Dallas, Texas’ third most populous city, holds appeal for its modernity and metropolitan range of things to do and see.
From museums, culture and arts, to a thriving food and drink scene – and not just for Texas barbecue – it’s understandable that its popularity is growing, even among those who aren’t Dallas Cowboys fans.
Don’t just come for its historical significance – it was, after all, the place where JFK was assassinated – come for the broad range of activities to be had within the city, as well as the plentiful options in its nearby surrounds.
Let’s explore the best day trips from Dallas:
1. Beavers Bend State Park
Natural beauty is one of many things that Dallas’ surrounds has going for it, and Beavers Bend State Park is one great example of this.
Located in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, the fresh, clear waters of Beavers Bend Lake is its main source of entertainment, with kayaking, jet skiing and boating on offer.
If you’re after a more relaxed visit, however, nearby Hochatown has great restaurants and wineries to browse; perfect for a tranquil escape from the busy city life of Dallas.
2. Fort Worth
For a truly authentic Texan experience, nearby Fort Worth, ‘where the West begins’, is certainly worthy of a visit (if you’ll pardon the pun). Cowboy boots and ten gallon hats abound, and the place is complete with plenty of Tex-Mex foodie options, as well as the world’s largest honky-tonk at Billy Bob’s.
In Fort Worth you can experience the real Wild West, with cattle drives twice daily and regular rodeos – and all of this is just 45 minutes’ drive to the west of Dallas.
If the cowboy hype just isn’t doing it for you, there’s also the nearby zoo, and plentiful other cultural attractions in the city to keep you entertained.
3. Athens, Texas
If finding the birthplace of the great American hamburger has been languishing on your bucket list for ages, then making the 90-minute drive from Dallas to Athens would be a worthwhile excursion.
Rumor has it that a local man introduced his minced beef sandwich invention at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, but the quaint town is far from a one-hit-wonder.
The downtown area is full of shops, galleries, restaurants, and historic buildings, and there’s a popular farmer’s market on the weekends as well.
There’s also a scuba park on the town’s clear lake, so plan on making a day of it.
Some of the state’s best wines hail from Fredericksburg, set right into Texas Hill Country.
Its picturesque setting means Fredericksburg would certainly be a great option for couples or girls groups looking to escape.
With more than two dozen different wineries on offer, you’ll be spoilt for choice – but any and all will certainly satisfy.
Then, when you’re done sipping on the region’s best, a stroll along the town’s gorgeous historical streets will provide the perfect way to end your day.
The home of US history, Jefferson has heaps of options for culture lovers.
Located in the Piney Woods region, the city’s biggest draw is the historic houses, some of which are opened up for tours during the day, and others of which actually operate as bed-and-breakfasts.
A great place to get a sense of pre-civil war America, Jefferson’s many museums are one of the main things to do there – check out the Gone With the Wind museum for a diverting couple of hours! If museums aren’t really your thing, you can also take a river boat tour of the Big Cypress Bayou.
6. Turner Falls State Park
Yet another nature-lover’s option, Turner Falls State Park offers lots of things to the passing day-tripper, among them swimming holes, picnic spots and hiking trails.
It is also home to Oklahoma’s biggest waterfall, a 77-foot beauty tumbling into the water below.
Visitors can spend the day exploring the walking trails around the park, seeking out caves and strolling along streams, and there’s also opportunity to spot some wildlife along the way.
When you get tired, you can always stop and relax on one of the park’s many sandy beaches.
Not many things would attract a day tripper from Dallas to Waco, if not for the intriguing highlight of the town: the Dr Pepper museum.
Undoubtedly the only one of its kind, the museum was where the popular soda was bottled from 1906 until the 1960s.
Nowadays you can wander round to explore the many exhibits, take a look at the old-fashioned soda fountain, and of course, purchase one of a whole range of Dr Pepper-based memorabilia from the gift shop.
Also nearby is the Magnolia Market, made famous by US HGTV show Fixer Upper.
Many people make the trip to the home improvement store just for the novelty value!
8. Lake Texoma
If you’re after a tranquil day trip, why not take the opportunity to go to Lake Texoma to check out its fishing scene? With over seventy species of fish swimming around in its depths, this is a great place for both amateurs and experts.
There are also lots of other activities on offer in Lake Texoma, from boating on the lake to hiking and biking on the many trails that adorn its circumference.
You can also spend some time exploring some of more than fifty parks that fringe the lake.
9. Davy Crockett National Forest
Though this forest is also used for commercial purposes, there’s plenty of fun activities on offer around the Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area for the whole family.
The 45-acre lake is great for swimming, of course, but also for boating and fishing, and there are some great picnic spots nearby for lunch.
For something a bit different, there’s also Piney Creek Horse Trail, which stretches for over 50 miles through the forest.
It would only be right to see the park on horseback, given its famous namesake.
10. Pat Mayse State Park
Located in the town of Arthur, Texas, Pat Mayse State Park is comprised of nearly 10,000 acres of varied environments that are particularly popular with nature lovers, sportsmen, and those looking to escape the big city crowds in Dallas.
Don’t expect to relax with a cappuccino at the welcome center or rub elbows with the park’s staff, because there aren’t any of either.
For rugged and independent types, that means tons of wide-open spaces and minimal crowds.
It’s open to hunters during the various game seasons, and anglers who come match wits with their aquatic quarry at the park’s streams and reservoir.
11. Arbuckle Wilderness Park
Safari in style at Arbuckle Wilderness Park in Davis, Oklahoma.
One of the best places around to get up close and personal with nature, Arbuckle Wilderness Park is situated in more than 200 acres of great outdoors, just waiting to be explored.
Visitors drive through the park where the animals reside, and might even be lucky enough to have some curious creatures come right up to their windscreen.
There’s also a petting zoo and a reptile house located in the park, as well as designated feeding times for some of the animals.
12. Palestine, Texas
Even for law-abiding drivers who obey Texas’ liberal speed limits, Palestine is less than two hours from Dallas, making it another fun day trip option.
It’s a great town in which to relax and stock up on Old West regalia like cowboy boots, hats, and leather belts studded with silver and turquoise.
Don’t worry if they’re not your thing, because the town also boasts a number of historic attractions like the Anderson County Courthouse and the Carnegie Library.
There are two golf courses in town too, and four lakes that are magnets for anglers and water recreation enthusiasts during the warm summer months.
Claimed to be the world’s first and oldest flea market, Canton is certainly worth a visit if you’re there for its First Monday Trade Day – check the date before you go.
In operation for over 150 years, since the 1850s, the flea market hosts antique dealers and artists and craftsmen, and generally a whole host of people who just love to chat.
With slightly unsavoury beginnings, as vendors used to set up shop outside the site of local hangings, the Canton market is, in its modern iteration, certainly a sight to be seen.
Bring lots of cash, and get your bargaining hat on.
14. Lake Whitney State Park
Lake Whitney State Park offers all the usual park-bound activities – hiking, biking, swimming and picnicking – but it has some more unusual activities, too.
Visitors can, strangely, check out the scuba diving available in the waters of the lake – and see what it has to offer from an underwater perspective.
You can even do your PADI open water certificate here (though not on a day trip, of course). Diving aside, Lake Whitney also boasts the option of jet skiing, as well as bird watching around its outer fringes – you might spot anything from wild turkeys to bald eagles to burrowing owls.
15. Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose
For one of the more intriguing state park offerings, head to Glen Rose and check out the prehistoric fascinations of Dinosaur Valley, straddling the Paluxy River.
Search along the riverbed and you might just spot the footsteps of an ancient creature, who trod where you stand over 113 million years ago.
You can also use the park’s Mapping Dinosaur Tracks app to help you in your search – an advantage little George Adams didn’t have when he first discovered the tracks in 1909.
Aside from dinosaur hunting, the park can be explored on foot, by mountain bike, or on horseback, and provides more than 20 miles of trails for its eager visitors.