9 Texas Day Trips That Will Inspire You to Hit the Road

We dip our toe in the nearly 1,500 columns from our resident day tripper

Sure, our latest issue is loosely based on getting out of town for a little summer fun, but we've been covering that beat for years. Our own Gerald E. McLeod has been writing his weekly "Day Trips" column for years and wrote his 1,450th this week. We took a tiny sampling of those to keep you moving about the Lone Star State.

The pool at the Stagecoach Inn (Photos by Gerald E. McLeod)

The Stagecoach Inn

416 S. Main St., Salado
254/947-5111
www.stagecoachsalado.com

The Stagecoach Inn's return has been applauded by travelers around the country. The Salado landmark was resurrected with a new restaurant in 2017 and the hotel followed on Labor Day 2018.

Right after the hotel reopened, a couple who had spent their honeymoon there returned for their 65th anniversary, says Terry Rawlins, managing director. He says he meets people from all over the country who visited the Stagecoach Inn when they were kids.

As the second-oldest hotel in Texas – only the Menger Hotel in San Antonio is older – the inn has seen a lot of famous and not-so-famous faces. Built in 1861 as the Shady Villa Hotel, the inn welcomed Sam Houston, General George Custer, and Jesse James.

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Chandler's Fishing Camp

535 Independence Creek Rd, Dryden
713/703-6615
www.chandlerranch.com

Chandler's Fishing Camp between Sheffield and Dryden was a not-so-well-kept secret swimming hole in West Texas for nearly 50 years. If you lived between Del Rio and Midland then you probably went on a family, school, church, or scouting trip to Chandler's before it closed in 1990.

Joe and Mildred Chandler's descendants have reopened the guest ranch on a limited basis. The three cabins can accommodate a maximum of 14 guests at the oasis on Independence Creek.

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Warbird Flights

2402 S Water St, Burnet
512/756-2226
www.highlandlakessquadron.com/home

Flying in a World War II warbird is windy, noisy, and exhilarating. There's nothing quite like experiencing the thrill, but without the terror of having bullets whizzing by.

In the almost four years that the U.S. fought in the war, Ameri­can factories churned out more than 300,000 aircraft. After the war, most of the planes were scrapped, and the once abundant birds are now in danger of becoming extinct.

Private organizations have come to the rescue of these magnificent flying machines. The planes are remarkably small compared to modern aircraft. The flight crews endured cramped quarters with only a thin layer of aluminum between them and a gun barrel. It gives you an appreciation for what those young airmen accomplished.

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OS Ranch Museum

127 East Main St, Post
806/495-3570
OS Ranch Museum Facebook

The OS Ranch Museum in Post isn't about ranching. Instead, the museum on a dusty Main Street 40 miles south of Lubbock houses a world-class art collection from around the globe.

There's no telling what you're going to see on a visit to the museum. The collection ranges from Native American clothing to intricate carvings from Southeast Asia. On one wall may be a painting by a famous American artist while in the display case are African masks. The collection is so large that an item in rotation will not appear on exhibit but every six years. Museum curator Christi Morris says the exhibits are changed every three months and are centered on a theme.

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Bracken Cave

San Antonio
batcon.org

Bracken Cave, west of New Braunfels, yawns from the side of an ancient sinkhole providing an entrance to an underground home for millions of bats. As darkness descends over the rugged landscape, the Mexican free-tailed bats pour out of the gaping hole in a wild tornado that produces the gentlest of noise, breeze, and pungent odor.

The Bat Conservation International-owned cave houses the largest summer colony of bats in the world. At sunset an estimated 20 million bats slip under the blanket of darkness to eat tons of bugs. By late summer the size of the maternity colony swells as pups join their mothers in the feeding frenzy.

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Texas Motor Speedway

3545 Lone Star Cir, Fort Worth
817/215-8500
www.texasmotorspeedway.com

Texas Motor Speedway tours put you in the winner's circle. If you're lucky, the hourlong van excursion includes a lap around the 1.5 mile track.

You don't have to be a NASCAR fan to enjoy the behind-the-scenes look at the giant speedway. But if you're not a fan, be prepared to field the question of who's your favorite driver from others on the tour.

As soon as it opened in 1997, the track north of Fort Worth became a recognizable backdrop on the televised racing circuit. In person, the track is colossal. With seating for more than 181,000, the grandstand is 10 stories high. Standing in the pit area at the finish line, the empty seats stare back with a big toothy grin.

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Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway

850 Caprock Canyon Park Road, Quitaque
806/455-1492
www.tpwd.texas.gov

Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway outside of Quitaque in the Texas Panhandle seems to catch fire as the first light of the sunrise hits the red canyon walls. The crimson sandstone escarpment looks like rugged palisades protecting some hidden fortress.

The park is on a transition zone where the flat grasslands of the High Plains drop into the wrinkled hills unfurling toward the Gulf Coast. The red cliffs are a result of oxidation of iron in the sediments at the edges of an ancient sea. Veins of white alabaster gypsum indicate periods when seawater evaporated and deposited the sparkling minerals.

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The National Videogame Museum

8004 Dallas Pkwy, Frisco
972/668-8400
www.nvmusa.org

The National Videogame Museum in Frisco tells the often overlooked backstory of America's favorite pastime with details of the bigger picture that you might have missed while your eyes were focused on the small screen.

Videogaming (insiders prefer spelling it as one word) began around 1972 when Magnavox introduced its Odyssey system. It was Atari who really put gaming on the map. The museum has a rare early edition of Atari's Doctor Pong which was marketed to doctors' offices for their waiting rooms. It didn't sell well, but the arcade and home systems started a revolution.

It was also Atari who nearly killed the videogame business in the early Eighties with poor quality and cheap prices. Nintendo came to the rescue following the gaming crash of 1983, followed by home computers.

The NVM is a hands-on history lesson. Not only are there displays of classic systems, but games to be played, including the world's largest Pong game. No museum on videogames would be complete without a video arcade with all the classic games.

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The Chicken Farm Art Center

2505 Martin Luther King Dr, San Angelo
325/653-4936
www.chickenfarmartcenter.com

The Chicken Farm Art Center in San Angelo showcases the work of artists and artisans from a variety of disciplines. The compound also houses an eclectic inn and a world-class restaurant.

In 1971, a group of hippie artists took over the old poultry farm on the edge of town. The barns were divided into artist studios and galleries. Over the years artists have come and gone, but the center now hosts more than 15 studios featuring pottery, photography, stone carvings, paintings, clothing, and much more.

The relatively new Inn at the Art Center gets a five-star rating on TripAdvisor. The four rooms are unique without being laden with frills and doilies. Guests don't have to sacrifice comfort for the chance to stay in a memorable guest house that isn't afraid to show its creative side.

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More Day Trips
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Day Trips & Beyond: Daytripping in the Age of a Pandemic
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More by Gerald E. McLeod
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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Day Trips, Summer Fun 2019

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