Texas Travel

Last-minute Texas vacation spots

By Elaine Rogers 8.7.13

Fight the back-to-school blues and complaints that the family didn’t do anything “interesting” this summer with a last-minute Texas adventure.

Dude Ranch Delights in Bandera

Wrangle some Western-themed fun in the Hill Country’s “Cowboy Capital” where no less than eight local dude ranches with names like the Flying L and Silver Spur help city slickers discover their inner cowboys. Guided trail rides, campfire cookouts, river swimming, and hayrides create a vacation with a twang, but modern amenities like on-site water parks and golf courses redefine the hard, dusty notion of life on the range. Accommodations at most of these guest ranches are predictably heavy on rustic charm, and the scenic vistas taken in on horseback inspire wonderment and plenty of memorable Facebook photos.

Take a Texas Safari in Glen Rose

Meticulously recreating the sights and sounds of an African safari on 1,700 acres of North Texas terrain, the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center makes a trip to the zoo look like a walk in the park. Watch how quickly your youngsters tuck away their coma-inducing electronics when giraffes and ostriches practically climb into the car begging for food as you wind through the Scenic Wildlife Drive to view majestic herds of more than 50 different wild species. Whether you brave other Fossil Rim sections on foot or by bike — via the popular Wildlife Walk and Ride-The-Rim tour — or choose the luxurious lodge instead of setting up camp in a tent-like cabin, you can’t avoid learning about wildlife conservation while giggling about rhinos.

Break for the Beach on South Padre Island
Nothing screams “vacation” louder than the feel of white sand between your toes (and, eventually, in your suitcase), so even a brief trek to Padre Island and the southern tip of the Texas coast is worth the trip. South Padre makes happy tourists of us all with easily-accessed public beaches and 25 miles of free beach camping enhanced by kayak, kiteboard, and dune buggy rentals plus sandcastle and surfing lessons. Rediscover nature by visiting The Birding Center and Nature Walk, taking a sunset dolphin watch tour, and witnessing an early morning hatchling release of endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles by the folks at Sea Turtle, Inc.