Increasingly people are looking for travel destinations that are within driving distance. You’re probably already used to long drives when you live in Texas. Even running errands can mean a lengthy drive is ahead of you in the sprawling state.
If you’re used to pretty long drives and you’re in the mood for an out-of-state road trip, there are plenty of great options.
Of course, exactly how long the below destinations will take to reach depend on where in Texas you live, but they’re some ideas to get you started as you plan a getaway.
All are within driving distance of most places in Texas, although some will be much longer than others, depending on your starting point.
Branson, Missouri, is an Ozark town known for live, family-friendly entertainment.
If you were driving from Dallas, you could reach Branson in around 7 hours or less, depending on traffic. Branson is on the southern border of Missouri, close to northwest Arkansas.
Branson has a unique culture known for friendly people and hospitality. You can shop, find restaurants, and enjoy outdoor activities, particularly on popular Table Rock Lake. There are RV parks, hotels, motels, and resorts, so Branson offers something for every budget.
While you’re in Branson, you have to see at least one of their 150 productions in varying genres, including country, gospel, magic, and tribute.
Branson is a good destination for multi-generational travel, so you can bring the entire family, and everyone will find something they enjoy.
A few other things to note about Branson:
- There are great golf courses.
- You can hike and bike through the Ozark Mountains.
- Silver Dollar City is an 1880s-inspired theme park that’s a huge attraction in the area. There are thrill rides, but also rides that are appropriate for younger kids and less daring visitors.
- Visit Top of the Rock for a Sunset Service, including a live bagpipe performance.
- If you’re traveling during the holiday season, Branson is a standout. Christmastime in Branson features hundreds of trees throughout the town, holiday-themed shows, and twinkling lights.
If you’re starting out in Houston, you can reach charming Seaside, Florida, in around nine hours. Seaside is in Walton County, located on Florida’s panhandle. Seaside is on the Gulf of Mexico, so the water is a beautiful shade of blue-green.
Travel to the area has only gone up throughout the pandemic, whereas many other parts of the country saw depressed tourism rates.
Seaside is part of a more extensive stretch of the Florida coast known as 30A, which spans around 26 miles. 30A is named after a two-lane country road parallel to the beach between Destin and Panama City.
There are state parks, amazing beaches, and idyllic beach towns along 30A.
Seaside is among the most well-known of these towns. Seaside is very pedestrian-friendly and has a small downtown. There’s a lot of local flavor in the form of boutiques and eateries. In the town’s Central Square, you can’t bring your car, and it’s organized around an amphitheater that hosts performances and local events.
Seaside is where the movie The Truman Show was filmed because it’s so picturesque and perfect that it seems like a place you’d only see in a film.
There are pastel-colored houses, bike paths, and white picket fences.
Seaside is incredibly family-friendly.
The beach is in and of itself worth a visit. The sand is white and soft, and the water is smooth and is a beautiful color you only see in the Gulf of Mexico. The water is warm during the summer months, and water sports are popular.
You should take time to go to Bud & Alley’s Rooftop Bar for the sunset and some appetizers in Seaside too.
Durango, Colorado, is on the very southern edge of the state, bordering New Mexico. Durango would be around eight hours by car if you were coming from Lubbock, making it manageable in a day.
Durango is the perfect place to visit if you love the outdoors and a sense of rugged adventure.
One of the things people go to Durango for is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad, which takes you through a canyon and the mountains. Then, you reach the former mining town of Silverton.
If you’re visiting the area in the winter, Purgatory Ski Resort is relatively close by and offers some of the state’s best skiing.
A bit of a trek but drivable from Durango is Mesa Verde National Park, where you can see the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings.
Durango is located in the area of Colorado, where the state comes together with not only New Mexico but also Arizona and Utah. It’s known as the Four Corners region, and it’s remote and feels very much like an undiscovered destination in many ways. The population is under 20,000 as well.
You’ll have views of the San Juan Mountains from nearly every direction, and the Animas River runs through Durango.
Because of this natural beauty, there are breweries and bike shops throughout the area, and there’s very much an outdoorsy vibe.
The Animas River Trail makes for a solid 10-mile hike, and it passes through many family-friendly parks. In the summer, you can float down the Animas, and the town’s historic downtown district is a throwback to its Western past.
Also in Durango are the area’s hot springs where you can relax and unwind.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico, is around eight hours by car from the Fort Worth area.
Santa Fe has restaurants, art galleries, and great shopping. Known as the Land of Enchantment, Santa Fe is a favorite for its desert beauty and quintessential Southwestern culture as well.
The area inspired artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and it continues to be a destination for artists around the world who want similar inspiration from the beauty of nature.
Santa Fe is the oldest state capital in the country, and you’ll find more than 400 years of cultural fusion and influence impacting the modern city. The history brings together Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American culture.
There are hundreds of art galleries and dealers, so make time for it if this is something you’re interested in.
The city is set against the backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, and there are hundreds of restaurants and many hotels, resorts, and campgrounds.
At the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is Canyon Road. This is the hub of the area art scene.
There’s also adobe architecture to enjoy as you shop the galleries and studios.
The New Mexico Museum of Art is in Santa Fe, and it’s home to a permanent collection of more than 20,000 pieces. The George O’Keeffe Museum features more than 1,000 of the artist’s works.
Another museum to visit is the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, which features both historic and contemporary Native American art.
The Santa Fe Farmer’s Market operates year-round on Saturdays, and the Santa Fe Opera is an opera company established in 1956.
New Orleans, Louisiana
From Houston, New Orleans is around five-and-a-half hours by car.
While Mardi Gras season is when many people decide to visit New Orleans, you’ll enjoy fascinating history and culture any time of year.
Even when you visit outside of Mardi Gras season, New Orleans will still have its distinctly party-centric atmosphere, but there’s a lot more to see and do aside from hitting the bars.
The French Quarter is beautiful, but make sure you take some time to leave it as well and visit neighborhoods like Uptown and the Garden District.
Bring some good walking shoes because you’ll be doing a lot of it in New Orleans.
There’s music everywhere in the city. You’ll hear it in bars, hotel lobbies, and on the streets. Primarily you’ll hear jazz and blues, and even if you don’t have tickets to a performance, you’ll have many options to enjoy the sounds that characterize the city.
The food is amazing and includes staples like gumbo and beignets.
Take some time to savor the history of New Orleans and recognize the fact that the city very much feels like you’ve left America altogether. Caribbean, Africa, and Europe influences combine in this one-of-a-kind city.
The Mississippi River runs through the city, and you can walk along its banks, and the cemeteries of New Orleans deserve some time on your itinerary too.
While you might be driving to New Orleans from Texas, once you park, you can forget about your car for the most part during your trip. Parking is expensive and not convenient. New Orleans is very walkable, or you can take a taxi or one streetcar.
There could be a surprise around quite literally any corner when you’re in New Orleans. You might see a jazz parade celebrating a wedding or find amazing treasures in a little store tucked away out of the main tourist squares. There’s a lot to explore and discover when you hit the road to New Orleans.