Absolutely Best Road Trips from Houston

Texas lends itself well to adventure

America’s fourth-largest city is a cosmopolitan destination filled with world-class dining, arts, entertainment, shopping, and outdoor recreation. Take a stroll through the historic Heights, spend the day exploring the Museum District, or head down to Space Center Houston.

Kemah Boardwalk south of Houston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We love Houston even for its bonkers weather. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like to get away from it all. With that in mind, we’ve put together a little road trip bucket list with mini itineraries for a variety of interest. Best of all, you won’t even need to be on the road that long: we’re talking six-hour drives, tops, which in Texas terms is basically a trip around the corner.

Best Outdoor Getaway: Guadalupe River State Park, Texas

Distance from Houston: 206 miles

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With Big Bend roughly 640 miles and 5 billion worlds away (qualifying it for more than just a short road trip), Guadalupe River State Park is a great spot for a scenic adventure in the Great Outdoors. Many folks come here to swim but the park is more than a great swimming hole with beautiful scenery and colorful history.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the river, you can swim, fish, tube, and canoe. In the dog days of summer, you’ll want to beat the heat and kayak or canoe the Guadalupe River which boasts the 5 mile Guadalupe River State Park Paddling Trail.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While on land, you can camp, hike, ride mountain bikes or horses, picnic, geocache, and bird watch. Explore 13 miles of hike and bike trails. Trails range from the 2.86-mile Painted Bunting Trail to the .26-mile Barred Owl Trail, which leads you to a scenic overlook of the river. Camping is the way to go, here with 85 campsites offering amenities like picnic tables, outdoor grills, fire pits, and water, and electricity.

Best Barbecue Getaway: Lockhart, Texas

Distance from Houston: 156 miles

Black’s Barbecue © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A short trip to this flavor-packed smoke town should be on any food lover’s bucket list. Dubbed the “BBQ Capital of Texas,” Lockhart is easily one of the most legendary barbecue destinations in the world. While you could make it a daytrip you’ll need several days or more to eat your way through it. Don’t forget to pack a cooler, though, because you’ll want to bring some meat home.

Smitty’s Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your Day One itinerary includes the bulk of your eating, as you tackle at least two of the Big Three: Black’s Barbecue (open since 1932), Kreuz Market (est. 1900), and Smitty’s Market (since 1948). You need to consume a lot of meat today, so be sure to stop for breaks. Proceed in any order you please. 

Lockhart © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Black’s, third generation pitmaster Kent Black is slow smoking his barbecue with a simple rub and local Post Oak wood. Choose the behemoth beef rib, packing a 9-inch long bone with around 2 inches of fatty, marbled beef cocooning it; and don’t forget the hand-stuffed and -tied homemade sausage (original, garlic, or jalapeno-cheddar), made from an 80-year-old recipe that has stood the test of time.

Lockhart © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The black soot covering Smitty’s foyer and pit room is a good sign—it means the place is alive and kickin’ after all these years. Go for the Texas trinity of brisket, pork ribs, and sausage, fresh from the pit, and throw on a pork chop if you’re feeling wild. This is the kind of spot where asking for sauce is welcome and it’s a tasty sauce indeed. 

Lockhart State State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lockhart has one more stop in store for you before the drive home: Chisholm Trail Barbecue (opened by a Black’s alum in 1978). There’s a drive-through and BBQ sandwiches if you so please, but you can also head inside for a full plate lunch packed with smoked turkey, sausage links, and moist brisket with sides like mac and cheese, hash browns, and broccoli salad… because you should probably get some greens in.

Best Getaway to Czech Out: La Grange

Distance from Houston: 100 miles

Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Etched in the eroded headstones in the city cemetery and the cemeteries at the nearby “painted churches”—quaint little chapels with exquisite, spangled interiors—are the names of German and Czech immigrants who flocked to the town starting in the 1840s. With its rich heritage, it’s no surprise that La Grange is the hub for celebrating the Czech culture in Texas. Over 80 percent of the Czech Moravian families that settled in Texas at some time lived in Fayette County before they spread out across the state.

Fayette County Courthouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For starters, Czech out the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center. Vitáme Vás is the Czech equivalent of “howdy”, and you’ll certainly feel welcome.

La Grande from Monument Hill State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monument Hill State Park is 40-acres of land on a bluff overlooking La Grange. The state park is home to the site of Monument Hill, the grounds on which the war to keep Texas free was fought. Also housed in the park are the ruins of Kreische Brewery, one of Texas’ first commercial breweries.

Ruins of Kreische Brewery at Monument Hill State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Czech immigrants incorporated different aspects of their culture into the town, perhaps the most apparent being the architecture of the buildings standing in the town square. In the center of the Square sits the current Fayette County Courthouse, the fourth structure to house county business since 1838.

Kolaches at Weikel’s Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The settlers also introduced a town favorite treat—the kolache! The best spots to grab a kolache is Weikel’s Bakery. Don’t worry—you don’t have to squeeze every flavor into one trip… Weikel’s will ship these goodies anywhere in the country!

Best Island Getaway: Galveston Island, Texas

Distance from Houston: 50 miles

Bishop’s Palace, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come to the island to stroll the beach or splash in the waves. Or come to the island to go fishing or look for coastal birds. No matter what brings you here, you’ll find a refuge at Galveston Island State Park. Just an hour from Houston, but an island apart!

Galveston State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Texas coast is on an hourglass-shaped migratory path called the Central Flyway that extends from Alaska to South America. This makes Galveston Island State Park a must-see birding spot, especially with its combination of beach, prairie, and marsh.

The Strand, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Love it or hate it, Galveston is the closest beach to Houston (and we do love it). Here’s how you can love it, too: If it’s not a beach day, you’re spending the rest of the day exploring. Hit the historic Strand District, a 70-block jewel where you’ll find gorgeous Victorian buildings housing museums, boutiques, theaters, shops, and La King’s Confectionary, an old-timey sweets shop where you’ll be picking up some ice cream, dipped chocolates, and taffy. 

1877 Tall Ship Elissa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before you make the short trip back to H-town, get in some extra island time by hitting the 32-miles of sands, having some old school fun at the Pleasure Pier amusement park, checking out historically and architecturally significant spots like the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa and 1892 Bishop’s Palace, or at the very least, getting a beer at Galveston Island Brewing Company. 

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Well it’s lonesome in this old town
Everybody puts me down
I’m a face without a name
Just walking in the rain
Goin’ back to Houston, Houston, Houston 

—lyrics by Lee Hazelwood, recorded by Dean Martin (1965)

I Still Dream of Galveston

Galveston Island is home to some of the best attractions Texas has to offer including Moody Gardens, Schitterbahn Waterpark, the Historic Pleasure Pier, dazzling Victorian architecture, and 32 miles of sun-kissed beaches

Galveston is one of the oldest and most historic cities in Texas. From its time as a major 1800s-era shipping port, through the devastating Hurricane of 1900 and up until modern day, Galveston has played a major role in shaping Texas history.

Seawolf Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston sits on a barrier island two miles offshore surrounded by 32 miles of sandy beaches, numerous attractions, and one of the largest and best-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the US. From soft sandy beaches to famous 19th century architecture, the island is surrounded with incredible history and unique beauty.

Galveston State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Running parallel to Galveston Beach and the Gulf of Mexico is the island’s famous Seawall that stretches for more than 10 miles and rises 17 feet above mean sea level. The Seawall was built to protect Galveston from hurricanes, following the Hurricane of 1900 that devastated the island.

Galveston-Bolivar Island ferry © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Seawall is as much a playground as it is a protective barrier for the City against the ever changing tides of the Gulf of Mexico. Whether you enjoy biking, strolling, or just people watching, the Seawall is the place to visit.

Ocean Star Drilling Rig Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A premier Texas destination, Galveston never disappoints with its unlimited attractions. Our favorites follow.

Ashton Villa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1859 Ashton Villa: The first of Galveston’s great Broadway “palaces”,  Ashton Villa set the standard for the magnificent homes that followed. It was the first brick house to be built in Texas.

Bishop’s Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1892 Bishop’s Palace: Galveston’s grandest and best-known building, is an ornate delight of colored stone, intricately carved ornaments, rare woods such as rosewood and white mahogany, stained-glass windows, massive sliding doors, bronze dragons and other sculptures, and impressive fireplaces from around the world—including one lined with pure silver.

Moody Mansion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1885 Moody Mansion: A portrayal of early 20th century family life among Galveston’s elite.

Grand 1894 Opera House: Among the nation’s finest historical theaters, the Grand 1894 Opera House, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and recognized as “The Official Opera House of Texas”.

Tall Ship Elissa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Seaport Museum & 1877 Tall Ship Elissa: With two floors of exhibits, historic photos, and displays, the Texas Seaport Museum highlights the history of the Port of Galveston that includes its rich legacy of seaborne commerce and immigration. Elissa is a three-masted, iron-hulled sailing ship built in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland by Alexander Hall & Company.

Pier 21 Theater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pier 21 Theater: The Pier 21 Theater features two theatrical presentations about Galveston’s historic past: The Great Storm and The Pirate Island of Jean Lafitte. The Great Storm documentary details the 1900 hurricane which killed 6,000 and changed the Island’s history.

Ocean Star Drilling Rig Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ocean Star Drilling Rig & Museum: Three floors of models and interactive displays illustrate the story of offshore oil and gas from seismic technology to exploration and production. The Ocean Star was a Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit, and as such it was towed from place-to-place to drill test wells in the quest for oil and gas.

The Strand © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Strand Historic District: Galveston’s Strand was the city’s primary commercial area during the second half of the 19th century, when its star was bright and full of great promise. A thriving, energetic, and prosperous district, the Strand developed alongside the shipping channel and port that helped make the city the largest metropolis in the state.

The Strand © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston Railroad Museum: Located in the former Santa Fe Union Station, the Galveston Railroad Museum depicts the city’s rail heritage. One of the five largest in the country, the Railroad Museum features more than 20,000 railroad items, including three steam engines, three diesel engines, 15 passenger/business/ex­press cars, 14 freight cars, three cabooses, and the stream­lined Texas Limited passenger train.

The Strand © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moody Gardens: The 242-acre Moody Gardens is part theme park, part educational and rehabilitative facility, part pleasure garden. Amidst the profusion of tropical plants gleam three glass pyramids—pink, blue, and white—housing a 10-story rainforest, one of the world’s largest aquariums, and an educational Discovery Museum. The complex also includes a 3D theater, 4D Special FX theater, and 3-D Ridefilm theater, Palm Beach with white sand and freshwater lagoons, 19th century style Colonel Paddlewheeler with one-hour narrative cruises, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and a luxury hotel.

The Strand © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea waves crashing
While I watch the cannons flashing
I clean my gun and dream of Galveston.

—Glen Campbell

Celebrate Halloween RV Style

Halloween is a holiday that offers a lot to an RVer

When it comes to trick-or-treating RV style, the trick is making Halloween the holiday you know and love, even without the traditional neighborhood kids knocking on your door.

And the treat? Owning a recreational vehicle opens up new possibilities for celebrating Halloween you may never have considered before.

Spooktacular Halloween Goodies

Most everywhere has its spooky spots, whether an annual haunted attraction, a legitimately haunted place, or just an uncomfortably eerie spot.

And now, RIGHT NOW, it’s the season to go and find ‘em! Old mental hospitals, valleys filled by ghostly sounds, theme park fright houses, historic hotels and mansions—no matter how you scare, there are places to freak you out.

Here are a few of the most haunted places and best spots to live the scary story you’ve waited all year to experience.

Galveston, Texas

Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston has many sites that are considered haunted, including an 1867 building that served as a morgue after the 1900 Storm—still the deadliest storm in U.S. history having killed an estimated 8,000 Galveston residents. The building now houses Haunted Mayfield Manor­—a year-round haunted house attraction in downtown Galveston. The haunted house embraces the spooky history of the building’s past while providing guests with a psychologically thrilling experience.

Moody Mansion, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many of the island’s historic places have ghost stories attached to them as Galveston has been home to epidemics of disease, war, fires, storms, and many merciless pirates, including the infamous Jean Laffite whose lavish and lawless den of thieves was the island’s first European settlement.

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ghosts like Bisbee or perhaps Bisbee likes their ghosts.

Going to Copper Queen Hotel is like stepping back in time. You will feel like you have been brought back to the 1900s. The hotel is so beautiful and the service excellent that it attracts guests who have been dead for many years.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are reportedly three resident ghosts in the Copper Queen Hotel. One of the ghostly residents is an older gentleman who has long hair and beard. He is usually seen wearing a top hat and a black cape. Guests and staff have claimed smelling the aroma of cigar either before or after seeing him.

Copper Queen Mine, Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another ghost is that of a little boy. It is reported that he drowned in the San Pedro River. Guests have reported objects being moved by the little ghost in their rooms. Others have reported hearing footsteps in the halls and giggling. The little boy’s ghost has never been seen, only heard.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

La Fonda, Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the historic district of Santa Fe, the old La Fonda Hotel has been providing a pillow for weary travelers since 1922, but the location itself has been called home to some kind of inn or “fonda” since Santa Fe’s earliest days.

La Plazuela at La Fonda © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the La Fonda Hotel is said to host not only travelers visiting Santa Fe, but also several ghosts. In 1867, the Honorable John P. Slough, Chief Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, was shot to death in the hotel lobby. Some people believe that the Judge continues to walk its hallways.

La Plazuela at La Fonda © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The ghost of the distraught salesman who jumped into the well after losing all of his company’s money is often reported. The hotel’s dining room, the La Plazuela, is situated directly over the old well and both guests and staff alike have reported the sight of a ghostly figure that walks to the center of the room, then seemingly jumps into the floor and disappears.

Plaza of Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the 1970s, a guest reportedly called the front desk to complain that someone was walking up and down the hallway in front of his room. When an employee was sent to investigate, he saw a tall man in a long, black coat disappear into a stairwell.

Local history plus spooks equals great fun!

Worth Pondering…

I’m just a ghost in this house
I’m shadow upon these walls,
As quietly as a mouse
I haunt these halls.
—Allison Krauss, Ghost in This House

Spooktacular Goodies

Local history plus spooks equals great fun

Most everywhere has its spooky spots, whether an annual haunted attraction, a legitimately haunted place, or just an uncomfortably eerie spot.

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And now, RIGHT NOW, it’s the season to go and find ‘em! Old mental hospitals, valleys filled by ghostly sounds, theme park fright houses, historic hotels and mansions—no matter how you scare, there are places to freak you out.

Here are a few of the most haunted places and best spots to live the scary story you’ve waited all year to experience.

Yuma Territorial Prison, Yuma, Arizona

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yuma Territorial Prison’s population was made up of thieves, murderers, and the occasional polygamist, and over 111 inmates died here, making it one of the more ghoulish state parks in Arizona. To this day, guides at the park report feeling a “cold chill” when passing by Cell 14—where John Ryan, imprisoned for “crimes against nature,” committed suicide.

The Dark Cell, Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even more unnerving is The Dark Cell, which is exactly what it sounds like: a dark crypt where rowdy convicts were sent for acting up. Accounts cite that two inmates, who were literally chained to ring-bolts up here, had to be urgently transferred an insane asylum upon their release from isolation.

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More recently, one reporter tried to spend two days in the Dark Cell. She didn’t make it past 37 hours, and cited she felt she wasn’t the only one in the chamber.

Galveston, Texas

Ashton Villa, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston Island’s ghostly history makes it one of the top destinations in the country for spooky travel, from a haunted historic hotel to the island’s storied harbor, cemeteries, and Victorian mansions. Here, visitors can get spooked by the numerous ghost stories that stem from the country’s deadliest natural disaster and other tragedies.

Moody Mansion, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors to 1895 Moody Mansion have reported disembodied footsteps and apparitions which have shown up in photographs.

Bishop’s Palace, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Miss Bettie, daughter of the historic Ashton Villa’s first owner James Moreau Brown, is rumored to have haunted the house since its 1975 restoration. Her apparition has been seen in a long turquoise dress on the second-floor landing. Her pianist sister may be here too, some say, because the piano in the Gold Room has been known to play by itself.

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Delve deep into Arizona’s mining past in Bisbee, a town of colorful architecture and equally colorful characters, and a ghost or two—many of the town’s locales are rumored to be haunted.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are reportedly three resident ghosts in the Copper Queen Hotel.

One ghost, and perhaps the most famous, is that of a woman in her thirties by the name of Julia Lowell. It is said that she was a prostitute and she used the hotel for her and her clients. She fell madly in love with one of her clients and when she told him this he no longer wanted to see her. She took her own life at the hotel.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Guests and staff at the hotel say that they feel her presence on the second and third floors of the west side of the building. Male staff and guests have reported hearing a female voice whispering in their ear. Others have also reported seeing her dancing provocatively at the foot of the stairs. She likes to play with men’s feet. As a tribute to her, one of the rooms in the hotel is named the Julia Lowell room.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe is one of the few cities that offer a full schedule of “ghost tours” and “ghost walks” year around, with as many as five operators conducting tours from Santa Fe’s historic plaza. These tours primarily focus on the ten block historic area of Santa Fe, featuring such places as the Grant Corner Inn, Palace of Governors, historic buildings including the oldest house in the nation, and the La Posada and La Fonda Hotels.

La Fonda, Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some tours also include area superstitions, as well as Santa Fe’s history of vigilantes, gunfights, murders, and hangings.

Worth Pondering…

I’m just a ghost in this house
I’m shadow upon these walls,
As quietly as a mouse
I haunt these halls.

—Allison Krauss, Ghost in This House

4 Amazing History Destinations

Use this list to plan your next getaway to one of the most beautiful historic places in the US

History is best understood by walking the ground where it happened, says filmmaker Ken Burns.

“You feel the presence of what went on before. We go to these places because we’re aware that the ghosts and echoes of an almost inexpressibly wise past summon us.”

Despite what the History Channel tells you, there’s more to the past than Truck Night in America, Pawn Stars, and UFO Cover Ups.

There’s history everywhere you look—maybe even in the city you are in right now. But, not all can be as historic as, say, Old City in Philly. And that is why we consulted our history books—and my journal from 20+ years of RV travel—and power ranked America’s most beautiful historic cities.

Freedom Trail, Boston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Boston, Massachusetts

Walk into history and experience more than 250 years of history on Boston’s iconic Freedom Trail—the 2.5-mile red line leading to 16 nationally significant historic sites. Preserved and dedicated by the citizens of Boston in 1951, the Freedom Trail is a unique collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond. 

Freedom Trail, Boston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Step inside the places where the American Revolution was launched, from pews and pulpits, private homes, and public offices, with fiery speeches and midnight rides.

USS Constitution (Old Ironside) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Today the Freedom Trail is a world-renowned, signature visitor experience attracting over 4 million people annually to visit Boston’s 17th-, 18th- , and 19th-century sites.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Charleston, South Carolina

One of the oldest cities in the country, Charleston is often described as a living museum. With a whopping 97 properties listed on the National Register for Historic Places, history is ingrained in every aspect of Downtown Charleston—right down to the horse-drawn carriages.

Magnolia Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Stroll Broad Street’s federal period homes or King Street while snapping photos of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (1752) and Charleston County Courthouse (1792) along the way. From the historic mansions that line the Battery promenade near the waterside, Fort Sumter-facing White Point Garden to the cobblestone streets and gas-lit alleys of the French Quarter (yes, Charleston has its own French Quarter), you can’t escape all the history that’s packed into the heart of this city. And when history is this beautiful, why the hell would you want to?

Moody Mansion, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Galveston, Texas

Galveston offers one of the largest and best-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the country. Not to be missed attractions include the Broadway Beauties—1895 Ashton Villa, 1892 Bishop’s Palace, and 1895 Moody Mansion—which portray early 20th century family life among Galveston’s elite.

Ashton Villa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Grand 1894 Opera House ranks among the nation’s finest historical theaters, the Texas Seaport Museum and 1877 Tall Ship Elissa highlight the history of the Port of Galveston, and The Great Storm documentary details the 1900 hurricane which killed 6,000 and changed the Island’s history. The Ocean Star Offshore Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum and the Railroad Museum in the restored Union Depot combine to enhance Galveston as a wonderful historic destination.

Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Founded in 1607, Santa Fe is America’s oldest capital city and also houses the oldest public building in the country, the circa-1610 Palace of the Governors which was originally the seat of government for the Spanish colony of Neuvo Mexico. To wander the Downtown Santa Fe Plaza is to immerse one in traditional adobe structures in what is one of the country’s most uniquely picturesque urban experiences. There are time-warped old buildings and churches including the stunning Loretto Chapel famous for its miraculous staircase and San Miguel Mission, reported to be America’s oldest church built between 1610 and 1626.

Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

But, history’s not the only thing going down in Santa Fe. The city’s unique cuisine and renowned art galleries are as integral to the area’s charm as anything from a dusty old history book.

Plaza of Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

The lack of a sense of history is the damnation of the modern world.

—Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989)