Road Trip!

Three Texas destinations that will tempt you to hit the road.

By Deborah Hamilton-Lynne

Back in the day, my family had a big Chevrolet station wagon and we would pile in and hit the road for family adventures. We camped and fished in nearby state parks, enjoyed myriad amusement parks and drove thousands of miles cross-country to witness the wonders of Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, the Badlands and Devil’s tower. Road trips create memories that will never be forgotten.

Fortunately for us in Austin, there are many adventures to be found by taking a road trip to destinations just a few hours away.

Waco

Distance: 103.28 miles approximate

Travel time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Waco is an excellent day-trip location with adventures that appeal to families. The award-winning natural habitat Cameron Park Zoo boasts an outstanding Asian forest exhibit, where you can catch a glimpse of Sumatran tigers, orangutans and even an elusive Komodo dragon. After you tour the zoo, head to nearby Cameron Park and picnic beside the Brazos river before heading out to a museum that fits your crew’s interests: the Texas Ranger Museum, the Dr. Pepper Museum and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. They are all located in Waco. If history is your thing, head to the Homestead Heritage Traditional Crafts Village for artisan demonstrations of spinning, weaving, pottery making and blacksmithing. For itineraries, coupons and more information, visit wacoheartoftexas.com.

Galveston

Distance: 214.36 miles approximate

Travel time: 3 hours, 21 minutes

Ever since Glen Campbell immortalized Galveston in his hit song, I have longed to feel those sea winds blowing and watch the sea waves crashing. Not only does Galveston serve as home port to mega cruise ships for the Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean lines, it also contains one of the largest and most historically significant collections of 19th century buildings in the United States, with more than 60 structures listed on the national Register of Historic Places.

The strand is a national Historic Landmark District of mainly Victorian-era buildings, some of which have been turned into excellent restaurants and hotels. There is so much to do in Galveston that one road trip may not be enough.

Moody gardens, with its 10-story rainforest, huge aquarium, 3-D theater, Discovery Museum and golf course, could be a vacation unto itself. But then you would be missing out on the annual sandcastle competition and the historic homes tour, the Victorian etiquette tour, the Home and Garden show, movies and music nights on the strand and high tea at the Tremont. How can you pass up a ride on a vintage train, a zombie apocalypse hike or a full moon labyrinth walk? Plan ahead and stay awhile. There is something in Galveston for everyone. For lodging information, visit sanluisresort.com. For more information, visit galveston.com and moodygardens.com.

Port Aransas

Distance: 252 miles approximate

Travel time: 3 hours, 46 minutes

I often refer to Port Aransas as Austin’s “keeping it weird, laid-back beach cousin.” Leave in the morning and you can be jumping in the waves or surf fishing by noon. Port Aransas caters to families and boasts a range of accommodations and restaurants for all budgets and tastes. While you can enjoy the beach, frolic with dolphins and go deep-sea fishing to your heart’s content, one of Port Aransas’ main attractions is that it includes six sites along the Great Central Texas Birding Trail, making it a paradise for avid birders and wildlife photographers alike. I will never forget the first time I saw the roseate spoonbills. The story of the recovery of the endangered whooping crane (the rarest of all cranes and among the oldest living bird species on earth) from a low of only 21 birds in the wild to about 600 birds today is one of conservation’s most inspiring success stories. A migratory flock of 300 returns annually to its winter home in the Aransas Wildlife Refuge. Build a sandcastle, charter a boat, enter a fishing tournament, start a family birding log or just kick back and enjoy the sun and the sand. Port A won’t disappoint! For lodging information, visit silversandsvacationrentals.com.

 

Photos courtesy of Waco & the Heart of Texas.  Whooping crane photo by Martin Cooper. Photos courtesy of Galveston Convention & Visitors Bureau.  


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