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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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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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 road trip.

Road Trip Essentials

Road Atlas




First Aid Kits

Roadside Assistance Kits


Travel Camera




Backup Battery Chargers

Looking for national and state parks in Kansas? Click here

Southern California is one of the best places to travel in the United States as far as attractions, weather, and scenic views. Walking trails, surfing spots, and dramatic views of the Pacific coastline can be found all along the Pacific Coast Highway. Step back in time at a 200-year-old Spanish mission or even further at a Roman-style villa. Whereas central and northern California offers the dramatic, rocky coastlines, this Southern California Itinerary is all about surf and sun. The Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip along California State Route 1, runs north to south along the Pacific coast. This Southern California Itinerary starts in Santa Barbara and glides down the Pacific Coast Highway towards Dana Point, California.

How long? The length of the trip can vary, depending on traffic and the time of year. Traffic along the Pacific Coast Highway in the summer can be stop and go, mainly stopping. It’s best to pre-plan precisely what you wish to see and plan to see it in segments. A solid seven days wouldn’t be out of the question to visit even the significant towns, much less all of the attractions.

When to go? Spring and Fall are your best bets when visiting Southern California. Winter, especially December, is the rainy season and you may run into mudslides, especially near Malibu. (That said, nothing beats standing on a misty Malibu beach with no-one else around in December). Summer brings the crowds, hotter weather, and higher risks for wildfires. Prices are also lower in the Spring and Fall months.

This itinerary will start in Santa Barbara. Although flying into LAX is the cheapest way to get into Southern California, you can also fly directly into Santa Barbara and then rent a car. This Pacific Coast Highway Southern California style starts up north and heads south along the highway so that you are driving closer to the ocean.

Coming from the Bay Area? Take Rte 1 down from Monterey for the Big Sur part of the Pacific Coast Highway.

Either way, have fun!

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, California [Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/12019-12019/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1597745">David Mark</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1597745">Pixabay</a>]
Overview of Santa Barbara, California
Rose Garden at Old Santa Barbara Mission [By Niranjan Arminius - SB_MissionParkACPostelRose_20150916, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44862845]
Old Mission Santa Barbara

Old Mission Santa Barbara

2201 Laguna St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

A great place to start exploring Santa Barbara’s Spanish roots, the Mission Santa Barbara was founded in 1786. Founded by the Spanish Franciscans, the Mission is the only California mission continually occupied and used since its founding. To learn more about the Spanish history of Southern California, visit the El Presidio Historic Park, which was founded in 1782. The town of Santa Barbara is often called the jewel of the American Rivera. Slightly different in tone than greater Los Angeles County, Santa Barbara’s Spanish style architecture, indie boutiques, and beaches make the town a must-stop. Feeling sunburned from all of the sun-drenched beaches?

Here are a few other Santa Barbara stops:

  • Santa Barbara Harbor (132-A Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, CA 93109) allows you to walk from beach to beach and experience many of Santa Barbara’s sites such as shoreline park and Stearns Wharf.
  • Head down Historic State Street, which is lined with a variety of big-name shopped and boutiques. Think of it like a mini-Rodeo Drive, just much less expensive.
  • Ready to visit one of the local beaches? Try East Beach (1400 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93108-2880), West Beach (State St and W Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93103), Leadbetter Beach (Shoreline Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93101)
  • Shoreline Park (Shoreline Dr & Santa Rosa Place, Santa Barbara, CA 93109), is a popular 14.6-acre that offers sweeping views of the coastline, the city, and the Santa Ynez mountains.
  • Stearns Wharf (217 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101) is California’s oldest working wharf and is a great place to go for a walk or a ride on the water taxi.
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center (211 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101) is an interactive marine education facility located on Stearns Wharf.
  • To finalize your first stop, go to the Santa Barbara Courthouse (1100 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101), and take in the views from their clock tower.

Malibu & Pacific Palisades

Zuma Beach along the Pacific Coast Highway
Zuma Beach, Malibu, California
View from Getty Villa, California
View from Getty Villa
Exhibition inside of Getty Vila
An exhibition inside of Getty Villa

Getty Villa

17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

I know that Malibu is most commonly known for its beautiful beaches, but they also have one of the state’s best museums on Grecian and Roman history and art. Visit the ancient world by seeing beautiful gardens, architecture, historic statues, and a killer view of the Pacific Ocean from the authentically re-created first-century Roman gardens.  One cool tour that they have is an audio tour from the World of Pearcy Jackson as you walk through the different exhibits. Located at the easterly end of the Malibu Coast, the Villa, one of the two J. Paul Getty Museums. The museum itself is free, but parking is $20 and is well worth it.

  • Point Mugu State Park (9000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265) is a bit of a ride off the Pacific Coast Highway into the mountains. The stunning ride offers five miles of ocean shoreline with rocky bluffs, sandy beaches, sand dunes, and over 70 miles of a hiking trail.
  • El Matador State Beach (32215 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265-2529). Not your average sandy beach—this one offers cliffs, boulders, rock formations, and a taste of the beaches Central California.
  • Zuma Beach (30000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265-3601). A more traditional beach, Zuma is the quintessential beach with long vast sands, clean water, and perfect surf.
  • Malibu Lagoon State Beach (Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265-4937). Walk around the lagoon for a great view and an entrance into the Pacific Ocean Beach. It’s also not as crowded as some of the other beaches in the area.
  • Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum (23200 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265) is a historic house and gardens within Malibu Lagoon State Park.
  • Malibu Pier (23000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265-4936). Malibu Pier is a lot quieter than many of the other piers in Southern California, but it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat while watching the sea and the surfers.
  • Charmlee Wilderness Park (2577 Encinal Canyon Rd, Malibu, CA 90265). It’s currently closed due to the Woolsey Fire. Once it opens, 532-acre park and nature center is a great place to explore the canyon and wilderness of Western Malibu.
  • Will Rogers State Beach (17000 CA-1, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272) is near the intersection with Temescal Canyon Road and is one of the most popular swimming and skin-diving beaches. It is one of the filming locations for the original Baywatch and is excellent to walk and job on during the early morning hours. (Parking also isn’t heinous).
  • Tuna Canyon Park (2802 Tuna Canyon Rd, Topanga, CA 90290) gives you a great view of the ocean, Malibu, San Fernando Valley and of the mountains.

Santa Monica

"David Mark</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1596196">Pixabay</a>] Aerial view of Venice Beach[/caption]

Butterflies on Venice Beach [Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/dazman-3141761/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1609855">dazman</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1609855">Pixabay</a>]
Butterflies on Venice Beach

Venice Beach Boardwalk

1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291

Founded in 1905, Venice Beach has humanmade canals, gondolas straight from Italy, and is a place to see everything from an amusement pier, boutiques, art galleries, and a miniature steam railroad. The Venice Canals and walkways are beautiful in the morning or the evening, and you’ll avoid the largest of the crowds. Walk along the boardwalk to see a variety of restaurants, spas, and places to shop. You’ll also find plenty of street entertainers and skateboarders along the pier.

  • Venice Oceanarium (330 Market St, Venice, CA 90291) is an outdoor museum that hosts various educational about wildlife along the boardwalk. It’s often called a “museum without walls.”
  • Mosaic Tile House (1116 Palms Blvd, Venice, CA 90291) is a 1940s home that has been covered inside and out with colored tile and splintered-glass mosaics.
  • Muscle Beach (1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291). Once the home of bodybuilders, Muscle Beach is steps from the Venice Beach boardwalk. It’s a piece of living history and has an outdoor weight room.
  • Abbot Kinney Boulevard (Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291) is a mile-long stretch of fashionable shops, fashion houses, art, and food just minutes from the beach.

Quick TipTip. After Venice Beach, go off route for a bit. You’ll exit the Pacific Coast Highway but you’ll also avoid going through LAX and the majority of its traffic. You’ll also stay closer to the beach.

One route is to

  • From Venice Beach or Abbot Kinney Boulevard, take Venice Way down to Ocean Avenue, and down to Admiralty Way. This will take you around Marina del Mar and down to Fiji Way. Head east on Fiji Way to Lincoln Boulevard.
  • Lincoln Boulevard turns into Highway 1, take it down to W. Jefferson Boulevard and then turn right (west) towards W Jefferson Blvd.
  • As you head west, Jefferson Blvd turns into Culver Blvd. Culver will take you south down to onto Vista Del Mar.

You’ll then pass on to the Playa Del Rey Beach (7313-7351 S Marine Ave, Playa Del Rey, CA 90293). This gets you back near the ocean and helps you avoid LAX traffic (yes, I’m double stressing it).  Vista Del Mar turns into Highland Ave and heads down towards Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach.

Redondo Beach

Seagull at Redondo Beach [Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/Erika0722-3157511/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1803861">Erika Klish</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1803861">Pixabay</a>]
Seagull at Redondo Beach at Sunset
Redondo Beach King Harbor [By Funhistory at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42628361]
Redondo Beach King Harbor

Redondo Beach Pier & King Harbor

121 W Torrance Blvd #103, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

With over 150 acres of land and water area, the Redondo Beach Pier and King Harbor is a great place to walk along the waterfront. You can swim, fish, boat, or visit any of the shopping and restaurants along the pier. It’s one of the oldest piers in Southern California and retains some of the quirky shops. The arcade is also fun, and you can still take a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl. Nearby you can find:

  • Torrance State Beach (201 Paseo De La Playa, Torrance, CA 90277) is a small beach tucked at the south end of the strand that is often quieter and allows you to sit and enjoy the views.
  • Seaside Lagoon (200 Portofino Way, Redondo Beach, CA 90277) is a large saltwater lagoon open for public use starting in May through September.
  • SEA Lab (1021 N Harbor Dr, Redondo Beach, CA 90277) is a public aquarium and marine-life rehabilitation center with a native plant nursery and environmental outreach program.
  • Hopkins Wilderness Park (1102 Camino Real, Redondo Beach, CA 90277). With a forest, meadows, pond, an amphitheater, the Wilderness Park offers a little bit different view of Orange County.

Once you start going south on Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll veer into city territory again through Long Beach and a few internal towns. (You’re not lost, there’s just no water view for a while). It will start curving down south towards the beach.

It’s off the beaten path a little, but if you have a short time, stop in Long Beach to visit the Queen Mary (1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90802) or the Korean Friendship Bell (3601 S Gaffey St, San Pedro, CA 90731) near the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (3720 Stephen M White Dr, San Pedro, CA 90731).

Huntington Beach

Surf’s Up [Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/Free-Photos-242387/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1246560">Free-Photos</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1246560">Pixabay</a>]
Visit the International Surfing Museum…take a lesson or two.
Huntington Beach Lifeguard Station [Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/skeeze-272447/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1627350">skeeze</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1627350">Pixabay</a>]
Huntington Beach Lifeguard Station

Huntington Beach at Sunset
Huntington Beach at Sunset

International Surfing Museum

411 Olive Ave, Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Just down the street from Huntington Beach and the Huntington Dog Beach is the International Surfing Museum, which captures the town’s love for surfing by offering exhibits on longboards and other surf memorabilia. On Sundays, stop by to listen to surfing music in town while strolling along the beach.

  • Just down the street is the Huntington Beach Pier (Main St. and Pacific Coast Highway; Huntington Beach, California). The Pier was first built in 1904 and then rebuilt over time with much of the current pier using the 1914 design.
  • Huntington Beach State Park (21601 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach, CA 92646-7600) is a 121-acre clean beach with soft sand (no burning your feet on rocks…), swimmable water, built-in fire pits, and a variety of restaurants.
  • Huntington Dog Beach (100 Goldenwest St F, Huntington Beach, CA 92648). Forget people watching, this is the perfect beach to dog watch and take your pup for off-leash exploring.
  • Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve (18000 CA-1, Huntington Beach, CA 92648) is a great place to see wildlife, take long walks, and view many marine animals. Be sure to wear shoes due to snakes; leave the flipflops for the beach.

Laguna Beach

Sandy beach at Crystal Cove
Sandy beach at Crystal Cove State Park
Steps leading from Crystal Cove State Beach up to parking lot.
Steps leading from Crystal Cove State Park to the parking lot.
Breaking waves
Breaking waves

Crystal Cove State Park

8471 Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Not your typical Southern California beach, Crystal Cove State Park is a quiet beach where you can reconnect with nature. It is a little bit of a walk from the car park (walk down a path), but it is worth it once you start walking along the beach, hidden by the rock walls. The parking spot also has a tunnel to help you access the historic district in Laguna Beach. Other beaches in Laguna Beach:

  • 1,000 Steps Beach (31972 Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651) is famous for surfing, sunbathing and volleyball. Like with Crystal Cove, it also has steep stairs down to the beach.
  • Main Beach (107 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651). A 1929 lifeguard tower rests over this historic, centrally-located sandy city beach. This beach is one of the most well-known beaches on the planet due to its popularity in television shows and movies.
  • Table Rock Beach (31681 Sea Bluff Ln, Laguna Beach, CA 92651). Tucked away in South Laguna Beach, this sandy beach is one of the most beautiful as the north and south ends are capped with cliffs. Like most of the beaches in the area, it’s a steep climb with over multiple steps (195 on one side) to get there.
  • Treasure Island Beach (Wesley Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651). Treasure Island is a sandy beach with high cliffs surrounding it where you can walk to Middle Man Cove and Goff Cove. Scuba diving, swimming, tide pooling, and sunbathing are favorite activities.
  • Heisler Park (375 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651) is also a great outdoor place with access to a marine refuge with tide pools, tide pools, walking trails, and gardens. Beautiful Picnic Beach is located at the northern branch of the Park.

Dana Point

Dana Point Coastline [Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/spcrain-9518424/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=3629025">Steven Crain</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=3629025">Pixabay</a>]
Dana Point Coastline
Dana Point at Sunset [Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/jsattem-120481/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=234997">jsattem</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=234997">Pixabay</a>]
Dana Point at Sunset

Doheny State Park

25300 Dana Point Harbor Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629

Doheny State Park is a smaller beach surrounded by a multitude of beautiful sandy beaches, including Salt Creek Beach and Baby Beach. It’s a smaller beach that is used a lot for concerts and events. The nearby pier has places to eat and view the sunset. Take a moment also to visit:

  • Dana Point Bluff Top Trail (34342 Street of the Amber Lantern, Dana Point, CA 92629) is a short and easy walk that offers beautiful views of Dana Point Harbor along with a commemorative plate.
  • Dana Strands Beach (34001-34099 Selva Rd, Dana Point, CA 92629) is a sandy beach that is popular with surfers. There’s a boardwalk that allows you to walk north or south to other spots in town. For example, walking north will take you to the main part of Salt Creek Beach.
  • Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area (34558 Scenic Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629) is part of a public trail system that links the conservation parks, the Nature Interpretive Center, and public areas.
  • Dana Point Hilltop Park (34392 Street of the Green Lantern, Dana Point, CA 92629) is a short trail that leads to panoramic views of Dana Point from the top of the hill.
  • The Catalina Express (34675 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, CA 92629) departs from this area to Catalina Island.

Finally, What to Pack?

Disclosure: The links below contain affiliate links. This means that 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 road trip.

Road Trip Essentials

Road Atlas




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

Pacific Coast Highway Tour

The Big Country, also known as the Texas Midwest, is in the central part of the state, where the more Western frontier towns with mesquite and junipers meet the live oak and cedar elms of East Texas. Located two-to-three hours West of Dallas and Fort Worth, most people think of it as just a place to drive by on I-20 as you make your way towards roads that take you to New Mexico, Colorado, and places beyond. It’s also the same distance from the Midland and Odessa region, so it’s centrally located whether you head east or west. Rolling hills of the northernmost part of the Texas Hill Country lead into deep valleys with bountiful lakes and wide-open spaces. Looking for things to do near Abilene and the surrounding area? Here are 17 places to see in the Texas Big Country.

Here’s a map to show the boundaries of what is considered the Texas Hill Country.
Map of the Texas Big Country

How long? A lot of it depends on where you start. The drive to Abilene is around 2 1/2 hours, depending on traffic in Dallas/Fort Worth. It’s almost equal distance between Dallas/Fort Worth and Midland/Odessa, so the timing should be similar. To truly look everything in the area, at least two days would be needed. Make it a weekend trip and book a hotel to stay overnight.

Time of year? Texas is fairly open year-round, except the Panhandle region. The Big Country area does get winter weather, however, and occasional flash floors. Your best time of years would be late Spring into early summer. Mid- to late Summer can get very hot, but it’s doable in a car with great air conditioning. Fall is also a beautiful time to visit, but the weather does start to get more finicky.

Abilene, Texas

Abilene, Texas Flofor15 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Frontier Texas!

625 N 1st St, Abilene, TX 79601

Abilene, Texas, is known as the hub of what is called “The Big Country” or “The Texas Midwest.” It is also known as the furthermost eastern point of West Texas, where the trees start changing from the East Texas foliage into Mesquite trees and more of a desert-type ecosystem.  The city manages to have one foot in a more traditional western lifestyle with farming and cattle ranching with the other in more of a traditional, modern city. You can find a mix of locally-owned shops mixed in with larger retail, historical downtown with sprinklings of modern diversions, and three universities with beautiful campuses. Frontier Texas is a multimedia museum highlighting the central Texas area from 1780 to 1880.

Grace Museum

102 Cypress St, Abilene, TX 79601

If you are a Texas History enthusiast, the Grace Museum has exhibits and art inspired by the Lone Star State.

Antique Station

703 N. 3rd St., Abilene, Texas 79601

People into antiques furniture, glass or collectibles will enjoy this multi-vendor mall.

Sweetwater, Texas

WASP Airforce Museum Barbara Brannon [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

National WASP WWII Museum

210 Avenger Field Rd, Sweetwater, TX 79556

Sweetwater, Texas, is west of Abilene and a little bit more into West Texas. You’ll notice the change into cotton farmlands, mesquite trees, and wind towers. Lots of wind towers. However, the town has a great museum celebrating Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), who were the first ever female pilots in America trained during World War II. The hangars have museum exhibits with a research library, video presentations, and special events. A Memorial Plaza is in the works, which will offer views of the taxiway and runways where the WASP trained from 1943-44.

Pioneer Museum

610 E 3rd St, Sweetwater, TX 79556

Built in 1906, the historic Ragland House hosts the Pioneer City County Museum and period-style home. The house is decorated in the turn of the century. A funeral chapel also houses museum exhibits and an art gallery.

If you are interested in old buildings, you can explore the downtown district that has more than 50 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Buffalo Gap, Texas

Old Taylor Courthouse. By Renelibrary - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46486165

Buffalo Gap Historic Village

133 William St, Buffalo Gap, TX 79508

Just south of Abilene lays Buffalo Gap Historic Village, a large museum of fifteen outdoor buildings and West Texas artifacts going back to 1870s. The centerpiece is the former courthouse and jail for Taylor County, build in 1879. You can also find buildings such as a doctor’s office, railroad depot, a two-room school, bank, post office, print shop, barbershop, an air-conditioned chapel, and private homes. The annual Bluegrass Festival is hosted there as well. Fees for the museum are $7 for adults, $6 for military and seniors, and students is $4. It is also less than ten miles away from the new Frontier Texas! Museum in Abilene.

Brownwood, TX

Lake Brownwood. Larry D. Moore [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Lake Brownwood State Park

200 State Highway Park Road 15, Lake Brownwood, TX 76801

Your journey into Brownwood takes you back into the mixture of the Texas Hill Country and East Texas forests. The town of Brownwood is a college town with a combination of historic sites and outdoor adventures. It’s also surrounded by a variety of small towns with unique names and historical buildings and homes. Near Brownwood, Lake Brown State Park is a peaceful park surrounding the 7,300-surface-acre Lake Brownwood that has been used for decades by families, college students, and nearby church camps. You can swim at this lake, fish, and water ski, jet ski, and paddle. There are also six miles of trails around the lake along with some beautiful hilltop scenery. The lake isn’t developed around like a lot of lakes, which makes it feel like more of a step into the past.

Brown County Museum of History

209 N Broadway St, Brownwood, TX 76801

As you drive through Brownwood, you might see a beautiful old brick building in downtown. The Brown County Museum is located in the old four-story Brown County Jail, built in 1902 and the Educational Center. Both buildings are located on North Broadway, at 212 and 209 respectively.

Lyric Theater

318 Center Ave, Brownwood, TX 76801

Brownwood’s Lyric Theater was built in the 1920s and is a brick, two and a half-story structure that is still in use. It was designed as a performance stage and is used for theater productions.

Comanche, Texas

Old Cora Comanche County Courthouse 25or6to4 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Brennan Vineyards and Historic McCrary House

802 S Austin St, Comanche, TX 76442-3018

The McCrary house was built in the 1870s and now serves as the tasting room for Brennan Vineyards. A Hill Country favorite, visitors are invited to learn local history while savoring a selection of wines among several old oak trees. Locals recommend the Super Nero blend.

Old Cora Comanche County Courthouse

101 W. Central, Comanche, Texas

Cora, Texas, once served as the first county seat and this 1856 building is considered the only log courthouse remaining in the state. The twelve-foot by twelve-foot structure was indicative of many of the buildings in Texas at that time. It was disassembled in 1983 and rebuilt on the current Comanche courthouse square.

Comanche County Historical Museum

402 Moorman Rd, Comanche, TX 76442

The Comanche County Historical Museum has exhibits that explore everything from pre-historic time to the frontier history. Exhibits include a saloon, blacksmith shop, filling station, and a doctor’s office. It has fourteen rooms of historical exhibits and artifacts.

​Breckenridge, TX

Breckenridge Murals Kairos14 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Boomtown Breckenridge Murals

Start at 104 N. Breckenridge Avenue, Breckenridge, TX

When visiting the small town of Breckenridge, you’ll quickly discover why the city is called the “Mural Capital of Texas.” A dozen murals depict the early history of the oil industry, from early photographs of oil boom photographer Basil Clemmons. The murals can be found off Walker Street; download a map at the Breckenridge Chamber of Commerce website.

Swenson Memorial Museum

116 W. Walker Street, Breckenridge, Texas  76424

A short walk from the 1926 Classical Revival-style Stephens County Courthouse, the Swenson Memorial Museum features exhibits and artifacts from early Texas history. The museum is housed in the 1920-era First National Bank era. The J.D. Sandefer Oil Annex Museum is right next door.

Throckmorton, TX

Throckmorton County Courthouse. Photo By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43735921

Throckmorton County Courthouse

105 N Minter Ave, Throckmorton, TX 76483

Throckmorton is a tiny town at the north-east portion of the Texas Big Country. The downtown area has buildings reminiscent of frontier days. At the cornerstone of it all is the Throckmorton County Courthouse, with its sandstone frame, square cupola, and red roof. The Italianate-style structure was erected in 1890 with an annex built in 1938. It was restored and eventually rededicated on March 12, 2015.

Old Throckmorton County Jail

S Eagle & W. Chestnut St., Throckmorton, TX, USA

Continuing the frontier-era sandstone architecture is the Old Throckmorton County Jail. The construction of the old jail began in 1893. It is located southwest of the County Courthouse.

Albany, TX

Old Courthouse Art Center in Albany, Texas

Old Courthouse Art Center

201 S 2nd St, Albany, TX 76430

Set inside a historic old stone jail, the Old Courthouse Art Center in Albany hosts an excellent collection of over 2,100 pieces of oil paintings, sculptures, and historical artifacts. The limestone courthouse was the first jail built in Shackelford County in 1877. It was used until 1929 and then was replaced by a new jail one block away. The art center has been used as a cultural institution for the region since 1980.

Fort Griffin State Historic Site

1701 N. U.S. Hwy. 283, Albany, TX 76430

Fort Griffin served as one in a line of western defensive forts from 1867 to 1881. Among the ruins are a barracks, bakery, first sergeant’s quarter, mess hall, powder magazine, and a hand-dug well. You can also camp along the Brazos River and relax under the large shade trees.

Have any other suggestions for where to go around the Texas Big Country? A favorite hole-in-the-wall in Haskell or a hike in Cisco?

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The 4-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, “The Strip,” is known as the capital of glitter and glam with its concentration of resort hotels and casinos, quick-hitch wedding chapels, and neon signs that light up the desert sky. While marble and earth tones are slowly beginning to replace the old-school neon and faux-crystal of yesteryear, Sin City is still an entertainment mecca where you can find shows, buffets, and entertainment 24 hours a day. What many tourists may not know is that just beyond Nevada’s city of lights is a vast landscape of unexpected treasures. Here’s a list of more than 7 natural attractions near Las Vegas, Nevada.

How Long? One way, it’s 456 miles. That’s excluding the side trip to Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop, which is right outside of Las Vegas. That’s around 9 hours if you do not stop anywhere. Then you have to turn around and head back. It’s easy a three-day weekend road-trip from Las Vegas.

You can always break it up into segments. A straight trip from Las Vegas to the Great Basin National Park is a five-hour drive, heading north on Highway 93. It all depends on what all you wish to see.

If you’re planning for a full week, you can also jump over to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest or down to the Mojave National Preserve.

Time of Year? Year-round, with one caveat. As you get into the higher elevations, especially near Echo Canyon State Park and Great Basin National Park, the trails or campgrounds may be closed due to seasonal weather. However, the closer you stick to Las Vegas, the easier it’ll be.


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Start in Las Vegas

This road trip assumes that you are starting from a downtown hotel in the Las Vegas Strip. Whether you are staying at the Mirage, The New York-New York Hotel & Casino, or the Luxor, take the Las Vegas Freeway ( I-15) South to Loop I-215. Loop I-215 will take you around to the Great Basin Highway, which turns into I-11. Take the Highway 93 exit to Boulder City Parkway and then follow the directions from there.

Lake Mead Recreation Area, Nevada
Lake Mead Recreation Area, Nevada

Lake Mead Natural Recreation Area

601 Nevada Way, Boulder City, NV 89005

Backing up more than 100 miles behind Hoover Dam, Lake Mead is the world’s largest man-made lake that encompasses 1.5 million acres. At 110 miles long, Lake Mead is a mecca for swimmers, divers, windsurfers, boaters, and tourists lining up to see the Hoover Dam. The park has nine wilderness areas to explore with trails, including the Historic Railroad Trail that overlooks the Boulder Basin area.

Hoover Dam, Nevada
Hoover Dam, Nevada

Hoover Dam

81 Hoover Dam Access Rd, Boulder City, NV 89005

Okay, so it’s manmade but it overlooks one of the natural wonders in the area. Less than an hour from downtown Las Vegas is the Lake Mead Recreation Area, Hoover Dam, and Lake Las Vegas. Considered one of the greatest engineering marvels of the 20th century, the 726-foot gravy-arch Hoover Dam harnesses the power of the Colorado River feeding into Lake Mead.

Start with the guided tour of the Hoover Dam tour, which includes a 1-hour guided tour of the powerplant and passageways within the Dam. From the observation deck, view a panoramic vista that includes Lake Mead and the Colorado River. Take one of the large elevators 500 feet down into the wall of Black Canyon and walk through a 250-foot long tunnel drilled out of the rock. From there, you can view the 650-foot long Nevada wing of the power plant along with its generators.

Boulder Beach

Boulder City, NV 89005

Located about five miles north of Hoover Dam, Boulder Beach is one of the more popular areas of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It’s not a traditional beach with sand. It has rocks, lots of rocks, right before the water. It’s an oasis in the desert. However, it is beautiful in its own way with the starkness. A large campground area and places for boating and swimming are also available.

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park

29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV 89040

As you head north, the Valley of Fire State Park borders the northern arm of Lake Mead. The Valley of Fire Highway offers stunning views of the red rocks. These red sandstone formations were formed from shifting red dunes over 150 million years ago. The bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops are settled in gray and tan limestone throughout the park that contains ancient, petrified trees and 2,000 years-old petroglyphs. Interpretive trails lead past these petroglyphs and up into the red rocks. The visitor center also offers exhibits on the ecology, prehistory, history, and geology of the park.

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Mile Post 32 HWY 93, Alamo, NV 89001

As US-93 runs north between the lean hills of the Sheep Range to the west and the Delamar Mountains to the east, the desert landscape can look deserted. However, underground water feeds the Lower Pahranagat Lake that leads into a sprawling 5,380-acre wildlife refuge. Part of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex, the refuge has an abundant of songbirds, wildlife, and hiking trails. Free camping can also be found at the Upper Lake part of the refuge. The Upper Lake Trail is a three-mile loop that goes around the Upper Lake and eventually connects with the Waterway Trail. A parking lot is available near the Upper Lake Trail.

You can also find gas, restaurants, and groceries in Alamo, Nevada, which is located three miles north of the refuge.

View from Rainbow Canyon Scenic Drive, Nevada
View from Rainbow Canyon Scenic Drive, Nevada

Rainbow Canyon Scenic Drive

Rainbow Canyon, Nevada 89008

South of Caliente, Nevada, the Rainbow Canyon Scenic Drive is a 21-mile side trip down State Highway 317 that takes you to Rainbow Canyon. Stained by minerals into a kaleidoscope of color, Rainbow Canyon is surrounded by the gentle Meadow Valley Wash. The Canyon lies between the Clover Mountains to the east and the Delamar Mountains to the west, lying 3,000 feet below the mountain peaks. The drive follows the Meadow Valley Wash, which collects just enough water for cottonwood trees to grow along its banks. Highway 317 also connects you to archeological sites such as the Kershaw-Ryan State Park.  Not too far from Rainbow Canyon, you can also visit the Elkin Schoolhouse State Historic Site. The road is subject to washouts so check road conditions.

Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada
Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada

Cathedral Gorge State Park

111, Cathedral Gorge State Park Road, Panaca, NV 89042

As you continue along Meadow Valley Wash, you’ll enter Cathedral Gorge State Park. The park is a 2,000-acre park that offers a visitor’s center, walking trails, camping, and a trailhead up to Eagle Point. Cathedral Gorge is spiked with buttes and columns that rise above 4,800 feet in elevation. Miller’s Point Overlook, a mile north of the park’s entrance, is also a great place to take in the broad views of the Cathedral Gorge. Miller’s Point also has a one-mile trail that connects the overlook to the picnic area within the park.

Storm approaching Cathedral Gorge State Park. Source: Frank Kovalcheck on Flickr
Storm approaching Cathedral Gorge State Park. Source: Frank Kovalcheck on Flickr

Echo Canyon State Park

State Routes 322, Pioche, NV 89043

Echo Canyon State Park has a 65-acre reservoir that abuts steep rock walls, a perfect setup for echoes. Golden eagles soar through Eagle Valley and campers and hikers are known to enjoy the variety of songbirds, hawks, eagles and other birds that soar throughout the region. Hike the Ash Country trail, a 2.5-mile trail that climbs 300 feet up to the rim of the valley. The hike then descends into the Ash Canyon with its steep-sided walls and dramatic views. Camping is also available onsite, with flush toilets, an RV hook-up station, and drinking water at each site.

View of Wheeler Peak at the Great Basin National Park. Source: National Park Service
View of Wheeler Peak at the Great Basin National Park. Source: National Park Service

Great Basin National Park

National Park, 100 Great Basin, Baker, NV 89311

Nevada’s only national park, the Great Basin National Park includes everything from the majestic crown of Wheeler Peak and Mount Washington to the caves and some of the world’s oldest trees. Drive the park’s 12-mile Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive through forests of spruce and limber pine on a 3,400-foot climb from the visitor center. This drive will take you to the overlook of the glacier, centuries-old trees, and mountain caves.

Wheeler Peak on the way up the Summit Trail; parts of the remaining part of the glacier can be seen from here. Source: National Park Service
Wheeler Peak on the way up the Summit Trail; parts of the remaining part of the glacier can be seen from here. Source: National Park Service

Wheeler Peak Glacier

Nevada’s only alpine glacier sits at the base of Wheeler Peak, measuring 300 feet long and 400 feet wide. Alpine glaciers are the types that sculpt mountain ranges, such as the one at the South Snake Range. You can view the glacier from the Wheeler Peak Overlook on the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive or take the Bristlecone/Glacier Trail 4.6 miles roundtrip to the foot of the glacier. At the end of the scenic drive, the Snake Range includes twisted pines in the rock-strewn soil that are estimated to be up to 3,000 years old.

Note that due to its high elevation, Wheeler Peak Campground closes for the season at the end of September.

Pools found within the Lehman Caves. Source: National Park Service
Pools found within the Lehman Caves. Source: National Park Service

Lehman Caves

5500 NV-488, Baker, NV 89311

One of the 40 known caves in the Great Basin National Park, Lehman Caves are the only caves open to the public. View four distinctive groups of caves, including the Lehman Hill Caves, Baker Creek Caves, Snake Creek Caves, and Alpine Caves. Most of these caves are at high elevation, such as the Alpine Caves or the highest solution cave in the park, the High Pit at 11, 200 ft. The bottom of the High Pit is impacted by snow. The deepest cave in the park at 480 feet is the Long Cold Cave, which is also at an elevation of about 10,000 feet.

After visiting the Great Basin National Park, turn around and head back to Las Vegas. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a circular loop. However, you’ll have the opportunity to see many of the early attractions from a different viewpoint.

Once you finish the four- to five-hour route back to Las Vegas, you can either immediately head west or spend the night and start fresh in the morning.


Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive

Visitor Center, 1000 Scenic Loop Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89161

Located just 17-miles west of the Las Vegas strip is the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive, a 13-mile path that takes you through the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The horseshoe-shaped drive takes you past spectacular sandstone cliffs. Turnouts along the way lead to stunning vistas and 26 numbered hikes and trails that can be found on a downloadable map. Take a short hike to Lost Creek or Pine Creek Canyon or longer ones such as the White Rock Mountain Loop or Grand Circle Loop. To find a list of hiking trails, visit the Red Rock Canyon Visitor’s Center or download the information online. If rock climbing is more your speed, you’ll find plenty of activities with the great boulders and sheer rock faces.

Happy Traveling!

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Plan Your Next Adventure


A vibrant community known for its charming downtown, university, and plentiful parks, Parkville, Missouri, is a hidden gem located about 20 minutes northwest of downtown Kansas City. Although platted in 1844, Parkville’s historic roots go even further back to the Lewis and Clark era. These vestiges can be found around town and at the English Landing/Platte Landing Park. For those seeking a day trip out of Kansas City, the small town has a large riverfront park, an underground commercial district, and two wooded nature sanctuaries.

Sign leading into historic downtown Parkville
Sign leading into historic downtown Parkville

Historic Downtown

Main St, Parkville, MO 64152

Heading south from NW River Park Drive (MO-9), you’ll pass the beautiful English Landing Park walking the trail on the left and Park University and the Sullivan Nature Sanctuary on the right. As the road comes to an end, you’ll find yourself in downtown historic Parkville.  An eclectic variety of businesses and shops line the downtown area, from art boutiques to antique stores. PopCulture Gourmet Popcorn (6325 Lewis St Suite 101, Parkville, MO 64152) is a hit with locals around Kansas City, who drive in all the way from Olathe and Lee’s Summit to get popcorn. Looking for something to do that’s a little different but offer’s scenic views of downtown? Play the Parkville Mini Golf, an old 18-hole course with a full-service ice cream bar. Since it sits up on the bluffs, it has a great view of the river (7 W 1st St, Parkville, MO 64152).

City Parks

For a city of around 6,000 people, Parkville has a lot of parks. You can find five parks and two nature sanctuaries where you can relax, explore, and enjoy. These parks include:

My favorite two parks were the Parkville Nature Sanctuary and English Landing/Platte Landing Park. Why? They’re huge and take full advantage of the natural beauty in the area. Also, at the Parkville Nature Sanctuary, the city noise is muted.

Parkville Nature Sanctuary

100-198 E 12 St, Parkville, MO 64152

A 115-acre natural outdoor area with three miles of hiking trails, Parkville Nature Sanctuary is an excellent place to escape the bustle of the city or the stresses of college life. Many consider the trails the best hiking trails in Kansas City, with easy to moderate trails. The trails are well-marked and a few take a little bit of a journey through the woods and up into the hills. Take the Old Katy Trail up to the waterfall or alongside Lewis Spring. Butterfly Pass, which goes by an old root cellar, takes you through foliage and plants specifically designed to attract butterflies. Parking is plentiful. A public restroom is available next to the parking lot.

English Landing Park

8701 McAfee St, Parkville, MO 64152

As you drive into Parkville, a long walking and riding trail that stretches alongside the Missouri River is the first sign of the city. The 68-acre park has three miles of walking trails, picnic areas, a sand volleyball court, a disc golf course, and a large playground area. During the summer months, the Farmer’s Market is right beside the park, so it makes it convenient to stop in, grab some food, and then go for a stroll along the park on early weekend mornings. After crossing the giant bridge in the park, you’ll find the adjacent Platte Landing Park. The 140-acre park includes two additional miles of trails, an off-leash dog park, and a new boat ramp. If you want to just and watch the river go by, there are plenty of shade trees and benches near the water’s edge. Historical markers noting the Lewis and Clark expedition to the area are in the park near the water’s edge.

Park University, Mackay Hall

8700 NW River Park Dr, Parkville, MO 64152

Founded in 1875, Park University is a private, nonprofit university that can be seen on the bluffs overlooking English Landing Park and the Missouri River. At 800 acres, the university’s most distinctive building is Mackay Hall, built using limestone from the campus grounds. The three-story building was constructed in 1883 and finished in 1893. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is near the Parkville Presbyterian Church, also made out of the native limestone. The rest of the campus is also and nestled in the hills.

Parkville Commercial Underground

8500 NW River Park Dr, Parkville, MO 64152 or look for President Mackenzie Underground Entrance/Exit

Imaging working or going to a nursing lab in an underground cave. Perhaps one of the coolest parts of the town and Park University is the Parkville Commercial Underground. The university hired a local mining company to drill into the hill and created business space both for rent and for campus activities. The Parkville University Campus has more than 385,000 square feet of commercial space that are underground. As you drive into the underground, you’ll see office entrances built into the underground walls. It’s like a “commercial” cavern tool, in a cool way. Tenants include a data center, part of the Parkville School District, a whiskey distillery, and distribution centers. Another part of the underground is known as the Academic Underground, with stores, faculty offices, and the nursing program all held in a cave. Whoever said a university campus had to be boring?

Finding the commercial underground can be tricky. Turn right from the highway into Park University. When you enter Park University, curve to the right and then keep going straight back toward what looks like a parking lot and a line of trees. Before you get there, you’ll see a road that swoops down into a tunnel along with a sign that says ENTRANCE. That’s where you drive into the commercial underground. It’s before the parking lot (looks like it goes under it). It can be easy to miss if you don’t know where to look.

Have you visited Parkville? What’s your favorite place to visit? Have you ventured into the Parkville Nature Sanctuary?

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From the heart of the Ozark Mountains to the Victorian springs of Hot Springs, Arkansas’ Scenic Byway 7 is often listed as one of the top 10 drives in North America. The route passes through the Ozark National Forest, up to Mount Magazine (the highest point in Arkansas) and down into the Ouachita Mountains, famous for its stunning fall foliage.

This road trip starts in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Why Eureka Springs? It’s not even on Highway 7!

1) Because Eureka Spring is awesome.

2) It’s a good starting point at the top of Arkansas that’s near larger cities like Springfield, Missouri, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you are driving down from Kansas City, it’s a four-hour drive to Eureka Springs. You can tour the town and start your weekend getaway. Is your starting point Little Rock, Arkansas? Reverse the directions and start in Hot Springs.

Tips Before You Hit the Road

  • You will be heading up and down some steep hills so check your tire’s air pressure and make sure that they are perfectly inflated. Also, check that your brake and transmission fluids are filled.
  • Speaking of mountains, watch your speed going downhill. Try not to ride your breaks and don’t go down any faster than you went up.
  • Don’t hug the center line when driving around a curve. The mountain roads are narrower than the highways and some of these roads are simple two-lane roads. The Zig Zag mountains in Hot Springs are named that for a reason.
  • Before heading out, check the local weather for road conditions or flash flood warnings.
  • Higher elevations can lead to dehydration, thus leading to altitude sickness. Carry plenty of water for each person and keep hydrated.
  • Don’t wear flip-flops, sandals, or other simple shoes. You never know when you might want to take a walk or a hike. Wear hiking boots, tennis shoes, or other durable shoes that cover your entire feet. During the rainy seasons, take proper rain gear.

How long? This depends on where you start and how much you like to hike, etc. From Kansas City, a straight drive is 7 hours down to Hot Springs, Arkansas. However, you do have to turn around to drive back. The best tip is to make it a three-day weekend to fully enjoy the quirky towns and beautiful scenic vistas.

Time of year? The drive is popular year-round. Late September into October is when the trees light up with different colors of orange, red, and gold. The summer months also make it a great place to cool down and find a watering hole (like the Long Pool Recreation Area). Be careful during the winter months as the higher elevations do get snow and ice, creating some treacherous driving conditions.



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Arkansas Scenic Highway 7 Itinerary

Start in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Spend time exploring the hippy-dippy historic town of Eureka Springs. From there, take US-62 down to Harrison, Arkansas; it will take a little over an hour. From there, you’ll start your tour of Scenic Byway 7.

By Photolitherland at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25804965
Eureka Springs from a distance. By Photolitherland at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Eureka Springs, AR Historical Downtown

95 S Main St, Eureka Springs, AR 72632

Eureka Springs is a popular getaway tucked in the Ozark Mountains with a variety of interesting shops that line historic downtown. Like walking through an old European village, Eureka has its own spirit with a mix of eccentricity and historic charm. It’s a town with plenty of hills, so enjoy the trolley that will take you where you wish to go without having to trek up and down steep inclines. The streets are also narrow and set up to remind you of a European village. The architecture is also beautiful, with some unique buildings that can take a good hour to two to explore. Multiple Victorian-style cottages and manors line the town.  A quick tip: if you want to avoid the weekend crowds, try going earlier in the week.

After exploring, you’ll head east on US-62 toward Harrison, AR. If you have a few moments, head west for about 8 miles and visit Thorncrown Chapel, a wooden structure with 6,000 square of glass and 425 windows.

By Mattsrealm - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57459563
Downtown Harrison, “The Square.” By Mattsrealm – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Harrison, Arkansas National Historic District

N Willow St, Harrison, AR 72601

Harrison is known as the crossroads of the Ozarks. It historic downtown square is unique in that it has four retail corners surrounding a central historic Courthouse. Known simply as “the Square,” the district includes a 1911 Courthouse, restaurants, pharmacies, a museum, and several clothing stores. Most of the 54 historic buildings were built around the turn of the 20th century. Once you’re finished exploring Harrison, head south or take a brief detour to the Baker Prairie Natural Area [713-741 Goblin Dr, Harrison, AR 72601], a remnant of a once 5,000-acre tallgrass prairie with a number of species, animals, and plants.

Side Trip #1 — Mystic Caverns, 341 Caverns Dr, Harrison, AR 72601. Missouri may be known as the “Cave State,” but Arkansas has a few gems of its own. A short side-trip from Scenic Byway 7, Mystic Caverns showcases the caves that dot the Ozark Mountains with two large caves. The Mystic Cavern has a spectacular calcite formation called the “Pipe Organ,” that stands 30 feet tall and 12 feet thick. A formation resembling a huge crystal dome, helicities, shields, and spherical stalactites can also be found in the caves. Each cave tour takes about an hour, so if you want to explore these, reserve about two hours. Otherwise, keep driving south toward Ponca on Route 7, where you can view the Buffalo National River.

View of the Arkansas Grand Canyon.
View of Arkansas’ Grand Canyon

Arkansas Grand Canyon

AR-7, Jasper, AR 72641

Etched by the National Buffalo River, the deep valley of Arkansas’ “Grand Canyon” blooms with wildflowers. The view from the Cliff House Inn provides superb vistas of red bluffs and the Boston Mountains. Beyond the mountains, the view gives way to the smoother plateaus in the north. The Cliff House Inn, located down 3 miles from the Canyon, is at 6 AR-7, Jasper, AR 72641. Stop for some lunch and enjoy the view of the canyon from their overlook. The nearby Round Top Mountain Trail is a 4-mile trail used for hiking, walking, nature trails, and birding.

Ozark National Forest on Scenic Byway 7. Source: Marco Becerra, Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mbecerra/3991484875/in/photolist-75HpoK-75Hpjr-75MhM3-7mgZn-bdXZNB-ppHAus-F3XCx2-24DjD2S-aq9FNj-dfTHP8-m4RDNH-9exoW-75HmDx-e467Yo-75HmpB-75HmvB-49btNG-6rfTbC-ad6AJ8-49brQd-7mgVK-75MhHu-9rfyzf-75HmEZ-e3ZM6P-75GLWB-497rgF-49bsfb-75Mfc3-F3XDve-75LJFY-75Hpfn-m4SJ3J-497rZP-7mh2L-75Mg91-75GLHi-75LK4m-e45U8s-75MeiS-e3ZsfZ-497pUz-75Hnwx-75Mf1s-4c2ii-e3Zt7Z-49brS5-6riY8e-49bt7q-75LE75
Ozark National Forest. Source: Marco Becerra, Flickr

Ozark National Forest / Alum Cove Natural Bridge Recreation Area

Deer, AR 72628

As you head south toward Deer, Arkansas, you’ll enter the Ozark National Forest. This forest covers 1.2 million acres and is home to the tallest point in the state, Mount Magazine. The trees are dominated by species such as dogwood, maple, redbud, and serviceberry. In the fall, the fall foliage is amazing. The forest has over 230 miles of hiking trails, including the 165-mile-long Ozark Highlands Trail. The Ozark National Forest is also home to underground caverns such as Blanchard Springs Cavern. The forest contains twenty-five developed recreation areas, including the Alum Cove Natural Bridge Recreation Area. Walk across a natural, limestone bridge with a total span of 130 feet and 20 feet in width on average. Climb the craggy hillsides to find the imposing natural bridge that overlooks the magnolia and beech trees. The recreation area is west of AR-7 on Nfm 28 and then Country Road 184.

Side Trip #2 — Pedestal Rocks, AR-16, Witts Springs, AR 72686. This time head east of AR-7 to AR-16. Drive six miles to the Pedestal Rock Scenic Area. Pedestal Rocks hiking trail is a 2.2-mile trail located at the top of the Illinois Bayou River. While hiking the trail, you’ll pass by sandstone hillsides to view the large formations called pedestals. Cause by weathering, these pedestal rocks are large boulders upheld by smaller boulders. The nearby Kings Bluff trail is 1.7 miles long and takes you to a large bluff with a waterfall that flows over the edge.

Mountain foliage in fall
The Truth? I couldn’t find a good image of Rotary Ann Overlook. Here’s a pretty image of a road going up a forested mountain. Close enough? I’ll try to get a good picture the next time I am in the area.

Rotary Ann Overlook

Rotary Ann Overlook, Ozark National Forest, AR, Dover, AR 72837

Arkansas’ first roadside rest area, the Rotary Ann Roadside Rest Stop is a popular roadside viewing point with views of the jagged Ozark Mountains. It offers a spectacular view of the fall foliage. Rotary Ann Overlook is a quick stop on this Arkansas road trip, but it does have flush toilets, picnic tables, and a viewing deck.

 Long Pool Recreation Area , maybe
I also could not find a creative commons image of the Long Pool Recreation Area. However, this is a good representation of what you’ll find nearby.

Long Pool Recreation Area

Dover, AR 72837

Located at the base of the high bluffs that tower above Big Piney Creek, the Long Pool Recreation Area is a large natural pool and campground. Many of the area’s hiking trails cross this area around Big Piney, a national scenic and recreational river. The river is noted for its beautiful sandstone bluffs, waterfalls, still pools, and pine forests. Longpool Falls is a 44-foot-tall waterfall that can be reached by hiking from the Loop B camping area for a little under a mile. Restrooms with flush toilets and hot showers can also be found at the recreation area. Camping is available on a first come, first serve basis.

Cedar Falls at Petit Jean State Park, By Brandonrush - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26055166
Cedar Falls at Petit Jean State Park, By Brandonrush – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Mount Nebo State Park

16728 State Hwy 155, Dardanelle, AR 72834

Mount Nemo State Park, which sits on top of the 1,350-foot Mount Nebo. Fourteen miles of hiking and biking trails will take you along the bluff to have views of the Arkansas River Valley below.  Many of the park’s bridges, trails, rustic cabins, and pavilions were built by using native stones and logs. Hike or walk along the fourteen miles of trails that circle Mount Nebo. Sunrise and Sunset Points are well-known for their beautiful vistas. Also, if you enjoy hang gliding, go to the park’s visitor center. There are two places on the mountains that offer launch sites so that you can soar above the river valley.

Side Trip #3 — Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge Admin Building and Visitor Contact Station, Dardanelle, AR 72834. Located downstream from the city of Dardanelle along the Arkansas River, the Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge is a great place for watching both nesting and migrating birds any time of year. You can also take a self-guided auto tour around the refuge to view wildlife and their habitats. Two hiking trails can also be found within the refuge. Note: since GPS can be highly unreliable when going to the headquarters, from Dardanelle, take State Highway 7 South to State Highway 155 South and go about 4 miles to the refuge entrance. After you enter the refuge, the visitor center is about ½ mile down the road.

Side Trip #4. Petit Jean State Park, 1285 Petit Jean Mountain Rd, Morrilton, AR 72110. Looking for that dramatic waterfall to take the perfect photo? Petit Jean State Park is off the beaten path of AR-7, but it has Cedar Falls, where a stream plunges 95-foot to the river below.  This stunning park is Arkansas’s first state park, and you can easily see why when you arrive. Hike up Petit Jean Mountain by following trails that go over canyons, along streams, and through the forests. Other formations include the Seven hollows, the Bear Cave, the Grotto, the Natural Bridge, and other rock formations.

Lake Ouachita State Park on Scenic Byway 7
Lake Ouachita State Park

Lake Ouachita State Park

5451 Mountain Pine Rd, Mountain Pine, AR 71956

As you continue down AR-7 towards Hot Springs, you’ll pass through 23-miles of the Ouachita National Forest. Covering 1.8 million acres, the forest offers hiking, camping, water recreation, and scenic driving (especially during the fall!). You can continue down Route-7 to Hot Springs, but a great side trip is to Lake Ouachita State Park. The lake is a good 40,000 acres and offers plenty of spots to stop and relax by the shore.  You can also walk down Caddo Bend trail, stop for a snack at one the picnic tables, or visit Historic Three Sisters’ Springs, which is on the way to this stop. The park also offers nature talks and tours.

Downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas from a distance on Scenic Byway 7. By Samuel Grant - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20673378
Downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas on Scenic Byway 7. By Samuel Grant – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center

On the western side of Hot Springs Mountain, the flowing hot springs still flow year round. Visit the ornate bathhouses on Central Avenue (AR-7). Stay at the Buckstaff Hot Springs (509 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR 71901) to try one of their hydrotherapy treatments. Buckstaff is on Bathhouse Row, which has eight bathhouses from the 19th and 20th century. Drive up to the observation tower at the crest of Hot Springs Mountain (401 Hot Springs Mountain Dr, Hot Springs, AR 71901) to take in the view of the dense forests and faraway mountains. Be careful as you drive up to the observatory, as you will be going up the Zig Zag Mountains, with hairpin curves and steep ascents. Also, if you enjoyed Thorncrown Chapel, check out the Anthony Chapel Complex, part of University of Arkansas’s Garven Woodland Gardens.

Mount Magazine. By Jason Ronza - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63833532
Mount Magazine. By Jason Ronza – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Mount Magazine State Park

577 Lodge Dr, Paris, AR 72855

Arkansas’ highest point at 2,753 feet, Mount Magazine is an excellent place to end the tour. Relax at the lodge, eat at the Skycrest Restaurant, or take in the sweeping views of the Petit Jean River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake. Mount Magazine and Mount Nebo State Park are the only two parks that offer hang gliding launch areas. Trees consisting of maples, hickories, oaks, and short-leaf pines ensure that the fall foliage is striking with its fiery colors. Wildflowers blanket the forest floor, adding to the scenic view.

From Mountain Magazine, continue north on Highway 23 for a straight shot to Eureka Springs. Continue back to your destination from there. This path takes you back through the Ozark National Forest for a three-hour drive through the country-side. You can always take the path back up Scenic Byway 7 to Harrison and then back over, but this gives you a chance to see another section of Western Arkansas.

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 more ideas for an Arkansas road trip? View a List of Arkansas National and State Parks

Explore Scenic Byway 7 in Arkansas. Like it? Pin it.


As the weather begins to change, you might feel the temptation to stay indoors. Resist it. Heading out for a soaking in the rain may seem like madness, but it can be refreshing after or during a dry, hot summer. The air is cleaner and fresher, and the smell of rain is known to have a calming effect. On trips to places like Rocky Mountain National park, fall is known for short-lived rainstorms, snow, and cool temperatures. Preparing for unexpected downpours can mean the difference between a memorable adventure and hypothermia. Here are a few tips for selecting rain gear for your upcoming outdoor adventure.