Enjoy beautiful weather all year long on this 70 degree road trip through the interior of the United States
In 2015, a clever climatologist routed a 70-degree Road Trip map that steers you through 69-71 degrees Fahrenheit all year long. Brian B.’s map has been shared over 10 million times over various platforms.
He updated the routes in 2023 to make them more interesting. You can now choose a Coastal Route, Interior Route, or United States and Canada Route.
I’ve already written about the Coastal Route and in this article, I will focus on the Interior Route. Stay tuned for the third route next week.
Route 2: The Interior Expedition
At 7,064 miles, this route is only a few hundred miles shorter than the coastal route but it takes you through the heart of America. It showcases an array of natural wonders, picturesque landscapes, and unique cultural experiences.
This incredible route starts in Brownsville, Texas, and weaves its way northwards along the country’s interior. You ultimately make your way back down to the same final leg as the Coast Route through Phoenix to San Diego.
Keep in mind you don’t have to drive this entire route. It can serve as a guide to plan trips using segments at different times of the year. But if you have the time and resources, it sure would be an incredible journey to do the entire route.
I will walk you through this epic road trip and link to related articles to help you plan your trip.
Begin your journey in Brownsville, Texas where you can embrace the vibrant Tex-Mex culture in the Rio Grande Valley before setting out north to Corpus Christi, a coastal city famous for its stunning beaches and enticing attractions.
Drive northward from Houston stopping by the bustling city of Dallas before continuing to Oklahoma City. Along the way, immerse yourself in the distinctive combination of Texan and Oklahoman lifestyles.
Continue your northward trek to Des Moines, Iowa, via I-35. Then journey east to Rockford, Illinois, and north through Wisconsin before reaching vibrant Minneapolis, Minnesota. Discover the cultural and culinary treasures that await you at each destination.
Mileage: 765 miles
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Embark on an early June sprint northward to Duluth, Minnesota, and head west through North Dakota towards central Montana. This leg traverses a total of 1,062 miles of awe-inspiring landscapes and remarkable wilderness areas.
Explore the winding route from Montana’s picturesque high country to Yellowstone National Park. Continue through Montana, northwestern Colorado, and back into south-central Wyoming. This circuitous route keeps you in the cool temperatures of the high country.
Continue nearly due south through West Kansas and the Texas panhandle before turning southwest towards Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Revel in the rich culture, landscapes, and outdoor adventures the Southwest has to offer.
Complete your 70-degree road trip by driving from Phoenix to Los Angeles and then to San Diego. Relax and unwind on the sun-kissed beaches of Southern California while basking in the accomplishments of your extraordinary journey.
The Coastal Spine Barrier is a nearly $30 billion project that could soon be in place along the eastern coast of Texas
In 2008, Hurricane Ike devastated the island town of Galveston with head-high floodwaters and 110-mile-per-hour winds that caused billions of dollars of damage and killed dozens of people.
Protecting Galveston isn’t the only goal of a massive series of infrastructure projects meant to limit the devastation from extreme weather. Scientists have modeled worst-case scenario storms that also make clear the potential for devastation in nearby Houston.
Given that the state’s largest city is home to millions of people and the nation’s largest petrochemical complex the region’s vulnerability to deadly storm surges is seen as both a national security and economic issue.
Even though Hurricane Harvey made landfall much farther down the coast in 2017, its torrential rains put large swaths of Houston underwater and drove home the widespread damage a hurricane could inflict on the nation’s fourth-largest city.
“If you think about it, 42 percent of the specialty chemical feedstocks for the entire United States is produced here,” said Bob Mitchell, president at Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. “Twenty seven percent of the gas, 60 percent of the jet aviation fuel, 80 percent of the military-grade aviation fuel is all produced right in this region that the coastal spine will protect. Not including the 5.5 million people that live in this area.”
A coastal storm barrier has been a topic of discussion and debate for over a decade. Bill Merrell, a marine sciences professor at the Texas A&M University at Galveston began preaching the storm barrier gospel after Ike. In early 2009, just a few months after the storm, he introduced a concept dubbed the Ike Dike which mirrored a Dutch concept of stopping storm surges right at the coast. The Netherlands is a low-lying country that has become the world leader in flood control.
After centuries of fighting back water in a low-lying nation, the Dutch have become the world leaders in flood control. And their expertise is helping Texas design what would become the nation’s most ambitious and expensive coastal barrier.
The Delta Works later declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers surrounded a fifth of the country’s population with an ingenious combination of dams, dikes, locks, and first-of-their-kind storm surge barriers. It took decades to finish it all—much longer than expected.
After engineering what they tout as the safest delta in the world the Dutch have ramped up the export of their expertise; they have advised several U.S. states and other coastal areas around the world on protecting lives and property from storms and rising sea levels.
A preliminary design has been approved for a storm suppression system that would run along the Texas coast from Galveston to Corpus Christi but it could ultimately impact the entire country.
The project is the largest civil works project ever taken on by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Not only could it protect the lives of people on the Gulf Coast, it could also help eliminate supply-chain delays across the country by protecting two large ports during hurricanes.
Galveston Mayor Craig Brown said residents have become annoyed with frequent flooding.
“We have nuisance flooding now which means that that flooding occurs even without a flood or tropical storm or a hurricane here,” Brown said.
While flooding becomes worse with heavy rains or hurricanes, Dr. Kelly Burkes-Copes with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers believes a solution is underway.
“The idea and intent is to combine a series of gated structures—kind of what we consider gray infrastructure; you may think of it as concrete and water with natural and nature-based solutions like beaches and dunes and wetlands to basically improve resilience of the entire Texas coast,” Burkes-Copes said.
The Coastal Spine Barrier is a nearly $30 billion project that would allow the Gulf Coast to withstand, endure, and recover from storms quicker and it wouldn’t only protect the locals.
“The intent here is a national issue. For example, if the Houston Port which is the largest port in the nation shuts down as a result of a hurricane, the rest of the country will feel that impact,” Burkes-Copes said.
Rich Byrnes, the Chief Infrastructure Officer at the Port of Houston said the tonnage the port receives is steadily increasing.
“The Port of Houston area moves about 270 million tons. And, to put that into perspective, that’s more than many large states,” Byrnes said.
The Port of Houston and Galveston account for 12 percent of the total U.S. crude oil imports as of May 2018, the Energy Information Administration reports and the Port of Houston has seen a 13 percent increase of overall economic value since then.
“After Hurricane Harvey, the price of gas was elevated for six months nationwide because the time it took to start the refineries and so forth,” Byrnes said.
Despite the backing behind the project, one more obstacle stands in the way of the hurricane barrier or coastal spine project: matching federal funds.
“We have to have a local funding source to not only build the system, but to maintain it,” Brown said.
One funding option available is adding a tax but officials must consider if Texas residents across the state would be okay with paying taxes for a barrier in Galveston.
The only two good words that can be said for a hurricane are that it gives sufficient warning of its approach and that it blows from one point of the compass at a time.
Some of the most populated cities across the United States are also some of the hottest places to be during the summer with temperatures regularly climbing above 100 degrees F.
Many cities don’t come close to the extreme heat experienced in Death Valley, California; however, the population in Death Valley is just a small fraction of that of many towns across the country.
Cities are warming at twice the global average because buildings and pavement absorb and trap so much heat. Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Miami have named chief heat officers to find ways to prevent the often deadly impacts of extreme heat.
From the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the deserts of the Southwest, here are 10 of the hottest cities across the United States with a population of over 250,000.
1. Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix is home to over 1.6 million people and regularly experiences some of the highest temperatures of any city across the country. The temperature climbs above the 100-degree mark daily from the end of May through the middle of September. These blistering hot days are followed up by warm nights with the low temperature sometimes failing to drop below 90.
Phoenix recorded its hottest summer ever in 2020 with 50 days at or above 110 degrees and a record 28 nights when the temperature never dropped below 90 degrees.
Heat is killing about 300 people per year in Phoenix.
Phoenix is trying to beat the heat by turning its black asphalt streets gray. A special sealant reflects rather than absorbs the hot desert sun.
America’s hottest city is working to avoid getting even hotter—starting with its streets. As heat waves across the country continue, Phoenix is covering black asphalt roads with a gray sealant that reflects the sun rather than absorbing heat. Mayor Kate Gallego says the sealant which has so far been used on 73 miles of city streets reduces the temperature of asphalt by 10 to 12 degrees.
In addition to cool pavement the city is creating 100 cool corridors and planting hundreds of trees whose shade can drop the ambient air temperature by about 30 to 40 degrees compared to full sun. Phoenix is also experimenting with reflective roofs and cooling sidewalks.
2. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is a popular tourist destination in the southwestern United States but visitors may want to plan to visit areas with air conditioning during the summer months. The city averages over 70 days a year with temperatures in the triple digits and has reached its all-time record high of 117 on several occasions.
People traveling to popular tourist destinations nearby such as Lake Mead National Recreation, Red Rock Canyon, or the Hoover Dam should also expect to encounter extreme heat and should take the proper precautions to stay safe.
3. Tucson, Arizona
Tucson sits on the edge of the Sonoran Desert and is nearly as hot as Phoenix located 100 miles to the northwest. One of Tucson’s hottest summers in recent years occurred in 2013 when the city climbed into the 100s for 39 consecutive days including all of June.
Monsoonal thunderstorms can provide temporary breaks in the extreme summer heat but they can also kick up dust storms called haboobs that can greatly reduce visibility and cause dangerous travel conditions.
4. Riverside, California
While the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean help to limit temperatures along coastal areas of Southern California areas father inland can experience much hotter conditions. Riverside, approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles has recorded triple-digit heat every month from April through October with an all-time high of 118. This is higher than the record in Las Vegas and just a few degrees shy of the record high in Phoenix.
San Antonio is home to more than 1.5 million people and experiences long stretch with temperatures in the 90s during the height of summer. On average, the city reaches the 90-degree mark more than 110 days out of the year as well as several days in the low 100s. August is the hottest month of the year in San Antonio with an average high temperature near 97, one of the highest averages across the entire country among major cities.
6. Miami, Florida
Although the mercury in southern Florida doesn’t climb as high as it does in the southwestern United States during the summer, Miami’s proximity to the tropics can make it feel oppressively hot, especially for those not accustomed to the high humidity levels. Miami has never recorded a temperature of 100 but the strong summer sun paired with the humidity can send the AccuWeather RealFeel temperature over 110 on the hottest afternoons of the year.
Miami is also one of the warmest cities in the country during the winter with afternoon temperatures often climbing near 80.
7. Houston, Texas
Tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico has a strong influence on the weather pattern along the coast of Texas including in Houston, the state’s most populated city with over 2 million people. The humidity helps to boost the AccuWeather RealFeel temperature above 100 daily. Moisture from the Gulf also helps to fuel rain and thunderstorms making Houston the wettest among the county’s hottest cities averaging over 100 days a year with rain.
8. Fresno, California
Outside of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, the Central Valley is California’s hottest region with temperatures often reaching the triple digits. This includes Fresno, home to over half a million people. In 2018, the city experienced 30 consecutive days with a temperature at or above the 100-degree mark, the longest stretch in the city’s history.
Located farther inland from the Gulf of Mexico than Houston or San Antonio, Dallas can experience some of the hottest weather of all of Texas’ major cities. Being farther away from the source of tropical moisture allows temperatures to be slightly higher than near the coast with daily highs in the mid- to upper 90s from the end of June into early September.
Although the summer heat can be more intense in Dallas than Houston or San Antonio, the city experiences cooler winters with temperatures frequently dipping below freezing.
10. Orlando, Florida
One of Florida’s hottest cities is also one of its most popular tourist spots with a record-setting 72 million people visiting in 2017. Unlike Miami, temperatures in Orlando can occasionally reach the 100-degree mark with an all-time record high of 103. Overnight temperatures also remain warm as they rarely dip below 60 from June through September.
Orlando also remains warm throughout the winter with afternoon highs in the 70s and overnight lows that rarely drop below 30.
These 16 RV getaway spots are ranked based on cost, amenities, internet speed, pet polices, air quality, and more. It’s time to plan your road trip.
If it seemed like the pandemic produced a lot more RVs around your neighborhood, you’re probably right. One of them may even be yours.
Van life was already trending before COVID and has been buoyed by the need for social distancing and the work-from-anywhere possibilities. As travel-hungry adventurers continue to look for ways to escape and see the great outdoors, RV sales are on the rise.
The RV Industry Association (RVIA) forecasts RV wholesale shipments at around 591,100 units by the end of 2022 which is close to the 600,240 shipped in 2021, the industry’s best year on record. Total RV shipments in March 2022 were 64,454, up 18.7 percent over March 2021 and a 69 percent increase over the 38,015 shipped in March 2019.
Although there’s no available data on how many people are traveling in their RVs, Mercedes-Benz U.S. van sales shot up 22.5 percent in 2020, according to USA Today.
So, yes, if it seems like there’s more RVs on the highway it is likely there is: 11.2 million U.S. households own an RV, according to RVIA. And contrary to popular belief, they’re not just retired folks: More than half are under 54 years old. Those in the 18- to 34-year-old age range now make up 22 percent of the market.
So if you’re going to jump on the camper bandwagon to head out on the open road where are the best places to live the RV life? To determine the best RV destinations in the U.S., number crunchers at StorageCafe, an online platform that provides storage unit listings, analyzed data from camping directory CampgroundViews about numbers of campsites, their costs, and amenities such as water, sewer, and electricity hookups, swimming pools, Wi-Fi, cable TV, ‘pull-thru’-type sites (for convenience when parking), and pet policies. They also used a variety of sources to find local air quality, internet speeds, grocery prices, storage options, and the number of nearby retail outlets.
Here are 16 of the best places in the U.S. for RV campers.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Median air quality index: 43=good
Average internet speed: 92 mbps
Grocery cost: 98.2 percent of U.S. average
Retail outlets per 1,000 residents: 22.9 (the most on this list)
Pigeon Forge is located near Gatlinburg and Sevierville and is about five miles from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. A popular year-round family-friendly vacation destination, Pigeon Forge is filled with fun activities. There’s plenty of shopping here and a Dolly Parton theme park.
Grants Pass sits on Oregon’s Rogue River in the Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest. It’s a good spot for rafting and enjoying the lush outdoors. It’s central to places like the historic Gold Rush town of Jacksonville, Applegate Valley Wine Tour near Medford, Crater Lake National Park, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.
Median air quality index: 44=good
Average internet speed: 99 mbps
Grocery cost: 98.4 percent of U.S. average
Retail outlets per 1,000 residents: 2.7
Rockport-Fulton has been a favorite coastal hideaway and snowbird roost for many years. You’ll find a sandy beach, a birder’s paradise, a thriving arts community, unique shopping, delectable seafood, unlimited outdoor recreation, historical sites, and great fishing.
Whether you’re looking for fun and adventure or lazy days on the beach, you can do it all in Gulf Shores and nearby Orange Beach. Dolphin watching, ocean fishing, and golf are popular activities. Discover history and travel back in time when cannons protected the waterways and explore the nearly 200-year-old Fort Morgan. Adjacent to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is Gulf State Park with 6,000 acres spanning the sugar-white sands of the Gulf Coast and is home to nine unique ecosystems. The Gulf State Park Campground offers 496 full hook-up RV campsites.
Don’t pass up the big city on your road trip. 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 and Galveston.
Tucson is an Arizona destination worth repeat visits with history, culture, and outdoor activities galore. View a great variety of plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert at Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. A desert oasis, Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is a hiker’s paradise. The West is full of beautiful national parks but one of the most iconic symbols of the Old West is the saguaro cactus—and Saguaro National Park and Catalina State Park are full of them.
In the far west of the state on the Colorado River near the California and Mexico borders, Yuma has one of the nation’s largest mass of inland sand dunes enjoyed by ATVers. Immerse yourself in rich culture and heritage rooted in centuries of history. Popular with snowbirds, Yuma is known as the Winter Lettuce Capital and it holds a Guinness World Record as the “Sunniest City in the World.” Just over the border in Mexico is Los Algodones, a popular spot for medical tourism. Check out the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, a Wild West–era prison (Yuma High’s unusual mascot is the Criminals).
Remember the Alamo? This is where you go to see it. From the San Jose Mission to the Alamo, this city is known for its fabulous, historic architecture. With a mix of cultures, Mexican and Tex-Mex food is more authentic than found almost anywhere else in the country. There is a lot to do in San Antonio from visiting the missions to the Alamo and touring the River Walk. You can also spend days enjoying family-fun destinations like SeaWorld and Six Flags or join a ghost and vampire tour. There is no lack of diversions to explore in this city and beyond.
Retail outlets per 1,000 residents: 2 (the fewest of this list)
Located at the southern tip of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley hosts one of the most spectacular convergences of birds on earth. Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, just south of Mission, is not only Texas’ southernmost state park but since October 2005, the headquarters of the World Birding Center. The 760-acre park draws visitors from as far away as Europe and Japan hoping to spot some of the more than 325 species of birds and over 250 species of butterflies.
With mountains all around, miles of hiking and biking trails, a river running through it and national parks nearby, Redding is an outdoor paradise for all ages. Cradled by Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen, Redding has 300+ sunny days per year. Redding is also home to the famous Sundial Bridge, world-class fishing, and 200 miles of hiking and biking trails for all abilities. Head out on a day-trip to see the bubbling mud pots and boiling lakes in Lassen Volcanic National Park. The area’s wealth of outdoor activities include Turtle Bay Exploration Park with the renown Sundial Bridge, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Shasta Lake, and Lake Shasta Caverns.
Austin was recently voted the No. 1 place to live in America for the third year in a row— based on affordability, job prospects, and quality of life. It was named the fastest growing large city in the U.S. It was chosen among the top 15 cities in the United States to visit. Austin features centrally located Lady Bird Lake, named after Texan and former first lady, Lady Bird Johnson. Lady Bird Lake is part of the Colorado River and is a popular place to canoe, kayak, and use stand-up paddleboards. Next to the lake are the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.
The areas surrounding Benson offer numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation. Coronado National Forest and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area provide areas for hiking, camping, and picnicking. Kartchner Caverns State Park provides an unforgettable way to get in touch with the earth—literally. Located on State Route 90 in the Whetstone Mountains these unique caverns are the most pristine in the U. S. Tombstone invites visitors to walk in the footsteps of the West’s most famous outlaws and good guys, the Clantons and the Earps
For a change of pace, Casa Grande offers a relaxing respite from the hustle-and-bustle, halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. Casa Grande draws golfers year-round with excellent play at a variety of area courses. Stroll through historic downtown Casa Grande, one of Arizona’s Main Street communities with more than 40 buildings in national and local historic registers. Hike, bike, and even take a farm or dairy tour. At the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, you’ll find the Ancient Sonoran Desert People’s farming community including the preserved “Great House,” or “Casa Grande.”
Soak up the sun in Arizona’s third-largest city. The neighboring farms and Agritourism attractions in and around Mesa provide a bounty of seasonal goods for visitors to enjoy. Mesa is neighbors to the Tonto National Forest and visitors to this desert oasis take advantage of being close to one of the nation’s largest playgrounds. Tonto is the fifth largest forest in the United States and one of the most-visited forests in the country. There are three lakes and two rivers in Mesa that allow for desert boating, paddle boarding, kayaking, and water skiing. There are treasures to be found all over Mesa. What treasures you find just depends on where you look.
Located along the northern rim of Lake Okeechobee, Florida’s “inland sea,” the city of Okeechobee offers visitors a relaxing time. Choose from a variety of RV parks and campgrounds just minutes from the beauty of Lake Okeechobee, varied attractions, and annual events. Known as the “Speckled Perch Capital of the World,” Okeechobee holds an annual event in honor of this title—the Speckled Perch Festival held in March. The town provides a convenient access point to the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail. And the lake and its shores, of course, offer boating, freshwater fishing, hiking, and biking.
As t-shirts and bumper stickers are quick to remind us, Texas is big
There’s an old saying that “everything is bigger in Texas” and what counts as a commute for a Texan may well qualify as a road trip in other states. From Conroe to Freeport, Katy to Baytown, the greater Houston area spans more than 100 miles north to south and over 50 miles east to west. The Dallas/Fort Worth metropolis isn’t much smaller especially as suburban sprawl continues to spread and San Antonio has expanded significantly in recent years.
Big cities mean wide highways and fast speed limits: The 41-mile stretch of Texas Highway 130, just east of Austin, boasts a speed limit of 85 miles per hour—the fastest legal limit in the country. Austin retains traces of its small-town vibe although locals whisper about a future where Austin and San Antonio could morph into one giant megacity. And Austin is notorious for its daily traffic jams.
Looking to ditch the hustle and bustle of big-city life? There’s so much to see in Texas beyond its major metropolitan areas. Houston, San Antonio, and Austin are strategically placed for road trips in Central Texas. Here are some of my favorite getaways for a day trip, a week, or longer.
Note that, in 2020, it’s imperative to check websites and social media updates beforehand to ensure that your destination is open and accepting visitors at the time you arrive. Many state parks and public areas require passes beforehand or impose a strict limit on the number of guests allowed at any given time even during normal circumstances.
A 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. Tackle at least two of the Big Three on Day One: Black’s Barbecue (open since 1932), Kreuz Market (est. 1900), and Smitty’s Market (since 1948). Proceed in any order you please. Lockhart has one more stop in store for you: Chisholm Trail Barbecue (opened by a Black’s alum in 1978).
But there’s a lot more to Lockhart than just smoked meats. Golfers can look out on the rugged Texas scenery while enjoying a round of golf at the Lockhart State Park Golf Course which also offers an on-site swimming pool, camping sites, and fishing hole.
What is next? Off to Luling for some more barbecue? How about a Shiner beer? A nap? Or both? You deserve it!
This little town is known for BIG flavors—and whether you prefer sweet or meat, both are delicious here. Gorge yourself on juicy watermelon or fill up on some of the best barbecue in the Lone Star State—either way you’ll leave here full. And while you’re eating your way through town, you’ll also find some pretty epic nature spots.
Dive into the history of “the toughest town in Texas” at the Luling Oil Museum where you’ll learn about the oil boom of Central Texas in the 1920s. Walk through a model town and see real tools from the oil boom days. Around this oil town, you’ll find tons of pump jacks decorated as everything from quarterbacks to killer whales. It’s the perfect mixture of art, history, and liquid gold!
Shiner, Texas is home to 2,069 people, Friday’s Fried Chicken, and—most famously—the Spoetzal Brewery where every drop of Shiner beer is brewed. Tours are offered throughout the week where visitors can see how their popular brews get made. Tours and samples are free. Founded in 1909, the little brewery today sends more than 6 million cases of delicious Shiner beer across the country. Founder, Kosmos Spoetzal, would be pretty proud! To which we say “Prosit!”
Blue Bell fans travel from all over to see the making of their favorite ice cream. At The Little Creamery in Brenham, visitors can watch the manufacturing process from an observation deck while attendants narrate and provide fun facts, and then check out the Visitors Center to read up on the company’s history and see artifacts. The self-guided tours conclude with $1 scoops from the parlor. In addition to regular favorites, the creamery also serves special flavors like Cookies ’n Cream and Pecan Pralines ’n Cream and the newest flavor to temp your taste buds, Fudge Brownie Decadence.
In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg maintains a small-town feel while having lots of things to see and do. With its unique German heritage, thriving wineries, and shopping, it’s the perfect getaway. The historic buildings along Main Street are home to over 100 shops. Influenced by the town’s heritage, German and German-inspired food options abound. Fredericksburg and the surrounding regions are at the heart of Central Texas wine country. This area is particularly beautiful in the springtime, with gorgeous wildflowers erupting from the otherwise green landscape.
This might just be the “Best Little Day Trip in Texas.” I’m sure Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton would agree as it was the events of La Grange’s famous “Chicken Ranch” that inspired the classic musical “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” While the brothel is no longer around there’s still plenty to do in this town.
For starters, “Czech” out the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center. This museum gives visitors a feel for the culture and early days of Fayette County when thousands of Czech immigrants populated the area. Another must-see stop is the Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Site. The settlers also introduced a town favorite treat—the kolache! One of the best spots to grab a kolache is Weikel’s Bakery.
Blanco calls itself the “Lavender Capital of Texas” as home of Hill Country Lavender farm and the annual Lavender Festival in June, complete with tours of lavender crops, growing tips, and music. If swimming or fishing’s your thing, head to Blanco State Park. A river runs through this 104-acre green oasis making Blanco State Park a perfect destination for a relaxing afternoon of kayaking. Calm waters and an easily accessible watercraft launch site (complete with handrails) mean that even first-timers can easily rent a single or double kayak and take in the lush greenery that borders the mile-long stretch of the Blanco River. If desired, bring along your tackle box to enjoy some fishing as well.
While the tiny towns of Texas may not be very large, everything else is generally bigger from the distances you’ll be driving to the sheer amount of open sky you’ll see on the road. This shortlist of destinations in Central Texas is far from an exhaustive list, but it’s a start.
Texas Spoken Friendly
Texas is a state mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.
—John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
Escape to mountains, lakes, beach, and desert. You can also escape to small towns.
Looking to get away this summer? Travel is a popular pastime every summer, but with months of lockdowns and stay-home orders confining Americans to their homes due to the pandemic, many people are more ready than ever for a change of scenery.
Atlanta has so much to do, but sometimes you just want to get out of the city and explore what the surrounding areas have to offer! Or possibly, like us you’re an RVer and can’t locate a decent campground within 50 miles.
Distance from Atlanta: 83 miles
Oh, Macon! Home to a downtown area that’s got so much to do! Visit Amerson River Park and walk the paths while watching the kayakers paddle by on the Ocmulgee River. A visit to the Ocmulgee National Monument is a must-do, take a hike or bike the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, or spend the day on Lake Tobesofkee.
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.
Distance from Houston: 50 miles
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!
Begin your adventure in the capital city of the 48th state known for year-round sunny skies and reliably warm temperatures. Phoenix is the epicenter of a sprawling metro area (the country’s 5th most populated) known as the Valley of the Sun. You’ll find dozens of top-notch golf courses, scores of hiking and biking trails, and the well-regarded, family-friendly Papago Park and adjacent Desert Botanical Gardens.
Distance from Phoenix: 100 miles
A Western history lover’s sweet spot, mile-high Prescott is home to more than 700 homes and businesses listed in the National Register of Historic Places as well as museums that tell their stories. Stroll along Whiskey Row where saloons thrive alongside shops, galleries, eateries, and antique venues.
Los Angeles is home to renowned museums, diverse experiences, 75 miles of sunny coastline, and hundreds of miles of bike and hiking trails. LA’s cultural attractions include the Space Shuttle Endeavour, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Getty Center, and art galleries. No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a visit to Hollywood, the home of movie studios, many of L.A.’s most popular and historic tourist destinations, and its world-famous namesake boulevard.
Joshua Tree National Park
Distance from Los Angeles: 130 miles
Joshua Tree National Park is an amazingly diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths, and oases. Explore the desert scenery, granite monoliths (popular with rock climbers), petroglyphs from early Native Americans, old mines, and ranches. The park provides an introduction to the variety and complexity of the desert environment and a vivid contrast between the higher Mojave and lower Sonoran deserts that range in elevation from 900 feet to 5,185 feet at Keys View.
Chicago is a city unlike any other. There are a few things you need to do like eat a Chicago style hot dog, see “The Bean,” and take a river boat cruise. Located on the south bank of the Chicago River, the Riverwalk stretches 1.25 miles from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street. Chicago’s nearly 600 parks and 26 miles of lakefront make it easy to enjoy the great outdoors in the middle of the city. Whatever it is you’re looking for, you’ll find there’s no other place like Chicago.
Distance from Chicago: 110 miles
Northern Indiana is home to nearly 20,000 Amish, a culture that remains true to centuries-old traditions. A few days in Amish country will introduce you to delicious made-from-scratch meals, amazing craftsmanship, delightful theater works, tons of shopping, and horse-drawn carriage rides. You can take in the amazing works as you drive the Quilt Gardens along the Heritage Trail. Shipshewanna is home to the Midwest’s largest outdoor seasonal flea market where 700 vendors cover 40 acres of land selling everything from home decor and clothing to plants and tools. Take care when driving—buggies travel well under the speed limit.
Beyond the traditional D.C. attractions—the Smithsonian museums, the U.S. Capitol, the monuments—you’ll find fresh food and cultural events. You can peruse a farmers market and take in the scenery from the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Plan to spend some time along the Tidal Basin, a 2-mile-long pond that was once attached to the Potomac River and serves as the backdrop to some of D.C.’s best-loved sites.
Shenandoah National Park
Distance from Washington, DC: 75 miles
Just 75 miles from the bustle of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is a land bursting with cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, fields of wildflowers, and quiet wooded hollows. With over 200,000 acres of protected lands that are haven to deer, songbirds, and black bear, there’s so much to explore. The Skyline Drive is one of the most beautiful drives in the US at any time of the year but especially during autumn. The picturesque 105-mile road travels through Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains where 75 overlooks welcome visitors to take in panoramic views of the Shenandoah wilderness.
I’d rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.
The journey is the destination along this coast-hugging highway
Don’t be fooled by the name. State Highway 35 is the antithesis to the behemoth with which it shares a number. Interstate 35 is a white-knuckle fight for highway survival while its country cousin is an easy cruise through green marshes and across bays with intermittent glimpses of the Gulf of Mexico.
Otherwise known as the “Hug-the-Coast” Highway, this 35 predates I-35 by more than 40 years. With only one lane on each side most of the way, it’s a quaint retreat—a throwback to Sunday drives where the journey was the destination.
This slow ride begins south of Houston in West Columbia, the tiny town with the distinction of having been the capital of the Republic of Texas for about three months in 1836. Stop by the state historical marker on the corner of Brazos and Brown streets to learn about Charlie Brown, the former slave who became the largest landowner in Brazoria County and started the county’s first school for African American children.
Although much about Brown’s life is unrecorded and unknown, in 2015 the state legislature passed a resolution honoring the man whose “life and legacy are indeed worthy of tribute.” The Varner-Hogg Plantation, a state historic site just outside of town, tells stories of pioneer days, slavery, and oil.
Back on the road as Route 35 steer you straight toward Matagorda Bay. In the town of Palacios, home to birders and fishermen, stop at The Point. The hybrid convenience store and Vietnamese and Mexican restaurant has become the social hub of the town. You can grab fishing gear, breakfast tacos, and authentic Vietnamese food. Everyone in Palacios ends up at The Point. Road-trippers can dine on world-class pho and spring rolls at the same table where the late chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain once sat, or grab takeout for a picnic on the docks overlooking the bay. If you’re lucky, you might catch the flash of a roseate spoonbill in flight.
Grab your fishing pole, sunscreen, and beach chair…it’s time to go to Port Lavaca. This coastal town has all the seaside fun you could ask for but without all the crowds found in other Gulf Coast locales.
Checking out Port Lavaca’s beaches is a no brainer, regardless of whether you’re looking for a quiet barefoot stroll, hunt for shells, or kick back and relax. Start at Magnolia Beach, also known as the only natural shell beach on the Gulf Coast. Lay out a blanket and soak up the sun, or cast a line from the fishing pier. For more sandy beaches, relax in the shade of a thatch-covered cabana at Lighthouse Beach or swim or paddle board in the tranquil waters of Alamo Beach.
Plus, Texas Lakeside is a 5-star RV resort with long concrete pads, multi-purpose clubhouse, fitness center, tropical pool, stocked fishing lake, and gated entrance. The park’s 138 full-service sites include cable TV and high speed Internet.
You can keep on trucking toward Rockport or take a 45-minute side trip to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. This pristine sanctuary overlooking San Antonio Bay attracts more than 400 species of birds and is the winter home of the endangered whooping cranes. Heron Flats, an easy 1.5-mile walking trail, promises glimpses of leggy birds high-stepping through marshes as they seek their supper.
The natural wonders continue 10 miles north of Rockport in Goose Island State Park, where the Big Tree prevails. Scientists have calculated this live oak could be more than 1,000 years old—and it’s so resilient even Hurricane Harvey couldn’t knock it down.
Between Palacios and Rockport, it may be hard to keep your eye on the road. SR-35 crosses over the shimmery Lavaca, San Antonio, and Copano bays, where rivers meet the Gulf of Mexico. The thrill of being surrounded by blue water on all sides may require a photo stop. If you time it right, you can catch a sunset sky of pink and orange swirls at the remains of the Copano Bay Fishing Pier just as you’re cruising into Rockport.
From Rockport, it’s only 28 miles to Portland, where it’s time to say goodbye to this laid-back coastal road as it merges south into the bigger US-181. Sunset Lake Park, with a 2-mile hike-and-bike trail among the wetlands of Nueces Bay is a breezy spot to stretch your legs and enjoy some bird watching. And Sea Breeze RV Park is a friendly spot to enjoy a panoramic view of Corpus Christi Bay with the causeway and city skyline and amazing sunrise and sunset from your 75-foot pull-through site.
The lyrics of country musician Don Williams, who was raised in Portland, suits the bayside scene: “The smell of cape jasmine through the window screen / I can still hear the soft southern winds in the live oak trees.”
Heading toward Corpus, you are thrust back into the rush of multiple lanes and cars in a hurry to get somewhere—a jolt after so many miles of traffic-free driving. The intensity of it brings to mind the other bigger, faster 35. It’s a reminder of just how good you’ve had it on the mellow ride of the coast-hugging highway.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Getaway: Lockhart, Texas
Distance from Houston: 156 miles
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.
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
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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
Texas Spoken Friendly
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)