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Most Popular Texas Vacation Destinations

Updated on February 13, 2013
Texas is a great vacation spot, with each of its largest cities being a prime tourist destination.
Texas is a great vacation spot, with each of its largest cities being a prime tourist destination. | Source

Vacations in the Lone Star State

Texas, the second largest state in America, has a little something for everyone--beaches, glamorous cities, rolling countryside--and that makes it an ideal vacation destination! Each of the state's major cities has its own distinct personality and attractions, so if you're planning to stay for a while and make several stops, you can cater to a range of vacation tastes.

If you're traveling to Texas, you'll most likely hit the cities of Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, or San Antonio and their surrounding areas. Each has a lot to offer. Read on to learn more about the most popular vacation destinations in Texas.

The Houston skyline. Houston is a great family vacation destination.
The Houston skyline. Houston is a great family vacation destination. | Source

Vacations in Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas is a great vacation destination for families. The sprawling city is culturally diverse, offering a range of restaurants and festivals, and is only about forty-five minutes from the beach (Galveston). Because the city is so large, the thrifty tourist can also find a range of cheap or free attractions, and low-cost meals and lodging.

So, what vacation attractions does Houston offer?

  • The Houston Zoo--over 4,500 animals and plenty of room for kids to play and explore as they view nature up-close
  • The Houston Galleria--a massive shopping center, with almost every store you can imagine
  • Kemah Boardwalk--42 acres of restaurants, thrill rides, and shopping, all along the water
  • Bayou Place--for the culture lover, a theater and arts center
  • Old Town Spring--a quaint trip back to the 1900s, these shops sport Victorian architecture and a wide range of tchotckes, candles, and more
  • Johnson Space Center--interesting even for those who aren't fascinated by the heavens
  • The Museum of Fine Arts and the Contemporary Art Museum--for the art lover
  • The Holocaust Museum--a sobering walk back into history
  • Hermann Park Conservancy--great for picnics, or stroll through the International Sculpture Gardens or the Japanese Gardens

Of course, be sure to research what festivals or events are going on when you're in town--The Original Greek Festival and the Houston Rodeo are both big draws and worth visiting if you're already in Houston on vacation.

The one-of-a-kind Dallas skyline. Dallas-Fort Worth is a popular tourist destination for shopping, dining, and culture.
The one-of-a-kind Dallas skyline. Dallas-Fort Worth is a popular tourist destination for shopping, dining, and culture. | Source

Vacations in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

Visiting the DFW area on vacation is like getting two vacations in one--Dallas and Fort Worth are only about 45 minutes apart, but they're as different as night and day. Dallas is chic, upscale, and focused on the high life, while Fort Worth is down-to-earth, warm, and focused on having a good time--with your boots on.

So, what are popular vacation destinations in Dallas-Fort Worth?


  • The Sixth Floor Museum and the Grassy Knoll--for those interested in the assassination of JFK
  • Six Flags Over Texas--an amusement park full of rides and entertainment for the thrillseeker
  • Medieval Times--step back into the Middle Ages for a night of jousting and feasting
  • Dallas Arboretum--acres of flowers and sculpture for the outdoor enthusiast; the tulips in March and April are exceptionally beautiful
  • Northpark Mall--one of America's premier shopping destinations, with many high-end stores
  • Dallas Heritage Village--a 13-acre living history museum with buildings from 1840 to 1910
  • Uptown--a trendy neighborhood full of shopping and restaurants, with an old-fashioned trolley
  • Dallas Museum of Art--for the art buff

Fort Worth

  • The Fort Worth Zoo--a beautiful, natural zoo with a train safari
  • Billy Bob's--a Texas-sized honky tonk with music, dancing, drinks, and more
  • The Fort Worth Stockyards--shops, restaurants, and the National Cowgirl Museum at the site of the old stockyards (there's also a longhorn cattle drive at specified times)
  • The Kimball Art Museum--another hit for the art lover
  • Sundance Square--popular shopping, eating, and nightlife spot
  • Botanic Gardens and Japanese Gardens--for getting back to nature; beautifully manicured and well-kept

If you're in town in October, check out the Texas State Fair for more fried food, livestock, and entertainment than you can handle in just one day.

The Austin State Capitol Building, one of Austin's many popular tourist attractions.
The Austin State Capitol Building, one of Austin's many popular tourist attractions. | Source

Vacations in Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas's slogan is "Keep it Weird"--and the city prides itself on being quirky, cultural, and accepting. It's a little pocket of liberalism in a largely conservative state. Austin is great for hiking, outdoor dining in off-beat little restaurants, and taking a tour of the state government.

So, what are popular vacation attractions in Austin, Texas?

  • The State Capitol--the imposing white building houses the seat of the state's government
  • Congress Avenue bats--the largest urban colony of bats in the world; watch them flutter out at sunset
  • Barton Springs Pool--a natural swimming hole, always 68 degrees
  • Lady Bird Hike and Bike Trail and the Ladybird Wildflower Center--for the outdoor and nature lover
  • South Congress--a collection of unique shops, restuarants, and music venues
  • Sixth Street--a row of busy bars for those who like nightlife
  • Zilker Botanical Gardens--more for the nature lover

The Riverwalk in San Antonio; one of the city's main tourist attractions.
The Riverwalk in San Antonio; one of the city's main tourist attractions. | Source

Vacations in San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio is an excellent city to visit if you want a laid-back vacation where you can get away from it all, but still have access to fine dining and culture.

So, what should you do on vacation in San Antonio?

  • Seaworld--a family theme park featuring marinelife, rides, and entertainment
  • The Alamo--a slice of Texas history
  • Natural Bridge Caverns--see nature's beauty underground
  • The Riverwalk--outdoor and indoor shopping and dining along the San Antonio River
  • Six Flags Fiesta Texas--an amusement park full of thrills and shows
  • San Fernando Cathedral--built in 1739, a beautiful remnant of Texas' mission days
  • Japanese Tea Gardens--beautiful and relaxing
  • San Antonio Missions National Historical Park--a walk through San Antonio's history; it was settled by Spanish Catholic missionaries and the missions remain

Final Vacation Tips for the Lone Star State

As you can see, Texas offers a wide variety of tourist attractions! Each of its four major cities--Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio--is a popular vacation destination. Austin will thrill the nature lover, San Antonio will satiate your appetite for history, Houston will keep you endlessly entertained, and Dallas and Fort Worth will offer two sides of a coin--one upscale and high-end, the other down-home and ready for a good time.

Top Vacation Cities in Texas

Austin, Texas:
Austin, TX, USA

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Dallas, Texas:
Dallas, TX, USA

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Houston, Texas:
Houston, TX, USA

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San Antonio, Texas:
San Antonio, TX, USA

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