Logging some leisure time in the Lone Star State? Then be sure to carve out time to explore some of the best day trips from Dallas. The second-largest state in the US, Texas has loads for travelers to discover.
Within a short drive of “the Big D,” you can do everything from exploring historic towns to taking in the natural wonders of beautiful state parks. On a day out from Dallas, soak up the charm of old-time spots like Glen Rose, walk in the steps of dinosaurs at Dinosaur Valley State Park, or enjoy the natural splendors of Turner Falls Park.
Ready to plan the ultimate Texas getaway? Grab this guide to the top-rated Dallas side trips – and hit the road!
Looking for more ideas? Check out all our other day trip guides and our Texas Travel Guide for more ideas on where to go, when to visit & what to do!
Top-rated Dallas side trips
Dallas is big and bold, but if you want to delve into a more low-key urban vibe, put Fort Worth on your day trip list. Friendly and laid-back, this North Texas hotspot is less than an hour’s drive from the Big D.
Steeped in cowboy culture, Fort Worth showcases its Western roots with attractions like the National Cowgirl Museum and Sundance Square. Head to the Stockyards National Historic District for a zap of American history. Explore the neighborhood’s preserved and restored shops and saloons, including Billy Bob’s, “The World’s Largest Honky Tonk.” Grab your cowboy boots!
Take a stroll in Sundance Square, Fort Worth’s pedestrian-friendly entertainment hub, and you’ll discover great food, shops, museums, live music, and theater. Outdoor lovers will want to take in the Fort Worth Water Gardens, the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens, and the Trinity Trails.
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Fort Worth Zoo is a must-see for wildlife enthusiasts. Home to over 7,000 exotic and native animals, this renowned wildlife residence features hands-on exhibits and a petting zoo that’s a big hit with the small-fry set.
Ready to trade big city bustle for small-scale charm? Then plan a getaway to Glen Rose, just a ninety-minute drive from Dallas. This quaint town boasts a unique history – and it’s also the gateway to awesome outdoor attractions, including Dinosaur Valley State Park, the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Big Rocks Park, and the Paluxy River.
Fuel up for your day in historic downtown Glen Rose with breakfast at Crave Bakery or Blackie’s on the Square – or dig into an old-fashioned ice cream treat at the Shoo-Fly Soda Shop.
Stroll the historic courthouse square area to browse its unique shops and diverse restaurants. History buffs can step back in time at the Somervell County Museum, set in the 1893 county courthouse. If you’re an art enthusiast, check out the exhibits at Barnard’s Mill and Art Museum.
Top off your day at the 100-year-old Inn on the River, where you can sip and savor riverside at Snyder’s Tavern.
If you’re looking for a destination that lets you be as lively or laid-back as you want to be, set your sights on Lake Texoma. Set on the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma, this vast lake reservoir is just under two hours from downtown Dallas.
Sprawling over 74,000 acres, Lake Texoma is a water lover’s paradise. Whether you’re up for swimming, boating, kayaking, fishing, sailing, or scuba diving, you’ll find options galore here.
And there’s plenty of action landside in the dozens of beautiful parks surrounding the lake. Stake out a campsite and pitch your tent. Hit the greens for a round of golf. Enjoy the scenic lakeside Cross Timbers Trail on foot or horseback. (Tip: This site is home to two wildlife refuges; keep the binoculars handy!)
Want some “urban” options? Browse the area’s many boutiques, pamper yourself at a spa, and rev yourself up to sample Lake Taxoma’s diverse restaurants and lively nightlife scene.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Want to walk in the footsteps of prehistoric giants? Then grab your hiking gear and beat a path to Dinosaur Valley State Park. Just 90 minutes southwest of Dallas, this extraordinary site was home to six-ton predators over 120 million years ago. Dino lovers will delight in tracking the fossilized footprints of some plus-sized paws.
Set in the Paluxy River bed, these amazing three-toed tracks are the crowning jewels of Dinosaur Valley State Park. Stand next to the on-site giant dinosaur replicas that were once displayed at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Great for selfies!
Explore over 20 miles of scenic trails. Head out on foot, or take a guided tour on the horseback riding trails or wagon ride courtesy of the Eagle Eye Ranch. Hit the Overlook Trail for fantastic views of the river and valley.
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Want to chill out after your dino detective work? Slip into a kayak for a paddle on the Paluxy River, or take a dip in the cool waters at Blue Hole.
Tip: Your dino tracking success depends on river water levels – so check the Dinosaur Valley State Park Facebook page for dinosaur track visibility.
If you’re a DIY fan, you probably have at least a passing acquaintance with Waco, thanks to the HGTV monster hit Fixer Upper. This North Texas town is the series star – and there’s plenty more to discover on an easy one-hour day trip from Dallas.
A visit to Waco isn’t complete without a stop at Magnolia Market, the creation of Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines. With its famous landmark silos spread over two city blocks, Magnolia Market is the city’s centerpiece.
Grab a homemade cupcake at the Silos Baking Co. and take yourself on a tour of the Silos complex, where you’ll find everything from farmhouse-inspired home furnishings to a huge variety of antique vendors and gift shops.
There’s lots more to see and do outside the market. Check out Waco’s craft breweries and wineries – or dig into the history of a legendary non-alcoholic beverage at the Dr. Pepper Museum.
Explore the prehistoric era at the Waco Mammoth National Monument, or take in the more recent past at the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.
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Visit the critters at Cameron Park Zoo, or stroll the beautiful campus of 175-year-old Baylor University, the oldest university in the Lone Star State.
Turner Falls Park
Nature lovers who are craving some outdoor adventure will want to put Turner Falls Park at the top of their must-see list. A two-hour drive from Dallas, this picturesque site is set in the heart of Oklahoma’s stunning Arbuckle Mountains. And what a picture!
With its rippling creeks and miles of hiking trails, Turner Falls Park is a treat for the senses. The park boasts over 1500 acres of natural wonders, featuring pristine swimming pools and fascinating rock caves. There’s even a Rock Castle dating back to 1930.
But the crowning glory of Turner Falls Park is – surprise! – its namesake. This is where Honey Creek cascades 77 feet down a massive rock face to form the tallest waterfall in Oklahoma. The sight is truly breathtaking, and you can take it all in as you paddle in the beautiful natural pool at its base.
And there’s plenty more to enjoy. Test your skills on a diving platform, or shoot down a waterslide. Soar above it all on a zipline. Spread out and chow down in a picnic pavilion.
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Want to make it a weekend trip? Stake out a campsite, hook up your RV, or book in for the night at one of the cozy on-site cabins.
Arbuckle Wilderness Park
Looking for family-friendly day trip ideas? Look no further than Arbuckle Wilderness Park. A two-hour drive from Dallas, this attraction is nestled in the beautiful Arbuckle Mountains of Davis, Oklahoma. This drive-thru safari park gets a big thumbs-up from animal lovers!
Spread over 200 acres of land, Arbuckle Wilderness Park is home to hundreds of wild and exotic creatures from over five continents. They roam freely in habitats similar to their own – so pack your camera and binoculars! (Tip: The park’s roads are gravel and can be rough, so be sure your vehicle is up to the challenge.)
Enjoy amazing up-close-and-personal sightings of species, including giraffes, zebras, rhinos, llamas, and emus. Check out the park’s special feeding programs, which allow you to go nose-to-nose with some of these fascinating animals.
Little ones will get a kick out of a hands-on experience at the petting zoo. And kids of all ages can cut loose on go-carts and bumper boats in the Fun Park.
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Pop into the on-site Safari Store on your way out to pick up some mementos of your visit. Then head over to Turner Falls Park, just a few minutes away, for a perfect way to chill out after your safari adventure.
If you’re looking for a combination of small-town ease and lakeside R & R, Granbury has the perfect recipe. About 90 minutes from Dallas, this charming town boasts a historic public square and a beautiful recreational lake. What more could you want?
Steeped in Texan culture and southern hospitality, Granbury’s town square is a vibrant cultural and entertainment hub. Set around the 1880 Hood County Courthouse, Granbury Town Square is home to a great selection of unique shops, galleries, restaurants, and historic museums. Not to be missed: The beautifully restored opera house, dating back to 1886.
Up for some liquid refreshment? Scope out Granbury’s wineries and breweries. Want to explore Granbury’s beautiful green spaces? Take to the trails at the Acton Nature Center.
Prefer to chill? Relax on the beach that stretches along the Brazos River – or amble over to Lake Granbury, and walk the pier, take a dip, or go for a paddle. (You can bring your own watercraft or rent from the marina.)
Then snag a spot for a sunny picnic, or stroll over to Stumpy’s to enjoy everything from fresh homemade cookies to wicked fish tacos—not to mention fantastic views from their lakeside patio! It’s the perfect way to end a perfect day trip.
Looking to make a green getaway without losing access to downtown delights? Then hightail it 90 minutes outside of Dallas to Tyler. This may be the largest city in North East Texas, but it’ll make sure you get a healthy dose of greens.
Founded in 1846, downtown Tyler blends historic charm with modern attractions. Take a stroll, and you’ll discover gems like the Liberty Hall Theater, the Goodman-LeGrand Museum, the Cotton Belt Depot, Gallery Main Street, the Smith County Historical Society, and the historic McClendon House.
Then go for the green in Tyler State Park. Stretching across 1,000 acres, the state park is home to 100-foot tall trees and a pristine spring-fed lake.
Explore over 13 miles of trails in glorious Pineywoods. Boat, fish, swim, or plunk yourself down for a picnic. Want to make it a weekend trip? Pitch your tent, hook up the RV, or rent a cabin for the night.
Flower lovers will want to run for the roses at Tyler Rose Garden, which just happens to be the biggest rose garden in the US. (This is Texas: Go big or go home!) Dubbed the “Rose Capital of America,” this gorgeous site boasts nearly 40,000 rose bushes and hosts the annual Texas Rose Festival. Sweet!
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
If you’ve got animal lovers in your crew, put the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center at the top of your list of the best day trips from Dallas. This sprawling 1,800-acre wildlife center is all about conserving and protecting endangered animals. Home to over 1,000 animals and 50 different species, the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center offers visitors the chance to view exotic and indigenous animals in a free-range setting.
You can drive through Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in your own vehicle for amazing views of everything from African wildebeests to American bison. But if you want the ultimate experience, let the pros take the wheel aboard a specialized open-air safari vehicle.
Sit back and take in the preserve’s natural wonders as an experienced guide fills you in on Fossil Rim’s history and behind-the-scenes conservation work.
Drop into the Children’s Animal Center for an up-close look at some of the protected species that make their home in the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Head outside and hit the hiking trails for glimpses of rare species like the American Red Wolf.
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Ready to refuel? Snag a spot at the Overlook Café and sample from a family-friendly menu that offers everything from PB&J sandwiches to Philly Cheesesteak.
If you’re tempted to linger, just book yourself into the Fossil Rim Lodge for a cozy bed-and-breakfast-style stay.