The Best of Texas
Texas is an enormous state, but fortunately the drives between most of its major cities can be made within a morning. Though it’s a daunting task, it’s physically possible to capture the essence of Texas over the course of a week if you’re expedient and selective. If you’d prefer to move at a more leisurely Southern pace, you better give yourself at least 10 days, especially if you have extra time to explore West Texas.
Begin in Fort Worth, even if your hotel is in Dallas, in which case the 40-minute drive west on I-30 is still worth the effort. Go directly to the Fort Worth Stockyards and immerse yourself in Texas’s cattle-driving heritage. Spend the afternoon at the internationally acclaimed Kimbell Art Museum before devoting the evening to eating and nightlife at Sundance Square.
Despite the negative associations, Dallas’s lasting legacy is its association with John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the Sixth Floor Museum deftly documents its political and cultural implications. After lunch in the historic West End MarketPlace, visit Fair Park, where seven museums tell the story of Dallas’s and Texas’s rich past. For dinner and drinks, be sure to visit the Greenville entertainment district.
Head south on I-35 to Austin for a day and night in Texas’s creative hotbed. Visit the State Capitol, take a stroll down trendy South Congress Avenue, watch a million bats emerge from under a downtown bridge, and experience “the Live Music Capital of the World” in the Sixth Street entertainment district. The following day, head south on I-35 to San Antonio if your time in Texas is limited (jump to Day 8).
West Texas Detour Day 4
Traverse the Texas Hill Country on Highway 290 West (from Austin) and enjoy the remaining scenic trek on I-10 before heading south on Route 17 to Marfa. The eight-hour drive to get here is long, but the scenic basin and mesa landscape along I-10 is a welcome distraction. Reward yourself for the long drive by enjoying an evening cocktail and dinner at the Hotel Paisano.
In the morning, grab a cup of java at the Marfa Book Co. to fuel up for the fascinating Chinati Foundation, which features contemporary art in a former Army base. Later in the afternoon, head over to Alpine for the Museum of the Big Bend and dinner at the Reata. After sundown, be sure to look for the mysterious Marfa Lights.
Head south on Route 188 to Big Bend National Park for a day of hiking (the Santa Elena Canyon is a must-see), or simply soak up the beauty of this natural wonder via a scenic drive through the Chisos Mountains. A side trip to the abandoned mining town of Terlingua is also an appealing option.
Take another Big Bend hike (the Lost Mine Trail is highly recommended) or head back to Fort Davis for a quick visit to McDonald Observatory or Fort Davis National Historic Site before making the long trek back to Central Texas.
Back to Civilization Day 8
Start your day in San Antonio by visiting Texas’s most famous attraction: the Alamo. Afterward, take a stroll along the scenic and bustling River Walk, where you can lunch on tacos and enchiladas at Rio Rio Cantina. Afterward, visit the Alamo’s historic siblings, the four other 18th-century structures comprising the Missions National Historical Park, or search for tempting Mexican imports and dinner in the King William Historic District.
Head east on I-10 to Houston for an out-of-this-world experience at the NASA Space Center. Visit the Museum District to choose from any of its 14 world-class facilities, or for something completely distinctive, check out the bizarre folk art of The Orange Show.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition