Only about 35 miles north of downtown Dallas, McKinney offers a great getaway for the day or the weekend. Plan to spend some time discovering the shops, boutiques and outside dining options in and around the charming downtown square, anchored by the courthouse. Favorites include Cadillac Pizza Pub, Landon Winery and the Sweet Spot bakery and coffee shop, which has the best scones around. Many of the establishments invite you to linger with live music during the evening. Wildlife and hiking fans will enjoy the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary with its 289-acre nature preserve and miles of nature trails, plus a plant garden, butterfly house and indoor exhibits. McKinney is also home to several vineyards and breweries, so there are plenty of opportunities to quench your thirst after all that walking.
Just three hours up Interstate 35, Oklahoma City offers a ton to see and do, all while being easy to get around. Start the day at the Museum of Art. Here, visitors are greeted with a 55-foot blown glass installation in the atrium by world famous artist Dale Chihuly. The museum is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of Chihuly glass in the world. Spend a few moments of silence at the Oklahoma City National Memorial or a few hours at the museum that is part of the complex. The museum is an interactive learning experience that takes visitors on a self-guided tour through the story of April 19, 1995 and the days, weeks and years that followed the bombing of Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building by tracking the remarkable journey of loss, resilience, justice and hope. End the day in Bricktown with a bite to eat and a tasty beverage at one of the many watering holes. A favorite is Oklahoma’s oldest tap house, Tapwerks, with 212 beers on tap and more than 100 bottled beers in a historic atmosphere.
For authentic German food, military history, acres of vineyards and more, head four hours south to Fredericksburg. Stay in one of the 400+ bed and breakfasts to take full advantage of the many activities both in town and beyond in the beautiful, rolling hills known as Hill Country. Visit the National Museum of the Pacific War, home to six acres of artifacts and interactive exhibits and the only institution in the continental United States dedicated exclusively to telling the story of the Pacific Theater battles of World War II. The museum includes the George Bush Gallery, Admiral Nimitz Museum, Pacific Combat Zone, Plaza of Presidents, Memorial Courtyard and Japanese Garden of Peace. Peruse the many shops and art galleries on Main Street, and then take a break in one of the many beer gardens, such as Hondo’s on Main or the Auslander, and enjoy the live music. For another evening of entertainment, the Rock Box Theatre will delight audiences of all ages with musical and comedic acts from country, rock and blues tributes and original artists. On day two, explore a few of the nearby wineries, especially along Highway 290, either on your own or through one of several wine tour companies. Be sure to try a Tempranillo or two, as this is what Texas wine is all about.
Halfway between Dallas and Austin is the college town of Waco, home to a world-class zoo and several museums for children and adults alike. Adjacent to the Brazos River, the 52-acre zoo is spread out and has lots of shade and splashing waterfalls, so it’s a perfect antidote to the Texas sun. Be sure to check out the Komodo dragon and Galapagos tortoises, along with the orangutans and Sumatran tigers. The Mayborn, on the Baylor University campus, is especially fun for children because of its interactive stations and displays. Adults will also enjoy the natural history, especially the Waco Mammoth exhibit. Here, guests can walk on a see-through floor to look down upon casts of the Columbian mammoth bones displayed exactly as they were unearthed at the Waco Mammoth Site, just five miles from the Baylor campus. Visit the Collin Street Bakery and enjoy a slice of pie, a macaroon, or their famous fruitcake. For those in search of a bit more protein, Rudy’s BBQ will certainly hit the spot. There’s ‘Sissy Sauce’ for those who prefer a little less kick.
San Antonio, five hours south on I-35, is perfect for a long weekend. Of course, no trip to San Antonio is complete without a visit to the Alamo, the Spanish Missions and the famed River Walk. With so many mouth-watering food options, visitors will have a hard time choosing between Mexican, French or German. Favorites include the prickly pear margarita and guacamole made tableside at Boudro’s and brunch at the Guenther House, which is known for their enormous buttermilk biscuits. Be sure to explore the entire 1860 house, taking in the stained glass windows, light fixtures and wood, along with the River Mill Store for unique souvenir shopping and gourmet baking goods, before venturing out to see additional historic, beautiful homes in the surrounding King William Historic District. With more time to spend in the Alamo City, visit the Japanese Tea Garden at Brackenridge Park and then head over to the Witte Museum.
One hour southwest just off Highway 377 is the quaint town of Granbury. Spend the day shopping and exploring the stores and old jailhouse on the square. Stay in one of the many bed and breakfasts or inns to take full advantage of the nightlife, including ghost tour and the historic Brazos Drive-In movie theater. Whatever you do, don’t miss a production at the beautifully renovated 1886 Opera House. If you are there on a Saturday afternoon, check out the widely popular Revolver Brewery.
Five hours to the west is the beautiful Palo Duro Canyon, the Grand Canyon of Texas. If you’re not camping or renting a cabin, consider staying in nearby Amarillo so there’s plenty of time to take in the majestic beauty of the canyon. Hit the trails early for that photo morning light. Palo Duro Canyon State Park has more than 30 miles of marked trails for hiking, mountain biking or horse riding. Nearby Elkins Ranch, a working cattle ranch, offers Jeep tours and Old West adventure and history. Of course, things are always bigger in Texas, cover 26,000 square miles on foot in a day at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. From dinosaurs to conquistadors, you’ll find it all in Texas’ largest history museum, with more than two million artifacts
While most people head to Tyler (just two hours east of Dallas on I-30), for the roses, there’s plenty more to discover while in the area. Just a few miles south of town, the American Freedom Museum, located on the campus of The Brook Hill School in Bullard, has an expansive collection filling 15 galleries. The Hall of Presidents includes a signed document by every president, from George Washington through to President Obama, and the Hall of Freedom chronicles the major conflicts in which the United States has been involved since the Revolutionary War. Ten minutes east of the museum is Kiepersol, an estate winery, distillery, restaurant and bed and breakfast. Founded by South African native Pierre de Wet, the estate is well known for its quality and service. Wine tastings are at one’s leisure, and both wine tours and distillery tours are offered at designated tour times with no reservations needed. Stay for dinner and enjoy steak or seafood while surrounded by the two-story wine cellar with hundreds of wines from around the world.
Two hours east of Dallas off of I-30 near Pittsburg is Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards. If possible, plan a visit to one of the cooking classes offered with acclaimed chef Enam Chowdhury, who has cooked for a vast array of dignitaries and luminaries all over the world, or enjoy the weekend special with live jazz on the expansive patio. Stay at the nearby Lavender Mermaid Farm B&B, which beckons with the most hospitable host, themed cottages, lavender chocolates, gourmet breakfast (lavender scones included) and even lavender bath products. No need to worry about having a good night’s sleep with this tranquility surrounding you.
Every spring road trip has to include bluebonnets, and what better place to be surrounded by the Texas state flower than in the Official Bluebonnet City of Texas, Ennis, just half an hour southeast of Dallas on I-45. Each spring, the Ennis Garden Club brings color to life by hosting the 40-mile, mapped drive of breathtaking bluebonnets in the Bluebonnet Trails. Year-round, catch a little speed at the Texas Motorplex drag racing facility or experience a stock car race at 85 Speedway.