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Texas is the second-largest state in the United States and is known for its go big or go home mentality in everything from its food to its attractions. It has the largest state fair, the world’s longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island, and, of course, the world’s largest cowboy boots.
With so much going on, it can make vacation planning particularly difficult. The good news is, we’ve narrowed down seven fun activities to do in Texas that will make your next vacation one to remember. Whether you’re a lover of the great outdoors or keen to leave your mark creatively, there’s something here for any type of holiday-goer.
Space Center Houston
One of the most popular vacation activities in Texas can be found just 30 minutes outside of Houston. Space Center Houston is an incredible place to learn about space exploration and NASA’s latest projects. Maybe even meet an astronaut if you’re lucky. It’s also the gateway to Johnson Space Center, which can be visited on a behind-the-scenes tour.
Space Center Houston provides a captivating insight into the operations of the world’s largest space program. When vacation planning, aim to spend at least a half-day exploring the entire complex. Highlights include a space shuttle replica that you can walk inside, being able to touch rocks from the moon and Mars and an impressive display of over 400 space artifacts.
Big Bend National Park
Isolated, rugged, and wild, Big Bend is one of the largest and most remote national parks in the United States. Full of deep canyons, the occasional oasis, and the intimidating Chisos Mountains, Big Bend is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.
One of Big Bend’s biggest draws is its feeling of complete isolation and edge-of-the-world qualities. You’ve got 150 miles of empty trails, lonely summits for challenging hikes, and a pristine night sky that seems made for camping under.
It’s easy to plan a trip around Big Bend for the sheer amount of fun activities available. Mountain biking along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, paddling in Santa Elena Canyon, and hiking the Lost Mine Trail are all top of the list, but the possibilities go on and on.
When you picture Texas, it’s often the image of a cowboy riding off into the sunset, and that stereotype has a little bit of truth to it. There’s no better way to explore Texas than on horseback.
Many of Texas’ State Parks offer horse-friendly campsites and have miles of trails to explore. In fact, larger than life, Big Bend National Park welcomes the use of horses, and you can discover much more of the old mines of the Chihuahua Desert than if you were on foot.
If you’ve just got a couple of hours to spare, look no further than horseback riding Texas Southern Trail Rides. Found just 15 minutes outside of Austin is a breathtaking 100-acre estate. You can expect open green pastures filled with ponds, creeks, and wildlife; beautiful tall oak trees; and a relaxing, serene environment.
Padre Island National Seashore
Padre Island holds the title of the world’s longest undeveloped barrier island and is just a short drive south of Corpus Christi. Stretching 70 miles from end-to-end, Padre Island consists of over 130,000 acres of grassland habitats, beaches, and dunes.
The seashore is teeming with fun activities, and it’s easy to plan a vacation around the island. Highlights include the scenic Grasslands Nature Trail, sea turtle releases, and going off-roading on the beach. It’s also a birder’s paradise. 350 different species of migratory birds visit Padre Island on a stopover along the Central Flyway migratory route.
Natural Bridge Caverns
Head underground for vacation activities with a difference. The spectacular Natural Bridge Caverns are just outside of San Antonio and are the largest cave network in the United States accessible to the public. The caverns are part of a large underground network made up of more than 10,000 different stalactite formations.
Highlights include a massive wall of stalactites found in one of the largest caverns, the 40-foot-high King’s Throne, and the Down and Dirty tour. This is where you can crawl through narrow passages on your stomach to discover undeveloped cavern rooms.
Once you’re done exploring the cave systems, there’s plenty to do on the surface here as well. Navigate a 60-foot high ropes course, find your way out of a 5,000 square foot outdoor maze, or discover what it’s like to pan for treasure.
If your vacation planning includes a day at the beach, then make a beeline for Galveston. Texas’ Golf Coast is home to beautiful beaches that stretch on for miles with calm, shallow waters ideal for families.
Set up your beach umbrella along the Seawall, or head to Pleasure Pier for some fun and games. Stewart Beach is one of the most popular beaches. It’s well equipped with chair and umbrella rentals, showers and restrooms, a children’s playground, and a lifeguard.
If you are looking for something more natural, head west to Galveston Island State Park, where you can walk along the boardwalks, kayak through the bayou, and bird-watch on either the bay or ocean side.
Looking for something a little quirky to include in your vacation activities? Then you can’t go past Cadilac Ranch in Armadillo. Standing along Route 66, Cadillac Ranch was built by a group of artists from San Francisco at the request of a billionaire craving a piece of public art.
Back in 1974, ten Cadillacs were driven into a field and half-buried, nose-down, in the dirt. Since then, visitors have come to visit in large numbers, not only to witness the colorful spectacle but also to leave their mark.
The tradition is to grab a can of spray paint and create your own graffiti masterpiece on the cars. Kids love to climb on the cars and run through the open interiors, while photographers will enjoy capturing the ever-changing canvas before them.
Texas Vacation Planning Sorted
Now that you’ve got a better idea of the top activities for your vacation planning, all you need to do is wait for your trip. If you’re keen to find out about other things to do and see while on holiday, head to our lifestyle section for more.