Open Road

8 Texas Road Trips to Take This Fall

Been in town all summer? Here’s your chance to get away.

By Amarie Gipson, Catherine Wendlandt, and Rebekah Kibodeaux Published in the Fall 2021 issue of Houstonia Magazine

With school and work getting busy, we’re shaking off our summer slumbers and returning to business. But between the demands of our daily lives and the routines needed to keep them on track, it’s not unusual to find yourself needing a change in scenery. Texas is sprawling with undiscovered sweet spots; the only way to find them is to get on the road. So here’s the plan: Take a Friday off, pack your bags, and make a trip to one of these getaways for a weekend of pure fun. 

1. Go for an art crawl at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. 

Although Fort Worth is famous for its cow-town reputation, one of its best-kept secrets is its art scene. The Modern, one of the town’s premiere institutions, was designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Enjoy lunch at the cafe, browse the special exhibitions, and don’t forget to get some goodies from the gift shop on your way out. 

EAT/DRINK and STAY: Hotel Dryce is the most inviting boutique hotel in the DFW area. Have a drink at its award-winning lobby bar and get a smash burger from Gustos out back.

while you're there: Make sure to visit the Fort Worth Stockyards to channel your inner yeehaw and learn about what made Texas the livestock capital of the nation. 

2. Take in the music at Austin City Limits.

Each year music lovers take to Zilker Park for ACL’s jam-packed lineup of at least one of your favorite artists. The annual fest usually takes place over two weekends: this year is scheduled for October 7-9 and October 14-16. 

Eat/drink: Take a break from the music and head up the hill on S 1st Street to Polvos for some of Austin's best Mexican food. Sit on the patio or inside near the bar and enjoy the traditional decor and authentic, mouth-watering food. 

Stay: Soho House Austin is the only of its kind in Texas. The social club doubles as a hotel, and as little as a one-night stay grants you access to all its amenities: a rooftop pool, terrace, club and music room. 

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: After a day of exploring, pop in for a craft cocktail and a snack from Café No Sé at the South Congress Hotel

3. Snap a selfie in front of the Prada storefront in Marfa.

Are you a Texan if you’ve never gotten your portrait in front of the Prada pop-up in Marfa? Regardless of your answer, fall is the prime time to take a trip to the desert for an adventure. 

EAT/DRINK: Aster boasts nearly five stars in ratings. Its farmhouse aesthetic and fresh food make for the perfect environment to reset and refuel. 

STAY: El Cosmico’s desert chic campground and hotel offer a range of lodging options for your West Texas stay. Choose from a trailer, yurt, or variety of tent styles. Shop a ton of local goods and gaze at the stars from your yurt. 

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: What’s a trip to Marfa without seeing some art? Be sure to make a visit to Ballroom Marfa and The Chinati Foundation. 

4. Pick some produce at Apple Valley Orchard in Llano.

John and Susan Caballero wanted a retirement project. So, in 2005, they started Apple Valley Orchard, south of Llano in the Hill Country. The orchard has around 500 trees now. Pick Gala apples or pick up some Fuji, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, and more varieties in store. Don’t leave without grabbing a jar of apple butter or sweet jalapeños as well. 

Eat/drink: At the original Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano, “it’s all about the meat.” Go wild on Central Texas ‘cue, like brisket and sausage, and order apple cobbler for dessert.

Stay: Live like outlaws at the Dabbs Railroad Hotel and B&B, a favorite of Bonnie and Clyde. The historic hotel, built in 1907 on the Llano River, features concerts every other Thursday.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: From the top of the orchard’s hill you can spot Enchanted Rock, so take an afternoon to hike Texas’s pink granite mountain, about 24 miles south of Llano.

 

5. Try some sausages at Wurstfest in New Braunfels.

Sprechen sie “fun”? It’s sausage season in New Braunfels, and that means 10 whole days of the city’s proudest and loudest festival: Wurstfest. Party with locals during this annual celebration of German culture in a town that regularly marries the modern way of life with the history of Comal County. 

Eat/Drink: Any Wurstfest virtuoso will tell you to come to the festival hungry. With “dusseldogs,” potato skins, and various offerings of strudel on the menu, the Marktplatz is the place to go for all things schnitzel.

Stay: The Schlitterbahn Resort offers entrance to the New Braunfels branch of the notorious waterpark many Houstonians already know and love, but with the added bonus of being the closest lodging to Wurstfest activities.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: Be sure to sign yourself or your frenemy up for the Masskrugstemmen competition. Challengers must hold a stein full of beer in the air for longer than their adversaries to be crowned the victor. Watch that you don’t spill a single drop!

6. Get spooky at The Menger Hotel in San Antonio.

The city of San Antonio attracts tourists like a moth to a flame. Some guests are so attached to the area that they simply refuse to leave—so what if their check-in date was in the 1890s? The oldest continuously operating hotel west of the Mississippi, the Menger Hotel houses a rumored 32 ghostly entities, ranging from President Teddy Roosevelt to Captain Richard King, founder of the one and only King Ranch. 

Eat/Drink: With temperatures dropping and spirits stirring, there’s no better time to grab a seat and test your ghost-hunting know-how at the Menger Bar. Voted one of the Top 10 Most Historic Bars in the United States, the space was constructed in 1887 as an exact replica of London’s House of Lords Pub.

Stay: You’re going to want to request a room on the third floor, where poor, sweet Sallie White, a deceased chambermaid from 1876, is said to regularly make her appearance.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: If that’s not enough ghoulish yesteryear for you, hop onto the Sisters Grimm Ghost Bus for a truly wild ride through the old Bexar County jail and San Antonio’s most historic cemetery.

7. Celebrate at the Día de los Muertos Festival in Corpus Christi.

Watch the streets of Corpus Christi come to life as the city joins together for its massive, colorful Day of the Dead fest, which honors the Mexican holiday with plenty of dancing, crafts, face painting, food, games, and more. Buy a calavera (sugar skull) at the juried Hecho-A-Mano Art Expo, admire the ofrendas (altars to guide spirits home) downtown, and pick your favorite piñatas in the kids’ competition.

Eat/drink: You know the seafood’s fresh when the restaurant’s right on the water. Former bait stand and burger joint Snoopy’s Pier offers deliciously cheap seafood baskets and breathtaking sunset views. 

Stay: They say “when in Rome,” so when in Corpus, stay by the water. The beachfront Emerald Beach Hotel is right on Corpus Christi Bay, but if it’s too chilly to relax by the shore, try the heated indoor swimming pool.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE: Have an otterly amazing time right on the water at Texas State Aquarium. See a show at Dolphin Bay, feed a stingray in the lagoon, and even learn about raptors in Eagle Pass.

 

8. Take in the scenery at Lost Maple State Natural Area.

This fall, go leaf peeping at Lost Maple State Natural Area out in Vanderpool. From mid-October to mid-November, the park’s Uvalde bigtooth maples explode in spectacular red, orange, and yellow leaves, the closest impression of New England we’ll get this far south of Vermont. 

Eat/drink: After a long day of hiking, you’ll want to kick back with some home cooking. Head to Lost Maples Cafe in Utopia for a burger, or maybe enchiladas, and a slice of pie.

Stay: The Lodges at Lost Maples are nestled 2,100 feet above sea level in the “Swiss Alps of Texas.” 

WHILE YOU'RE THERESpeed through more than 100 years of motorcycle cycle history at the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum in Vanderpool. Be sure to ask owners Allen and Debbie Johncock about their racing days.

 

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