Groups
  • Good for a Rainy Day
  • Adventurous
  • Honeymoon spot
  • Good for Adrenaline Seekers
  • Things to do ranked using Tripadvisor data including reviews, ratings, photos, and popularity.

1. Natural Bridge Caverns


2. Mission San Jose


Recommended Hidden Gems (267)

3. Palo Duro Canyon State Park


4. Japanese Tea Gardens


5. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area


6. Padre Island National Seashore


7. Longhorn Cavern State Park


8. Top O'Hill Terrace


9. Fossil Rim Wildlife Center


10. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center


11. Waco Mammoth National Monument


12. San Antonio Botanical Garden


13. McDonald Observatory


14. Gruene Historic District


15. Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch


16. King Ranch Visitor Center


17. McNay Art Museum


18. The Music Box Theater


19. National Museum of Funeral History


20. Santa Elena Canyon


21. The Menil Collection


22. The RV Museum


23. Dinosaur Valley State Park


24. Cascade Caverns


25. King William Historic District


26. Garrison Brothers Distillery


27. Fort Davis National Historic Site


28. Blue Bell Creameries


29. Cave Without a Name


30. Caverns of Sonora


What travelers are saying

Phyllis k

Julie Around The Globe

17 Best Hidden Weekend Getaways and Secret Spots in Texas

Posted on June 27, 2022 | Julie J. |

Last Updated on December 18, 2023

Planning a weekend getaway in Texas ? Trying to get off-the-beaten path? In this Texas travel guide, discover some of Texas’ top hidden gems and secret places.

From desert towns and state parks to vineyards and swimming holes, escape the crowds in these incredible places few people know about . Whether you are looking for a quiet weekend at the beach, an adventurous camping trip, or anything in between, you will find the best hidden weekend getaway in Texas for you.

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Related – Most Romantic Weekend Getaways in Texas


17 Best Hidden Weekend Getaways and Secret Spots in Texas


17 Best Hidden Weekend Getaways and Secret Spots in Texas


17 Best Hidden Weekend Getaways and Secret Spots in Texas


17 Best Hidden Weekend Getaways and Secret Spots in Texas


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Map of the best hidden weekend getaways in Texas

Wildflowers Texas

By Ketki from Enchanting Texas

Looking for one of the best hidden gems in Texas that make for an amazing weekend getaway? If so then head to Ennis, Texas. 

After all, it’s one of the best places in Texas to see Bluebonnets – a magical blue flower that is the state flower and that blooms annually between late March and mid-May, 

However, because Ennis is a bit further north, bluebonnets typically peak here around mid-April. 

Ennis also has the added benefit of being just 45 minutes away from Dallas and being home to upwards of 40 miles of mapped bluebonnet trails.

But, if you need a little guidance, you can head to the Ennis Garden Club and join a 2-hour guided tour of the area’s bluebonnets before celebrating the town’s Czech heritage by eating some kolaches. 

Next, meander through the historic downtown and check out local highlights like the Ennis Railroad and Cultural Heritage Museum , the National Polka Festival Hall of Fame and Museum , and the Ennis Public Theatre.  

Then, grab a book from the charming Ennis Public Library before shopping for delicious local food and goods at the Ennis Farmer’s Market , which is held every Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.  

Finally, sample some local vino at Sugar Ridge Winery and relax along the shores of Lake Bardwell before spending a comfortable night at La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Ennis .

Dripping Springs

west cave dripping springs Texas

By Lydia from Lost With Lydia

Dripping Springs is a small Texas Hill Country town known for its swimming holes, wineries, and charming downtown. The town is a romantic place to visit in the Texas Hill Country and is considered the “Wedding Capital of Texas” with several wedding venues within a small radius. 

One of the best things to do in Dripping Springs is to visit the Texas Hill Country Olive Oil Mill and Vineyard . Here you can take a tour of the olive orchard, try something new during an olive oil and balsamic tasting, or enjoy a bottle of wine under the shady oak trees. It’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon.

Also very close to Dripping Springs are West Cave and Hamilton Pool Preserve . Both spots include a grotto that overhangs a beautiful Texas spring. West Cave is known for its lush greenery and can only be visited by a guided tour, while Hamilton Pool Preserve can be reached via a short hike. Also near Dripping Springs, you can hike and explore Pedernales Falls State Park.  

In downtown Dripping Springs, you can enjoy local coffee at Mazama Coffee and a delicious breakfast from Rolling in Thyme and Dough . For a drink, visit Sidecar Tasting Room , tour the distillery at Treaty Oak or enjoy a wine tasting at Fall Creek Vineyards.  

For a unique accommodation, check out Havenwald , a magical storybook cottage. The cabin is themed as Robin Hood’s Hideout and includes stained glass windows, a spiral staircase, and many whimsical details that will make you feel like you’re in a fairytale. If it’s booked on your dates, there are plenty of cute cottages you can rent in the area.

Dripping Springs is an adorable small town that should be on your Texas Hill Country bucket list.

Caprock Canyons State Park

caprock canyons, Texas

Caprock Canyons is a Texas state park known for its beautiful orange canyons, miles of rugged hiking trails, a free-roaming herd of bison, and a prairie dog town . This West Texas park has similar scenery to Palo Duro State Park, which is a more popular state park about 2 hours away.

However, at Caprock Canyons you will find a lot less people and more wildlife. Overall, the park feels very remote and is perfect for a unique outdoor adventure and a secluded vacation . 

When you explore Caprock Canyons, be sure to keep sufficient distance from the bison (at least 50 feet) and be prepared to navigate the park without cell reception.

Some of the best trails in Caprock Canyons are the Haynes Ridge Overlook trail, the Eagle Point trail, and the Canyon Rim Trail. The Haynes Ridge Overlook provides the best views in the park . It is very steep to reach the top of Haynes Ridge, so make sure you are prepared with proper hiking shoes and plenty of water.

The Eagle Point trail is 2 miles and takes you over a unique natural bridge. The Canyon Rim Trail is 3 miles each way and has some great views of a canyon along the way.

If you enjoy camping, Caprock Canyons is the perfect place to do it. There are multiple campground options inside the park . There are a variety of options, from full hookups for RVs to more remote camping sites for backpacking.

If you don’t want to camp, there are limited accommodation options right outside of the park. Some of the closest options include the Back to Basics Bed and Breakfast in Quitaque and Hotel Turkey in Turkey.

Whitecap Beach

whitecap beach, corpus christi, Texas

By Trijit Mallick from Budget Travel Buff

Whitecap Beach was named after the white sand of Corpus Christi, one of the best beach towns in Texas . The wide and clear sea beach is the perfect beach getaway to spend a few days by the sea . Its picturesque beauty has been mesmerizing people for years.

From walking on the seashore in the morning and discovering the city to exploring local restaurants and stores in the evening, there are plenty of things to do in Whitecap Beach. You will find a lot of restaurants and food stalls where you will get mouthwatering dishes, like Hester’s Café and Coffee Shop, Andy’s Kitchen, Ginger Café & Grill, and others.

Visit Bob Hall Pier and soak your eyes into the mesmerizing beauty of nature. The azure and crystal clear sky give your eye peace. The best time to visit this place is in the early morning. The rising sun will take your breath away.

Don’t miss the local wine shops in Whitecap Beach. The nightlife of this region gets crowded and full of joy with all the wine shops opening at night. One of the best wines you can get is from The Barrel Wine & Tapas Bar . The Pelican Lounge is also a great place to enjoy the nightlife, with jazz and country music playing.

You can also visit Padre Island Art Gallery to know more about the art culture of Whitecap Beach.

If you are visiting with kids, you can spend a few hours in Treasure Island Golf & Games , where you will find plenty of fun activities for children and adults alike.

Here on this beautiful beach, you will find luxurious hotels as well as budget-friendly hotels and vacation rentals to stay in. Just make sure to book your room in advance. Island Resort Corpus Christi-N Padre Island hotel is highly recommended if you are looking for a beachfront hotel with an outdoor pool and all the basic amenities.


Old barn in Fredericksburg, Texas

By Chrissy from Destined Globe Trotter

Fredericksburg has a unique climate and soil, like the Mediterranean. Because of this, some grape varietals do very well there. In fact, there are over 100 wineries in the area. There are also several breweries and distilleries , including a Texas bourbon distillery that provides a great tour and a delicious slushie on hot summer days.

You can visit wineries on your own, or there is also the 290 Wine Shuttle that visits many wineries and is hop on and hop off . But to really have a magical experience, consider taking a private tour . Private tours usually include 2-3 wineries or 2 wineries and a distillery.

Be advised that it is extremely hard to find an Uber and you should plan alternative arrangements.

For history buffs, the National Museum of the Pacific War is not-to-be-missed. It’s just at the end of the main street and encompasses several buildings.

The city was first settled by Germans in 1846. The German influence is all over town from the sausage houses to the German Restaurants to Dir Küchen Laden, a kitchen supply store and coffee shop. In September, the annual Oktoberfest is centered in the city at the Marktplatz.

Many people choose to rent a house . There are beautiful historic limestone houses and other options that can accommodate small groups. If you have a large group, plan ahead because there are fewer options.

For a truly unique experience, consider the Hangar Hotel . Set straight out of the 1940s, they have oxblood-colored club chairs in the bar area, dark mood lighting, and Frank Sinatra playing in the hallway.

It sits adjacent to the local runway so you can sit on porches on the patio and watch the planes come in. For added fun, there’s a great diner next door where you can eat breakfast with pilots and weekend guests.

Port Aransas

mustang island beach

By Nikki from Inspired Routes

If you’re looking for a secret gem in South Texas that’s perfect for a weekend getaway , you need to check out Port Aransas. Located near Corpus Christi on Mustang Island, you’ll get front-row access to the wonderful Texas beaches.

This charming town is an alternative weekend getaway destination to busy spots like Galveston or South Padre Island. This quaint downtown is a great spot for a little shopping and dining. When you’re ready for some sunshine, hit the beach! With miles of coast as far as the eye can see, it’s a great spot for swimming or building sandcastles with your little ones.

A popular spot for great views of the coast is to walk out to the Horace Caldwell Pier. It’s 1200+ feet long, and is a fun spot to watch the local surfers catching a wave.

Just south of town is the Mustang Island State Park . There you’ll find hiking trails, untouched shorelines, and recreational opportunities like kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. 

To get to Port Aransas you have two options. The first is renting a car in Corpus Christi and driving south to enter Mustang Island, then back north to the tip which is where Port Aransas is located. Alternatively, you can take the ferry across the Corpus Christ Channel, which is free and can transport your car, too.

There are a variety of hotel options and vacation rentals in Port Aransas to fit your budget. Try the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Port Aransas , which is walkable to the beach. If you’re looking to escape the crowds, a bit south of Port Aransas on Mustang Island is the Lively Beach Resort Condominiums. 

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park, Texas

By Aaren from What Do You Sea

Big Bend National Park is an amazing weekend getaway to see one of the most beautiful and remote parts of Texas. With over 700,000 acres encompassing the Chihuahuan Desert, Chisos Mountains, and the Rio Grande River , there is no shortage of outdoor adventure here.

Hike the Lost Mine Trail to witness the first golden rays illuminate the park’s vibrant green mountains, take a dip in the Big Bend Hot Springs overlooking the Rio Grande River, or head to Santa Elena Canyon to see the historic natural land border between the United States and Mexico.

What surprises many visitors of Big Bend is the amount of dinosaur fossils that have been found in the park. This region used to resemble the swamp land of modern-day Florida millions of years ago and was home to the largest flying creature to exist, the Alamosaurus, giant crocodiles, and many more amazing creatures that you can read about at the Fossil Discovery Exhibit , an underrated favorite of many people who visit the park. 

Because Big Bend is mainly desert, this park makes a great spring or fall weekend trip when the weather is cooler and much more manageable in the daytime. In the summertime heat advisories are common and temperatures reach over 100 degrees by the afternoon. To avoid the heat, head out in the early morning and late afternoon.

Consider camping inside the park at the Chisos Basin Campground , or book an aesthetic stay at Summit Big Bend in the neighboring ghost town of Terlingua. 

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Kiskadee bird at laguna atascosa national wildlife refuge

The little-known Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge definitely is a hidden gem and will make a perfect weekend getaway in Texas. With over 400 bird species such as green jays, aplomado falcons, turkey pheasants, and cardinals, the refuge is home to more species of birds than any other National Wildlife Refuge in the US – a true paradise for birders and nature lovers.

Start the day at the visitor center to get a map of the 60 miles of hiking and biking trails available throughout the refuge. Near the visitor center, you’ll find feeding stations and water features.

If you like biking, don’t miss the 14.2-mile loop, Steve Thompson Wildlife Drive , or drive down Lakeside Dr. to Osprey Overlook where you’ll find the start of many trails.

You can spend the night in the nearby town of Los Frenos, Los Frenos Inn and Suites offer basic accommodations with everything needed for a pleasant stay. In town, Harley’s Beer Garden is a local hangout spot with live country music on weekends.

If you want something a bit busier, you can also stay in Brownsville (they have a cute flea market every week on the weekend) where you’ll find plenty of things to do. Residence Inn Brownsville and Quality Inn are both great options when staying in Brownsville.

Caddo Lake State Park

Caddo Lake State Park flicker

Caddo Lake is one of the few naturally-formed lakes in Texas and offers unique scenery and opportunities to see wildlife such as gators, mink, wood storks, owls… With centuries-old cypress trees draped in Spanish moss, the place has a magical feel that will enchant everyone.

In Caddo Lake State Park , you should rent a kayak and paddle through a maze of bayous, sloughs, and ponds, go hiking one of the park’s many trails , and stay at a historic cabin or camp. You can also go on a guided boat tour to enjoy the scenery and try to spot birds.

If you don’t want to stay within the park, the nearby towns of Jefferson or Uncertain are good options. There, you’ll find more things to do and plenty of bars and restaurants. The Steamboat Inn in Jefferson is one of the top-rated hotels in the area and is perfect for a weekend stay.

The best time to visit the park is in Fall or Spring when the temperature is ideal. Summer can get pretty hot and humid. Make sure to bring plenty of bug repellent and sunscreen.


Known for the Marfa Lights, the small desert town of Marfa (2000 inhabitants) is a must-see in Texas whether you believe in UFOs or not. Since 1883, people have been seeing white, yellow, red, and orange spheres floating above the ground at all hours of the night , year-round. You can head to the official viewpoint at night and test your luck – make sure to ask locals about their theories on the lights’ origin.

The desert town is also known for its vibrant art scene with plenty of exhibits, events, and galleries . There, you can check out Ballroom Marfa , the Chinati Foundation founded by Donald Judd, and the Ayn Foundation.

There are also plenty of handicraft shops to shop at – make sure to stop by Freda for jewelry and vintage clothing, Cobra Rock for custom boots, Moonlight Gemstones for West Texas agates, Wrong Store , deemed the Most Beautiful Independent Store in Texas by Architectural Digest, and Marfa Brands for soaps.

At night, head to Planet Marfa for a drink or two or check out the Lost Horse Saloon which often has live music.

You’ll find plenty of things to do in Marfa, this quirky town is probably one of the best hidden weekend getaways in Texas. The Hotel Saint George is a great option if you want something modern with an outdoor pool. Alternatively, you can book a vacation rental in town.


One of the most famous country music venues in Texas, Luckenbach is probably the smallest town in the state with only two buildings, one of which is a dance hall, and three residents ! If you’re a country fan then you should definitely drop by the small town.

Located in the Texas Hill Country, there are plenty of things to do in the area over a weekend. You’ll find a couple of bed and breakfasts and lodges nearby to stay at. Barons CreekSide Resort features cottages in a rustic setting, surrounded by nature, with a beautiful garden. There are also plenty of vacation rentals available in the nearby town of Fredericksburg.

Apart from visiting Luckenbach, you can head to Wildseed Farms where you’ll find over 200 acres of wildflowers and multiple walking trails, with wine tasting activities as well.

You can also walk the half-mile trail in Old Tunnel State Park for a chance to see bats and learn more about the area’s past. Fredericksburg is also nearby, there, you’ll find plenty of restaurants, bars, and activities.

Terlingua Texas

For a unique experience and a weekend getaway you won’t forget, check out the ghost town of Terlingua . Formerly a miners’ town, people left little by little until the town became almost completely abandoned. The few locals who stayed saw an opportunity and turned the town into a fun tourist destination.

You can roam around town and explore the nearby wilderness during a weekend in Terlingua. Some of the top sights in Terlingua include the cemetery, St. Agnes Church, the jail, and Starlight Theatre and Saloon . You will also find plenty of art galleries and street art worth checking out.

Outside of town, you can plan a half-day trip to go kayaking on the Rio Grande River (SUP available too). On the river, you will also find the Boquillas Hot Spring where you can chill for a while after a day of adventures.

As Terlingua is so close to Big Bend Ranch State Park , there are plenty of day-hike options for all-level you can go on as well.

Accommodation options are limited within the town, but you will find plenty of cabins for rent in the area . You can also check out the Lajitas Golf Resort with an outdoor pool and rooms with stunning views.

Historic Huntsville, Texas - unsplash

Located an hour and a half north of Houston, Huntsville will definitely make up for a perfect weekend getaway in one of Texas’s best hidden gems. With plenty of activities and things to do nearby, there are plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten path and discover some secret spots few people know about.

The Blue Lagoon is a must-see and is the perfect spot to cool off on a hot day. It’s also ideal to learn diving and get certified. They organize a weekend certification program for beginners (you will need to do the online certification first) – certified divers can rent equipment and go on their own or join a tour. You can also go there as a non-diver but space is limited (to avoid overcrowding).

Hikers and outdoor lovers will love to spend a day at Huntsville State Park . There, you will find many hiking and biking trails as well as swimming and boating opportunities. You can also camp there.

Wine lovers can also drive along the Sam Houston Wine trail  to sample some of the tastiest wines in East Texas.

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Huntsville is a top-rated place to stay in. They offer all basic amenities and a seasonal outdoor pool as well as family rooms. You’ll also find a couple of nice vacation rentals around town.

Hueco Tanks State Park

Milky Way under Hueco Tanks Texas -unsplash

Not far from El Paso, Hueco Tanks State Park might be tiny but it packs in a lot of things to do, it’s perfect for an adventurous weekend getaway off-the-beaten-path . From hiking and rock climbing to bird watching and looking for pictographs or petroglyphs, the park will keep you busy for a few days.

You can either camp there or stay at a vacation rental or a hotel in El Paso if camping is not your thing. The Stanton House El Paso is a beautiful hotel featuring spacious rooms with great amenities and friendly staff.

The park features many trails and activities and is divided into two parts – the self-guided area and the area where you need a guide. If you want to go rock climbing you’ll need to have your own equipment. Many trails will take you to perfect spots to see some of the 200 bird species living around the park while others will take you to beautiful pictographs or petroglyphs carved on the rocks centuries ago.

Entrances to the self-guided area are limited so make sure to book your spot in advance if you don’t want to have to wait your turn. You can also go on a guided tour. but again, you’ll need to arrange it with the park well ahead. Check the park’s website for more details.

Cadillac ranch, Route 66

The midway point of the iconic Route 66, the small city of Amarillo holds many hidden spots and fun things to do for visitors . Spending 2 days there will be enough to see all of the area’s highlights and some.

The first stop on your trip to Amarillo should be at Cadillac Ranch where you can try your hand at graffiti and leave your mark on some of the cars.

In town, don’t miss the Sixth Street Historic District where you’ll find old buildings, shops, and restaurants. Braceros and the Golden Light Cafe are both popular spots among locals. Head to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum to learn more about Texas history or to the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum – art lovers would also enjoy a visit at the Amarillo Museum of Art.

If you’ve ever dreamt of visiting the Grand Canyon without the crowds, know that only a 30-minute drive away from Amarillo, you’ll find the second largest canyon in the United States in Palo Duro State Park . A 16-mile round-trip drive  takes you from the canyon rim down to the canyon floor – with many trails and campsites along the way. Hike the lighthouse trail for stunning views of a towering rock pinnacle.

For a pleasant stay, book a room at the Drury Inn & Suites Amarillo , one of the city’s top-rated hotels, featuring an outdoor pool and complimentary breakfast – or book a vacation rental in town.

Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park, Texas-unsplash

Whether you want to spend the weekend hiking, relaxing by the river , or a blend of both, Pedernales Falls State Park got you covered. The Pedernales River flows over and around huge slabs of limestone creating a beautiful landscape. With plenty of campgrounds and hiking trails, you’re on for a fun weekend.

From easy to challenging, there are plenty of hiking and biking trails to choose from. The easy and short Twin Falls Nature Trail will take you to a scenic viewpoint above the falls while the challenging six-mile Wolf Mountain Trail will reward you with stunning views and a stop at Arrowhead Pool where you can dip your toes in the cool water.

Cyclists can test their skills on the 10-mile technical Juniper Ridge Trail offering plenty of obstacles and challenges.

From the swimming area or the Trammell’s Crossing Trail, you can also do some kayaking or go river-tubing.

Make sure to book your spot at one of the campsites and get your permit beforehand. If camping is not your thing, you’ll find a couple of nice vacation rentals nearby.

Check out some of our other USA Travel Guides >>

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Discover the best that Southern USA has to offer! Hidden gems, vibrant cities and more!

One of the large water features that sinks down into the ground at the Fort Worth Water Gardens, one of the best hidden gems in Texas

15 Secret Hidden Gems In Texas You Must Visit

August 30, 2022 //  by  Southern Trippers

If you’re looking for the best hidden gems in Texas, then you’ve come to the right place! We love exploring Texas, and there are simply so many cool things to do there.

Texas is the second largest state in the USA, and it’s incredibly diverse. Whether you love hot climates, beautiful State and National Parks, or hunting for bluebonnets, TX is awesome. There are also huge cities, charming small towns, and unique historic sites to explore. It truly is a state that has something for everyone!

While there are tons of traditional things to do in Texas, there are also some really unique secret spots in Texas too. So, while you’ll naturally want to see the top spots in Texas, you may also want to check out some of the lesser-known Texas activities. If that sounds like something you’d like to do, then you’re in the right spot.

This list is for those adventurers who love to find attractions that are a little bit off the beaten path while they’re sightseeing! We’ve made sure to include a wide variety of hidden gems to visit in Texas on this list. There are secret swimming holes, gorgeous parks, charming small towns, and tons more for you to explore on your next trip to TX.

So, let’s take a look at some of the coolest hidden gems in Texas!

The view of a small waterfall falling into a natural spring surrounded by cypress trees and other greenery

Big Bend National Park Hot Springs

Big Bend National Park is located in Brewster County and is often called ‘Texas’ Gift to the Nation’. That’s because it is an absolutely stunning National Park in the south . Most people visit the park during the spring or fall months when the weather isn’t as hot.

There are a few different things to do in the park, like taking a day hike and exploring the Chisos Mountains. Visiting Big Bend National Park is actually a very popular thing to do in TX. However, most people don’t know that it also has one of the best secret spots in Texas. That’s because inside Big Bend National Park there is a very old natural hot spring.

The hike to the hot spring is fairly easy, and once you get there, you’ll be able to take a soak. Most people who come to Big Bend end up not enjoying the hot spring though. A bathing suit is required to soak, and if you don’t know it’s there, you probably don’t know to bring a bathing suit! However, if you’re prepared, it’s a fun activity off the beaten path in Texas.

This is truly one of the Best Things To Do In Texas to put on your Texas bucket list!

The natural hot spring at Big Bend National Park on the edge of a river on a sunny day, one of the best hidden gems in Texas.

Marfa is one of the coolest small towns in Texas that has a very interesting history. This history makes it one of the most unique places to visit in Texas. Marfa is known as being a hotbed for paranormal activity, particularly UFOs. For decades, residents and visitors of this small town have claimed to see balls of red, orange, and yellow lights floating through the air.

Some even claim that these anomalies spend hours just floating above the city. Those who have seen the orbs say they are about the size of a basketball. Every year, on the first weekend in September, the small town hosts its Lights Festival, in honor of these ‘visitors’. The festival features live music and a variety of vendors every year.

The exterior of a terracotta stucco building with letters that say 'Marfa' on it. In the background you can kind of see a city. One of the best hidden gems in Texas.

Jacob’s Well

Texas is hot, there’s no denying that. So what’s better than getting the chance to cool off at one of the best secret places in Texas? Just an hour outside of Austin, you’ll find Jacob’s Well, a natural spring-fed pool. The water at Jacob’s Well stays at a constant 68 degrees. It sounds a bit cold, but we promise, on a hot Texas day, it’s refreshing!

This beautiful natural wonder extends a mile below ground, and the water is crystal clear. There is also an underground cave system that experienced divers can explore. However, it’s not a good spot for inexperienced divers, and it’s considered one of the most dangerous diving sites in the world. But, you don’t have to go diving to enjoy the water. You can lounge around the sides of the well or just dip your feet in if you want.

If you are living in Texas , you can easily visit here during the off season when it is less busy!

A person standing on a rock looking down into a deep well with crystal clear water one of the best hidden gems in Texas

Terlingua Ghost Town

One of the best hidden gems in Texas is the Terlingua Ghost Town. Terlingua is a super small town in TX. It was originally established as a mining town in 1903. At one time, it was actually one of the nation’s leading producers of quicksilver. However, in the 1930s, production started to dip, and slowly the people of Terlingua moved on to other TX towns.

Eventually, the town became empty after the company filed for bankruptcy in 1942. Today, Terlingua has become a bit of a tourist destination. It’s now known as the Terlingua Ghost Town, and you’ll find a wide variety of unique structures in the abandoned town.

There are of course the old homes and buildings that originally made up the town. But, now, you’ll also find a land-locked submarine, a pirate ship, and more. the Terlingua Ghost Town is one of the most unique places to visit in Texas.

The sign outside the Terlingua Ghost Town that is kind of dilapidated and seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

If ghost towns aren’t your thing, but you’d like to visit a unique Texas small town, then head to Luckenbach. Luckenbach is absolutely teeny-tiny, with just 13 residents. Yes, you read that right, 13. However, its lack of residents doesn’t mean it’s worth a visit. It’s actually a really cool hidden place in Texas.

The town was originally founded in 1849 by German farmers. Inside the town today, you’ll find a lot of original structures from its founding. The town has its original saloon and dance hall to this day. In the 1970s the entire town was sold, and actually became a bit of a country music mecca. It may be small, but Luckenbach is one of the best hidden gems in Texas.

The sign outside of the Post Office in the tiny town of Luckenbach Texas, one of the best hidden gems in Texas.

Cadillac Ranch

Lovers of roadside America-style attractions will love stopping at this cool thing to do in Texas. The Cadillac Ranch is located outside of Amarillo Texas. You’ll find it along Route 66 in Texas, which is one of the best road trip routes in the south . It was built by a group of art hippies from San Francisco in 1974, seemingly out in the middle of nowhere in Texas. Cadillac Ranch is definitely off the beaten path in Texas.

It was meant to baffle the locals, and it definitely did. While it was baffling then, today, it’s a really cool art stop in Texas. Over the years, the upright Cadillacs have been spray painted and decorated by visitors. So, every time you visit, the cars look just a little bit different. It’s a great spot for a cool photo-op, and it’s definitely one of the most unique places to visit in TX.

A Cadillac car sticking straight up out of the dirt with it's tail end pointing at the sky. It's covered in all kinds of graffiti in different colors.

Fort Worth Water Gardens

For one of the best hidden gems in Dallas, you’ll want to head to the Fort Worth Water Gardens. We know that it’s technically in Fort Worth. But so many aspects of these two Texas cities are connected and many people refer to them fairly interchangeably. So, when you’re researching the Fort Worth Water Gardens, you’ll find a lot of sites actually say they are in Dallas.

The Fort Worth Water Gardens are located right by Fort Worth Convention Center. You’ll find a series of water features that have been masterfully designed to create beautiful water landscapes. As you wander through this urban park, you’ll find a wide variety of water features on display. While it’s not technically in Dallas, we still think it’s one of the best hidden gems in Dallas.

Waco Mammoth Site

One of the coolest Texas hidden gems is the Waco Mammoth Site. The Waco Mammoth Site is a paleontological site in Waco Texas. At the dig site, there are 24 fossils of Columbian mammoths that have been discovered.

It’s believed that the mammoths died altogether as a result of a flash flood. Because they are all together, it’s the largest known concentration of mammoths dying in one spot, from seemingly one event. So, it’s a pretty unique archeological find.

The initial bone was discovered in 1978, by two men who were looking for arrowheads in the area. When the two men found the large bone, they took it to Baylor University. The University’s archeological department quickly realized this was no ordinary bone. Shortly after, they began excavating the site. Today, there is a museum at the site of the dig that you can visit. It’s a really cool hidden gem in Texas to visit.

The fossil of a mammoth still partially in the dirt.

Smither Park

If you’re looking for hidden gems in Houston , then check out Smither Park. Smither Park is an urban park in the heart of Houston. What makes the park so unique is that it is full of beautiful mosaics.

The park was started by Stephanie Smither, in honor of her late husband, John H. Smither. To bring her idea of an art-filled park to life, she worked with artist and builder Dan Phillips.

Inside the park, you’ll find tons and tons of mosaic structures that are decorated with a wide variety of found objects. As you look at the mosaics, you’ll find street signs, fishing lures, plates, and other odds and ends making the beautiful art pieces. This hidden gem in Houston also has an amphitheater, a large swing set, and a memory wall.

A large mosaic of a snowman with other mosaics next to it at a park

Krause Springs

Krause Springs is one of the prettiest hidden spots in Texas. It is over 115 acres and is actually listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The property is privately owned, but you can easily visit it. That’s because it’s a campground! On the 115 acres, there are 32 different springs and obviously, you can camp there too.

The 32 springs are a great place to escape the Texas heat. If you don’t want to camp there, that’s fine. They offer day passes so that people can come and enjoy the springs without having to camp. But if you are looking for a cool camping spot, this is a great option. You won’t be disappointed visiting this beautiful secret spot in Texas.

A person sitting at the edge of a natural spring in Texas, pointing at a small waterfall.

Longhorn Cavern State Park

One of the best secret places in Texas is Longhorn Cavern State Park. You’ll find the park about 90 minutes outside of Austin. It’s a really unique place to visit in Texas’ Hill Country. There are a couple of things to do there, but what you’ll really want to do is visit the park’s namesake cavern. The Longhorn Cavern is a huge cavern that was carved out by an ancient river.

Today, you can take a tour of the massive cavern. The Texas Park Services offers guided tours of the cavern, but you’ll need to purchase tickets ahead of time. For adults, the price of a guided walking tour ticket is $20.95. However, the tour is pretty extensive, and you’ll learn a lot as you spend over an hour in the cavern. We definitely think it’s worth it.

The inside of a massive cavern made of a light colored stone, one of the best hidden gems in Texas

Newman’s Castle

You may not think of Texas when you think of castles. But the state actually has a few different castles that you can visit. Newman’s Castle is a Texas hidden gem that can be found just outside of the town of Belville. Construction of the castle started in 1998 and was finished in 2008. But the 10 years of construction were well worth the end result!

The main purpose of Newman’s Castle is a venue. You can rent it for parties and weddings if you’re looking for fairy tale vibes. But, you can also take tours of the castle. It’s full of everything you’d expect to see in a classic Medieval castle. Six days out of the week, you can book tickets to tour the castle. If you’re looking for unique hidden gems to visit in Texas, then you’ve got to go to Newman’s Castle.

A large white Medieval style castle on the edge of a lake with lily pads with trees behind it.

Cathedral Of Junk

While the name of this Texas hidden gem might not sound appealing, we promise it’s actually really cool. The Cathedral of Junk is a hidden gem in Austin that has become a unique piece of Texas art. It was originally started in 1989 by Vince Hanneman using discarded items from throughout the city.

Today, Hanneman has amassed over 60 tons of discarded items in his Cathedral of Junk. You’ll need to call ahead to make an appointment to visit this hidden gem in Austin. Hanneman also asks for a $5 donation per adult. This helps him upkeep this unique Austin attraction and add more things to it.

A staircase made of yellow tires along a wall made of mosaic found objects thar are also painted yellow

The Moody Mansion

If you’re looking for Galveston hidden gems, then check out the Moody Mansion. The Moody Mansion is a historic residential mansion on one of the most popular streets in Galveston. It is a Romanesque-style mansion and construction was completed in 1895. The mansion is a National Historic Landmark and you can actually take tours of it.

To get inside the 28,000-square-foot mansion, you’ll need to book a ticket for a self-guided tour. Tickets are only $12 per adult, and it’s absolutely worth it if you love admiring historic architecture. The mansion has been completely renovated to look like it would have in the early 20th century.

As you go from room to room, you’ll get to see what it was like living as an elite member of 20th-century Galveston Texas society. You don’t want to skip exploring this Galveston hidden gem.

The exterior of a historic brick mansion in Galveston Texas, surrounded by palm trees, on a sunny day

World’s Largest Cowboy Boots

Did you know that one of the best hidden gems in San Antonio is a pair of cowboy boots? Well, not just any cowboy boots. In fact, San Antonio is home to the ‘World’s Largest Cowboy Boots’. The boots were originally designed in 1979 by Texas art pioneer, Bob Wade.

They were commissioned by a group in Washington DC that wanted a taste of Texas in the country’s capital city. The boots stayed in Washington DC for 4 months before being bought by the North Star Mall in San Antonio.

In January of 1980, the boots were placed at the mall, and they’ve been there ever since. They’ve become a pretty iconic piece of folk art history throughout the years. The boots are over 35 feet tall and 33 feet long and tower next to a busy San Antonio street. You can stop and get a picture, which we definitely recommend when you visit this iconic and unique hidden gem in San Antonio.

A sculpture that is a large pair of cowboy boots next to a parking garage as the sun is setting in the distance.

There are so many cool and unique hidden gems in Texas to see and explore. We hope that one of these cool things to do in Texas has piqued your interest! Have you seen any of these secret spots in Texas? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

platter of north carolina BBQ on a tray with serving spoons in it

Enchanting Texas

16 Hidden gems in Texas

Enjoy going off the beaten path and looking for hidden gems in Texas to explore on your next trip?

Texas is home to several stunning landscapes. 

From the West Texas desert scenery to the Gulf Coast, the Lone Star State has several amazing destinations as well as natural spots. 

Visitors can hike the tallest waterfall in Texas and then enjoy the nightlife in Austin in a single day. 

Or visit historic sites like the Alamo in San Antonio to learn Texas’s history. 

For art and culture lovers, cities like Houston and Dallas are the perfect getaways. 

In addition to these, Texas also has several quirky attractions, spectacular sights, and offbeat destinations….

….that are known by very few visitors as well as locals. 

Here are the best hidden gems in Texas to add to your bucket list. 

Palo Duro Canyon

Did you know that Palo Duro Canyo n, located in the Texas panhandle, is the second-largest canyon in America? 

This geological wonder, carved by the river, is known as the Grand Canyon of Texas. 

The state park is one of the most visited in Texas and popular for hiking, mountain biking, as well as horseback riding. 

Stunning sunrise views at Palo Duro Canyon

Willow City Loop

Willow City Loop is a small scenic drive located in the Texas Hill Country near Fredericksburg .

In spring, the drive is surrounded by beautiful Texas bluebonnets and other wildflowers.  

With its views of flowers, windmills, as well as Texas flags, Willow City Loop is very popular with nature photographers. 

Enchanted Rock, Texas Hill Country

The pink granite dome of Enchanted Rock, surrounded by the rolling hills and lakes of the Texas Hill Country, is an absolute delight. 

The rock is popular with climbers, who enjoy hiking to its summit. 

Enchanted Rock is also known for its history of Native American worship and legends.  

Gorman Falls, Bend

Gorman Falls is Texas’ tallest waterfall. 

The towering 70 feet beauty is located in Colorado Bend State Park about 2 hours from downtown Austin, Texas. 

For the best views, visitors can hike 3 miles long Gorman Falls Trail and enjoy beautiful views and a thrilling descent down rocky boulders.

Bursting colors of fall foliage surrounding the picturesque Gorman Falls in the Texas Hill Country

Hueco Tanks State Park

Often overlooked, Hueco Tanks State Park is a popular destination for rock climbers as well as photographers near El Paso in West Texas . 

The park has several rock climbing routes and prehistoric Indian petroglyphs and pictographs that date back thousands of years.  

The state park is home to many wildlife species.  

Falls Creek Falls

Falls Creek Falls on Lake Buchanan is one of the best waterfalls in Texas.

The stunning waterfall is located on private land and cascades directly into the lake.

The waterfall falls down a sheer cliff of pink granite and limestone to create one of the most spectacular sights in Texas.  

The only way to see the waterfall is on private watercraft or on Vanishing Texas River Cruises in Burnet .

Gruene, Texas – Historic District

Nestled along the banks of the Guadalupe River just outside New Braunfels, Gruene is a popular destination for visitors and locals alike.  

This historic district has many boutique stores and restaurants to enjoy as well as several music venues where famous musicians like Willie Nelson and George Straight play.  

Gruene Texas is especially charming in the holiday season

San Felipe Springs, Del Rio

The San Felipe Springs that flow from limestone terraces is a popular swimming destination near Del Rio in West Texas.

Swimmers can enjoy the cool, clear water as well as picnic and hike along the banks. 

Crystal clear waters of San Felipe Creek

Caddo Lake State Park

Caddo Lake State Park is home to Caddo Lake, the largest of the only naturally formed lakes in Texas.

The lake is surrounded by wetlands, trees, hills, and wildlife.

For best viewing of the wildlife and flowers that surround the lake, visitors can take a kayaking tour on Caddo Lake during fall when the bald cypress trees change color.  

Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge

Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife nature preserve located in Tyler, Texas .

The refuge provides a home for rescued big cats that cannot be released back into the wild.  

Visitors can spot lions, tigers, cheetahs, as well as other big cats on a guided tour of the sanctuary.

Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park

Located in West Texas, you will find the beautiful and rugged Santa Elena Canyon. 

The natural wonder, located in Big Bend National Park, is one of the best hidden gems in Texas. 

The canyon was formed by the Rio Grande and has been several years in the making. 

The Santa Elena Canyon trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in Texas.

It takes visitors to the mouth of the canyon. 

The canyon resembles the famous Zion Canyon in Utah with the shallow river running through it and towering white canyon walls. 

Natural Bridge Caverns, San Antonio

Natural Bridge Caverns is one of the best caves to visit in Texas.

Located near San Antonio , Natural Bridge Caverns has several natural formations and cave formations.  

The caverns were formed by water over millions of years.

They are very large with corridors up to 100 feet wide. 

Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

One of our favorite hidden gems near Houston! 

This wildlife refuge in Texas is home to many birds, particularly waterfowl.

The refuge has several viewing platforms for visitors interested in spotting the colorful species.  

The beautiful lake and canoe trails make Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge ideal to explore by kayak or boat.

It is one of our favorite places to visit when we need a nature break.  

Cedar Hill State Park, Dallas Area

A hidden gem near Dallas and Fort Worth, this state park is full of hill country beauty.

It has a wonderful nature center, large lake, as well as several hiking trails for visitors to explore. 

The park is located atop a scenic bluff with several trails that wind through the woods.

Cedar Hill State Park is home to many species of trees and wildlife including deer and wild turkeys.  

Hamilton Pool Preserve, Dripping Springs

Located near Austin, Hamilton Pool is one of the best hidden gems in Texas. 

This swimming hole has gorgeous scenery, crystal clear water, and also lush greenery.  

Visitors can hike, fish, and even climb to get a better view of the waterfalls.  

Guadalupe River State Park

With its turquoise water and stunning natural beauty, it is hard to believe that a place like Guadalupe River State Park exists in the state. 

The state park is one of our favorite hidden gems in Texas for several reasons. 

In summer, you can enjoy a float trip on the Guadalupe River. 

Come fall and the bald cypress trees on the river banks change color, creating beautiful photo ops. 

The state park also has several campsites by the river and is one of our favorite places to camp in Texas. 

We hope you liked our list of best hidden gems in Texas. 

Which of these attractions are you planning to visit next? 

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20 Hidden Adventures In Texas Hill Country To See For Yourself

Texas Hill Country has everything you want—wildflowers, waterfalls, wine tastings, and Western dancing.

Texas has it all. Texas is known for its wide variety of landscapes, from mountains and beaches to rolling hills and flat lands where you can see for miles. While there are endless places to explore in Texas, we have found that Texas' Hill Country might be the best spot to start your Lone Star travels.

The Texas Hill Country is, simply put, beautiful, and there are many things to do—and some fantastic  places to stay —in its expansive region. Whether you want to gaze at an endless sea of wildflowers, eat a delicious apple pie in the Apple Capital of Texas, take a dip in a natural swimming hole , kayak along the Medina River, hike the second-largest granite dome, chase a waterfall, or find your own beautiful Topaz gems, Texas Hill Country is the perfect place for adventure and exploration.

Here's our guide to our favorite off-the-beaten-path adventures deep in Texas' heart.

Hit the Small Towns

The small towns and two-lane roads fanning westward from Austin make up the heart of the Texas Hill Country. There, you will find the unexpected gems of Texas—rivers that wind through an abundance of bald cypress trees, shimmering lakes cupped in limestone canyons, and rustic German towns with unique names. See the best things to do in  Boerne ,  Fredericksburg ,  New Braunfels , and  Kerrville .

Check out the 12 Best Small Towns In Texas For Lone Star Charm .

Belly Up to the BBQ

Barbecue is a religion in Texas, and one of its high altars,  Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que , lures folks off the well-worn tourist trail in Llano, deep in granite country. Stop first at Cooper's porch, where pool table-size smokers scent the air with mesquite. Select a cut of meat—brisket, sausage, ribs, cabrito—and head inside for the sides (potato salad, coleslaw, and much more). This restaurant is a must-stop for all you barbecue lovers.

Check out our roundup of the Best Texas Barbecue Joints .

Take the Scenic Farm Roads

Roads usually serve a practical purpose—getting people from point A to point B. But in the Hill Country, you might suspect a road was paved purely for pleasure—to take drivers past stirring vistas, expansive pastures, and dense spreads of bluebonnets. In the spring, wildflowers dot nearly every corner of the landscape but find particularly vibrant ones on Farm Road 1323, which heads west off U.S. 281 about three miles north of Johnson City.

For even more dramatic driving, head to where the hills get larger and take on shapes like traffic cones and gumdrops. The incomparable Farm Road 337 in the southern part of the Hill Country, west of San Antonio, winds from Medina through Vanderpool to Leakey, skirting rock ledges where oaks and cacti barely cling to solid ground.

Take a Spin at Two-Stepping

Texas Hill Country is known for having historic dance halls that still host live music and dancing weekly.  Gruene Hall , built in 1878, is Texas' oldest continually operating dance hall. On the weekends, you'll find couples spinning around on the dance floor. Other beloved Hill Country dance halls include the  Twin Sisters Dance Hall  in Blanco ,  Mercer Dancehall  in Driftwood, and  John T. Floore's Country Store  in Helotes.

Try a Unique Stay

Thanks to its breathtaking scenery and close proximity to so many different towns and must-see spots, Texas Hill Country has become quite the destination for glamping and other unique stays that make for a totally new type of getaway. In Utopia, find a bed-and-breakfast of luxury treehouses conveniently located between two state parks, Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Natural Area. Each treehouse is built into a centuries-old bald cypress tree and is fully outfitted with bathrooms, including walk-in showers, and outer decks. 

Check out 9 Unique Rentals for the Ultimate Texas Hill Country Getaway .

Go for a Swim

You have plenty of choices if you want to swim in the Hill Country—from the more widely known Blue Hole in Wimberley to Hamilton Pool, a massive crater created when the dome over an underground river caved in. But the lushest and least crowded swimming spot is at  Krause Springs  in Spicewood. The privately-owned, 115-acre park features 32 springs, several burbling through an artificial pool, then tumbling over a fern-lined cliff into a deep hole. The brave can fly into the water on a rope swing.

Check out the 8 Best Natural Swimming Holes In Texas For Cooling Off On A Hot Day .

Enjoy the Live Music

Music is a massive part of the Hill Country culture that one whole town,  Luckenbach , is dedicated to it. Made famous by Waylon Jennings' song of the same name, it's been a favorite venue of country stars Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and more. If you want a more low-key, under-the-radar setting, head over to  Alamo Springs Café , which is, as the owners say, "inconveniently located in the middle of nowhere." Dig into hand-battered onion rings and juicy burgers with toppings like jalapeño chiles and grilled onions. On weekends, local bands play on the outdoor stage. In Austin, don't miss a night at the historic, almost-always-open Continental Club .

Kayak or Tube on a Texas River

Winding through tunnels of towering bald cypress trees on its way to Bandera, the Medina River doesn't get the crowds that flock to the Guadalupe River. So you have most of it to yourself as you spend a couple of hours of bliss in a kayak rented from the  Medina River Company . New Braunfels is also one of the best places in the state to embark on a tube, as it’s home to both the Comal and Guadalupe rivers. The Comal River offers a shorter float and calmer waters, while the Guadalupe River offers a longer float. Feel free to bring your own tube and access the rivers via river parks, or use an outfitter like  Rockin’ R River Rides .

Check out the 7 Best Tubing Rivers In Texas To Float When It’s Hot Outside .

Be a Stargazer

Do you know what the song says about the stars being big and bright deep in the heart of Texas? See them for yourself at  Tres Lunas Resort , a 112-acre spread on a ridge with little distracting artificial light, in Mason. But the night sky is just one reason to visit. The rooms have Western rustic furnishings with sleek touches. Yoga classes, massages, and wellness weekends are also available for those needing a little relaxation. Additionally, in February 2020, Fredericksburg was designated an International Dark Sky Community by unanimous vote. During your weekend trip, make sure to stare up at the skies.

See our guide to the charming German town of Fredericksburg, Texas .

Smell the Lavender Fields

When you get to Blanco, about an hour's drive southwest of Austin, roll down the windows and take a deep breath. Perfume scents the air starting in mid-May when flowers begin to bloom at nearly a dozen farms covering the Lavender Capital of Texas, some open to visitors at the start of the blooming season. Blanco celebrates their lavender harvest with the  Blanco Lavender Festival , a weekend-long celebration with a lavender market, free admission to a lavender farm, live music, and lots of good food.

See the Best Things To Do in Blanco, Texas .

See the State's Italian Side

Courtesy Trattoria Lisina

In Driftwood, you'll find an Italian-style winery and restaurant tucked away off a country road.  Duchman Family Winery  uses 100 percent Texas grapes and offers tastings every Friday through Sunday. A short walk next door,  Trattoria Lisina  offers impeccable Italian cuisine (get the lasagna) and even fresh-made gelato to cap off your meal.

Bask in Texas Bluebonnets

Bluebonnets  generally begin blooming in February and continue into April, joined by other later blooming varieties of native flowers.  Southern Living  photographer Van Chaplin traveled over 600 miles through the Hill Country photographing flowers. He advises to find the most beautiful blooms, "Drop in at small-town cafes and ask locals. They know the country better than anyone else." Odds are, on a drive in the heart of Hill Country, all you have to do is look on the side of the road.

Dig for Topaz

You must go to the mall to buy jewels in Dallas, Houston, and other big cities. In the Hill Country, you find them lying on the ground. Topaz, the state gem of Texas, is found only in Mason County, about an hour's drive from Fredericksburg. Find clear or blue-tinted stones typically near the surface around granite outcroppings in creek beds and ditches. Hunt all you want at  The Historic Lindsay Ranch .

Hike to Gorman Falls

One of Texas's most scenic wildflower drives takes you along State 16 through Llano and Ranch Road 501 to  Colorado Bend State Park . Reaching Gorman Falls, the park's main attraction, takes a one-and-a-half-mile hike through rugged ranch country. The last 100 yards is a rocky descent down a steep path to the misty chill of half a dozen cascades that spill from a 60-foot-high limestone cliff into a moss- and fern-draped grotto. The breathtaking view of the waterfall and the peaceful sound of the rushing waters make the trek well worth every step.

Drive Scenic Highway 16

It twists so much you have to slow down to a crawl in a few places, but this sidewinder of a highway that climbs through the Hill Country for 30 miles between Kerrville and Medina is one of the most scenic in Texas. Ancient live oaks and white-flowering yucca plants decorate the roadsides, and green grasses cling to limestone outcrops.

Grab a Texas-Sized Slice

Orchards spread out from the highway row after row of the miniature varieties that grow in Medina, also known as the Apple Capital of Texas. Apple pie is an art form here, and there's none better than the fresh-baked desserts loaded with "Golden Delicious" apple types at  Love Creek Apple Store , courtesy orchard owners Baxter and Carol Adams moved from Houston to Medina in 1980. If you find yourself in Round Top, make sure to visit Royers Round Top Café , where it's been said Texas Trash Pie was invented.

Explore Enchanted Rock

Round as a giant Easter egg,  Enchanted Rock  sits half-buried in the hills near Fredericksburg. It's the nation's second-largest granite dome, next to Georgia's Stone Mountain. It's a half-mile hike to the top. For an unforgettable experience, make the trek at the end of the day about a half hour before sunset. You will remember the view and the sound because this rock talks. That's what the Tonkawa and other Native American tribes who rever it believe about the Enchanted Rock. Scientists contend it is fissured in the granite, expanding at the end of a hot day, but you should visit to hear it for yourself and decide what you believe.

Attend an Olive Oil Tasting in Dripping Springs

Texas Hill Country Olive Co.

Texas Hill Country is very suitable for growing olives to make olive oil, and you can find a tour, tasting room, and boutique at  Texas Hill Country Olive Co.  in Dripping Springs. Book a tour and tasting, and eat lunch at the on-site bistro. You'll want to pick up a few bottles of their award-winning olive oils and balsamic vinegar to take home.

See our guide to the charming small town of Dripping Springs, Texas .

Sleep in a Fredericksburg Garden

Wake up to the smell of rosemary, thyme, and other fresh scents when you stay in one of the cottages at the  Hill Country Herb Garden , a garden, day spa, and place to visit, all in one. Book one of their 14 cozy cottages, each equipped with a porch with a swing and a set of rocking chairs, along with a complimentary breakfast that comes to your door each morning. During your stay, find relaxation at the day spa, which offers everything from facials and massages to aromatherapy. And make sure to check out the serene herb garden and on-site restaurant.

Escape the Crowds in Comfort, Texas

For relief from crowds (the best part about heading out to the Hill Country), drive 20 minutes south of Fredricksburg to the aptly named town of Comfort. You'll find stone architecture by acclaimed architect Alfred Giles and many restaurants and shops, including  High's Cafe & Store  and  The Elephant Story . The quirkiest spot in this small town must be a tavern called the Comfort Meet Market, located in a former meat market. You might find locals gathering around a cake to celebrate someone's birthday or clapping with a guitarist there.

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13 Best Places to Visit in Texas, According to a Local

Whether you want buzzing city life or solitude in a small town, you can find it in Texas.

texas hidden places to visit

Jacob Bryant/EyeEm/Getty Images

As the largest contiguous state in the U.S., Texas is home to vast desert grasslands, dense forests, miles of beaches , rolling plains, and rugged hills. With more than 268,000 square miles making up the Lone Star State, there’s lots of room to roam and plenty of places to explore. 

Whether you want a bustling city or quiet place to explore, you can find it in Texas, from the Panhandle Plains and Hill Country to the Gulf Coast and Piney Woods. Here, the best places to visit in Texas, according to a local.

Mariah Tyler ©

About 30 minutes west of the hustle and bustle that is Dallas lies Fort Worth, where world-class art museums and an excellent food and drink scene collide. And while Fort Worth is growing — it’s the 12th largest city in the U.S. — it still feels relaxed and approachable. Perhaps it’s that friendly Western hospitality and a range of dining options and activities that make it a win.

In the Cultural District , visitors can check out five museums dedicated to art, science, and local history. Of course, the Stockyards is a Fort Worth rite of passage, where the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive and year-round rodeo occurs. Downtown Fort Worth is another gem, with block after block of restaurants, Broadway shows at Bass Performance Hall , and nightlife in the form of pubs, bars, live music, comedy shows, and more. The Fort Worth Zoo remains one of the best in the U.S. today, too.

Mariah Tyler

Austin , the state's quirky capital, is home to nearly one million people. Locals love to take advantage of the city’s numerous parks and public spaces, including Zilker Metropolitan Park , a 351-acre oasis with gorgeous views of the skyline and plenty of four-legged friends roaming about, as well as Barton Springs Pool , a three-acre, spring-fed pool used year-round for swimming. There are also lots of hiking trails throughout the city, including the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake, the Barton Creek Greenbelt , and McKinney Falls State Park .

Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World, too, and there are numerous places to catch a show , including the annual Austin City Limits festival. One of the best perks, though, is the city's location near Hill Country, which provides easy access to charming small towns , rivers for floating, and more.

San Antonio

Under two hours south of Austin lies San Antonio, another cultural treasure Texans love to visit and call home. Known for the Alamo, this city is home to four other beautiful missions, all part of the UNESCO-designated San Antonio Missions National Historical Park . Of course, there’s also the beautiful River Walk , full of shopping and dining, and Market Square , where more than 100 vendors sell Mexican wares and cuisine.

San Antonio also brims with incredible museums such as the Witte Museum , McNay Art Museum , Briscoe Western Art Museum , and San Antonio Museum of Art .

Located at the southern edge of Texas Hill Country, San Antonio is also full of outdoor pursuits, including Government Canyon State Natural Area , where 12,00 acres and more than 40 miles of trails offer plenty of room to roam. There’s also river access all around for fishing, swimming, and floating.

If you’re looking to explore the vast Big Bend area, Terlingua is a great base camp. Located in between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park , this former mining town became one of the country’s largest producers of quicksilver in the early 20th century, later transforming into a ghost town when the mine closed.

Terlingua is also home to two renowned chili cook-offs, which bring in thousands each fall. Hike through the state or national park, or rent a canoe and float down the Rio Grande along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Back in town, the Starlight Theatre Restaurant and Saloon is a must for dinner and live music, as it was known as the theater in town for miners back in its heyday. The Terlingua Cemetery, home to a few graves with quirky embellishments, is one of the most photographed in Texas.

There’s also lots of great art throughout town. Stop by a local gallery for mosaics, paintings, photography, and more, and don’t miss the Terlingua Trading Company for souvenirs, art, and gifts. Foodies will enjoy Taqueria El Milagro for its tacos and Tex-Mex plates, while Long Draw Pizza serves up delicious specialty pizzas like the Terlingua Spur (fajita chicken, onions, jalapeno, cheddar, mozzarella, barbecue sauce, and marinara).

Mustang Island

Courtesy of Visit Port Aransas

Named for the wild horses that inhabited the area for hundreds of years, Mustang Island, just south of Port Aransas, is a barrier island that’s ideal for those seeking a beach escape without the crowds found along the Texas coast. Visit Mustang Island State Park , where more than five miles of coastline offer swimming, fishing, kayaking, and beachcombing. The island is also a great destination for wildlife enthusiasts, as 400-plus bird species have been identified here, plus sea turtles can be spotted nesting. Adventure lovers can parasail or try their hand at surfing, or cast a line during an offshore fishing excursion.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Alisha McDarris/Travel + Leisure

In West Texas near the New Mexico state line, you’ll find Guadalupe Mountains National Park , which includes the four highest peaks in Texas. The park has more than 80 miles of hiking trails, from easy walks to all-day endeavors that require a bit of planning. Trek to the "Top of Texas" (a.k.a. Guadalupe Peak), an 8.4-mile hike with views from the highest point in the state, at 8,751 feet. Here, surrounded by vast terrain, you can see the surrounding mountains and a seemingly never-ending expanse of the desert. Guadalupe Mountains National Park is part of the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef complex, Capitan Reef, and other activities include backpacking, camping, horseback riding, and birding.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Craig Sears/Getty Images

Texas is home to the second largest canyon in the U.S., and it’s found at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Panhandle. Here, the canyon sprawls for roughly 120 miles and is about 20 miles wide and up to 800 feet deep in some places. As you hike, you’ll notice four geologic layers that make up the canyon, which began forming a million years ago.

Aside from 30 miles of hiking and biking trails, the park has 1,500 acres dedicated to horseback riding. Catch the " Texas Outdoor Musical " show in the summertime at the amphitheater, and learn about the struggles and successes of early Texas settlers. Campsites and cabins are available, but new to the park are luxury glamping sites with covered porches with swings, air conditioning, fire pits, bicycles, and rustic decor.

Hal Bergman/Getty Images

This iconic Texas town is a trek, but it’s worth the drive. Marfa is an artistic oasis, full of galleries, boutiques, museums, and stand-alone art pieces. The Chinati Foundation is a contemporary art museum with pieces inspired from the surrounding landscape; guided tours are available. There’s also Ballroom Marfa , another contemporary art museum that strives to give artists and musicians a platform in the Big Bend area.

Toast to a great day at Marfa Spirit Co. , where rum, sotol, vodka, and more are blended into signature cocktails, and grab a tasty burrito from Marfa Burrito. For a cool souvenir, stop by Marfa Book Co. , and when it comes to where to stay, there are loads of quirky-cool options such as Chinati Hot Springs cabins , El Cosmico , Hotel Paisano , and Hotel Saint George .

While here, don't miss the Marfa Lights, a mysterious dancing light phenomenon that occurs southeast of town. The lights appear in a few different colors, and the cause is still argued today.


Dennis Garrels/Getty Images

Located in Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg is a well-known destination for local and out-of-state tourists looking for an escape. Home to about 11,000 people, this small city is situated in the middle of Texas wine country , with more than 50 wineries, tasting rooms, and vineyards in the county.

There are also lots of shuttle options in Fredericksburg that take visitors to wineries outside of town, plus breweries and distilleries dotting the area. Nature lovers have an array of options as well, including rock climbing and hiking at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area , plus cycling and horseback riding through parks and backroads across town. For shopping and dining, head to Main Street, where you’ll find more than 150 boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and museums.

New Braunfels

Roberto Galan/Getty Images

Between Austin and San Antonio lies New Braunfels, a charming Hill Country city founded by German immigrants in the mid-19th century. In the summer months, visitors flock here to float the Guadalupe and Comal rivers, both located in New Braunfels and a favorite way to spend a long, hot day.

Back in town, Texas-German architecture lines the downtown streets, where you’ll find boutique shopping, a developing bar and restaurant scene, museums, and art galleries. New Braunfels is also home to historic Gruene and Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas and a beloved live music venue today.

Courtesy of Visit Georgetown

A suburb of Austin, Georgetown has plenty of parks and outdoor space for adventure, including Lake Georgetown, where you can picnic, swim, and hike around the water on a 26.5-mile trail. In the downtown square, you’ll find everything from fine jewelry and boutique clothing to guitars and gourmet foods. Each year, Georgetown hosts the annual Red Poppy Festival , plus a summer concert series, and the Georgetown Wine and Music Festival. Whether you want room to roam or a great place for restaurants and shopping, this city delivers.

Getty Images

Denton, north of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, is a college town with two universities: the University of North Texas (UNT) and Texas Woman’s University. The city has a fun, quirky vibe, but still holds onto a small-town feel with a cute downtown square and pocket after pocket of charming neighborhoods. The creative scene here is huge, too, from a thriving liberal arts program at UNT to community organizations showcasing and promoting local artwork and performing arts. Surrounding the 19th-century courthouse are lots of local restaurants and shops to explore, including a bookstore, an ice cream parlor, and bars serving cocktails. In the fall, catch a UNT football game at Apogee Stadium and cheer on the Mean Green in a sea of green and white.


Lupe Chacon/Getty Images

If a beach town is what you’re after, then Rockport-Fulton might be the ticket. It’s quieter and not as touristy as Galveston or South Padre Island, but it still offers plenty of fun in the form of outdoor exploration, coastal dining, and history. Rockport-Fulton has a booming arts scene, and the Rockport Center for the Arts holds classes and workshops and has rotating exhibitions.

Birders love the area, too, as hundreds of species migrate through the area or call it home. Adventurers love to explore the coastline via kayak or boat, or head to one of the piers for fishing. Geocaching, stand-up paddleboarding, hiking, and windsurfing are popular pastimes as well. More than 30 locally owned restaurants provide an array of dining options, and the sunsets here are some of the best along the Gulf Coast.

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13 Lesser-Known Places In Texas To Visit

13 Lesser-Known Places In Texas To Visit

These 13 lesser-known places to visit in Texas may be your best vacation yet!

Lesser-known places in Texas sometimes make the best vacations. You stumble upon something unexpected and deem it a “hidden gem” and one of the most interesting places to visit.

Visiting hidden gems in Texas may be the best alternative to your travels any time of year. With the rising cost of gasoline and airfare, most travelers stick closer to home when vacationing – so I’ve heard millions of times.

So, your bucket list may have dived this year, but don’t worry, Texas Travel Talk has you covered. You’re going to want to check out small towns first. A town with less than 8,000 people can be the perfect place to relax and unwind. That’s what I think, anyway. I do love small towns. But that’s not to say larger populated towns don’t have lesser-known places to find. I’m sure they do, and when I head to Dallas later this month, I’ll be on the lookout for some!

13 Lesser-Known Places In Texas To Visit

Lesser-Known Places To Visit In Texas

Texas is the second-largest state in the United States, next to Alaska, so there is a lot of ground to cover. A road trip with hidden gems in it is what we are talking about today. The list below might not be new to you, but there are places you may not have considered visiting.

So, instead of flying off to the Bahamas or anywhere International, consider one of these hidden places to stay in Texas .

13 Lesser-Known Places In Texas To Visit

Historic Log Cabin Columbus, Texas

1. Texas Historical Sites Are Hidden Gems In Texas

Whether you’re a history lover or not, the historic district in small towns is sometimes overlooked when vacationing, but it can be a fun history lesson for the whole family. My son will often tell me that he is learning the very same thing in the school that we are visiting. That right there gives me the chills and reassures me I’ve taken him to a great place.

There are over 35 historical sites in Texas. Below are a few places that I have visited. But to get the full list, visit Explore State Historical Sites In Texas .

Texas Historical Sites to Visit:

  • Barrington Plantation (we went here when visiting Brenham)
  • Washington-on-the-Brazos (same as above)
  • Sabine Pass Battleground – Port Arthur
  • Varner-Hogg Plantation – Brazosport

2. Jacob’s Well Natural Area

Did you know this natural beauty exists in the small town of Wimberley in the Texas Hill Country? Jacob’s Well is one of Hill Country’s hidden gems. If you’re new to the area, I’m sure Fredericksburg comes to mind first. It did for me, too – until I started researching the area for wineries. I realize that Wimberley is just as quaint as any other small town in the Hill Country. And I can’t wait to go there. Yes, I said it. I have not been…yet! And now, there’s this place to swim.

13 Lesser-Known Places In Texas To Visit Colorado Bend State Park sign

3. San Saba County (Central Texas)

This area has four parks with distinct characteristics that make San Saba in Central Texas a great place to discover a beautiful hidden gem. San Saba is one of those quaint towns off the beaten path at the top of the Hill Country. One day, I am going to get down and over that way. It’s one cool, lesser-known place to vacation in Texas. Here are a few places you might want to visit when in the area of San Saba.

• Mill P0nd Park

You’ll find a wonderful playground, swimming pool, nice walking trails, beautiful waterfalls, and pretty scenery.

• Colorado Bend State Park

It is a beautiful state park that offers 6 miles of Colorado River frontage for tubing, fishing, kayaking, swimming, birdwatching, and guided tours of Gorman Falls . One of the best state parks in Texas is Colorado Bend State Park, located in West Texas. Another place that I didn’t know was so wonderful. You do need to make a reservation to enter. I did not and was disappointed when I arrived. I finally went back months later and did get in, but sadly, I didn’t have much time to see it all.

• Risien Park

Located on Hwy 190, east of San Saba, this park shares the beauty of the San Saba River and is full of shady pecan trees. There are picnic tables, playgrounds, pavilions, volleyball courts, and a rock amphitheater.

• San Saba River Nature Park

The new 40-acre park includes a large pecan orchard with centuries-old trees along Mill Creek and the San Saba River. Amenities include hiking and bike trails around the park, fishing areas, wildlife viewing sites, restrooms, and more.

Pro Tip: San Saba has several unique holiday events if you’re out that way!

4. Caverns Of Sonora

When I was researching caves to visit in Texas, I happened upon the Caverns of Sonora. I had not heard of this one, and maybe you haven’t, either. It’s located south of San Angelo between Big Bend National Park and San Antonio. It’s definitely on my bucket list to visit.

13 Lesser-Known Places In Texas To VisitEnchanted Rock sign

5. Enchanted Rock

The Texas Hill Country does have something to boast about. While you’re there visiting wineries, why not climb a rock, too!! You don’t have to do rock climbing to enjoy Enchanted Rock. Yes, it’s a popular spot, but have you considered visiting to see the view and maybe climb that rock? Nature lovers will enjoy this area.

6. Hill Country Wineries

Speaking of wineries in wine country. You don’t have to travel to Napa for a great winery or wine. The Hill Country has over 100 wineries offering wine tastings and tours. There are a few new wineries in this area as well, and every year, new wineries pop up.

7. Port Isabel

We all love South Padre Island but consider going a little further down to Port Isabel, which is less crowded and lesser known. You’ll still get the same Gulf Coast and beautiful views, and you may deem this area your favorite. The Port Isabel Lighthouse is a popular attraction that is worth a visit.

8. Texas State Parks

Most hidden gems are right in our state parks …and the Lone Star State has plenty. Have you taken up the hobby of geocaching? I’ve done this fun activity near my home and in several state parks. I have to say that state parks are better because the geocaches are usually there (they haven’t been taken).

A few state parks are lesser-known places than others, such as Hueco Tanks State Park and Boca Chica State Park. I believe there are 86 state parks in Texas. Big Bend National Park and Maples State Park are great parks to visit, yet they are still hidden gems that no one visits. Probably for me, both are so far away. Nab a Texas State Park Pass for $75, and visit as many as possible in one year. That’s how you save money and get your money’s worth from buying the pass.

9. Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve

This nature wonder surrounded by Limestone rocks exists in the Hill Country, but you may not have known about it if you weren’t looking for natural wonders. Hamilton Pool is a natural pool with a beautiful waterfall. The Gateway to the Hill Country, Dripping Springs, houses the Hamilton Pool Preserve. Yes, it’s a known place if you are from that area. It’s open, but you can no longer swim there. Reservations are a must, especially on a weekend, as it does sell out.

10. Historic Dance Halls

Gruene isn’t the only small town with a historic dance hall. Dripping Springs has one, too. In fact, at least 12 dance halls in the Hill Country are still operating – most historical ones.

Sign on private property. Photo Rights: Kim Croisant

Texas Hill Country Hidden Gems

11. a dripping springs in dripping springs.

When I visited Dripping Springs early this year, I was taken to a place across the street from the DS Visitor’s Bureau and next to a bed and breakfast inn. We went down a short trail, and there were the dripping springs that the town of Dripping Springs is known for. It’s on private property. But I was told if you want to see it, you can go to the bureau and inquire about it. 

12. Krause Springs

Krause Springs is a well-known camping & swimming site located in Spicewood, Texas, 30 miles west of Austin. The 115-acre property is listed on the National Registry of Historical Sites and has been privately owned by the Krause Family for over 50 years. It has 32 springs on the property, yet it’s still lesser known than some other places in the hill country to camp and swim.

13. Hill Country Herb Garden

Formerly known as Fredericksburg Herb Farm, the Hill Country Herb Garden is a restaurant and spa and offers cottages for rent. There’s a lot of competition in the hill country area regarding where to stay. To me, it’s one of the unique places that offer wellness and healthy foods. I do love healthy meals and a good massage!

There you have it – 13 lesser-known places to visit in Texas.

If you’re reading this in the wintertime, you may like to read 15 Winter Trip Ideas In Texas.

13 Lesser-Known Places In Texas To Visit

About Kim Croisant

Kim Croisant is a freelance writer and owner/writer at Texas Travel Talk and a native Texan living north of Fort Worth. When not writing about travel destinations (not just in Texas), restaurants, and hotels, she is most likely juggling family life, caring for her mother, and raising her grandson. She loves red wine, chips & dip, and travel magazines. Follow her on Instagram @texastraveltalk.

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texas hidden places to visit

10 Best Hidden Gems in Texas

Where to discover the best kept secrets of texas.

The great state of Texas has no shortage of strange and interesting diversions. From art installations just off the highway to uncommon natural wonders, there is something to be explored in every corner of the Lone Star State.

Roam the dusty paths of a ghost town, journey to the depths of a limestone cavern, or see Annie Oakley’s shotgun at the National Cowgirl Museum. Full of opportunities for outdoor adventure, the state has miles upon miles of diverse parkland: Visitors can discover the nine different ecosystems of the Big Thicket National Preserve, go birding in Boca Chica, or take a dip in the infamous Jacob’s Well.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo

Visit a surreal public art installation on route 66.

texas hidden places to visit

Get off the highway and stretch your legs at Cadillac Ranch, a one-of-a-kind public art installation off Route 66. Created in 1974 by a group of experimental artists known as the Ant Farm, the installation consists of 10 painted Cadillacs buried nose-first in the ground. Fun fact: They’re all inclined at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

An iconic Texas curiosity, countless travelers have stopped at Cadillac Ranch over the years to see the spectacle and add their mark to the thick layers of paint.

Location: 13651 I-40 Frontage Rd, Amarillo, TX 79124, USA

Phone: +1 833-330-2650

The Marfa Lights, Marfa

Witness an unexplained phenomenon in the desert night.

texas hidden places to visit

Sightings of the Marfa Lights have been reported for more than a century by people from all walks of life. They’re usually seen as small glowing orbs that move across the southeast horizon. The cause of the lights remains mysterious. Some propose that they are the result of atmospheric activity or other natural phenomena, while others suspect the paranormal or extraterrestrial.

Look for the lights from the viewing area just east of the town on Highway 90. Be aware that they can be difficult to spot even under the best conditions. If you’re visiting in the fall, stay for the Marfa Lights Festival, where locals celebrate the lights with live music, food, and a parade.

Phone: +1 432-729-4772

texas hidden places to visit

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texas hidden places to visit

Rolling Oaks Mall

The cathedral of junk, austin, explore this trash-to-treasure landmark.

texas hidden places to visit

The Cathedral of Junk is a towering, whimsical structure made from recycled materials. Standing at more than three stories tall and spreading over 1,000 square feet, it was built with more than 60 tons of junk, including old bicycles, car parts, furniture, and discarded toys.

It’s in the backyard of its creator, Vince Hannemann. The Cathedral has narrow passageways, hidden rooms, and a variety of eclectic objects to discover. Visits are by appointment only, so call before you head over.

Location: 4422 Lareina Dr, Austin, TX 78745, USA

Phone: +1 512-299-7413

The Big Bend Ghost Town, Terlingua

Journey back to an abandoned boomtown.

texas hidden places to visit

There’s a reason why Terlingua is Texas’ most-visited ghost town. A mining community established in the late 1800s, the town thrived on its quicksilver mines until it went bust in the 1940s. Visiting today you’ll see some of the original buildings, a one-room stone jail, and the town cemetery.

Although the miners are long gone, Terlingua is still alive and well, with rustic Texas lodgings and a handful of restaurants and shops for visitors. Make sure to stop in the Starlight Theatre and Saloon, a funky eatery housed in an old movie palace serving up chili cheeseburgers and prickly pear margaritas. Roam around the town, visit old St. Agnes Church, or sit on a porch and take in the view of the Sante Fe de Los Pinos mountain range.

Boca Chica Park and Beach, Brownsville

Hike dunes and surf the waves at this south texas park.

texas hidden places to visit

Boca Chica State Park is 1,000 acres of fine-sand beaches and grassy dunes at the southernmost point of Texas. Outdoor enthusiasts come to explore the many hiking and biking trails as well as swim, hike, and surf at Boca Chica Beach. A national wildlife refuge, the area is also designated as part of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. It has an exceptionally diverse bird population including endangered species such as the piping plover.

Aside from the wide variety of wildlife, Boca Chia Beach has another thing you won’t see most other places: rockets. They launch from a SpaceX platform nearby, so bring the family to see one, or plan your visit around them for a more tranquil getaway.

Location: Boca Chica Blvd, Brownsville, TX 78521, USA

Phone: +1 800-626-2639

Stonehenge II, Ingram

Return to ancient england in texas.

texas hidden places to visit

About an hour north of San Antonio, you’ll find a familiar sight: the famous Stonehenge, or rather, a replica of it. Created by two local artists in 1989, Stonehenge II is about two-thirds the size of the original monument in Wiltshire, England. It is not fenced off like its counterpart, so you’re free to explore it up close.

Admission is free, but visitors are asked to call in advance to confirm that the site is open. Stonehenge II is under the care of the Hill Country Arts Foundation, which also has an active community theater and a visual arts center that displays work from local artists.

Location: 120 Point Theatre Rd S, Ingram, TX 78025, United States

Phone: +1 830-367-5121

The Natural Bridge Caverns, San Antonio

Descend into a different world underground.

texas hidden places to visit

The Natural Bridge Caverns are one of the largest cave systems in Texas. They were discovered in 1960 by a group of college students. The first half-mile of caves is accessible to visitors, going as deep as 180 feet. Exploring the limestone caverns, you’ll see some of the 10,000 rock formations, including stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, and draperies.

The site offers a number of other activities once you emerge on the surface. Weave your way through ropes and climbing courses 60 feet in the air, or race to the finish of a 5,000-square-foot outdoor maze.

Location: 26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd, San Antonio, TX 78266, USA

Open: Daily from 9 am to 4 pm

Phone: +1 210-651-6101

Jacob's Well, Wimberley

Take a dip in the clear waters of this natural wonder.

texas hidden places to visit

Jacob’s Well is a karstic spring in the Texas Hill Country that draws visitors with its crystal-clear water and distinct geographical features. The well is habitat for several species of threatened and endangered aquatic life such as the ghostly Texas blind salamander.

Only 12 feet in diameter, the spring has striking depth: Beyond the 30-foot well itself is a series of underwater tunnels and chambers that descend a total of 140 feet. Diving here is restricted to trained professionals because of the inherent dangers of cave diving, but visitors can swim and snorkel in the shallow areas of the well, which maintains a constant 68 degrees F.

Location: 1699 Mt Sharp Rd, Wimberley, TX 78676, USA

Open: Daily from 8 am to 5.30 pm

Phone: +1 512-214-4593

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

Discover the legacies of daring women.

texas hidden places to visit

The National Cowgirl Museum celebrates women past and present who embody the courageous, independent spirit that helped shape the West. Located in the heart of Fort Worth’s cultural district, the museum has interactive exhibit galleries featuring items from its collection of 5,000 artifacts, primarily out of the American West. See Annie Oakley’s shotgun and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman costume, or try your skill on the museum’s bucking bronc.

The Cowgirl Museum’s exhibits and research library offer information about more than 750 trailblazing women from the U.S. and abroad including Sacagawea, Georgia O’Keefe, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Location: 1720 Gendy St, Fort Worth, TX 76107, USA

Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday from noon to 5pm (closed on Mondays)

Phone: +1 817-336-4475

The Big Thicket National Preserve, Beaumont

Adventure in biodiverse forests and shady bayous.

texas hidden places to visit

East Coast and Midwest ecosystems converge at the Big Thicket National Preserve in southeast Texas. Known for its lush forests, swamps, and wetlands, the preserve is an excellent place for hiking, backcountry camping, and paddling. Take a guided nature walk or canoe trip with a ranger to learn about the area’s diverse array of plant and animal species, which includes American alligators and carnivorous Venus flytraps.

Unlike most national parks, this 112,000-acre preserve is divided into 15 units, each with a distinct ecosystem. Developed units have hiking trails, picnic areas, and other facilities, while primitive units offer a more challenging, off-road experience. Paddle along the bayou under bald cypress trees in the Beaumont unit or listen for woodpeckers in the longleaf pine uplands of Big Sandy Creek.

Location: 6044 FM 420, Kountze, TX 77625, USA

Phone: +1 409-951-6700

This article includes opinions of the Go Guides editorial team. Hotels.com compensates authors for their writing appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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Best places to visit in texas.

They say everything is bigger in Texas. And if you take into account all that the state has to offer, it's easy to see why the Lone Star State packs such a potent punch with travelers. Texas is filled to the brim with breathtaking countrysides, significant historical attractions, diverse museums, pristine city parks, suburban shopping meccas, mouthwatering barbecue and more. U.S. News took into account traveler sentiment and expert analysis to come up with the best places to visit in Texas. Want to share your opinion? Make sure to vote below to help determine next year's list. 

Big Bend National Park

Fredericksburg, tx, san antonio, guadalupe mountains national park, port aransas, south padre island, mustang island, corpus christi, san josé island.

texas hidden places to visit

This sprawling metropolis promises a jam-packed itinerary for every type of traveler, whether you're traveling with the family or on a romantic getaway . Explore the many museums, parks and historical sites the city has to offer, including the infamous Dealey Plaza, where JFK was assassinated, or get to know Dallas' vibrant, artsy neighborhoods like Trinity Groves and the Design District. And if you're visiting during football season, catch a Dallas Cowboys game to see state pride at its best. However you spend your time, you'll be surrounded by top-notch restaurants and a surplus of shopping options.

texas hidden places to visit

Every year, more than 500,000 people visit this national park along the U.S.-Mexico border to spend some time outdoors. Big Bend National Park features hundreds of miles of paved and dirt roads for scenic drives, as well as 150-plus miles of hiking trails. While exploring the park's sections of the Chihuahuan Desert, the Chisos Mountains and the Rio Grande, keep your eyes peeled for more than 450 bird species, including several kinds of woodpeckers, thrashers and sparrows. At night, camp (or glamp) under the moonlight to see why Big Bend is one of the best dark sky parks in the country.

texas hidden places to visit

For a different kind of Texas vacation, skip the state's main cities and beach towns in favor of a visit to Fredericksburg. This Texas Hill Country locale is known for its superb shops, rich German roots and tasty wines. When you're not enjoying some retail therapy on Main Street, learn about the town's connection to Germany at the Pioneer Museum. Don't forget to sample some of Fredericksburg's delectable vino before you leave; you'll have your pick of more than 50 wineries and tasting rooms in and around Fredericksburg.

texas hidden places to visit

Historical relics like The Alamo are no doubt San Antonio's biggest draw. However, you don't need to be a history buff to enjoy all the city has to offer. The River Walk makes for a soothing stroll along the San Antonio River, while the expansive Brackenridge Park offers a variety of attractions and amenities. Active travelers can practice their swing at the park's golf course and ball fields, nature lovers can pass the time in its stunning Japanese Tea Garden and families can get an up-close look at the on-site San Antonio Zoo's animals. Before you leave, sample a San Antonio staple – the puffy taco.

texas hidden places to visit

If hiking is one of your favorite pastimes, then you'll want to venture to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This national park by the southern Texas-New Mexico border houses eight of the state's 10 highest peaks, including the iconic El Capitan, and features 80-plus miles of hiking paths, such as traveler-approved routes like Devil's Hall and the Guadalupe Peak Trail. Although the scenery is stunning year-round, for extra-memorable vistas, visit in fall when the park's tree leaves turn vivid shades of red, orange and yellow.

texas hidden places to visit

This small town on Mustang Island (about 40 miles northeast of Corpus Christi) provides ample opportunities for fun in the sun. When you're not sunbathing, parasailing or splashing around at the beach, put your angling skills to the test in the "Fishing Capital of Texas" or sign up for a dolphin-watching cruise. You'll also want to keep an eye out for the endangered whooping crane and other birds in this bird-watching paradise. If you love festivals, time your visit to coincide with one of Port Aransas' events, which focus on everything from art to music to food.

texas hidden places to visit

Texas is home to some prime Gulf Coast shorelines , and South Padre Island is considered one of the best. South Padre offers 34 miles of relaxing beaches along the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. While the island has a reputation for being a prime party spot for spring breakers, the rest of the year it's favored by families thanks to its affordability and bevy of kid-friendly attractions. Head to Sea Turtle, Inc. to learn about local sea turtle rehabilitation efforts, or visit Beach Park Waterpark to cool off on a hot day.

texas hidden places to visit

The capital city's colorful character takes Texas to an entirely new level. Austin offers loads in the way of culture, cuisine and natural scenery. While here, enjoy unique outdoor areas like Zilker Metropolitan Park (where you'll find the natural Barton Springs Pool), various museums and plenty of delectable Tex-Mex joints. The best way to soak up Austin's contagious energy is to visit Sixth Street. This music hub is packed with bars, restaurants and live music venues that have helped Austin earn its "Live Music Capital of the World" moniker. For a souvenir, head to SoCo to pick up a pair of authentic cowboy boots.

texas hidden places to visit

Originally inhabited by wild horses, the aptly named Mustang Island is now known for its miles of beaches and outdoor activities. On this 18-mile-long barrier island, which sits about 30 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, visitors will find Mustang Island State Park, a popular place to go mountain biking, kayaking and swimming. The park is also home to endangered sea turtles and more than 400 bird species, making it an excellent destination to spot wildlife, and boasts 5 miles of beaches. For more outdoor recreation outside the park, travelers can visit North Packery Beach to enjoy water sports like kiteboarding, wakeboarding and surfing.

texas hidden places to visit

Once a lesser-known, low-key getaway, this small town just north of Mexico now attracts space enthusiasts thanks to its SpaceX launch site. Beachgoers will still find plenty of allure with Boca Chica's 8-mile-long stretch of sand, but remember to bring your own equipment since water sports rentals like surfboards and kiteboards are not available on-site. You'll also want to plan ahead, as the beach is closed near rocket launch dates. While here, save time for wildlife watching, as the area is a haven for various bird and sea turtle species, particularly in spring and fall.

texas hidden places to visit

Renowned as one of America's top barbecue destinations, Houston offers travelers a finger-licking good time. But did you know Houston is also a culture hub? Within the urban sprawl, visitors can check out museums galore, from NASA's impressive Johnson Space Center to the quirky Art Car Museum. Many of the city's restaurants and shops are also covered in Instagram-worthy murals. Plus, with the world-class Houston Zoo , verdant Buffalo Bayou Park and a children's museum, Houston is an ideal (and affordable) vacation spot for families. Consider purchasing a CityPASS to save even more coin.

texas hidden places to visit

Corpus Christi features several scenic shorelines and can't-miss attractions to keep you entertained for days. Popular stretches of sand in this Gulf Coast city include McGee Beach and North Beach, which is also home to two of Corpus Christi's most visited sights, the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington. Additional museums and entertainment venues can be found in SEA, the city's Sports, Entertainment and Arts District. Meanwhile, music fans can visit several sites dedicated to the emblematic Tejano singer Selena, including the Selena Museum and the Mirador de la Flor memorial.

texas hidden places to visit

Sitting in between Fort Worth and Dallas (roughly 23 miles from both), Grapevine delights all travelers, whether they're outdoorsy types, historians or wine lovers. Lake Grapevine is a popular boating and fishing spot, while its surrounding trails attract hikers and bikers. Meanwhile, history buffs can engage in 19th-century heritage events at Nash Farm or ride into the past on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. As its name suggests, Grapevine is also home to several tasting rooms along Texas' Urban Wine Trail. What's more, with some of the best water parks in Texas , an aquarium and a LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Grapevine is incredibly kid-friendly.

texas hidden places to visit

Located about 50 miles southeast of Houston, Galveston attracts Texans looking for a convenient place to spend some time at the beach. The island features family-friendly spots like Stewart Beach (with amenities like lifeguards, volleyball courts and a playground) and Pleasure Pier (which features an array of games and rides). Meanwhile, Schlitterbahn Waterpark offers yet another place to play. Away from the sand, visitors can explore the shop-, restaurant- and nightclub-filled Strand District, named a National Historic Landmark for its well-preserved Victorian architecture. Travelers will also want to check out other historical sights, such as Bishop's Palace and Moody Mansion.

texas hidden places to visit

Easy to reach by ferry from Port Aransas, this former ranch is now a prime beach destination. Because San José Island is privately owned, the island's only publicly accessible land is its 21-mile stretch of unspoiled sand situated below the vegetation line. But visitors will find plenty to do on the beach. The island's more than 600 kinds of fish and roughly 300 bird species make it a terrific place to go fishing and birding. Other popular pastimes here include shelling and surfing.

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texas hidden places to visit

Padre Island National Seashore

texas hidden places to visit

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12 Amazing Hidden Gems In Texas That Most People Don't Know About

texas hidden places to visit

Kristen Lawrence

Texas staff writer for Only in Your State, blogger for Power of Positivity, and freelance health, wellness, and travel writer. I spend any chance I get traveling, enjoying nature, trying out new recipes, and meditating. I love sharing smiles, good food, and great conversation :)

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You could spend a whole lifetime in Texas and not see half the state. (It’s truly mind-boggling how big our state really is!) Sure, we all know about the Palo Duro, the Big Bend, Enchanted Rock, and tubing the Guadalupe, Comal or Frio, but have you ever thought to visit the lesser-known hidden gems in Texas? From beautiful state parks in Texas to hidden waterfalls in Texas, the Lone Star State harbors plenty of secrets that are sure to satisfy your inner explorer!

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So, did you know about these hidden gems in Texas? Don’t you think they’d make for perfect Texas day trips? Know of another secret spot worth seeking out? Tell us!

These are just a few of the hidden gems in Texas; click here to read about others that most people don’t know exist.

OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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Hidden gems in texas.

What are some beautiful state parks in Texas?

The state parks in Texas are brimming with beauty. One of the most beautiful state parks in Texas is definitely Big Bend Ranch . Not only stunning, it’s huge! At 300,000 acres, it’s the largest state park in Texas. The expansive park is brimming with perks – in addition to its incredible beauty, of course. Some of the most popular things to do in the park are hiking, biking, and horseback riding, all of which provide the perfect opportunity to explore the park’s high-desert terrain. And since the park is a designated International Dark Sky Park, it’s a great visit day and night.

Are there any hidden waterfalls in Texas?

When seeking hidden waterfalls in Texas, Boykin Springs is a must-visit. It’s tucked away in Angelina National Forest in Zavalla. Don’t let its forest locale deter you. The Sawmill Hiking Trail leads straight to Boykin Springs. Simply follow the 2 ¾-mile trail through the forest and you’ll run right into the cascading waterfall. The trek doesn’t end there, though. If you continue on the trail, you’ll see the Aldridge Sawmill Historic site, an abandoned town from the early 1900s.

What are some fun Texas day trips?

No list of fun Texas day trips would be complete without a mention of Dinosaur Valley State Park . Located near Glen Rose, the 1,500-acre park boasts tons of perks, but the highlight is definitely the massive fossilized dinosaur footprints and life-size dinosaur models. A great visit for all ages, kids and adults alike enjoy searching for the dinosaur tracks. And though the dinosaur-related amenities are what bring people to the park, there’s lots more to enjoy, including fishing, biking, hiking, camping, and swimming.

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The 9 Best Places to Visit in Texas

A s the biggest state in the contiguous United States, Texas can seem larger than life. But there's so much more to the Lone Star State than cattle ranching, cowboys, and barbecue -though those things can certainly be found here.

Each area of the state has its own distinct personality and culture. The piney woods of East Texas feels about as Southern as you can get in the state. Central Texas is characterized by the rolling, rocky knolls of the Hill Country. The coast boasts white, sandy beaches that are home to unique wildlife. West Texas is characterized by rugged, desert landscapes that have inspired creative works like No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood .

Ready to plan your trip to the Lone Star State? These are the nine best places to visit in Texas.

  • Come for: The state's most exciting and diverse culinary landscape; plus a thriving arts and culture scene
  • Where to stay: La Colombe d'Or

H-Town is home to hundreds of ethnic communities from all around the planet-more than 145 different languages are spoken here. Naturally, Houston's multicultural population has created one of the most exciting foodie havens on Earth. Here in Bayou City, you'll find upscale hand-rolled sushi bars like Handies Douzo as well as James Beard Award–winning soul food restaurant Lucille's and Viet Cajun crawfish boil outposts like Crawfish Cafe .

Besides the food, one of the best things about Houston is its museum scene. Houston's Museum District , in the heart of the city, features 20 museums all within walking distance of one another. (If you're visiting in the summer, bring water if you plan on walking.)

The Menil Collection offers everything from Byzantine artifacts to mind-boggling surrealist paintings by artists such as René Magritte. Head to the Houston Museum of African American Culture to learn more about the Black American history of the city or the Houston Museum of Natural Science to visit such interactive attractions as the Burke Baker Planetarium and the Cockrell Butterfly Center.

How to get to Houston

Fly into either George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) or William P. Hobby Airport (HOBBY), the city's oldest commercial airport. IAH is about 20 miles from downtown Houston while HOBBY is a little less than 10 miles from the city's center.

2. Big Bend National Park

  • Come for: Beautiful, rugged West Texas desert
  • Where to stay: The Gage Hotel

Big Bend National Park is one of the country's bewitching national parks , covering more than 800,000 acres. The landscape is dotted with cactus, yucca, aspen, mesquite, and Ponderosa pine and populated by critters like bobcat, javelinas, and mountain lions. Here, visitors can kayak the Rio Grande or hike, bike, or camp in the Chisos Mountains, which tower nearly a mile above the Chihuahuan Desert. The 4.8-mile Lost Mine Trail offers sweeping views of Casa Grande and Juniper Canyon; the strenuous South Rim traverses nearly 14.5 miles with 2,000 feet gained in elevation.

The best place to stay is in the park itself, either at the 60-site campground at Chisos Basin or one of five stone cottages at the Chisos Mountain Lodge , the only brick-and-mortar accommodations in the park. However, if something more developed is your game, drive to Marathon, the "Gateway to Big Bend" and stay at the Gage Hotel , housed in a mission-style adobe building constructed in 1927.

How to get to Big Bend National Park

The closest airport to Big Bend National Park is El Paso International Airport (ELP), which is 287 miles or four and a half hours away. From Austin, the drive will be 435 miles, or about six and a half hours. From San Antonio, it will be 370 miles and will take about six hours.

3. Fredericksburg

  • Come for: A historic German town in the heart of Texas wine country
  • Where to stay: The Hoffman Haus

Though Texans have long known its laid-back charms, the Texas Hill Country is having a moment as of late thanks to the forecast total eclipse that will pass through the area on April 8, 2024. Fredericksburg may be the region's crown jewel. Founded by German immigrants in 1946, the town of less than 30,000 is now known for its German restaurants and breweries, booming winery scene, and fresh peaches that grow in its orchards.

After booking a room at the Hoffman Haus (a bed-and-breakfast that delivers breakfast to guest rooms via gingham-covered picnic basket), explore the more than 150 local shops in downtown Fredericksburg and then learn about the town's history at the Pioneer Museum . Finish the day with peach cobbler topped with Blue Bell ice cream at Das Peach Haus , which also sells jams, jellies, and preserves.

How to get to Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg is located in the Texas Hill Country, which is not serviced by any major airports. Visitors will need to fly into either Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) or San Antonio International Airport (SAT) and then drive. From Austin, it's about a 90-minute drive, while San Antonio is an hour away.

  • Come for: The coolest art town in the middle of nowhere
  • Where to stay: Hotel Saint George

Located squarely in the middle of nowhere deep in West Texas, Marfa is obsessed with art, thanks to the efforts of minimalist artist Donald Judd who moved to the area in the 1970s. There are about 2,000 residents and 19 permanent galleries in town, including the Judd Foundation and the Chinati Foundation (both founded by Judd), the Inde/Jacobs Gallery , and the Rule Gallery .

While Marfa may be a small town, there is no shortage of great eats: For wood-fired pizza, check out Para Llevar , and for creative cocktails and eclectic dishes, go to the Water Stop , which has a rotisserie chicken dish on its menu that Bon Appétit called the "second best reason to go to Marfa ." As an added bonus, the town is an hour and a half drive from Big Bend National Park (see above).

How to get to Marfa

The nearest international airport to Marfa is El Paso International Airport (ELP). From there, it's a two-and-a-half hour drive to Marfa. However, it's not uncommon for people to drive 430 miles from Austin or around 400 miles from San Antonio.

5. San Antonio

  • Come for: Puro San Antonio
  • Where to stay: Hotel Emma

Now, I may be biased as a native San Antonian, but Alamo City is the most stunning of all the Lone Star State's metropolitan areas. Thanks to a series of extensions, the River Walk is now 15 miles long, and it's the perfect place to take a long hike or bike ride (albeit, not through the busy downtown corridor, usually packed with tourists and day drinkers). And with the transformation of the Pearl Brewery from condemned building to a vibrant cultural hub, the city has a new favorite hangout. At the Pearl, visitors will find Brasserie Mon Chou Chou , which is perhaps one of the best French restaurants in the state, Cured , which focuses on farm-to-table American cuisine, and Best Quality Daughter , which serves Asian American food inspired by Jennifer Dobbertin's South Texas upbringing.

How to get to San Antonio

Fly into San Antonio National Airport and then drive or take a cab to downtown, about eight miles away.

6. Port Aransas

  • Come for: Quiet, small beach town vibes
  • Where to stay: The Tarpon Inn

Sure, Galveston is one of the most visited beach destinations in the state and South Padre Island is popular among spring breakers. But Port Aransas offers small town charm along an immaculate stretch of white-sand Texas coastline. Here, visitors will find 18 miles of beaches and a cornucopia of fresh Gulf Coast seafood: red snapper, blue crab, oysters, and endless quantities of shrimp. The last wild flock of endangered whooping cranes make their winter home at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Between April and August, travelers can witness baby sea turtles (including the endangered species, Kemp's ridley) make their big journey to the ocean at Mustang Island State Park , 16 miles south of Port Aransas.

How to get to Port Aransas

Fly into Corpus Christi International Airport and then drive four minutes north on Mustang Island to reach Port Aransas. Many folks also drive in from Houston (200 miles away), San Antonio (180 miles away), and Austin (200 miles away).

  • Come for: All the thrills that the Live Music Capital of the World has to offer
  • Where to stay: The Loren at Lady Bird Lake

There's a little joke in Austin that every generation of Austinites says, "You should have seen it 10 years ago." And it's true. Over the past three years or so, Austin's skyline has transformed thanks to an influx of folks and tech companies looking for a place to weather out the early days of the COVID pandemic.

But that's not to say that Austin has lost its soul. The Live Music Capital of the World is still very much focused on music-head over to the Skylark Lounge for soulful blues and funk bands, the Continental Club for jazz, and the Broken Spoke for a tried-and-true honky-tonk experience. The state capital's culinary scene has come into its own as well. Dark, broody, and only open 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. (midnight on weekends), East Austin favorite Justine's Brasserie serves French cuisine and craft cocktails by the glow of dim lamps. Franklin Barbecue has had its praises sung the world over for its tender brisket, and the adulations are more than deserved-hop in line or order in advance on its website. Jester King Brewery , located on the outskirts of Austin on a 100-acre Hill Country spread, specializes in barrel-aged wild ales and wood-fired pizzas.

How to get Austin

The Texas capital is serviced by Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), about five miles southeast of downtown Austin. The easiest way to get out of the airport and into the city is via car.

  • Come for: High plains hospitality and a fast-growing winery scene
  • Where to stay: Cotton Court Hotel

The Texas Panhandle has admittedly been overlooked as its vast seas of grass make it an ideal place to raise cattle rather than, say, see mind-blowing vistas. However, the area surrounding Lubbock has more than 9 million acres devoted to growing wine grapes-the region produces 80 percent of the state's , far more than the Hill Country. Consider putting McPherson Cellars , the Llano Estacado winery, vino-and-tapas restaurant La Diosa Cellars , and the Funky Door Bistro & Wine Room on your to-do list. After you've had your fill of wine, head over to the Buddy Holly Center , where visitors can learn all about the rock ‘n' roll legend. And if you're looking for something more outdoorsy to do, drive 90 minutes north to Palo Duro Canyon State Park , the second largest canyon system in the United States after Arizona's Grand Canyon.

How to get to Lubbock

Fly into Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (LBB). You'll need a car to get around town.

9. Fort Worth

  • Come for: Cowboy charm with big city amenities
  • Where to stay: Bowie House

Long overshadowed by its glitzy neighbor, Dallas , Fort Worth is steadily coming into its own. Known for its historic stockyards , in operation since 1866 (it still puts on a twice daily cattle drive), Fort Worth is now attracting attention as the next Texas boomtown -and it's attracting travelers' attention as well. One of the latest hotels to hit the scene is the Bowie House (which opened in December of this year), an Auberge Resorts Collection property that pays homage to the West and owner Jo Ellard's love of horses.

Fort Worth is also making headlines in the culinary realm. In 2021, Goldee's Barbecue snagged Texas Monthly 's top spot on its annual list of the 50 Best BBQ Joints -the restaurant is planning to open a second location, Ribee's, which will focus solely on ribs, soon. But if cowboys and barbecue aren't your thing, Fort Worth has a healthy offering of museums in town including the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History .

How to get to Fort Worth

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is located almost dead center between Dallas and Fort Worth. From the airport, it's about a half an hour's drive into the heart of Fort Worth.

Mae Hamilton is an associate editor at AFAR. She covers all things related to arts, culture, and the beautiful things that make travel so special.

Known as the Cultural Capital of the South, Houston has no shortage of things to do-or eat.

Northern lights may be visible in more than a dozen states Monday night: Here's what to know

A geomagnetic storm watch has been issued for Monday and Tuesday, which may result in the aurora borealis, or the northern lights, to be visible over some U.S. states.

On Saturday, NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center observed a corneal mass ejection, or an eruption of solar material, lifting off of the sun. It is expected to cause up to moderate geomagnetic storming .

Watches of this level for geomagnetic storms are not uncommon, according to the Space Weather Prediction Service, and the general public does not need to be concerned. It could, however, result in the aurora visible in multiple northern continental states, from New York, to the Midwest and Idaho.

Here's what to know about when and where to watch the aurora this week.

Aurora lovers, rejoice: 2024 could be a great year for northern lights, due to solar maximum

Where to see the aurora in the U.S.

Some states already had the chance to see the aurora on Sunday, and luckily, visibility is forecasted to grow Monday.

Alaska, thanks to its northern location, already has a high likelihood of seeing the aurora, but with the geothermal storm, other states may also catch a glimpse.

According to the Space Weather Prediction Center's forecast for Monday, the view line, denoted by the red line, could make them visible in these 17 states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

While seeing the aurora may be in the forecast, there are factors that influence how likely you may see the lights. According to the Aurora Zone , the sun's activity, cloud cover and solar winds can all affect the likelihood of seeing the aurora. If your area's forecast looks clear, there's a better chance you may see the aurora than on a cloudier night.

The NOAA notes it is possible to predict aurora a day or so in advance, though more accurate predictions can be measured between 15-45 minutes in advance.

The lights may be visible from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. EST in the U.S. To keep up to date, check the Space Weather Prediction Center's 30-minute aurora forecast .

How to see the northern lights

The northern lights aren't as common in the Lower 48 of the U.S., so seeing them with the naked eye can be an uncommon occurrence.

When you're looking for the northern lights, try using your camera if you're not seeing anything. The devices are known to pick up the lights better than the human eye.

Make sure to look closely, because faint levels of aurora can sometimes look like white clouds.

What is a geomagnetic storm?

According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, a geomagnetic storm is caused by a major disturbance of Earth's magnetosphere. It occurs when there is an exchange of energy from solar wind into the space environment surrounding the planet.

Large geomagnetic storms are associated with solar coronal mass ejections, where around a billion tons of plasma from the sun arrive at Earth. The geomagnetic storm that may cause the northern lights to be visible over the coming days is a result of coronal mass ejections, which typically take a few days to arrive at Earth.

What is the aurora?

An aurora is the glow that results when electrons from space collide with atoms and molecules in the Earth's upper atmosphere.

Depending on the hemisphere, the aurora may go by a different name: aurora borealis, or northern lights in the Northern Hemisphere, and aurora australis, or the southern lights in the Southern Hemisphere.

Thanks to Earth's magnetic field, the aurora is typically formed around the North and South poles, but geomagnetic storms can cause their visibility to be even greater.

The aurora typically forms 80 to 500 kilometers above the Earth's surface.

When you can see the aurora in 2024

Even is you miss the aurora borealis caused by the geomagnetic storm, there are other chances to see activity caused by the sun.

We are approaching the peak of Solar Cycle 25 , according to the NOAA, and can expect to see more sunspots, causing solar flares and coronal mass ejections. The NOAA says this period of elevated activity can last up to several years, with impactful space weather events possible in 2024.


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    Marvel At Gorman Falls. In the heart of Hill County, Gorman Falls is nothing short of spectral. One of those Texas hidden gems that will take your breath away. It's also situated in Colorado Bend State Park so you get to for the prices of one here. The waterfall is somewhat of a little oasis surrounded by lush greenery it has a tropical vibe.

  2. 12 Hidden Gems in Texas: Top Underrated Destinations in TX

    1. Terlingua Ghost Town Tucked away near the Rio Grande and adjacent to the vast expanse of Big Bend National Park is Terlingua. Once a bustling silver mining town, today it stands as a hauntingly beautiful reminder of Texas's history. Its remnants, from dilapidated structures to rusted mining tools, paint a vivid picture of its heyday.

  3. 23 Amazing Hidden Gems in Texas

    1. Boca Chica Park and Beach, Brownsville Source: youtube Boca Chica Beach Part of Boca Chica State Park, the beach is located on the Boca Chica Sub delta of the Rio Grande in Cameron County. Open to the public since 1994, this natural preserve was originally owned to Ygnacio Trevino as part of the Potrero de San Martin Grant.

  4. 340 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in Texas

    Discover 340 hidden attractions, cool sights, and unusual things to do in Texas from Hamilton Pool to Palo Duro Canyon.

  5. THE 10 BEST Hidden Gem Attractions in Texas (Updated 2024)

    Best Texas Hidden Gem Attractions Enter dates Attractions Filters • 1 Sort All things to do Category types Attractions Tours Day Trips Outdoor Activities Concerts & Shows Food & Drink Events Classes & Workshops Shopping Transportation Traveler Resources Types of Attractions Nature & Parks Sights & Landmarks Museums Fun & Games

  6. 17 Best Hidden Weekend Getaways and Secret Spots in Texas

    Caprock Canyons State Park Whitecap Beach Fredericksburg Port Aransas Big Bend National Park Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge Caddo Lake State Park Marfa Luckenbach Terlingua Huntsville Hueco Tanks State Park Amarillo Pedernales Falls State Park Map of the best hidden weekend getaways in Texas Ennis By Ketki from Enchanting Texas

  7. 15+ Hidden Gems in Texas You Should Visit in 2024

    Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville Best Places to Stay This "secret" beach about a half-hour's drive from Brownsville in Boca Chica State Park, is a place the town has been trying to keep under wraps for years.

  8. 15 Secret Hidden Gems In Texas You Must Visit

    August 30, 2022 // by Southern Trippers If you're looking for the best hidden gems in Texas, then you've come to the right place! We love exploring Texas, and there are simply so many cool things to do there. Texas is the second largest state in the USA, and it's incredibly diverse.

  9. 9 Hidden Gems in Texas, According to a Local

    Of course, the big tourist attractions like the Alamo and San Antonio River Walk are worth visiting, but there are also beautiful, off-the-beaten-path discoveries, where travelers can find solace...

  10. Here Are 20 Of The Best Hidden Gems In Texas You Should Visit

    In no particular order, here are some of the most amazing hidden gems in Texas. 1) Boca Chica Beach (Brownsville) Justin Hundsnurscher/Wikimedia This undeveloped beach near the Mexico border is unknown to most Texans, simply because it isn't as well-traveled.

  11. 16 Hidden gems in Texas

    Located in West Texas, you will find the beautiful and rugged Santa Elena Canyon. The natural wonder, located in Big Bend National Park, is one of the best hidden gems in Texas. The canyon was formed by the Rio Grande and has been several years in the making. The Santa Elena Canyon trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in Texas.

  12. The 11 Best Hidden Gems In Texas

    1. Cattail Marsh Wetlands Education Center, Beaumont Cattail Marsh Scenic Wetlands & Boardwalk, 4233 Babe Zaharias Dr, Beaumont, TX 77705, USA Facebook Cattail Marsh Wetlands Education Center With over 900 acres of wetlands, more than eight miles of scenic trails, and a beautiful boardwalk, Cattail Marsh is one of the best kept secrets in Texas.

  13. Here Are 12 Of The Best Kept Secrets In Texas You Should Visit

    4) Bracken Cave (San Antonio) USDA/Flickr This cave might be well-known by locals, but for those coming to visit, seeing the world's largest bat colony emerge at sunset is an unforgettable sight and one you should definitely experience while you're in San Antonio. Learn more on their website. 5) "The Slab" (Kingsland) Facebook/Anita Ruiz Whitley

  14. 21 Terrific Places to Visit in Texas!

    10. Galveston. Located on the Gulf Coast of Texas, Galveston Island is fun for the whole family, with amusement parks, museums, and beaches. For great weather, plan a trip to Galvestion in October or November or in March or April. The Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park is a big draw.

  15. 20 Hidden Adventures In Texas Hill Country

    While there are endless places to explore in Texas, we have found that Texas' Hill Country might be the best spot to start your Lone Star travels. The Texas Hill Country is, simply put, beautiful, and there are many things to do—and some fantastic places to stay —in its expansive region.

  16. 13 Best Places to Visit in Texas, According to a Local

    Fredericksburg. Located in Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg is a well-known destination for local and out-of-state tourists looking for an escape. Home to about 11,000 people, this small city is ...

  17. 5 Gorgeous Places To Visit In Texas That You Probably ...

    Dec.19.2022 Caprock Canyon State Park and Trailway is a lesser-known Texas spot for hiking and other outdoor activities. Photo credit: Jill Robbins Destinations

  18. 13 Lesser-Known Places In Texas To Visit

    1. Texas Historical Sites Are Hidden Gems In Texas Whether you're a history lover or not, the historic district in small towns is sometimes overlooked when vacationing, but it can be a fun history lesson for the whole family. My son will often tell me that he is learning the very same thing in the school that we are visiting.

  19. 10 Under-the-Radar Texas Destinations You Should Visit

    10 Under-the-Radar Texas Destinations You Should Visit. By Elizabeth Abrahamsen | January 3, 2017. Texas is a land of wonderment, filled with places and things far beyond the stereotypical and the ...

  20. Texas' Hidden Gems: Secret Places You Should Know About Before Your

    Palo Duro Canyon. The Grand Canyon may pull in some 4.5 million tourists a year, though the second largest canyon in the US lies in the heart of the Texas Panhandle … and few people know it's even there! Known as the Grand Canyon of Texas, Palo Duro Canyon is just as stunning as it's Arizona rival … offering landscapes which are equally ...

  21. 10 Of The Most Unique Places To Visit In Texas

    Related: 10 Charming, Small Texas Towns You Should Definitely Visit South Padre Island, Texas . Life's a beach on South Padre Island, which is easily one of the most unique islands in Texas to ...

  22. 10 Best Hidden Gems in Texas

    The Big Bend Ghost Town, Terlingua. Boca Chica Park and Beach, Brownsville. Stonehenge II, Ingram. The Natural Bridge Caverns, San Antonio. Jacob's Well, Wimberley. The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. The Big Thicket National Preserve, Beaumont. The great state of Texas has no shortage of strange and interesting diversions. From art ...

  23. 15 Best Places to Visit in Texas

    San José Island. #15 in Best Places to Visit in Texas. Easy to reach by ferry from Port Aransas, this former ranch is now a prime beach destination. Because San José Island is privately owned ...

  24. 15 Texas Historical Sites Worth Visiting

    Story by Karee Blunt • 2mo. 1 / 19. 15 Texas Historical Sites Worth Visiting ©Provided by Our Woven Journey. Texas, often referred to as the "Lone Star State," is a land of diverse ...

  25. 12 Hidden Gems In Texas That You Need To Check Out

    Facebook. Head out to the Civic League Park in San Angelo from the months of April to October for a beautiful display of waterlilies that you have to see to believe. This is truly a hidden oasis and one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Texas. For more information, click here. 11) Casa Neverlandia - Austin.

  26. The 9 Best Places to Visit in Texas

    She covers all things related to arts, culture, and the beautiful things that make travel so special. Read on to learn about the 9 best places to visit in Texas, which include San Antonio, Port ...

  27. This Texas restaurant is in the top 10 of Yelp's 100 Places to Eat in

    Texas' top place to eat, according to Yelp, is: Gino's Deli Stop N Buy — Rank: 9. Located in San Antonio, this New York-style deli is known for its Philly cheesesteaks, which Gino's calls ...

  28. This hidden BBQ joint is taking Dubai's food scene by storm

    He transported the smoker to Dubai in 2022, opening Big T's BBQ in December of that year. It was bare-bones: the sign above the door was handpainted, and a hand-written menu was taped by the ...

  29. Which states could see northern lights Monday? What forecast shows

    According to the Space Weather Prediction Center's forecast for Monday, the view line, denoted by the red line, could make them visible in these 17 states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York ...