Texas is large enough that you don't have to leave the state to find an incredible summer adventure. The state has miles and miles of coastlines that encompass pretty much every kind of marine environment this side of the United States.
If you're not looking for the beach, then you're undoubtedly looking for a river, because summer in Texas is all but unbearable outside of the water. Hit the river with your tube for a nice leisurely float to beat the Texas sun, and be sure to check out some other great cultural, historical and educational attractions across the state. Here are the seven best summer vacation destinations in Texas.
Corpus is a great summer vacation destination because it's not too far of a drive, but still possesses gorgeous Gulf Coast beaches and plenty of sights to see. Corpus is home to the Texas State Aquarium where you can view dolphins and other marine animals, as well as the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center where you can check out the local flora. If you're interested in history, the World War II United States Navy aircraft carrier the USS Lexington is docked in Corpus and open for tours.
Out in southwest Texas lies a little piece of paradise known as the Frio River. Immortalized in song by none other than the great George Strait himself, the Frio is a clear, spring-fed river that meanders through lush Texas greenery. Get yourself a cabin at Garner State Park and spend a week or more; you'll never get bored on the Frio. Drive into town if you somehow grow tired of floating the crystal clear waters. Concan also offers horseback riding, golf, hunting, and dancing.
Located about 30 minutes south of Houston, the historic city of Galveston offers several beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. You can take a pedal carriage ride along the seawall, or visit The Strand for shopping and dining. If you're looking for something educational, try Moody Gardens for their IMAX theatre and rainforest garden. Catch a glimpse of the famous "corpse flower," and then maybe go rinse off at Schlitterbahn Galveston. If you're looking for some history, visit Galveston's historic Bishop's Palace or the Moody Mansion.
New Braunfels, Texas
Surrounded by lush greenery and flowing rivers, New Braunfels is an ideal place to spend a summer vacation in Texas. New Braunfels is home to the original Schlitterbahn, the largest water park in the United States. If you're more into nature, try a tubing excursion on the Guadalupe or Comal River. You can float the river and then eat some good traditional German fare at the celebrated Oma's Haus in town. Cabins are available to rent on the shores of the river, and portions of Schlitterbahn even pass through segments of the river, giving the monolithic water park a more natural feel. The nearby historic sites of Gruene are also worth visiting during your trip to New Braunfels.
If you're looking for some excitement this summer, look no further than Texas's Capital. Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World, and hosts concerts and shows all over the city pretty much continuously. In addition to live music, you can cool off in one of Austin's many lakes or springs. Lake Travis offers boating, fishing, and other water sports, or you could visit Barton Springs Pool, fed by a natural spring that maintains a year-round temperature of 68 degrees. If you're up for a hike, check out Sculpture Falls located about a mile's trek through the downtown greenbelt just off the Mopac. And don't forget to catch a baseball game at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock.
San Antonio, Texas
One of Texas's foremost cultural epicenters is also an incredible tourist destination. San Antonio offers the Riverwalk, a shopping Mecca replete with hotels, restaurants, and nightlife that will keep you busy. You could go to San Antonio and never leave the Riverwalk and still have a good vacation. The Alamo, the site of the historical battle for Texas independence, is in the center of downtown just a few steps away from the Riverwalk. Across from the Alamo on Houston Street are several bars and tourist attractions. Just down the road is the fantastic San Antonio Zoo. If you're looking for more of a thrill, visit Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
Big Bend National Park
If you can stand the heat in the summertime, this national park makes for a remarkable Texas vacation. Explore stunning geological features in the Guadalupe and Davis mountains, and hike along the waters of the Rio Grande. Hot temperatures during the summertime can be brutal, so if you want to visit another time of year, aim for Autumn or early spring.
South Padre Island, Texas
The southernmost point of Texas is also the site of Texas's bluest and most beautiful beaches. South Padre is a stone's throw from Mexico and is without a doubt the most prominent beach in the Lone Star State. On South Padre, there is so much more than just a gorgeous beach, though. You can go dolphin watching, deep sea fishing, and there's even a Schlitterbahn water park.
This post was originally published on October 26, 2017.