When you think of Texas, there are a number of images that probably come to your mind — cowboy hats, Tex-Mex cuisine, sprawling cities — all of which you will find in the Lone Star State. Texas might not be the first destination you think of when you consider a road trip destination in the USA, but you should because Texas offers a little something for everyone! Plus there is no better way to explore the Lone Star State than an epic Texas road trip.
Given its large size, a road trip will give you the flexibility to explore many different cities and corners of Texas. With in-laws living in Dallas and a cousin living in Houston, I have had the privilege to visit Texas a few times in recent years, checking out new cities and destinations on each visit. This 1 week Texas itinerary will give you plenty of ideas on how to spend your time in the largest of the continental U.S. states.
Dallas and Houston have the two biggest and most well-connected airports. Depending on where you’re coming from and what available flights you find, this itinerary could be done in the order listed below (with Dallas as the start) or reversed (with Houston as the start). Usually booking round trip flights is cheaper, which is why I structured this one week itinerary the way I did. But you could easily alter your start and end points by booking two one way flights (ex: arrive in Dallas, depart from Houston), which would cut out almost 4 hours of driving between Houston and Dallas. However this might increase the cost of your rental car.
In total, this itinerary will require approximately 12 hours of driving over 7 days with the longest stretch totaling nearly 4 hours. You could extend this itinerary to 10-14 days depending on the amount of time you have available for your Texas vacation; but seven days is the fastest you could reasonably complete this route. The terrain and road conditions for this roadtrip are mild, so you can rent a compact car and there is no need for an SUV or all-terrain vehicle unless you have a lot of travelers in your group.
Although Dallas is a famed Texas city, it doesn’t often appear on many travel bucket lists which is why it is the perfect place to start your one week road trip in Texas! It is an underrated destination in Texas. You can see the major highlights of Dallas in 1 day, but if you have extra time, I include additional itinerary suggestions on my 48 hour Dallas city break itinerary.
Start your day in downtown Dallas which is full of interesting spots to explore. There are several high-profile stops I recommend visiting on your walking tour of downtown. The Dallas Museum of Art is a great free art museum with an extensive collection. Just around the corner is Klyde Warren Park, a first of its kind public park built over a highway. If you aren’t tired of art quite yet, check out some of the outdoor installations in downtown Dallas. Pioneer Plaza is an impressive public art installation of 52 large bronze bull sculptures, as well as the Giant Eyeball a 30 foot public art installation of a giant eyeball.
Pop over to the Dallas Farmer’s Market for a quick and casual lunch. The market has recently undergone a multi-million dollar renovation and it now houses food and artist vendors within the 26,000 square foot space. Grab a traditional Italian espresso from Palmieri Cafe then some tasty tacos at Taqueria la Ventana.
Perhaps my favorite of all the activities that I did while in Dallas was the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. For those who might not know, Dealey Plaza is the historic location of President JFK’s assassination in 1963. The Sixth Floor Museum is housed in the exact location where assassin Lee Harvey Oswald stood to shoot the fatal shot. I found this museum to be exceptionally well-curated. Visitors are greeted with an explanation of the geopolitical issues at play during JFK’s presidency. Then you will then follow a nearly minute-by-minute timeline of the events leading up to the assassination on November 22nd.
One of the trendiest neighborhoods in Dallas is Deep Ellum, making it the perfect place to end your day in Texas’s capital city. Located directly east of downtown Dallas, Deep Ellum is a lively district characterized by colorful street art, excellent cocktail bars, brewpubs and art galleries. Start by grabbing some pre-dinner drinks at HIDE, a high-end cocktail joint known for its creative and well-crafted drinks. Then grab a beer at a local brewery, such as Braindead Brewing, or Deep Ellum Brewing Co. Finish off your night with dinner at one of the delicious restaurants in Deep Ellum.
Located almost perfectly between Dallas and Austin, Waco is a logical next stop on your one week road trip in Texas. Only an hour and half drive south of Dallas, head out early the next morning to make full use of your day trip to Waco. You have most likely heard of two of Waco’s most famous residents– Chip and Joanna Gaines — of HGTV’s Fixer Upper fame. This wholesome family has created Magnolia, a cult-like home decor brand, that has seemingly become synonymous with Waco.
After leaving Dallas early, you are most likely in need of some caffeine. Waco has several great coffee shops, but if you only have time to visit one, make sure it is Dichotomy. The inventive menu of coffee drinks, made with locally roasted beans, includes a spiced pear cappuccino and blended espresso with Dr Pepper over ice. The area around this coffee shop is also quite cute, so you might be tempted to pop into some of the charming boutiques nearby.
For your first meal in Waco, Magnolia Table is an obvious choice. Dishing up classic breakfast and lunch items daily until 3pm, this is the Gaineses’ restaurant located off of I-35. A visit here is basically a rite of passage when visiting Waco, thanks to delicious breakfast tacos stuffed with hash browns or Joanna’s buttermilk biscuits served with whipped strawberry butter or sausage gravy. There is almost always a line and they don’t accept reservations, so the earlier you arrive the better. Be aware that Magnolia Table is not actually on the same property as Magnolia Market, but there is a shuttle bus that runs between the two.
To walk off the inevitable food coma you’ll have, head to the Silos District for the afternoon. Another off-shoot of the Gaineses’ brand, the Silo District is a 2.5-acre new development that encompasses shopping, a farmer’s market and pop up eateries. It is by far the city’s most renowned attraction, and inside you will find the famed Magnolia Market at The Silos. You can easily spend a few hours here shopping and sampling some of the delightful drinks and cuisine. Slurp on an Instagrammable sweet tea from Alabama Sweet Tea Company or fruit smoothie from Luna Juice Bar as you explore the market.
Dr Pepper is a much beloved soda in the Lone Star State and it originates from Waco. Learn about the history of this bubbly drink at the Dr. Pepper Museum. Inside you’ll be able to witness the process of soda making at the liquid laboratory and sample some at Frosty’s Soda Shop at the end of the tour. Styled like an old school soda fountain, soda jerks mix up fresh Dr Peppers which you can enjoy on its own, or as a float when paired with a couple scoops of creamy Blue Bell ice cream.
Nearby the Dr Pepper Museum is Spice Village, a spacious market style shopping hall. If you want to break up the Magnolia brand stops, this is a great option because it is a long-running institution in Waco with over 60 independent clothing and decor boutiques under one roof. End your day in Waco with dinner at one the city’s surprisingly underrated restaurants, such as Milo All Day which crafts Southern cuisine staples with a light, modern touch. Have a nightcap cocktail at Balcones Distilling whose gorgeous location is the perfect backdrop for tasting whiskey and relaxing after a long day exploring Waco.
Day 3 & 4
Perhaps the most well-known of all the destinations on this Texas road trip itinerary is Austin. This is a city that is absolutely packed with personality, which is probably one of the reasons it is such a desirable place to visit. Although you could easily spend a week visiting (and eating) all the incredible things that Austin has to offer, a 2 day stop will give you the perfect taste of this city—and maybe even inspire a return visit!
From colorful street art to delicious food trucks, you will feel the creative weirdness that makes Austin unique. I have visited Austin twice, and on both of my visits, I came away with a love for this unique and quirky city. Because Austin is absolutely packed with great things to do, I created a comprehensive 48 hour itinerary as a separate blog post. I go in depth to help you visit the major highlights and enjoy some of the incredible cuisine that Austin is so well known for!
From statues to murals, Austin embraces a culture of creative expression that makes this a perfect destination for exploring street art. Pump up your Instagram feed while visiting Austin with this street art guide! A self-guided street art tour is the perfect free thing to do in Austin during your visit! You can find lots of murals clustered together in the South Congress neighborhood as well as a copious options in downtown Austin. But keep your eyes open for spontaneous stops and murals that aren’t featured on this list. There is always some new street art to discover in Austin, Texas!
One thing that you absolutely must do while visiting Austin is EAT ALL THE THINGS. Houston can definitely give Austin a run for its money when it comes to culinary prowess, but there is no denying that Austin is a foodie destination. The restaurant scene in Austin rivals much larger cities with a diversity of flavors and styles of cooking ranging from Mexican, Japanese and New American. Well-known for its food truck parks, you can easily eat well in Austin for cheap. I summarize my favorite Austin eateries so you can discover some of the best cuisine Texas has to offer.
Texas is a massive state, so with only one week to visit, you won’t be able to cover too much ground; but to get a sense of the ranching, wild west that Texas is so iconic for, spend a day in Hill Country! In the loosest geographic terms, Hill Country is where South Texas, Central Texas, and West Texas meet and can be easily accessed from Austin or San Antonio. With rolling hills, local wineries, stunning sunsets, and small-town charm, this region is quintessentially Texas.
You’ll start to see some of the lovely Hill Country scenery approximately 20 minutes to the west of Austin and almost all the way south until you reach San Antonio. Get a view of the scenery from above with a zip-lining excursion! There are a few different options in Hill Country, including Wimberley Zipline Adventures near Wimberley or Lake Travis Zipline Adventures a little closer to Austin. Either way, you can spend the morning zipping through the skies over the trees and hills of Texas!
If adventure isn’t quite your thing, go for a hike in one of the area’s lovely start parks. Hill Country State Natural Area offers 5,000 rolling acres of canyons, creeks, and plateaus for beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes. Another good choice is Lyndon B. Johnson State Park because you can take a self-guided tour of the LBJ Ranch where the 36th president grew up.
Try to time your visit to Hill Country with the Bluebonnet bloom! The Texas state flower typically peaks its bloom in late March and early April and you can find them throughout this region. Stop at Salt Lick for lunch to sample some of the best BBQ in Hill Country. From beef brisket to pork sausage to pork ribs, the Salt Lick offers all the classic BBQ staples as well as a big assortment of delicious sides like potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, bread, housemade pickles and jalapeños.
In the afternoon, grab your swimsuit and get out on the water. Texas gets very hot, especially in the summer, so taking a dip is the perfect way to cool down. Pedernales Falls State Park has a beautiful waterfall and you can swim in the cool water at the bottom of the falls for an immersive experience. Blue Hole Regional Park is a lush, hidden oasis with one of the best watering holes in the region. For a really fun way to experience the water, try tubing! Floating the Rio Frio is a non-stop party as locals and tourists alike bring booze-filled coolers to accompany their tube floating. You can rent a tube from Andy’s on the River who also provides shuttles to pick-up and drop-off points.
After going for a swim, spend the late afternoon enjoying some of the Hill Country’s finest wines! A blossoming local wine industry has sprung up in Texas over the last decade, many of which are located along Hwy 290. This region of Texas is home to 15 native species of grapes which are now blended into 25 different kinds of wine. There are a countless number of wineries to visit for a tasting such as William Chris Vineyards, Grape Creek, Becker Vineyards, Barons Creek Vineyards and Messina Hof. Just be sure to have a designated driver!
For unique accommodation in Texas’s Hill Country, consider a stay at Yurtopia. Located in Wimberly, you can rent one of the yurts for a luxurious glamping experience. You can unplug and relax, surrounded by the Texas hills while smelling fresh cedar and oaks. It will be a unique and memorable experience!
As the second largest city in Texas, San Antonio is a fun and historic place to spend 24 hours on your one week Texas roadtrip. You could easily spend several days in San Antonio exploring the city, but with one day, you’ll just have time to hit the major highlights. I recommend renting a bicycle for the day as an efficient and easy way to see all the tourist attractions. San Antonio’s bike sharing program, B Cycle, has stations throughout the city for easy pick up and drop off — plus the affordable $12/day rental fee makes this a budget friendly means of transportation!
Start your bicycle tour of San Antonio by visiting the five Missions of San Antonio. Founded as missionary centers by the Catholic church in the 18th century, these five missions became the foundation of modern San Antonio. The recently expanded southern section of the River Walk pathway connects all the missions along the river, making for a lovely morning excursion! I didn’t personally go into all the missions, but you can certainly enjoy the views of the rustic stone Mission Concepción, the whitewashed Mission San Juan and the most rural Mission Espada from the bike path.
The final mission, the Alamo, is by far the most famous of the historic structures in San Antonio. The main building of the Alamo is actually a chapel built for the Mission San Antonio de Valero. Known primarily for the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution, the Alamo is an absolute must see during your 24 hours here in San Antonio. It is free to go inside The Alamo and wander around by yourself, or you can opt for a guided tour by a park ranger for $15. The Alamo is open from 9am to 7pm in the summer or 9am to 5.30pm the rest of the year. Because of its popularity with tourists, The Alamo is a very busy place so it is best to get there early to avoid the crowds.
The Alamo is very close to the Riverwalk, which is conveniently your next stop! Set along the San Antonio River, the San Antonio Riverwalk is the most visited tourist attraction in all of Texas! The downtown loop of the riverwalk is dense with shops, restaurants, hotels, and bars. I recommend walking this section of it, because it can be challenging with a bike and the large crowds of people. Thankfully, you can easily walk the entirety of the downtown loop in approximately an hour.
There is such a nice atmosphere along the river, so wander with no particular itinerary and enjoy the sites. There are plenty of restaurants to stop for a drink or snack, but be forewarned that San Antonio’s culinary highlights are located a little farther flung from the riverwalk. For a nice photo spot, walk over the West Market Street Bridge for the perfect aerial view over the river and the colored umbrellas of Casa Mia. You can also take a boat tour down the river if you want to enjoy the loop from the water. The tour takes roughly 45 minutes and you’ll learn lots of interesting facts about San Antonio and Texas history!
For a yummy Mexican lunch, visit Historic Market Square, a popular Mexican market within walking or biking distance of The Riverwalk. Along with food stalls and restaurants, the market has over 100 independently owned shops selling Mexican artisan gifts. It is actually the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico! If you’re up for a longer bike ride, make Ray’s Drive Inn your destination for lunch. You will not be disappointed by this casual eatery’s famed puffy taco. Available in either beef or carne guisada, these fresh-from-the-fryer crackly stuffed taco shells are really a delight.
The middle of the day in Texas tends to get very hot, so enjoy some air conditioning at the Briscoe Western Art Museum. Spanning five centuries of western American art, this museum has a unique collection of native and indigenous art, as well as pieces from the colonial era. Work up a sweat with a riverfront ride to the revitalized Luxury, where you can grab a beer and snack located in refurbished shipping containers.
End your day in San Antonio at Pearl Brewery district. Much less touristy than the other stops so far on this itinerary, the Pearl Brewery district is a 22-acre riverside site full of street art, cute shops, and yummy restaurants. The Tiny Finch carries artful accessories and home goods, while Melissa Guerra specializes in Mexican tableware. There are plenty of good choices for restaurants in the Pearl. A few highlights include the seasonal farm-to-table Supper American Eatery, or flavorful, heartfelt Caribbean fare from Mi Roti. For something a little swankier, check out Down on Grayson whose upscale Tex-Mex cuisine pairs perfectly with their famous margaritas. Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery dishes up Southern comfort food in an old brewery to pair perfectly with their house-made beers.
The sprawling mega-metropolis of Houston continues to grow year after year, attracting young people from around the world. In fact, Houston is the youngest and most diverse city in the United States! This diversity is visible in its global restaurant scene, and you should definitely spend your 24 hours in Houston eating some of the best cuisine this city has to offer! I think Houston is one of the most under-rated food cities in the USA.
Brunch is a much-loved meal in Houston with a bevy of delightful options to choose from. For a wonderful ambiance, it is hard to beat Dunlavy’s. Described as a ‘glass tree house’ overlooking the Buffalo Bayou, the lavish chandelier-clad dining room at Dunlavy’s will make your Instagram feed look amazing and its food is the perfect way to start your day.
Once breakfast is over, Houston’s most beautiful park, Buffalo Bayou Park, is directly accessible from the restaurant parking lot. With trails stretching out over 160 acres and a recent multi-million dollar renovation, walk off your food baby while admiring huge trees and the babbling brook. Nearby Bayou Park is one of Houston’s quirkiest attractions — the Beer Can House. Built from 1968–1988 using 50,000+ recycled beer cans, the house’s former owner John Milkovisch decked out his house into a recycled work of art which is now open for public viewing.
After the park, head north to the Greater Heights neighborhood. With an assortment of great shops and restaurants, this is a cool area to explore on foot around lunch time. Favor the Kind is a stylish home decor and clothing shop with a great bohemian flair. There is also a lot of street art in this area, including the ‘Greetings from Houston’ mural. If you need a bite to eat or tasty cocktail, check out the Heights Bier Garden which has a really nicely styled bar and patio.
Thanks to Houston’s nearly year-round good weather, many of the restaurants and bars in the city are graced with huge outdoor seating areas. This is perfect for COVID-safe dining without compromising the lively atmospheres. Kirby Ice House has a really fun vibe with an expansive bar selection serving local beers, cocktails & wine. Food trucks park nearby and once a week they offer a crawfish boil with locally caught crawfish!
End your day in Houston with a cold beer at the West Alabama Ice House. This boisterous neighborhood dive bar serves a good selection of local and national beer which you can gulp down on their massive outdoor patio full of picnic tables. Don’t miss your chance to try some of the best tacos in Houston from Tacos Tierra Caliente, a food truck that parks nextdoor to the ice house.
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