In this always-on-the-go world, it’s hard to take a moment to smell a rose, call your parents or find out where your parents live. Lately it feels like you’re working more hours and getting paid less, and the stress is reaching a breaking point.
You’re probably reading this in a bathroom stall right now — hiding from your boss with your feet raised up so no one can see it’s been the same pair of shoes for the last 30 minutes. You need a vacation, but you don’t have the time or the money to plan something. In that case, take a day trip.
For a proper day trip on a budget, you should be able to leave Dallas in the morning and be back in your own bed that night. No hotels needed, no bags packed, just you hitting the road and discovering the flat, treeless beauty of Texas. Fire up your favorite podcast, put fresh batteries in your hybrid and use this list as your guide to the best day trips to take from Dallas.
Note: All estimations of travel use Big Tex as a starting point. This is the introduction to the Big Tex system of measurement now taught in all Texas public schools, alongside new history books saying we won the battle at the Alamo.
In the last few years, Waco has become a tourist spot for people all over the country, so with the city only an hour and a half away, it’s a no-brainer to visit at least once.
One of the biggest attractions putting Waco on people’s radar is the Magnolia Market, a home-goods store opened by Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper fame. Lines of people wait for entry into the Pier 1-like megastore that has an outdoor area offering food trucks and a picnic area where families can eat and play. If you tried to play catch with your dad at a regular Pier 1, you would be asked to leave, in fear you would break some of the things Joanna sells in Pier 1.
Waco is also home to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, a building chronicling the history of the Texas Rangers. To clarify, this is a museum about the law enforcement association, not the baseball team; there’s no need to have a building with an empty trophy case in Waco.
If you work up a thirst, make sure to visit the Dr Pepper Museum to see where it all began. Go to the gift shop and ask to buy a Coke. The people working there will likely have never heard that one and will probably give you a key to the city.
At an hour and and 10 minutes away, Corsicana is an ideal place to get away from the city life. It's rich with history and the first city in Texas to be found rich in oil. In 1894, the oilfield that kicked off the Texas oil boom was discovered in Corsicana. In honor of the occasion, the city celebrates Derrick Days, an annual festival with a rodeo, carnival rides and a fire truck pull.
You can learn more about the historic discovery at Petroleum Park, an exotic theme park where a billionaire spared no expense to re-create the creatures from 1894. Just kidding — it’s a place with an old oil derrick. You can take a picture of it.
Keep that camera out when you visit Corsicana’s Pioneer Village, an area that shows you what Corsicana and Navarro County looked like in the pioneer days. Pioneer Village is home to multiple attractions, having both a military display dating to the Civil War and a museum in honor of country music star Lefty Frizzell.
Maybe you don’t want a scenic tour; maybe you need the adrenaline rush that comes with the thrill of testing your luck. For an hour and 40 minute car ride, you can be winning big at the Choctaw Casino in Durant. The car ride is so short, you won’t have enough time to remind yourself you don’t have the money to spend, and the drive is long enough that you can figure out what to sell on the way back.
What happens in Durant stays in Durant — the Choctaw Casino tried to re-create the feel of Vegas without all the travel. The Grand Theater in the casino brings in big-name acts like Kenny Loggins, Eddie Money and other people you’ll be surprised to see still performing.
And because Choctaw doesn’t want you dropping your kids off in the lobby and leaving them, it offers a large arcade, movie theater screens and bowling alleys to keep the kiddos happy.
The shortest drive, at less than an hour, is to the illustrious city of Denton. A college town with a great nightlife, Denton is like Austin if you squint. There is a multitude of places to see live artists perform, and the drink specials are usually so good you think the bartender told you the wrong price. This list is supposed to be for day trips, but in this case, it’s advisable to check into a hotel (or a hospital) if you want to take advantage of the discount liquor being poured.
That’s not to say drinking is the only thing to do in Denton. Head out to Lake Lewisville and enjoy the sun with some friends or get a little fishing in. If learning about history is more your speed, Denton has the Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum or the Denton Firefighters Museum.
With the nightlife, the nature and the history, Denton has something for everyone. Also, if you run into Denton resident and actor Jason Lee while you’re there, tell him the person who wrote this list would like to meet him and has wanted to for a very long time.
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If you want a nice, relaxing trip to become one with nature, Tyler will give you reasons to stretch your legs after the estimated two-hour drive.
One of Tyler’s most famous attractions is the Tyler Rose Garden. For free, you can visit the 14-acre garden from dawn till dusk seven days per week. The garden boasts more than 38,000 rose bushes and has at least 500 varieties of the flower. Needless to say, that’s a lot of apology bouquets growing in Tyler. Almost more impressive is that someone counted that to verify there were that many types of roses.
The Tyler State Park is a nature lover’s dream, with a staggering amount of space to explore. There are 13 miles of trails for the hiking enthusiast and three fishing piers with a boat ramp on the 64-acre lake. For those who love the outdoors but have rusty survival skills, arrange a time with one of the park rangers to give you a tour and teach some basics to make you a master camper. This way, if you choose not to go back to your stressful job, you can live in the wilderness, becoming a myth kids tell ghost stories about around the campfire.