Advice on what not to miss in Texas

Old Nov 11th, 2012, 09:54 AM
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Advice on what not to miss in Texas

Hey Texans!
My boyfriend and I (early 30’s) are planning a 6 month+ road trip of the United States from Washington DC to Washington State and everything in between.

We will be driving through Texas after Louisiana and we’re hoping you guys could give us some advice, looking at the destinations we have so far.

We want to experience the true flavor of Texas from old to new. Our travel priorities are pretty wide.

We are somewhat foodies (though we hate the term) from fine dining to food trucks, want to be outdoor enthusiasts (new experience for us, get out of that car and hike) and are very much interested in historical attractions and art museums.

Here is what we have so far in a kind of order:

• Galveston (Gulf coast) - Anywhere else you recommend on the coast? Padre Island Nat seashore? Towns? We don’t like Spring Breaky towns but exceptions can be made if places have a ton of soul.
• Houston – Coming for the art scene.
• Dallas/Fort Worth – Cowboy history/JFK and what looks to be some great free small museums in the Amon Carter and Kimball
• Austin – Food & Music!
• San Antonio – Mex/Spanish history… more food!
• Hill country – Couple of days outdoors scenic driving stopping in small towns. We haven’t really figured this one out but it looks like a few towns are definitely worth a stop.
• Big Bend Nat Park
• Marfa/Fort Davis – Art and Stars.
• Guadalupe Nat Park – Will probably tackle this from the New Mexico side.

So what do you think? What am I missing? I haven’t added El Paso… yet.

Like I said we want to get a real taste but I guess we have to keep in mind that this is a USA trip and in the scheme of things (rest of the USA) if you think I can cut something I will but if it’s essential Texas… No Way!

Thanks a lot! Gemma
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Old Nov 11th, 2012, 10:07 AM
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Gemma,

I ain't from Texas but I reckon since y'all be goin thru the "Big D" and I do mean Dallas.. I might be suggestin that y'all saddle up and stop at da Ft Worth Stockyard.

Get there in time and y'all will be fixin to see som of da prettiest animals y'all ever did seen. I'm talkin bout dem Texas Longhorns

Video:http://youtu.be/8UY83mLlOlY
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Old Nov 11th, 2012, 12:02 PM
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Quite a plan!
What time of year are you making this trip?

Texas can be uncomfortably hot for some in the summer months. Spring time is gorgeous, but you'll want to avoid the coast during Spring Break. Late fall is also wonderful. If you can hit the Hill Counry during spring bluebonnet season, you've hit THE iconic Texas roadtrip.

i'm going to suggest a re-ordering of your cities.

If you're coming in from Louisiana, I'd suggest coming through Beaumont to Houston.
Make your way Down the coast from Galveston to Corpus Christi.
Leave Corpus and head for San Antonio.
San Antonio through the Hill Country, to Austin. Hill Country to-do's: Fredericksburg, Gruene/New Braunfels. Austin is the place for live music and food trucks. Sixth Street for nightlife and Congress St Bridge at sunset to watch the bats come out.
Austin to Dallas/Fort Worth. Fort Worth to-do's: Sundance Square, Stockyards, musuems. Dallas for musuems.
DFW to West Texas, Big Bend, etc. Read up on the Marfa Lights.
Depending on the time of year, you should be able to find a rodeo in atleast one of your cities. Search for Stock Shows and Rodeos in Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth for big annual ones, or catch the weekly little one in Ft Worth Stockyards. That's also where you'll see the (touristy) twice-daily cattle drive of Texas Longhorns through the streets.

This route assumes you're headed towards California.
You've got lots to do with lots of long driving in between. There are lots of things along the way to break up the the drive, we can start suggesting those once you've got a better idea of a route.
Personally, I'd drop your Houston-Corpus leg, and go from Houston to San Antonio. Not enough bang for the buck to make it worth the drive, imo.
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Old Nov 11th, 2012, 12:16 PM
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Just a couple of suggestions for you:

1. Hill Country--Plan to spend a lot of time in Fredericksburg. The shops on Main Street are a lot of fun to browse and you'll enjoy the galleries. I particularly like Rustlin' Rob's (which offers free tastes of every Texas-centric product they sell) and Dooley's Five-and-Dime (which is a blast to the past of the 1960's). Don't miss the National Museum of the Pacific War which should be of interest to you since, based on your name, I assume you are coming from Australia. The self-guided driving tour and the guided tour of the ranch house at the LBJ National Historical Park are also well worthwhile. Finally, for a good hike, head out to Enchanted Rock. (Avoid the weekends, if possible, as it gets super-crowded and they sometimes have to close admission.)

2. Marfa/Ft. Davis--Even though I am from Texas, my first visit to this area was earlier this year and it was fabulous! The Marfa Lights may sound hokey (and I'm not a UFO believer), but there were some strange lights out there! But the best part is getting to see the night sky--I have never seen so many stars in my life! You might enjoy staying at Indian Lodge State Park outside of Ft. Davis. There's a good hiking trail from Indian Lodge to Ft. Davis which we enjoyed doing. Finally, be sure to get out to McDonald Observatory. They have Star Parties on the weekends which are worthwhile (if the sky is clear) and be sure to do the guided tour of the observatories--it's fascinating.
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Old Nov 11th, 2012, 12:17 PM
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Personally, I'd drop your Houston-Corpus leg, and go from Houston to San Antonio.

We are going to Texas in two weeks, and I am curious what you mean by this. Are you referring to the drive between Galveston and Corpus Christi?

We are planning to spend a night in Port Aransas and to drive to Galveston from there..

HTtY
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Old Nov 11th, 2012, 01:20 PM
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HTTY, yes, that's what I meant, but that's just my opinion. If the OP has a desire to see the coast, and wants to spend several days exploring the area, that's one thing. But it sounded to me like they are throwing darts at a map, and I have found that most people are honestly surprised by the amount of time of time it takes to travel across Texas. If they're looking for 'don't miss' and they're trying to see as much as possible, I just think it's a lot of empty road to cover just to say they saw Corpus. OP mentioned food, history and art, and that's not the coast.
I'm also interested in hearing what time of year the OP is planning on being in the area. I have camped on the coast this time of year, kayaked the inland waterways and it's great for a few laid-back days. Please don't take my suggestions to the OP as a reflection on the coast, I love the area and visit as often as I can. I just wouldn't put it on a must-see list.
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Old Nov 11th, 2012, 04:35 PM
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Thanks, txgirl.

Do you have an opinion about Big Thicket National Preserve? We like walks (not hikes) in unique landscapes.

We will also be in Big Bend and environs, Del Rio, San Antonio, and the Hill Country and we are trying to decide if we should also visit Houston, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth. We prefer small towns to big cities, but we don't want to miss any city of particular interest.

HTtY

PS We've seen so many museums that now we prefer visiting galleries to get a feel for local art scenes.
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Old Nov 11th, 2012, 10:48 PM
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I haven't been to Big Thicket, and I've only driven through west TX, so no experience there. I did camp for a week on the Rio Grande near Del Rio, but that was a soul-searching trip and it was as far from home as I could get without going to Mexico! I love the Hill Country, and if it were a choice between Houston and HC, no brainer. DH and I spent a week last summer just doing the BBQ trail, Gruene, New Braunfels, Fredericksburg and surrounding areas. There are some gorgeous State Parks in the area for walking.

If you had one city to visit, I'd pick Austin, the live music, food scene, outdoor lifestyle and overall vibe makes it a personal favorite. If you have no other reason to be near the D/FW area, I'd say don't make the drive up. But if you're heading somewhere that takes you through D/FW, Fort Worth is the classic Texas Cowboy experience. Lots of history and not a 'big city' feel. Dallas is a lot more cosmopolitan. Hope that helps!
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 04:57 AM
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Hi txgirl

Thanks so much for your response!

My timings are a bit all over the place but we are hoping to kick off from Washington DC mid March or possibly earlier.

We are currently working in Canada so we are flexible.

Prior to Tx we will have been in VA,NC,SC,GA,TN,MS and LA.

Obviously there is a lot of timing issues. From TX we will hit NM,UT,AZ,CA etc etc.

The heat is going to hit us sooner or later But as you guessed we are Australians from the West so the heat isn't really concerning us nor the long drives lol.

My boyfriend loves the desert!

So all that being said lets say we will probably hit TX late spring possibly slightly earlier.

I have outlines on the other southern states which are still developing, just like Tx, its like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, which can give me the best bang for my buck.

Hence tough choices and cherry picking.

Sounds like the gulf coast could be on the chopping block. Though camping on a beach in our van sounds appealing for a day or so

But like you say if the destination isn't worth the journey then I can cut it.

I really like the itinerary for the drive that you suggested. Can you recommend any other stops on the way?

What about the boarder regions in the south? Is there anywhere worth stopping there on this kind of a trip?

Thanks so much for your help.

Gemma
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 05:33 AM
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Gemma, we could have a field day picking out places for you to stop along the way!!!

Are you flying down from Canada to a starting point, or driving over the border? And is this a one-way trip ending in Washington state? Or are you driving back across to the east coast?

The VA-NC-SC-GA route is going to be gorgeous in the springtime. Are you avoiding Florida? The southern Atlantic coast and the Gulf Coast between Florida and Texas should be good to cover your beach needs!

I am thinking you'll be hitting West Texas-AZ-NM during the hot months - and there are some long stretches of road - need to make sure the vehicle is up for it, and carry water.

Before we start suggesting specific stops, are you looking at interstate (major highway) driving, or are you sticking to the side roads?

Another thought (and only because I totally want to do this one day) - don't know if you're familiar with a US Food Network show called Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives - the host, Guy, travels all over and stops at some very cool joints all over the country - you can Google his list - might be an idea to bookmark restaurants he's been to if you happen to be in the area - he usually hits the funky, original, local places, so that might be a way to sample more regional food while you travel.
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 05:36 AM
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If you want to see a nice coastal area, make a stop in the panhandle region of Florida. Somewhere around Appalachicola would be great. After seeing that you won't need or want to see the Texas coast.

I second Enchanted Rock, but you will not be allowed to sleep in your van. Only tent camping is allowed.

And of all the cities you listed, do not miss Austin.
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 05:38 AM
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Also, if your boyfriend loves the desert I would actually not spend much time in Texas. Once you see the beauty of New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah, you will wonder what the heck you were doing in Texas all that time.
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 08:02 AM
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First of all, do NOT be like DMBTraveler's post - Texans in the cities do not speak like that, and those in the towns are far more refined. There are still cowboys and G-d knows there are plenty of rednecks (especially in East Texas), but insulting the locals isn't necessary. Texas has three of the largest cities in the US (Houston, SA, Dallas) and even San Antonio (the biggest small town in America) is becoming cosmopolitan. Fort Worth is a far more modern city than the Stockyards and its cowtown history lead outsiders to believe. And Austin is by turns a bohemian enclave, a college town, and a government city all at once.

Second, do not go to the Texas coast. Texans themselves usually prefer to go to the Gulf Coast, aka the Redneck Riviera that stretches from eastern Louisiana through Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. THOSE are good beaches and the people are almost as friendly as Aussies, although often far more sober. There's a reason that the Gulf Coast states run a TON of advertising here and California doesn't - the Gulf Coast is within driving distance, it's generally affordable for middle income vacationers, and the people are more like Texans than those nutters out on the West Coast who love their poncy little Priuses and high taxes.

I'd avoid most of the border regions - there's not much interesting there generally and the Mexican drug wars make the whole area uninviting. I'd also avoid El Paso - there are better places to spend your time.

Third, when you need to get from place to place, take the Interstates not the side roads.

Fourth, I agree with AustinTraveler - northern New Mexico is awesome and much of it is like the Red Centre of Australia only the base colors are tan and brown (haven't been to the areas south or east of Albuquerque like Las Cruces, Hatch, TorC, Carlsbad or Roswell). Colorado is a collection of natural wonders and, based on your timetable to visit, you won't have to drive I-70 in the snow (which sucks).
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 08:44 AM
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I just backpacked at Guadalupe this past weekend.
I would probably do Gualalupe Peak for your hike there9didn't do it this trip, but have previously). It isn't an easy one though. I would definately do it from the NM side. From the north you have Dog Canyon Camping and that would be awesome there too.

Definately see Carlsbad Caverns, which is only 45 minutes away or so from Guadalupe. DO NOT stay or eat at White's City(terrible terrible). I would highly recommend one of the wild cave tours there(available only on Sat and Sun-reserve as far in advance as possible-they only take 8 people per week on each tour-very amazing experience).

Another great place to see is White Sands NM.

Big Bend is somewhat similar to Guadalupe. I would consider doing a rafting tour there. See Victor the Singing Mexican(as seen on youtube). He jumps across the Rio Grande about every day to sing for tips.
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 08:51 AM
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Texas/gulf coast is totally different than those in WA or CA. Not even pretty at all compared to WA or CA(IMOP). Do realize that you will be doing a lot of driving. The good news is the speed limit is high in a lot of places in TX.
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 09:24 AM
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Of all the places you initially listed, the two that I would drop are Houston and Galveston/gulf coast. I'm not real familiar with the Houston art scene, but I would suspect it's not special enough to warrant a few days in that city. And the Gulf Coast (as others have said) has many other, better locations to spend time.

If you're going to Austin for food/music, you have to go to Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans for the same reasons. Well maybe not so much food in Nashville but the music should make up for it.

I would not classify the beaches on the Mississippi coast as 'good' beaches, unless you get out on one of the barrier islands. US 90 runs right along the beach in MS for most of the way - and the beach is not real wide so it isn't a quiet place at all. The storm sewers drain into the ocean so all kinds of crap and muck is out there - at low tide the exposed areas are black and disgusting. They even truck in sand from Florida as the natural sand isn't very nice. So, just go to the beach in Florida or get out on a barrier island on the gulf coast, much nicer beaches.

While most of West Texas might technically be a desert, it isn't pretty. Big Bend area is the best place for hiking and scenery if you're looking for desert landscapes. If it's hot, hike the desert early and then head into the Chisos Mountains in the afternoon. Stop at La Kiva in Terlingua for some real local flavor, don't miss the drive from Terlingua to Presidio along the Rio Grande, and take your time down there or you'll miss it all.
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 10:59 AM
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Thanks, txgirl, your comments have been a big help to me in reaffirming most of my choices and adjusting a couple others. HTtY
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 12:18 PM
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Any time - have a great trip!
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 01:31 PM
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>

Alabama, Florida . . .
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Old Nov 12th, 2012, 01:47 PM
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It depends on what type of beach your are looking for or what your perception of a beach is. For me, I don't like the gulf beaches at all. I do like it for fishing though.
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