Ready to take a three-day weekend and slip away from the daily grind? We’ve got you covered with ideas for a road trip you can make happen with just a long weekend. No over-hyped big city spots here; we suggest off-the-beaten path places where you can enjoy the simplicity of nature, adventure and a healthy dose of small-town Texas charm.
Head south to Wimberley to experience the natural beauty of the hill country and a variety of arts, music and wineries.
More than a dozen art galleries populate Wimberley’s downtown area, and the city was designated a state cultural district in 2015 by the Texas Commission on the Arts. In addition to art galleries, you’ll find live music venues, the Wimberley Playhouse, Wimberley-Winters House and the Visitor Center all in the walkable downtown area. Wimberley Glassworks, located about six miles outside Wimberley, is a hand-blown glass lighting and art glass studio and offers free glass blowing demonstrations daily as well as glassblowing classes.
On a mild summer evening, check out the walk-in outdoor movie theatre, the Corral Theatre. It’s open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the summer.
If the summer afternoon is scorching, however, you can cool off at Jacob’s Well, a perennial karstic spring and popular swimming spot. Or, visit Blue Hole Regional Park, a 126-acre park with a natural blue hole swimming area.
Wimberley is also home to Bella Vista Ranch, with more than 1,200 producing olive trees, seasonal fruit and vegetables, a frantoio (olive press), a winery, tasting room, and gift shop. First Texas Olive Oil Co. is headquartered at the ranch, and you can taste the various olive oils that have been made there since 2001. Bella Vista Cellars, a winery also located on the ranch, offers handcrafted hill country varietals using locally grown grapes and a selection of seasonal fruit wines. Tours available on Saturdays and Sundays (must be 12 and older for tours).
Book your Wimberley stay at Relics Ranch, owned by former Abilenian and HGTV designer Bex Hale and husband David. The 11-acre property with two homes – the Ranch House and the Grand Lodge – accommodates up to 14 guests and includes a pool, hot tub, patio, cabana and a few friendly ranch pets.
Granbury and Glen Rose
A two-and-a-half-hour drive east offers a chance to experience dinosaurs, wildlife, ghosts, old west history and small-town charm in the Granbury and Glen Rose area.
The Granbury Ghosts and Legends tour, led by a tour guide and paranormal expert, takes visitors through the historic downtown square while hearing tales of Lady in Red, The Faceless Girl, John Wilkes Booth, outlaw Jesse James and other famous and infamous characters of Granbury’s past. Tours are every Friday and Saturday at 7 and 9:15 p.m.
Shop boutiques at the downtown square and visit the newly-refurbished Granbury Opera house (established just after the Texas revolution) while you’re at it. Take a break for drinks at Revolver Brewing; tours and tastings available on Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m.
To step back even further in time, head just minutes from Glen Rose, to Dinosaur World, complete with life-sized replicas of some of the prehistoric creatures whose fossils have been found nearby. Kids and the young at heart can explore interactive exhibits, climb and play at the dino-themed playground and dig for fossils and gems.
You can also check out the actual dinosaur footprints and fossils themselves at Dinosaur Valley State Park. Climb and walk right through dinosaur tracks in the Paluxy River, or camp, picnic, hike, mountain bike, swim, or go horseback riding. Also along the Paluxy River, wade, swim, climb, picnic and enjoy the natural beauty of the free Big Rocks Park.
For encounters with living animals, the 1,700-acre Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is home to more than 1,000 animals, representing approximately 50 different species. Drive-through and behind-the-scenes tours give guests an up-close peek at giraffes, elk, zebras, emu, cheetahs and many more.
The free Explore Glen Rose app can help you plan and organize your Glen Rose visit from your smartphone.
Balmorhea and Davis Mountains
If you’re willing to take a slightly longer road trip, head west to an area where you can visit two breathtaking state parks about 30 miles away from each other.
The Davis Mountains State Park is nestled in the foothills of Texas’ most extensive and second highest mountain range. Volcanic activity formed the mountains 25 to 30 million years ago, and evidence of that event is visible in the exposed rock along the canyon walls. Park visitors can hike, backpack, mountain bike, ride their own horses, take a scenic drive through the mountains, go camping, stargaze, geocache and study nature.
Also in the Davis Mountains, you can visit McDonald Observatory, a research unit of The University of Texas at Austin and one of the world’s leading centers for astronomical research, teaching, and public education and outreach. At the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center, outreach events include daily tours of the large research telescopes and star parties under some of the darkest night skies in the continental United States. There are also frequent special viewing nights on some of the largest telescopes in the world.
If tent camping in the state park isn’t your thing, stay at the Indian Lodge, a full-service hotel within the Davis Mountains State Park, featuring 39 rooms, white adobe walls, a historic aura and a refreshing pool.
A half hour drive from the Davis Mountains State Park is the Balmorhea State Park, where you can dive into the crystal-clear water of the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. More than 15 million gallons of water flow through the pool each day, gushing from the San Solomon Springs. The pool is up to 25 feet deep, covers 1.75 acres, and holds 3.5 million gallons of water. The water temperature stays at 72 to 76 degrees year-round.
Scuba diving is a popular activity in the spring-fed pool, but you can also skin dive, camp, geocache, bird watch or explore restored cienegas (desert wetlands), home to endangered fish and other wildlife.
This state park also offers lodging beyond tent campsites. The San Solomon Springs Courts is a motel-style retro lodge.