Everything is bigger in Texas — seriously. You could fit 10 European countries in the state itself (at least, according to people who spend time working these things out). Officially, it’s 268,820 square miles, making for a lot of ground to cover — and a very extensive road trip, if you want to do it right.
Traversing the Lone Star State is not for the faint of heart. But, it is for the ultimate adventurer who wants to see it all: from sandy desert to sandy beach; hills to valleys; landscapes to cityscapes; the stars at night to the city’s bright lights; and so much more.
So, we present to you a hypothetical map with a tip-to-tail drive across the Lone Star State. We do offer an extra credit section that includes taking a walk on the wild side and detouring to West Texas on your journey from the top to the bottom of the state. Here’s the map to part one and part two.
But, what else makes this road trip epic, you ask? Each stop on this map has a larger-than-life, monumental, and/or grandiose — an epic — sight.
You’ll see what we mean.
Content disclaimer: We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit a potentially hazardous location, you check for the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. The locations listed below may or may not have changed their regulations in regards to what you can or cannot do on site since the article was last updated. Always consult with local authorities. If you do plan to visit a location, know the risks beforehand and respect the environment.
Starting from the top in Texas means the Panhandle town of Amarillo, where you can fuel up appropriately. After all, it is home to the 72-ounce steak at The Big Texan Steak Ranch (that’s an epic 4.5 pounds if you hadn’t already crunched the numbers). After that side of beef, make sure to swing by Cadillac Ranch, the quirky roadside art installation with 10 graffiti-painted Caddys buried in the sand.
Canyon may be on the smaller side, but don’t be deceived. It boasts the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in Texas. Even more monumental, it serves as the gateway to the “Grand Canyon of Texas”: Palo Duro Canyon. The State Park offers an array of sightseeing and outdoor adventuring, and you’ll definitely want to watch the internationally acclaimed outdoor music drama, TEXAS, in the canyon. It’s the official musical of the State of Texas.
When in Dallas, one must pay homage to America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys. Instead of AT&T Stadium, visit Jerry’s new world at The Star in Frisco, where you can take a VIP tour of the team’s Corporate Headquarters, where they practice 355 days of the year. Not to put a damper on the fun, but downtown Dallas is also home to Dealey Plaza and the John F. Kenney Memorial, where the former president was assassinated. History buffs generally like to see it. While you’re there, head to the Dallas Arts District. It’s the largest contiguous arts district in the nation, spanning 68 acres and 19 blocks, where you can explore the Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, Crow Collection of Asian Art, and more.
You’ll only head west for a quick jaunt, but you’ll feel like you are worlds away in Cowtown a.k.a. Fort Worth. Pack your boots and cowboy hat for the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, boasting the world's only twice-daily cattle drive and the world’s only year-round rodeo. Talk about the wild West!
The “Dinosaur Capital of Texas” is next, where Jurassic Park moments are assured at the Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose. Walk in the ancient footprints left by dinosaurs in what's now the bed of the Paluxy River. After a brush with prehistoric creatures, commune with zebras, giraffes, emus, gemsboks, an Arabian oryx, and more hard-to-pronounce, what-are-they creatures at the nearby Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Yes, it’s like an African safari. And, yes, you can feed the animals.
Before HGTV’s hit series Fixer Upper, Waco was but a college town for Baylor University. Now, it’s an internationally recognized mecca where wannabe redecorators make their pilgrimage to Magnolia Market at the Silos, Fixer Upper hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines’ mother ship of shiplap-chic and farmhouse charm. The perfectly coordinated décor store, garden, bakery, huge grain silos, food trucks, and more are surreally well-coordinated.
You’ll likely want to linger in Austin, as there’s a wealth of ways to explore the city’s weird, offbeat ways — think Chicken Shit Bingo at Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon; the Cathedral of Junk built in a South Austin yard; a Museum of the Weird; turtle racing at Little Woodrow's. Need we say more? But, if we’re considering the epic checklist, a tour of the Texas State Capitol makes the cut. Because, well, it’s the State Capitol. There’s one other thing you might want to see: 1.5 million bats. They emerge nightly from narrow crevices underneath the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, from about March to October. Holy batman.
Driving through the Texas Hill Country is beautiful in and of itself. But, make a pit stop to Jacob’s Well right outside of Wimberley. Not only is it enchanting, it’s thought to be one of the longest underwater caves in Texas. It’s a magical sight to see — and you can also go for a swim, if you so desire.
Become one with the vines... In additional to pretty scenery, the Texas Hill Country is known for its vineyards and wineries, and Fredericksburg is a perfect stopping point to exchange the open roads for the Texas Wine Trail. With sips from more than 20 wineries to try, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Make sure to stay overnight in a charming bed-and-breakfast like the Fredericksburg Herb Farm — no drinking and driving allowed. If you want to burn off that hangover in the morning, hike the nearby Enchanted Rock State Natural Area for winning views from the namesake pink granite rock before hitting the road again.
As the Cowboy Capital of the World, Bandera is the closest you’ll get to an authentic cowboy experience — no, the Dallas Cowboys don’t count. While here, you can dude ranch it up with chuck wagon meals, trail rides, and more. If you skip this stop, though, we won’t judge. You did cowboy up in Fort Worth.
*Extra Credit Detour
This is where the rubber really meets the road, and the men are separated from the boys. If you’re a road warrior and up for the challenge, it’s time to go off the beaten path and head to the wild, wild West for the Caverns of Sonora, Marfa, Terlingua, and Big Bend National Park.
Caverns of Sonora
Where the Texas Hill Country meets the Chihuahuan Desert, the Caverns of Sonora are a must-see pit stop on your way out west. The natural landmark was called one of the “most indescribably beautiful caves in the world” by the founder of the National Speleological Society which promotes the exploration and conservation of caves.
If you’ve always wondered what the Marfa hype was all about, here’s your chance to discover the epic desert destination that’s like a magical mirage in the middle of nowhere — and sleep under the stars in a teepee while you’re at it. Naturally, you’ll have to take a photo in front of the now-iconic Prada Marfa installation and look for the mystifying Marfa lights.
The only place where it’s good to get ghosted, Terlingua is commonly known as “Ghost Town Texas,” and you’ll know why when you arrive. The former mining community is all but deserted, but plenty spirited with tons of abandoned buildings to explore — and lots of funky things on the side of the road, from junk-shop sculptures to a sand-locked pirate ship and Statue of Liberty.
Big Bend National Park
The stars at night are big and bright — deep in the heart of far west Texas. Follow the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive for a front-row seat to the geological marvel that is Big Bend National Park; it’s filled with numerous scenic overlooks of the Chisos mountain range and the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert and it ends at Santa Elena Canyon.
We now resume regular programming. If you went west, welcome back. If not, your adventure still continues in top form with Gruene, the thriving historic district of New Braunfels. Listen to country music and two-step around at Gruene Hall, Texas’ oldest continually operating and most famous dance hall. If you need a rest stop, River Road Treehouses lets you sleep high in the treetops, which is fun and pretty darn relaxing.
Remember the Alamo in San Antonio. The 18th-century Spanish mission, now a museum, marks an infamous 1836 battle for Texan independence from Mexico. After that, stroll the River Walk, a pedestrian promenade lined with cafés and shops along the San Antonio River.
Beer nerds, rejoice. This is the birthplace of Shiner Bock, where every single drop is brewed at Spoetzel Brewery — and, if you couldn’t guess, it is Texas’ oldest independent brewery. The epic theme rolls on.
For another out of this world stop, check out Space Center Houston. It’s the Official Visitors Center of the NASA Johnson Space Center, home of astronaut training and Mission Control. Then, get your art on in the Houston Museum District and see Rothko Chapel. With walls clothed in 14 black but color-hued paintings by Mark Rothko, it’s both a chapel and a major work of modern art. The Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts are also worthy stops.
As you wrap up this epic road trip, it’s time to hit the shores of the Gulf of Mexico for some fun in the sun. Stewart Beach is a popular hotspot, or head to Pleasure Pier that's filled with amusement park rides, shops, and restaurants — and far-reaching views of the coast. If you don’t want to put your feet in the sand, head to The Strand, Galveston’s National Historic Landmark District with galleries, shops, bars, and restaurants hosted in 19th-century buildings. The 28,000-square-foot Moody Mansion is also worth a tour.
Follow the coast all the way down and arrive in Port Isabel, the extreme bottom tip of south Texas. The towering Port Isabel Lighthouse will signal your arrival in this famous coastal town that’s considered one of the oldest cities in Texas, dating back to 1519. Climb the 75 steps to the top of the lighthouse for sweeping views of South Padre Island and the beaches. Then, grab a cocktail (or two) and plunk yourself down on the beach. After that grand tour of Texas, you deserve it.