Between starting a new year at work and the crazy North Texas weather, taking short road trips can be a little tricky. Downtown might look great, if not cold, but when you hit I-20 and start heading either west or east, you run into the fog (or worse). Now that the sun’s out and the weather is a little more predictable, it’s time to start taking some road trips out of the ever-growing Dallas traffic. Here are 9-plus ideas for short and somewhat quirky day trips from Dallas / Fort Worth area that won’t break the bank.
1629 Park Rd 59, Glen Rose, TX 76043
Dinosaur Valley State Park is a state park near Glen Rose, southwest of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Situated on 1,500 scenic acres, you can view fossilized dinosaur footprints in the bed of the Paluxy River. You can also see two life-size models. Current entrance fees are $7 per adult, while children 12 and under get in free. Camping is also available along with 20 miles of trails. Note that the trails may be closed due to wet conditions, so be careful not to go a few days after a heavy Texas rainstorm. Check their website for current status or go to view the beautiful scenery of the park. Granbury is nearby and is also a cute town to go and explore. Also, near Glen Rose is the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, an endangered species research and conservation center.
Just south of Abilene lays Buffalo Gap Historic Village, a large museum of fifteen outdoor buildings and West Texas artifacts going back to 1870s. The centerpiece is the former courthouse and jail for Taylor County, build in 1879. You can also find buildings such as a doctor’s office, railroad depot, a two-room school, bank, post office, print shop, barbershop, an air-conditioned chapel, and private homes. The annual Bluegrass Festival is hosted there as well. Fees for the museum are $7 for adults, $6 for military and seniors, and students is $4. It is also less than ten miles away from the new Frontier Texas! Museum in Abilene.
Also known as the Stilley–Young House, The Grove is an 1861 historic home that has been called the most haunted place in Texas. Chosen as one of the eight scariest places in Texas by Texas Monthly, the structure has a mix of Greek Revival and Creole Architecture as well. Also known as the B&B Capital of Texas, Jefferson is also a beautiful town near Caddo Lake. If you want to experience some creole food, visit the RiverBend Restaurant on Caddo Lake. Other things to see in Jefferson include the Jefferson General Store, the Jefferson Historical Museum, and Jay Gould’s Private Rail Car. Caddo State Park will also take you through a bayou and swamp with gray Spanish moss and towering cypress trees.
About two hours west of Dallas are the northernmost rolling hills outside of Eastland, Texas. The drive from DFW to Eastland is stunning at any time of year, with steep rolling vistas that are beautiful going uphill (into Eastland) or going downhill (back to Fort Worth). The Eastland Historic Hotel was built as a rooming house in 1918 and still maintains its vintage doors and restored tin ceilings. Next to the hotel is the restored Majestic Theater, built in 1919 as the Connellee Theater, which still shows movies. Nearby is the Eastland County Museum at 114 South Seaman Street that is open Thursday through Saturday. If you have the time, go off I-20 and explore some of the nearby smaller towns, with their dirt ranch roads, old houses, and horses. It’s like stepping back in time.
Located in a small downtown building Paul’s Valley, the Toy and Action Figure Museum has plenty of action figures and toys from the 80s and 90s along with some awesome dioramas. Some of the memorabilia include multiple generations of X-Men, Superman, Transformers, and Batman. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for kids ages 12 and under, military personnel and seniors. Also in Pauls Valley is the Pauls Valley Water Park and the Santa Fe Depot Museum, a 1905 Santa Fe Depot. On your way back, you can stop in Thackerville at the WinStar World Casino and Resort, just to see the unique external architecture if anything.
A great day trip from Dallas or Tyler, Athens is a charming little town with an abundance of Victorian houses, lakes, and other outdoor activities. Located near Athens, the New York Texas Zipline Adventures is located in East Texas’ version of Hill Country. Learn about the local ecology and wildlife or relax and enjoy the view. While near Athens, stop in and visit the Henderson County Historical Museum or the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. Some of the best pizza in the area can be found at Rounder’s Pizza, and you can also find delicious hamburgers at Railway Café.
Near Abilene, there is a decommissioned Atlas-F nuclear mission solo that is a freshwater dive site. The Family Scuba Center in Midland, Texas, owns the former silo base and has conducted scuba dives there for over 20 years. It’s like exploring a shipwreck; only it’s an abandoned Cold War missile base. The bottom of the silo is littered with twisted metal and duck work, and there are also some control panels and plaques. It’s an advanced dive that is about 20 to 25 minutes along. You also have to make an appointment to view the structure and set up a time for a dive.
Can’t get an appointment? You can also go scuba diving at Athens Scuba Park, in a lake full of boats, sunken planes, and other obstacles.
Bonjour Y’all! Paris, Texas is another great city to visit and well worth the road trip. The city also has a great sense of humor about its name and built its own 65-foot Eiffel Tower capped with a 3 ½-foot tall red Stetson cowboy hat. At night, the lights are on, and the tower is illuminated with the colors of the Texas flag. It is also next to the Red River Valley Veterans Memorial. The Trail de Paris is another great outdoor trail with a Yoga Park, kiosk locations (such as the little library), a butterfly garden, and Art on the Trail.
The Republic of Texas Granite Marker, also known as the International Boundary Marker, is the last remaining boundary marker for the Republic of Texas located on the Louisiana-Texas border. It can be found southeast of Carthage, Texas, and 10 miles southeast of Deadwood, near the junction of FM 31 and Louisiana Highway 765. The survey that established this border lasted from May 1840 to June 1841. The marker is located on the west side of the Sabine River, marking the separation between Texas and Louisiana. Is believed to be the only international boundary marker within the United States today.
Feel like exploring more of East Texas? Visit the Piney Woods!
Where’s your favorite day trip from Dallas/Fort Worth?