Texas is the largest state in the continental US. With three major cities, a vast stretch of wilderness, and over 300 miles of coastline, you can be assured that there’s plenty to do in the Lone Star State.
The biggest problem with visiting Texas is deciding where to go. Unless you have over a month of vacation time, it’s hard to see it all. To help you decide, this list of epic things to do in Texas showcases fun adventures in each region.
Start planning your trips to Texas and check out some of the cool things the state has to offer!
What is the Number one Attraction in Texas?
According to USA Today’s 10 Best Competition, the top tourist attraction in Texas is San Antonio’s River Walk. The River Walk is a 15-mile stretch of the San Antonio River, five of which encompass the downtown area.
The River Walk contains shops, restaurants, museums, and other curiosities for tourists to enjoy. It also hosts events year-round, such as concerts, artisan shows, light shows, and seasonal activities.
40+ Epic Things to Do in Texas
Remember the Alamo
While in San Antonio, visit the famed battle site in the war for Texas’ independence from Mexico. The Alamo is a small fort where 200 Texan volunteers resisted invading Mexican forces for 13 days.
Although the battle was lost and most of the volunteers, including famed frontiersman Davie Crocket, perished in action, the effort became a rallying cry. “Remember the Alamo” turned into a battle slogan, motivating Texans to join the fight for freedom.
The Alamo is located on the city walk in downtown San Antonio.
Tour a Mission
The Alamo is just one of the many 18th-century Spanish Missions that call San Antonio home. The most iconic is the Mission San Jose, dubbed “Queen of the Missions.” The 300-year-old structure was restored to its original glory in the 1930s and is protected by the National Park Services.
Visitors should also check out Mission Conception, the oldest unrestored stone structure in the US, and Mission San Juan Capistrano, which features a bell tower that’s still in use.
Although San Antonio is home to the most famous missions in Texas, you can find more of these historic structures sprinkled throughout the state. There’s a scattering of missions along the border near Laredo, a few on the western edge near El Paso, and a few still-standing missions near Texas’s oldest city, Nacogdoches.
Sip Tea in a Japanese Garden
The Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio is a perfect location for a short respite. The garden features a serene coy pond, trickling waterfall, and enclosed pavilion ideal for relaxation.
The Japanese Tea Garden has a long history. Operating for over 90 years, the garden serves as a cultural resource and educational center for Japanese Americans. It’s also available for weddings and special events.
The Jingo House Café is the tea house serving the garden, but unfortunately, it’s currently closed for renovations.
Descend into a Natural Wonder
Texas is a massive state with many above and underground topological features. Although there are numerous caves to explore statewide, the largest and most popular are the Natural Bridge Caverns near San Antonio.
Tourists can descend up to 180 feet into the Earth’s surface while admiring the impressive stalactites, cave ribbons, and limestone naturally decorating the passages. Those looking for a more challenging cave experience can opt for one of the adventure tours, which often require ropes, crawling, and other physically demanding activities but are worthwhile for the spectacular underground features hidden in the hard-to-reach chambers.
Those who don’t wish to explore the Earth’s depths can also enjoy the caverns. The surface features a maze, rope course, gem mining, and other activities the whole family can enjoy.
Stay in a Haunted Hotel
When visiting San Antonio to stroll the riverwalk or visit the Alamo, consider staying in the historic and haunted Emily Morgan hotel.
The Emily Morgan often makes the list of America’s most haunted hotels. The hotel sits near the grounds of the historic Alamo battlefield, and its early history includes a stint as a medical hospital that was rumored to have housed psychiatric patients.
Hotel staff and guests have long reported strange occurrences, such as randomly ringing phones, pillows thrown from beds, doors closing for no reason, and strange smells. Although the hauntings are likely just a story, it’s exhilarating to stay at a hotel with such a spooky history.
San Antonio isn’t the only Texan city with haunted hotels. Head about 90 minutes North to the state’s capital and stay at the Driskill on 6th street to catch a glimpse of some of Austin’s most famous ghost residents.
Rock out to Live Music
Austin is the live music capital of the US. The downtown area is bursting with bars and venues offering live music throughout the week. The city also hosts a few big-name festivals, including the twice-annual Austin City Limits.
The city embraces its label as a place to enjoy trendy new bands and live music. Wherever your visit to Austin may take you, you’re likely only a stone’s throw away from a small music venue. Follow the vibrations echoing throughout the city for a spectacular live show.
South x Southwest
If you’re visiting Texas in March, consider springing for a ticket to the iconic South by Southwest festival. This 10-day convention takes place in the middle of March each year and is a celebration of music, film, and technology.
South by Southwest offers keynote speakers on emerging technology, a live music festival, and a film festival. Panels include influencers from various artistic mediums discussing various ways technology can apply to current events. Innovation is the start of the show.
The music lineup features hundreds of bands, with a preference for showcasing new and independent talent, though big names such as Drake and Dolly Parton have also made appearances.
If you’re interested in music, film, or technology, South by Southwest must be on your bucket list.
Keep Austin Weird! The city embraces the weird, promoting small businesses and street art over corporate chains and pristine cookie-cutter layouts.
An excellent example of Austin’s love of weird is the Museum of the Weird on 6th street. This dime store museum features an eclectic collection of oddities from around the globe. View shrunken heads, fantastical creatures, and more at this must-visit Austin locale.
If you want more weird, check out the Cathedral of Junk and the Toy Museum, both fun reminders that Austin loves to keep things weird.
Explore the Largest State Capital
Austin is the capital of Texas and features the most prominent state capital building in the United States. The capital grounds feature lush green grass and gorgeous shade trees and are open daily for a relaxing stroll.
The capital building itself is also worth a tour. Restorationists recreated the splendor of the original rooms from when the capital was first built. Visitors can view fine craftsmanship during a tour offered daily. Don’t miss heading up to the Capital Dome is a wonderful place to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Swim in a Natural Pool
The Hamilton Pool Reserve, located about 30 miles outside of Austin, is a natural spring halfway underneath a gorgeous cliff. The pool features stunning green waters and brave catfish surrounded by massive rock walls.
The pool is often open to swimming, but you must make reservations far in advance because the state only allows a small number of visitors per day. When you visit, you can see why. The pool is small and made smaller due to the dangers of falling rocks. Much of the pool is closed off to prevent tourists from getting hurt.
Non-swimmers can enjoy the pool’s gorgeous scenery or a moderate hike around the creek bed.
If you want to stay in Austin for a natural dip, check out Barton Springs Pool, a hot spring located right in the city. Getting there early is best as the pool fills up on hot summer days.
Taste Texas Wine Country
Texas may not be known for its wine, but the state’s growing viniculture industry is looking to change that. Texas features over 4000 acres of vineyards and 500 wineries, primarily located in east Texas.
To experience Texas Wine Culture, you must visit Fredericksburg, a small town about 90 minutes west of Austin. The village is the epicenter of Texas Wine Country, featuring over 50 wineries and tasting rooms for your enjoyment.
Although the town’s main draw is its wine, Fredericksburg has plenty to offer non-drinkers. It’s home to numerous small galleries and museums of western culture and has a variety of fine dining experiences to offer visitors.
Become Enchanted with a Rock
Ireland is not the only place with an iconic rock. Though not as historic as the Blarney Stone, the Enchanted Rock, located just north of Fredericksburg, is worth a visit.
Enchanted Rock is a state park featuring a mysterious pink granite dome. Stories abound about spirits who wander the rocky expense and portals to the spirit world hidden in the dome’s depths.
Regardless of the stories, Enchanted Rock is a perfect place to spend the day hiking and exploring the beauty of Texas’ hill country. It’s one of the tallest points in central Texas, offering gorgeous panoramic views at sunrise and sunset. Visitors can rock climb, bird watch, star gaze, and even have picnics in the serene beauty of the park.
Stop and Smell the Flowers at a Botanical Garden
Although most major cities in Texas have at least one botanical garden to enjoy, Austin and Dallas are the best places to stop and smell the flowers.
Dallas is home to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, a 66-acre complex bursting with colorful flora from around the state (and the world!). The park features a magnolia grove, pecan farm, rose garden, and various seasonal events. Although blooms vary by season and are most common in spring and summer, the Botanical Gardens is a beautiful place to visit all year.
Although the botanical garden in Austin isn’t as large, it’s equally as impressive and important. The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to conserving and promoting native Texas species. Founded by former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, the park is a research center and place where visitors can appreciate the wildflowers native to Texas.
Support America’s Team
As a Bears fan, it pains me to admit that the Chicago Bears are not the quintessential American football team. Alas, that honor generally falls to the Dallas Cowboys, long considered “America’s Team” for some reason.
If you find yourself in Dallas during the NFL season, which generally runs from August to December (including pre-season, excluding the playoffs), consider catching a football game to see what all the hype is about. Whether you’re a fan or not, nothing beats the exhilaration of a hometown crowd rooting for that perfect touchdown pass.
Unfortunately, one of the main things Dallas is known for is the assassination of the beloved president, John F. Kennedy, in 1963. However, the city paid tribute to the political figure and the event that shook the nation by turning the book depository into a museum in his honor.
Although conspiracy theories regarding the assassination abound, the official report is that Leo Harvey Oswald committed the atrocious act from the 6th floor of the depository. Visitors can learn about Kennedy’s life and legacy at this historic site.
Watch the Races
Fans of Nascar will enjoy tickets to Texas Motor Speedway, one of the largest motorsports venues in the world. Although the Nascar playoffs are the main draw of the track, it also features a variety of smaller races and events throughout the year.
Texas Motor Speedway lies in the Northern part of Fort Worth, Dallas’s sister city. Racing fans can head to the speedway to experience the thrill of driving with the immersive Nascar racing experience, where you can drive a real racecar around the track! The facility also features one of the country’s most renowned stock car driving schools!
Fans of racing or cars, in general, will consider a visit to the Texas Motor Speedway one of the best things to do in Texas.
Hang out with Wild Animals
Although many cities in Texas feature zoos, those wanting the best experience with wild animals should visit the Dallas Fort Worth area. Each city has a highly ranked zoo, and both are worth a visit.
The Dallas Zoological Park features over 100 acres of animal exhibits, dining, and attractions. Highlights include daily keepers’ chats and the option to feed giraffes.
The Fort Worth Zoo is much larger, with over 7000 animals on display. Fort Worth also offers a giraffe feeding experience and a sting ray cove.
If you’re an animal lover, both zoos should be on your list of things to do in Texas.
Trace Mankind’s Journey to the Skies
The Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas celebrates the history of aviation and space exploration. Featuring aircraft models ranging from the original 1903 Wright Brothers design to modern passenger carriers, the museum is a perfect place to learn about humanity’s quest for flight.
Exhibits don’t end with aircraft. Mankind’s journey has taken us beyond the confines of Earth’s atmosphere. The Frontiers of Flight Museum features an Apollo 7 command module and a replica of Sputnik.
Other cities in Texas also feature fascinating flight museums. If you are passionate about aviation, consider visiting the Lonestar Flight Museum in Houston and the Texas Air & Space Museum in Amarillo.
Visit the Space Center
Houston, we have a problem.
The iconic words from the hit movie Apollo 13 may have real-life implications at the space center!
As the official visitor center for NASA, the Space Center Houston is dedicated to educating the public on space exploration, shuttle technology, and the universe in general. Visitors can get a glimpse inside the Apollo 17 command center, stroll through the history of space suits, and even get inside a shuttle replica on Independence Plaza.
Those looking for an even more immersive experience can purchase the VIP behind-the-scenes tour, granting access to mission control, the space mission simulation facility, and the real-life astronaut training facilities.
Remember Those Lost in Battle
The world’s largest war memorial pays homage to the lives lost in Texas’s battle for independence. Towering over the surrounding area with a height of 570 feet, the San Jacinto Monument is a testament to human ingenuity.
Visitors can learn the history of Texas’ quest for freedom at the museum located at the monument’s base, then head 500 feet into the clouds to the observation deck. Historians will enjoy the birds-eye view of the former battlefields and glimpses of the Houston skyline on clear days.
The Rothko Chapel in Houston is ideal for meditating and focusing on inner peace. Although the chapel primarily serves as a place of worship and quiet reflection, it also houses works from the famous artist who lends his name to the facility.
The chapel walls are decorated with 14 murals by late 20th-century artist Mark Rothko. The founders commissioned Rothko for the paintings, which took him over two years to complete.
The chapel grounds include a reflecting pool with a broken obelisk sculpture by Barnett Newman. Newman designed the sculpture in tribute to Civil Rights Activist Martin Luther King Jr, and the Rothko Chapel continues to be a place where civil rights leaders and activists can build a community.
Embark on a Cruise
Galveston, Texas, is a port city dedicated to cruising. Luxury ocean liners start their journey in Galveston and head to exotic locales in the Caribbean, Belize, and Mexico. As it turns out, one of the best things to do in Texas is leave it!
I kid, Texas is a great state, but travelers looking for an international adventure should consider a cruise from Galveston. There are various options for every price range from the world’s largest cruise companies, including Disney, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian.
Cruises depart Galveston all year long with a variety of voyage lengths. Those with limited time might enjoy the 3-day cruise to Mexico, while those looking for a longer journey will love the seven-day trip to Belize!
Take a Long Walk on a Short Pier
Whether embarking on a voyage or not, you should consider adding Galveston to your Texas Bucket list. Galveston’s Historic Pleasure Pier features rides, shops, games, dining, and even a 5D theater ride!
The pleasure pier is a perfect destination for a family getaway, as there are plenty of activities for kids of all ages. The pier features a variety of fun fair foods, from turkey legs to cotton candy, and there’s also a brew station conveniently serving beer right on the dock.
There are also a variety of restaurants and breweries near the pier for those who don’t want to pay inflated prices for fair food & drink.
Get Up Close & Personal with Sea Creatures
Head a little further up the coast for an up close and personal experience with the abundant sea creatures native to the gulf.
The Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi is home to dolphins, sharks, otters, sea turtles, and a wide array of tropical fish and birds. It even houses two endangered ocelots, who, although not sea creatures, are native to South Texas and highly endangered.
The aquarium also offers limited VIP experiences, allowing some visitors to snorkel with the sharks living in the Caribbean exhibit. The tours are extremely limited so as not to disturb the sharks, so be sure to book in advance!
Travelers who love exotic sea creatures might prefer visiting the Dallas World Aquarium. Featuring an abundance of fish, birds, and mammals from around the world, the Dallas Aquarium is a leader in aquatic education and conservation programs.
Enjoy a Beach Getaway
Texas likely isn’t the first state you consider when planning a beach getaway. However, Texas has over 300 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico and includes one of the only tropical islands in the continental US!
Head to the very southern tip of Texas to find South Padre Island, a pristine barrier island featuring miles of white sand beaches, sparkling emerald waters, and everything a tourist needs for a relaxing beach vacation.
Don’t let the idyllic destination fool you – there’s plenty to do for vacationers seeking a little fun! Embark upon a deep-sea fishing adventure, learn how to build sandcastles, or enjoy the various activities available at the adventure park. San Padre Island has something for everyone and is one of the best places to visit in Texas.
Rescue Sea Turtles
The southern coast of Texas is ideal habitat for a host of wildlife, including many species of endangered sea turtles. Sea Turtle Inc. is a rescue organization dedicated to releasing sick and injured turtles into the wild.
The rescue welcomes visitors, as a secondary mission is to educate the public about sea turtle habitat and how to avoid harming these majestic creatures.
If you’re visiting the island for an extended period, consider volunteering to help out. Volunteers typically help with educational programs and maintenance.
Watch the Mysterious Lights
In the Southwestern deserts of Texas stands a small town with a big secret. The problem is no one is certain what that secret is.
Marfa, Texas, is an unassuming town but plays host to a mysterious phenomenon. The Marfa Lights, as it’s come to be called, is a series of strange lights that dance in the distant desert. Stories abound about the lights’ origin, spanning from the paranormal to the mundane. Some believe the lights are extraterrestrial in origin, while skeptics maintain they are simply car lights from a distant highway.
Whatever their origin, the Marfa lights cause quite a stir. The city even hosts a festival dedicated to the spectacular show every year in September.
Visit a Frontier Fort
Fort Davis is one of the most well-preserved examples of a frontier fort in the United States. Designed to protect emigrants traveling from San Antonio to El Paso during the days of the Wild West, the fort was an essential outpost in the United State’s battles with the Native Americans.
Visitors to the fort can take a self-guided tour through the five restored buildings that house the most crucial information and artifacts of the fort, then explore the hundreds of ruins in the surrounding areas.
The park also has numerous hiking trails for those more interested in the natural area than Texas history.
View the Galaxy
The area around Marfa and southwestern Texas, in general, is barren. Some areas are so remote that you won’t encounter a single car for miles. The solitude and desert atmosphere make these regions ideal for star gazing.
The best place for stargazing in Texas is the McDonald Observatory, a University of Texas property nestled in the mountains about two hours North of Big Bend. The observatory is open to visitors during the day but also features a variety of nighttime programs for stargazers. It has five telescopes dedicated to uncovering the secrets of the universe.
Texas features an abundance of secluded areas free from light pollution for those who wish to watch the stars on their own. Consider visiting Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the panhandle, or Brazos Bend State Park near the gulf, for glimpses of the undiluted night sky.
Dripping Springs, just east of Austin, was the first community in Texas to receive “international dark sky community” status and hosts a night sky festival each year in March.
Hike the Desert Wilderness
Nature loves visiting Texas will want to experience the state’s most iconic National Park: Big Bend. The park is situated on the border of Mexico and features immense desert landscapes, scenic canyons, and access to the Rio Grande. Exploring this natural wonder is one of the top things to do in Texas.
Visitors to Big Bend National Park need to keep the climate in mind. The park encompasses a large portion of the Chihuahuan Desert, and in the summer, temperatures in these areas often reach 100 degrees and higher. The scorching heat limits the activities available in the summer months, so adventure seekers may prefer to visit this park during the shoulder seasons or in winter.
Explore a Rocky Expanse (Guadalupe Mountains National Park)
Of the two National Parks in Texas, Big Bend is more popular, but Guadalupe Mountains National Park is also worth a visit. Located in Western Texas just south of the New Mexican border, this park protects over 70,000 acres of wilderness in the Guadalupe Mountain range.
One of the park’s most interesting aspects is the fossilized coral reef visible under the mountains. Scientists estimate that over 400 miles of the ancient reef is buried in the mountains.
The park protects 12 miles of exposed reef. Visitors interested in the fossil record can hike the Permian Reef Trail to get a glimpse of the exposed fossils.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park also features the tallest mountain in Texas. Guadalupe Peak stands 8700 feet above sea level and features a 4.25-mile hike to the summit.
Eat REAL BBQ
If there’s one thing Texas knows, it’s barbeque. Though many states fight for the crown of “best BBQ in the nation,” nothing beats an original Texas smokehouse.
Wherever your travels in Texas take you, you will likely find great BBQ. Feasting on the tender smoked brisket is almost a rite of passage for visitors to the state.
If you’re in Austin, check out Franklins BBQ, often said to be the best in the state. The long lines can be problematic, so if you can’t wait it out, head to Terry Blacks just south of the river for the most delicate beef rib you’ve ever encountered. There’s also a Terry Black’s in Dallas, but Smokey Joe’s and One90 often top the lists of “best BBQ in Dallas.” Houston’s Truth BBQ and Corkscrew BBQ are praised as the top BBQ restaurants in the state.
Texas is filled with BBQ restaurants, though, and you probably can’t go wrong with any family-owned joint in the state.
The abundance of major cities in Texas gives visitors to the state ample opportunity to appreciate fine art.
The Dallas Museum of Art is one of the largest art museums in the US, featuring a collection of over 25,000 objects spanning five centuries of human history. The collection includes works by influential artists such as Jackson Pollack, Pablo Picasso, and Camille Pissarro, to name a few.
Dallas’s sister city is home to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which features a collection of over 3000 works from the 1950s-present day. The museum is a splendid repository of works from significant 20th-century art movements such as Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.
Visitors to Houston may want to explore the Museum of Fine Arts. The museum is home to various works ranging from antiquities to modern art. The 70,000-object collection makes the Dallas Museum look small by comparison!
Austin, El Paso, and San Antonio also have smaller art museums to explore. Wherever you find yourself in Texas, you can likely find a gallery nearby!
Visit a Presidential Library
Presidential Libraries are galleries that showcase historical documents and artifacts of a specific presidential administration. As the home state to three former presidents, Texas has three Presidential Libraries.
The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin pays homage to the life and times of the 36th president with collections of clothing, artifacts, and letters from his time in the White House.
The George H. W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station features exhibits from the Second World War, focusing on how events of that era shaped a young Bush. The museum also features collections about the Bush family, the oil industry, and Bush’s work with the CIA.
The George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas features an extensive collection surrounding the terrorist attacks on September 11 and the presidential response. The museum is also home to various objects gifted to the President and his administration through foreign diplomacy.
Each museum showcases a different point in American history from the perspective of our leaders at the time. Anyone interested in politics or history should consider adding these presidential libraries to their Texas bucket lists.
Learn About the World
Every major city in Texas has educational museums dedicated to either science or nature for you to explore. Travelers lusting for knowledge will enjoy the wide variety of educational museums scattered across the state.
Here is a sampling of the best museums dedicated to science, nature, and technology across the state:
- Houston Museum of Natural Science
- Perot Museum of Nature and Science (Dallas)
- Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
- Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History
- International Museum of Art and Science (McAllen)
If you prefer to keep your historical exploration local to Texas, consider visiting these museums dedicated to Texas history and culture:
- Witte Museum (San Antonio)
- Mayborn Museum (Waco)
- El Paso Museum of Archeology
- Texas Through Time (Hillsboro)
- Bullock Texas State History Museum (Austin)
Seek Thrills at one of the Many Theme Parks
Thrill seekers traveling to Texas will love the multitude of theme parks and attractions scattered throughout the state. Here are some of the best places to get your adrenaline pumping during your trip to Texas:
- Six Flags Over Texas (Dallas/Ft. Worth area)
- Six Flags Fiesta Texas (San Antonio)
- Sea World (San Antonio)
- Joyland Amusement Park (Lubbock)
- ZDTs Amusement Park (Seguin)
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Texas is a massive state with many ecosystems and geographies to explore. Enjoy hiking, fishing, kayaking, biking, rafting, camping, and all the outdoor adventures you could want in a single trip to Texas.
Regardless of which part of the state you visit, you will find ample opportunity to enjoy the wilderness. Even the bustling cities have hiking trails and local parks scattered throughout them.
A big bonus of Texas is the warm climate throughout the year. Though the Northern cities can get cold, snow is rare, and the southern areas are ideal for outdoor activities most of the year. If you love being outside, Texas is the state to visit.
So Many Epic Things to Do in Texas!
Texas is a massive state with tons of culture, history, and terrain to explore. All the major cities are filled with arts, museums, theme parks, and unique tourist attractions. Wherever your travels through the Lone Star state take you, you will find intrigue, excitement, and fun things to do!
Enjoy your visit!
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.