Texas is the second-biggest state in the United States for both population size and geographic size. Because of that, there are plenty of areas to explore in this giant state, and visitors can spend one day in a remote desert and the next in a vibrant city.
Whether you’re looking for your next weekend getaway or a week-long vacation, you’ll never run out of things to do in the Lone Star State.
16 Best Things to Do in Texas in 2023
We’ve found the 16 best things to do in Texas and made sure to include activities that will appeal to everyone, whether you’re a nature lover or a city dweller.
If you’re planning an upcoming trip to Texas, consider visiting at least one of the attractions on this list to get a feel for the true Texas spirit.
1. Walk San Antonio’s River Walk
One of Texas’ top tourist attractions, the San Antonio River Walk is an absolute must if you find yourself in that part of the state. The San Antonio River flows through the heart of the city, but the River Walk is by far the best place to enjoy it.
Although the area is definitely a tourist attraction, the park is a favorite amongst locals, who can be found shopping at any of the shops along the miles-long stretch of River Walk or eating at one of the delicious restaurants with river views.
If you’re looking for a fun activity to do with the family, hop on a guided boat tour of the river.
The River Walk is perhaps best enjoyed during the winter months when more than 100,000 Christmas lights are strung around the river, and visitors can enjoy the attraction for free. This is the ideal time to take a romantic boat ride along the river with your significant other.
Read Next: The Best Things to Do in San Antonio
2. Take a Trip to Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park boasts some of Texas’ most spectacular landscapes, and this huge National Park is one of the best places to go hiking or camping in the state.
In the southernmost tip of West Texas, right along the border with Mexico, Big Bend National Park lies in the Chihuahuan Desert.
However, the landscape is far more verdant than you might expect, thanks to the Rio Grande flowing right through the park. Big Bend offers some of the most versatile views in Texas, where you can appreciate impressive canyons, towering mountains, and gorgeous desert.
Consider spending a few days camping in Big Bend National Park rather than taking a day hike, as it’s quite a drive from any of Texas’ major cities.
3. Float the San Marcos River
If you really want to experience Texas like a local, don’t pass up the opportunity to float the San Marcos River. Austin and San Antonio residents can be seen floating the San Marcos river all summer long to beat the Texas heat.
The best part about tubing on the San Marcos river is that you can curate whatever experience is most appealing to you.
Many people simply bring their own inner tubes and enter the river at the San Marcos Park, which is an accessible entry point, float down to a wherever they parked their second car, and drive back.
If you’re not a local, you may have more success using an outdoor outfitter like the Lion’s Club, who will supply you with both an innertube and shuttling as well as advise you on the safest places to float.
4. Take a Tour of the Texas State Capitol
After you tube the San Marcos, return to Texas’ state capitol of Austin for a bit of history and culture. The Texas State Capitol is open to the public, and visitors can guide themselves through the State building and admire the incredible architecture.
If you’re hoping to make your trip to the state Capitol a little more educational, opt for a guided tour of the building. Tour guides will provide information on the history of the building, Texas politics, and the state.
Whether you choose to wander around the state Capitol by yourself or take a guided tour, the Capitol building is the perfect way to spend a day in Austin.
5. Chow Down on Some Texas Barbecue!
Ah, barbecue. You can’t visit the great state of Texas without trying some of their world-famous bbq. No matter which city you find yourself in, there’s bound to be a restaurant claiming to serve the ‘best’ barbecue in the world.
While we can’t claim which restaurant actually serves the best food, here are a few of Texas’ most beloved bbq spots: Franklin Barbecue in Austin is one of the state’s top barbecue destinations.
People come from all over to try Franklin Barbecue, so prepare to stand in line! Truth Barbecue in Houston is an unassuming but fantastic barbecue joint in Houston.
And it’s been written up in countless magazines and publications. Finally, if you’re in the San Antonio area, stop by the 2M Smokehouse for some classic Texas fare.
6. Go Kayaking on Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake is one of the most beloved outdoor spots in Austin, and whether you’re looking to cool off in the water or spend your day looking for turtles, you’ll have no trouble beating the heat at this gorgeous body of water in the middle of the city.
The Colorado River feeds Lady Bird Lake, and both locals and tourists can be seen splashing around the water in the summertime.
You can rent kayaks, innertubes, paddleboards, and more from multiple outfitters around Zilker Park. In addition, several hotels and other accommodations in the area make lake access easy even if you don’t have a car.
7. Plan Your Trip Around the State Fair of Texas
The State Fair of Texas is one of the biggest in the country, and it’s a big deal if you live in Dallas or anywhere else in the state of Texas.
Taking place each year in the fall (you’ll understand why if you’ve ever visited Texas in the summer heat), the State Fair is located at Fair Park, a nearly 300-acre fairground in South Dallas.
The State Fair of Texas features all kinds of fun Texan activities like livestock shows, barbecue challenges, arts and crafts, and so much more. This is a must if you’re traveling with kids.
8. Take a Dip at the Hamilton Pool Preserve
One of the most desirable outdoor spots in the Austin area, Hamilton Pool Preserve, is known for its sparkling blue water and a small waterfall you can walk behind.
An underground river feeds the spring, and it’s the perfect place to beat the Texas heat. Although you now have to make reservations in advance, Hamilton Pool is well worth the effort when you find yourself in the area.
Of course, if you visit Austin in the summertime, you’ll be looking for every opportunity to spend your days in the water. However, you can still appreciate the natural beauty that Hamilton Pool offers if you visit in the winter and don’t feel like swimming.
9. Appreciate the Texas Wildflower Season
Texans wait all year long for wildflower season, and if you find yourself in the state during this time of year, you’ll understand why. While you can catch wildflowers any time from early spring to mid-fall, the ideal time to view Texas wildflowers is between March and April.
Texas is especially known for its bluebonnets, and if you’re fortunate enough to visit during this time, you’ll understand why as you look at the fields of blue.
You’ll be able to see wildflowers everywhere you go in the region when blooming, but if you’re particularly interested in viewing the flowers, consider taking a wildflower drive, taking routes known to have spectacular wildflowers.
10. Look at the Stalactites at the Natural Bridge Caverns
Texas’ Natural Bridge Caverns are located right outside of San Antonio and are a National Natural Landmark. This tourist destination is unlike anything you’re likely to think of when you envision Texas and is well worth a day trip.
The Natural Bridge Caverns are one of the largest caverns in Texas and are a great place to learn about the geological formations as well as have some fun! You can choose which tour you’d like to go on and how deep into the cavern you want to enter.
11. View the Animals at the Fort Worth Zoo
The Fort Worth Zoo is an incredible experience and is an absolute must if you’re traveling with kids, although it can be just as rewarding to enjoy for adults.
The Fort Worth Zoo focuses on conservation and donates millions of dollars to conservation projects and efforts around the world, as well as prioritizing conservation-minded education.
The zoo itself has multiple habitat areas, where you can view hundreds of different species in their simulated natural habitats.
This destination goes far beyond what you may be familiar with at other zoos. It offers interactive opportunities like giraffe feeding on a feeding platform, a petting zoo, and even a small onsite water park.
Read Next: The Best Zoos in the United States
12. Get Some Sun at the Padre Island National Seashore
In the coastal Texas city of Corpus Christi lies the Padre Island National Seashore, which is the world’s longest undeveloped barrier island. This stretch of protected coastline spans roughly 70 miles and is the perfect place to appreciate the beauty of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Padre Island National Seashore not only has gorgeous beaches, but it’s a great place to view native birds and other wildlife and take the opportunity to learn about the conservation efforts being made in the area.
13. Appreciate the Plant Life at the Dallas Arboretum
If you are interested in plants or trees at all, you should spend a day touring the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. This impressive 66-acre is situated on White Rock Lake in Dallas and is one of the most beautiful sites in all of Texas.
At the arboretum, you can walk through a paved tunnel of trees, with the canopy completely enveloping you, view thousands of different azaleas at the Margaret Elizabeth Jonsson Color Garden, or take your kids to enjoy the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden.
View an online map of the botanical garden on the organization’s website to help plan your visit, and walk around appreciating the escape from the busy city that surrounds it.
14. Spend a Day at the Houston Space Center
The Space Center Houston is the perfect way to spend a day in Texas with your kids and is one of the state’s leading attractions. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) owns this world-renowned science museum.
If you are interested in space, you won’t want to miss the Space Center, which is part museum showcasing artifacts from space like moon rocks and part interactive educational exhibits while being home to NASA’s mission control.
A day at the Space Center promises to help you better understand what NASA is currently studying and is the perfect place for your kids to exercise their curiosity, as they’re sure to have fun with activities like trying on astronauts’ clothing.
Read Next: The Best Things to Do in Houston
15. See the Congress Bridge Bats
If you’re planning on spending some time in Austin on your trip, you should spend at least one evening witnessing the Congress Bridge bats.
Thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats call the underside of the Congress Bridge home, and viewers gather around to watch them make their nightly exit of their bat cave. The exact time the bats fly out depends on the day, but it’s typically somewhere between 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.
To enjoy this uniquely Austin experience, simply stand on or around the Congress bridge around this time until the bats come flying out!
Read Next: Best Things to Do in Austin, Texas
16. Go Sandboarding at Monahans Sandhills State Park
Monahans Sandhills State Park is a remarkable destination and not one that you should overlook when visiting Texas. Located significantly west of Texas’ main cities, you can enjoy a relatively secluded experience compared to natural areas closer to central Texas.
Monahans Sandhills State Park is unique because the area is subject to winds that blow the sands around, creating an everchanging landscape that means the park looks slightly different each day.
Sandboarding is one of the primary activities that you can enjoy at the state park, but you can also just sit back and appreciate the desolate beauty of the area.
Things to Consider
Traveling to Texas can feel like traveling to a different country at times; the region is known for its local pride, and there are enough cultural differences and regional cuisine to remind you where you are at any given time.
While these factors make Texas a great place to visit, it’s still essential to plan for any trip to make the most of your experience. Here are some things to consider while planning your upcoming Texas trip:
- Texas is known for being extremely hot, and while this might be a draw for some people, it’s important to plan appropriately. If you’re traveling to the state in the summertime especially, make sure you pack appropriate clothing, bring lots of sunscreens, and always have plenty of water on hand.
- There are also lots of thunderstorms in Texas. Even if you check the weather ahead of time and it looks like it will be hot during your visit, if you come during the rainy season, you can expect hot days followed by stormy weather and very humid evenings. Ensure you’ve brought appropriate clothing, especially if you’re planning any outdoor activities.
- Remember that this state is enormous; in fact, it’s the second-largest state in the country. Because of this, if you’re planning on having experiences in different parts of the state, you can anticipate long drives. As a result, you may be better off focusing your trips on one region of the state at a time to make the most of your vacation.
- The entire state of Texas is prone to flooding, and flash floods can be hazardous for tourists who are unfamiliar with what to do in these situations. Do some research on flash flooding before your visit, so you’re prepared for what to do if you experience a flash flood on your vacation.
- Texas draws a lot of nature lovers because of the abundance of outdoor activities. If you plan to do any hiking or camping in Texas, make sure that you’re taking basic safety precautions to avoid harm. Practice bringing plenty of water, wearing appropriate clothing and footwear, and staying on the trail to best avoid potentially dangerous plants and animals. You may also want to familiarize yourself with local plants and animals to help identify potential risks.
- Texas has open carry laws making it legal for people over 21 to carry firearms. This may surprise people traveling from different countries or states with stricter gun control laws. Don’t be alarmed if you see people carrying firearms; this is legal within the state.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the frequently asked questions people have when visiting Texas.
What is the primary attraction in Texas?
The Alamo is one of the most visited spots in Texas, and it draws history buffs from around the country annually. In addition, the Alamo is famous amongst tourists and locals, being a popular destination for school field trips due to its historical state significance.
You can visit the Alamo almost every day of the year to get a feel for this historic site or take your visit one step further with a guided tour.
Are there beaches in Texas?
While many people think that Texas is landlocked, there is actually a significant portion of the southeastern state border that is exposed to the Gulf of Mexico.
Texas is known for beach towns like Corpus Christi and Galveston, which draws tourists and state locals for vacations year-round.
What is the best thing about living in Texas?
Depending on who you talk to, you may get a different answer on why people love living in Texas so much. Some are drawn to the warm weather, while others come for the bustling cities.
However, one thing that draws a significant number of people to the state is relative affordability. The median house price for an existing home in Texas was only $218,000 in late 2017, and the state doesn’t require income tax.
What is the Lone Star State?
Texas is also called the Lone Star State, and when traveling through the state, you’ll see references to Lone Star on flags, local products, and more.
The nickname, the Lone Star State, is in reference to the period after Texas won its independence from Mexico, before joining the Confederate States of America when it was the independent Republic of Texas.
Is Texas safe?
Texas is ranked as the 37th safest state in the country. While there is crime in Texas, the state’s homicide rate still falls lower than the national average.
If you’re concerned about your safety when traveling in Texas, follow basic safety precautions like bringing a cell phone with you and always traveling with a buddy. As long as you practice common sense on your trip, you should have no issues staying safe in Texas.
So, What Are the Best Things to Do in Texas?
Texas has a lot to offer visitors and would be the perfect destination for your next getaway.
Whether you’re interested in hiking or camping at places like Big Bend National Park, observing the natural beauty at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, or taking your kids to the Fort Worth Zoo, Texas, is a great place to explore.
If you’re only planning on visiting one area of the state or want to cover a lot of ground, each of the destinations on this list will help you make lasting memories on your trip to the Lone Star State.