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Texas Summer Vacation Destinations

May 5, 2022 Texas

Texas is so big at 268,597 square miles that you could spend a lifetime of summers and not see all the sights.

Now, that might sound like a Lonestar State-sized boast but consider this:

  • If Texas were a country, it would be the 40th largest in size in the world, bigger than every country in Europe
  • El Paso in west Texas is closer to the Pacific Ocean that it is to Texarkana in east Texas
  • If you drove from Texhoma in the panhandle down to Brownsville on the Gulf of Mexico, it would take more than 13 hours to travel nearly 900 miles

In between, Texas has every type of summer vacation destination imaginable from world class cities such as Austin to beach getaways like South Padre Island to nature trips like Big Bend National Park.

10 Places to Visit in Texas This Summer

Selecting the top Texas summer vacation destinations might be as tricky as naming the top barbecue joints in the state.

All the answers are going to be good … and likely start an argument!

A great place to start is the U.S. News & World Report “Best Places to Visit in Texas” which utilized traveler feedback and expert analysis to come up with Texas spots worth packing your bags for.

The list has the standards (hello The Alamo!), some surprises (suburban oasis The Woodlands!), some spots that might get more love from Texans than out-of-towners (Mustang Island!), and even some destinations where you might spot part-time Texan, Elon Musk (Boca Chica!)

Let’s look at the rankings:

  1. San Antonio
    Do we need to say more about San Antonio with its famed River Walk just steps away from The Alamo. There is, of course, much more to see including the historic market square, Natural Bridge Caverns, SeaWorld, Japanese Tea Gardens, San Antonio Zoo, Witte Museum, The DoSeum children’s museum, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
  2. Big Bend National Park
    If the crowds of San Antonio are not to your liking, then you can get away from it all in the wide-open spaces of Big Bend National Park in west Texas. Yes, Big Bend National Park draws 500,000+ visitors each year, but this sprawling treasure in the Chihuahuan Desert along the Rio Grande stretches for 801,163 acres. The park features 196 miles of river along the Rio Grande and ranges from 1,850 feet at Rio Grande Village to 7,832 feet at Emory Peak. There are 200+ miles of hiking trails, 300+ miles of roads along with camping sites and picnic areas.
  3. Austin
    Just up the road from San Antonio is the vibrant Texas capital city of Austin with its live music and culinary scene. Outdoor activities abound from Zilker Park with its Barton Springs Pool swimming hole to paddleboarding and kayaking on Lady Bird Lake. It might spot Mr. Musk about town as Tesla just celebrated its groundbreaking of a massive manufacturing plant. Do not miss the action this summer at one of Major League Soccer’s hottest clubs, Austin FC, which is winning fans and matches at Q2 Stadium in town.
  4. Houston
    The "Bayou City" has plenty of summer charm from its celebrated museum district to NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Houston also has an incredible Foodie scene with Bravo’s Top Chef Houston currently airing and featuring the city’s diverse culinary treats.
  5. South Padre Island
    See why the 34 miles beaches in South Padre Island a Spring Break destination have long been. Forget the MTV crowd, South Padre Island in the summer is for families and relaxing fun in the sun. For those that like to drop a line in the water, South Padre Island hosts many fishing tournaments including the 82nd Annual Texas International Fishing Tournament this August.
  6. Galveston
    Keeping things on the beachy side is Galveston. A short drive from Houston, this iconic beach area has plenty of oceanfront rentals, shopping, and restaurants. Do not miss the annual 4th of July parade and fireworks show and families love to visit the Moody Gardens amusement park and the island’s historic Pleasure Pier.

  7. Mustang Island
    This 18-mile-long barrier island, situated near Corpus Christi, gets its moniker from the wild horses that once roamed the area. Mustang Island State Park features mountain biking, kayaking, and swimming, while kiteboarders, wakeboarders, surfers, and snorkelers head over to North Packery Beach.
  8. Port Aransas
    Here is another Gulf of Mexico spot that has great summer vibes. Dubbed the “Fishing Capital of Texas”, visitors can go on dolphin-watching cruises or bird-watching excursions. Combining a summer trip to Port Aransas with nearby Mustang Island gives vacationers plenty of things to see and do.
  9. The Woodlands
    This might be a curveball on the list but this Houston suburb, named over and over on Best Places to Live and Best Places to Raise Families lists, can be a fun summer destination with its shopping, outdoor activities, and manicured golf courses.
  10. Boca Chica
    This used to be a hidden, sleep beach getaway near Brownsville, but Elon Musk and the SpaceX launchpad has now turned the area into a mecca for “space tourism”, drawing people from around the world to watch rocket launches. Boca Chica Wildlife Refuge features 1,000 acres of beaches and dunes for surfing, swimming, and fishing fun.

The Next 5 on the List:

  • San Jose Island: Yet another scenic barrier island near Port Aransas and Mustang Island with 21 miles of unspoiled sand.
  • Fredericksburg: Hill Country German gem and the gateway to a growing trail of wineries and distilleries.
  • Corpus Christi: Spend the day at the beach or visit the Texas State Aquarium.
  • Waco: HGTV show “Fixer Upper” put this bucolic town between Austin and Dallas on the tourism map.
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park: You could spend all summer visiting Texas's 95 state parks, but here is another national park worth a trip. Celebrating its 50th year, this national park features the four highest peaks in Texas along the New Mexico-Texas border.

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