Best Places to Visit in Texas

They say everything is bigger in Texas. And if you take into account all that the state has to offer, it's easy to see why the Lone Star State packs such a potent punch with travelers. Texas is filled to the brim with breathtaking countrysides, significant historical attractions, diverse museums, pristine city parks, suburban shopping meccas, mouthwatering barbecue and more. U.S. News took into account traveler sentiment and expert analysis to come up with the best places to visit in Texas. Want to share your opinion? Make sure to vote below to help determine next year's list. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)

SUMMARY

Best Places to Visit in Texas

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    San Antonio

    #1 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    Historical relics like The Alamo are no doubt San Antonio's biggest draw. However, you don't need to be a history buff to enjoy all the city has to offer. The River Walk makes for a soothing stroll along the San Antonio River, while expansive Brackenridge Park offers a variety of attractions and amenities. Active travelers can practice their swings at the park's golf course and ball fields, nature lovers can pass the time in its stunning gardens and families can get an up-close look at the on-site San Antonio Zoo's animals.

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    Big Bend National Park

    #2 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    Every year, roughly 450,000 people visit this national park along the U.S.-Mexico border to spend some time outdoors. Big Bend National Park features hundreds of miles of paved and dirt roads for scenic drives, as well as 150-plus miles of hiking trails. While exploring the park's sections of the Chihuahuan Desert, the Chisos Mountains and the Rio Grande, keep your eyes peeled for birds. Big Bend is home to more than 450 bird species, including several kinds of woodpeckers and hummingbirds.

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    Austin

    #3 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    The capital city's colorful character takes Texas to an entirely new level. Austin offers loads in the way of culture, cuisine and natural scenery. While here, expect to enjoy unique outdoor areas like Zilker Metropolitan Park (where you'll find the natural Barton Springs Pool), various museums and plenty of delectable barbecue. The best way to soak up Austin's contagious energy is to visit Sixth Street. This music hub is packed with bars, restaurants and live music venues that have helped Austin earn its "Live Music Capital of the World" moniker.

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    Houston

    #4 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    Renowned as one of America's top barbecue destinations, Houston offers travelers a finger-licking good time. But did you know Houston is also a culture hub? Within the urban sprawl, visitors can check out museums galore, from NASA's impressive Johnson Space Center to the quirky Art Car Museum. Many of the city's restaurants and shops are also covered in Instagram-worthy murals. Plus, with the world-class Houston Zoo, verdant Buffalo Bayou Park and a children's museum, Houston is an ideal (and affordable) vacation spot for families.

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    South Padre Island

    #5 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    Believe it or not, Texas is home to some prime shorelines, and South Padre Island is considered one of the best. South Padre offers 34 miles of relaxing beaches along the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. While the island has a reputation for being a prime party spot for spring breakers, the rest of the year it's favored by families thanks to its affordability and bevy of kid-friendly attractions. Head to Sea Turtle, Inc. to learn about local sea turtle rehabilitation efforts, or visit Beach Park at Isla Blanca to cool off on a hot day.

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    Galveston

    #6 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    Located about 50 miles southeast of Houston, Galveston attracts Texans looking for a convenient place to spend some time at the beach. The island features family-friendly spots like Stewart Beach (with amenities like lifeguards, volleyball courts and a playground) and Pleasure Pier (which features an array of games and rides). Away from the sand, visitors can explore the shop-, restaurant- and nightclub-filled Strand, a National Historic Landmark. Travelers will also want to check out other historical sights, such as Bishop's Palace and Moody Mansion.

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    Mustang Island

    #7 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    Originally inhabited by wild horses, the aptly named Mustang Island is now known for its miles of beaches and outdoor activities. On this 18-mile-long barrier island, which sits 28 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, visitors will find Mustang Island State Park, a popular place to go mountain biking, kayaking and swimming. The park is also home to endangered sea turtles and more than 400 bird species, making it an excellent destination to spot wildlife. For more outdoor recreation outside the park, travelers can visit North Packery Beach to enjoy water sports like kiteboarding, wakeboarding, surfing and snorkeling.

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    Port Aransas

    #8 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    This small town on Mustang Island provides ample opportunities for fun in the sun. When you're not sunbathing, parasailing or splashing around at the beach, put your angling skills to the test in the "Fishing Capital of Texas" or sign up for a dolphin-watching cruise. You'll also want to keep an eye out for the endangered whooping crane and other birds in this bird-watching paradise. If you love festivals, time your visit to coincide with one of Port Aransas' events, which focus on everything from art to music to food.

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    The Woodlands

    #9 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    Spend your next vacation in The Woodlands if you want to have easy access to both city amenities and outdoor activities. In this upscale destination 30 miles north of Houston, you'll find high-end shopping centers, an outdoor concert venue and kid-friendly attractions like The Woodlands Children's Museum. Plus, the city boasts 220 miles of hiking and bike trails spread throughout 147 parks. On a hot day, visit the Riva Row Boat House to rent a kayak or paddleboard so you can comfortably explore The Woodlands Waterway and Lake Woodlands.

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    Boca Chica

    #10 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    Boca Chica may not be as well known as other Texas beach towns, but it's an excellent option for a low-key getaway. Allot most of your stay to enjoying Boca Chica's 8-mile-long stretch of sand, but remember to bring your own equipment since water sports rentals like surfboards, snorkeling gear and kiteboards are not available on-site. Also save time for wildlife watching, as the area is a haven for various bird and sea turtle species. Arrive in spring or summer for a chance to see a critically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle come ashore to lay eggs.

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    San José Island

    #11 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    Easy to reach by ferry from Port Aransas, this former ranch is now a prime beach destination. Because San José Island is privately owned, the island's only publicly accessible land is its 21-mile stretch of unspoiled sand situated below the vegetation line. But visitors will find plenty to do on the beach. The island's more than 600 kinds of fish and roughly 300 bird species make it a terrific place to go fishing and birding. Other popular pastimes here include shelling and surfing.

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    Fredericksburg, TX

    #12 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    For a different kind of Texas vacation, skip the state's main cities and beach towns in favor of a visit to Fredericksburg. This Texas Hill Country locale is known for its superb shops, rich German roots and tasty wines. When you're not enjoying some retail therapy on Main Street, learn about the town's connection to Germany at the Pioneer Museum. Don't forget to sample some of Fredericksburg's delectable wines before you leave. You'll have you're pick of more than 50 wineries and tasting rooms in and around Fredericksburg.

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    Corpus Christi

    #13 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    Corpus Christi features several scenic shorelines and can't-miss attractions to keep you entertained for days. Popular stretches of sand in this Gulf Coast city include McGee Beach, which offers calm water ideal for swimming, and North Beach, with family-friendly amenities like a playground and a Ferris wheel. The latter is also home to two of Corpus Christi's most visited sights, the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington. Additional museums and entertainment venues can be found in SEA, the city's Sports, Entertainment and Arts District.

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    Waco

    #14 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    Situated about halfway between Austin and Dallas, Waco appeals to a variety of travelers. Nature lovers can explore Cameron Park, a 416-acre green space with trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, plus the Cameron Park Zoo. Meanwhile, shopaholics and fans of the HGTV show "Fixer Upper" will love visiting Magnolia Market at the Silos, a Chip and Joanna Gaines-owned property with a retail store, a garden, food trucks and a bakery. No visit would be complete without checking out other noteworthy Waco attractions, such as Waco Mammoth National Monument and the Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute.

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    Guadalupe Mountains National Park

    #15 in Best Places to Visit in Texas

    If hiking is one of your favorite pastimes, then you'll want to venture to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This national park by the southern Texas-New Mexico border houses the state's four highest peaks and features 80-plus miles of hiking paths, including traveler-approved routes like the Devil's Hall Trail and the Guadalupe Peak Trail. Although the scenery is stunning year-round, for extra-memorable vistas, visit in fall when the park's tree leaves turn vivid shades of red, orange and yellow.

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