Our Geeks compared dozens of cities to find the most charming places to visit (or live) in Texas. Whether you’re moving to the Lone Star State or just passing through, these destinations should definitely make your itinerary:
Home to restored 19th-century buildings, a vintage railroad, and a variety of artisans’ studios, there’s a hipster feel to downtown Grapevine. And you can explore it all aboard the Grapevine Visitors Shuttle for just $5 a ride. Take the kids to the Legoland Discovery Center, then wind down at the Texas Star Dinner Theater.
2. Eagle Pass
Often referred to as Mexico’s Door due to its two international bridges across the border and the historic ruins of the 18th-century San Bernardo Mission, Eagle Pass offers one-of-a-kind shopping experiences, fishing at Maverick County Lake, and access to the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino.
Treat the family to a visit to Moody Gardens – where they can explore an indoor rainforest, a discovery pyramid featuring themed attractions, and interactive animal attractions – or the Pleasure Pier, with its 15 amusement rides, and round it all off at Board Game Island, a cafe with walls lined with opportunities to play.
With 56 miles of recreational trails freely open to the public, Plano offers the outdoor addict both the Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve and Arbor Hills Nature Preserve to explore by foot, bike, or even canoe. And for those who prefer to get off the ground, there’s Go Ape, the state’s first treetop adventure course.
5. College Station
Though it’s home to Texas A&M University, there’s more to do in this town than play beer pong and $1 beer. The George Bush Presidential Library is a local literary and architectural icon, Santa’s Wonderland
offers acres of lights, decorations and events, and First Friday is a tradition that showcases street performers, food trucks and live musical performances. Escape the heat at Lake Bryan or tackle the miles of open walking and biking trails available at the city’s 55 public parks.
The Yellow Rose of Texas is steeped in western culture, with an array of beautiful natural scenery and a charming downtown. Finish a 72-ounce steak at The Big Texan Steak Ranch and it’s free, Amarillo Botanical Gardens is a surprisingly lush haven for foliage, flowers and butterflies, Palo Duro Canyon State Park – with its 30 miles of hiking, biking and horse-riding trails – is the second largest canyon in the US, and the Globe-News Center for Performing Arts or the Amarillo Civic Center offers access to the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra, the Lone Star Ballet and the Amarillo Little Theater, all in one place.
Deep in the heart of cowboy country lies a little hipster haven: Stars and Stripes Drive-In will take you back to the 1950s, Sugar Brown’s Coffee is a cozy and unique hangout with the best brews for miles around, Moonlight Musical displays vintage titles in an outdoor setting and First Friday Art Trail is a showcase of local galleries and exhibits. Get closer to nature at Lubbock’s Memorial Arboretum, try locally grown produce at the Downtown Farmer’s Market or settle in for wine, cheese trays and live music at McPherson Patio Nights at McPherson Cellars.
Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History encourages kids to interact with the fossil displays and exotic animals on show, Messina Hof Winery & Resort offers grape-picking and smashing excursions, Royal Oaks Alpacas is a fun, family-friendly farm and Lake Bryan Park offers easy access to sailing, jet-skiing and picnicking opportunities. Try the famous breakfast at Hullabaloo Diner, enjoy crispy chicken fingers with a delicious secret sauce at Layne’s, get the slow-smoked everything at Fargo’s Pit BBQ, and wrap it all up with a cold one or two at Dixie Chicken.
Rated the #2 Best Place to Live in the Country by Money Magazine, Allen offers plenty to do and see. The Allen Event Center holds over 150 concerts and events each year, the Market Street Allen USA Celebration draws over 80,000 people to the city’s Fourth of July events and the Dallas Arts District is the largest arts district in the US. And kids get to choose between the Don Rodenbaugh Natatorium, a fully enclosed indoor water park with swimming pool and a rock-climbing wall, and The Edge Skate Park, which includes two roller-hockey rinks and a BMX track.
Kids have a ball in Colleyville: Adventure World Park has swings, slides and waiting picnic tables, Bicentennial Park offers a unique zip-lining experience, Chisholm Park is perfect for fishing and swimming, and Grapevine Botanical Gardens is home to koi fish and a chance to relax in the greenhouse. Pack a picnic blanket and head out to the floral Colleyville Nature Center, or pack the bathing costumes to enjoy Dove Park’s enormous swimming pool. Moxley Manor Haunted House is a thrill for the whole family, while Boys Ranch Park and Activity Center offers rock climbing walls, a splash park and pumptrack.
11. San Antonio
Let the kids run wild in the playground at Yanaguana Garden while you try croissants and coffee at CommonWealth Coffeehouse & Bakery, or the craft beers and margaritas at Con Safos Cocina & Cantina. Go kayaking at Confluence Park, rent a bike to explore the city’s famous missions, or walk the dogs while browsing the fresh produce on offer at the Farmers Market in the Pearl District. Try bubble tea at the Japanese Tea Garden, discover hundreds of preserved dinosaur tracks at Government Canyon or do some yoga surrounded by 33 acres of exotic and local plants and trees at the San Antonio Botanical Garden.