Tourist places in Texas

The second largest state in the US, Texas is brimming with countless possibilities for fun and adventure. Geographically and culturally diverse, the state offers a wealth of unique attractions and things to do. From the cities to the coastal beaches, mountains, and desert, vacation possibilities in Texas are extensive.

Metropolitan centers, like Houston, Austin, and Dallas, are an interesting contrast to the West Texas cities, like Amarillo or Lubbock, but each has its own character and reason for visiting. San Antonio, famous for the Alamo and the River Walk, and the nearby Hill Country, should also be on travelers’ itineraries.

For nature lovers, some of the best places to visit are the parks, like Big Bend National Park, set along a bend in the Rio Grande in West Texas, and Padre Island National Sea Shore, along the Gulf of Mexico.

For more ideas on where to go and what to see, have a read through our list of top tourist attractions in Texas.

1. San Antonio’s River Walk

Stretching for several miles along the San Antonio River in the heart of the city, the River Walk is lined with restaurants and lovely outdoor patios, where you can sit and dine alongside the river. Built below street level, this pedestrian walkway hugs the river as it winds and weaves through the city, and is as popular among locals as it is for tourists, day and night.

Although strolling along the river is the most popular thing to do here, another great way to enjoy the ambience of the area is on a leisurely cruise on a river boat. These run all the time and range from standard sightseeing trips to dinner cruises.

2. The Alamo

The Alamo is one of the most important historic sites in America. Part of a mission station established in 1718, it was built by Franciscans in 1744 and by 1836, had been converted into a fort. It became famous during the Texas Revolution, when a small force, including Davie Crockett and James Bowie, barricaded themselves in against an overwhelmingly superior Mexican army some 3,000 strong. While the defeat saw all 187 defenders killed, the cry of “Remember the Alamo!” rallied the state to eventually overcome the Mexicans.

Today, you can visit this landmark to see its restored buildings and the cenotaph commemorating the fallen Texans. Inside is a museum with changing displays, featuring weapons and artifacts related to the events and the history of the mission.

If you have time, it’s worth visiting some of the other missions in the area, which are all part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, and connected by the Mission Trail.

3. Space Center Houston

Just 30 minutes’ drive from the heart of Houston, Space Center Houston is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Texas. This is a wonderful place to learn about space exploration, upcoming missions, NASA’s latest projects, and possibly even meet an astronaut. Space Center Houston is also home to Johnson Space Center and Mission Control, which can be visited on a tour.

Plan to spend at least a half-day exploring the entire complex, which includes a space shuttle replica mounted on a shuttle carrier. Visitors can walk inside the shuttle and the carrier. You can also walk inside a replica of America’s first space station, Skylab. Other highlights include seeing rockets and touching a rock from the moon and Mars.

The center provides a fascinating insight into the operations of the world’s largest space program, with countless exhibits, as well as films, models, astronaut-related artifacts, and displays on the experiments and development at NASA.

4. Big Bend National Park

In the Chihuahua Desert of West Texas, on a huge bend in the Rio Grande River, lies some of the most dramatic and uniquely beautiful scenery in the state. Mountains, canyons, and the river flowing along the border, separating the United States from Mexico, offer a diverse range of recreational and sightseeing opportunities for visitors to Big Bend National Park.

While most people simply enjoy touring along the roads, the park offers a full range of things to do. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the extensive network of hiking trails and the beautiful campgrounds. Paddling along the Rio Grande or enjoying a picnic and wading into the water are other popular activities on warm days.

With more than 400 species of birds, bird watching is another prominent pastime in the park, but even if you are not looking for them, you are likely to see roadrunners darting across the roads or trails.

5. Padre Island National Seashore

The world’s longest undeveloped barrier island, Padre Island is just a short drive south of Corpus Christi and stretches 70 miles from end-to-end. One of the most important conservation areas in Texas, Padre Island consists of more than 130,000 acres of beach, dunes, and grassland habitats and is home to rare sea turtles and countless migratory birds, making it a birder’s paradise (350 different species visit this stopover on the Central Flyway migratory route).

The Mala quite Visitor Center is the best place to begin your visit of this beautiful coastal region of the Gulf of Mexico. It provides plenty of information, as well as assistance for those with mobility issues, including specially adapted beach wheelchairs.

6. The Texas State Capitol in Austin

The Texas State Capitol, built in 1888, is considered one of the finest state legislatures in the US. In Austin’s downtown core and now a National Historic Landmark, it certainly impresses with its dimensions, standing 308 feet tall.

Highlights of its 22-acre park include monuments to the defenders of the Alamo and to veterans of the Vietnam War. Guided tours of the building’s interior are available and start from the visitor center with its many displays. At dusk, head across to the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge for a chance to witness the spectacle of a million or so Mexican free-tailed bats coming and going from their perches under the bridge.

7. The Sixth Floor Museum, Dallas

It was from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas that the fatal shot that took President John F. Kennedy’s life was fired. Now home to The Sixth Floor Museum, this tall red-brick building offers a detailed account of the assassination, as well as Kennedy’s legacy. Highlights include accounts of his presidential campaign and term as president, all supported by historic footage, photos, and artifacts.

Also worth a visit is the nearby John F. Kennedy Memorial, a huge monument dedicated to President Kennedy unveiled in 1970.

8. Guadalupe Mountains National Park

In the northwestern corner of the state, approximately 100 miles east of El Pasco, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is home to the four highest peaks in Texas. It’s also known for an abundance of wildlife, including golden eagles.

The landscape itself is stunning, especially around the towering El Captain, as well as the Guadalupe Peak, the highest elevation in Texas. It’s also tremendously popular with hikers thanks to its more than 80 miles of trails through spectacular woodland canyons and lush springs. Be sure to stop in at the visitor center in Pine Springs for information on the park, including details of hiking and biking trails

9. The Fort Worth Stockyards

The Stockyards National Historic District remains Fort Worth’s biggest draw. Founded in 1866, the area took its name from the cattle industry, as it was here that millions of cattle were rested, sorted, or shipped out to other points across the state.

The last surviving facility of its kind in the US, these historic stockyards have been transformed into a splendid attraction consisting of all sorts of fun things to see, including rodeos, concerts, theatrical performances, and western-themed shopping. Highlights include cattle driving demonstrations and a chance to saddle up for some trail riding.

Be sure to check out the Stockyards Visitor Center and the Stockyards Museum, both of which provide information regarding current events as well as the history of this fun area of Fort Worth.

10. Galveston’s Beaches & Strand Historic District

Like numerous spots along the Texas Gulf Coast, Galveston is home to beautiful beaches that stretch on for miles. The shallow and often calm water makes this a popular area for families and beachgoers. In summer, set up your beach umbrella along the Seawall or enjoy some fun and games at the Pleasure Pier.

But this is more than just a beach town, with plenty to do here all year long. Explore the Strand Historic District in downtown, a National Historic Landmark District, and wander past the ornate Victorian-style mansions that line the quiet streets. If you are traveling with kids, be sure to stop by Moody Gardens and Aquarium. This huge complex, with its landmark glass pyramids, is home to an aquarium, a rain forest, and an amusement park.

Galveston is less than an hour’s drive from Houston and only about 45 minutes from Space Center Houston.

11. The USS Lexington, Corpus Christi

The USS Lexington, Corpus Christi

Moored off the shore just a few minutes’ stroll from the center of Corpus Christi, the mighty USS Lexington is one of the largest surviving vessels to have served in WWII. This important aircraft carrier was launched in 1943 and now serves as a naval museum.

On display are a large collection of vintage aircraft, and visitors can see the bridge and crew quarters. Also fun are the simulators and games, as well as a 3D movie that puts you in the pilot’s seat. You can also opt for the four-hour Hard Hat Tour, which takes you into the very heart of the ship.

12. Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo

Cadillac Ranch is one of West Texas’ most iconic sites. Standing in a line, nose first into the ground, it might seem like an odd attraction. But visitors come here in large numbers, not only to see and photograph this colorful spectacle, they also come here to leave their mark, at least for a short while.

The artwork on the vehicles is an ever-changing canvas, with almost everyone adding their own creative mark to the Cadillac. You are welcome to spray paint your own design. The layers of paint on these cars is hard to determine, but outside the gate, vendors sell paint chips from the cars, in jewelry settings. While you may hear you should bring a spray can, there is no need. You can find spray cans of all colors left here on the ground from the thousands of others who have come before.

13. Natural Bridge Caverns

Just a short drive from San Antonio, the spectacular Natural Bridge Caverns are part of a vast underground network consisting of more than 10,000 different stalactite formations. The largest such cave network in the US accessible to the public, Natural Bridge Caverns includes highlights such as the 40-foot-high King’s Throne, a massive wall of stalactites found in one of the largest caverns, the Castle of the White Giants.

Taking its name from the huge 60-foot limestone bridge spanning its entrance, Natural Bridge Caverns also offers a number of other fun activities, including themed tours. Up top are other attractions, including a treetop climbing adventure across a sprawling network of rope ways, platforms, and zip lines.

14. Houston’s Museum District

In the heart of downtown Houston is the city’s lovely Museum District, home to 19 museums, some of which are free. Many of the museums in this area are within walking distance of each other.

Two of the key highlights here are the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, but the district houses a mix of quality museums, including a Holocaust museum, children’s museum, and some smaller art museums, which are well worth your time.

15. Greene Historic District, New Brussels

Just a short drive from San Antonio is the small town of New Brussels, known for its charming Greene Historic District. One of the main attractions is the historic Greene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas, operating continuously since 1878. Performances run nightly, and some of the biggest names in country music perform here, in this small venue. Children are allowed, and kids under 10 receive a discount on admission at the door.

The Grist Mill Restaurant, on the edge of the Guadalupe River makes a nice destination for day trippers who want to come for lunch. In the spring, the water is packed with people tubing down the river. And don’t miss stopping by the General Store, where time seems to have stopped several decades ago.

Tourist places in Utah

Utah is one of the nation’s great outdoor states, with incredible national and state parks, top-rated ski resorts, and natural wonders like you won’t find anywhere else in the world. A road trip through Utah is one the best ways to see the sites, and scenic drives are everywhere throughout the state. For cultural highlights or nearby skiing, head to Salt Lake City. If you’re looking for outdoor adventures, from hiking, mountain biking, and camping to ATV motorcycle riding and off-road pursuits, be sure to check out Moab and St. George. Keep in mind, Utah’s elevation varies considerably, and while it’s hot and sunny in some areas, it may be snowing in others. Some parks have only limited accessibility in winter, and some towns almost shut down during this season. But most of the best places to visit are open year-round.

1 Zion National Park

Zion National Park, less than a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, features some of Utah’s most outstanding scenery, with red rock cliffs, waterfalls, and beautiful vistas. Many of the park’s most impressive sites are found in Zion Canyon, along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which follows the valley floor. From spring until fall, a sightseeing bus takes visitors through the park along this route, stopping at all the major sites and trailheads, making touring the park very simple. In winter, you can drive this route in your own vehicle. The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway runs east-west through the park and is also a must-do drive. This self-drive route takes you high above the valley and offers incredible vistas from the lookouts.

Sometimes referred to as a vertical park due to its sheer vertical walls, Zion is a hiker’s paradise. The most popular hikes in Zion are accessed off the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. Here, you’ll find everything from simple walks along the valley floor to cliff-side trails, like the famous Angel’s Landing trail, which is not for the faint of heart or anyone with a fear of heights. If you are here to truly experience the outdoors, you’ll find quality campgrounds and RV parks in and near Zion National Park.

2 Arches National Park

Stunning stone arches and rolling petrified dunes, backed by the often snow-capped peaks of the La Sal Mountains, make this one of the most scenic parks in Utah. Arches National Park is home to more than 2,000 natural stone arches. The most famous of these, and the most photographed, is Delicate Arch, standing like a horseshoe jutting out of the ground, framing the distant mountains. Numerous walking trails and hikes lead to the most popular arches and other interesting rock formations. But many of the main highlights can be seen right from the scenic drives through the park and easily accessed from the parking areas. The top attractions in the park are Devil’s Garden, Delicate Arch, Fiery Furnace, Double Arch, Park Avenue, Balanced Rock, the Windows, Broken Arch, and Sandstone Arch.

Arches National Park is located just outside Moab, a town well-known by mountain bikers and outdoor adventurers. The park is considerably higher than the town and reached via a winding road with impressive views. You’ll find several other scenic parks in the vicinity and a variety of good campgrounds in the area.

3 Monument Valley

Like a scene from an old western film, red rock buttes rise up from the orange desert floor, and occasionally a horse and rider even wanders by. This is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, located on the Navajo Indian Reservation in southeastern Utah, near the Arizona border. Numerous films and commercials have been shot in this scenic area, which is famous for its spectacular red mesas and stone pinnacles. Within the park is Valley Drive, a one-way, 17-mile, self-drive dirt road running between the buttes and through the dramatic landscape. Pullouts all along the route offer great opportunities for photography and soaking up the scenery.

If you want to go beyond this one road to explore the park more fully, you must use a guide, which can be arranged at the visitor center. If you don’t have time for the drive, which is usually done at a snail’s pace due to the curves and sightseeing stops, the view from the Monument Valley Visitor Center is spectacular, and one of the best viewpoints in Monument Valley.

4 Canyon lands National Park

Canyon lands National Park is Utah’s version of the Grand Canyon, without the crowds. The park has three sections, but the main portion, which attracts the majority of sightseers, is Island in the Sky. This area offers incredible vistas looking out over carved canyons and beyond to the snow-capped mountains. It is arguably as impressive as the Grand Canyon in its own unique way, and far less visited. The other two sections of the park, the Needles District and The Maze, offer a slightly different type of landscape but are also impressive. These areas are more remote.

One of the main attractions in Island in the Sky is Mesa Arch. This beautiful stone arch, particularly stunning in the early morning hours or late afternoon, forms a window to the canyons, buttes, and torn landscape below. Also of note in this section is the White Rim Road, which runs down from the park to the valley below, following a dirt road of switchbacks along sheer cliff walls. This road is only for the brave. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the White Rim Road, across the road from the Island in the Sky Visitors Center.

Canyon lands’ Island in the Sky section is located not far from the town of Moab. The main access point is reached by heading north along Highway 191, beyond Arches National Park. The Needles District is located in the opposite direction, off Highway 191 heading south from Moab and takes about two hours to reach

5 Bryce Canyon National Park

The brightly colored and tightly packed hoodoos that dominate the landscape at Bryce Canyon are what set this national park apart from the rest of the spectacular sites in Utah. These stone pillars, glowing in shades of orange, pink, cream, and cinnamon, jut up from the floor of a huge natural amphitheater, creating a magical landscape that almost begs to be explored. A scenic drive runs through the park and provides numerous lookouts all along the canyon. However, it’s worth venturing down into the forest of hoodoos on one of the numerous hiking trails in the park to fully appreciate the size and unique shapes of these formations. Bristlecone pine trees are another surprise attraction found in Bryce.

Bryce Canyon National Park is located at an elevation of 8,000 to over 9,000 feet and receives snowfall during the winter months and into spring. Temperatures up here, even in summer, can be cool to very cold. The best time to visit is from April to October, particularly if you are planning on staying at one of the campgrounds in the area.

6 Salt Lake City and the Mormon Temple

Salt Lake City is often associated with skiing and winter activities, and certainly many of Utah’s best ski hills can be reached within an hour’s drive of here. But this is a city worth visiting, regardless of the season, and offers numerous attractions and things to do. Standing on Temple Square is the late 19th-century Mormon Temple, the largest Latter-day Saints temple and one of Salt Lake City’s principal sites. The temple may only be entered by Mormons but it is definitely worth walking by to have a look. Other sites in the city include the Mormon Tabernacle and the State Capitol

7 Park City and nearby Ski Resorts

Park City is a fun mountain town, about 45 minutes southeast of Salt Lake City, and home to two awesome ski resorts. On the town’s doorstep is Park City Mountain Resort, with lifts operating right from town, and just down the road is Deer Valley Resort, one of Utah’s poshest ski resorts. Both of these offer outstanding terrain for all levels of skiers.

Utah Olympic Park, also located in the vicinity, was used as a venue for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Today, it offers year-round activities for kids and adults, from zip lining and hiking in summer to bobsledding in winter. Also of note is one of Park City’s most famous events, the annual Sundanese Film Festival, held in late January.

8 Moab

For outdoor adventures in the Southwest, it’s hard to beat the town of Moab. As the closest town to Arches National Park, Canyon lands National Park, and Dead Horse Point State Park, this area offers endless opportunities for hiking, biking, rafting, off-road adventures, and more. The rolling petrified dunes and surrounding mountains provide breathtaking scenery and offer a playground for all kinds of outdoor pursuits.

Mountain bikers come here in droves in the spring and fall for the outstanding riding. Although the town is known among mountain bikers for being the home of the famous and challenging Slick rock Trail, you can find trails here for all levels of bikers. When it comes to hiking, the trails in the nearby parks offer amazing scenery, including Utah’s famous Delicate Arch. You’ll also find some incredible campgrounds near Moab.

In winter, this area receives snow, and the adventure opportunities diminish. The best time to visit is in the spring (March to May) and fall (September to October). You can still enjoy yourself here in summer, but daytime temperatures get very hot.

9 Grand Staircase-Escalate National Monument

Grand Staircase-Escalate National Monument is a huge area of rugged terrain, with a landscape of canyons, arches, hills, waterfalls, forest, and scrub land. It offers a sense of remoteness that is hard to find in other parks. Dirt roads, where you can drive great distances without ever passing another vehicle, are all part of the experience. Covering 1.9 million acres, this is the largest national monument in the United States, and it’s managed by the Bureau of Land Management, not the National Park Service.

Hiking is a popular way to explore the region. Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail offers some fabulous scenery and is one of the most photographed locations in Grand Staircase-Escalate. In the southern part of the monument is Praia, a town near the Praia River, founded in 1865, but abandoned by 1920. Remnants of the town and the nearby areas have been used in a number of western films.

10 Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park, just outside of Moab, delivers one of the best lookouts of any state park in Utah. The main viewpoint looks over a gooseneck in the Colorado River carving through the colorful landscape. Cliff walls rising 2,000 feet and plateaus at various levels stretch out into the distance. On a shelf of land below the viewpoint, the Potash Road runs along a ledge. Looking to the left along this road, you can see Thelma and Louise Point, where the final scene of the motion picture Thelma and Louise was filmed. The best way to see the sights at Dead Horse Point State Park is to take a stroll on the walking trail along the rim.

11 Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is another great place to explore Utah’s interesting landscapes. Located directly west of Canyon lands National Park, Capitol Reef reveals a huge wall of banded sandstone rising above the Fremont River. Canyons, rock spires, cliff walls, arches, and gorges dominate the scenery and are an inspiration for anyone with an interest in photography. In the distance, the wall dominates the landscape and glows an almost purple color in the late day sun.

Most people come here for sightseeing, but you’ll also find a variety of hiking trails in the area. This park sees far fewer visitors than most of the other big parks in Utah, which can be a refreshing treat.

The nearest town to Capitol Reef is Torrey, to the west of the park, where you can find accommodation and camping options. The park’s visitor center is 15 minutes from town and is located at the start of the beautiful Capitol Reef Scenic Drive, one of the main highlights of a visit to the park.

12 St. George

St. George’s position in southern Utah, near some incredible parks, makes it a convenient city to base yourself if you’re interested in outdoor activities. But, even if you’re not, the town has its own attractions and is worth a visit. Zion National Park is just an hour away, and one of Utah’s great undiscovered natural areas, Snow Canyon State Park, is less than 20 minutes away. Within a half-hour drive of St. George, you’ll find outstanding hiking trails, as well as beautiful areas to camp.

The city of St. George has a number of attractions related to its Mormon history, including the St. George Temple and the Brigham Young Winter Home Historical Site. Pioneer Park and the adjoining Red Hills Desert Garden are also must-see sites.

13 Cedar Breaks National Monument

The same forces of nature that shaped Bryce Canyon were at work in Cedar Breaks, creating a smaller but equally dynamic-looking amphitheater. Dominated by colorful hoodoos, the amphitheater is more than 2,000 feet deep and three miles in diameter. Located at an elevation of 10,000 feet, the park sees full on winter conditions, with snow covering the monument from fall until spring. Cedar Breaks is open year-round, but the scenic drive through the park (Highway 148) is closed from approximately mid-November to late May or June.

The best views can be seen from the Rim Drive. A number of short hikes along the rim and through alpine meadows and forest offer good views of the canyon and access to a few bristle cone pines.

The Spectra Point and Ramparts Overlook Trail is a popular four-mile route along the edge of the plateau that leads to a viewpoint of the spectacular Cedar Breaks Amphitheater. Less spectacular, but interesting nonetheless, is the Alpine Pond Trail, a circular, two-mile hike to a sub alpine forest glade and a pond at the end of the trail.

14 Natural Bridges National Monument

South of Canyon lands National Park, but somewhat out of the way, is Natural Bridges National Monument, protecting some outstanding formations. If you are in the vicinity, or if you haven’t had an opportunity to view a natural bridge before, this park is definitely worth a stop. The main tourist attractions are three natural bridges; China, Camacho, and Sipapu, all of which are accessible by short hikes.

If you are only going to visit one, make it Papua, the largest and most impressive of the three. The walk in is a moderately strenuous, 1.2-mile round-trip hike, and it involves navigating steep sections and climbing a few stairs and ladders. China Bridge is reached by a 1.5-mile round-trip hike, but the trail is easier, although it still has some steep sections. Camacho Bridge is the easiest to reach, requiring less than a half-mile round-trip walk. It is the smallest of the three but still worth seeing.

Also of interest in the park are the Horse collar Ruins, revealing the remains of ancient Native American buildings inhabited more than 700 years ago.

15 Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument is known not only for the large number of Jurassic period fossils that have been discovered here but also for the surrounding terrain. The main highlight is the collection of more than 1,500 dinosaur fossils, which can be seen embedded in the cliff wall of Carnegie Quarry. The new Quarry Hall has been built right over top of a section of the rock, allowing for close up access and comfortable conditions for visitors. Hiking, rafting, and camping are also popular activities at Dinosaur National Monument.

16 Great Salt Lake

The Great Salt Lake, a half-hour drive northwest of Salt Lake City, is the largest inland lake west of the Mississippi, measuring 72 miles long, 34 miles wide, and up to 50 feet deep. It is a remnant of a much larger freshwater lake, Lake Bonneville. Following a fall in the water table, this lake was left with no outlet and shrank as a result of evaporation, leaving the Great Salt Lake Desert. The combination of evaporation with the inflow of surface waters rich in minerals led the salt content of the lake to rise steadily, and at one stage it reached 27 percent (eight times as high as the world’s oceans). At the south end of the lake are bathing beaches and a recreation park. Like the Dead Sea in Israel, Great Salt Lake is salty enough to allow bathers to float without sinking

17 Bonneville Salt Flats

About 90 minutes west of Salt Lake City along I-80, near Wend over, is an unassuming area of flat land, extending off into the distance as far as the eye can see. But during certain times of the year, this area becomes the world’s fastest race course. This natural salt flat is perfectly flat, devoid of all vegetation, and most of the time has a hard surface, making it perfect for high speeds. Speed Week is held here each year in August and World of Speed is held in September. These races have produced world land-speed record runs.

Most of the time it’s completely empty, and you can try it out for yourself. If you venture out here when no event is taking place, you’ll find little more than a sign on the side of the road and endless miles of salt flats. Take exit 4 off I-80, turn right, and drive past the truck stop. There is nothing else out here. Eventually, you’ll come to a sign and an area where you can drive onto the flats at your own risk. In winter, some areas of the salt flats are covered in a thin layer of water.