25 of the Best Outdoor Activities to Do in Texas

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Everyone has their way of de-stressing. Some people go on day trips to commune with nature, such as visiting lakes, swimming holes, caverns, or watching bats hunt. Others enjoy the grasp of history in Texas’ small towns or at one of the many museums.

Some people go to safari parks, amusement parks, and water parks with their children, while others prefer to go alone to challenge themselves or learn something unusual or new. Texas has it all, with its vast size and fascinating history.

Here are the top 25 outdoor activities to do in Texas.

Go on a Guided Tour of the Texas State Capitol

The Texas State Capitol is a must-see in this vibrant city, serving as a magnificent piece of architecture and a venue for informative and free tours. Take one of the free 30-minute tours of the Texas Capitol to get a behind-the-scenes peek at its historic halls. You’ll have the opportunity to tour key areas of the Capitol and learn about Texas history, the historic building, and the legislature.

Wander San Antonio’s River Walk

a couple strolling along the Riverwalk by Las Canarias restaurant

The San Antonio River Walk, another of Texas’ top tourist attractions, is a must-see if you’re in that part of the state. The San Antonio River runs through the city’s heart, but the River Walk, by far, is the best place to experience it.

Although the park is a popular tourist destination, it is also popular with locals, who can be discovered eating at several delicious restaurants with river views or shopping at any of the stores along the miles-long River Walk.

Ride the Longest Zip Line at Lake Travis Zipline Adventures

Lake Travis Zipline Adventures combines family fun and thrill-seeking adventure with Texas’ fastest and longest zip line. The “Adventure of a Lifetime” experience includes a three-hour guided tour and the opportunity to ride five thrilling zip lines.

You can zip across the extraordinary canyons and take in the scenery from 200 feet above! The final zip line, which spans Lake Travis for half a mile, launches off a 20-story-high cliff.

You’ll have full access to private lakefront property following your ride, including picnic areas, hammocks, swimming areas, and beach games. Your visit includes all necessary equipment, boat transportation, water, and a light snack.

Travel to Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park contains some of Texas’ most stunning landscapes, and it is among the best sites in Texas to go camping or hiking. The Rio Grande trickles right through the park, so the landscape is far more lush and green than you might expect. Big Bend National Park has several of the most diverse views in Texas, with towering mountains, impressive canyons, and stunning desert.

Swim in Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve

a waterfall flowing freely into Hamilton Pool, which is surrounded by a collapsed grotto

This historic swimming hole in Dripping Springs, about 45 minutes from Austin, has gorgeously inviting blue-green water. The swimming hole’s centerpiece is a 50-foot waterfall cascading over Hamilton Creek’s limestone croppings.

On a hot, sunny day, the famous Central Texas attraction is the perfect spot to cool off and feel refreshed, especially when you can bask beneath the cascading water. The pool is so clear that you can see turtles and colorful fish swimming around! Many locals have brought pool noodles and float to relax on. (You can borrow free life jackets.)

Float Along the San Marcos River

Don’t miss out on a float down the San Marcos River if you want to enjoy Texas like a local. San Antonio and Austin residents can be seen floating down the San Marcos River all summer to beat the Texas heat. The best part about river tubing on the San Marcos River is that you can customize your experience to your preferences. 

Aside from the San Marcos River, you can also check out these best places to go river tubing in Texas!

Climb the Enchanted Rock Summit

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is easily among the unique things to do in Texas, offering majestic views of its enormous pink granite dome. This natural wonder, located in Fredericksburg, has drawn visitors for thousands of years. Backpacking, hiking, and camping are popular activities, as are birdwatching and stargazing.

Nature lovers appreciate the interpretive exhibits that provide insight into this centuries-old site and its unique animals and plants, while active travelers enjoy the rock climbing opportunities. There are more than ten miles of hiking trails to pick from, many of them short and family-friendly.

Kayak on Lady Bird Lake

a view of Lady Bird Lake and the Downtown skyline as seen from the East Riverside neighborhood

Lady Bird Lake is among Austin’s most popular outdoor destinations. Whether you want to spend the day looking for turtles or cooling off in the water, you’ll have no problems beating the heat at this beautiful body of water in the city’s heart.

Several outfitters around Zilker Park rent kayaks, paddleboards, innertubes, and other watercraft. Furthermore, if you don’t have a car, numerous hotels and other accommodations in the zone make lake access simple.

Visit Galveston’s Beaches and the Iconic Pleasure Pier

Galveston is among Texas’ most popular tourist destinations for a good reason! It has the ideal mix of cultural attractions and outdoor recreation. The 32 miles of sun-kissed coastline attract families all year. It is home to the iconic Pleasure Pier and a plethora of enticing restaurants, art galleries, antique stores, and entertainment options.

Plan Your Vacation Around the Texas State Fair

The Texas State Fair is among the largest in the country, and it’s a huge deal if you reside in Dallas or anywhere else in Texas. The State Fair is held each year in the fall at Fair Park, an almost 300-acre fairground in South Dallas.

The Texas State Fair includes various fun Texan activities such as livestock shows, arts and crafts, barbecue competitions, and much more. If you’re traveling with children, this is a must.

Visit a World War II Aircraft Carrier in Corpus Christi

the USS Lexington Floating Museum at Corpus Christi

The USS Lexington is not just a museum; it is a World War II aircraft carrier. It was christened “The Blue Ghost” when it was commissioned in 1943 and served the US longer and set more records than any naval aviation carrier in history.

Learn about the ship’s illustrious history and naval battles, and aviation by boarding this fascinating naval museum. Behind-the-scenes tours allow you to see a catalog of vintage aircraft and a firsthand look at the hangar, flight deck, and crew quarters. Themed tours are also available, ranging from paranormal tours to a thorough Hard Hat Tour that provides an in-depth exploration of areas not accessible to the general public.

Swim at the Hamilton Pool Preserve

Hamilton Pool Preserve, another of Austin’s most popular outdoor destinations, is known for its small waterfall that you can walk behind and its sparkling blue water. An underground river feeds the spring, and it’s the ideal place to escape the Texas heat. Although reservations are now required, Hamilton Pool is well worth the effort if you happen to be in the area.

Cool Off in the Hill Country’s Hidden Swimming Holes

Summers in Texas can be scorching, and among the best ways of beating the heat is to cool off in one of the state’s sparkling swimming holes. Hill Country has some of the best aquatic adventures in Texas, with options for all travelers, whether you favor a hidden gem or a popular spot.

Enjoy the Texas Wildflower Season

a field full of flowers

Texans look forward to wildflower season all year, and if you happen to be in the state during this period, you’ll understand why. While you can see wildflowers from early spring to mid-fall, it is best to see them in Texas from March to April.

Texas is famous for its bluebonnets, and if you’re lucky enough to visit during this time of year, you’ll understand why as you gaze out at the fields of blue. When the wildflowers are in bloom, you’ll be able to see them everywhere you go in the region, but if you’re especially interested in seeing them, consider taking a wildflower drive along routes known to have stunning wildflowers.

Trek the Gorman Falls in Colorado Bend State Park

Colorado Bend State Park, located two hours northwest of Austin, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with 35 miles of biking and hiking trails and 5,300 acres of uninhabited wilderness. The park’s main attraction is the spring-fed Gorman Falls, which spans more than 150 feet and towers at 70 feet. You must be prepared for a three-mile round-trip hike over rocky and rough terrain, but the spectacular views of the cascading waterfall make your effort worthwhile.

Examine the Stalactites at Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Caverns in Texas are a National Natural Landmark located just outside of San Antonio. This tourist attraction is unlike anything else you’re inclined to think of when you think of Texas, and it’s well worth a day trip.

The Natural Bridge Caverns are among Texas’ largest caverns and a great place to learn about geological formations while having fun! You can pick which tour you wish to take and how far into the cavern you want to go.

Transport Yourself Back in Time at The Alamo

a closeup of a cenotaph memorial of the Alamo defenders

Being one of Texas’ most visited historical sites, the Alamo serves as a memorial to the 189 Texan volunteers who died fighting during an iconic 13-day siege in 1836.

View exhibits and artifacts utilized by military heroes like Davy Crockett, who died protecting the Alamo. Step inside the stunning 300-year-old former Spanish mission transformed fortress and hear fascinating stories about the Alamo and the Texas Revolution.

Visit the Fort Worth Zoo to See the Animals

The Fort Worth Zoo is an incredible experience that is a must-see if traveling with children, though it can be just as enjoyable for adults. The Fort Worth Zoo is dedicated to conservation, and the zoo itself has several habitat areas where visitors can see lots of different species in simulated natural habitats.

This attraction goes far beyond what you may be used to seeing at other zoos. It has interactive features such as a petting zoo, giraffe feeding on a platform, and even a modest onsite water park.

Hike to Texas’s Highest Point at Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Exploring Guadalupe Mountains National Park is among the coolest things to do in the state if you’re an active traveler. Climb to Texas’ peak with an 8.5-mile round trip hike up Guadalupe Peak, which has a 3,000-foot elevation gain.

While this uphill trail takes 6-8 hours to complete, hikers are compensated at the end with spectacular views from Texas’ highest point at 8,751 feet. The peak towers over the Guadalupe Mountain Range and provides spectacular El Capitan views. 

Visit the Padre Island National Seashore

a beach during the sunset

Padre Island National Seashore, located in the coastal Texas city of Corpus Christi, is the world’s longest untapped barrier island. This 70-mile stretch of protected coastline is the ideal place to take in the splendor of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Padre Island National Seashore has beautiful beaches and is a great place to see native birds and other wildlife and learn about conservation efforts.

Smell the Roses at the Dallas Arboretum

The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, a bright green space, is propped on White Rock Lake’s shores that serve as an oasis among the city’s towering skyscrapers. Just minutes from downtown, this year-round natural attraction showcases 66 acres of flower-filled gardens.

This floral wonderland is ideal for a day trip, with surprises around every corner. Try some locally grown food and seasonal produce in A Tasteful Place’s kitchen if you get hungry.

Check Out the Congress Bridge Bats

bats as seen from below the bridge

If you intend on spending some time in Austin, you must spend at least one night watching the Congress Bridge bats. Multitudes of Mexican free-tailed bats live on the underside of the Congress Bridge, and visitors gather to watch them emerge from their bat cave at night. The precise moment the bats fly out varies based on the day, but it is usually between 7:30 and 9:45 p.m.

Simply stand around or on the Congress Bridge around this period until the bats fly out to enjoy this uniquely Austin experience!

Watch a Rodeo and Cattle Drive in Fort Worth

The Fort Worth Herd hosts a twice-daily cattle drive in this exciting destination, bringing the Old West to life. Real Texas cowhands can be seen driving a herd of Texas longhorns down the East Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards National Historic District between 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Any Stockyards Station restaurant with outdoor seating is a great place to watch this live exhibit of American cowboy culture. You can also get a front-row seat to the action on the lawn in front of the Livestock Exchange Building.

Sandboard at Monahans Sandhills State Park

sandhills at the Monahans Sandhills State Park during sunrise

Monahans Sandhills State Park is a spectacular destination that should not be overlooked when visiting Texas. You can enjoy a more secluded experience than normal areas closer to central Texas because it is located substantially west of Texas’ major cities.

Monahans Sandhills State Park is unique in that it is subject to winds blowing the sands around, generating an everchanging landscape that makes the park look slightly different every day. Sandboarding is among the primary activities available at the state park, but you can simply sit back and admire the area’s desolate beauty.

Paddle Around Caddo Lake State Park

Caddo Lake State Park is a fantastic vacation spot for nature-loving families and is considered an East Texas treasure. Large cypress trees draped in Spanish moss overlook Caddo Lake’s maze of sloughs, bayous, and ponds and provide the ideal setting for a day out in nature.

While you can enjoy hiking, fishing, and camping in this beautiful park, paddling along the natural waterways is an excellent way to see its natural beauty. Rent a kayak or canoe (or bring your own) and spend the afternoon navigating the twists and turns of Caddo Lake. You’ll appreciate the wildlife viewing opportunities and tranquil setting!

There are also guided boat tours available.

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