44 Road Trips from Dallas on a Tank of Gas
You really, really want to go somewhere, and the price of gasoline is hovering between $1.75 – $2.00 (depending on if you earned your 10 cent discount from Kroger, sometimes 20 cents, eeks!) Plus, you feel the open road is calling your name and it would be fun to check in somewhere more interesting than the Olive Garden on 75. Am I right?
Hiking, Shopping, Sightseeing, Perusing, Dillydallying, biking, swimming . . we have you covered in this road trip list.
Brian and I have picked destinations within a gas tank of downtown Plano. Click on the bold words to be linked to the website with more specific info.
1. GRAPEVINE: The Gaylord Texan
Gorgeous resort hotel that can be enjoyed for just popping in to staying for the weekend. Beautiful sights, cafes, stores, restaurants on the inside and it overlooks Grapevine Lake (with the Glass Cactus Nightclub right on the edge of the property and lake). This is an especially neat hotel to visit during a rainy day throughout the holiday season, bring your kids because its a wonderland that they can play in all day and night. You don’t have to be a guest to enjoy the Christmas decor or the awesome ICE display. This year they are celebrating Christmas from around the World just like a mini Epcot here in Texas. Gaylord Texan
2. PARIS: Downtown Paris Texas
Shop at Side Street Antiques, eat at Bois de Arc. If you haven’t told your friends that spent the afternoon wandering around Paris then you haven’t fully become a North Texan just yet. Head north up the 75 or just wander from the Lake Lavon area through the back roads. www.DowntownParis.com.
3. FORT WORTH: CULTURAL DISTRICT
Museums celebrate a range of interests, all within easy reach of one another. The Amon Carter Museum surveys masters of American art from the 1830s to today (817-738-1933; www.cartermuseum.org). Kids love the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History (817-255-9300; www.fwmuseum.org). The world-renowned Kimbell Art Museum (817-332-8451; www.kimbellart.org) displays art from antiquity to modern times. The Fort Worth Modern Art Museum presents art in a gorgeous setting (817-738-9215; www.themodern.org). The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame (817-336-4475; www.cowgirl.net) honors women of the West. If you don’t feel like driving to the Cultural District, then take the DART Green Line to Victory Park and switch over to the TRE (the TRE is huge, has tables to play card games or have a snack and plugs to recharge your phone) and it will take you right into Ft. Worth. The train makes everything more of an adventure without spending huge $$$.
4. FORT WORTH: SUNDANCE SQUARE, DOWNTOWN
I feel like Sundance Square is as Texan or Austin-ish as it gets in North Texas. Its totally cowtown, right? It has a Leddy’s Ranch store and an H&M (if you have a teenage daughter then you have just made her day) plus it has great energy, a shuttle to take you over to the Stockyards and one of my fave restaurants, Reatta . . . oh my gosh. If you like Black Eyed Pea or Celebration Restaurant in Dallas, then you will adore Reatta. A must-visit!! Go here for all the scoop on www.sundancesquare.com
5. DENTON: Downtown Denton
Another gem just a tank of gas away or even a train trip. One of the first times, Brian and I went up to Downtown Denton was for their Christmas Wassail Festival (every shop served their version of Wassail Cider) . . . we took the train of course! From the green line in Carrollton, jump on the A-Train that will shoot you straight up the 35 (believe me you will be super happy to not drive I-35) and the train will drop you off at the downtown depot. Denton has lots of antique shops, cafes, live music – they are really up and coming for their music scene – oh, and make sure to pop into the coolest Comic Book store while you are there.
For a longer day trip in Denton, opt in to the four-hour guided tour of North Texas’ horse breeding and training facilities starts from Denton’s downtown square the first Saturday of each month. www.discoverdenton.com
6. KEMP: HERITAGE MARKET
On the way to Palestine by way of 175 (this highway shoots off of the LBJ), this Pennsylvania Dutch specialties include jams, jellies, fried pies, apricot muffins and carbohydrate deliciousness. You’ll find all sorts of fun odds and ends here to take home with you and btw, all the carbs are baked right here on site. I think this would be a great stop to stock up all of my gift baskets for the holidays. They have no website so just head over to Google and take a gander.
7. DENISON: EISENHOWER STATE PARK
Fish, swim, boat, bird-watch, hike, mountain bike and camp in this insanely huge state park. www.tpwd.state.tx.us Brian and I love to go to their hidden beach with caves (lots of spurs on this beach, WEAR SHOES!!! – even in the water) We love the beach, seen below, during every season. Bring your camping chairs, blanket, some wine and snacks and just give yourself some me-time of reflection.
8. LAKE RAY HUBBARD: WINDSURFER’S POINT
Windsurf Bay Park is a beautiful 42-acre park on the west side of Lake Ray Hubbard. The park is located about a mile south of Interstate 30. There is plenty of parking and open space in this nice sized park. There are also two fairly long “beach” areas where you can swim. The park is located in a bit of a cove that is protected by a long stretch of land that extends out into the lake. There is not a boat ramp in this park. Entry to the park is free. Many people use this park for wind surfing which is where the name came from. It is also a great day use park that is free to the public to use. We love this park as there is plenty of room to roam, explore, and enjoy the water.
9. BOYD, TX: EXOTIC ANIMAL SANCTUARY
The facility doles out TLC to more than 50 felines, from lions to bobcats, and 15 bears. They hold tours every day at 11 AM and on weekends at 11AM and 3PM n the tour, your guide will bring you past a large number of the animal habitats, including the ten acre Bear Orphanage, a naturalistic habitat for American black bears. Tigers, lions, bobcats, servals, a cheetah, a caracal, a jaguar, Grizzly bears, white-nosed coatimundis, a lemur, and American black bears are all on the tour. It is not a guarantee that every animal you pass will be visible. www.bigcat.org.
10. PILOT POINT: LANTANA LODGE & MARINA AT JORDAN UNIT OF RAY ROBERTS LAKE STATE PARK
The Lantana Lodge and Marina sits on Ray Roberts Lake State Park – situated along the shores of a 30,000-acre reservoir with plenty of recreational activities for those who enjoy the outdoors.
Along with the 20 mile Ray Roberts Lake, there are two state parks, six satellite parks, Wildlife Management Areas, wetlands and waterfowl sanctuaries. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy birdwatching, water sports, horse back riding and scenic backpacking.On the lake (watersports, birding, hiking, fishing and more) and if you choose to stay for the night the rooms at this resort are moderately priced http://lantanaresortmarina.com/.
11. DURANT, OKLAHOMA: CHOCTAW CASINOS
Pass Denison, pass Sherman . . . cross over the Red River and then you’ll spot Choctaw Casinos. Lots of everything fun, cool pool. bars, live music, concerts, movie theatre, bakeries, shops. Brian and I don’t technically gamble but about once per year either when its really hot or its really cold and we ARE SUPER BORED, we will take 20 bucks and see how long we can play the nickel slot machines, then have a good dinner and meander on home (its also a great place to get in our 10,000 steps when we can’t get oustside). However, if you love Vegas and love to gamble then you might really like spending a weekend here. Oh, and one more thing, they have a free shuttle from Dallas – so no tank of gas is even needed.
12. CANTON: FIRST MONDAY TRADE DAYS
Thousands of shoppers descend on “the world’s oldest and largest flea market” on the weekend before the first Monday of every month. www.firstmondaycanton.com. Wear good walking shoes y’all. Bring water. And if you plan on serious shopping bring one of those wheelie cart thingamadoodads.
13. WEATHERFORD: CHANDOR GARDENS
If you love gardens, then head west to Weatherford.
Chandor Gardens captures both the ornate design of ancient Chinese architecture and the elegance of a formal English garden. The 3.5-acre estate leads its visitors on a meandering path of beauty and wonderment. From the 30 foot man-made waterfall, to the various soothing fountains, the gardens have something new and exciting to offer at every turn.
Designed in 1936, lush gardens are accented by cliffs, bridges, fountains and gates. www.chandorgardens.com.
14. GRANBURY: DOWNTOWN
The FIRST TOWN SQUARE In Texas To Be Listed On The National Register Of Historic Places And Has Become A Prototype For Restoration Projects All Over America. http://granburysquare.com/ They have BnB’s, cafes, shops, antiques and wine . . lots of wine.
15. GRAND SALINE: THE SALT PALACE
Home to the Salt Festival, Grand Saline has a gem of salt in the middle of Texas. It built from blocks of rock salt, it’s a museum telling the story of the salt works that has operated here since 1845. www.saltpalacemuseum.org
16. GAINESVILLE: LAVENDER RIDGE FARMS
Originally a strawberry & melon farm in the 1920’s & 1930’s, Lavender Ridge Farms opened in 2006 as a lavender, cut-flower, and herb farm. Pick your own lavender; shop for herbs, vegetables, botanicals. There is even a cafe to dine in after your road trip up this way http://www.lavenderridgefarms.com/
17. ST. JO: VINEYARDS
Having been to many beautiful vineyards in Temecula, Napa, Sonoma and the magnificent Okanagan Wine Country, I typically don’t get too excited for vineyards in Texas. Until, that is, I discovered the Blue Ostrich Winery and the Arche Vineyard in the rolling North Texas hill country. After our visit to Blue Ostrich we even became members, shockingly good wine. Love, love, love the Tempranillo (even two thumbs up from the hubby). These vineyards are truly far from any Dallasite busy-ness and when you are done sipping, I strongly recommend dining at Ancient Ovens in St. Jo. You will have to call and make resos, you’ll chat with Denis on the phone, be uber nice, this place gets totally booked and there’s not much else to dine at.
18. WEST: CZECH STOP
It’s a gas station, but everyone stops for a snack of Kolaches and other sweet treats at the Czech Stop off of 35. Its literally the busiest gas station I have ever seen, so busy that Brian and I have meandered to downtown Czech to “czech” out the other bakeries. And, we are loving the new rest stop/cafe across the highway (accessible from either direction) which has small and large dog runs. Super fun and productive stop! www.czechstop.net.
19. WHITNEY: LAKE WHITNEY STATE PARK
Nearly 1,000 acres with picnicking, swimming, fishing, boating, camping, scuba diving, birding and an airstrip. www.tpwd.state.tx.us This lake has clear blue waters with sandy coast + cliff coasts.
20. GLEN ROSE: FOSSIL RIM WILDLIFE CENTER
Drive-through exotic-animal park has restaurant, gift shop, lodge and safari camp with lots of tours available such as the crack of dawn tour, the after dark tour and one made for me and my hub – the mountain biking tour. This is one of our fave day trips from Plano. P.S. Do NOT bring your pets, just don’t =)
21. GLEN ROSE: DINOSAUR VALLEY STATE PARK
Preserved dinosaur tracks in the Paluxy River bed, plus a couple of life-size fiberglass dinosaur models offers camping, picnicking, river swimming and mountain biking. Its super versatile and thats why we love coming down here. Dinosaur Valley State Park, located just northwest of Glen Rose is a 1,524.72-acre scenic park set astride the Paluxy River. The land for the park was acquired from private owners under the State Parks Bonds Program during 1968 and opened to the public in 1972. Make sure to stop at the Glen Rose square before you head back North, we found a lovely woman and her husband selling homemade jars of jams and preserves, super cute houses on the river and a pie shop. Go here
22. LUCAS: BROCKDALE PARK
We love driving down Parker Road and winding into Lucas to go hike this park. Huge rolling trails that wind around Lake Lavon make for some awesome vistas and lots of room for our furbabies to run free. Although, this is also a pretty popular horse riding trails so be aware before unleashing your fur children. Brockdale Park
23. TOLAR: THE WINDMILL FARM
More than 40 restored windmills on 26 acres of rolling countryside. And, three bed-and-breakfast cabins to sleep amongst the starry nights and windmills of course. www.thewindmillfarm.com.
24. MCKINNEY: DOWNTOWN MCKINNEY SQUARE
This is the real deal, an honest-to-goodness down-home, southern town square. My friends who beg to pop into Bishop Arts or Lakewood (although I love these lil areas) just don’t have anything on Mckinney Square. We love to drive nearby with our bikes, bike through the gorgeous historic neighborhood, around the parks, pull up to Snug’s Coffee house for a cappucino and then lock up the bikes and peruse the many, many, many antique shops . . . top off with a salmon burger and white wine at Square Burger. One of our fave day trips, although close to home, it can truly take up the entire day and then some to see it all.
25. NEW YORK: TEXAS ZIPLINE ADVENTURES
In the middle of the east Texas piney woods, you’ll find this really neat, family owned adventure outing. Zip lining. I happen to fail the mini line, the one where you hang about 1 foot off the ground (I think issues with heights and letting go had me needing Dr. Phil) but my husband seems stoked to fly through the trees hundreds of feet from the ground. I wish I cold have mustered up the willpower to do it because the scenery is stunning! Go here
26. THACKERVILLE, OK: WINSTAR CASINO RESORT
More than 4,200 slot machines, loads of off-track-betting stations, poker, blackjack and bingo. Concerts, shopping, eating. Not our main hangout but one of the few interesting places if the weather has you stuck indoors.
27. DAINGERFIELD: GREER FARMS
Pick your own blueberries, blackberries, figs and plums in summer. They even have a cabin to stay overnight in a comfy barn loft with kitchenette. A super relaxing natural getaway. www.greerfarm.com. Before you go, check out Chef Eva’s ‘Farm to Fork Cooking Classes’ really yummy and a fun way to spend the weekend.
28. POSSUM KINGDOM LAKE: POSSUM KINGDOM LAKE STATE PARK
Stay overnight in one of our air-conditioned cabins. If you’re a camper, choose one of our water and electricity sites, water-only sites, or primitive walk-in sites.
Fish for largemouth, striped and white bass; channel and blue catfish; and white crappie. The park has a boat launch, fishing pier, and fish cleaning station. You do not need a fishing license to fish from shore in a state park.
Great birding includes bald eagles nesting November through February.
29. MUENSTER: GERMAN DOWNTOWN
Muenster, Texas was founded in 1889 by German Catholic settlers Carl and Emil Flusche. One of several small towns in Texas founded by the Flusche brothers, this one was in western Cooke County just aside the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad which ran from Gainesville to Henrietta. The railroad ceased operation in the 1960’s. Muenster is currently situated along Hwy 82 about 15 miles west of Gainesville and Interstate 35. German was spoken until the mid 1930’s after which English became more common.
30. HICO: WISEMAN HOUSE CHOCOLATES
Gourmet chocolates in little old Hico? Yep. Truffles, caramels, bark and toffee. I’ve been here several times, typically when we choose to opt out of the 35 to visit the in-laws in San Antonio. We love taking the long way because then we get to stop in adorable Hico. www.wisemanhousechocolates.com.
Want all things chocolate? Go to I Really Love Chocolate
31. NOCONA: DOWNTOWN NOCONA
Nocona has a little bit of everything and just on the border of Texas and Oklahoma to make it feel like a trip really far from home. Tour the only factory in the U.S. producing handmade baseball gloves in Nocona, have dinner at the Bear’s Den or get adventurous like we like to do and head to the Red River Motorcycle Trails. Eeks! Definitely adventurous. Before you head out of town, stop at the adorable Masoncakes for a cpcake to go.
32. PALESTINE: TEXAS STATE RAILROAD
Take a 4 1/2-hour round-trip ride between Palestine and Rusk in a vintage passenger car pulled by a steam- or diesel-powered locomotive. I am fascinated by trains and train travel. There is something so endearing and calming about it. I have traveled on trains through Canada, up the entire west coast, from Dallas to NYC and take any subway or city train any chance I get www.texasstaterr.com. This train out in far East Texas has all kinds of rides including specialty seasonal train rides for the kids – Polar Express.
33. GLADEWATER: ANTIQUES DISTRICT
Gladewater is at the intersection of U.S. highways 80 and 271, thirteen miles west of Longview on the boundary between Gregg and Upshur counties. It was founded by the Texas and Pacific Railway Company in 1873 on land bought from Jarrett Dean and Anderson White. Now it is THE antique stop in East Texas with more than 15 shops and almost 100 crafters throughout the city. www.gladewaterchamber.com.
34. BROKEN BOW: BEAVERS BEND STATE PARK
Beavers Bend State Park is located in the mountainous region of southeast Oklahoma along the shores of Broken Bow Lake and the Mountain Fork River. Guests traveling down the winding roads through the forests of pine and hardwood trees will find adventure, beautiful scenery and plenty of activities inside this state park. The scenic beauty of Beavers Bend & Hochatown State Park makes it one of Oklahoma’s most popular areas. GO HERE
35. MINERAL WELLS: THE BAKER HOTEL
Visit Mineral Wells canoe the Brazos River, walk Clark Botanical Gardens, photograph the old Baker Hotel, visit the old Jailhouse Museum . . . just a few of the sites in Mineral Wells. If you have your hiking shoes with you, and you really need to, then venture onto the 20 mile Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway.
36. SULPHUR SPRINGS: COOPER LAKE STATE PARK
The usual fun lake stuff: camp, fish, volunteer, hike, read a book or participate in the Ranger program.
37. ATOKA, OKLA.: MCGEE CREEK STATE PARK
Gorgeous scenery in the southwestern edge of the Ouachita Mountains. The Ouachita Mountains are such a beautiful treasure to my huband I. We first explored during a road trip through Arkansas – and although Arkansas is still one of the strangest places with the strangest peeps I have ever met, lol – I have to admit the their outdoor space is nearly untouched. Fish, hike, mountain-bike, boat, swim or camp. http://beta.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.4972
38. LONGVIEW: VINEYARDS AND RESTAURANTS
Head east on the 20 (yep, I said THE 20 – can you tell I lived in California?) and you’ll enter the real East Texas. Beautiful piney woods, yummy BBQ restaurants and 3 vineyards to put on your must-see (or must drink) list –> Enoch, Fairhaven or Los Pinos Ranch. Or just spend the day at one of the many enormous lakes found here
39. GRAHAM: TOWN SQUARE
I first discovered this town on the way to PKL otherwise known as Possum Kingdom Lake. It cannot be missed because its oh so cute with a ton of history. This town started in 1872 when the Graham brothers founded the City of Graham. They donated land for a town, a courthouse, churches, schools, and cemeteries. The land was donated in the family name as we know it today. The Graham family has continued to play a vital role in the development of Graham. Lots of BnBs, dining and western charm, go here for more deets
40. MARSHALL: DOWNTOWN MARSHALL
A teeny, tiny spot on the map but this city is chocked full of history. Stop by on one of your Texas road trips – more info here
41. CARTHAGE: DOWNTOWN CARTHAGE
This town was made famous in the Jack Black movie, Bernie and I have been fascinated ever since. Visiting this town is like going back in time in every way. Maybe thats good, maybe thats not? Not too much to do but certainly worth a day trip of exploring. More here
42. JEFFERSON: WATER AND RAIL TOURS
This sweet little town out East is steeped full of history. One of our favorite things to do is tour Caddo Lake and the Big Cypress Bayou by riverboat or the piney woods by steam train, then explore the historic downtown. My friends love visiting during the Christmas season then attending a Ghost Walk thru historic Jefferson. Go here
43. RATCLIFF: DAVY CROCKETT NATIONAL FOREST
The Davy Crockett National Forest, named for the legendary pioneer, contains more than 160,000 acres of East Texas woodlands, streams, recreation areas, and wildlife habitat. Located in Houston and Trinity Counties, the forest is centrally located within the Neches and Trinity River basins. The Davy Crockett National Forest was proclaimed a National Forest by President Franklin Roosevelt on October 15, 1936. The 20-mile-long Four C National Recreation Trail begins at Ratcliff Lake and winds through a diverse forest of towering pines, bottomland hardwoods, boggy sloughs, and upland forests. Midway down the trail is the Walnut Creek campsite with five tent pads, a shelter, and pit toilet. Neches Bluff Overlook, located at the north end of the trail, offers a panoramic view of pine-hardwood forests in the Neches River bottomlands with picnic and primitive camping facilities. No horses, bikes, or off-road vehicles are permitted on the Four C National Recreation Trail. A portion of the trail traverses the Big Slough Wilderness Area.
44. KEITHVILLE, LA.: CHIMP HAVEN
Chimp Haven is a chimpanzee retirement village for more than 100 apes that have been used in medical research or the entertainment industry or are no longer wanted as pets. Their days are full of climbing trees, resting, playing and eating. Periodically throughout the year, usually on the third Sunday of the month, the public can watch them from a protected viewing area. Check the website for Discovery Days before you go and make sure to check their list of donated items needed. Last time, I brought scarves, an evening purse (because my adopted chimp, Pam loved accessories) and I brought lots of blank canvases from Michael’s because the chimps have an artist colony and many love to paint. I love what this place is doing for chimpanzees!! www.chimphaven.org
Can’t wait to hear which ones you have tried or which ones you will try soon!
P.S. I wrote about my Road Trip Essentials here
P.P.S. Save a few bucks and find out where your kids can eat free here