Everything’s Bigger in Texas: Best Road Trips from Houston, San Antonio, and Austin

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.

Luling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

La Grande © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Black’s Barbecue, Lockhart © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lockhart

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).

Lockhart State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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!

Luling Oil Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Luling

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.

Luling © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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!

Spoetzal Brewery, Shiner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shiner

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 Creameries, Brenham © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brenham

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.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fredericksburg

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.

Fayette County Court House, La Grande © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Grange

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.

Weikel’s Bakery kolaches, La Grande © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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 State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blanco

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. 

Bottom line

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

Worth Pondering…

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

Absolutely Best State Parks from San Antonio

If you’re looking to do something really amazing in the outdoors, head to one of the Texas state parks near San Antonio

Today I’m here just sitting with it all. Shouting words of hope into the abyss and finding new forms of connection across canyons, across countries, and across the street in my own neighborhood. Will we get through these uncertain times? Yes, yes we can.​ Yes, yes we will pack up the RV and head out on a road trip.

McKinney Falls State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a whole world of adventure out there just waiting to be experienced. Discover what a few of the state parks within driving distance of San Antonio have to offer below. Pick a spot, and jump in the car—or RV. You can’t go wrong no matter which one you choose.

Guadalupe River State Park

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distance from San Antonio: 36.4 miles

Many folks come here to swim, but the park is more than a great swimming hole. Beautiful scenery and colorful history await, just a short drive from San Antonio. With four miles of river frontage, the Guadalupe River takes center stage at the park. Step away from the river to find the more peaceful areas. On the river, you can swim, fish, tube, and canoe. While on land, you can hike, ride mountain bikes or horses, picnic, geocache, bird watch, and camp at one of 85 water and electric campsites.

Blanco State Park

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distance from San Antonio: 50.3 miles

Continuing with water spots, the Falls Dam area at Blanco State Park is the perfect location to beat the heat. This park is off Highway 281 in the city of Blanco, and beyond camping and swimming, you can also rent tubes here to enjoy the river in a different fashion.

Palmetto State Park

Palmetto State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distance from San Antonio: 64.9 miles

Dwarf palmettos are everywhere in this park, which is how it got its name, and it makes you feel like you’re down in the tropics. The San Marcos River flows through the park, so you’ll have all the usual river activities to take part in (and a great trail along the water). Families can also fish off the pier at Oxbow Lake.

LBJ State Park and Historic Site

LBJ Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distance from San Antonio: 69.3 miles

Right in between Johnson City and Fredericksburg sits the park honoring the 36th president, Lyndon B. Johnson. The state park is connected to LBJ’s Ranch which is a national park property. Take the driving tour to see longhorns, Air Force One, and the Western White House where LBJ often conducted business during his time in office. There’s also a living history farm that shows your kids what life was like in the early 1900s.

Lockhart State Park

Lockhart State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distance from San Antonio: 70.5 miles

Lockhart: Come for the barbecue, camp at the state park. Yes, there’s a place to walk off all the brisket and sausage you devoured downtown in Lockhart. The state park has something for everyone. A pool and great hiking for the family and an 18-hole golf course for the adults and, of course, great camping.

McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distance from San Antonio: 76.8 miles

McKinney Falls is one of the rare metro parks, located right off I-35 in Austin. Its namesake is the different waterfalls located in the park with swimming holes for the kids. There’s also camping and hiking along Onion Creek and the since the main trail is paved, it’s stroller friendly.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distance from San Antonio: 88.1 miles

One of the most popular state park in Texas, Enchanted Rock is north of Fredericksburg and frequently hits capacity during the weekends. You’ll need to get an early start to get in before the parking lot fills up. Once that happens, they close the gate for several hours. (Here’s a hint: Follow them on Twitter for updates.) Once inside, it’s a fairly steep hike to the summit—but the whole family will love it. And they’ll be nice and worn out for the ride home.

Goliad State Park

Goliad State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distance from San Antonio: 92.2 miles

Goliad State Park is a chance for a history lesson, if you choose. The main attraction here is the Spanish colonial-era mission which dates back to the 1700s. But Goliad is also a hot spot for camping, kayaking, canoes, and river activities.

Bastrop State Park

Bastrop State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distance from San Antonio: 93.8 miles

There’s a common misconception that because of 2011’s massive wildfire, Bastrop State Park is a “dead park.” It’s actually the total opposite. The park interpreter there, Kristen Williams, likes to describe it as a living laboratory. Where else can you see nature’s rebirth up close and personal? The glorious lost pines are growing back in bunches along the Red Trail and there’s plenty of other stuff for families at Bastrop—fishing, camping, a pool, and a new playground, to name a few.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

No matter how far we may wander, Texas lingers with us, coloring our perceptions of the world.

—Elmer Kelto

4 Texas Road Trips: These You Have to Take

No matter how often you traverse this great state, there’s always something new to see

We know COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is impacting RV travel plans right now. For a little inspiration we’ll continue to share stories from our favorite places so you can keep daydreaming about your next adventure.

They say everything’s bigger in Texas—and it should come as no surprise. The state itself is the largest of the lower 48.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Which perhaps is one reason Texas road trips are so popular. Whether you’re looking for a good time in the big city or a wilder, more remote adventure, you’ll find something fun to discover in the Lone Star State.

Lady Bird Johnson in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, when you’re talking about a land area of almost 270,000 square miles, you’re going to want to do some planning before you take off on the nearest Texas highway. If you’re looking for the best road trips in Texas, read on! We’ve got plenty of options to keep you entertained, deep in the heart of this beloved state.

San Antonio

Mission San Jose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the San Jose Mission to the Alamo, this city—technically known as The City of San Antonio—is known for its fabulous, historic architecture. With a mix of Spanish and U.S. cultures, the Mexican and Tex-Mex food is more authentic than found almost anywhere else in the country.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is a lot to do in San Antonio, from visiting sites like the Memorial to the Alamo defenders to touring the River Walk or Natural Bridge Caverns. 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.

Fayette County

St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Praha, one of the “Painted Churches” © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Etched in the eroded headstones in the cemeteries at the “painted churches”—quaint little chapels with exquisite, spangled interiors—are the names of Czech immigrants who flocked to the area starting in the 1840s. 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.

Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center © 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. Another must-see stop is the Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Site.

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

The early Czech settlers brought with them the kolache, an open-faced pastry traditionally prepared with a sweet filling which is now beloved across the state. One of the best spots to grab a kolache is Weikel’s Bakery in La Grande.

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beaches, islands, bays, and ports—there are many opportunities to engage in the variety of available water and wind sports. Arts, music, museums (such as the USS Lexington battle ship), and other cultural activities (like the Texas State Aquarium) make this Texas road trip enjoyable for those who desire a more relaxing time than their water-adventuring counterparts.

Texas Hill Country

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With unending panoramic views, this beautiful area is something that has to be experienced to be appreciated. Ride a tube down Comal, Guadalupe, and San Marcos Rivers or go fishing and floating in the many lakes. With nearly 100 RV Parks and campgrounds, there is room for everyone.

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Hill Country is also home to some famous wineries and is a great place to get a taste of some homegrown vino. Come through during the springtime to be treated to some epic Texas wildflowers, including the bluebonnets it’s renowned for.

Enchanted Rock State Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From historic architecture to modern amusement parks, from deluxe resorts to rustic campsites, there is a lifetime of activities to enjoy in the state of Texas. Whether you live there or just plan to visit, it is almost a certainty that you have not seen everything this state has to offer. With so much to explore, you may never want to leave.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Texas history is a varied, tempestuous, and vast as the state itself. Texas yesterday is unbelievable, but no more incredible than Texas today. Today’s Texas is exhilarating, exasperating, violent, charming, horrible, delightful, alive.

— Edna Ferber

6 Perfect Destinations to Take Your RV This Spring

Winter has finally come to an end, which means road trip season is here

Spring is so close we can taste it, making us yearn for the open road and adventurous, memory-building destinations that allow us to let loose our inner-trailblazer.

All signs are pointing to a spring RV excursion! And to get rolling, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite destinations that are ideal for the RV adventurers.

San Antonio River Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

San Antonio, Texas

Arguably, the state’s most beautiful city, San Antonio has much to offer. Fantastic museums, San Antonio River Walk, La Villita, HemisFair Park, Tower of the Americas, El Mercado, King William Historic District, and, of course, The Alamo are but a few of its highlights. And if you like the Alamo, you’ll love the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, a string of several 15th- and 16th-century Spanish missions in and around the city.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Fiesta San Antonio (April 18-28, in 2019) started in 1891 as a one-parade event as a way to honor the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. It has grown into a celebration of San Antonio’s rich and diverse cultures.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Admire the grandeur and wonders of the Grand Canyon, a powerful and inspiring landscape that overpowers our senses through its immense size. You won’t find similar mixtures of color and erosional formations anywhere else. The canyon is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and about a mile deep, according to the National Park Service.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A universally recognizable iconic destination, Grand Canyon National Park is a true marvel of nature. Just about everywhere you look the views are amazing and the sheer size of it can be overwhelming.

Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina

The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the country. People come for the more than 800 miles of recreation trails that wind through breathtaking scenery, and beautiful wildflowers. In fact, the park is home to the largest number of flowering plants of any park in the country—more than 1,600 different species.

Cades Cove, Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

On the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains, tens of thousands of horny, synchronous fireflies put on a psychedelic fireworks show. They gather near the Elkmont Campground (approximately 6 miles from Sugarlands Visitor Center), flashing simultaneously as part of a two-week mating ritual that lights up the entire forest and draws spectators from around the world. Visit between late May and mid-June, and make reservations in advance.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Explore Colonial Williamsburg in the city of Williamsburg. You’ll be highly entertained as you explore the government buildings, shops, homes, gardens, and taverns of Williamsburg and viewing free outdoor entertainment like re-enactment actors firing cannons. Enter the residents’ homes or learn about their workplaces; see where they sleep, where they eat, and where they socialize.

Historic Jamestown Settlement © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

And the Jamestown Settlement and the Battleground of Yorktown are just a stone’s throw from the city.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

La Conner, Washington

La Conner is one of those places that people love to visit—time and time again. The reasons are many, but one that stands out is that there are so many things to do in—and around—La Conner. A waterfront village in northwestern Washington, La Conner is nestled beside the Swinomish Channel near the mouth of the Skagit River.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

La Conner is a unique combination of fishing village, artists’ colony, eclectic shops, historic buildings, and tourist destination. Relax by the water, enjoy fine restaurants, browse through unique shops and art galleries, and visit the beautiful tulip fields of Skagit Valley.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree is a diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths, and oases. The park is home to two deserts: the Colorado which offers low desert formations and plant life, such as ocotillo and teddy bear cholla cactus; and the Mojave. This higher, cooler, wetter region is the natural habitat of the Joshua tree.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The different elevation throughout the park cause flowers to bloom at different times, with the low elevation flowers blooming earlier than higher elevation flowers. Catch a glimpse of the teddy bear cholla at the low elevations and head to higher ground to see blooms in April May.

Worth Pondering…

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will lead you there.