When most people think of Odessa, they think of tumbleweeds, sand, and oil derricks. They’re not wrong necessarily (there’s plenty of those as well), but there’s also a lot more to this ever-growing city undergoing a massive oil boom. Many things to do in Odessa use the natural desert landscape to their advantage. Hang out at Stonehenge among the prairie grass and ancient stone replicas or drive out to the Meteor Crater to see authentic desert foliage and fauna. Interested in theatre? Odessa has multiple entertainment venues for live shows. You can also see exhibits at a Smithsonian-affiliated art museum. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of 10+ things to do in Odessa, Texas (with a scattering of Midland, sites).

Stonehenge Replica

Preston Smith Rd, Odessa, TX 79762

Located on the ever-growing University of Texas of the Permian Basin campus, the Stonehenge Replica is about 20 stone blocks similar in shape, size, and appearance to the ancient Stonehenge in southwestern England. It’s slightly shorter than the original, but the horizontal scale is exact and astronomically accurate. Numerous educational markers surround the entrance to the site. It’s also got a small walking trail and can be a good place to walk in the mornings before the desert heat kicks in. When you take the entrance into the campus from 42nd street, it will be on the right (opposite the tennis courts) and before you get to the science or student centers.

Another nearby attraction is the UTPB duck pond, which can be found taking a road to the left of the stones. No water sports or fishing are allowed (it’s a really tiny pond in a semi-desert environment) but it’s a great place to relax and watch the ducks and local wildlife get some much-needed water.

Ellen Noël Art Museum

4909 E University Blvd, Odessa, TX 79762Sign at the Ellen Noël Art Museum, Odessa, Texas

After leaving the Stonehenge Replica, follow the road around the campus and exit on University Avenue. Turn left, and you’ll find the art museum and presidential library. The intimate art gallery and museum has three galleries. The center initially opened in 1985 as the Arts Institute for the Permian Basin and was renamed in 1995 to honor the leadership and philanthropy of Mrs. Ellen W. Noël. It’s one of the few art museums in Texas granted status as an official Smithsonian Affiliate, which gives it the privilege to host various Smithsonian artwork and programs.

The George and Milly Rhodus Sculpture & Sensory Garden on-site features raised beds with flowers and plants open to the public. The garden is entirely accessible and user-friendly to visually- and physically-challenged visitors. You can also tour artworks and sculptures in the garden as well.

Presidential Archives and Leadership Library

4919 E University Blvd, Odessa, TX 79762Presidential Archives and Leadership Library, Odessa, TexasFrom a small building in downtown to a much larger building on the University of Texas of the Permian Basin campus, the presidential museum officially became part of the university in 2010. Unlike most presidential libraries, this one is not dedicated to one particular president but rather to all of them. The main exhibit is the Hall of Presidents, which traces the story of the presidency throughout American history. In addition to the museum, the archives consist of the John Ben Sheppard, Jr. Memorial Library, which contains around 5800 volumes, including presidential papers and rare and first edition documents. The archives also feature a restored home of George H.W. Bush and his family from when they lived in Odessa in 1948.

Junior League Jurassic Jungle Sprayground

Highway 191 & E. Loop 338, Odessa, TX

Water Wonderland has been long closed (*sigh*) and Odessa can get oppressively hot in the summer. On the campus of UTPB, the Park Sprayground is a free dinosaur-themed park that contains a variety of water slides, dumping buckets, ground geysers, and jets with shaded pavilions. It isn’t as large or comprehensive as the old WW park, but it’s still good for cooling off on a hot summer day. It’s open dates vary (primary in the summer from May 25th through the beginning of August).

Another sprayground for locals is the McKinney Park Sprayground (625 W Pool Rd, Odessa, TX 79761). In the winter, McKinney Park has beautiful holiday light festival called Starbright Village. During the summer months, the free McKinney Park Sprayground is free to the public and is open from May through September. McKinney Park is also home to ballgames throughout the years plus local music events.

Jack Ben Rabbit Statue

802 N. Sam Houston, Odessa, TXJack Ben Rabbit Statue, Odessa, TexasThroughout Odessa, you’ll likely find some colorful jackrabbits at random places. The statue just off 8th street is an Odessa landmark that gives some historical significance behind these statues. The True Plains Rabbit only lives in the West. The burro-like ears gave this rabbit its name and its color blended in well with the sand and dry grass native to the area. They are swift runners that can be clocked up to 45 miles an hour. The world’s only Jackrabbit Rodeo (literally, with Jackrabbits and not livestock) was held in Odessa in May 1932 and held at the corner of 3rd Street and Grant. The event was eventually banned in 1978 (thank goodness) with a court order. This rabbit statue was erected in 1962.

Jamboree Jackrabbits. Now on to explaining the different colored Jackrabbit statues around town. One of the first public art projects in Odessa, local artists painted 37 jackrabbits that stand at 6 feet tall and then strategically placed them around the city. You can still find them in different parts of the city today, such as on the UTPB campus (close to the MESA building), Odessa City Hall, and on the Odessa College Campus. Here’s a full list.

Ye Old Bookworm (Downtown)

517 N Grant Ave, Odessa, TX 79761

Established in 1991, Ye Old Bookworm is one of the largest bookstores you can find in West Texas. Located in an old downtown building, you can find a family-run bookstore with thousands of used books to choose from. The owner is very knowledgeable about books and is very helpful at tracking down books that may not be in the store. It’s also an excellent place to park, take a look around and see what other shops downtown Odessa has to offer.

Downtown is currently undergoing a revitalization with the creation of a new Marriott and Convention Center (305 E 5th St, Odessa, TX 79761), which opens in August 2019. Some of the older buildings can still be found as well. Right next to the new Marriott is the old Ector Theater, which opened in 1951. The Ector Theater (500 N Texas Ave, Odessa, TX 79761) became a vintage theater that hosted live tribute shows and training programs for local actors.

The old Rio Theater opened as the Scott Theater in 1947 and was renamed the Rio Theater (601 N. Grant Street, Odessa, TX 79761) in 1959. It’s still closed, probably soon to be condemned.

Globe of the Great Southwest (Globe Theatre)

2308 Shakespeare Rd, Odessa, TX 79761

Located on the Odessa College campus, this theater is a replica of William Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre. A replica of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, which contains displays for Shakespeare fans,  is also located on the campus and is a local favorite for wedding photos. The theater began construction in 1958 and the first season was in 1968. With 441 seats, the apron stage and unobstructed balcony views create a unique experience for seeing everything from Romeo and Juliet to a modern Broadway musical.

Ector County Coliseum

4201 Andrews Hwy, Odessa, TX 79762

The Ector-County Coliseum is a 42-acre complex used for rodeos, trade shows, ice shows, motorsports, Broadway shows, and even annual Permian Basin International Oil Shows. The 8,000-seat coliseum is also held for concerts and local graduation ceremonies. It is currently the home to the NAHL Odessa Jackalopes hockey team. Behind the Coliseum is the Permian Basin Fair & Exposition, to be held this year from August 30th to September 8th, 2019.

The Coliseum also often plays host to the  Odessa Chuck Wagon Gang, a group of chuckwagons and their cooks that traveled across Texas cooking barbeque for over 75 years.

Historic White-Pool House

112 E Murphy St, Odessa, TX 79761

Historic White-Pool House in Odessa, TexasThe White-Pool House was built in 1887 and is the oldest remaining structure in Odessa. Restored to its original state, it features a two-story red brick home, wooden Eclipse windmill and water tank, barn replica, and farm outbuildings. The site is a Texas Archaeological Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.

Permian Playhouse

310 W 42nd St, Odessa, TX 79764

Permian Playhouse in Odessa, TexasFounded in 1965, the Permian Playhouse is a community theatre that sits beside the Ector County Coliseum. The Playhouse provides the community with a variety of high-quality, culturally diverse theatrical experiences. The Playhouse also offers theatre programs for first through fifth graders for the past several years.

Parker House Ranching Museum

1118 Maple Avenue, Odessa, TX 79761

Parker House Ranching Museum in Odessa, Texas

Leading Odessa rancher Jim Parker relocated his headquarters into this rock house in 1935. The museum includes the stored Parker House Museum along with period clothing and galleries of early 1900s photos and memorabilia.

Odessa Meteor Crater

5599 Meteor Crater Rd, Odessa, TX 79763

On the outside, the Odessa Meteor Crater appears to be a barren formation of rocks, sand, and desert landscape in the southwestern part of Ector County (and admittedly, it kind of is). Most locals I know have never been out here or have maybe once, forty years ago. However, if you are looking for authentic West Texas landscapes, this is an excellent place to go. The crater is one of three impact crater sites found in Texas and used to be around 100 ft (30 miles) deep. Due to infilling by soil and debris from the ever-present West Texas wind, it is only about 5 miles deep at its lowest point. So, it’s not dramatic from a meteor crater point of view, but it does offer stunning natural foliage and wildlife that you’re not likely to see in the city. There are no visitor fees, and there is also a museum on site. It’s also great for astronomy enthusiasts and is stunning at night.

Be sure to wear boots, as there are rattlesnakes, fire ants, and plenty of rocks. Honestly, you’re probably safe from the rattlesnakes (they’re pretty shy and hide in holes—just don’t step in one). It’s the fire ants that you need to watch for. As you start heading out there, you’ll find plenty of oil pumpjacks and trucks on the highway so be careful. However, it’s incredibly peaceful once you get to the crater.

Note: Your phone’s navigation will most likely take you to the right road but will stop in the middle of the dirt, rocky road before you reach the crater. Keep following the road, curve around to the right, and follow it to the end. Then you’ll find the signs to go into the Meteor Crater. It’s an isolated piece of land with a museum that isn’t visited very often, but it’s a great view of the fauna and flora of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Monahans Sandhills State Park

2500 E Interstate 20 Exit 86, Monahans, TX 79756

Monahans Sandhills State Park in Monahans, Texas

Monahans Sandhills State Park is not in Odessa but about twenty miles southwest of it. However, it’s close enough to easily visit any day of the week. The park is a 3,840-acre state park where the ever-present wind sculps the sand dunes into peaks and valleys. The landscape may change from year to year, and it is a close-up view of a true desert environment. Locals often rent sand disks at the headquarters (or bring their own) to slide up and down the dunes. There’s also an 800-acre equestrian area with heavy sands and a few mesquite trees. It’s not really “pretty” per se, but it’s a real example of the native desert landscape.

First, stop at the headquarters to get a parking permit (usually $4 per adult). Then follow the road to the parking spots where you can see the actual bald dunes. On the way there, you’ll see plenty of overgrown bushes sand flora native to the desert, but you’ll know when you’ve reached the place that you can get out and walk. Be aware that the sand heats up quickly during the summer months (Chihuahuan Desert) and it’s essential to stay mindful of your surroundings and don’t get lost.

It’s also an excellent place to stop if you’re heading out on a road trip to Big Bend National Park.

Permian High School & Ratliff Stadium

1800 E. 42nd Street, Odessa, TX (school) and 1862 E Yukon Rd, Odessa, TX 79765 (stadium)

Permian High School in Odessa, Texas

Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream debuted in 1990 to mixed reviews in town. The book, about the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team, and the city around it, was critical about life in Odessa. I was a sophomore at Permian when the book was released and still remember the throngs of reporters that covered the school that Fall with questions relating to everything about school spirit to um, inappropriate sexual questions to be asking a 14-year-old about football players. Anyway, the book was later made into a TV series and a movie. (Side rant about the film. Odessa is not as small as it shows—it has a full university, community college, and over 100,000 people. It’s not a tiny town with only dirt roads and a few downtown buildings.) Fans of the book or TV series have occasionally made it out to Odessa to tour the school or attend a game. I’m not sure about the legality of visiting the school, but feel free to attend an in-town game at the massive Ratliff Stadium just outside of town. Opened in 1982, the stadium holds almost 20,000 people and is used by both Permian High School and Odessa High School.

Music City Mall

4101 E 42nd St, Odessa, TX 79762

I know, it’s a mall, but it’s still a fully functional mall with the only ice-skating facility within 300 miles. The 750,000square-foot mall also houses CBS affiliate KOSA-TV and three stages for live entertainment on weekends. Two indoor playgrounds, a Ferris wheel, and year-round events also provide additional entertainment for the area.


(Nearby) Things to do in Midland

  1. Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center
    1310 Farm to Market 1788, Midland, TX 79707
  2. Museum of the Southwest
    1705 W Missouri Ave, Midland, TX 79701
  3. Sibley Nature Center
    1307 E Wadley Ave, Midland, TX 79705
  4. I-20 Wildlife Preserve & Jenna Welch Nature Study Center
    2201 S Midland Dr, Midland, TX 79703
  5. George Bush Childhood Home Museum
    1412 W Ohio Ave, Midland, TX 79701
  6. Big Sky Drive-In Theater
    6200 W Hwy 80, Midland, TX 79706
  7. Permian Basin Petroleum Museum
    1500, I-20, Midland, TX 79701
  8. Midland Downtown Farmers Market
    1705 W. Missouri, Midland, TX 79701
  9. Midland Community Theatre
    2000 W Wadley Ave, Midland, TX 79705

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Dallas, Texas, is a place where east meets west. The metropolitan city has exploded in size as international companies move in and take advantage of a well-educated and willing workforce. Fort Worth, on the other side of the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex, has embraced its Texas Cowtown persona while Dallas is less stereotypical Texas than not. With a sizeable business and cultural sector, growing arts and music districts, and historic districts all mixed together, you can always find something to do in the city limits. Thanks to the milder weather, most of the sites are open year-round. Here’s a list of 30 (or more) things to do in Dallas, Texas.

If you can’t find anything to do specifically in Dallas, just look around the area. The Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex at 9,286 square miles is 31 times as big as New York City at 301 square miles. In this post, we’re just sticking to activities within the greater Dallas City Limits (and its little villages). You can find everything from national and state parks to rodeos to more shopping centers per capita than any other city in the U.S. Just choose your days wisely as traffic can vary. I chose a cloudy/rainy Sunday morning to head downtown and there were still small crowds. They were manageable though. Have fun ya’ll!

Quick Tip With the construction going on downtown, parking can be tricky. I am starting at the Sixth Floor Museum not because of the history, specifically, but rather for the parking lot. Located behind the museum, it is about $10 per day where you can park and walk to many of the nearby sites.  Be prepared for the crowds around Dealey Plaza, especially on weekend mornings during the Summer months.

The Sixth Floor Museum/Texas School Book Depository

411 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75202

Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, TX
Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, TX
Texas School Book Depository historical marker in Dallas, TX
Texas School Book Depository historical marker in Dallas, TX

The Sixth Floor Museum documents the life, times, death and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. The museum houses many facts about the tragic day, and each admission comes with a self-guided audio tour. You can stand at the corner window where the fateful shots were fired. The museum is also the former home of the Texas School Book Depository Building, a 7-story structure built in 1901 by the Southern Rock Island Plow Company. A school textbook distribution firm leased the building in 1963, and Lee Harvey Oswald was an employee of the Depository at the time of the assassination.

A short walk down Elm Street, past Houston and right on N. Record Street is the Dallas Holocaust Museum (211 N Record St #100, Dallas, TX 75202 currently). The museum is dedicated to teaching the history of the Holocaust and combating prejudice, hatred, and indifference. The museum is going to close on July 31 for moving and will be relocated to 300 N. Houston Street, which is still in this area.

Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza, Dallas, TX 75202

Dealey Plaza plaque. Notice the X on the road. That is the spot where JFK was assassinated. I wouldn't recommend looking any closer (speed limits are a myth around here but you can get close enough to see the grassy knoll, etc.
Dealey Plaza plaque. Notice the X on the road. That is the spot where JFK was assassinated. I wouldn’t recommend looking any closer (speed limits are a myth around here but you can get close enough to see the grassy knoll, etc.
A different historical marker at Dealey Plaza.

After visiting the museum, walk over to Dealey Plaza and see where John F. Kennedy was assassinated while visiting Dallas. Dealey Plaza is also home with several buildings in the historic district. A museum store and café about the area can be found at the Dal-Text building and Annex at 501 Elm Street.

The Dal-Text Building and Annex (501 Elm Street) sits across from the Texas School Book Depository. Constructed in 1902, a nearby three-story annex was built in 1904. The Dallas County Criminal Courts Building (501 Main Street) was built between 1913 and 1915. Dallas County Records Building (509 Main Street) is now part of the Founders Plaza to the east, and the Gothic building was completed in 1928. The Old Dallas County Courthouse (100 S. Houston Street) was constructed between 1890 and 1892. It’s also known as the Old Red Courthouse or Museum.

Old Red Museum in Dallas, TX undergoing construction.
It’s currently undergoing construction, but you can still visit the old red sandstone courthouse museum.

Old Red Museum (100 S Houston St, Dallas, TX 75202)  was formerly merely the Dallas County Courthouse. Made of red sandstone (native to the area), the structure was built in 1890. Today, you can visit the museum to learn about Dallas’ first settlement in 1841 and view other artifacts from the prehistoric to the present day. It’s currently undergoing heavy construction (again, park at the Sixth Floor Museum and walk it), but the museum itself is open.

John Neely Bryan Cabin

600 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75202

John Neely Bryan Cabin from the side.
John Neely Bryan Cabin from the side in downtown, Dallas.

John Neely Bryan arrived near this site in late 1841 from Tennessee and built a log cabin in 1842. The area’s first school and the church were built of logs in Farmer’s Branch in 1845. Many of the original settlers of Dallas came to this “Three Forks” area of the Trinity River as members of the Peters Colony after 1841. This cabin was built of cedar logs before 1850 and was moved from its original site, about 7.5 miles east, and rebuilt at several locations. It was moved to this block in 1971.

Reunion Tower

300 Reunion Blvd E, Dallas, TX 75207

Reunion Tower as seen from Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas.
Reunion Tower as seen from Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas.

One of the most well-known Dallas landmarks, the 561-feet Reunion Tower is a great place to get a 360-degree view of the city. The tower’s observation deck, called the GeO-Deck, allows you to get panoramic views from 470 feet in the air. Inside the Reunion Tower lobby, you can view interactive digital exhibits featuring Dallas landmarks, the tower, the assassination of JFK, and high-definition cameras. You can also get a meal at Wolfgang Pucks’ Five Sixty restaurant at the top of the tower, although it can get expensive. There is also a Cloud 9 café so that you can get something cheaper to eat.

Reunion Tower is only about 1000 feet from Dealey Plaza, so one suggestion is to park nearby and walk around the area. A cheaper parking garage is just down the hill, and you can park there and walk up, either way, it’s not a bad way to spend the day. If you live in DFW or are staying in a hotel near a DART station, take the train to Union Station, which connects to the Hyatt Regency by an underground tunnel that also connects to Reunion Tower.

Dallas Union Station

400 S Houston St, Dallas, TX 75202

Built in 1916, Dallas Union Station is a stunning example of Beaux-Arts style. Architectural details include original chandeliers and 48-foot arched windows. The ballroom is a popular place for private events and weddings. You can walk through the underground tunnel from Reunion Tower and the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion into the station. From here, you can catch one of the DART trains throughout the city or even an Amtrak train to places unknown.

Dallas Cattle Drive Sculptures at Pioneer Plaza

1428 Young St, Dallas, TX 75202

Dallas Cattle Drive Sculptures at Pioneer Plaza
Dallas Cattle Drive Sculpture at Pioneer Plaza
Dallas Cattle Drive Sculptures following people to work at Pioneer Plaza
Dallas Cattle Drive Sculptures following people to work at Pioneer Plaza

Life-size bronze sculptures of a cattle drive surround Pioneer Plaza, the largest public park in the central business district. It’s one of the few places in downtown Dallas that has more of a Western feel than the majority of the city. Pioneer Plaza commemorates Dallas’ beginnings by celebrating the Shawnee Trail that brought settlers and Texas longhorn to Dallas.

Dallas Pioneer Park Cemetery

1201 Marilla St, Dallas, TX 75201


Dallas Pioneer Park Cemetery
Dallas Pioneer Park Cemetery

Historical marker at Dallas Pioneer Park Cemetery

Located just behind the cattle drive sculptures, the cemetery contains many of the earliest settlers of Dallas. The graves buried on this grassy hill date back between 1846 and 1850) and include six Dallas mayors, War of 1812 veterans, Texas Revolutionary heroes, judges, Civil War veterans, and more. The site initially had a view of downtown and the Trinity River to the west. The last burials took place between 1921 and 1928.

[There are parking places beside the Pioneer Plaza that have a time limit, but are free. If you park there and walk up the steps, you’ll walk through the cemetery towards the sculptures.

Majestic Theater

1925 Elm Street, Dallas, TX 75201

The Majestic Theater opened its doors on April 11, 1921. The theater hosted a variety of acts from Bob Hope to Mae West to Houdini. The theater is the last remnant of Dallas’s historic entertainment center, Theater Row.

The Texas Theatre

231 W Jefferson Blvd, Dallas, TX 75208

After visiting the Sixth Floor Museum, continue exploring the history of November 1963 by visiting this historic theatre which was the hideout of Lee Harvey Oswald and the location of his subsequent arrest for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Texas Theater opened in 1931 and was made entirely out of concrete to be “fireproof.” Also, the theater was the first Dallas movie theater to offer air conditioning. The theater also provides authentic seating, a refreshment area, and entertainment.

Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park

1515 S Harwood St, Dallas, TX 75215

Dallas Heritage Park is a 20-acre living history museum located on the grounds of Dallas’ first city park that was established in 1876. Explore buildings and attractions that allow you to see and experience 19th-century life during the pioneer and Victorian eras. Watch how crops were grown, how animals were cared for, and how the community functioned in Texas over 100 years ago. The collections of buildings and furnishings represent the period from 1840 to 1910.


The Adolphus Hotel

1321 Commerce St, Dallas, TX 75202

The Dallas landmark hotel was built in 1911 in a baroque, Beaux-Arts style. One of the most luxurious hotels in Texas. The hotel, which is still in use, has over 422 guestrooms in total, including 12 luxury suites and 127 executive rooms. It’s more of a short drive-by for architecture geeks like me, but it’s still a must-see in Dallas (just hard to get a picture in traffic).

Dallas Farmers Market

920 S Harwood St, Dallas, TX 75201

The Dallas Farmers Market is a 26,000-square-foot market that has been operating since 1941. The full market includes restaurants, gift stores, and a flower shop. The Market Shops are open seven days a week. On Fridays through Sundays, the weekly farmer’s market with local produce and artisanal goods can be found in The Shed, an outdoor, open-air pavilion. Vendors serve a variety of ready-to-eat cultural flavors at the market during the weekend.

Bishop Arts District

Bishop Avenue, Oak Cliff, Dallas, TX 75208

In addition to art galleries, The Bishop Arts District, in North Oak Cliff, is home to more than 60 restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and boutiques. The city’s busiest trolley stop, circa 1930, is also located in the Bishop Arts District. It’s also known for its diverse nightlife and colorful street art.

Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe (Cathedral Guadalupe)

2215 Ross Ave, Dallas, TX 75201

Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe
Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe

Built in 1898, The Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe was the second location of Dallas’s first Catholic parish, Sacred Heart Church, established in 1869. The original church was constructed in 1872 at the corner of Bryan and Ervay Streets and its congregation soon outgrew the original facilities. The cornerstone was laid on June 17, 1898. It’s also near one of the oldest churches left in that district, St. Paul United Methodist Church (1816 Routh St, Dallas, TX 75201), part of the arts district for 145 years.

Dallas Museum of Art

1717 N Harwood St, Dallas, TX 75201

In the Arts District of downtown Dallas, the Dallas Museum of Art is home to over 24,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of humanity from different cultures. Founded in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art is one of the 10 largest art museums in the country in its 370,000-square-feet building.

Across the street is the Nasher Sculpture Center (2001 Flora St, Dallas, TX 75201), a 2.4-acre site with a collection of modern and contemporary sculpture.

Crow Museum of Asian Art

2010 Flora St, Dallas, TX 75201

The Crow Museum of Asian Art includes exhibits dedicated to the arts and cultures from individual Asian regions from 1000 B.C. to the 20th century. The museum is always free, although donations are appreciated. One permanent exhibition includes Fierce Loyalty: A Samurai Complete, a collection devoted to the art and culture of the Japanese samurai.

Katy Trail

3505 Maple Ave, Dallas, TX 75219

A popular walking, jogging, bicycling trail for Dallas residents, the Katy Trail follows the path of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (MKT). On the northern end of the trail, the best place to park is near Knox Street (cattycorner to Travis Street). Closer to downtown on the Southern end of the trail, you can park at Reverchon Park near the baseball fields.

White Rock Lake Park

E Lawther Dr, Dallas, TX 75218

White Rock Lake is a relaxing park with a large natural area of over 1,254 acres set in an urban setting. Construction of the lake began in 1910, and the park itself was developed in the early 1930s. Over 9 miles of hiking and bike trails circle the area, along with picnic areas, wetlands, a dog park, and benches to sit and enjoy the water. You can walk off into a section of woods for a picnic or take your dog to the on-site dog park.

Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden

8525 Garland Rd, Dallas, TX 75218

The 66-acre gardens of Dallas’s beautiful Arboretum and Botanical Garden offer plenty of activities for outdoor enthusiasts year-round. The Arboretum is located on the shores of White Rock Lake and feature events throughout the year. One new exhibit is the fresh vegetable and herb garden called A Tasteful Place, which allows you to get a free seasonal snack. Go ahead and buy your parking ahead of time and plan your itinerary as well.

Half Price Books Flagship Store

5803 E Northwest Hwy, Dallas, TX 75231

Book lovers unite! You can easily spend hours in this flagship store, one of the biggest bookstores in the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex. Half Price Books buys and sells secondhand books, movies, and music of all types. Entertainment is available on the first Fridays of each month, and the café serves great pastries and coffee.

Highland Park Village

47 Highland Park Vlg, Corner of Preston Road and Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, TX 75205-2727

Shops at Highland Park Village in Dallas, Texas
Shops at Highland Park Village in Dallas, Texas

Highland Park Village is a luxurious, Mediterranean Spanish-style shopping plaza with a legacy as the first open-air shopping center of its kind. Historic architecture, premiere retail, and fine dining can be found in this small center. Typical of Spanish plazas, the central fountain is surrounded by ten acres of brick paths and walkways, landscaping, trees and benches, and timeless architecture. The center opened in 1931 and deteriorated for a few years before being redeveloped in 1976 into a luxury shopping destination. The landmark Village Theatre opened in 1935 and was the first luxury suburban theater in Texas—the theater is still open and has been renovated.

George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

2943 SMU Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75205

Located on the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus, the 14,000 square foot George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum showcases the career of former President George W. Bush. Exhibits include themes and subjects relevant to the early 2000s, such as the financial crisis, education reform, the global war on terror, and the HIV/AIDS crisis. White House exhibits also showcase what life was like for the first family and visit an exact replica of the Oval Office in scale and design. Freedom Hall is a one-of-a-kind, massive 20-foot tall LED screen showcasing various multimedia clips. The Dallas museum is also located next to a 15-acre, prairie-inspired urban park, with Native Blackland Prairie grasses and seasonal wildflowers.

Freedman’s Cemetery

2525 N Central Expy, Dallas, TX 75204

Freedman’s Cemetery was established in 1861 as a burial ground for Dallas’ early African American population. A memorial was built in late 1990 to commemorate the site and significant contributions made by African Americans to the growth and development of Dallas. One bit of advice is to park at Walmart and walk across the street.

Frontiers of Flight Museum

6911 Lemmon Ave, Dallas, TX 75209

From early flight to modern space exploration, the Frontiers of Flight Museum has over 30 aviation and space flight exhibits in 13 galleries with over 35,000 artifacts. Included at the 100,000-square-foot museum is a full-size model of the Wright brothers 1903 Wright Flyer, along with exhibits detailing the stories of trailblazers such as Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, and Charles Lindbergh. Artifacts cover the eras of World War I, World War II, Cold War, and space flight, including an Apollo pod. The site also includes a Living History program and a STEM education program.

Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park

11131 Malibu Dr, Dallas, TX 75229

For something different, head over to the Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park for some thrilling adventure. For over 25 years, the Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park’s goal has been to be the most extreme amusement park in the world. The Bungee Jump is a seven-story platform designed for bungee jumping. The Skycoaster is a 100-foot hang-gliding/flying simulator reaching speeds up to 60 mph. If that isn’t enough action, try out the towering propeller Skyscraper that pulls 4Gs or the freefalling Nothing’ But Net that works from a 16-story tower.

Fair Park

1300 Robert B Cullum Blvd, Dallas, TX 75210-2364

Fair Park is a historic 277-acre recreational and educational complex that is the location of the State Fair of Texas. The site was initially built in 1889 as an 80-acre fairground for the Dallas State Fair and was also host to the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. The landmark also contains the largest collection of 1930s Art Deco exposition style architecture in the United States. Five museums and ten performance and sporting events are also held at the park. These include the Texas Discovery Gardens, Music Hall, Gexa Energy Pavilion, Band Shell, and the Cotton Bowl Stadium. Fair Park is also home to five museums and ten performance and sporting venues. A 700-foot-long reflecting pool called the Fair Park Esplanade is capped with three fountains, that often give shows set to music.

Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park

1462 1st Ave, Dallas, TX 75210

Opened in 1936 as part of the Texas Centennial Exposition, the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park has six exhibits and interactive, kid-sized zones. Kids can visit and pet the stingrays, stand in awe at the two shark tanks, and view everything at eye level.

African American Museum of Dallas

3536 Grand Ave, Dallas, TX 75210

The African American Museum is an art museum founded in 1974 and houses a rich heritage of African art and history in four vaulted galleries. Permanent collections include African art; African American art; and magazine, historical, political, and community archives.

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

2201 N Field St, Dallas, TX 75201

Home to five floors of 11 permanent exhibit halls, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science offers educational state-of-the-art interactive and multimedia exhibits for kids of all ages. The Museum was a merger of the original Dallas Museum of Natural History, founded in 1936, the Science Place, and the Dallas Children’s Museum at Fair Park. It relocated to its current facility in 2012. The children’s museum morphed into the Moody Family Children’s Museum, which includes terrarium animals, a Mini Dallas Farmer’s Market, and a Dallas Skyline Climber that allows kids to climb a playground of tiny Dallas landmarks. Other exhibits include dioramas of Texas ecosystems, exploration exhibits called Being Human, information about engineering and innovation, weather simulations, and so forth.

Klyde Warren Park

2012 Woodall Rodgers Fwy, Dallas, TX 75201

Kylde Warren Park is a 5.2-acre public park that sits over the Woodall Rogers Freeway. The unique park sits in the middle of uptown Dallas and has an amphitheater, storytelling tree, putting green, chess, and ping pong area, and dog park. Food trucks and restaurants line the perimeter. The park hosts concerts and dance lessons. The Dallas Yoga Center occasionally hosts Yoga classes in the park.

Trinity Skyline Trail / Continental Bridge Gateway Plaza West

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas, TX 75207 / Continental Bridge Gateway Plaza West, Dallas, TX
[Spur 366 Over the Trinity River, Dallas, TX ]


Continental Bridge Gateway Plaza West
Continental Bridge Gateway Plaza West
View from Continental Bridge Gateway Plaza West introducing a coming Texas rain storm.
View from Continental Bridge Gateway Plaza West introducing a coming Texas rain storm.

The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and Trinity Skyline Trail are fairly new. The site is slowly becoming an outdoor mecca for people in the area to walk and get a fantastic shot of the Dallas skyline. The bridge opened in March 2012 and connects Dallas’ two riverbanks for easy passage between the downtown area and the neighborhoods of West Dallas. You can park and walk along the bridge to see the skyline and the Trinity River below. Several trails also extend from the parking lot. Great eating places can also be found on the west side of the bridge.

Quick TipLook for the Trinity Skyline Bridge or something other than the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. If you head West on Highway 366 (referred to as the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge), you’ll find that the road turns into Singleton Boulevard. At the first light (Gulden Ln), turn right. When the road starts turning to the left and turns into Canada Drive, follow a little road to the right. It will take you to the free parking lot beside the trails and the walkway. It can get very confusing if you don’t know what you are looking for.

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The design and architecture of church buildings are often domain features that often reflect local decoration and technology. From the native stone churches of the Midwest to the Adobe churches of the Southwest, the structures reflect not only the natural landscape but often the culture of the people who constructed them. The oldest churches in Dallas can be traced to the 1850s, with some of the oldest stretching back to the 1840s in Dallas County. Like most buildings in Dallas, the older buildings are styled in a hodgepodge of Greek Revival to Victorian to Neoclassical construction.

Many of the earlier Dallas churches were built along Ervay streets, such as Elm and Ervay, Ervay and Canton and Bryan and Ervay. Elm Street was another popular street, with many buildings (now gone) congregating in this area. Here’s a look at 21 of the oldest churches in Dallas.

1856 AND 1858

Cochran Chapel United Methodist Church

9027 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX 75209

Cochran Chapel United Methodist Church is Dallas’ oldest deeded church property. The property on which the Sanctuary sits was deeded on July 11, 1856. The W.P. Cochran Homeplace was first settled on in 1851, and the current house that stands on the site was built in 1895. Just south of the cemetery lies the church cemetery, home to some of Dallas’ earliest pioneer families, Civil War veterans, slaves, and Native Americans. The first edifice was built and dedicated in 1858 and the Sunday school dates to 1879. Later buildings were erected in 1885, 1924, 1955, and 1970.


First United Methodist Church

1928 Ross Ave, Dallas, TX 75201


First United Methodist Church, Dallas, Texas
First United Methodist Church Dallas

One of the most beautiful churches in Dallas is the First United Methodist Church on Ross Avenue with its magnificent bell tower to its rotunda theatre. The First Methodist Church of Dallas reports meetings as early as 1846 when the small village of Dallas was a stopping point for Methodist circuit riders. Legend has it that the church met in a small building at the southwest corner of the courthouse square in November 1850 and continued for almost 20 years at the location. The congregation met at three previous locations before the Trinity Methodist and First Methodist congregations combined in 1916. A new building was built for the First Methodist Episcopal Church, South (on Ross Ave) in 1926. The First Methodist Episcopal Church, South, became First Methodist Church in 1939 and then the First United Methodist Church in 1968.


First Presbyterian Church of Dallas

1835 Young Street, Dallas

Downtown in the historic district, the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas was the first southern U.S. Presbyterian Church organized in Dallas. Founded in 1856, one day after Dallas was incorporated as a city, the church first met in various locations before erecting its first building at Elm and Ervay streets and then Harwood and Main Streets. The present sanctuary was built between 1911 and 1912 and officially opened on March 2, 1913. The Greek Revival church includes the first monolithic Corinthian columns in Dallas.


St. Matthews Cathedral

5100 Ross Ave, Dallas, TX 75206

The first Episcopal service was held in Dallas in 1856, and this parish was organized on St. Matthew’s day on September 21, 1857. The first Bishop of Texas visited Dallas in 1860 and conducted services in the Masonic Hall. The growing parish moved to several places but continually moved as the cathedral became too small. The current cathedral moved to the former St. Mary’s College Chapel at the corner of Ross and Henderson in 1929. St. Mary’s College’s cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1876, and classes began in 1889. The school closed in June 1930 after being absorbed by St. Matthew’s Parish. It looks as if the chapel was completed and consecrated on May 10, 1908.


Central Christian Church

4711 Westside Dr, Dallas, TX 75209

Central Christian Church was organized in 1863 and originally held services in Preacher Charles Carlton’s log cabin schoolroom in present-day downtown Dallas. A Texas historical marker was installed on a two-story brick building at 703 Ross Ave to mark where the original church once stood. In 1891, the congregation moved to a larger building at St. Paul and Patterson streets and charted the name of Central Christian Church. The current land on Westside Drive was purchased in 1951, and the new sanctuary was dedicated on May 3, 1953.


First Baptist Church Dallas

1707 San Jacinto St, Dallas, TX 75201

First Baptist Church Dallas
First Baptist Church Dallas

Today a Southern Baptist Megachurch, the First Baptist Church of Dallas was established in 1868 and met in the Masonic Hall on Lamar Street near Ross Avenue. The first building was on Akard Street and the cornerstone of the sanctuary that the congregation worships in today was laid in 1890. The red brick, Victorian-style building was erected in 1890. You’ll find a 3,000 seat Worship center close to the historic building.


Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe (Cathedral Guadalupe)

2215 Ross Ave, Dallas, TX 75201

Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe
Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe

Built in 1898, The Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe was the second location of Dallas’s first Catholic parish, Sacred Heart Church, established in 1869. The original church, constructed in 1872, was at the corner of Bryan and Ervay Streets and its congregation soon outgrew the original facilities. The cornerstone was laid on June 17, 1898, and was formally dedicated on October 26, 1902, in the heart of Dallas’ Art District. Today, the church oversees the second-largest Catholic church membership in the United States. The bell tower, which extends 219 feet,  is a fairly recent addition as it was designed but not built with the original building.


St. Paul United Methodist Church

1816 Routh St, Dallas, TX 75201

St. Paul United Methodist Church has been in the same location in the Arts District for 145 years. In 1873, recently freed slaves who lived in Freedman’s Town, a community just north of the Dallas city limits, met with Methodists ministers Reverend H. Oliver and Reverend William Bush to organize the area’s first African American Methodist Episcopal Church. The early church was a small frame sanctuary, which worked both as a school for school children (1874-1875) and providing training for African American ministers. In 1901, the congregation began building a new brick-clad sanctuary by first digging and completing a basement where church services were held until the construction was complete. The Gothic Revival style church was derived from a design by William Sidney Pittman, Dallas’ first African American architect. You’ll note that the façade has different shades of brick. Parishioners brought bricks to services to help build the church until it was finally completed in 1927. The original 35 stained glass windows, donated by some of Dallas’ first affluent African Americans, can still be seen today. Although the 1950 highway construction and recent regentrification has demolished many of the old North Dallas neighborhoods served by the church, the church has endured the test of time as a political, cultural, and spiritual leader. Homeless are served breakfasts every Saturday, and the church focuses on reaching out to the local community.

1874; Present structure built in 1915

Oak Lawn Methodist Church

3014 Oak Lawn Ave, Dallas, TX 75219

Formerly known as Oak Lawn Methodist Episcopal Church, South, the Oak Lawn Methodist Episcopal Church is a progressive, beautiful church located in Oak Lawn. The large brick, Late Gothic Revival church has significant art glass windows and brick terra cotta work. The original church was formed as a church-schoolhouse in 1874. Read more

1890; Present sanctuary 1921

Christ Episcopal Church

534 W 10th St, Dallas, TX 75208

Built in 1921, the Christ Episcopal Church is one of the few remaining ecclesiastical interpretations of the Arts and Craft style in the Dallas area. Christ Church itself is one of the oldest Episcopal parishes in Dallas County, charged in 1890. The church was built to resemble an overturned ark and in the shape of a cruciform. The Midwestern feel can be attributed to the fact that the design was based on St. Martin of Tours Church in Omaha, Nebraska. The original, beautiful stained-glass windows are also done in the Arts and Crafts style by the Jacoby Arts Glass Company of St. Louis, Missouri.


Old Frankford Church

17400 Muirfield Dr, Dallas, TX 75287


Old Frankford Church is a one-room church was built in 1897. Since that time, the church has been meticulously restored. The original church was destroyed by a tornado in the 1880s, and the current building was rebuilt using the wood from the first church. It was restored again in 2010. The Frankford Preservation Foundation reports that the church held services when a circuit rider was passing through the area. While several denominations held services at the structure, the main one was Methodist, who were organized as part of a circuit in 1885. Although the town dissolved and people moved away, preachers continued to use the little church through the mid-1920s. Episcopal services began at the small church in the 1960s. Learn more about the Town of Frankford.


Grace United Methodist Church

4105 Junius St, Dallas, TX 75246

Grace United Methodist Church grew from two earlier fellowships started in 1868. The Dallas City Mission and 1880 Haskell Avenue Church merged to form Grace Methodist Church. On the back of the current lot, a temporary tabernacle was erected, and the first portion of the present church was completed in 1903. The Gothic Revival church is one of the longest continuously operating Protestant congregation in Dallas worshipping in the same location. The educational unit, as added in 1925.


St Edwards Catholic Church

4014 Simpson St, Dallas, TX 75246

St Edwards Catholic Church
St Edwards Catholic Church

When the Diocese of Dallas realigned the boundaries of Dallas’ Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Parish, St. Edward’s Parish was carved out on October 13, 1903. The first church went up on a piece of property on Elm and Hill Streets; it was dedicated on January 3, 1904. St. Edward’s School had its cornerstone laid on November 12, 1911, and the school opened in September 2012. After years of planning for a new building, the approval to build a new church was approved in February 1926.

1903; 1912 (Original Sanctuary); Present sanctuary in 1925

East Dallas Christian Church

629 N Peak St, Dallas, TX 75246

East Dallas Christian Church
East Dallas Christian Church

The original sanctuary for the East Dallas Christian Church was built in 1912 in a Neoclassical style. The building was listed as a Dallas Landmark in 1993. The church itself began in 1903 in a frame church on the corner of Victor and Peak Streets. A still visible brick building was dedicated in 1912, and the present sanctuary was later built in 1925. The church has since expanded and today serves the Peak Suburban neighborhood.


Holy Trinity Catholic Church

3811 Oak Lawn Ave, Dallas, TX 75219

Holy Trinity Catholic Church Dallas
Holy Trinity Catholic Church Dallas

Holy Trinity College, later renamed the University of Dallas broke around in 1905. Along with the college, the parish also built a small frame church next to the church. The church was formally dedicated in November 1907. The founders spent a significant amount of time on the road to small mission churches around North Texas. The college closed in 1926 and eventually became the Jesuit Preparatory School in 1942. The grade school was founded in October 1914 by the Daughters of Charity. The small chapel on the former University of Dallas campus, it grew into a parish and school.


Highland Park Methodist Church

3300 Mockingbird Ln, Dallas, TX 75205

Highland Park Methodist Church
Highland Park Methodist Church

Highland Park Methodist Church’s impressive example of Gothic Revival architecture was built in 1926 beside the campus of Southern Methodist University. The elegant stone has pointed arch-stained glass windows, buttresses, and a majestic bell tower. Its origins can be traced to the founding of the University Church at SMU in early 1916. The church was then annexed by the town of Highland Park in 1923. The original church was dubbed “The Little Brown Church,” near the current location was constructed in 1917, and the present Gothic building held its first church service on Sunday, February 6, 1927.


Highland Park Presbyterian Church

3821 University Blvd, Dallas, TX 75205

Highland Park Presbyterian Church
Highland Park Presbyterian Church

Highland Park Presbyterian was first established in 1926. The church building was designed by architect Mark Lemmon and erected in 1928.


Christ the King Catholic Church

8017 Preston Rd, Dallas, TX 75225

Christ the King Catholic Church Dallas
Christ the King Catholic Church Dallas

Although this is a relatively new church building, it is still a stunning work of architecture along Preston Road in Dallas. The Christ the King Parish, for parts of Dallas north of Mockingbird Lane and west of Central Expressway, was created in 1940. A new temporary church was built at Westchester and Colgate in February 1941. A new school was built in 1946, and the parish was subdivided multiple times due to overcrowding in the schools. The cornerstone of a larger church was blessed on October 30, 1955, but the congregation was divided for the third time in 1961. The original wooden church from Christ the King became St. Rita’s Chapel of Ease. A new rectory was built in 1960 adjoining the church to the north, facing Preston Road and the church has grown since that time.


St. James Episcopal Church Dallas

9845 Mccree Rd, Dallas, TX 75238

St. James Episcopal Church Dallas
St. James Episcopal Church Dallas

Another beautiful church of more recent vintage, St. James Episcopal Church is in the Lake Highlands and White Rock Lake area of Northeast Dallas. The St. James Episcopal School has been operating since 1968.

Not Technically in Dallas, but in Dallas County


Webb Chapel United Methodist Church

2536 Valley View Ln, Farmers Branch, TX 75234

Webb Chapel United Methodist Church in Farmers Branch
Webb Chapel United Methodist Church in Farmers Branch

Webb Chapel was the first Methodist church founded in Farmers Branch and in Dallas County. It was organized in the cabin of Isaac B. Webb on May 5, 1845. The sermon was preached by Sam Shook, a Methodist circuit rider. In 1846 a log cabin church, eighteen feet square with a wooden floor, was built on Webb Chapel Road between Selma and Veronica. In 1903 the congregation built a “Little White Church” on Valley View in the center of downtown Farmers branch.  The present sanctuary was built in 1955, using some of the original timbers from the “Little White Church.” Located at 2536 Valley View, the huge trees in the Courtyard of Webb Chapel United Methodist Church are said to be over one hundred years old. This church has a rich history having observed its 150th anniversary in 1995.


First Baptist Church of Farmers Branch, TX

13017 William Dodson Pkwy, Farmers Branch, TX 75234

Before 1876, the church was known as the Union Baptist Church. It was organized in a pioneer cabin, May 10, 1846, under the leadership of David Myers.  It was the earliest Baptist Church in Dallas County. Charter members were Franklin Bowles, J. B. and Margaret Ann Lee, Letticia Myers, and John Miller Myers. Soon afterward, Sarah and Thomas Keenan and Narcissus Wilburn joined. In 1847 the Baptists, aided by other settlers, build their first meeting house on land given by Thomas and Sarah Keenan. This land was near the Keenan Cemetery in Farmers Branch. The Rev. David Myers, the original pastor, served until his death in 1853. The congregation of the church split for some unknown reason, and the Union Baptist Church moved to Carrollton. Part of the congregation stayed in Farmers Branch and established the Farmers Branch Missionary Baptist Church which became known (October 5, 1951) as the First Baptist Church of Farmers Branch.

Like many large cities, Dallas has a multitude of old church buildings that have changed significantly over time. Congregations grow, or shrink, and find different structures to suit their needs. Other old church buildings in Dallas have been demolished or repurposed. St Joseph’s Catholic Church and Academy on Swiss Avenue was converted into a residence. Some structures are still used as houses of worship, but their congregation has moved, and another has taken its place. Here is a list of old churches in Dallas that are still standing, but do not contain their original congregation.

Map of Where to Find Some of the Oldest Churches in Dallas

21 of the Oldest Churches in Dallas, Texas

Like many large cities, Dallas has a multitude of old church buildings that have changed significantly over time. Congregations grow, or shrink, and find different structures to suit their needs. Other old church buildings in Dallas have been demolished or repurposed. St Joseph’s Catholic Church and Academy on Swiss Avenue was converted into a residence. Some structures are still used as houses of worship, but their congregation has moved, and another has taken its place. We initially covered 21 historical churches in Dallas. Here are other old churches or congregations in Dallas.

1875; Present sanctuary 1957

Temple Emanu-El

8500 Hillcrest Ave, Dallas, TX 75225


Originally called the Jewish Congregation Emanu-El, Temple Emanuel was founded around 1875. Temple Emanu-El of Dallas, Texas was the first Reform Jewish congregation in North Texas and is the largest synagogue in the South. Temple Emanuel built its first temple in 1876 on Commerce Street in downtown Dallas. The second location was at South Ervay and St. Louis Streets, and the present site was built in 1957. Today, Temple Emanuel is the largest synagogue in the South. The Temple Emanu-El Cemetery was established by the congregation in 1884 and today contains gravestones exhibiting death dates before 1884 that were moved here in 1956 from Dallas’ first Jewish cemetery established in 1872 on Akard Street.

1876; Old sanctuary built between 1919-1921

St. James AME Former Church Building

624 N. Good Latimer Expressway, Dallas, TX

Much like St. Paul’s, African-American architect William Sydney Pittman constructed the St. James AME Church between 1919 and 1921. The Neoclassical-style building was built entirely by African American Contractors, workers, and electricians and housed the St. James congregation for sixty-four years. The church building was sold in 1983 and is today listed as a Dallas landmark. The church later changed its name to Greater ST. James Temple AME Church and is now located on Jim Miller Road in Dallas.


St. Paul’s Evangelical and Reformed Church

6464 E Lovers Ln, Dallas, TX 75214

St. Paul’s Evangelical and Reformed Church was established on December 1, 1889, and was originally named St. Paul’s German Evangelical Church and served a predominately German-speaking membership. St. Paul’s merged with another German Presbyterian congregation already in existence and moved to a  site at the corner of Texas and Florence Streets. The growing group built a new sanctuary in 1912 and services were held solely in the German language until World War I. The name was changed to St. Paul’s Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1934. The present site was purchased in 1953, and a new sanctuary was completed in April 1957.


1889; Former sanctuary 1915

Oak Cliff United Methodist Church

549  E. Jefferson Boulevard, Dallas, TX

While the congregation itself closed down and merged with Tyler Street United Methodist Church, the structure is still impressive. The original congregation met in a home at 8th Street and Lancaster in 1887. The next church was built in 1915 in Classical Revival style and remained occupied until 2015.


Church built in 1905; Now closed but listed as Dallas landmark

St Joseph’s Catholic Church and Academy

2712 Swiss Ave, Dallas, TX, 75204

The Dallas Archdiocese built St. Joseph’s Academy first in 1905. The Colonial Revival style church was later built in 1910 and was the fifth Catholic Church in Dallas. The church was converted into a private residence for actress Ronnie Claire Edwards. The property, one of the few historic buildings remaining in East Dallas/Deep Ellum, went up for sale in 2018.


Original structure built 1921; Present structure built in 1942

Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church

919 Morrell Avenue, Dallas, TX

The Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church was constructed in 1921 in East Oak Cliff. The masonry and traditional brick structure feature a cone-shaped, red rock church bell tower with a lighted cross on top. The original owner was the Oak Cliff Assembly of God Church, and the 1921 brick building faces Morrell Street (once called Beverly Avenue).


1913; Sanctuary built in 1925

Munger Place Church

5200 Bryan Street, Dallas, TX 75206

Munger Place Church in Dallas
Munger Place Church in Dallas

The Munger Place Methodist Church was founded in 1913. The sanctuary was built in 1925, and the church was one of the most influential in Dallas for years. After Old East Dallas went through a long period of decline, the former Munger Place congregation merged with the nearby Highland Park United Methodist Church, who took responsibility of the site. After extensive renovations in 2010, a new congregation called Munger Place Church launched out of the old building.

Looking for more Dallas architecture? Here are an additional 21 of the Oldest Churches in Dallas.

Map of Where to Find Some of the Oldest Churches in Dallas

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is big ya’ll, encompassing about 9,286 square miles. It’s bigger than Rhode Island and Connecticut combined and with traffic, can feel larger than the entire eastern seaboard combined. If you live on the Dallas side of the metro, you may find yourself wandering over to the Fort Worth side once or twice a year, if that. However, there’s plenty to see and do on that side that can make for a great day or weekend getaway. Here’s a quick list of over 20 things to do in Fort Worth, Texas.

Fort Worth Stockyards

2501 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth, TX 76164

Fort Worth Stockyard Station Fort Worth Stockyard Restaurants

Tourists are often disappointed when they visit Dallas and Houston because it doesn’t feel like the “Texas” they’ve seen on television or in movies with cowboys, cattle, and rodeos. The Fort Worth Stockyards Historic District embodies that Western spirit and puts on events from concerts to the rodeo that will satisfy that craving for the “Cowtown” spirit. The Stockyards opened for business in 1890, but parts of its livestock market date back to 1866. While visitors can still watch cowboys guide livestock down the roads in cattle drives and the area surrounding the market has an authentic Western motif. A general store, trading post, Star Café, and White Elephant Saloon are also available to visit. Side note: weekend crowds and even those around lunchtime on weekdays in the summer can be brutal. If you’re not a big fan of crowds, plan your visit accordingly. Parking is limited.

While the Texas Cowgirl Hall of fame is downtown, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame (2515 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth, TX 76164) is located in the historic stockyards.

While you’re in the area, go to Billy Bob’s Texas (2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth, TX 76164), an iconic honky-tonk restaurant that also offers dance lessons, bull riding, and an authentic Texas atmosphere.

Sundance Square

Sundance Square Plaza, Fort Worth, TX 76102

Sundance Square Plaza, Fort Worth, TX 76102

For a modern approach to city living, Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth is a pedestrian-friendly district with restaurants, clothing chains, and sports bars. Concerts, events, and holiday celebrations are held at the Sundance Square Plaza and the nearby Bass Performance Hall. The square, named after the Sundance Kid, began in 1979 as part of a renovation project of downtown Fort Worth. While keeping the historical integrity of the buildings, the area is a great mix of urban design that has over 30 places to eat, national stores, boutiques, movie screens, and more.

In the mix of Sundance Squire, check out Bass Performance Hall (525 Commerce St, Fort Worth, TX 76102), a performing arts venue. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra performs here as well as touring Broadway productions, ballet, and opera performances.

The Sid Richardson Museum (309 Main St, Fort Worth, TX 76102)can also be found in the Sundance Square. The museum features a collection of permanent and special exhibitions of paintings from the American West.

National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

1720 Gendy St, Fort Worth, TX 76107

National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of FameEstablished in 1975, and recently removed, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame celebrates women, past and present, whose lives typify the courage, resilience, and independence that helped shape the American West. The first floor has display and audio exhibits of famous historical cowgirls, such as Annie Oakley. The second floor has more contemporary exhibits showcasing women who have been cowgirls, ranchers, and other figureheads. Like the Fort Worth Stockyards, the museum gives a good taste of old-west Texas. A contemporary exhibit explores the unique relationship between women, horses, and the West. It’s very close to other museums, such as the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. Note: the construction is ongoing in this area, so follow the road signs for redirects and drive carefully.

Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

1600 Gendy St, Fort Worth, TX 76107

Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, right next to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and Will Rogers Memorial Center, opened in 1945 and moved to its current location in 1954. The museum includes hands-on science exhibits, the Fort Worth Children’s Museum, the Noble Planetarium, and IMAX films. The DinoLabs and DinoDig exhibits contain full articulations of dinosaur skeletons and a dig site that reproduces a local paleontological field. A 10,000-square-foot Cattle Raisers Museum is another exhibition dedicated to celebrating and preserving the cattle industry. The Innovation Studios are another great place for kids; five glass-walled studios include 6,000 feet of engaging learning spaces such as “Inventory,” “Doodler,” “Designer,” “Imaginer,” and “Explorer.” Another adventure is the exhibit called Tornado Alley, which explores the phenomena of this weather pattern.

Kimbell Art Museum

3333 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 76107

Kimbell Art MuseumKimbell Art Museum, near the  Museum of Science and History and across from the Will Rogers Memorial Center, contains over 350 works of renowned Asian- and European-focused collections, traveling art exhibitions, educational programs, and an extensive research library. The museum opened on October 4, 1972, as a result of donations to the Kimbell Art Foundation, established in 1936 by Kay and Velma Kimbell, Dr. and Mrs. Coleman Carter. Recent traveling exhibitions include The Age of Picasso and Matisse: Modern Masters from the Art Institute of Chicago (2013), and Botticelli to Braque: Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Scotland (2015). Entrance to the Kimbell collection is free of charge. Additional exhibitions, such as Monet: The Late Years, may have cover charges.

Across the street is the Will Rogers Memorial Center (3401 W Lancaster Ave, Fort Worth, TX 76107), an 85-acre entertainment, sports, and livestock center named for American humorist and writer Will Rogers. While it might be mistaken for a museum, it’s really a civic center type of place, so if you want to visit, check to see if any events or activities are being held there. Architecturally, it is quite the showpiece!

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

200 Darnell St, Fort Worth, TX 76107

Joe Mabel [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

Next door to the Kimbell Art Museum is the stunning home of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. This contemporary glass building houses more than 3,000 post-World-War-II artworks in all forms of media. The exhibits include paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs, and prints dated between 1945 and the present.  Pop and Minimalism art feature heavily as do other international movements such as German art from the 1970s and 1980s. The museum building itself is an example of modern art, which is comprised of five long, flat-roofed glass pavilions situated on a 1.5-acre pond.

Across Lancaster Ave (to the south) is Casa Manana, Inc. (3101 W Lancaster Ave, Fort Worth, TX 76107), a historic theater that stages Broadway shows and musicals.

Amon Carter Museum

3501 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 76107

Amon Carter MuseumLocated near the other two museums in the Fort Worth’s cultural district, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art includes Western artworks, Hudson River School paints, and other exhibits. The museum is currently closed for Summer 2019 for renovations but will be reopened to the public on September 14th. So, while it is not a summer destination at the moment, you can make plans for this coming fall or next summer. You can still installed the Google Arts & Culture App to explore virtual reality tours from the Amon Carter Museum of Art. Admission is always free to the museum’s permanent collection.

Fort Worth Botanic Garden

3220 Botanic Garden Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 76107

Fort Worth Botanic GardenThe oldest botanic garden in Texas, the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens are home to more than 2,500 species of plants in its 23 specialty gardens. The Japanese Garden is one of its true masterpieces, with koi-filled pools, crafted stonework, waterfalls, and sculptured landscapes. A 10,000-square-foot Conservatory has long winding paths of tropical foliage that can be enjoyed year-round. The gardens close at 5 p.m., but in March through May, the garden hosts Lanterns in the Garden from 6 to 10:00 p.m., with over 20 sets of lanterns crafted from silk, wire, and steel. Check the website for seasonal events and plan your visit accordingly.

Fort Worth Water Gardens

1502 Commerce St, Fort Worth, TX 76102

Fort Worth Water Gardens

Adjacent to the Fort Worth Convention Center, and near the historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral, is a 4.3-acre relaxing urban park that’s been called a “cooling oasis in the concrete jungle.” Fort Worth Water Gardens has three pools of water that work down into a blue meditation tool are encircled with cypress trees. The walls are covered with thing planes of water that cascade into the pool, providing for a relaxing area in the middle of the city.

Log Cabin Village

2100 Log Cabin Village Ln, Fort Worth, TX 76109

Phillip Barnhart [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]The Log Cabin Village is a living history museum with historic buildings and costumed actors that demonstrate life in mid-19th-century Texas. Six log houses dating to the mid-1800s were relocated to the present site and restored in the 1950s and 1960s. The Foster Cabin, a 1850s plantation log house, was added in the 1970s. The Marine School, dating from the 1870s, was added in 2003 and the Reynolds Smokehouse was restored in 2005. In addition to the log homes, other exhibits include a one-room schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, herb garden, water-powered gristmill. The exhibits interpret life on the North Texas frontier during the 1840s through 1890s.

Their only off-site location is the Van Zandt Cottage (2900 Crestline Rd, Fort Worth, TX 76107), built in the 1850s. This cottage is the oldest home in Fort Worth still on its original foundation.

Ball-Eddleman McFarland House

1110 Penn St, Fort Worth, TX 76102

[By Mark Fisher - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21847901]

The Eddleman–McFarland House, sometimes known as the Ball–Eddleman–McFarland House or just the McFarland House, is a large Victorian and Queen Anne-style home from the “Cattle Baron” family era. Howard Messer designed the house for Sarah Ball, and it was built in 1899. The exterior includes turrets, gables, copper finials, a slate tile roof, and a porch of red sandstone. The interior comprises ornate oak mantles, coffered ceilings, paneling, and parquet floors. The house is open for group or individual tours.

Panther Island Pavilion

395 Purcey St, Fort Worth, TX 76102

One of the premier outdoor venues of downtown Fort Worth, Panther Island Pavilion sits along the Trinity River that runs through downtown Fort Worth. With the skyline as its backdrop, the site provides multiple stages for entertainment and has the only waterfront stage in Texas. There is plenty of free parking at the pavilion, and you can bring your own float to float, kayak, or paddleboard along the river or rest on the sandy beach. You can also rent kayaks, tubes, and paddleboats onsite at the Panther Island rentals. Concerts and events are also held at an indoor stage called the Shack, a 10,000-square-foot building on the site.

Trinity Park

2401 University Dr, Fort Worth, TX 76107

Dameon Hudson [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

Stretching along the banks of the Trinity River, 252-acre Trinity Park offers an expansive series of trails and parks that offer a stunning view of the Fort Worth skyline. You can find a duck pond, water fountains, miniature railroad, as well as playgrounds. Several community events, such as Mayfest, and fun runs happen throughout the year.

Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge

9601 Fossil Ridge Rd, Fort Worth, TX 76135

Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge

Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge is a great place to escape from the hectic DFW Metroplex. Over 20 miles of hiking trails cross this 3,621-acre preserve that is home to a variety of Bison, gators, deer, and bird species. The natural area contains prairies, forests, and wetlands that allow visitors to explore what North Texas looked like in the early 20th century. All plants, animals, and nature objects are protected within the refuge, making it a relaxing place to view species in their own safe environments.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

9000 Blue Mound Rd, Fort Worth, TX 76131

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Half of the nation’s currency order is produced at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on the outside edges of Fort Worth. The Bureau offers free tours and visitors can see where billions of dollars are printed from an enclosed walkway suspended above the production floor. The experience includes an informative film, two levels of interactive exhibits, and displays showcasing currency history and the art of currency manufacturing. Note: The Bureau is nowhere near downtown or the stockyards so plan ahead if you want to see both in one day.

Burger’s Lake

1200 Meandering Rd, Fort Worth, TX 76114

Burger’s Lake is a 30-acre park featuring a one-acre spring lake for swimming. Certified lifeguards cover the two sandy beaches. A 20-foot slide and 25-foot trapeze accompany the six diving boards. Weekends are incredibly crowded, so try to go on a weekday or arrive as early as possible. Play in the sand and grass volleyball courts. Concessions are also available, where you can purchase items such as nachos, hot dogs, ice cream, etc.

Eagle Mountain Lake and Eagle Mountain State Park

11601 Morris Dido Newark Rd, Fort Worth, TX 76179

[Photo courtesy of the Tarrant Regional Water District]

Eagle Mountain Lake spans 8,694 acres and is about 12 miles north of Downtown Fort Worth. Numerous parks surround the lake along with marinas and boat rentals. The recreational lake is used for fishing, skiing, wakeboarding, and recreational boating, and there are some great hiking trails around the lake. Eagle Mountain Park itself has 450 acres of beautiful woodland and nearly 6 miles of hiking trails.

Texas Motor Speedway

3545 Lone Star Cir, Fort Worth, TX 76177

If you’re a fan of car racing, Texas Motor Speedway offers a racing surface you won’t soon forget. The 1,500-acre speedway also gives fans a unique experience with pit, pre-race, and garage passes. Texas Motor Speedway also has the world’s largest HD screen.

Lots of other entertainment and dining opportunities can be found throughout the city. What’s your favorite?

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Nestled in a quiet residential area near the bustling intersection of Frankford Road and the Dallas North Tollway sits the 12-acre site that used to be the town of Frankford, Texas. A former tiny prairie town, the site has an old cemetery, windmill, a white-framed church, creek, and prairie meadow native to 19th-century Texas.

It’s a well-hidden spot of nature hidden among some of the posh neighborhoods in far North Dallas. As you turn off Frankford Road onto Spyglass Drive, you’ll meander down beautiful, large landscaped lots and find yourself turning onto Muirfield Drive and landing at the Church of the Holy Communion. If you’re anything like me, I was trying to find the historical marker and thinking that the beautiful church looked much too modern and nothing like the pictures I had found online. At the end of the road from the church is a little wall that leads to a rocky road and a grass prairie. It looks like a time portal as you walk or drive beyond the gates, into an area stepped in time with large swatches of prairie with not much else. Follow that road, and you’ll find a gravel parking lot sitting in front of the Old Frankford Church.

The Town of Frankford 

There’s not much left of the community of Frankford that occupied the site near the natural springs along the Halls Branch of the Trinity River. The site was on the Shawnee Trail, and Native Americans would stop along the trail at the “everlasting springs.” These springs are located on the west bank of the creek near the bridge. Shawnee Trail in this area was later called the Texas Trail. Today it main runs along Preston Road. The prairie town of Frankford Crossing began to fade when it was bypassed by railroad construction, which went to nearby Addison (then called Noell Junction), and the site was eventually annexed into the city of Dallas. The post office, stores, many of the homes, and the Masonic Lodge were torn down or moved to other parts of the area. The land around what was left of the Frankford site was sold and eventually developed as the Bent Tree subdivision, country club, and golf course.

Town of Frankford, Texas, historical markerTown of Frankford, Texas, Indian Springs

The Old Frankford Church and Cemetery

The one-room church was built in 1897 and has been meticulously restored. The original church was destroyed by a tornado in the 1880s, and the current building was rebuilt using the wood from the first church. It was restored again in 2010. The Frankford Preservation Foundation reports that the church held services when a circuit rider was passing through the area.

While several denominations held services at the structure, the main one was Methodist, who were organized as part of a circuit in 1885. Although the town dissolved and people moved away, preachers continued to use the little church through the mid-1920s. Episcopal services began at the small church in the 1960s.

Old Frankford Church in Dallas, TexasOld Frankford Church historical marker

Periodically, the Frankford Preservation Foundation will hold guided tours of the area as well as a Spring Jazz Concert on The Prairie Music Festival. An annual candlelight service called Christmas on the Prairie is held the first Sunday evening in December every year. The church can also be reserved for wedding ceremonies as well.

Down the short road from the Old Frankford Church also lies one of the oldest cemeteries in the area, with the first unknown marked grave dating to 1862. Since the area was also an old Native American stomping ground, there is also speculation that some earlier burials are there as well. The Frankford Cemetary contains many old graves important to North Texas history, including the tomb of Addison Robertson, for whom Addison is named. It is maintained by the Frankford Cemetary Association.

Town of Frankford Old Cemetary MarkerVisiting Bird at the Old Frankford Cemetary

Prairie Grass

Surrounding the Old Frankford Church and cemetery are fields of unplowed, native prairie grass. Pioneers called the native big bluestem grass “turkey grass. This type of grass is one of the “Big Four” grasses of the Blackland Prairie that can grow up to eight feet tall. It is unusual to find in urban sites. The prairie grass has been cared for by generations, and the site lends itself to historical authenticity that can be hard to find. In the Spring, large blue and purple blooms can be seen throughout the prairie. The summer months present more of a traditional grassland appearance.

Town of Frankford Prairie

The Old Frankford Church and Cemetary site is a refreshing place to visit in North Dallas when you’ve had enough of steel, concrete, and traffic. It’s a tie-in back to the historical roots that maintain the peacefulness of a prairie meadow.

For more information, visit the Frankford Preservation Foundation.

Where to find it?

17400 Muirfield Dr, Dallas, TX 75287. Near Frankford and the Dallas North Tollway in Dallas

Town of Frankford Pinterest pin

From covered wagons and Civil War battlegrounds to the Old West and Bison, this drive along the Kansas prairie marches along the Santa Fe trail. Lanesfield Historic Site, for example, sits alongside the rocky Dilly road, an original stretch of the Santa Fe trail. In some spots, such as at Ivan Boyd Prairie Preserve, you can still see the grooves of the wagon wheels on the hillside before descending into the tallgrass prairie. The trail linked Independence, Missouri, with Santa Fe, New Mexico. During the peak year in 1866, the traffic along the trail had upwards of 5,000 wagons rumbling along the route. This scenic drive will take you from the outskirts of bustling Kansas City to the more Old West-town of Dodge City.

How long? One way is 388 miles or around 8 hours, with stops. It’s the stops that get you—some of these roads twist and turn, and you’ll wind up in some Kansas prairie wandering if you took a wrong turn. (Or a train, lots of trains crisscross this route). Dodge City has plenty of hotels, so it can be simpler to book a hotel there or in Wichita. If you want to only go to Dodge City, you can use I-35 to Highway 50 in Newton, KS and follow it into Dodge City. That takes about 5 hours.

When to go? April through October are great months in which to go. The weather changes quickly, so be sure to check it out before you hit the roads. Winter months can bring lots of snow and ice, so be careful.

This itinerary will start in Olathe, Kansas (or Kansas City, Missouri, which is just up the road on I-35).

Olathe, Kansas

Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farmstead

1200 E Kansas City Rd, Olathe, KS 66061

Once a bustling stagecoach shop, the Mahaffie Farmstead is the only working stop left on the Santa Fe Trail. The stop is 19th-century living history museum and farm with historical reenactments and era-specific activities. Daily activities can vary from stagecoach rides, living history programming, and a variety of livestock that live on the farm. During Wild West Days, you can visit cowboy camps, hear from Buffalo Soldiers, and take a stagecoach ride.

  • Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead (13800 Switzer Rd, Overland Park, KS 66221) has farm animals, gardens, a natural trail, and a full-scale one-room schoolhouse.
  • Olathe Prairie Center (26325 W 135th St, Olathe, KS 66061) is a nearby 300-acre tallgrass preserve and education site with trails that wind through the remaining prairie and riparian woodlands.
  • Walnut Grove One-Room School (11800 S. Pflumm Road, Olathe, KS 66062 or simply 119th and Pflumm) was established in 1878 in Olathe, Kansas, and in use as a school until 1951.

Note: You’ll turn down Dillie Road, which is part of the original Santa Fe Trail. I think the rocks may be original, as the street is entirely unpaved. As you curve around the bend, the first entrance to the right is to the KP&L Electrical Service. The actual entry into the Lanesfield Historic Site is a little hidden, so think of it as the first right after the KP&L transformer entrance road.

Edgerton, Kansas

Lanesfield Historic Site

18745 S Dillie Rd, Edgerton, KS 66021

Built in 1869, The limestone Lanesfield Historic Site is the only standing structure from Lanesfield, Kansas. The schoolhouse operated from 1869 to 1963 and is part of the site which also includes four outbuildings and a modern visitors center.  Lanesfield served as a mail stop on the Santa Fe Trail and has a marker on the site. Adjacent to the site is a short nature trail with an observation tower that provides a birds-eye view of the 1858 pre-Civil War battle between the Free-State Kansans and the Missouri Border Ruffians.

Note: You’ll be driving down some rocky, uneven roads during this part of the trip. (I guess it’s one way to stay authentic to the Santa Fe trail spirit). Just be sure to go slow and ignore the “uneven road” signs that your car flashes at you (or was that just me?). When you get back on the paved road, you’ll turn right and head down toward Ivan Boyd Prairie Preserve.

The actual parking and entrance to the preserve itself are before the rocky road that leads to the Black Jack Battlefield Park. It looks like a rest stop on the left-hand side of the street. However, there are two markers, a circular drive (where you park) and then you walk across a bridge on to the preserve. It can be easy to miss, primarily if you are relying on signs.

Wellsville, KS

Ivan Boyd Prairie Preserve

2011 North 200 Road, Wellsville, KS 66092, USA

Located near Baldwin in south Douglas country, the Ivan Boyd Prairie Preserve is a relaxing place in the Kansas prairie with wildflowers and narrow swathes of grass that mark the wagon tracks of the old Santa Fe trail. The preserve is adjacent to Black Jack Battlefield and Nature Park, which commemorates the pre-Civil War (1856)  battle of Black Jack that happened as a result of the Pottawatomie Massacre. In the prairie grass, you can also find an old marker that reads “SURVEY 1825,” a monument erected to honor the Santa Fe Trail and its earlier travelers.

Note: Cell phone service is very spotty in this area, especially in the Black Jack Battlefield and Nature Park. I wouldn’t recommend this leg of the trip at any point after dark. (Not because it’s in a dangerous area per se but because it’s isolated and there are no phone signals or road lights).

Council Grove, Kansas

Kaw Mission State Historic Site

500 N Mission St, Council Grove, KS 66846-1433

In the rugged, open grassland of the Flint Hills, rests the town of Council Grove, which played a major role in the growth of the Santa Fe Trail. Visitors can take a twenty-one-site historical tour of the town and its Santa Fe Trail sites. The U.S. government signed a treaty with Osage chiefs in 1825 that granted safe passage through the Native American lands. Twenty-five years later, the Kaw Mission is where 30 Kaw boys lived and attended school from 1851 to 1854. The group lived here until the U.S. government removed them to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. Kaw Nation still exists as a sovereign, self-governing nation with administrative headquarters in Kaw City, Oklahoma.

Allegawaho Heritage Memorial Park (Dunlap Road and X Avenue, Council Grove, KS 66846) is an outdoor attraction every June during Washunga Days in Council Grove and is considered sacred land by the Kanza people.

Structure at Allegawaho Heritage Memorial Park
Structure at Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park

Hillsboro, Kansas

Pioneer Adobe House

508 Memorial Dr, Hillsboro, KS 67063

Nestled in the Cottonwood River Valley, the Marion Reservoir is surrounded by a network of hiking trails that wander among wildflowers, hardwoods, and water sports. West of Marion, the drive heads into the Mennonite community of Hillsboro. One of the four museums in Hillsboro is the Pioneer Adobe House, built in 1876. Constructed of air-dried adobe bricks, the house was made of local prairie materials and is furnished with articles and displays related to pioneer life. The Kreutziger School House (508 Memorial Dr., Hillsboro, KS 67063) is a one-room schoolhouse that started in 1886 and operated in 1960. You can also view a replication of an original gristmill called the Friesen Dutch Windmill from 1876, that was reconstructed using authentic materials and construction materials.

Canton, Kansas

Maxwell Wildlife Refuge

2565 Pueblo Rd, Canton, KS 67428

Bison at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge. Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/WikiImages-1897/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=60592">WikiImages</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=60592">Pixabay</a>

Home to one of the few surviving wild buffalo herds, the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge protects about 200 bison that wander 2,200 acres. The herd used to be comprised of some 60 to 75 million bison that roamed the prairies and shared the land with the wagons that roamed along the Santa Fe Trail. A tour costs around $10 for adults and $5 for children under eleven.

McPherson, Kansas

McPherson County District Courthouse

117 N Maple St, McPherson, KS 67460

Built in 1893, this historic three-story limestone courthouse has a square central bell and a clock tower that rises to 105 feet. The clock was constructed in 1908. Nearby is the McPherson Operate House (219 S. Main Street, McPherson, KS 67460), which held its first performance in 1889. The building also later served as a cultural center for performances, suffrage meetings, movies, political rallies, retail shops, and apartments.

Stafford, Kansas

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

1434 NE 80th St, Stafford, KS 67578


Waterfowl at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge [US Fish & Wildlife Service]Leaving McPherson, Highway 56 trail descends into many people’s vision of the Kansas landscape. Turning south onto Route 14 toward Sterling, open countryside is dotted with clusters of cottonwoods.  The Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is a 22,000-acre home of more than 250 species of birds and includes inland salt marsh and sand prairie. It’s an oasis of the Great Plains and is the transition zone of the eastern and western prairies. What is a sand prairie? They’re sand dunes covered with prairie grass, with elements of the eastern tallgrass prairie and the western short-grass prairie.

Larned, Kansas

Santa Fe Trail Wagon at the Fort Larned Historic Site [Newhavenhouse [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]]
Fort Larned Historic Site

Santa Fe Trail Center

1349 K-156 Hwy, Larned, KS 67550

The Santa Fe Trail and Research Center is in Learned, which has exhibits that depict how central Kansas was impacted by the effect of westward expansion and the Santa Fe Trail. Here you’ll find authentic displays of prehistoric Native American artifacts, antique furniture, trade items from the Santa Fe trail, and other artifacts that impacted the region. You can also find over 7,000 historical photographs of people and historic sites from the 19th and century 20th century.

Fort Larned National Historic Site

1767 KS-156, Larned, KS

Waterfowl at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge [US Fish & Wildlife Service]

Established in 1859 to garrison troops policing the Santa Fe Trail, the stone and sandstone buildings of Fort Larned National Historic Site have a visitor center, heritage gardens, and educational programs. Fort Larned was also the site of the Medicine Lodge Treaty in 1867.  In 2019, the Fort is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Buffalo Soldiers.

Dodge City, Kansas

Boot Hill Museum

500 W Wyatt Earp Blvd, Dodge City, KS 67801


Boot Hill Museum Exhibit in Dodge City, along the Santa Fe Trail [Gerald B. Keane [Public domain]]
Boot Hill Museum Exhibit
Dodge City was once called nicknames like the “Wickedest Little City in America” and “Queen of the Cowtowns.” Where Wyatt Earp once worked as assistant city marshal and Bat Masterson once served as under-sheriff after raising a little trouble himself. Named after nearby Fort Dodge, the city once operated as a significant trading post on the Santa Fe Trail as well as a wild frontier town with saloons and old-time dance halls. From the Dodge City War of 1883 to the Long Branch Saloon, Dodge City was a true frontier settlement of the old west.

Today, you can still view those glory days with lively, interactive museums at the Boot Hill Museum. Over 60,000 objects, photographs, and documents from the 1870s through the 1920s can be found at the museum. Several historic buildings have also been moved onto the property, such as the 1865 Fort Dodge Jail, 1879 Hardesty House, 1870s Blacksmith Shop, 1903 Santa Fe Locomotive, a 1930 Santa Fe Depot from Sitka, Kansas, and an early Union Church that had Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson as deacons.  Other places to see in Dodge City include:

  • Mueller-Schmidt House Home of Stone (112 E Vine St, Dodge City, KS 67801), an 1882 limestone residence that is filled with period antiques.
  • Historic Santa Fe Depot (201 E Wyatt Earp Blvd, Dodge City, KS 67801), is a local theater venue that was constructed from 1898 19th-century passenger train station and Fred Harvey Hotel.
  • The Santa Fe Trail Rut Site (Highway 50/400, Dodge City, KS 67801) is a site in the gently rolling hills of the Kansas plains with ruts from the wagons that rolled along the Santa Fe Trail. They can be found 9 miles west of Dodge City.

Going back, you’ll take Highway 50 east until you hit I-35. Follow I-35 back up to Olathe/Kansas City area or head south down to Wichita.

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Osawatomie, Kansas was founded in 1854 by Free-State families from the Ohio Valley and New England. Osawatomie was a major point of interest during the Bleeding Kansas era. The Battle of Osawatomie, the most significant battle during the conflict over slavery during that time, stood as a rallying cry for Free State forces to fight proslavery forces in the Kansas Territory. In fact, after the sacking of Osawatomie by John Reed’s proslavery milia men, John Brown was inspired by the sacking of the town to start his abolitionist crusade. A great thing about exploring Osawatomie is that the historical society has put up signs throughout town by the historical attractions. It takes away the guesswork of wondering if the oldest church is this stone one or a similar one across the street.

Osawatomie can be found by exiting Kansas Highway 7, just south of Paola and about an hour south of downtown Kansas City, Missouri. After you exit the highway, you’ll pass the town’s huge cemetery and then continue into the downtown area on Main Street. It’s a little bit of shock when you first enter the town (I was looking for the “Welcome to Sunnydale sign”) but it really is a scenic, great small town once you get into it.

First, A Little Background About John Brown

Osawatomie is one of the towns in the area that had border skirmishes as a result of “Bleeding Kansas,” where pro-slavery militias from Missouri and free state supporters from Kansas often clashed. To be more specific, pro-slavery militants from Missouri were known for going in and sacking entire towns in the eastern portion of Kansas over the issue of slavery. In Kansas City, Kansas, for example, people in Kansas were known to cross the river and rescue slaves from the other side, bringing them into freedom in the Kansas territory. One such abolitionist was John Brown, born on May 9, 1800, in Torrington, Connecticut.

John Brown proclaimed his support of the antislavery movement after the murder of abolitionist and editorialist Elijah P. Lovejoy in 1837. He attended lectures by African American abolitionists Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth. He established a militant group to prevent the capture of those who were attempting to escape from slavery in response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. After his sons moved to the Kansas Territory and began reporting to him the encounters with proslavery supporters, Brown headed west to join the antislavery cause and to help of ensuring that Kansas remained a free state.


Statue of John Brown at the John Brown Museum State Historic Site
Statue of John Brown at the John Brown Museum State Historic Site

After arriving in Kansas, he stayed with his half-sister, Florella (Brown) Adair and her husband, Reverend Samuel Adair, near Osawatomie. He stayed in the cabin, today in the John Brown Museum State Historic Site, as he rallied support for the anti-slavery movement. After the sacking of Lawrence in 1856, and the death of his son Frederick at one of several massacres and battle sites in the area, Brown left the area to raise funds for the abolitionist cause. With the need to lead raids and free slaves, he returned to Kansas in June 1858. He returned east in early 1859 and planned a raid on the armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. He was captured, tried for treason and executed in Charles Town, West Virginia on December 2, 1859. Osawatomie, Kansas, has many sites and statues in commemoration of this man who is considered either a hero or a madman.

On March 20, 1854, the Republican Party of Kansas (National Union Party during the Civil War) was founded by a consortium of antislavery politicians who opposed the potential expansion of slavery into the Western territories. The “Bleeding Kansas” border skirmishes lasted until the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865.

Osawatomie History Museum

628 Main St, Osawatomie, KS 66064

Located on Main Street in historic downtown Osawatomie, the History Museum includes exhibits on the pre-Civil War territory and bleeding Kansas. It also provides information on rural culture, Osawatomie State Hospital, the railroad, and the social history of the area. The site also includes the MoPac Railroad Depot Museum and its history in Miami County.

Across the street and down at the end of the block is an old red building. On that plot of land stood the old building in which the Republican Party was founded in Kansas. On May 18, 1859, the Republican Party was organized by newspaper editor Horace Greeley at the Jillson Hotel. Later that summer in July, the Wyandotte Constitution made Kansas a free state. The Osage Valley Hotel was operating at the time. Over 5,000 people filled and surrounded the hotel. The original structure was later torn down, and the current building was built in 1890.

Adair Cabin/ John Brown Museum State Historic Site

1000 Main St, Osawatomie, KS 66064


Located in John Brown Park, the John Brown State Historic site houses the log cabin inhabited by Reverend Samuel Adair and his family. Reverend Adair was the brother-in-law of John Brown, who was known to stay at his cabin. The cabin itself is inside the stone structure, with artifacts and exhibits about the struggles of early pioneers and of those who took a firm stand against the spread of slavery into Kansas Territory. After the August 30, 1856 Battle of Osawatomie, Brown was in and out of town and made a raid into Missouri on December 23 to liberate slaves and other property from slaveholders. Exhibits showcase how the group was hidden in the Adair Cabin and later made their way into Canada and freedom.

John Brown Battleground / John Brown Memorial Park

John Brown State Park, Osawatomie, KS 66064

On August 30, 1856, the Battle of Osawatomie was fought on this battleground that is now a part of the town park. John Brown had led a force of about 30 Free State guerilla fighters in the battle against 250 proslavery activists. Brown’s battle plan was to distract the proslavery forces from attacking Osawatomie by making a strong stand and withdrawing.

1854 First Land Office

699-601 Lincoln Ave, Osawatomie, KS 66064

1854 First Land Office in Osawatomie, KS

Initially built in 1854, this land office is now the home of the Osawatomie Historical Society. The red building was used by H.B. Smith, the first mayor of Osawatomie, and his brother who were the first land patent agents in the Kansas territory. In the summer, it is operated as a tourist information center. Nearby is the Trail of Death plaque, a memorial to the Pottawatomie Indians.

Note: It can be tricky to find. Park at the parking lot/shopping center across the street from the Old Stone Church. You can walk across 6th Street to the church and then walk over to the Land office. It’s actually between two roads on Lincoln Avenue and in a little section of land. You can also follow the right side of the road to one of the oldest cemeteries in Osawatomie.

Old Stone Church

Old Stone Church, Osawatomie, KS 66064

Built by the brother-in-law of John Brown, Reverend Samuel Adair dedicated the church on July 14, 1861. One of the first churches in Kansas, the Old Stone Church is typical of the church structures built during the pioneering days in Kansas. Like many buildings in the area, the church was made of native stone from the nearby hills. You can only view the outside of the church (although it’s easy to peek through the windows), and it can be rented for weddings and other special meetings.

The Mills House

125 1st St, Osawatomie, KS 66064 (across the street from the RV park)


The Mills HouseThis Queen Anne House was built in 1902 by William M. Mills, an oilman from Pennsylvania. The house is listed on the National Register. It is, however, a private residence so you cannot stop in and tour the home.

Original Osawatomie State Hospital

500 State Hospital Dr, Osawatomie, KS 66064


Founded more than 150 years ago, Osawatomie State Hospital is where Kansas treats mentally ill patients. The new facility is just your typical hospital. However, the old, De Jong central structure is one of several vacant structures can still be found on site. You can’t tour (nor do you want to), but it’s interesting to look at the architecture. How is any of this relevant? The Old Main Building was one of the oldest Mental Health Building surviving west of the Mississippi River. It was razed in 2003. The surviving De Jour Structure is the only portion of the original structures still standing. You can see a picture of Old Main on the grounds of the current state hospital.

Looking for nearby attractions?

Paola, Kansas

Lawrence, Kansas

Fort Scott, Kansas

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Much like the city of Lawrence, Fort Scott, Kansas, is an old frontier military town that played a significant role during the turbulent “Bleeding Kansas” era. From the diverse Downtown Historic District to a large 1840s military fort, Fort Scott is still on a crossroads (U.S. Route 69) that connects Kansas City to other cities such as Joplin, Missouri, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. With less than 9,000 total population, the town has a surprising large downtown with Victorian-era buildings and outdoor activities. In addition to sites in the city limits, several historic sites within a short distance tie into the pre-Civil War conflict.

First, A Little History of Bleeding Kansas and the Fort Scott Area

Few events helped shaped Kansas than the Civil War, with the moniker Bleeding Kansas symbolizing the many border war battles that happened between 1854 and 1961 between anti-slavery Free-State Kansas and Pro-Slavery state Missouri. With less than ten miles between Katy Missouri and the town of Fort Scott, the area was a hotbed of violent confrontations.

Understanding this background and how it shaped the growth and development of Kansas, and its need to remain a free state despite being somewhat isolated from other free states by the slave state of Missouri, American Indian territory, and Texas.

Maria des Cygnes Massacre Site

26426 E 1700th Rd, Pleasanton, KS 66075

Just thirty miles North of Fort Scott lies the Marais des Cygnes Massacre State Historic Site, where Missouri border ruffians led a particularly deadly trade outside the village of Trading Post. Eleven free-state men were captured, marched into a ravine, and shot. Five were killed, an additional five were seriously injured, and one escaped unharmed. Soon afterward, John Brown built a fortified cabin just south of the Ravine and later a stone house was built near the site. You can drive through the site today, park, and look at the ravine and the area.

Be aware that this site does get flooded during heavy rains and can be tricky to find. It is a beautiful, peaceful setting in its own right, set back to nature.

Trading Post Museum

15710 N 4th St, Pleasanton, KS 66075

Trading Post Museum, Pleasanton, Kansas
Trading Post Museum

Near the site is the Trading Museum Post, located in the oldest existing settlement in Kansas that is now a ghost town. Trading Post, Kansas, has existed since 1825. Many of the men in the Maria des Cygnes Massacre were taken from this site. The area contains the massacre site, the Civil War Battle of Mine Creek, and this museum devoted to mid-19th-century history. The Trading Post Museum is a great museum to stop and learn more about Kansas history and Bleeding Kansas.

The museum is open April 1 through November 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturdays. Directly next to the museum is the old Trading Post Cemetery.

Mine Creek Civil War Battlefield State Historic Site

20485 Kansas Highway 52, Pleasanton, KS 66075

The Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site is 2.5 miles southwest of Pleasanton, Kansas, and the old Trading Post Museum. This site commemorates the Civil War’s Battle of Mine Creek, the only Civil War battle held in Kansas. On October 25, 1864, approximately 2,800 Union troops attacked and defeated about 8,000 Confederates along the banks of Mine Creek. While it wasn’t a traditional Bleeding Kansas battle site, it was the inevitable battle that came about as a result of earlier skirmishes.

Inside Fort Scott, Kansas

Fort Scott National Historic Site

Market, Fort Scott, KS 66701

Few historic sites offer as many intact structures as Fort Scott National Historic Site near downtown. Tensions over slavery and the turmoil of Bleeding Kansas made Fort Scott a critical military stronghold in the area. The 17-acre park features 20 military structures dating to 1842. The buildings were also temporarily used as part of the town, such as two structures being used as hotels. As part of Bleeding Kansas history, one of the officer’s buildings was used as the Free State Hotel. Located directly across the parade ground was a former infantry barracks used as the Pro-Slavery Hotel. The battles during Bleeding Kansas and the Civil War once again thrust the Fort into use by the Army and the hotels were soon disbanded.

Here’s a video from the National Parks Service that provides detailed information about Fort Scott’s role in Bleeding Kansas.

Bleeding Kansas Video Courtesy of National Parks Service

Interpretive exhibits, period furnishings, and living history programs are available. Self-guided tours are available daily. You can also walk through the restored five acres of tallgrass prairie.

Historic Downtown

Directly Next to Fort Scott

The downtown Fort Scott district has charming buildings that date back to the founding era of the Fort, where the area was the last stop before entering the countries frontier. Victorian-era buildings can still be seen as you drive through the area with its myriad of antique shops, restaurants, and small business establishments. You can walk from the parking lot of Fort Scott to the downtown space, so there isn’t as big a need to go and find parking spaces.

Fort Scott National Cemetery

900 E National Ave, Fort Scott, KS 66701

Fort Scott National Cemetery
Fort Scott National Cemetery

Located on the eastern outskirts of Fort Scott is one of three national military cemeteries in Kansas. In 1861, The U.S. Army used part of the old Presbyterian Church graveyard. Later the following year, the cemetery and an adjoining tract of land were designated as the Fort Scott National Cemetery.  At the close of the Civil War, soldiers buried in the vicinity were re-interred at this cemetery. In addition, the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry, stationed at Fort Scott during the Civil War, has a granite monument memorial in the cemetery. Also, the Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1993, and a memorial for combat infantryman was erected in 2003.

Other Attractions

Gordon Parks Center for Culture and Diversity

2108 South Horton, Fort Scott, Kansas 66701

The Gordon Parks Museum honors the life and work of Gordon Parks, internationally known photographer, filmmaker, writer, and musician. It works to use his life story to teach about artistic creativity, cultural awareness, and the role of diversity in our lives.

Fort Scott Trolley Tours

231 E Wall St, Fort Scott, KS 66701

The Fort Scott Trolley Tour is a 50-minute narrated tour of Historic Fort Scott, Kansas, est. in 1842. The tour includes driving by/through national landmarks Fort Scott National Historic Site National Park, National Cemetery No. 1; historic mansions and buildings circa 1880’s with amazingly detailed architecture; Gunn Park 155-acre beautiful park with 7 stone shelter houses, 2 lakes, the Marmaton River, trails and more; Gordon Parks Museum; and the Downtown Historic District.

Gunn Park

1010 Park Ave, Fort Scott, KS 66701

Need a place to stop and rest? Gunn Park has two lakes that allow you to stop and walk around. In addition, there are 6.5 miles of single track and mountain bike trails along the Marmaton River. The Bleeding Kansas hiking trail is a 2.8-mile trail that leads out of Gunn Park to the edge of the Marmaton River.

From the dazzling and rocky seascapes of the Northern Coast to the sun-drenched beaches of Southern California, this road trip is filled with scenic vistas, sandy beaches, majestic cliffs, and ancient forests. Pacific Coast Highway, California State Route 1, runs north to south along the coast through (sometimes unnerving) twists and turns that curve through seascapes, mountain roads, and redwoods. SR 1 starts near Interstate 5 (I-5) near Dana Point, California up to its northernmost part near Leggett as its intersections with US Highway 101.

Quick TipAt times, parts of the road are closed by frequent landslides, especially during seasonal rains. Check the weather and to see if the route along SR 1 is open. [Want to try something different? Take Amtrak’s Coast Starlight up the coast and avoid the traffic issues.]

This road trip is broken up into three parts—Northern California, Central California, and Southern California. I recommend heading north to south as you get closer and better views of the water. Feel free to mix it up! The endpoint is Dana Point, where Highway 1 ends.

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip — Northern California Itinerary

This portion of the Pacific Coast Highway focuses on northern California and works its way down to the Marian Headlands and San Francisco.

How long? 200 miles, around 5 hours without stops. If you plan on stopping for camping or trails, make it a two-day trip.

When to go? Without much winter weather, it’s popular all year long. Winter, spring, and fall are optimal as summer can bring in fire season. Summers are also really foggy going down the coast.

Fort Bragg

MacKerricher State Park

24100 Mackerricher Park Rd, Fort Bragg, CA 95437

MacKerricher State Beach [J.smith [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]]
MacKerricher State Beach
Start at this spectacular 2,200-acre preserve, with more than 10 miles of ocean frontage, cliffs, beaches, and headland. Playful seals bask on the rocks below Laguna Point, and you can find fields of tall grass, and poppy in the park as well. For people interested in preservation, you can find a wetland ecosystem and native dunes at the Ten Mile Dunes complex. The park is also home to more than 90 species of birds. Walk down the Haul Road Trail, which hugs the coast for several miles.

Jug Handle State Reserve

CA-1, Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Jug Handle State Reserve [Miguel Vieira [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]]
Coastline at Jug Handle State Reserve
The next stop on the Pacific Coast Highway, Northern California Itinerary journey is Jug Handle State Reserve, another dream for geology-geeks (like me). Coastal erosion and shifting land masses have led this 776-acre park to have five marine terraces of sediment. Each terrace has its own history, and each layer of sediment is 100 feet higher and about 100,000 older than the one beneath it. The lowest terrace supports prairie, followed by a redwood forest, followed by a pygmy forest of cypresses and pines. You can walk along a well-marked 2.5-mile Ecological Staircase Trail that explores flora and fauna at three wave-cut terraces. There is also a sandy beach where you can stop and view both the terraces and the ocean.


Russian Gulch State Park

CA-1, Mendocino, CA 95460

Russian Gulch State Park [© Frank Schulenburg from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Waterfall_in_Russian_Gulch_State_Park.jpg]
Waterfall at Russian Gulch State Park
South of Point Cabrillo, you’ll cross the Russian Gulch Bridge, where you can stop and view the bridge, take the North Trail Trailhead or visit Russian Gulch, State Park.  Beaches, coves, tide pools, and woodland forests make this park. You can find 15 miles of trails, with five miles open to bicycles, with the Headlands Trail offering different views of the Pacific Ocean and the Devil’s Punch Bowl sinkhole. This point of interest is a 200-foot-long sea cut tunnel that collapsed at its inland end. Going deeper into the park, you can find woodlands of pine, maple, alder, and laurel trees along with a 36-foot waterfall. Swimming is allowed from the beach at the mouth of Russian Gulch Creek, along with SCUBA diving and tide pool exploring.

Little River

Van Damme State Park

8001 CA-1, Little River, CA 95456

Van Damme State Park [Jimmy Coupe [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]]
Van Damme State Park
Van Damme State Park is a 1,831-acre park where the forest meets the sea. The park offers a lush fern-filled forest, scenic beach, and ten miles of hiking trails that lead into the mature forest with Douglas firs, Pacific hemlocks, and redwoods. Walk along the Fern Canyon Scenic trail, into Fern Canyon with its growth of assorted wildflowers, rhododendrons, and trees. The trail itself is east of the beach while the parking lot is to the west. Don’t try to swim at this beach, however, as like most of the northern coastal beaches, the waves are cold and swift. Also, it gets fairly chilly and foggy even during the summer, so bring a light jacket.

If you only have an hour at this stop, the state park suggests taking Airport Road out to the pygmy forest. A 5-mile walk through the redwoods and ferns is another amazing trail with beautiful views.

Point Arena

Point Arena Light Station

45500 Lighthouse Rd, Point Arena, CA 95468

Pointe Arena Lighthouse [Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/12019-12019/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1599168">David Mark</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1599168">Pixabay</a>]
Point Arena Light Station
Point Arena Lighthouse is two miles north of Point Arena, once a busy logging port. The 115-foot Lighthouse Tower and its 1896 Fog Signal Building can be toured by climbing up its 147 steps. You’ll also take in stunning views of the sea and coastline, including the 23 acres of coastline nearby. Museum and tower tours are currently $8 per person for ages 12 and up, $1 for ages 5 to 11, and free for those under 5.


Gualala Point Regional Park

42401 CA-1, Gualala, CA 95445


Gualala Point Regional Park

Gualala Point Regional Park is where the Gualala River meets the sea. You can stop and walk the 2.9 miles of trails that connect the beach to the coastal bluffs and estuary. Rarely ever crowded, this beach is popular for whale watching, beachcombers, and day hikers.


Fort Ross Chapel [By User:Introvert - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=525364]
Fort Ross Chapel

Salt Point State Park

25050 CA-1, Jenner, CA 95450

Salt Point State Park is a 6,000-acre state park with over 20 miles of hiking trails and 6 miles of rocky coastline. It’s a beautiful place to stop on the ride for a (stony) walk along the shore. Stump Beach is a great little beach with lots of driftwood and mountains on both sides. You will also have limited cell service, so be sure to print out directions when going in. It’s also close to the next stop, Fort Ross State Historic Park.

Fort Ross State Historic Park

19005 Coast Hwy, Jenner, CA 95450

This 3,400-acre park offers unspoiled natural landscapes in addition to a reconstruction of an Imperial Russian-era fur trading outpost. Surrounded by redwood forests and sandy beaches, the park was established in 1090. Fort Ross itself was active from 1812 to 1841, built by representatives of the Russian-American Fur Company. The park includes the 1836 Rotchev House, the Kuskov House, a weathered redwood blockade, a commander’s headquarters, and a Russian Orthodox chapel, crowned by two towers.


Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

17000 Armstrong Woods Rd, Guerneville, CA 95446

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

One of the first virgin redwood preserves, Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve preserves 805 acres of coastal redwoods. Twenty miles of trails with varying difficulty lead you dense forests of pine and oak into the slopes of McCray Mountain, and fields of wildflowers. The tallest tree in the park is the Parson Jones Tree, which is more than 310 feet in height and is less than a mile from the park’s entrance. Also, less than 0.5-mile from the park entrance is the Colonel Armstrong Tree, estimated to be over 1400 years old. One of the easiest one-mile is the Pioneer Nature Trail that leads from the park entrance to the Armstrong Tree and Forest Theater.

Bodega Bay

Sonoma Coast State Park, Bodega Head Trail Beach

3799 Westshore Rd, Bodega Bay, CA 94923

Sonoma Coast State Park on Pacific Coast Highway Roadtrip [Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/abalboa-8748544/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=3335157">Angelito Balboa</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=3335157">Pixabay</a>]
Coastline at Sonoma Coast State Park
Moving through the village of Bodega Bay, famous for its seafood and harborside views, you’ll find Bodega Head, which marks the start of the Sonoma Coast State Beach. This chain of parks spans 17 miles from Bodega Head down to Vista Trail. Bodega Head itself is the rocky headline that forms the entrance to the harbor. There are many hiking trails on the ocean side. Picnicking beneath the cliffs of Schoolhouse Beach is another great option.


Tomales Bay State Park, Heart’s Desire Beach

"Adam Derewecki</a> from <a href=

Protected by winds by Inverness Ridge, this park covers the 13-mile inlet that separates Point Reyes from the mainland. The park is divided into three distinct park areas, with Heart’s Desire Beach which offers a gently sloping, surf-free relaxing seashore that is the heart of the state park. Hiking trails lead to Indian Beach, Pebble Beach, and Shell Beach. In addition to the beaches, you will also find forests, grassy meadows, and marshes with a variety of trees, wildflowers, and wildlife.

Point Reyes National Seashore

1 Point Reyes-Petaluma Rd, Inverness, CA 94937

The Point Reyes National Seashore extends around the Point Reyes Peninsula, a craggy stretch of shoreline that extends for some 70 miles. Expansive sandy beaches, open grasslands, grassy hillside, and forests cover this park. You can also walk a short paved loop that explores the San Andreas Fault Zone. Take a leisurely drive through Inverness Ridge to the beaches and wildlife viewing areas. Whale watching is a popular activity as you can watch gray whale migrations from the Chimney Rock and Lighthouse areas. It is a huge park, so stop by the Bear Valley Visitor Center to get different itineraries for your stay.

Quick Tip In 2019, the National Park Service is restoring the Lighthouse so there will be closures. Check the state website for specific dates.

Mill Valley

Muir Woods National Monument

1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941


Muir Woods National Monument [PictorialEvidence [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Inside the Muir Woods National Monument
The last remaining strand of redwoods in the Bay Area, Mui Word’s Cathedral Grove soar up to 250 feet above the forest floor. Over six miles of trails lead visitors along the banks of Redwood Creek and into the heart of the grove. The trails include a 1/2 hour loop, a 1-hour loop, and a 1 1/2 hour loop. Longer trails lead up into surrounding Mount Tamalpais State Park. Climb up the Ben Johnson and Dipsea trails for views of the treetops, Mount Tamalpais and the Pacific Ocean.

Quick TipThere is no cell phone service or WiFi at or around the monument. Be sure to print your directions (or Atlas), reservation or shuttle ticket in advance. What shuttle? You might want to get a hotel in Sausalito and then take the shuttle up to Muir Woods. Will save you the headache of getting a reservation for personal vehicles. Plus you’ll already be in town for the next and last stop. Also, reservations are now required for private vehicles and shuttle riders going into the park, so plan ahead.

After visiting Muir Woods, you’ll head south on SR 1 to where it merges with 101 down into Sausalito.


Marin Headlands

Fort Barry, Building 948, Sausalito, CA 94965

View of San Francisco from Sausalito on Pacific Coast Highway Roadtrip [Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/fortechsol-391099/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=859244">Kathryn Fortin</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=859244">Pixabay</a>]
Marin Headlands overlooking San Francisco Bay
Just north of San Francisco, lies the Marin Headlands, a 5-mile stretch of coastal basalt headland, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. White sand beaches, rounded hills, and seaside cliffs. Before you head to the coastline, stop at the Marin Headlines Visitor Center at the intersection of Field and Bunker Roads. Take in the astonishing views of the Pacific Coast and drive along Conzelman Road to the northern foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can access the Marin Headlands off Highway 101 from Rodeo Avenue Exit and Trailhead. While in Sausalito, check out some of the area’s other attractions.

  • Vista Point (Us-101, Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, CA 94965) or Battery Spencer (Conzelman Road, Sausalito, CA 94965). With magnificent views of the bridge, these are two of the places to get a fantastic view of San Francisco. It does get very crowded at the Vista Point so Battery Spencer may be the better bet.
  • Sausalito Boardwalk (Sausalito Yacht Harbor, Sausalito, CA 94965). Walk along the harbor and enjoy the beautiful boats along with restaurants, shops, parks, and cafes.
  • Sausalito Ferry (Anchor St & Humboldt Ave, Sausalito, CA 94965). Wanting to venture into San Francisco (without the drive)? The Sausalito Ferry drops you off at the end of Market street within walking distance of Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square.

Pacific Coast Highway Pinterest

Ready to keep going? Here are the two other itineraries for following the Pacific Coast Highway.

How long does the full route take? From MacKerricher State Park in Northern California to the southern point in Dana Point, the drive takes just a little over 12 hours without stopping. I highly recommend breaking this up into three portions and taking your time. The dramatic sweeping views of the ocean to the West and the mountains to the east are meant to be traveled slowly. This portion covers the Northern California part from Fort Bragg down to San Francisco.

What time of year? Summers are the busiest time of year, and you can honestly spend half of the day on the road going between Malibu and Santa Monica as everyone heads to the beaches. Spring and the Fall are the best time of years, especially with the weather. Winter is the rainy season and is more likely to have mudslides and other issues along the route.

Pacific Coast Highway - Like it? Pin it.

Finally, What to Pack?

Disclosure: The links below contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Ready to hit the road? Be sure to pack along some must needed items for your trip.

Road Trip Essentials - Cooler Weather

Road Atlas



Light Jackets

First Aid Kits

Roadside Assistance Kits


Travel Camera




Backup Battery Chargers

Looking for national and state parks in California? Click here

Going hiking (or during the rainy season)? Check out some ideas for rain gear