10 Amazing Places to RV in April 2024

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in April

April, dressed in all his trim, hath put a spirit of youth in everything.

—William Shakespeare

From time immemorial, spring’s awakening has signaled to humanity the promise of new beginnings. In William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 98, a love poem published in 1609, the prolific poet and playwright personifies the glorious month of April as the herald of youth, vitality, and hope. For the Bard, the coming of spring—the twittering birds, ambrosial flowers, and long-awaited sunny skies—brought with it all the delights of a fresh start.

We have made it to the fourth month of the year, the one we kick off by fooling acquaintances with sport. A warning to my readers: Watch out for tricksters in the RV travel realm.

April is a time of change. With the vernal equinox in the recent rearview mirror in the Northern Hemisphere, nature is slowly stirring from its months-long slumber preparing to soon be in full bloom. April also has outsized importance compared to other months: The ancient Romans tied the month to the goddess Venus because of its beautiful and life-affirming effects and for thousands of years the month was seen as the true beginning of the year.

Today, April is full of moments of mischief, reverence, and a budding excitement for the warmer times ahead. These six facts explore the history of the month and why it’s sometimes considered one of the best times of the year.

When it comes to the names of months, April is a bit of an outlier. Other months are either intimately tied to Roman history and culture—whether named after Roman gods (January, March, June, etc.), rituals (February), or leaders (July and August)—or are related to Latin numbers (September to December). April, however, is simply derived from the Latin aperire which means “to open.” This is likely a reference to the beginning of spring when flowers open as the weather warms.

Although April’s name isn’t etymologically tied to Roman culture, April (or Aprilis, as the Romans called it) was a month dedicated to the goddess Venus known as Aphrodite in the ancient Greek pantheon. On the first day of April, Romans celebrated a festival known as Veneralia in honor of the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. This has led some scholars to wonder if the month’s name was actually Aphrilis about the goddess.

One of the most important holidays in April (and occasionally March) is the celebration of Easter which marks the death and resurrection of Jesus. Much like Christmas, this holiday has pagan origins and its name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term for the month, Ēosturmōnaþ. That name literally meant Ēostre’s month, a reference to the West Germanic spring goddess of the same name.

The only known historical text mentioning Ēostre comes from the Venerable Bede, a Christian monk who lived in the eighth century and who mentions the goddess (and the festivals dedicated in her name) in his work The Reckoning of Time. Because so little evidence of Ēostre exists some wonder if the goddess was a complete invention of Bede’s and whether she was real or not. Ēostre remains the namesake of April’s holiest days for Christians.

One of the oddest annual traditions on the modern calendar falls on the first day of April otherwise known as April Fools’ Day. Once a day reserved for harmless pranks pulled on friends and family, April Fools’ Day now reaches into the furthest depths of the internet with multimillion-dollar brands and corporations getting in on the fun.

Although the tradition is certainly an oddity, it’s strange still that no one is exactly sure where April Fools’ Day comes from. Some historians think when France moved to the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century, those who still celebrated the New Year in April (having not gotten the memo, wilfully or otherwise, about the calendar change) were labeled April fools.

Others have tied the tradition to an ancient Roman festival called Hilaria which took place in late March, along with many more theories. A more modern version of April Fools’ Day took root in 18th-century Britain before evolving into the mischief holiday we know today.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in February and March. Also, check out my recommendations from April 2023 and May 2023.

Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Visit Yuma

As the weather warms up and the paloverde explodes into bloom, there’s no better time to visit Yuma, Arizona for a unique outdoor adventure. Soak up every minute in Yuma the way you’ve always wanted to—without regrets. Kick off an adventurous stay at full throttle with high-speed boating. Find solace in the sunset from a pontoon, a paddleboard, or one of Yuma’s three national wildlife refuges. Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or just starting, add Yuma to your bucket list.

Yuma is home to a variety of unique attractions that you won’t find anywhere else. Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park is a must-see destination for history buffs while Colorado River State Historic Park provides a glimpse into the military history of the area. The Yuma Art Center features rotating art exhibits and cultural events and you can find beautiful, colorful murals scattered all around town.

Visit one of the date farms and enjoy a date milkshake in the shade of a Medjool date palm tree then explore some of the more offbeat destinations such as Lauren Pratt’s Little Chapel, the McPhaul Suspension Bridge (also known as the Bridge to Nowhere), the Center of the World, or the Museum of History in Granite.

Here are some helpful resources:

Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. The Texas Hill Country

This year, all eyes are turned to the Texas Hill Country since it falls smack-dab in the path of totality for the 2024 solar eclipse on April 8. As the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, the day will turn to night. North America saw a total eclipse in 2017 but the last time the land now known as Texas experienced one was back in 1397.

Visibility will depend on two things: location (the Hill Country will get close to four and a half minutes of totality out of a possible seven and a half) and weather (Central Texas’s annual average of 300 sunny days bodes well).

Plan your next trip in the Texas Hill Country with these resources:

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Forget Napa, Temecula is the underrated wine region to visit in 2024

For as great as they are, Napa and Sonoma wine regions are missing a rustic, casual wine-tasting trip with some great juice in its own right—Temecula wine country is the underrated wine region to visit this year.

There have only been commercial wineries in the Temecula Valley since the mid-’60s but in the intervening 55 years the industry has grown immensely and there are now almost 50 active wineries. It’s an officially recognized AVA with hot afternoons and cooler nights thanks to the breeze off of the Pacific Ocean which gives the area the right growing conditions for lots of different grapes, particularly Mediterranean varieties.

With all those wineries to explore (and lots of other things to do in Temecula), it makes a fantastic day trip from most anywhere in Southern California.

Here are a few great articles to help you do just that:

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Appalachia’s spectacular mountain road 

Discover the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains as you wind your way along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This 469-mile-long route passes through charming towns, dense forests, and stunning mountain vistas. With ample opportunities for hiking, picnicking, camping, and wildlife spotting, it’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The parkway’s famous Linn Cove Viaduct is a must-see engineering marvel. Rest up at cozy lodges like Peaks of Otter Lodge or Pisgah Inn for a true mountain getaway experience. 

Check this out to learn more: Blue Ridge Parkway: America’s Favorite Drive

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Springtime in the Smokies

This stunning national park is a great spot to visit any time of the year—which is probably why it’s the most popular one in America.

But come springtime, the Smokies are extra special: all covered over in a flood of newly-bloomed wildflowers from rhododendrons to black-eyed Susans and lots of others in between. In fact, over 1,500 types of flowering plants call the park their home, which naturalists celebrate by hosting the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage at the end of April and beginning of May (74th annual; May 1-4, 2024). Just make sure you reserve your campsite early! As with all national parks, sites have a tendency to fill up fast when the weather’s lovely.

Here are some helpful resources:

6. Festival International de Louisiane

For the Festival International de Louisiane (April 24-28, 2024), downtown Lafayette is turned into an international music hub, complete with live performances, street musicians, arts and crafts boutiques and more. Multiple countries are represented at this fest, making Festival International one of Louisiana’s premier multicultural events. All of the events, including cultural workshops, are free.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Triassic World

Who knew petrified wood could be so beautiful? While you might think the Grand Canyon is the only stunning place in Arizona, this spot will prove you wrong. Petrified Forest National Park is a unique preserve where you can enjoy several breathtaking views. The park is full of colorful badlands and is a great place to go backpacking or simply enjoy a day hike.

Anything rock is found here. You can see trees dating more than 200 million years—turned to stone. And flora and fauna fossils as well as petroglyphs! Start at the Painted Desert Visitor Center and learn about all the stops and sights that are RV-friendly around the park. You can easily spot petrified wood near some of the parking areas and lots of wildlife.

Here are some articles to help:

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. The amazing Badlands

There are not too many hills and curves in this part of South Dakota and its big-rig friendly too, so the Badlands can make nice spring RV trips. Spring makes for a cool drive through the paint-colored hills. You can see bighorn sheep, buffalo, and prairie dogs that haven’t been scared off by crowds. There are several designated areas where you can pull over and enjoy the rock formations, or take a hike.

The park is very RV-friendly. You can park along the roadways and most of the roads are paved. If you have time, check out Mount Rushmore and the famous Black Hills. Finding open RV parks this time of year is a little challenging. Basic hookups are at the nearby 24 Express RV Campground. Or, if you book now, the national park’s Cedar Pass Campground is open on April 19.

Here are some helpful resources:

Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Jekyll Island

Part of the Golden Isles, Jekyll Island provides a plethora of biking trails, beach access, wooded exploration, and a fun water park. Quiet and spacious, this island is big on downtime and memory-making. For even more island time, spend a day at the neighboring St. Simons Island. This chain of islands provides one of the most unique spring destinations.

Jekyll Island Campground provides everything you need for a great vacation.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Bryce Canyon National Park moving to spring schedule

The possibility of a snowstorm after April 1 can’t be ruled out at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah but the park just the same will be transitioning to its spring season schedule on April 5.

No reservations are required to enter Bryce Canyon but planning ahead will help park visitors to enjoy a predictable visit even on the busiest days. 

Starting April 5, the Bryce Canyon Shuttle will be available to help ease traffic congestion at popular viewpoints and trailheads. Unlimited use of the shuttle is included with your park admission. Shuttle service will run until October 20 and begin every day at 8 a.m. In spring and fall, the last bus will depart the park at 6:15 p.m. Final bus times will extend to 8:10 p.m. from May 10 to September 22.  

Visitors riding the shuttle are encouraged to take advantage of free parking at the shuttle station in Bryce Canyon City. As in years past, vehicles 23 feet and longer are restricted from parking at Bryce Amphitheater viewpoints during shuttle operating hours. 

North Campground remains open all winter for first-come, first-served camping and will transition to reservation-based camping from May 18 through October 7. Reservations are available on a 6-month rolling basis. 

Sunset Campground is closed each winter and will open for first-come, first-served camping April 15 through May 17. Reservation-based camping on a 14-day rolling basis is available May 18 through October 14. Sunset Campground returns to first-come, first-served camping on October 15 before closing for the winter season on November 1. 

By the way, I have a series of posts on Bryce Canyon:

Worth Pondering…

Spring is the time of the year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.

—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

The 25 Most Breathtaking Places in the U.S. and Canada to Visit in your Lifetime

These are 25 of the most breathtaking for RV travel

What is the most breathtaking place in America? To compile the most breathtaking places in the U.S. and Canada is an inherently subjective and impossible task but we’d like to think that this list at least scratches the surface of some of the extraordinary beauty the continent has to offer.

Focusing largely on national parks, mountains, beaches, deserts, and other natural wonders, my list is sure to inspire your next RV road trip. Join me for a journey to some of the most breathtaking places that you can visit in an RV from mountains that rival the Alps to red rock wonder with colorful layers to glorious underground caverns.

There are so many amazing places to see, I couldn’t possibly include them all in just one list. But, these breathtaking destinations are worth bumping to the top of your travel bucket list—whether you’re looking to relax on a beach, get off the grid, or explore a charming town—these are the most beautiful locations to consider.

Bryce Canyon National Park  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon’s name is rather deceiving. Instead of containing a canyon what it does have are stone pinnacles that were formed naturally over time due to erosion from the stream and weathering during winter’s frost. Multiple points throughout this park offer a stupendous view, but your best bet is Bryce Point in the southern region. From here, you’ll have a prime viewing of all the amazing stone formations known as hoodoos scattered about the area.

>> Get more tips for visiting Bryce Canyon National Park

Jasper National Park  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Jasper National Park, Alberta

Jasper can sometimes be overshadowed by its cousin to the south, Banff, but the park is the definition of wild and scenic. It’s the largest park in the Canadian Rockies as it has one million-plus more acres than Banff. Jasper is also host to a robust population of wildlife including black and grizzly bears, elk and moose, and big horn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats, making it a popular tourist destination for travelers to explore.

Organ Pipe National Monument  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

Right along the U.S.-Mexico border, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument has the kind of scenery you’d expect when you picture the desert. The monument’s tall, skinny namesake cacti abound in every direction. Instead of growing with one massive trunk like the saguaro, the many branches of the organ pipe rise from a base at the ground. Take a ride down Ajo Mountain Drive for great views of the forests of Saguaro.

>> Get more tips for visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Tulip fields © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Skagit Valley Tulip Fields, Washington

These farmlands are must-sees in the spring—namely in April which is the absolute best time to take a trip to this Pacific Northwest locale. That’s when all the bright, vibrant tulips are in full bloom and when you can enjoy the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. If you visit at the right time you’ll get to see not just tulips in all sorts of pretty, warm colors but also countless other flowers that add to the gorgeousness of the fields. During the festival, you can taste wine, enjoy strolling through gardens, sample barbecues, and feast your eyes on art exhibits.

Caverns of Senora  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. The Caverns of Senora

The Cavern is over seven and a half miles long but only two miles of trails are developed for tours. Five levels of the cave vary in depth from 20 feet to 180 feet below the surface. The Cavern is known for its stunning array of calcite crystal formations, extremely delicate formations, and the abundance and variety of formations. You’ll find helictites, soda straws stalactites, speleothems, stalagmites, and cave bacon. The cave is a constant 71 degrees with 98 percent humidity which makes it feel about 85 degrees.

>> Get more tips for visiting The Caverns of Sonora

Joshua Tree National Park  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Step into Joshua Tree National Park and you won’t just feel like you’re in another country, you’ll feel as if you’re walking onto another planet. Filled with bizarrely-shaped plants indigenous to the region like the Joshua tree as well as ginormous boulders that rise hundreds of feet into the sky, the landscape has the appearance of a scene from a sci-fi flick. Joshua Tree National Park is a photographer’s, hiker’s, and climber’s dream while the village of Joshua Tree has a unique charm as an artists’ enclave home to an eclectic mix of nature lovers, artists, and hipsters.

>> Get more tips for visiting Joshua Tree National Park

Bernheim Forest  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Kentucky

Are you looking to connect with nature? Bernheim is the place to do it. At 15,625 acres, Bernheim boasts the largest protected natural area in Kentucky. Bernheim contains a 600-acre arboretum with over 8,000 unique varieties of trees. Take a scenic drive through the forest on paved roads or bicycle around the Arboretum. Over 40 miles of trails weave their way through the forest at Bernheim.

>> Get more tips for visiting Bernheim Forest

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona and Utah

Home to Lake Powell, The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is a stunning region of blue water with a desert landscape and dramatic stone walls. One of the largest manmade lakes in the United States, this area is known for both land-based and water-based recreational activities. You can enjoy a summer’s day with perfect weather, cool water, amazing scenery, and endless sunshine. This is the perfect place to escape to and rent a houseboat, stay at a campground, or enjoy lodging and hop aboard a guided expedition.

>> Get more tips for visiting Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Canadian Rockies

One of the most spectacular and beautiful places you will find anywhere, the Canadian Rockies are huge, pristine wilderness with local gems such as Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Glacier, and Yoho National Parks. All five parks combined with three British Columbia provincial parks have been name as a single UNESCO World Heritage site for the unique mountainscapes found here. Not to mention the world-famous lakes in the region. You’ll have plenty to explore with Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake, and Maligne Lake, all stunning and fed by the glaciers in the area.

>> Get more tips for visiting the Canadian Rockies

Cumberland Island National Seashore  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

Cumberland Island National Seashore includes one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the world. The park is home to a herd of feral, free-ranging horses. Most visitors come to Cumberland for the natural glories, serenity, and fascinating history. Built by the Carnegies, the ruins of the opulent 59-room, Queen Anne-style Dungeness are a must-see for visitors.

>> Get more tips for visiting Cumberland Island National Seashore

Botany Bay  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve, South Carolina

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve on Edisto Island. The 4,600-acre preserve includes three miles of undeveloped beachfront. This wildlife management area exhibits many characteristics common to sea islands along the southeast coast: pine-hardwood forests, agricultural fields, coastal wetlands, and a barrier island with a beachfront. Only this tract has been left undisturbed.

>> Get more tips for visiting Botany Bay

Mesa Verde National Park  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Located in southwestern Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park is one of the most unique national parks in the United States. This park preserves the ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings and archeological sites that are hundreds of years old. Short hikes, scenic drives, and viewpoints make the to-do list but the best way to experience this park is to get up close to the cliff dwellings on a tour.

>> Get more tips for visiting Mesa Verde National Park

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Spanning more than 600,000 acres, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is California’s largest state park and one of the best places for camping. A diverse desert landscape the park encompasses 12 wilderness areas rich with flora and fauna. Enjoy incredible hikes, crimson sunsets, and starlit nights, and view metal dragons, dinosaurs, and giant grasshoppers.

>> Get more tips for visiting Anza-Borrego State Park

Shenandoah National Park  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park preserves a section of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Skyline Drive is the main thoroughfare through the park, a road that twists and turns for 105 miles from north to south. For those who want to explore the park beyond Skyline Drive, 500 miles of hiking trails traverse the park.

 >> Get more tips for visiting Shenandoah National Park

Enchanted Rock in Texas Hill Country  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Texas Hill Country, Texas

The Texas Hill Country boasts scenic landscapes replete with rolling hills, grasslands, rivers, lakes, charming small towns, and fields covered in numerous varieties of wildflowers such as bluebonnets, buttercups, and Indian paintbrushes. There are also over 50 wineries to explore, each with its own terroir and unique approach to winemaking.

 >> Get more tips for visiting the Texas Hill Country

Okanagan Valley  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

16. Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

The Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and a series of lakes. The region receives less than 12 inches of rain and two inches of snow annually and is the hottest and driest place in Canada. On the horizon are mountains of green foliage, aqua-blue lakes, and, in the distance, rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see. With its mild, dry climate, the region is also popular with golfers, hikers, and bikers.

>> Get more tips for visiting the Okanagan Valley

Painted Churches  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

17. Painted Churches of Fayette County, Texas

As German and Czech immigrants arrived in Central Texas, they established a cluster of small communities that had one thing in common: their painted churches. The term painted comes from the elaborate faux-finished interiors. Gold-leafed, stone, and polished marble columns and ceilings are (upon closer examination) finely-fitted woodwork.

The terrain between the churches is winding and rolling and contains some of the best country views in the state. The Painted Churches are a sight to be seen. Go inside a plain white steeple church and you will find a European-styled painted church of high gothic windows, tall spires, elaborately painted interiors with brilliant colors, and friezes created by the German and Czech settlers in America.

>> Get more tips for visiting the Painted Churches

Columbia Icefield  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

18. Icefields Parkway, Alberta

Linking Lake Louise with Jasper is one of the most beautiful journeys on the planet—the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). Rated as one of the top drives in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, the Icefield Parkway is a 145-mile stretch of highway winding along the Continental Divide through soaring rocky mountain peaks, icefields, and vast sweeping valleys.

The Icefields Parkway is dotted with more than 100 ancient glaciers, cascading waterfalls, dramatic rock spires, and emerald lakes set in huge valleys of thick pine and larch forests. Glacier Sky Walk is a unique experience that puts you on a glass-floored observation platform 280 feet over the Sunwapta Valley.

Moody Mansion, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

19. Galveston, Texas

With a year-round warm climate, a trip to the beach is almost a guaranteed fun time. Many beachgoers head to Galveston virtually any time of the year but the summer months are the most enjoyable bringing more visitors than any other time. Galveston Island is home to Moody Gardens as well as Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark and the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park. Galveston also offers numerous unique museums including The Bryan Museum, Texas Seaport Museum, Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum, and Galveston Railroad Museum.

>> Get more tips for visiting Galveston

Mount Robson Provincial Park Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

20. Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia

Mount Robson Provincial Park, the second oldest park in British Columbia’s park system is truly one of Canada’s crown jewels. The mountain for which the park is named guards the park’s western entrance. At 12,972 feet, Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, towers over the lesser surrounding peaks; this is one of the finest views in the Rocky Mountains. Just as the early trappers, hunters, and explorers felt in awe at the mountain’s magnificence, travelers today experience the same feelings.

Museum of Appalachia  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

21. Museum of Appalachia, Clinton, Tennessee

The Museum of Appalachia is a living history museum, a unique collection of historic pioneer buildings and artifacts assembled for over a half-century. The Museum portrays an authentic mountain farm and pioneer village with some three dozen historic log structures, several exhibit buildings filled with thousands of authentic Appalachian artifacts, multiple gardens, and free-range farm animals, all set in a picturesque venue and surrounded by split-rail fences. Strolling through the village, it’s easy to imagine you’re living in Appalachia of yesteryear cutting firewood, tending livestock, mending a quilt, or simply rocking on the porch, enjoying the glorious views.

>> Get more tips for visiting Museum of Appalachia

Natural Bridges National Monument  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

22. Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Formed by the power of water in a place where water is all but absent, three stone bridges in the Utah desert have been protected as a national monument since 1908. Since natural bridges are formed by running water, they are much rarer than arches which result from a variety of other erosion forces. A nine-mile one-way loop drive connects pull-outs and overlooks with views of the three huge multi-colored natural bridges.

>> Get more tips for visiting Natural Bridges National Monument

La Connor  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

23. 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 is a unique combination of a fishing village, an artists’ colony, eclectic shops, historic buildings, and a tourist destination. Relax by the water, enjoy fine restaurants, and browse through unique shops and art galleries.

>> Get more tips for visiting La Conner

Elk Island National Park  Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

24. Elk Island National Park, Alberta

Elk Island National Park played an important part in the conservation of the plains bison. This island of conservation is 30 miles east of Edmonton along the Yellowhead Highway which goes through the park. Watch for wood bison to the south and plains bison to the north.

Explore the park by foot, bike, or car, and be on the lookout for wildlife. Bison and other mammals are most active at dawn and dusk when females travel with their young. Beyond bison be ready to glimpse deer, elk, coyotes, and the countless birds that call Elk Island National Park home. Many animals shelter in the trees during the warmest parts of the day.

Capitol Reef National Park Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

25. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

With beautiful scenic drives, thrilling hikes, historical sites, backcountry roads, slot canyons, and unique desert landscapes, Capitol Reef National Park is an unexpectedly amazing national park to visit. If you love the idea of leaving the crowds behind and exploring a vast, remote area, you have several options. Cathedral Valley with its sandstone monoliths and sweeping desert vistas is a beautiful, unique way to spend one day in Capitol Reef. Or you can Loop the Fold, another remote driving day along the waterpocket fold. There are also slot canyons to explore, low-traffic hiking trails in remote areas of the park, and some of the most dramatic landscapes in Utah which you can see right from your car.

>> Get more tips for visiting Capitol Reef National Park

Worth Pondering…

“Where are we going, man?”

“I don’t know, but we gotta go.”

—Jack Kerouac, in On the Road

Top 10 Reasons to Visit Fredericksburg

Don’t miss out on one of Texas Hill Country’s most getaway-worthy towns

John O. Meusebach couldn’t have imagined what would become of the settlement he established in 1846 on the Texas frontier. He found a tract of land 60 miles northwest of New Braunfels and bought 10,000 acres near the confluence of two streams about 4 miles above the Pedernales River. The first German immigrants arrived on May 8, 1846 to the new town which was named Fredericksburg after Prince Frederick of Prussia.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in the heart of the Hill Country, Fredericksburg continues to thrive today. The town holds tight to its German heritage in various ways with its beloved Main Street, restaurants, and cultural traditions. A proliferation of vineyards, wineries, galleries, and shopping have also infused the town with new energy and made it one of Texas’ most popular tourist destinations.

This Texas Hill Country treasure seamlessly blends its German roots with Texas traditions. Grab a drink at a biergarten (including Altdorf Biergarten and The Auslander) or one of the local wineries and peruse the town’s bustling Main Street and museums.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re up for a challenge, hike to the top of Enchanted Rock, a pink granite mountain less than 20 miles north of town.

Fredericksburg is one of the most getaway-worthy small towns in the whole Lone Star State—and that’s saying something. Located between the popular destinations of San Antonio and Austin it’s not only easy to reach but it still feels a million miles away from city life. This tiny town is dripping with old-fashioned traditions and authentic German roots.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Present-day Fredericksburg’s charm attributes to many things: The picturesque Hill Country scenery, the town’s uncanny ability to maintain its dual German-Texan heritage, and its many impressive attractions. From over 100 wineries and tasting rooms to a Main Street bustling with shops, galleries, restaurants, and biergartens, discover this hidden gem and make the most of your trip to Fredericksburg.

ENJOY LOCAL CUISINE

German food © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indulge in authentic German food and biergartens

Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Fredericksburg without Tex-Mex cuisine, schnitzels, sauerbraten (German pot roast), and German beer gardens. Wondering where to eat in Fredericksburg? You can find delicious food and handcrafted spirits at more than 70 restaurants including upscale eatery Cabernet Grill and German specialty restaurant Der Lindenbaum. Head to Old German Bakery & Restaurant for a hearty breakfast but make sure to get there early to snag a table.

German food © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just off Main Street, you’ll stumble upon a novel culinary experience at Otto’s German Bistro. This restaurant makes the most locally grown and produced ingredients to dish up farm-to-table German cuisine in the heart of the American South. The menu is specially curated for each season to ensure that the meals are always as fresh as possible. With delicacies like duck schnitzel, truffle linguine, and their famous wurst platte on offer, you can’t go wrong.

Texas Wine Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sip your way along the wine trails

They don’t call this part of Texas wine country for nothing. Over 100 vineyards and tasting rooms are located in and around town providing the ultimate vino experience while learning about Texas grapes. Fredericksburg is one of the most-visited wine destinations in the country. Favorite recommendations include Grape Creek Vineyards, Messina Hof Hill Country Winery, and Barons Creek Vineyards. Book the 290 Wine Shuttle for safe all-day transportation between the wineries.

GET OUTSIDE

Looking for outdoor activities?

Wildseed Farms © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stop and smell the state’s flowers at Wildseed Farms

This gorgeous 200-acre space is the largest wildflower farm in the United States and home to not only magical sunflower fields but also to the iconic Texas bluebonnet as well as other state specialties like red corn poppies and phlox. The best time to visit is in spring when all of the showstoppers are on display but the farm is still filled with a large selection of summer blooms as well as a stockpile of pumpkins ready to be carved in fall. Visitors can even shop for their own seeds to plant at home. A half-mile of leisurely walking trails will get you up close and personal with the flowers and sitting areas throughout the farm are a great place to relax and enjoy the sights.

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

Climb Enchanted Rock

Not only does Fredericksburg boast the country’s biggest wildflower farm, it’s also only a 20-minute drive to America’s largest pink granite mountain. Perched on the Llano Uplift, the incredible Enchanted Rock is a pink granite dome that can be seen from many miles around. The rock is a massive granite dome that is part of the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.

Enchanted Rock is a stunning natural area with 8.4 miles of hiking trails and some of the best night sky views in the state. The Tonkawa Indians believed that this site was inhabited by spirits that protected the land from unwelcome intruders and much of that magic is still felt today.

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

An incentive for reaching the peak of this pink granite dome is the breathtaking view of the Texas Hill Country that awaits you at the top.

Many visitors claim they’ve heard strange sounds and seen unnatural lights at night. If that’s not enough of an adrenaline rush for you, Enchanted Rock is home to some of the best rock climbing in the state with routes available for all skill levels. (The rolling hills and pasture views are incredible!)

TRAVEL BACK IN TIME

National Museum of the Pacific War © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Remember the Pacific

Probably the last place you’d expect to hear detailed accounts and witness bona fide relics of World War II in the Pacific is in this little central Texas town. But alas, history is waiting to be explored in Fredericksburg’s National Museum of the Pacific War. At the museum’s combat zone, you can immerse yourself in a staged reenactment of the events of the war that played out in the Pacific. In its vast gallery space, visitors can participate in interactive exhibits and view tanks and aircrafts used in the war.

National Museum of the Pacific War © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pioneer Museum Complex

For a calmer journey into the past, the Pioneer Museum Complex offers a unique look at the history of the area tracing the story of the first German settlers who arrived in Fredericksburg in the 1840s. All of that spread across a 3.5-acre museum complex which includes the Vereins Kirche Museum. The Vereins Kirche Museum is, among others, a reconstruction of the original building that served as a Town Hall and a piece of living history. The experience includes a self-guided stroll around the grounds where historic homesteads, a one-room schoolhouse, and a smokehouse spread out below towering Texas pecans.

Texas White House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore the Texas White House

The 36th president of the United States called Fredericksburg his home and visitors today can still visit the legendary LBJ Ranch, an incredible national historic site. Pick up a free driving permit that allows you to view the grounds from the comfort of your own car, stopping and sightseeing at their own pace. Among the unmissable lookout spots are the President’s birthplace, the family cemetery, and Johnson’s sprawling ranch house lovingly known as the Texas White House. You can also take a tour through LBJ’s childhood home or visit his grandfather’s cattle driving headquarters built in the 1860s and still standing today.

Wildseed Farms © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

VISIT LIKE A LOCAL

Spend time on Main Street

Shops and tourist attractions may come and go but one aspect of Fredericksburg has stood the test of time: the historic storefronts up and down Main Street. In addition to stores, art galleries, and artisan gifts and treats, the epicenter of Main Street is the Marktplatz. You can even see Wilkommen (translation: welcome) signs on full display throughout town. For drinks and live music start the evening at 78624 Bar before heading to dinner at acclaimed Vaudeville, a French-style bistro on Main Street. Other recommended dinner spots include Hill & Vine and Otto’s German Bistro.

Wildseed Farms © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rest your feet at Marktplatz

This square at the heart of Fredericksburg holds the old site of the town’s first church and school and the two main shopping districts stretch out on either side. The grounds are full of sprawling gardens, a gorgeous setting for many of Fredericksburg’s festivals, special events, and a popular destination for wedding ceremonies. It has excellent photo opportunities too.

Even if you go when there’s nothing on the schedule, wandering around Marktplatz is an event in and of itself. You’ll find historical sculptures, picnic areas, and plenty of green space to spread out on after a morning of shopping.

Wildseed Farms © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Attend a Festival

Depending on the time of year you visit there is almost always a seasonal festival on the lineup. In spring, expect events surrounding the Texas bluebonnets in bloom. In the fall, the town is gearing up for Oktoberfest (which celebrates the town’s German heritage) and the Food & Wine Festival. Fredericksburg also gets decked out for the holiday season and is not to be missed.

Now, off to plan your next trip to Fredericksburg.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Texas is a state of the 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

Magical, Mystical, Enchanted: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Climb the ancient dome for amazing Hill Country views

The massive pink granite dome rising above Central Texas has drawn people for thousands of years. But there’s more at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area than just the dome. The scenery, rock formations, and legends are magical, too!

An incentive for reaching the peak of this pink granite dome is the breathtaking view of the Texas Hill Country that awaits you at the top. Just a short 20-minute drive outside of Fredericksburg brings you to the enormous batholith that’s part of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area which was once Native American sacred grounds. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike, picnic, and camp overnight in the state park.

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

Short, sweet, and steep are the best descriptors of the flagship trail at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Characterized (and named for) a massive pink granite dome—the same unique Texas pink granite that was used to build the State Capitol building—this park is a popular outing for those visiting or residing around Central Texas. From the top of the Summit Trail, you’ll see unparalleled 360-degree views of untouched terrain.

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

For centuries, visitors have been going to the massive pink granite dome rising above Central Texas. They become entranced by the scenery and rock formations of the area. Over the years, the 425-foot batholith has given rise to myths and legends. Climbing Enchanted Rock is a Texan rite of passage where you’ll get once-in-a-lifetime Hill Country views. Hikers will find nearly 11 miles of trails including the iconic Summit Trail. Relax under the stars at this International Dark Sky Park which offers one of the best night sky views in Texas. Enjoy interpretive exhibits and cave exploration too.

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

Why is this giant dome here?

One billion years ago, this granite was part of a large pool of magma or hot liquid rock perhaps seven miles below the earth’s surface. It pushed up into the rock above in places, then cooled and hardened very slowly turning into granite. Over time, the surface rock and soil wore away.

Related article: Texas Hill Country Is the Ultimate Road Trip

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

Those pushed-up areas are the domes you see in the park―Enchanted Rock, Little Dome, Turkey Peak, and others.

Although Enchanted Rock appears to be solid and durable it continues to change and erode.

Enchanted Rock is an exfoliation dome (as are the other domes here). That means it has layers like an onion.

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

After the rock and soil on top wore away, the granite expanded slightly because there was less weight bearing down on it. That expansion caused the dome to split into curved sections. As the outer layer of rock breaks into smaller pieces and slides off, the next layer begins to peel away from the dome. This is a process that continues today.

Enchanted Rock rises 425 feet above the base elevation of the park. Its high point is 1,825 feet above sea level and the entire dome covers 640 acres. Climbing the Rock is like climbing the stairs of a 30- or 40-story building.

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

Vernal Pools

On more level portions of the dome, water collects in low spots or weathering pits. The granite in these pits wears away faster than the surrounding granite. Pits that hold water for several weeks are called vernal pools. Over time, these pools develop into microhabitats, home to a unique group of plants and animals.

The pools are very fragile. Enjoy them from a distance. Protect this special habitat by keeping pets and people out.

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

Tiny, translucent freshwater shrimp live in the vernal pools. These little fellows lay eggs that somehow survive the dry season. The eggs hatch when the pools refill with rainwater. The shrimp swim upside down, eating algae and plankton. In turn, they are eaten by birds providing an important link in the food chain. These creatures are an integral part of the fragile vernal pool habitat.

Related article: A State of Mind: Texas Hill Country

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

Hiking Enchanted Rock

There are 11 miles of hiking trails to explore when visiting Enchanted Rock.

Of the many hikes in the park, the most renowned is the Enchanted Rock Summit (Summit Trail), a 0.8-mile trail that winds to the top of the park’s namesake. The hike is short but is considered challenging due to the steep path and lack of shade along the entire way. At the top, you’ll have epic 360-degree views of the Hill Country. Look for rare vernal pools at the top (see above for details).

A more moderate hike, Turkey Pass Trail (0.7 miles) gives you excellent views of Enchanted Rock on one side and Turkey Peak and Freshman Mountain on the other.

From the intersection of Turkey Pass Trail or Echo Canyon Trail, take the Base Trail (0.9 miles) around the back side of the Rock for a different perspective.

From the Loop Trail via Moss Lake Trail, hike the Echo Canyon Trail (0.7 miles) around Moss Lake and into the saddle between Little Rock and Enchanted Rock. Stop and rest in the shade of massive boulders.

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

The short Scenic View Trail (0.1 miles) starts from the south end of the Loop Trail and brings you to a scenic view of the surrounding Hill Country landscape.

A short hike starting from the south end of the Loop Trail will bring you to a scenic view of the surrounding Hill Country landscape. The Interpretive Loop (0.5 miles) is a good choice for an easy, family-friendly trail. This short stroll is suitable for all ages and offers a glance at the many plants and animals in the park. A trail guide is available.

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

From the base of Enchanted Rock, take Fontside Trail (0.3 miles) through shaded oak trees and connect to Turkey Pass.

If you have time, head over to the Loop Trail (4.6 miles). This trail goes around the park’s limit and allows you to explore the entire area. Carry plenty of water with you on this trek around the perimeter of the park. The granite pathway leads you to incredible views of the natural area. This is the only trail open after sunset. Bring along a flashlight if you’re planning to stargaze. 

Related article: Head For the Hills: Texas Hill Country

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

Things to see near Enchanted Rock

From Enchanted Rock, you can visit Fredericksburg for a taste of German; explore downtown, grab a bite to eat at its many restaurants, join a wine tasting, or sip a coffee.

Learn about President Lyndon B. Johnson who was born and raised in the Texas Hill Country at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park and the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site.

And if you want to visit another Hill Country attraction, plan on visiting the Pedernales Falls State Park, another natural area in Texas.

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

Fact Box

Park elevation: 1,825 feet

Size: 1,644 acres

Date established: October 1978 

Location: Texas Hill Country

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

Address: 16710 Ranch Rd 965, Fredericksburg

Attractions: Hiking, backpacking, tent/car camping, rock climbing

Park hours: 6:30 am to 10 p.m. daily, gates closes at 8 pm.

Park entrance fee: $8/person daily. Reservations recommended online or by calling 512-389-8900. Paark closes for those without entry permits when the capacity is reached. Busy season is September to May.

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

Designation: Certified IDA International Dark Sky Park

Distance to the Park:

  • San Antonio: 90 miles
  • Austin: 100 miles
  • Houston: 250 miles
  • Dallas: 250 miles
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Did you know?

Enchanted Rock opened as a state natural area in October 1978.

More than 400 archeological sites have been discovered in the park of which about one-quarter are State Archeological Landmarks.

Related article: 7 of the Best State Parks in Texas to Take Your RV

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

As temperatures fluctuate, particularly in the evening, the rock can be heard groaning and creaking—a once-mysterious trait that lends itself to legends of the “enchanted” nature of the park. We now know that these sounds are caused by the thick sheets of granite contracting and expanding across one another.

Translucent Fairy Shrimp are known to live in the dome’s vernal pools. The depressions are frequently dry but the eggs can survive without water, hatching after rain refills the pools.

The vernal pools also support rock quillwort—an endangered species of grass only found in Central Texas

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

The forces of nature and their impact on the Texas landscape and sky combine to offer an element of drama that would whet the imagination of artists from any medium.

—Wyman Meinzer

Texas Hill Country Is the Ultimate Road Trip

Texas Hill Country with its winding roads and hilly vistas of live oak trees and prickly pear is one of the most scenic places in the Lone Star State and offers some of the best wines east of California

With its scenic beauty, quaint towns, fascinating history, and varied attractions, the central part of the Lone Star State has all the makings of a fun-filled RV getaway.

For many folks, Texas evokes thoughts of flat cotton fields, desert, the humid eastern piney woods, the Gulf Coast, big cities such as Dallas and Houston, or a state so large it seems to take forever to drive across. Yes, Texas is all of these and more.

Blanco State Park in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Texas Hill Country at approximately 31,000 square miles is the fourth-largest region in Texas. This vast, rural region of south-central Texas is conveniently close to all major cities. Its rolling hills are only an hour-long drive from Austin and San Antonio and a four-hour jaunt from Dallas and Houston. 

The hills dotted with sprawling cypress and oak trees make for an idyllic road trip route that’s especially picturesque in spring and fall. Some of the lushest fields of bluebonnets bloom in spring and there’s nothing more Texan than a bluebonnet photograph.

Guadalupe River State Park in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Motorcyclists enjoy riding the hilly, curvy, and wooded byways and highways. Visitors may see deer and other wildlife as well as Texas Longhorns grazing in fields.

I will hit a few highlights of what this large, diverse region has to offer for travelers of all ages as we journey from east to west.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let’s start our trip across the Hill Country in New Braunfels located on I-35 a short distance northeast of San Antonio. New Braunfels and the Canyon Lake area just a few miles to the north are home to various RV parks. Many RVers, especially young families, make New Braunfels a destination.

Besides being close enough for day trips to San Antonio, New Braunfels and the surrounding area offer attractions for visitors of all ages. One hot spot for cooling off is the Schlitterbahn Water Park which boasts 51 attractions including rivers, rides, chutes, and slides that draw tens of thousands of visitors every year.

Texas Hill Country near Kerrville© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Those looking for a natural water attraction might want to take a dip in the spring-fed Comal River in New Braunfels. At only 2.5 miles long it is one of the shortest navigable waterways in the United States. Tubing in the river is a fun way to cool off on a hot day. Another fun family destination is the Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo.

More on the Texas Hill Country: A State of Mind: Texas Hill Country

Gruene in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Braunfels isn’t just for kids. Settled by Germans in the mid-1800s, the Gruene Historic District within the city limits was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The renovated historic buildings now serve as bed-and-breakfast inns, restaurants, art galleries, antique and gift shops, and a general store. You can enjoy live entertainment at Gruene Hall, Texas’s oldest continually operating dance hall. Gruene also is a popular launching place for kayaking and tubing on the Guadalupe River.

Greune in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One busy tourist destination a few miles up I-35 at exit 200 in San Marcos is the location of the Premium and Tanger outlet malls. With more than 200 stores combined at the malls, shoppers will find plenty to occupy their time.

A favorite German restaurant, the Alpine Haus is in New Braunfels at 251 S. Seguin Ave. It sits back off the road in a historic house built in the mid-1800s. The period décor is attractive, the food is deliciously cooked in Bavarian style, and the service is excellent.

Buesher State Park in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A block down Seguin Avenue from the Alpine Haus is the oldest continually operating bakery in Texas. Naegelin’s Bakery has been serving authentic German pastries and strudel since 1868.

Just a few miles north of New Braunfels are Canyon Lake and the Guadalupe River. Several RV parks in this area will appeal to those who desire a resting place away from the city and the highway. This also is a good area for those who enjoy nature. Boating and fishing are popular on Canyon Lake and the Guadalupe River attracts kayakers and tubers. Area outfitters rent tubes and provide transportation for those who glide down the gentle Guadalupe. A well-maintained nature trail awaits exploration below the Canyon Lake Dam

Guadalupe River at Kerrville in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With approximately 50 wineries and tasting rooms in Gillespie County, this is the most-visited wine region in Texas. And if you thought wine wasn’t a thing in Texas, the state has eight recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). In fact, Texas is the fifth-highest wine-producing state and is home to the fifth-highest number of wineries, according to data from WineAmerica.org. Texas wine isn’t new but it is rapidly growing and the quality is only getting better as growers perfect the grapes that do best in the rocky Texas soil.

More on the Texas Hill Country: Head For the Hills: Texas Hill Country

Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But wineries aren’t the only attraction. Tourists visit Fredericksburg to browse the art galleries, leather shops, boutiques, brew pubs, and other venues in its historic downtown. Lunch and dinner breaks find visitors in one of several German restaurants on the main street.

The city is a year-round destination: Oktoberfest is a no-brainer in the fall but the holidays make Fredericksburg look like a gingerbread village.

Fredericksburg Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With a long history of German influence, Otto’s German Bistro is the best place in town for a Texas German dinner. For the brunch lovers, Hill & Vine offers a unique brunch menu with black-eyed pea hummus and peachy pecan pancakes. Short on time and need a bite to go? Hye Market and Deli has delicious sandwiches, perfect for lunch in between tastings. 

National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A visit to Fredericksburg isn’t complete without a stop at the National Museum of the Pacific War. The museum holds interest for visitors of all ages. Plan to spend several hours to see it all. The facility is open Wednesday through Sunday. Admission prices vary ranging up to $20 for adults.

Texas Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many Fredericksburg RV parks and campgrounds are within minutes of historic Main Street and major attractions while others are located in nearby municipal and state parks. Choose from Fredericksburg RV Park, The Vineyards of Fredericksburg RV Park, Texas Wine Country Jellystone Park Camp-Resort, Oakwood RV Resort, and Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After dark, nearby Lyndon B. Johnson State Park is a designated International Dark Sky Park while the one-of-a-kind Luckenbach General Store, Bar & Dancehall hosts a nightly picker’s circle.

More on the Texas Hill Country: “Howdy, y’all” to these Small Texas Towns

In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, the 36th president was born, reared, and died. Perhaps no other president is more closely identified with one parcel of real estate including his birthplace, boyhood home, and ranch as well as his ancestors’ pioneer settlement.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nature enthusiasts can experience the nearby Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. A billion years ago, the large pink granite dome known as Enchanted Rock was part of a big pool of magma miles under the earth’s surface. It pushed into the rock above in spots, then cooled and hardened, turning into the large granite dome it is today. The dome has drawn people here for thousands of years, and today, visitors can hike, backpack, rock climb, bird, and even stargaze, as the park is designated an International Dark Sky Park.

Lady Bird Johnson Regional Park near Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A short drive west on Texas Highway 16 finds some visitors dreaming of their youth and days gone by. Street Dreams is an auto dealership that specializes in classic and collector cars and trucks as well as related memorabilia. The two showrooms are crowded with 30 to 35 vehicles, all ready to drive away. This mini museum is worth a visit. Yes, walking among and looking at these cars does cause one to dream.

Marcos in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearby Bandera is known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” Here, you can attend rodeos, visit the Frontier Times Museum, hike in the 5,400-acre Hill Country State Natural Area or at the nearby Lost Maples State Natural Area, and listen to country music in the 11th Street Cowboy Bar. Kayaking on the Medina River and horseback riding are other favorite activities.

Schulenberg in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to all I have mentioned in our drive across the Hill Country, more than a dozen state parks and natural areas offer miles of hiking trails, bird-watching (including the rare yellow-cheeked warbler) locations, kayaking spots, and the opportunity to observe thousands of bats emerge from an old tunnel.

Being rural and dotted with small towns, this area also boasts dozens of fairs, festivals, and farmers’ markets throughout the year.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although I have highlighted just a little of what the Texas Hill Country has to offer, I hope I have sparked your interest in visiting this beautiful part of Texas which can satisfy diverse interests and promises fun for all ages.

Read Next: Texas Road Trip Playlist: Sing Your Way across Texas

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

The forces of nature and their impact on the Texas landscape and sky combine to offer an element of drama that would whet the imagination of artists from any medium.

—Wyman Meinzer

Road Trippin’

It’s about the journey

From the coast to the desert, here are nine road trips that will have you road-tripping through America’s finest landscapes. Some are RV-friendly while others may require a smaller vehicle to navigate.

Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina Highway – Arizona

The Santa Catalinas crowned by 9,157-foot Mt. Lemmon rise in ragged ridges at the northern edge of Tucson. Explore this rugged world with a scenic drive up the Catalina Highway also known as the Sky Island Scenic Byway.

Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 30-mile paved road winds up through dry desert terrain, past rocky outcroppings, pull-outs offering stunning vistas, and mid-level forests teaming with leafy oak trees. Don’t forget your jacket as temperatures can drop as much as 30-degrees from the bottom to the top of the road.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trail of the Ancients – Utah, Colorado, and Arizona

Experience the beautiful and diverse landscapes of the Colorado Plateau on the Trail of the Ancients, a scenic route that travels through Southeastern Utah, Southwestern Colorado, and Northeastern Arizona. It connects some of the nation’s richest archaeological, cultural, and historic sites in a remote region teeming with towering sandstone formations, deep canyons, and iconic red buttes.

Hovenweep National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The adventure can begin at any point on the trail but many choose to start at the famed Four Corners Monument and then travel in a counter-clockwise circle. Along the way, you’ll see the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park and the archaeological sites of the Hovenweep National Monument.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll white-knuckle it down the hairpin turns of the Moki Dugway and marvel at the sandstone monoliths and pinnacles of the Valley of the Gods. Cross the San Juan River in the tiny one-horse town of Mexican Hat, gaze in wonder at the postcard-ready views of the Monument Valley, and finally end up at the Canyon De Chelly National Monument in Northern Arizona.

Related Article: Take the Exit Ramp to Adventure & Scenic Drives

Bayou Teche Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bayou Teche National Scenic Byway – Louisiana

This Louisiana byway reaches through three of the state’s southern parishes—St. Martin, Iberia, and St. Mary—as it winds through Bayou Teche and the Atchafalaya Basin from Morgan City to Arnaudville. Travelers can make stops along the byways 183 miles to explore inviting small towns, go kayaking in Breaux Bridge, and enjoy authentic local Cajun food.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive – Virginia

Stretching 105 miles across Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive offers 75 overlooks, picnic areas, and trails. Warm spring weather brings purple and yellow violets, masses of pink azaleas, and white dogwood flowers.

If you’re making a day trip of it, pick one of the 30-mile stretches such as Front Royal to Thornton Gap where you can stop at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hiking enthusiasts can head to Mary’s Rock for 360-degree views or enjoy a more leisurely lookout by driving to Pinnacles Overlook perched at 3,320 feet. The area offers numerous wineries such as Little Washington Winery and Quievremont Vineyard and Winery where you can enjoy the views while nibbling on cheese and sipping wine.

Scenic Byway 24 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 24 – Utah

Starting near the City of Green River, Utah Route 24 creates a grand loop through the south-central slickrock desert and ends up back on I-70 to the west near Aurora. A section of this meandering drive between Loa and Hanksville turns the spotlight on Capitol Reef National Park. Here the scenic drive follows the Fremont River, an oasis in a parched environment.

Scenic Byway 24 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 378 square mile Capitol Reef Park can be viewed as a northern extension of the huge Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, covering an additional 1.7 million acres. Capitol Reef is a sightseers and hikers’ paradise with deep red monoliths, sculpted spires, graceful arches, mesmerizing canyon mazes, and the imposing Waterpocket Fold.

Scenic Byway 24 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Various side roads and unimproved roads have the tendency to turn this scenic drive into a weeklong adventure. With historic structures and plenty of grand views, this route earns plenty of raves from those who have gone before. Miles from any large city, this is a true off-the-beaten-path experience.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Hill Country – Texas

The Texas Hill Country, located west of Austin and north of San Antonio, features a landscape dotted with lush rolling green hills, spring-fed rivers, and charming small towns.

Related Article: Road Trip: The 15 Most Scenic Drives in America

Thanks to Lady Bird Johnson who led a campaign to beautify American cities, vast swaths of bluebonnets were planted across Texas Hill Country and now their bright blue blooms signify the advent of the spring season.

Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While there are countless nature trails, first-timers should start in Austin and take U.S. 290 west to Johnson City’s lovely Wildflower Loop. Then hightail it along U.S. 281 N to the town of Burnet which is widely known as the official bluebonnet capital of Texas.

Newfound Gap Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newfound Gap Road – Tennessee and North Carolina

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is split in two by a single major two-lane roadway that crosses through the heart of the park and over its highest mountain gap.

This scenic drive is known as the Newfound Gap Road or US Highway 441. The roadway follows rivers, climbs steep slopes, and offers incredible views.

Newfound Gap Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the spring months, this route is awash with color as the wildflowers come alive and the trees begin to sport their bright green new leaves. A must-see are the rare Purple Catawba rhododendrons found only at high elevations that reach their peak of bloom along this well-known drive by early June.

I’ve put together my favorite itineraries to make it easy for you to explore your own backyard—wherever your backyard may be.

Mingus Mountain Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mingus Mountain Scenic Road – Arizona

Traveling from Prescott to Jerome, you start a mile high, finish a mile high, and climb a mountain in the middle. This route rises from the expanse of the Prescott Valley abruptly to the heavily vegetated Black Hills. In Yeager Canyon, the road is visually and physically enclosed by the vegetation and canyon walls.

Mingus Mountain Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Descending from the top of Mingus Mountain to the Verde Valley there are spectacular views of the Mogollon Rim, San Francisco Peaks, and the red sandstone cliffs of the red rocks. This scenic road makes a smooth transition into the history of the mining area as it meets the Jerome, Clarkdale, Cottonwood Historic Road.

Related Article: America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for a Spring Road Trip

Indian Creek Scenic Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indian Creek Scenic Drive – Utah

Amidst the red rock of the Moab area, the Indian Creek Corridor Scenic byway leads to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Traversing across high sage plains, the route eventually leads to Indian Creek and Newspaper Rock Recreation Site.

Newspaper Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This Utah Scenic Byway traverses a high altitude (6,000 feet) sage plain before plunging into Indian Creek Canyon on its way to Canyonlands National Park. Along the way it passes the Dugout Ranch, one of the oldest operating cattle ranches in southeast Utah. The byway accesses Newspaper Rock BLM Recreation Site and cuts through the Canyon Rims BLM Recreation Area, a vast landscape of desert and low elevation mountain terrain with hiking and four wheeling opportunities.

Indian Creek Scenic Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beginning at the junction of US Highway 191, 14 miles north of Monticello, the paved Byway travels west across the sage plain and descends the switchbacks into Indian Creek Canyon. It follows the canyon until the landscape opens out into a broad valley at which point the Byway accesses a county road which leads to the Abajo Mountains and Beef Basin within the larger Canyon Rims Recreation Area. The byway terminates at the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

Related Article: Get in your RV and Go! Scenic Drives in America

Worth Pondering…

Roads were made for journeys, not destinations.

—Confucius

The Best Locations to Visit this Spring According to TikTok

As warmer days approach, you might start thinking about your next vacation—and if you’re looking for an unexpected gem you might not have to look very far

International luggage delivery company MyBaggage recently published its list of the 10 most popular places in the U.S. to visit this spring based on a potentially surprising methodology: TikTok views. And for the most part, the winners weren’t typical beach destinations in Florida or tourist attractions in California or New York.

The Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rather, the list primarily featured locations near mountain ranges, national parks, and other natural attractions—mostly in the western and southern U.S.

To get the list, MyBaggage ran a series of location-based hashtag searches through TikTok and sorted the results by total views. At the time the report was compiled, videos tagged with Macon, Georgia had 53.7 million views on the app, according to MyBaggage. Texas Hill Country had 51.3 million views, by comparison.

Check out the top 10 for some great ideas on where to potentially travel this spring:

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Macon, Georgia

TikTok views: 53.7 million

Average temperature in May 2021: 71 F

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Macon, Georgia is a nature lover’s wonderland. Nestled in the middle of the state, it’s the perfect place for a getaway to experience the great outdoors. Hike through 180 acres of upland forest at Amerson River Park, pick fresh produce at Lane Southern Orchards or Dickey Farms, hop on your bike for a ride through the Historic Downtown, or kayak along the bubbling Ocmulgee River.

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Step back in time and visit Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. Ocmulgee has had 17,000 years of continuous human habitation. Explore the museum with over 2,000 artifacts and visit the Earth Lodge with its original floors that are dated to 1015. The park’s 702 acres include fields, forests, and wetlands located along Walnut Creek and the Ocmulgee River. The Ocmulgee Wetlands allows visitors a glimpse into an ecosystem including birds, animal, reptiles, and plants. Immerse yourself in the wetlands environment by taking a stroll on the park’s boardwalk.

Related Article: The Best RV Destinations to Explore this Spring

Guadalupe River at Kerrville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Hill Country, Texas

TikTok views: 51.3 million

Average temperature in May 2021: 76 F

The Hill Country lies in southwestern central Texas. Although it has no technical geographic boundaries, it generally is defined as the area west of Austin and north of San Antonio—bordered by Interstate 35 on the east, U.S. 83 on the west, U.S. 90 on the south, and Texas State Highway 29 on the north. It is a land of steep, rolling hills; woods; streams and rivers; and small towns. Towns include San Marcos, Boerne, New Braunfels, Canyon Lake, Fredericksburg, Kerrville, and Johnson City.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With a strong German heritage dating to the 1800s, several Hill Country towns are known for their German restaurants and bakeries. Other attractions include wineries, state parks, barbecue restaurants, festivals and fairs, and wildflowers. Canyon, Buchanan, and Marble Falls are three major lakes in the area and among the primary rivers are Medina, Guadalupe, Colorado, Pedernales, and Llano. RV parks and resorts are abundant throughout the Hill Country and along I-35 and I-10.

Related Article: The Best Stops for a Spring Road Trip

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona, Arizona

TikTok views: 28.9 million

Average temperature in May 2021: 51 F

Red Rock Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona is also known as the Red Rock Country, which—as the name implies—is home to red-rock formations and canyons amongst the desert trails and cacti. The springtime offers visitors a mild temperature to enjoy those red rocks before the heat of summer sets in.

Bell Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winding through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, Red Rock Scenic Byway (Highway 179) is often called a “museum without walls.” This All-American Road winds through the evergreen-covered Coconino National Forest and past two famous and beautiful vortexes—Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock. Stop at the several scenic pullouts for great views and enjoy the prehistoric red rocks with nearby parking (RV friendly). There are all levels of hiking and biking trails.

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Springs, California

TikTok views: 14.8 million

Average temperature in May 2021: 79 F

Coachella Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the Coachella Valley with the snow-capped peaks of the San Jacinto Mountains as a backdrop, Palm Springs has long been an upscale escape for area visitors and famous figures. Movie stars and mob bosses ditched L.A. to vacation here during the town’s first boom in the 1920s, popularizing a Spanish-Mediterranean architectural style.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town received another tourist boost during the ’50s when this became a hip Rat-Pack hangout. They brought with them significant Mid-Century Modern architects who crafted uber-cool homes, many of which were restored in the 1990s.

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the village has grown and attractions consist of much more than just hanging out poolside. Whether it’s golf, tennis, polo, taking the sun, hiking, or a trip up the aerial tram, Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise.

Related Article: 12 of the Best State Parks for Spring Camping

Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee

TikTok views: 5.2 million

Average temperature in May 2021: 67 F

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

The Great Smoky Mountains, also a national park, are a mountain range along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee where visitors can hike, camp, go whitewater rafting, and experience remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture. It’s the country’s most-visited national park. The Appalachian Trail also runs through the Great Smoky Mountains.

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

Scenic drives such as the Newfound Gap Road provide a welcome mat to countless brooks, waterfalls, overlooks, and trailheads; along winding roads where we can capture those s-curve-through-nature photographs that we love so much. 

Related Article: 10 Inexpensive Outdoor Activities for Spring

Other locations in the top 10 most popular destinations include:

  • Oregon Coast, Oregon
  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  • Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
  • Garden of the Gods, Colorado
  • Port Townsend, Washington

Worth Pondering…

You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise.

—Florida Georgia Line, Cruise

Visit SIX Iconic Texas Landmarks on One Road Trip

One iconic road trip in Texas

It won’t surprise many RV travelers that the Lone Star State is chock-full of iconic places to visit. Many Texans haven’t even seen everything Texas has to offer. And since Texas is enormous, it would take quite a while to see all there is to see. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try if we want, right?

Lady Bird Wildlife Center, Austin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This particular road trip offered is by no means comprehensive. Now, many hours will be spent driving. But, as they say, getting there is half the fun, right? RIGHT? (Well, as long as you can find a few Buc-ee’s along the way.) So clearly you’ll want to schedule in way more time to, ya know, actually stop and SEE the places. But, I digress.

Guadalupe River at Kerrville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This particular road trip starts in the state capital. Starting in Austin, you’ll take in a few sights before venturing into the Texas Hill Country area and then down toward San Antonio. And frankly, each of these areas can easily be an entire trip unto itself. So think of this as a great “Texas sampler” for natives and visitors alike who just want to take a quick jaunt to see some of the most iconic spots in the Great State of Texas.

San Antonio Missions © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

OK, ready?

As we’ve discussed, one of the great things about Texas is that there’s just so much to see. Here’s a look at six iconic Texas landmarks you can check out in one epic road trip!

Lady Bird Wildlife Center, Austin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Austin

Granted, I haven’t been to many of the capital cities in the U.S., but compared to the ones I’ve seen, I think the Texas Capitol Building is one of the prettiest anywhere. If you have time, take a tour of the building and grounds. Something about being there gives you more of a sense of the process of governing that takes place.

Lady Bird Wildlife Center, Austin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The beautiful bridge that carries you across Lady Bird Lake first opened in 1910. The Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge is rather famous for hosting an extraordinarily large colony of bats for which Austin has become famous.

Lady Bird Wildlife Center, Austin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is both a showplace for beautiful plants and a botanical research center. The public botanical garden introduces visitors to the beauty of wildflowers and other native plants and natural landscapes through experience and education. There are 284 acres of gardens, savannas, and woodlands including the Ann and O.J. Weber Butterfly Garden, the sprawling South Meadow, and the Erma Lowe Hill Country Stream.

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Hill Country

The Hill Country lies in southwestern central Texas. Although it has no technical geographic boundaries, it generally is defined as the area west of Austin and north of San Antonio—ordered by Interstate 35 on the east, U.S. 83 on the west, U.S. 90 on the south, and Texas State Highway 29 on the north. It is a land of steep, rolling hills; woods; streams and rivers; and small towns. Towns include San Marcos, Boerne, New Braunfels, Canyon Lake, Fredericksburg, Kerrville, and Johnson City.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With a strong German heritage dating to the 1800s, several Hill Country towns are known for their German restaurants and bakeries. Other attractions include wineries, state parks, barbecue restaurants, festivals and fairs, and wildflowers. Canyon, Buchanan, and Marble Falls are three major lakes in the area, and among the primary rivers are Medina, Guadalupe, Colorado, Pedernales, and Llano. RV parks and resorts are abundant throughout the Hill Country and along I-35 and I-10.

LBJ Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

LBJ Ranch

A short and scenic drive leads to Johnson City which is where you will find the boyhood home of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, as well as the Johnson Settlement farm and the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park headquarters and visitors center. All are within easy walking distance and have free admission.

LBJ Ranch

Just 14 miles west of Johnson City on U.S. 290 is the LBJ State Park and National Historic Park. Admission is also free here. After registering at the state park visitors’ center, you begin your driving tour across the Pedernales River and enter the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.

LBJ Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is there that you will see the one-room school President Johnson attended as well as his reconstructed birthplace, family cemetery, his grandparents’ farmhouse, a show barn, the VC-140 presidential aircraft, and the Texas White House. His ranch home became known as the Texas White House because he spent a great deal of time there during his presidency, hosting national and foreign leaders, holding meetings and conferences, and entertaining guests at his famous Texas barbecues.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fredericksburg

Continuing west on U.S. 290, you arrive at the German-settled town of Fredericksburg which today has a population of 11,245. A picturesque Texas town, Fredericksburg is utterly charming and offers natural beauty, shopping, a variety of cultures, and restaurant options, and just feels like a peaceful little getaway.

National Museum of the Pacific War © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re interested in history, the National Museum of the Pacific War is one of the coolest, more education museums you’ll ever see. As the hometown of World War II Admiral Chester Nimitz, Fredericksburg was a natural site for this major museum which is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Its thousands of exhibits range from personal items and small artifacts to a torpedo bomber, a Japanese midget submarine from the Pearl Harbor attack, a WWII PT boat, and an actual Fat Man atomic bomb casing.

Speaking of museums, the city’s German heritage is highlighted at the Pioneer Museum. And the Marktplatz offers a replica of a 19th-century German church that was once a pillar in this pretty little city.

Fredericksburg bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Speaking of that German culture, while you’re there be sure and stop into one of the German restaurants. Der Lindenbaum is a favorite but there are also many other food options, as well.

Windseed Farms © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Depending on rainfall and temperatures, mid-April finds the area around Fredericksburg alive with bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and other wildflowers. The Willow City Loop is a popular 13-mile drive along a private ranch road to view fields of wildflowers. Another well-known spot for tourists to view acres of flowers is Wildseed Farms, just a few miles out of town.

And not too far from town is the hike up the gorgeous Enchanted Rock.

Kerrville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kerrville

Continuing southwest on Texas Highway 16 leads to Kerrville, located along I-10. Kerrville is home to the historic Schreiner Mansion, Museum of Western Art, Riverside Nature Center, a several-mile nature trail along the Guadalupe River, and the 24.5-acre Coming King Sculpture Prayer Garden.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio

Continue 65 miles southeast on Interstate 10 to San Antonio. The Alamo is arguably the MOST iconic landmark in Texas. So much history happened around this place. One of the most brutal battles ever to take place on American soil happened here. It was a pivotal point in the Texas Revolution. Although this battle was lost to Santa Anna, it laid the inspiration groundwork that lead to the victory at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Mission San Juan © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For any lover of Texas history, the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park is a must-stop while in the San Antonio area. Over 300 years of colonial history is represented here. Plus, this is actually the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas.

The River Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The River Walk is always a fan favorite. After exploring the history of San Antonio, this is such a fun place to stop, shop, dine, and rest. And then you can explore even more. This is a personal favorite for me, too. The food, the music, the vibe—all feel so very iconically Texan.

Looking for other great Texas road trip ideas? Here ya go:

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.

Going far ahead of the road I have begun.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;

It has inner light, even from a distance.

—signage at Lady Bird Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas

The 10 Top Things to Do in Texas

Plan on Texas-sized fun on your next trip to the Lone Star State

As the second-largest state in the U.S., Texas covers an extraordinary amount of the geographical area in the U.S. Measuring approximately 268,597 square miles Texas can fit 15 of the smallest states in its boundaries.

Because of the size of the state, it’s often said that “everything is bigger in Texas”―and it certainly rings true. Texas is home to three of the 10 largest cities in the country: Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas. Not only that, but Austin claims the title of being the Live Music Capital of the World.

Mission Conception along the San Antonio Mission Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The dining scene across Texas is also pretty robust thanks to the state’s signature barbecue and Tex-Mex cuisine. Plus, with plenty of sun-drenched beaches, wilderness landscapes, and Texan-sized festivals at visitors’ fingertips, there’s truly something for everyone in Texas. Read on to learn more about all of the fun things to do in Texas.

San Antonio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio

The Mission City’s rich history dates back to 1718 with the establishment of the first of five Spanish Missions along the San Antonio River. In 2015, The World Heritage Committee recognized the five mission complexes as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

San Antonio River Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio is also home to the city’s vibrant River Walk, another not-to-be-missed top attraction. This 15-mile urban waterway in the heart of downtown is an excellent way to explore the city on foot, by bicycle, or on a GO RIO river barge which offers a narrated history of the city and River Walk. Along the way, wander through the historic King William Cultural Arts District and Southtown Arts District to see the museums, boutiques, parks, micro-distilleries, and coffee shops. The waterfront Hotel Emma used to be a brewhouse during the 19th century.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore The Alamo

Built as Mission San Antonio de Valero’s chapel in 1718 and renamed The Alamo in the early 1800s this “Shrine of Texas Liberty” has a long and colorful history. Occupied by five independent nations and serving as the stronghold for five different armies, the former mission is best known for the 1836 Battle of The Alamo. As part of the Texas Revolution, this battle earned Texas independence from Mexico becoming a self-governing republic.

Related Article: 10 of the Best National and State Parks in Texas

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The U.S. annexed Texas as the 28th state on December 29, 1845. Today, guests can book a history talk, take a self-guided audio tour, or schedule a guided tour to see the highlights of the renowned mission. Top attractions include the church which is free to visit independently with a timed ticket. Other top-recommended stops are the living history encampment which features hands-on demonstrations showcasing what life was like in the 1830s under Mexican rule and the exhibit hall with its extensive collection of artifacts and historical documents.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Hill Country

The Texas Hill Country boasts scenic landscapes replete with rolling hills, grasslands, rivers, lakes, charming small towns, and fields covered in numerous varieties of wildflowers such as bluebonnets, buttercups, and Indian paintbrushes. There are also over 50 wineries to explore, each with its own terroir and unique approach to winemaking.

Enchanted Rock in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a longer getaway, take a road trip through the region beginning 32 miles northeast of San Antonio in New Braunfels, looping around clockwise and ending in Austin. Along the way, stop in Utopia where you can book an overnight stay high atop the trees in a magical treehouse at Treehouse Utopia.

Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Then, head about 80 miles northeast to historic Fredericksburg. Founded by German immigrants in 1846, this small town retains its unique heritage with German architecture and exhibits and demonstrations at the Pioneer Museum. You’ll even find German cuisine at several local restaurants and biergartens and there’s an annual Oktoberfest in the fall.

Gruene Dance Hall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Braunfels

Situated between San Antonio and Austin, New Braunfels is another Texas Hill Country town that celebrates its German heritage. Stroll through the historic downtown brimming with cafes, coffee shops, boutiques, and museums. There’s also a beautiful green space, Landa Park, just a short distance away.

Related Article: 10 Things You Need To See and Do At Least Once In Texas

Gruene Historic District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additionally, the town hosts many festivals, parades, and street fairs throughout the year including the annual Wurstfest. The German-inspired festivities are held in early November along the Comal River and feature Bavarian-style foods, German and Texas beer, and live music. To learn more about the German history of New Braunfels, be sure to visit the Gruene Historic District.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Austin

As the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin is known for its eclectic neighborhoods and entertainment districts featuring more than 250 live music venues. The city is also the capital of Texas, so there’s plenty more to explore, including art museums and galleries as well as the State Capitol. The landmark granite Capitol building opened in 1888 and boasts a beautiful 218-foot rotunda. Free guided and self-guided tours are available daily on the Capitol and grounds.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be sure to check out another Texas Historic Landmark, Mount Bonnell at Covert Park. This popular tourist destination since the 1850s features a vantage point overlooking the Colorado River, affording some of the best views of the city. Explore the wildflowers and native plants of Texas in the beautiful gardens at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church (High Hill) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Painted Churches of Fayette County

As German and Czech immigrants arrived in Central Texas, they established a cluster of small communities that has one thing in common: their painted churches. The term “painted” comes from the elaborate faux-finished interiors. Gold-leafed, stone, and polished marble columns and ceilings are (upon closer examination) actually finely-fitted woodwork.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church (Praha) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The terrain between the churches is winding and rolling and contains some of the best country views in the state. The Painted Churches are a sight to be seen. Go inside a plain white steeple church and you will find a European-styled painted church of high gothic windows, tall spires, elaborately painted interiors with brilliant colors, and friezes created by the German and Czech settlers in America.

South Padre Island Birding Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Padre Island

Situated off the southern tip of Texas on Laguna Madre Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, this barrier island is the only tropical island in the state. Perfect for a romantic getaway or a family vacation, South Padre Island boasts more than 300 days of sunshine, 34 miles of white sand beaches, and emerald-tinted waters.

Related Article: Explore the Funky Art Towns and Desert Beauty of West Texas

South Padre Island Birding Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Top attractions include a visit to Sea Turtle, Inc., a rehabilitation facility for sea turtles that focuses on education and conservation. You can also book a lesson with a master sand sculptor to create your own masterpiece while visiting the Sandcastle Capital of the World.

South Padre Island Birding Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On its 50 acres near the convention center, the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center presents a microcosm of the rich habitats that contribute to this very special place. Dune meadows, salt marsh, and intertidal flats are all here along with thickets of native shrubs and trees that are irresistible to migrating birds.

The Strand Historic District, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston

With a year-round warm climate, a trip to the beach is almost a guaranteed fun time. Many beachgoers head to Galveston virtually any time of the year but the summer months are the most enjoyable bringing more visitors than any other time.

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

Galveston Island is home to some of the best attractions Texas has to offer including Moody Gardens as well as Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark and the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park. Galveston also offers numerous unique museums including The Bryan Museum, Texas Seaport Museum, Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum, and Galveston Railroad Museum.

Ocean Star Off-shore Drilling Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Having one of the largest and well-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the country, Galveston allows visitors to explore the island’s interesting history by touring one of its popular historic mansions.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corpus Christi

Situated on the Gulf Coast of Texas, Corpus Christi offers miles of beaches, plenty of fresh seafood, and Tex-Mex dining options, and even indoor activities like the Texas State Aquarium in North Beach. The aquarium features 18 exhibits with sea creatures and wildlife that take you from the Caribbean Sea to the jungle and beyond.

Texas State Aquarium © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While in North Beach, you can also visit the USS Lexington on Corpus Christi Bay. This aircraft carrier commissioned in 1943, took part in almost every major operation in the Pacific Theater over 21 months of combat during World War II. While here, you can also take flight as an F-18 pilot in the flight simulator or check out the thrilling feature films at the Joe Jessel 3D Mega Theater.

Related Article: Discover more on a Texas-sized Outdoor Adventure

If you prefer to spend time outdoors, kick back and relax, take a horseback ride along the beach, or go snorkeling or deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Texas BBQ © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eat Texas Barbecue

With 13 million head of cattle, Texas has nearly double the number of any other state so it should be no surprise that the Lone Star State cooks up the delicious barbecue. Whether you prefer thick slices of brisket or a rack of ribs, barbecue is one of those foods you can’t leave Texas without trying. As you travel through Texas, you’ll likely notice different styles of barbecue from sauce-covered meat in the southern and eastern portions of the state to well-seasoned meat with sauce on the side in the central and western portions. Needless to say, it’s all fantastic.

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

Lockhart is the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Out-of-towners and locals flock to four smoked-meat emporiums—Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail Barbecue, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Texas is a state of 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

10 Things You Need To See and Do At Least Once In Texas

Texas is big, beautiful, and diverse. It’s not so exaggerated to think of Texas as a whole country—800 miles wide and nearly that far from north to south.

With the state’s 10-gallon hats, acres of cattle ranches, and expansive skies, it’s easy to understand why Texans love to exclaim, “Everything is bigger in Texas!” And indeed, Texas is the largest state in the contiguous United States—only Alaska is larger in terms of square mileage—so they’re not wrong!

The Lone Star State possesses a rich history and varied landscapes. Over the course of its history, Texas has been ruled by six different countries. It’s known as the Lone Star State because it was once an independent republic. No other state can make such a claim.

Fully exploring the state will expose you to 10 different climatic regions that range from dry, dusty deserts and sandy beaches to rolling hills.

With so much to see and do, you could easily spend a lifetime in Texas and not experience it all, so be sure to put these 10 things to see and do at least once in Texas at the top of your travel bucket list.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Remember the Alamo

Perhaps because of its significance in Texas’s struggle for independence from Mexico, the Alamo is one of Texas’s most-visited attractions. Located in the heart of San Antonio this mission-turned-battlefield shouldn’t be missed.

Today the 300-year-old limestone structure is predominantly a shrine to the lives lost on the site during the famous Battle of the Alamo. You can learn more by watching a brief film and by reading the signs placed throughout the grounds.

Mission San Jose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the Alamo is the best known of San Antonio’s Spanish missions, there are four others. You could easily spend an afternoon exploring them all when you’re in San Antonio. For just a few dollars, you can purchase a day pass for the metro bus that will shuttle you between the missions. Otherwise, you could rent a bicycle from a local bike-sharing station and explore the Mission Trail by bike.

San Antonio River Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Stroll along the San Antonio River Walk

Hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and historic sites surround the San Antonio River as it flows through downtown San Antonio below street level. This area, known as the San Antonio River Walk is just a short walk from the Alamo, and exploring the River Walk is a quintessential Texas experience.

If you opt to take the 35-minute narrated cruise down the river, your guide will discuss the city’s history and point out interesting sights along the way. Afterward, enjoy a drink at the Esquire Tavern, the oldest bar on the San Antonio River Walk; it opened the day Prohibition was repealed in December of 1933. Otherwise, enjoy fresh guacamole paired with a prickly pear margarita at Boudro’s.

Black’s BBQ © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Dig into Texas Barbecue

With 13 million head of cattle, Texas has nearly double the number of any other state so it should be no surprise that the Lone Star State cooks up the delicious barbecue. Whether you prefer thick slices of brisket or a rack of ribs, barbecue is one of those foods you can’t leave Texas without trying.

As you travel through Texas, you’ll likely notice different styles of barbecue from sauce-covered meat in the southern and eastern portions of the state to well-seasoned meat with sauce on the side in the central and western portions. Needless to say, it’s all fantastic.

Lockhart is the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Out-of-towners and locals flock to four smoked-meat emporiums—Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail Barbecue, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market.

Bishop’s Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. I Still Dream of Galveston

With a year-round warm climate, a trip to the beach is almost a guaranteed fun time. Many beachgoers head to Galveston virtually any time of the year but the summer months are the most enjoyable bringing more visitors than any other time.

Galveston Island is home to some of the best attractions Texas has to offer including Moody Gardens as well as Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark and the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park. Galveston also offers numerous unique museums including The Bryan Museum, Texas Seaport Museum, Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum, and Galveston Railroad Museum.

Having one of the largest and well-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the country, Galveston allows visitors to explore the island’s interesting history by touring one of its popular historic mansions.

Blue Bell ice cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Order up a Scoop of Ice Cream at the Blue Bell Parlor

Founded in 1907 as the Brenham Creamery Company, Blue Bell began operation making butter. In 1911, ice cream for local consumption began production. Ice cream distribution was limited to the small town of Brenham in the Brazos River country of south-central Texas about 70 miles west of Houston. As transportation improved, distribution expanded. The company name was changed to Blue Bell Creameries in honor of a Texas wildflower in 1930. A reproduction of one of the first route trucks, a 1932 Ford, sits outside company headquarters.

Blue Bell offers a wide variety of ice creams, sherbets, and frozen snacks. Ice cream flavors include 25 classic year-round options like cookie two-step, mint chocolate chip, and pistachio almond. As well as rotational limited-time flavors like fudge brownie decadence, spiced pumpkin pecan, and confetti cake. And yes, I’ve tried them all! Honestly, all Blue Bell ice cream is so good. Any other brand could never compare.

A trip to Blue Bell isn’t complete without exploring the beautiful surrounding communities.

Lady Johnson Park near Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Tour the Texas Hill Country

Imagine hills, soft and scrubby, green valleys, and limestone cliffs. Conjure up ranches and communities of German heritage, wineries, fields of wildflowers, and sparkling rivers lined with cypress and oak. Ah, the Texas Hill Country. To some, it is the state’s greatest natural resource.

No big cities, no hustle and bustle—just cafes with country cooking, water for fishing and inner tubing, and old places with timeworn comfort. Yes, it’s easy to feel at home in the Texas Hill Country.

Wildseed Farms near Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Hill Country offers many getaway options. Fredericksburg, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. The towns of Boerne and Comfort, New Braunfels and Gruene, Dripping Springs and Marble Falls, Kerrville and Blanco, and Bandera, the “Cowboy Capital of the World”.

Oh yes, and Luckenbach. When Waylon Jennings first sang about Luckenbach, the town in the Hill Country where folks “ain’t feelin’ no pain,” it instantly put this otherwise non-place on the map. The population is about 10, and all that’s here is the old General Store, a town hall, and a dance hall.

Shiner beer © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. A Toast to Texas History

In Texas, the mere mention of the word “Shiner” immediately brings to mind thoughts of a cold longneck and the distinctive brew within. However, before the beer, there was the town. Not surprisingly, the best way to learn the history of Shiner is to learn the history of Shiner Beer as the two have been intertwined for more than a hundred years. So, head to Spoetzl Brewery and join a tour. The tour provides a firsthand look into the brewing process and, of course, a firsthand sampling of the final product, from flagstaff Shiner Bock to the Extra Pale Ale, Haymaker. A day trip to Shiner goes down as smooth as the namesake beverage. As they say when toasting in Shiner, “Prosit!” That’s what ought to come out of your mouth before the refreshing goodness that is a free beer goes into it. It’s a toast that means “good health.”

La Grande © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Best Little Day Trip in Texas

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.

Rockport-Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Charm of the Texas Coast

The quaint fishing village of Rockport-Fulton has been a favorite coastal hideaway and Winter Texan roost for 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. The town’s recovery since Hurricane Harvey three years ago counts among the great feel-good stories in Texas history. Rebounding in stunning ways, this little art colony beloved by visitors since the 1950s for its fishing, bay setting, and festivals feels fresh again.

Big Tree © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Envision the life of an affluent Victorian family while exploring Fulton Mansion, built-in 1877 with comforts not easily found: gas lights, central heat, and running water. At Goose Island State Park you’ll find the wintering grounds for whooping cranes and other migratory birds. It’s also home to the 1,000-year-old Big Tree, one of Texas’ largest live oak.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park has it all—vast amounts of open space, rivers, canyons, pictographs, and hot springs. Located in southwest Texas, the park can be wonderfully warm in the winter and unbearably hot in the summer offering year-round access to some of the most beautiful terrain in the state. Big Bend National Park is where the Chihuahuan Desert meets the Chisos Mountains and it’s where you’ll find the Santa Elena Canyon, a limestone cliff canyon carved by the Rio Grande.

Big Bend is among the largest national parks in the United States. With numerous trails, mountains, canyons, and nearby villages to explore; each point of interest could easily yield itself to days of exploration. For the best experience resist making a set plan—allow yourself plenty of time to explore and discover each desert sanctuary at your own pace.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the paved roads make it possible to explore much of the park’s natural beauty, many of the more obscure sights are hidden deep within the park’s interior on rough, dirt roads. To explore this rugged area bring a vehicle with four-wheel drive, plenty of ground clearance, and good tires.

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