Texas is an amazing state filled with contrasts. From the beautiful beaches along the gulf coast to the historical Alamo in San Antonio or Dallas World Aquarium for the kids, there's always an abundance of things to do in Texas to keep visitors entertained.
Whether you're looking for the excitement of big-city amenities or you want to relax and unwind in the history and culture of a slower pace of life, there's something for everyone in Texas.
So if you are planning for a vacation in Texas this year, check out our list of top 20 must-visit attractions in Texas.
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San Antonio is home to one of the most famous attractions in Texas, the Alamo. The Alamo is the site of a former Spanish mission, now converted into a museum experience. With over four million visitors every year, it's one of the most visited historic sites in the state – it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
The Alamo, or Alamo Mission in San Antonio, was built in the early 18th century. Spanish settlers used it for conducting religious missions for local Native Americans in the iconic Shrine of Texas Liberty chapel. The mission was later abandoned and regained prominence during the era of the Texas Revolution.
The abandoned site converted into a military fortress - it's most known for being the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836.
Today, the site is open to the public as a museum, allowing visitors to tour around the grounds – you can visit the chapel, the Long Barracks, and explore the museum. The museum holds an extensive collection of artifacts and recounts the history of the Alamo. It's an attraction that guests will truly never forget.
Address: 300 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, TX 78205
San Antonio River Walk is another one of the biggest Texas attractions for a lovely evening stroll.
The history of this river walk goes all the way back to the 16th century when the river was first discovered and renamed for St. Anthony. This area has seen a lot of change since then, culminating in a vibrant social and cultural scene that draws locals and visitors in droves.
River boats are available for hire, allowing you to take in the history and scenery from a unique vantage point. Museums, parks, and restaurants are just a handful of the options awaiting a trip to this gorgeous esplanade.
Address: River Walk, San Antonio, TX 78205
Once upon a time, when it was first constructed, the Texas State Capitol was billed as the seventh-largest building in the world. Located in the hip urban locale of Austin, the Capitol building and its grounds are open to the public.
The rotunda is a "whispering gallery," meaning that its acoustics allow even whispers to carry clear across the room. On the grounds, monuments like Heroes of the Alamo and Terry's Texas Rangers commemorate moments of significance in Texas's history.
If you love history and archaeology, this State Capitol building is one of the best places to visit in Texas.
Address: 1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701
Also Read: Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Austin, Texas
The Dallas World Aquarium is one of the greatest Texas attractions for kids. Located in Dallas, this aquarium features many species of endangered animals and educates visitors about the importance of conservation.
Although it's known as an aquarium, it also features a replica of the Orinoco Rainforest. Here, toucans and ibises fly around the aviary, and three-toed sloths hang out in the trees.
Together with the aquarium simulating the river and its various types of wildlife, including electric eels and crocodiles, visitors get an awe-inspiring sense of the rainforest and its wonders.
Address: 1801 N Griffin St, Dallas, TX 75202
Also Read: Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Dallas, Texas
This primitive national preserve is a 70-mile stretch of undeveloped coastline on the north side of Padre Island. Windsurfing enthusiasts come to Laguna Madre on the island's west side, and bird watchers thrill at the sight of cormorants, egrets, herons, pelicans, and more.
The park contains dunes, beach scenes, prairies, and tide pools teeming with marine life. You might even catch a glimpse of a sea turtle or two. Because of its undeveloped nature, a visit to this park is a lot like stepping into the past.
Address: 20420 Park Rd 22, Corpus Christi, TX 78418
The golden age of America's space program is on full display at the Space Center Houston. Visitors can take in the majesty of a range of spacecraft and equipment that helped the United States to pull ahead in the famous Space Race.
One of these is the Mercury 9 capsule, which was the final craft in the Mercury program that introduced manned spaceflight, and other crafts from the Gemini and Apollo programs can also be found.
There is even a restored Saturn V rocket, which was used to propel astronauts out of the atmosphere for decades before the Space Shuttle eventually took over.
Families looking for cool places to visit in Texas should come to the Space Center Houston.
Address: 1601 Nasa Pkwy, Houston, TX 77058
Also Read: Top 10 Space and Aviation Museums in the USA
It gets awfully warm in Texas, so a trip to a waterpark may be just what the doctor ordered.
The Schlitterbahn Waterpark invites guests to cool down in a variety of ways: whether by waterslide, floating on an innertube, riding a water coaster, or diving in a wave pool, there's something for everyone with varying degrees of thrill available.
The accompanying resort gives you a luxurious place to relax in between trips to the water park's wide array of attractions.
Address: 400 N Liberty Ave, New Braunfels, TX 78130
Also Read: 10 Best Theme Parks in the US
Big Bend National Park is located along the south-western border of Texas, with the Rio Grande River forming an international border between the US and Mexico. Here you will notice dramatic contrasts with dry hot summers at the lower elevations and occasionally freezing temperatures in the winter.
Along the 118-mile southern river border, you will find the spectacular canyons of Boquillas, Mariscal, and Santa Elena. Visit the park to explore one of the many scenic drives, enjoy a day hike or a backcountry backpacking adventure.
From bird watching to fishing, horseback riding, or river trips, Big Bend National Park has something for everyone to enjoy.
There are 5 visitors' centers located within the park. The visitors' centers offer informative, interactive exhibits, maps, river passes, restrooms, groceries, water faucets, bookstores, and an extraordinary amount of information regarding park geology, history, and culture.
Not every visitors' center has the same amenities, so it's important to do your research before heading to Big Bend National Park. It’s one of the cool things to do in Texas, packed with fun, excitement, and plenty of activities.
Address: Big Bend National Park, TX
One look at the corpse flower in this Galveston garden will tell you that you're in for something special.
The Moody Gardens and Aquarium is divided into three distinct pyramids: the Aquarium Pyramid, which features penguins, sharks, and seals; the Rainforest Pyramid, which highlights the diverse flora and fauna of the rainforest ecosystem while also educating on the importance of rainforest conservation; and the Discovery Pyramid, which hosts a rotating lineup of traveling exhibits.
In addition, visitors can cool down in the Palm Beach water park or chase thrills through the sky with the Moody Gardens zip line and ropes course. It definitely should be on your list of places to go in Texas.
Address: 1 Hope Blvd, Galveston, TX 77554
In 1976, the Fort Worth Stockyards Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in addition to 46 contributing buildings and another structure. Today, the Stockyards give a cultural nod to the area's rich cattle history with numerous entertainment, shopping, and dining venues.
When visiting the Fort Worth Stockyards, you will have an opportunity to step into the West and get a glimpse of the culture that has made this area so popular.
From wooden corrals and brick walkways to the Stockyards championship rodeo and twice-daily cattle drives, you'll be able to embrace the history of the Texas livestock industry.
You'll find many excellent dining options, ranging from fast food to Tex Mex, steakhouses, BBQ, and more. After a bite to eat, you can take in some action at Billy Bob's Texas with its huge dance floor, indoor rodeo arena, arcade, and general store.
Other attractions in the area include Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show, the Cowtown Opry, the Stockyards Saloon, or let the kids try their luck with a mechanical bull, located right across the road from the Stockyards Station.
We would definitely put the Fort Worth Stockyards on our list of the top tourist attractions in Texas.
Address: 131 E Exchange Ave, Fort Worth, TX 76106
Guadalupe Mountains National Park encompasses the Guadalupe mountain range found in western Texas. It was established in 1972 for the preservation of the landscape and develop sites to promote tourism.
Although it's not one of the most known national parks in the US, many people compare the beauty and experience to some of the best – it's a great alternative.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park features several landscapes and ecosystems. The majority of the park is a mountainous region with forested areas and desert landscapes. There are several canyons located throughout the park.
There are several archaeological sites discovered in the park area – the sites show evidence of early inhabitants after finding caves with rock art and other artifacts.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a fun national park destination for visitors to enjoy the outdoors. It welcomes more than 150,000 visitors every year – some of the visitor facilities include a visitor center and a small museum.
Favorite things to do in the park are activities such as hiking, sightseeing, and camping. One of the most popular routes is hiking to the summit of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas.
Address: Salt Flat, TX 79847
Cadillac Ranch is one of the iconic roadside attractions for travelers along the Historic Route 66 – a legendary highway route used by travelers going west. The Cadillac Ranch is an ode to former cars that used to frequent the route, including the Cadillac. It's an interactive art exhibition and a great photo opportunity spot while passing through Amarillo.
Cadillac Ranch is a display of ten vintage Cadillac cars protruding from the ground. It's an interactive experience for visitors who want to leave their mark on the site by painting the vehicles as they please. It's a dynamic art display with the cars covered in tourist graffiti – you'll always have a new look at the cars with every visit.
The ranch is also a favorite photography site. People can take amazing photos standing next to the colorful car display and even climb atop the cars for a unique picture. The site is open to the public to interact with as they want.
Most people arriving at the site make the pitstop en-route on the iconic highway route as it's often considered one of the must-see attractions while driving through Texas.
Address: 13651 I-40 Frontage Rd, Amarillo, TX 79124
Visiting Texas allows you to explore both the aboveground attractions and underground wonders. The Natural Bridge Caverns are the largest underground tourist site in Texas – also the largest commercial caverns in the state. Guide tours of the extensive caverns lead visitors 180-feet below the ground to discover the unique limestone formations.
Natural Bridge Caverns is just outside of San Antonio, named after a naturally formed bridge near the cavern entrance. The dark caves are illuminated with lights and feature massive limestone still being developed. The interior conditions of the caverns are wet and humid.
The caverns were discovered in 1960 and opened to the public as a tourist destination in 1964. Guided tours take groups of visitors through the underground routes of the cavern, reaching large open spaces – some rooms as large as a football field.
Along the tour, you'll learn lots of interesting information and history about the caverns and how they developed.
This Texas attraction also features a few nearby recreational activities, including a Canopy Challenge agility course and a zip line.
Address: 26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd, San Antonio, TX 78266
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is a historical site remembering the life and legacy of John F. Kennedy. The museum, located in the Dallas County Administration Building in downtown Dallas, is the exact site where former President JFK was assassinated. The museum presents lots of information and details about the tragedy.
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza opened in 1989, with the museum exhibition floor preserved since the 1960's – much of the space remains as it was after the day of the tragedy. Visitors can step into the past with the multimedia exhibition – it includes artifacts from the sniper and JFK, films about the event, photos, and other displays.
Audio guides are available to learn more details about each showcase and hear stories about the life and death of JFK.
The window where the shots came from remains open; it has a live webcam view looking down on the street. Before (or after) visiting the museum, you can check out the outdoor markings on the road of the exact spots where the shots occurred.
The Sixth Floor Museum is likely one of the most intriguing tourist attractions in Texas.
Address: 411 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75202
The USS Lexington was an active aircraft carrier ship built during World War II. After service, it was docked in Corpus Christi, where it became a museum ship for visitors to experience the legacy and life aboard a massive aircraft carrier.
The USS Lexington is an award-winning ship for its service during commission. It played a significant role in World War II when the US Navy utilized it in the Pacific Ocean. After the war, it relocated to a base in Pensacola, where it operated subsequent missions. It's the longest active service ship of its kind.
After use, the ship was donated to the city of Corpus Christi. It's now a National Historic Landmark and one of the top local attractions. The vessel is restored to its World War II appearance with paint, mounted guns, and other features.
The tour experience of the USS Lexington lets visitors see some of the notable rooms – Combat Information Center, the catapult room, the bridge, and the deck. Various aircraft are on display aboard the ship.
It's also an excellent opportunity to learn the history of the ship and the stories of individuals who sailed on it. It really is one of the best places to go in Texas where history comes alive.
Address: 2914 N Shoreline Blvd, Corpus Christi, TX 78402
If you're looking for a great family outing destination, Kemah Boardwalk is one of the best places to visit. Located just outside of Houston, Kemah Boardwalk is a famous boardwalk along the Galveston Bay.
Kemah Boardwalk is a daytime and nighttime hangout spot for everyone. The extensive boardwalk includes lots of things to do, including dining, shopping, fun, and entertainment.
Many people visit Kemah Boardwalk to taste some of the fantastic food options. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Landry's Seafood are two of the favorite places to eat. There are also places to snack while walking along the boardwalk.
One of the highlight attractions of the boardwalk is the amusement park – it features several rides such as the Boardwalk Bullet roller coaster, the Aviator swing ride, and a mini Ferris wheel. There is also lots of gaming.
Kemah Boardwalk hosts outdoor concerts and events throughout the year. Visitors can enjoy great music while hanging around the marina, which has the largest concentration of ships in the US.
There are a few hotel accommodation options located along the boardwalk.
Address: 215 Kipp Ave, Kemah, TX 77565
Six Flags Over Texas is the flagship attraction for tourists visiting Arlington, Texas. Many people recognize the Six Flags brand from parks around the country, but the Arlington location is the first park developed by the chain, opened in 1961.
Six Flags Over Texas is open all year round and the perfect family destination. It has more than 200 acres of land dedicated to theme park rides and attractions. It also features seasonal events and attractions.
The theme park has a total of 45 rides, including over a dozen roller coasters and water rides. One of the highlight rides in the park is called "Titan," a record-breaking roller coaster recognized as the biggest and fastest in the state.
The park is divided into various themed sections, including the original six sections representing the flags. Along with the rides, visitors can also enjoy dining, gift shops, and entertainment stages for live performances.
Seasonal passes are valid to use at the park, which grants entry to Six Flags Over Texas and other amusement parks operated by the brand.
Address: 2201 E Road to Six Flags St, Arlington, TX 76011
Summertime in Texas gets very hot, so locals discovered the Hamilton Pool just outside of Austin. Hamilton Pool is a natural pool surrounded by beautiful nature - it's an excellent place to visit to cool off on a hot day.
The main feature of the Hamilton Pool is a naturally formed water hole filled with jade green water. It has a seasonal waterfall of more than 50-ft. Limestone rocks surround the entire pool.
Hamilton Pool was popularized in the 1960s and has since become well known to locals and tourists. Due to its popularity, reservations are required before visiting, which Can book up very fast in the busy summer months.
Families arrive at the Pool to spend the day swimming in the cool waters or lounging on the small beach. The Pool is part of a protected area and developed for visitors, so life jackets are available upon request.
It's a destination for water fun with rocks to jump off of into the pool or views from behind the waterfall.
Taking the plunge into the pristine blue-green waters of Hamilton Pool is one of the coolest things to do in Texas.
Address: 24300 Hamilton Pool Road, Dripping Springs, TX 78620
It's not every day that you get to see real-life dinosaur tracks, which is why so many people visit the Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas.
Dinosaur Valley State Park is a state park established along the Paluxy River, also recognized as a National Natural Landmark. The park is part of a protected land area but open to the public to enjoy outdoor recreation.
The namesake features of the park are multiple dinosaur tracks left from millions of years ago around various locations around the river.
In addition to the tracks, there is also a museum located within the park.
Visitors can enjoy a lot of recreational activities at Dinosaur Valley State Park. There are several hiking trails established throughout the park to explore the landscape.
Many people also enjoy relaxing in the river to cool down on hot days.
There are several designated campsites around the park for public use. The sites permit RVs or tents to set up for overnight stays.
Address: 1629 Park Rd 59, Glen Rose, TX 76043
Gruene Historic District is a frequent day-trip destination for visitors in south-central Texas. The once-thriving community is located along the Guadalupe River, and now, a thriving district for tourism.
The community of Gruene was established in 1850, with a lot of its growth thanks to the booming cotton-producing industry. Many people abandoned the town, however, during the era of the Great Depression. Developers eventually purchased many of the run-down buildings and restored them, turning it into a destination for tourists to discover the local history and small-town ambiance.
Many of the buildings in Gruene are preserved to the original appearance. Some of the buildings maintain their original use, while others converted into various shops and restaurants. Some of the most notable buildings in the community remain - Gruene Hall, the Gruene Water Tower, and the Gruene General Store.
Gruene Hall is one of the several highlight destinations for visitors - it's the oldest dance hall in Texas and still actively showcases live music, amongst other local venues.
Address: New Braunfels, TX 78130