23 Excursions Worth the Drive

We would tell you to fill up your tank and head down the road, but, truth is, you don’t have to sweat filling your tank for these weekend getaways packed with outdoor adventures, live musical theater, romantic excursions, historical sites and unique lodging. All these goodies are well within our city’s proverbial backyard.

Clifton
Drive Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Midway to Austin is The Cell Block in Clifton’s historic and artsy downtown district. Stay the night in this jail cell built in the days of Bonnie and Clyde, but escape during the day to explore the shops, galleries, museums and theaters throughout the area. The wrought-iron Clifton Whipple Truss Bridge, built in 1884, spanning 150 feet across the North Bosque River, is now condemned but still a sight worth seeing. Meanwhile, the Horn Shelter Site, at the Bosque Museum, is one of only three Paleo American sites in the country with skeletal remains and burial goods. Then there is the Red Caboose Winery in nearby Meridian, which hosts live music events, and the tasting room and deli in Clifton, offering a sampling of its award-winning wines.


Abilene
Drive Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes
Begin your Abilene getaway with a fun and informative walking tour of town led by the cowboy poet Gus McDusty and get the lay of the land. Grab a steak at Perini Ranch Steakhouse and then catch a performance at the restored 1930s Paramount Theater. Next, explore the history of the Old West through the innovative exhibits at Frontier Texas in downtown Abilene, the folklore of historic Fort Phantom Hill and the many structures and artifacts on display at Buffalo Gap Historic Village. No matter how you choose to spend your Abilene days, though, spend your nights at one of Sayles Ranch Guesthouses exquisite homes. Each of the 11 guesthouses evokes the mystique of the frontier past with handmade mesquite furniture, frontier antiques and West Texas décor.


Albany
Drive Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Blending visual and performing art with local history, the Old Jail Art Center in Albany is a widely acclaimed museum experience. Opening in 1980 in Shackelford County’s first permanent jail, the museum encompasses 17,000 square feet with over 2,000 works of art, including modern art from America and Europe, pre-Columbian and Asian art and the Sallie Reynolds Matthews collection dedicated to local Texas heritage. Continue this Texas heritage getaway by visiting the interpretive exhibits at Fort Griffin State Historic Site where one of the state’s defensive forts stood until 1881. Tour the ruins of the fort while learning about the Red River War of 1874 and the Buffalo Soldiers who fought the Comanche and Kiowa there. Fort Griffin is also home to the official state of Texas longhorn herd.


Archer City
Drive Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes
A visit to Archer City and the Panhandle Plains means a room at the famous Spur Hotel. The 12 rooms in this 1920s boutique hotel are simple, but each is a work of art featuring Old West décor and tons of history. Within walking distance of the Spur is Larry McMurtry’s celebrated bookstore, Booked Up Inc., which offers nearly 200,000 fine and scholarly books. Just around the corner is the prominent Royal Theater. Once featured in the Oscar-winning film “The Last Picture Show,” this 220-seat venue is a great place to catch a live performance. For more Texas history, visit the Archer County Museum and Jail and a collection of historical sites around town like an infamous Jesse James hideout, the Archer County copper mines and the extinct town of Anarene.


Athens
Drive Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Fishermen of all ages will love the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. This educational and entertaining fishery includes a number of exhibits along with 300,000 gallons worth of indoor and outdoor aquariums spread across 107 acres. There is a Hill Country stream exhibit, farm pond exhibit and reservoir exhibit packed with native fish species from around the state. Guests will enjoy a dive show and narrated hatchery tram tour, followed by a stroll along the mile-long Wetlands Trail.

Round out this freshwater getaway with a visit to Athens Scuba Park with over 35 sunken wrecks, 11 diving docks and a full-service dive shop at its spring-fed clear water lake. With an on-site classroom, training pool and open water lake, getting certified all in one place is simple.


Coleman and Talpa
Drive Time: 2 hours, 17 minutes
A weekend getaway to Coleman and nearby Talpa is a Rancho Loma experience filled with food, wine and luxurious ranch living. Dinner at Rancho Loma is served every Friday and Saturday evening with an ever-changing menu to fit the season. Settle into the original 1878 rock ranch house to enjoy the likes of ricotta gnocchi and pork ragu alongside roast duck and farro with dried cherries. After dinner, retire to one of five luxurious guestrooms on the property. The next day, you’ll enjoy a full breakfast, 300 acres of beautiful ranch property to roam and a visit to Rancho Loma Vineyards in Coleman. RLV’s winery and tasting room host weekly live music, tours and wine classes and monthly winemaker dinners. In Coleman, make time to check out Rancho Pizzeria and 410 Gallery.


Brownwood
Drive Time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Originally opened in 1914, the Lyric Theater is the centerpiece of a great Brownwood retreat. The 2019 performance series includes the stage version of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” the jukebox musical “Ring of Fire” and the musical “Gilligan’s Island.” After the show, head over to the Brown County Museum of History, showcasing over 150 years of history, and tour the interior of the town’s old fortress-like jail. Brownwood’s Lehnis Railroad Museum exhibits Central Texas railroad history, while the Gordon Wood Hall of Champions sports museum celebrates the state’s most-winning high school football coach. Close out this historic weekend with a short drive to Early and the Spirit of Texas Winery where you’ll find a beautiful tasting room built from a repurposed barn, animal pen and wood shed.


Celeste
Drive Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
What better reason to head to Celeste for a weekend than a treehouse bed and breakfast? Savannah’s Meadow is truly unique with two luxurious treehouses high up in a forest of majestic oaks. In addition to spectacular views, each spacious treehouse includes a kitchen, full bathrooms, air-conditioning and heating and enough beds to accommodate the whole family. Majestic Oak Treehouse includes a floating sky lounge surrounded by trees and sky and a crow’s nest bedroom with a glass ceiling. Bare Creek Hollow Treehouse, perched over Bare Creek Hollow, offers a spacious living area with a sofa and overstuffed chairs. Guests of Savannah’s Meadow will enjoy a catch-and-release fishing pond, an outdoor kitchen, as well as trails through herb gardens, fairy forests and lavender fields.


Comanche
Drive Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Sixteen wines make up the Brennan Vineyards portfolio, but it may be the historic McCrary House Tasting Room that will draw you to a weekend in Comanche. Enjoy a customized selection of wines alongside Texas-style artisan cheeses and meats while listening to tales of the historic Texas frontier. Perched on the northeast corner of the square in Comanche, Stone Eagle Beer Garden sets out to blend German culture and Texas heritage by providing a family-friendly environment, serving unique fare like kase schieber, Cajun alligator bites and fried pickles. The beer garden’s completely restored historic building is a distinctive venue, serving over 70 beers and offering live music every weekend. Before you head home, though, check out The Penny Grave near the once-thriving Sipe Springs for a truly unique experience.


Graham
Drive Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
City dwellers looking to spread their wings need look no further than the North Texas Hill Country and the Wildcatter Ranch in Graham. With loads of luxury and adventure in mind, this 1,500-acre resort ranch was designed for both romantic getaways and fun family adventures. Head out on a private trail ride over 25 miles of riding trails, try your hand at sport clay shooting or archery, explore the countryside via Jeep tours and hiking trails, or kick back and enjoy a therapeutic massage and a dip in the ranch’s infinity-edge pool.

Lodging options range from the sprawling Herron Bend guest home to more intimate cabin suites and cozy hotel rooms. Meanwhile, classic mouthwatering Texas cuisine is served throughout the day in the Wildcatter Steakhouse.


Grapevine
Drive Time: 32 minutes
With offerings like the Urban Wine Trail, GrapeFest and a host of Texas wineries like Delaney Vineyards, Umbra Winery and the most-awarded winery in Texas, Messina Hof, a wine-themed getaway to Grapevine is a no-brainer. But make time for local favorites like Nash Farm, Texas Star Dinner Theater and strolling the many shops and galleries in Historic Downtown Grapevine. Set sail on a Black Watch Sailing Charters sunset dinner cruise on Lake Grapevine’s largest wooden-masted sailing vessel any Friday night during the summer and view Grapevine’s SummerBlast fireworks show from the middle of the lake. Then there is the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, which offers seasonal excursions throughout the year like the North Pole Express for the whole family and Jazz Wine Train for something more romantic.


Lewisville
Drive Time: 48 minutes
Every weekend Old Town Brewhouse offers more than a dozen beers on tap, an assortment of local food trucks and a rocking cover band. Meanwhile, Witherspoon Distillery serves a craft cocktail list with tastings and pairings each weekend, along with more live music and distillery tours to educate guests on the whiskey-making process from grain to glass. For something more adventurous, visitors can set sail on Lake Lewisville on a five-hour captained adventure sail with Thompson Sail Charters. For something more adventurous, enroll in its sailing school for lessons in terminology, knots, wind, deploying and trimming a sail and basic navigation. Or keep it laid-back and explore Lake Lewisville’s nature preserve on a guided kayak tour through some truly breathtaking habitat.


Mount Vernon
Drive Time: 2 hours, 16 minutes
There’s really no shortage of things to do in Mount Vernon if you head down to Deer Lake Cabins Ranch Resort. This 800-acre working horse ranch in East Texas is packed with woods, lakes, ponds and streams ripe for an unforgettable family adventure. Just steps from your lakeside cabin are hiking and biking trails, kayaks and standup paddleboards. Hit the trail on a guided horseback ride through forests of towering pines, explore the surrounding countryside and spot wildlife from a UTV, or sit back and relax on a hayride tour of the property’s resident livestock. Then set out on beautiful Lake Cypress Springs for a guided boat tour complete with lunch and wine. Guests can also get up early and help with ranch chores and stay up late for the nightly cowboy cookout.


Glen Rose
Drive Time: 54 minutes
Rough Creek Lodge and Resort in the foothills of the Texas Hill Country is a premier hunting destination offering 11,000 acres of full-service hunting adventures, including whitetail deer, Rio Grande turkey, upland bird mixed bag hunts and duck hunts with experienced dogs. Shooting sports are world-class at Rough Creek, whether you’re on the 10-station sporting clays course or at the tactical shooting complex with covered shooting platforms and steel targets up to 1,000 yards away. Guests will also enjoy a sprawling paintball recreation field, guided bass fishing on Mallard Lake and open-range horseback riding tours and cattle drives. Of course, this is in addition to a daily menu of rustic American cuisine and luxurious lodging options from guestrooms and suites to exclusive cabins and luxurious guest homes.


Muenster
Drive Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
From the deck of the Wind Shed Tasting Room at 4R Ranch Vineyards & Winery, guests can sip estate wines from the Viognier and Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards while enjoying a 270-degree view of the stunning Red River Valley. Stay at the winery’s three-bedroom guesthouse and relax in the outdoor sitting area near the herb garden for private views of the vineyards, nearby Camp Creek and the resident whitetail deer and turkey that frequent this extraordinary place. Another great Muenster jewel is the European-inspired bed and breakfast, Elm Creek Manor Culinary Inn. This farm-to-table culinary experience serves gourmet meals using only organic ingredients harvested on-site. The Inn’s 18-acre romantic setting features rolling hills, creeks and forests. Best of all, guests can help feed the chickens, pick veggies from the garden and even milk the cows each morning.


Granbury
Drive Time: 47 minutes
Lodging for a Granbury getaway doesn’t get much better than the upscale, lakefront accommodations at Inn on Lake Granbury, just 2 1/2 blocks from the square. Take in a double feature at the Brazos Drive-In, experience The Follies at the New Granbury Live or check out the beautiful Historic Granbury Opera House, where the Granbury Theater Company produces several live musicals and stage plays throughout the year. Granbury also serves as a wine weekend getaway with the likes of Pemberton Cellars, Barking Rock Winery and nearby Bluff Dale Winery, producing award-winning Texas wines. Take an interactive 45-minute tour of Local Goat Distillery for a sampling of Granbury spirits or head over to the family-owned Revolver Brewing Company for live music and a brewer-led tour.


Palestine
Drive Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes
Step aboard the Texas State Railroad for a scenic 50-mile, round-trip journey through the Piney Woods of East Texas between Palestine and Rusk. The four-hour steam train journey includes vintage furnishings, enlightening narration and music, a concession car and two historic train depots. The Rusk depot offers picnic areas on Cherokee Lake and a campground for overnighters. Back in Palestine, Eilenberger’s Bakery is the oldest bakery in Texas, serving world-famous fruitcake and Texas pecan cakes for more than 120 years. Take in a performance at the downtown Texas Theater, fish on Lake Palestine, or stroll the more than five miles of hard surface trails at Davey Dogwood Park in the spring and see the blossoming dogwoods and wildflowers during the Texas Dogwood Trails Festival.


Pilot Point
Drive Time: 1 hour, 13 minutes
Drive north out of Fort Worth, through farmlands and rolling hills, to historic Pilot Point and spend the afternoon on a laid-back distillery tour and vodka tasting with the popular Western Son Distillery. Since 2011, Western Son has made small-batch, handcrafted products including canned cocktails, Texas gin and eight different gluten-free vodkas like blueberry, peach, watermelon, prickly pear and ruby red grapefruit. On-site concerts are a common occurrence here, so call ahead. From February to March, the colorful tulip fields at Texas-Tulips are packed with 90 varieties of tulips, including Texas gold, Texas flame, American dream and striped tulips. As a guest here, you’ll take a picking basket, stroll the fields and pick the tulips you want, then bring them back home.


Rockwall
Drive Time: 1 hour, 4 minutes
A fun-filled getaway to Rockwall is packed with drinks and adventures. Begin with a tasty tour of Woodcreek Brewing Company’s facilities every Saturday or partake in rowdy game nights, chili tastings and other seasonal events each week. For wine-lovers, there’s the guided tour of the production areas and vineyards at San Martino Vineyards. Bring a blanket and a basket, purchase a bottle of handcrafted wine and have a picnic on the vineyard grounds. Afterwards, join a sunset, moonlight or dinner cruise on beautiful 22,000-acre Lake Ray Hubbard aboard the Harbor Lights 57-foot double-decker party boat. Hit the open trail with Chisholm Trail Rides for a unique, personalized riding experience for all ages and abilities, then catch a sunset and explore the high-end shops, restaurants and live music at the Harbor at Rockwall.


Sherman
Drive Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
Craft beer lovers looking to answer the call of the wild will appreciate a weekend in Sherman. Every Saturday at 903 Brewers, visitors can tour the brewery, sample the newest beers on tap and listen to some local live music in the taproom. Try 903’s award-winning flavors like The Chosen One Coconut Ale, Sasquatch Imperial Chocolate Milk Stout and the famous Scotch ale, Kilt Switch. The next day, relax amid 12,000 acres of colorful wildflowers and grasslands at Hagerman Wildlife Refuge. In addition to a variety of migratory bird species that visit the refuge by the thousands, Hagerman offers an incredible variety of wildlife. The four-mile wildlife drive traces wetlands, croplands and open water, but the refuge also offers plenty of backcountry areas with wooded nature trails.


Waco
Drive Time: 1 hour, 21 minutes
A Waco weekend means visiting the home of the nation’s oldest major soft drink at the Dr. Pepper Museum, seeing the fossil remains of a nursery herd of ice age mammoths at Waco Mammoth National Monument and taking in a show at the extravagant Hippodrome Theatre on historic Austin Avenue. It also means visiting the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum packed with more than two centuries of artifacts detailing the history of these legendary lawmen and the state of Texas. Topping it all off is the internationally acclaimed Balcones Distilling, housed in an old welding shop under a bridge, where visitors will enjoy a flight of annual and special release whiskeys while learning the history and process of distillation.


Wichita Falls
Drive Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
From the exhibit hall filled with amphibians and arachnids to the 17 acres of nature trails and wetlands, River Bend Nature Center in Wichita Falls is a weekend escape designed for the kids. This environmental education facility boasts a 7,000-square-foot glass butterfly pavilion packed with over 100 native plant species, prairie dogs, box turtles, quail and indoor pond. Picnic under the open-air pavilion, walk the winding paths of the Children’s Garden and learn about all the exciting wildlife. This weekend getaway also makes room for some adult education as you visit Horseshoe Bend Cellars (formerly Wichita Falls Winery) and take a free tour of the vineyard, oak barrel aging cellar, fermentation tanks and bottling room. Guests will learn about the winemaking process from grape to glass.


Salado
Drive Time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Salado is a town crammed with gifted artisans working in every industry, but a creative getaway here has a couple essential stops. Ro Shaw is a clay thrower and wood worker who works out of a corrugated tin shed in Salado, but a visit to Ro Shaw Clay Studio is more than a walk through his gallery. Get inspired with a pottery class, wheel-throwing demonstrations or a workshop designed just for kids. And if you get your kicks hanging out at historical landmarks, we also recommend getting your fill — while also catching some Zs — at the Stagecoach Inn. This restaurant/hotel — housed in a building that’s been around since the days of the Chisholm Trail — offers a killer brunch menu full of trail classics like steak and eggs, and biscuits and gravy.