Things To Do

An Influencer's Picks For the Best Winter Travel Spots in Texas

Yes, everywhere you're at it's "wine country," but get to an actual vineyard in Texas.
Yes, everywhere you're at it's "wine country," but get to an actual vineyard in Texas. Jessica Serna
Unless you're Ted Cruz, cold winters are meant for staying in and cozying up by the fire. Winter is the slowest season for travel, which means cheaper hotel rates and airline tickets, fewer crowds and the chance for a comforting getaway in your own personal cabin away from COVID. If you don't want to venture too far out of home, there are some cozy destinations just a quick road trip away from DFW. Texas travel blogger My Curly Adventures offered some of her favorite nearby winter getaways.

As Texas gets a break from the humidity and baking heat, the icy-cool winter months are really the best time of year for outdoor adventures. Lubbock’s Caprock Canyons State Park (850 Caprock Canyon Park Road) is a natural wonderland you thought you could only find up somewhere way up north. Rich, red rock rises up throughout, and the park is littered with free-roaming bison, prairie dogs, hiking paths and campsites. Enjoy the last remnants of summer with a leisurely stroll on the beaches of Buffalo Springs Lake (9999 High Meadow Road) or hike up into the elegant, red rock caves that look down on the water below. When it’s time to feed your inner animal, Embers BBQ (1106 5th St.) serves brisket that is so tender you won’t need a knife. Responsible for 85% of the grapes used in the Texas wine industry, Lubbock is also home to two beautiful wineries, English Newsome Cellars (408 E. Woodrow Road) and McPherson Cellars Winery (1615 Texas Ave.), that educate visitors about their production process while offering intimate experiences like barrel tasting. Just make sure to wear layers and apply (or remove) them as necessary.
click to enlarge
Lubbock isn't just for frat boys. The city also has some sick hiking spots.
Jessica Serna
You’ll feel transported into a Hallmark movie universe in Fredericksburg. Have a magical overnight stay in a tree house in the middle of wine country. Indulge in some winter time serenity surrounded by tall pine trees at Das Peach Haus (1406 S. U.S. Highway 87), where you can sample Texas wines, expand your palate with one of their scheduled cooking classes and take your glass down to the water for a little added warmth. Fredericksburg is at the end of the 290 Wine Trail, so even though your options are endless, you’ll likely have to plan multiple trips to see all of the wineries along the way. Close out your day with a late afternoon hike through Enchanted Rock State Park (16710 Ranch Road 965) and watch the sunset. Keep an eye on their calendar for various types of guided hikes, which focus on stargazing or local wildlife.

What could warm you up more than getting up-close and personal with cute animals? The Goatel on the Chocolate Bayou (7838 Bayou Drive) allows its goats to roam freely and includes a Goat Happy Hour with your reservation, which allows visitors to bottle-feed their babies. Upgrade and you can take a "goat yoga" class, too. If you stay in the boho bell-tents on the bayou, you feel like you're floating on the water and will be visited by several furry friends. Afterwards, you can take an open-air tram through 80 acres and feed exotic animals along the way at the Bayou Wildlife Zoo (5050 FM 517). You can either plan a picnic on-site at the zoo or stop by Smokin D’s BBQ Fusion Bar & Grill (2625 TX-35 N.) where they’ve amped up Texas BBQ by mixing it up through a Mexican and Asian fusion. Try the pho brisket, sriracha Brussels sprouts and their brisketmacdilla. And you can’t leave Alvin without tasting the largest and tastiest milkshakes you’ll ever have with the extravagant toppings at Grace’s Pizza and Shakes (113 E. Sealy St.).
click to enlarge
Pretend to be royalty, or a dragon, in Bellville, Texas.
Jessica Serna

Stories of dragons, knights and princesses are the foundation of childhood imagination, but in his adult years, a Bellville bakery owner named Mister Newman made his dream of owning a castle a reality. Now Newman’s Bakery (504 E. Main St.) serves as your first stop before you make it inside Newman’s Castle (1041 Old Highway 36), an architectural wonder that brings fairytales to life. After Newman himself gives you an introduction and knights the little ones in the group, he’ll let you roam the castle at your own pace. Friendly bloodhounds, which were characteristic in old-age castles, wander around the property. Keep the theme alive by stopping at Phenix Knives (305 E. Main St.), a local blacksmith shop where you can learn to forge your own knife or choose from the selection of handmade items, the perfect gift for the handyperson in your life. The kid-friendly activities are endless in Bellville: meet horses at Bluebonnet Farms (8260 FM 529); grab lunch items made from scratch at Farm to Market Produce Company (128 E. Palm St.); explore the shops with little treasures on every display; and then get some to-go BBQ to take home with you from Bellville Meat Market (36 S. Front St.).

Brownwood is devoted to preserving the history of the Santa Fe Railroad, including the Runaway Train Café (3600 Stephen F. Austin Drive), a model train turned classic diner in all its glory, complete with cherry red walls and black leather bar stools. The Harvey House (600 E. Depot St.) is reminiscent of the culture that surrounded the Santa Fe Railroad. And Brownwood is tastefully rustic everywhere you go. This is especially apparent at the Spirit of Texas Winery (6037 County Road 291), where you can sip on local wine inside an old bus surrounded by twinkling lights. Also check out the renovated 1920s Brownwood’s Lyric Theatre (318 Center Ave.) and stay at a tiny cabin in the woods with a hot tub for a comfortable soak in the cold at the Star of Texas Bed & Breakfast (650 Morelock Lane). 
click to enlarge
Brownwood is the spot for train lovers and regular lovers, too.
Jessica Serna

Lake Texoma
When it comes to Texans, as long as the sun is shining, there is nothing holding us back from being on the water. Lake Texoma combines the comfort of a mountain stay with the excitement of a beachside vacation. Rent a cabin with a modern feel at Paradise on Lake Texoma – Resort Campground (503 Paradise Park Road, Pottsboro). Enjoy quality time with nature as you lounge on their on-site hammocks and grill by the light of your own fireplace. There's an abundance of outdoor adventures to be had near Lake Texoma: Waterloo Lake (1101 Waterloo Lake Drive, Denison) offers scenic kayaking and nearby caves or enjoy the lake breeze while you ride a water taxi to a private island for a romantic dinner cruise. Or hike the diverse terrain of Eisenhower State Park (50 Park Road 20, Denison). The nearby town of Denison is the original spot of the fungi-resistant vine that saved the French wine industry. The town can also boast of its many boutiques and the infamous burgers of the Best Burger Barn (100 W. Chestnut St., Denison). 
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.