35 of the Best Day Trips from Dallas, Texas: Hiking, Small Towns and More
November 6, 2021
After four years living in Dallas, I’ve learned that there is so much to discover within a three hour’s drive. Welcoming tiny towns, beautiful parks, historic sights and more are waiting for you if you are willing to venture out of your neighborhood bubble. I hope this list reminds you that opportunities to explore are everywhere and you might not have to travel far away to find your next adventure.
These day trips from Dallas are listed in order from closest to furthest when navigating from the city of Dallas.
Fort Worth is an obvious but often overlooked destination near Dallas. The most iconic stop is the Stockyards: a historic district where you can watch the rodeo, drink in a saloon and experience a daily cattle drive. Other great places to visit in Fort Worth include the Kimbell Art Museum, the Japanese Gardens and the Fort Worth Water Gardens. The Water Gardens are free and especially unique, as they are a large urban fountain that you can actually climb down into and explore (and stay mostly dry!). After exploring the city, head to Joe T. Garcia’s for an iconic Tex-Mex dinner served on a gorgeous patio.
Grapevine is a charming small town centrally located between Dallas and Fort Worth. Main Street in Grapevine has so many shops, wineries and restaurants that you could spend hours stepping in and out of unique places. Some stops to make include the Messina Hof Winery, Main Street Bistro for brunch and the Grapevine Olive Oil Company to sample a wide selection of olive oils and balsamics. You can also ride the Grapevine vintage railroad to Fort Worth or visit the House of Shine interactive museum to unearth your strengths, needs and more. Grapevine has also been nicknamed the “Christmas Capital of Texas” and is a great place to visit around the holidays.
Frisco is another suburb north of Dallas and is a great area for sports fans. It is home to the training facility of the Dallas Cowboys, the Frisco Roughriders minor league baseball team and the FC Dallas soccer team. If you’re a Cowboys fan, walk around the Ford Center Frisco Star, which is full of restaurants, official Cowboys merchandise and outdoor tv’s. If you time your day trip correctly, you can also catch a Frisco Roughriders game. The minor league games are a lot of fun and there is even a lazy river in the stadium!
If you are interested in rail transportation, spend your day in Frisco visiting the Museum of the American Railroad to see an impressive collection of rolling stock. For a post-exploring treat, grab one of the best doughnuts in DFW at Detour Doughnuts, enjoy soft serve inside of a taiyaki cone (a Korean dessert) at Somisomi or enjoy a giant gourmet cookie from Cookie Society.
Plano is a large suburb located just north of Dallas. For some of the best outdoor activities in Plano, I recommend hiking in Arbor Hills or climbing the rope course at Go Ape. Go Ape’s aerial obstacle course is a very adventurous outdoor activity that includes testing your balance, ziplining from the treetops and more, all with the safety of a fall harness. After enjoying the outdoors, head to quaint downtown Plano or bustling Legacy West for dinner, shopping and drinks.
Ennis is one of the best places near DFW to spot the famous Texas bluebonnets (the state flower of Texas)! Typically, the bluebonnets bloom throughout the month of April, and Ennis holds a bluebonnet festival during the third weekend of the month. During your visit, you can drive the bluebonnet trails, have a drink at Sugar Ridge Winery and pose for photos among fields of bluebonnets at the Meadow View Nature Park.
Denton is a college town with so much to explore. The city is located right next to the University of North Texas campus and has a charming and historic downtown square. During your trip, be sure to explore the downtown area surrounding the courthouse and stop into the various shops and restaurants. LSA Burger is a great place for lunch, it’s an iconic spot on the square serving a variety of burgers with a strong Texas attitude. I also love shopping at Recycled Books Records and CDs for a huge selection of secondhand books, vinyl, movies and more. If you enjoy beer, be sure to stop at Armadillo Ale Works for a local brew in a large industrial space.
McKinney is yet another historic and beautiful small town located north of Dallas. Get a taste of the town by exploring the historic downtown area of McKinney and entering all of the wonderful shops. Don’t miss Fair and Square Imports for home goods from all around the world and McKinney Hat Company for an authentic custom hat. After shopping, visit Layered for brunch, Franconia Brewing Company for a beer or Hutchins for authentic Texas BBQ.
Weatherford, Texas is a beautiful small town located west of Fort Worth. For hiking or rock climbing nearby, be sure to visit Lake Mineral Wells State Park, which has awesome rock formations surrounding a lake. After a morning of hiking, visit The Full Cup for coffee and the beautiful Chandor Gardens to immerse yourself in tranquil gardens full of fountains and waterfalls. Weatherford also has a great downtown area to explore, complete with murals, shops and more.
Cleburne is home to one of my favorite hiking destinations near Dallas: Cleburne State Park. Cleburne has great hiking trails that offer a bit of challenge in terms of elevation change. The park also has a lake, an historic CCC limestone spillway and Texas bluebonnets in the spring. If you still want to explore after hiking, visit the small town of Cleburne. Here you’ll find a Gone with the Wind Museum, a Railroad Museum and a museum all about the Chisholm Trail. When you get hungry, visit Burger Bar, La Cima or the Garden of Eating Bistro for a great meal.
Canton is a great small town in the Texas Piney Woods if you love deal hunting! Be sure to schedule your day trip to Canton on the correct weekend of the month to shop at Canton First Mondays. This is the world’s largest flea market and typically occurs on the first weekend of the month. Canton First Mondays is the place to find handcrafted goods, clothing, antiques and so much more. There are food vendors, farm animals and other activities, so you can easily make a day out of this event. Admission is free. Downtown Canton also has additional shops and restaurants nearby.
Just over an hour from Dallas, you can have an exhilarating skydiving adventure at Skydiving Dallas 35. They offer regular and high altitude tandem jumps and it’s a great place to go for first time skydivers.
Athens, Texas is a small town east of Dallas offering a couple fun outdoor adventures. Visit the East Texas Arboretum for a beautiful garden display and go hiking at Purtis Creek State Park a few minutes outside of town. For a more exhilarating adventure, visit the New York, Texas ZipLine Adventures and fly from treetop to treetop while enjoying amazing views.
Denison is located next the border of Oklahoma, a little over an hour from Dallas. The town has a lot to offer, from Dwight Eisenhower’s birthplace to a beautiful downtown Main Street. For outdoor adventures, visit Eisenhower State Park and Waterloo Lake Regional Park. Eisenhower State Park has picturesque rocky cliffs right along Lake Texoma and includes a beach, hiking trails and OHV trails. Waterloo is a great place to hike, rent kayaks and search for caves. One of the best places to eat in Denison is Incubator Rail Yard, a food hall with a variety of different restaurants and a bar.
Waco is a college town known as the heart of Texas. One of the most popular things to do in Waco is to visit the Magnolia Market at the Silos, which you may recognize from the tv show Fixer Upper. At the silos, you can shop for home goods, enjoy a cupcake at Silos Baking Co and more. Other fun things you should do in Waco include learning about the history of Dr Pepper at the Dr Pepper Museum, seeing mammoth bones at the Waco Mammoth National Monument and going hiking in Cameron Park. For a great American dinner, check out Brazos Bar & Bistro, Union Hall or Jake’s Texas Tea House.
The city of Tyler is the largest city in Northeast Texas and has a lot to offer. Many are drawn to the town for the annual rose festival in the fall or the Azalea trail in the spring. Year round, visit the 14-acre Tyler Rose Garden to see over 500 types of roses and other plants. Other things to do include exploring historic downtown Tyler, enjoying a cup of coffee at The Foundry, learning about trains at the Cotton Belt Depot Museum or learning about planes at the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum. After some exploring, enjoy a drink at a large patio at True Vine Brewing Company.
Right outside of town, you can also hike in Tyler State Park. The park features a pine-hardwood forest that surrounds a man-made lake. You can swim, kayak, hike, mountain bike or just enjoy the outdoors in this Texas State Park.
Granbury is a small town on the outskirts of DFW that is home to a city beach along the Brazos River, a historic downtown, breweries and more. Spend an afternoon swimming in Lake Granbury or hiking at the Acton Nature Center. For a drink, visit Revolver Brewing for a beer and live music, or Barons Creek Wine Room for high quality Texas wine. If you like German food, also check out Ketzler Schnitzel Haus and Biergarten for traditional German fare.
Dinosaur Valley is a Texas State Park that offers more than great hiking trails, it even has real preserved dinosaur tracks right along the riverbank. While visiting the park, you can enjoy the hiking trails, swim in the Paluxy River and of course, see the dinosaur tracks! I recommend the Overlook trail for an amazing view of the river and valley below. After hiking, you can also explore the small but charming town of Glen Rose.
Another adventure nearby is Fossil Rim, a non-profit wildlife center that is dedicated to wildlife conservation and the protection of endangered animals. There are over 50-species of animals including giraffes, cheetahs and emu. To visit, you can either drive your own car through the wildlife area or take a guided safari tour.
Hico’s motto is “Where Everybody is Somebody” and you’ll feel right at home in the small town atmosphere. Start your day at 2nd Street Bakeshop or the Koffee Kup and then go shopping in some of the historic buildings. Blue Star Trading offers clothing, home decor and more in a restored building from the 1890s, and Hico Mercantile has a collection of vendors inside an 1895 Opera House. For drinks in town, enjoy a whiskey tasting paired with cheese at the Pecan Street Drink Shoppe or a glass of wine at Silver Spur.
Turner Falls is the highest waterfall in Oklahoma and just a couple hours north of Dallas. In the summertime, it’s a wonderful place to swim and relax next to the river. The park also has miles of hiking trails, caves and a quirky Rock Castle. Note that the admission to Turner Falls varies by season and is typically $16 per person in the peak summer months.
Paris, Texas is a small town east of Dallas known for historic buildings, great food and most iconically, a miniature replica of the eiffel tower wearing a cowboy hat. During your day trip, visit the town square and see the beautiful Culbertson Fountain, find Jesus wearing cowboy boots in the Evergreen Cemetery and learn about the local history in the town’s historic sights. When you get hungry, enjoy a pastry from Paris Bakery or street corn followed by gelato at Street Eats Paris.
Clifton is a small town with a population under 4,000 that has been nicknamed “The Norwegian Capital of Texas.” Learn the history of the area at the Bosque Museum, catch a show at the historic Cliftex Theatre and explore the historic downtown full of antique shops, galleries and restaurants. If you appreciate wine, stop in at the Red Caboose Winery for a tasting and a cheese platter.
Dublin, Texas is nicknamed the “Irish Capital of Texas” and there is evidence all around town with four leaf clovers, Irish shops and more. One of the best things to do in Dublin is to visit the Dublin Bottling Works. In this historic soda bottling facility, you can tour the bottling line, have a soda at Old Doc’s Soda Shop and see Dr. Pepper memorabilia at the Dr. Pepper Museum. Another great place to visit is Veldhuizen Farm, where you can take a cheese making tour of a family run farm. During the tour, you will learn all about cheese making and finish with a cheese tasting paired with wine. Finally, visit Lucky Vines Winery and enjoy wine in a light and airy space.
Salado is a small town north of Austin full of art, wineries and riverside views. Spend your day watching a glass demonstration at Salado Glassworks, swimming in the Salado Creek or exploring the Salado Sculpture Garden. For a unique and quick stop, don’t miss the historic Salado College Ruins in town either. For drinks and food, visit Salado Winery, The Shed or Barrow Brewing Company.
Daingerfield is a small but very charming North Texas state park. Visit year round to enjoy the hiking trails, which total 3.6 miles and include lake views and forest scenery. In the summertime, you can swim and paddle in the lake, while in the fall, the park has nice fall foliage. It’s a beautiful park that is perfect for relaxing in nature and packing a picnic lunch.
Georgetown is a town on the edge of Texas Hill Country known for its red poppies in the spring, beautiful town square and variety of outdoor activities. Hike to the gorgeous Crochet Garden Falls in Cedar Breaks Park, go swimming at the Blue Hole and explore underground at the Inner Space Caverns. When you’ve worked up an appetite, visit the retro-feeling Monument Cafe or enjoy a farm-to-table experience at 2020 Market Scratch Kitchen & Bar.
Brownwood is a small town in central Texas with a lot to offer. Go hiking and enjoy the views in Lake Brownwood State Park, where you can see historic buildings built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, see wildlife and enjoy nature. After exploring the park, head into Brownwood where you can eat in a train car at the Runaway Train Cafe, walk through an arch of books at Intermission Bookshop and enjoy the many murals that the town has to offer.
Caddo Lake is a mysteriously beautiful lake right on the border of Louisiana. To visit, either head to the town of Uncertain, Texas and take a guided boat tour of the lake, or visit Caddo Lake State Park and rent a kayak to explore Mill Pond, a portion of the lake full of lily pads. Just a few minutes away from the lake is the historic town of Jefferson, which used to be a major port city in the mid-1800s. In Jefferson, you can go on a ghost tour, explore the antique stores, get a view of the Howe Truss Train Trestle Bridge and more. Be sure to check out the Jefferson General Store for gifts and Kitt’s Kornbread Sandwich and Pie Bar for comfort food.
Austin has way more to offer than can be seen in one day, but if you don’t want to spend the night, a day trip is still a good option! If you have only one day, I recommend checking out some of the Austin must-do’s like shopping on South Congress Ave, swimming in Barton Springs and eating tacos or BBQ. One of my favorite tacos spots in Austin is Veracruz All Natural, which has a few different locations around the city.
Broken Bow is located in the southeastern corner of Oklahoma and is home to a large lake, cozy cabins and many outdoor activities. If you have one day, I recommend paddling down the rapids of the Mountain Fork River. The river has Class 2+ Rapids and ends with a three foot waterfall. It’s a very fun adventure that you can do on your own or in tandem with a partner. Many outfitters offer rentals but I had a good experience with Tippa Canoe. After a few hours on the river, hike the 1.5 mile Friends Loop Trail in Beavers Bend State Park for beautiful views of the river and forest. Finally, end the day at one of the local restaurants like the Mountain Fork Brewery for pizza, burgers and beer.
Oklahoma City is the capital of Oklahoma and is full of great activities, art and food. One must-see in Oklahoma is the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. This museum commemorates the victims and heroes involved in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and is an emotional and powerful place to visit. If you love art, be sure to visit Factory Obscura while you’re in town, an impressive interactive art museum that is similar to the famous Meow Wolf in Santa Fe. Finally, if you love architecture be sure to visit the Myriad Botanical Gardens, a greenhouse and park with a beautiful cylindrical glass greenhouse. For food in Oklahoma City, visit Stitch Cafe for a delicious and fresh brunch spot and Cheever’s Cafe for a wonderful date night dinner. And if you have enough time, Bricktown is a great neighborhood for more restaurants, breweries and activities like mini golf.
Colorado Bend is a beautiful state park located at the northern edge of Texas Hill Country. The best things to do at Colorado Bend State Park include hiking to the famous Gorman Falls, a beautiful 70 foot waterfall accessible via a moderate 2.8 mile trail. The park also has many more hiking trails including some that even lead to swimming holes. Other things to do in the park include renting kayaks and going on a cave tour. If you have time, Fiesta Winery is located not far outside of the park.
The Wichita Mountains are located in Oklahoma and are a beautiful place for hiking or just enjoying the scenery. If you enjoy hiking, I recommend the 1.4 mile Forty Foot Hole Trail and the 2.7 mile Narrows Trail, both of which have beautiful rock formations with rivers that have carved narrow canyon walls. For views without much hiking, be sure to drive to the top of Mount Scott for 360 views of the entire area, visit the Lake Quanah Parker Dam and stop at the prairie dog town. After outdoor adventures, head to Medicine Park for a meal or to cool off in the Medicine Creek.
Dripping Springs is an adorable Texas Hill Country town nicknamed the ‘Gateway to Texas Hill Country.’ Some of the best things to do in Dripping Springs include taking a tour of olive vineyards at the Texas Hill Country Olive Co, hiking to a grotto at Hamilton Pool Preserve and visiting the lush greenery at West Cave. Also nearby, Pedernales Falls State Park is a gorgeous park to hike on a waterfall and see hill country views. For food in Drippings Springs, visit Rolling in Thyme and Dough for brunch, Crepe Crazy for lunch and Tillie’s for a high end dinner in a beautiful space.
Houston is another city that deserves more than a day, but you can still cover a lot if a day is all you have! Be sure to visit one or more of the iconic museums in Houston, such as the Space Center Houston and the Museum of Fine Arts. For something unique and quirky, check out the Art Car Museum, which is full of wildly decorated cars and the Beer Can House, which is made of over 50,000 recycled beer cans. Houston is also a great foodie destination and has food options from all around the world. Options include enjoying dim sum at Ocean Palace, high tea at Proper Rose Garden and an upscale Indian meal at Kiran’s.
Wimberley, Texas is great for a summertime destination in Texas Hill Country. Make reservations at Jacob’s Well to jump into a submerged cave and Blue Hole Regional Park to swim under shady cypress trees. If you visit during cooler weather, the short hike to Old Baldy is a great way to take in the Texas Hill Country views. For food and drinks in Wimberley, visit Shady Llama for a beautiful beer garden space, Community Pizza for great Italian food and Sugar Shack Bakery for a pastry and coffee.
As you can see, there is no shortage of day trips from Dallas and the surrounding area! For more inspiration for Texas travel, check out some of the articles below. Happy Exploring!
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