About halfway between the winter holidays and summer vacation, the itch sets in to get out of town. If you don’t have the budget or vacation days to take a lengthy trip, gas up the car and take a weekend road trip to one of these small Texas towns that will quench your thirst for new adventures.
Explore: About four hours from Austin, Tyler State Park has towering trees and a scenic spring-fed lake for outdoor adventurers. Try the .67-mile Whispering Pines hike for a short and moderate trek, or the 3.1-mile B Loop for more skilled hikers. Rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboat to see the park from the 64-acre lake. The 1859 Goodman-LeGrand House & Museum serves as a good starting point for exploring this historic town. Walk through the free museum situated on manicured grounds with lots of azaleas and roses. After gaining an appreciation for the town’s history, walk south on Broadway Avenue to Front Street and explore the antique shops and boutiques.
Eat: For a town with only 100,000 people, Tyler has a respectable dining scene. Stop at Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue for a plate of finger-licking meat. The Mother Clucker piles a smoked chicken thigh, cheddar cheese, and a fried egg on jalapeño cheese sourdough. For a fancier dinner, make a reservation at the restaurant, winery, and B&B hybrid Kiepersol. The menu features a little of everything, but seafood is the shining star. Make sure to ask about wine pairings for your meal. Try Roast Social Kitchen for pizza, Villa Montez for Latin American food, or FD’s Grillhouse for American fare.
Stay: Camp primitively at Tyler State Park or rent a cabin with electricity, air conditioning, and basic appliances. A string of sleeping options such as Rosevine Inn Bed & Breakfast, Woldert-Spence Manor, and Memory Lane Inn have that charming small-town feel within walking distance to shops and attractions.
Explore: Every Saturday from noon to 5 pm, 903 Brewers offers free tours of its Sherman brewery. Try a Republic of Texas lager, Mythical Creature IPA, or Mexican-style Cervaza Por Favor. For an authentic animal experience, visit the migratory bird haven Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge on Lake Texoma. Visitors can walk trails, fish, and (of course) bird watch. The Harber Wildlife Museum has a large selection of animal dioramas, but check out its limited opening hours before venturing to the north end of town for a visit.
Eat: After your four-hour drive from Austin to Sherman, get your caffeine fix at Bean Me Up Coffeehouse & Bistro or grab a quick sandwich and soup from the board of rotating specials. A giant salad and bakery treats such as buttermilk pie or lemon squares are on offer at Kathleen’s Kitchen. Come for the unpretentious American food (think everything from nachos to BLTs to chicken-fried steak) at Old Iron Post, but stay for the live music on most weekends. No cover charge and inexpensive drinks could keep you there all night. For a classier dinner, head to Fulbelli’s Restaurant. A large menu of seared pork belly, stuffed quail, Moroccan sea bass, lobster mac and cheese, and more will help you fuel up after your day of travel.