Texas summers are notoriously long and hot. So consider planning your weekend getaway in Texas during the autumn season when the thermometer backs down and residents of the Lone Star State start to party. But ultimately whether you come in the thick of the summer heat or in the middle of winter, there are plenty of wonderful weekend getaways in Texas.
11 Weekend Getaways in Texas | Ready and Rarin' to Hit the Road
Amarillo | Head Down Into Palo Duro Canyon
Historic Route 66 runs right through the heart of this Panhandle city, and the buildings that once housed theaters, roadside cafes, and drugstores are now full of shops and diners that hark back to the region’s heyday. Amarillo is also the cultural and commercial capital of the Texas Panhandle — a center for cattle ranching, wheat and cotton farming, and oil production.
Today, it’s also known for attractions that range from historic — like the American Quarter Horse Museum — to quirky, epitomized by the often-photographed Cadillac Ranch. When the sun sets on the plains, save time for a meal at the Big Texan Steak House and challenge yourself with the famous 72-ounce steak dinner with all the trimmings.
Amarillo is also the gateway to the nation’s second-largest canyon, Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Truly a Texas-sized wonder, this natural chasm stretches for 120 miles and is known as the “Grand Canyon of Texas.” Autumn makes the perfect time to visit the 30,000-plus acre park and enjoy hiking, horseback riding, and cowboy breakfasts.
Austin | Keepin’ Things Weird
Austin’s a city on the move — the fastest growing city of its size in the country due largely to its booming tech industry. But what the statistics don’t reveal is that it’s not just the business climate but also the merging of nature, history, and nightlife that makes the capital city special.
Nicknamed the “River City” thanks to its location on the Colorado River’s Lady Bird Lake, Austin’s packed with natural fun — from year-around swimming at beautiful Barton Springs to miles of downtown trails (where the number of jogging dogs will attest to the fact that this is one of the most dog-friendly cities in the nation). In the shadow of the growing skyline stands some of the city’s most historic spots including the State Capitol and the University of Texas with its LBJ Presidential Library.
Students, politicians, and techies come together at Austin’s popular nightlife areas including Sixth Street, home of the city’s adult Halloween bash — one of many events that have given Austin a reputation as a city that doesn’t always take itself too seriously. It’s a sentiment echoed by the city’s most popular bumper sticker, “Keep Austin Weird.”
Can’t-Miss Fall Fun
One of the biggest literary events in the country is held every November on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol. The Texas Book Festival showcases about 250 authors in panel discussions, book signings, and readings in a huge event that also includes plenty of food and music.
College Station | Have Some Wine
The twin cities of Bryan and College Station, as they’re often called, are located in the Brazos Valley — a fertile tract of farms, vineyards, and museums. Visit Messina Hof Winery to see how the winemakers borrowed from German and Italian traditions to produce wines that you can sample during your visit. College Station is home to Texas A&M University, selected by former President George H.W. Bush—that’s number 41, not 43—to house his presidential library. Located on the campus’s southwest corner, the library and museum contain memorabilia, personal
College Station is home to Texas A&M University, selected by former President George H.W. Bush to house his presidential library. Located on the campus’s southwest corner, the library and museum contain memorabilia, personal papers, and official records. The museum houses replicas of the former president’s offices on Air Force One and at Camp David.
Fall is synonymous with football in College Station. Snag a ticket for a game at Kyle Field. Since 1931, the team’s mascot has been a series of dogs named Reveille (named after a stray who barked whenever the campus bugler played “Reveille). Now a collie, each dog continues the Reveille name and, when their days are done, the dogs are buried at the stadium. When an expansion of the field meant that the scoreboard was blocked, all the graves were moved to the stadium’s north entrance where a special electronic scoreboard was added so that the graves would always face the scoreboard.
Dallas | Big Things Happen Here
For many visitors, Dallas is the home of icons that symbolize Texas — from J.R. to the Dallas Cowboys. The “Big D” holds a special place in the hearts of Texans. Surrounded by a metroplex that spans nearly 9,000 square miles, Dallas lives up to its tourism slogan: “BIG Things Happen here.”
Culture vultures can set their sights on the Dallas Arts District, among the nation’s largest and most significant urban arts district. The Dallas Museum of Art, founded in 1903, is home to expansive collections and serves as the anchor of the District. Nearby, stroll to the Nasher Sculpture Center, a world-class museum dedicated to modern and contemporary sculpture.
If you come during the fall, biggest event in the state is Dallas’ Texas State Fair which ranks as both the nation’s largest state fair and the longest-running. It also claims the title of the Fried Food Capital of Texas®. Concessions that began with Fletcher’s Original State Fair Corny Dogs back in 1942 have now grown into a list that has included Deep Fried Butter, Fried Coke, Fried Beer™, and even Fried Bubblegum. If you can’t make it to the State Fair, don’t miss Dallas’ other top fall attraction — Autumn at the Arboretum. Held at the Dallas Arboretum, the event is often called one of America’s top pumpkin festivals.
Fredericksburg | Germany In Texas
Settled by German immigrants, Fredericksburg is now known for its unique shops, historic buildings, fine dining, and thriving wine industry. East of town, visit the famous hamlet of Luckenbach, made into a Texas institution by Waylon Jennings’s popular country song of the same name. West of town, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area’s granite dome, second in size only to Georgia’s Stone Mountain, is perfect for a fall hike or picnic.
November means Veteran’s Day, but in Fredericksburg, the military is honored daily at The National Museum of the Pacific War. Located right in town, this is the only museum in the U.S. that is dedicated to remembering the Pacific Theater battles of World War II.
In the fall, Texas may not be synonymous with leaf-peeping, but the Hill Country puts on a show of color when bigtooth maples, sumacs, sycamores, chinaberries, and cottonwoods reveal their fall finery. Take a day trip from Fredericksburg to Lost Maples State Park, usually at its peak of color in early November.
Fort Worth | Beginning of the West
If there’s one big city in Texas that has “the look” that many out of state visitors expect to see, it’s probably Fort Worth. The city that calls itself “the place where the West begins” is home to the Fort Worth Stockyards — a National Historic District that’s still home to cowboys on horseback, historic hotels, and an all-around good time.
Do some western shopping, belly up to the bar at the White Elephant Saloon (dating back to 1884), do some boot-scootin’ at Billy Bob’s Texas, and maybe even catch a rodeo at the Cowtown Coliseum, home of the world’s first indoor rodeo. Twice a day, you can experience the Fort Worth Herd, the world’s only daily cattle drive.
Visit the Stockyards in style aboard the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. The historic trains depart from Grapevine (home of DFW International Airport and a leader in the Texas wine industry) and travel the historic Cotton Belt Route to the famous Stockyards.
Galveston | The Best of Both Worlds
Galveston is a marriage of the best of both worlds: city culture and seaside resort. This island paradise joins together the fine dining, historic attractions, and cultural events normally found in the big city with the sandy pleasures of a beachside playground.
Travelers stroll historic streets, passing specialty shops and restaurants housed in one of the nation’s largest collections of Victorian commercial architecture in The Strand — a 36-block historic district. The beach fun continues during the fall months at the indoor/outdoor Schlitterbahn® Galveston Island Waterpark. Next door stands Moody Gardens where glass pyramids showcase rainforest exhibits, space displays, and aquarium life.
One of the newest attractions is the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, a family-oriented stop that’s filled with shops, restaurants, and midway games perfect for fall fun. Hurry over to one of the few amusement parks in the world with rides right over the water.
Jefferson | The Land of Southern Belles
Southern belles, riverboat captains, plantation houses — this is Jefferson, a getaway for history buffs who want to spend a few days immersed in the Southern comfort of East Texas. Here historic homes offer guests downtown accommodations, antiques and gift shops tempt travelers, and tours on both land and water provide a look at a community that was once one of the most thriving commercial centers in Texas.
Come Fall, admire the changing foliage from aboard a riverboat during one of the Turning Basin Riverboat Tours. The one-hour bayou tours recall the early steamboat industry in this community.
San Antonio | Always Remember The Alamo
No matter when you choose to visit San Antonio, you can bet that somebody, somewhere, is hosting a festival. Perhaps it has something to do with the sunshine or the fresh air. Whatever it is, things sizzle up like fajitas in a city that abounds with colorful traditions and vivid memories.
Located in the very heart of San Antonio, the Alamo, the “Cradle of Texas Liberty,” is probably the most famous spot in Texas. From the Alamo, you’ll be only steps away from the River Walk or Paseo del Rio, lined with two-story specialty shops, sidewalk cafes, luxury hotels, art galleries, and bars.
Open-air barges offer guided tours and water taxi service. For more shopping fun, head to Market Square, the birthplace of chili con carne and the state dish of Texas. The “chili queens” that sold the spicy dish are long gone but today Market Square is home to a festive atmosphere with open-air restaurants, a large indoor Mexican marketplace, outdoor kiosks featuring imports, and, frequently, live music.
Just north of San Antonio, the town of New Braunfels is home to November’s Wurstfest, 10 days of fun showcasing the German roots of this region. For over 50 years, this salute to sausage has been one of the state’s most attended festivals.
South Padre Island | Wildlife & Beach Bumming
In the far southern reaches of Texas, this 34-mile-long barrier island hugs the coastline. At its widest point, the island is just a half-mile across, providing its hotel rooms with an unbeatable view.
Activity options vary by your activity level — from an afternoon of lazy sandcastle building to a horseback ride on the beach, a round of golf, or some watersports. For adventurous souls, South Padre Island has excellent windsurfing and parasailing opportunities.
Both for fall migration or winter migrants, the Rio Grande Valley is home to top birding sites. The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge has recorded more species than any other wildlife refuge in the nation (and watch for the endangered ocelot).
Waco | Head to the Magnolia Market
If you’re a fan of the uber-popular HGTV hit “Fixer Upper,” you’re already familiar with Magnolia Market at the Silos. These historic grain silos have been transformed by Chip and Joanna Gaines into a national destination featuring shopping, a bakery, a lawn for family games, a garden, and soon a Magnolia Table restaurant.
But there’s more to Waco than shiplap and subway tile. You can’t miss the history of this city which became a center for commerce when it erected a suspension bridge across the Brazos. Designed by the same engineers who constructed New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge years later, today you can walk across the bridge and stroll the river banks. Downstream, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum recalls the legendary law enforcement agency.
Hop the free Silo Trolley for a 20-minute ride around downtown Waco. Just wave at the old-fashioned trolley from any of the stops along the route (including the Silos) and take a leisurely ride around the district. Don’t miss a stop at the Dr Pepper Museum (DPM), and if you’re visiting in late October, join a DPM After Dark tour for a look at the spooky activities in the historic building.
Feature photo by Benjamin Bousquet on Unsplash