Texas Travel

Texas Travel Guide: North Texas City Spotlights

By Patrick Reardon 9.27.22

Big names like Dallas, Houston, El Paso, and Austin tend to come first when people think of Texas. But there are more than 1,200 municipalities that comprise the great Lone Star State. It’s a motley collection of cities and towns that are just as unique — probably more so — than the more recognizable names. That’s why we’re rounding up some of the best (and more out-of-the-way) cities in our Texas Travel Guide, organized by region.

We’re starting with North Texas, best known for the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. So whether you’re a newly branded North Texan or looking for a daytrip, here are some of the best North Texas cities.

1. Archer City

Archer City is the hometown of Larry McMurtry, the legendary author of “Lonesome Dove” and “The Last Picture Show.”While it’s not as populous today as it was during the mid-20th-century oil boom that put it on the map, Archer City is a mecca for Texan bookworms to visit McMurtry’s own bookshop, Booked Up, to browse a collection of rare and scholarly literature.

2. Canton

Canton is in the northeast corner of Texas and the county seat of Van Zandt. It survived throughout the Civil War thanks to its First Monday Trade Days, a local flea market that still exists today. During one weekend every month, the trade show opens at a 100-acre fairground. People from all around North and East Texas gather to sell their wares, find thrifty deals, and peruse eclectic items in the little town.

3. Denton

Denton is the tip of the triangle between Dallas and Fort Worth and the home of the University of North Texas (UNT) and Texas Woman’s University (TWU). Familiarly called “Little Austin,” Denton boasts a  historic downtown square with shops and restaurants as wonderful and “weird” as any you’ll find in Austin. If you come in town for Denton’s Arts & Jazz Festival or any of the other music festivals they host each year, don’t forget to try the old-fashioned ice cream at Beth Marie’s and pick up some Southern comfort food at Rooster’s Roadhouse.

North Texas cities

4. Ennis

A 19th-century Czech settlement, Ennis has never forgotten its roots. You’ll find authentic Czech goods at the Kolache Depot Bakery here, and the town hosts one of the country’s largest National Polka Festivals every Memorial Day weekend. But it’s also quintessentially Texan — Ennis is the “Official Bluebonnet City of Texas” and has hosted a Bluebonnet Trail tour for 70 years.

5. Graham

Graham is a small North Texas city tucked into the hillsides west of Fort Worth. Graham locals swear they’ve got the biggest downtown square in the country, and it’s the one-stop-shop for all kinds of truly Texan restaurants and stores. Graham was also the inspiration for Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove”— visitors can see the inspiration for themselves by taking a horseback ride along the Brazos River at Wildcatter Ranch.

North Texas cities

6. Grapevine

North of the DFW metroplex is Grapevine, the “Christmas Capital of Texas.” It earned that moniker by hosting some 1,500 Christmas and holiday events in only 40 days at its historic downtown. But Christmas or not, millions of visitors flock to Grapevine throughout the year to shop and eat along the mile-long Grapevine Mills Mall in this quaint Victorian-style town.

7. Justin

Justin is part of Denton County in North Texas and has been known for its Western wear since the 1970s. There are four family-owned boot and clothing stores in town — worth knowing if you’re new to North Texas and trying to look the part. It was also home to the Texas Motor Speedway, a NASCAR racetrack, until 2005, when the racetrack’s address was changed to Fort Worth.

8. Paris

You might have heard of the 1984 drama “Paris, Texas” — it’s as much a French film as Paris, Texas, is a French city. Locals proudly refer to their town as “the second largest Paris in the world” — there’s even a 70-foot replica of the Eiffel tower adorned with a cowboy hat.

North Texas cities

9. Waxahachie

Waxahachie is 30 miles south of Dallas and flaunts some of the most uniquely Victorian architecture in the state. The adorable red, brown, and white facades of its courthouse and neighborhoods have given the town its nickname, “The Gingerbread City.” It’s also home to the Meat Church, a YouTube sensation amongst barbecue grillmasters, and a full-sized replica of the haunted mansion from the 1960s sitcom “The Munsters.

10. Wichita Falls

Located right at the Texas-Oklahoma border, Wichita Falls is as North Texas as you can get. The waterfalls it was named after were destroyed by a flood in the 1800s — the three-tiered waterfall there today was recreated in 1987 to give the town its history back. If you’re into mountain biking, head to Wichita Falls to ride the Wee-Chi-Tah trail, a single-track network of trails that winds through a riverbed.

Ready to explore more of North Texas? Check out the state parks in the area here.

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