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3For those unfamiliar with Waco, the little city in the heart of Texas might be tough to decipher.

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Denton cmyk

2Forty minutes north of the rapidly growing cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, the college town of Denton (population 121,000, more or less) enjoys a relaxed vibe that some admirers liken to “Austin in the old days.”

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With a bounty of small towns, sparkling lakes and rivers, and wildflower-splashed pastures in spring, the Hill Country has inspired countless road trips for Texas travelers.

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60The barrier islands that shelter Aransas Bay from the Gulf of Mexico also buffet the bayside community of Rockport-Fulton from the crush of tourists that flock to some other beach resort towns.

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1639B Courthouse“I am loving the plains more than ever it seems—and the SKY— Anita, you’ve never seen SKY—it is wonderful.”

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17On the northern fringe of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, McKinney’s historic character and natural amenities draw both tourists and a steady influx of new residents.

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1839C-Parmount20080910 004 v2Abilene won readers’ praise for its small-town feel, state park, zoo, shopping, history, and restaurants, which range from classic barbecue joints to newcomers like Abi-Haus, which makes waves with craft cocktails and modern American fare.

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19The beaches of Padre Island are so inviting that inland lakes have been known to import loads of Padre sand for their own waterfronts.

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Dalhart, named for its location on the Dallam and Hartley county line, originated as a railroad town and developed as a shipping center for area ranches, including the renowned XIT Ranch. The XIT Museum chronicles the region and its history, ranging from its namesake ranch to area wildlife.

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Ah, mysterious Marfa. Founded in 1883 as a railroad water stop, Marfa existed as a remote West Texas ranching town until James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor arrived in 1955 to make the movie version of Edna Ferber’s epic novel Giant, kicking off a slow trickle of tourism.

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Not many places have the distinction of inspiring a George Strait hit such as “Amarillo by Morning.” 

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Travelers make tracks to this idyllic hamlet to view prehistoric footprints in the Paluxy River at Dinosaur Valley State Park and the native and non-native species that roam the rolling hills at nearby Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Known for its abundance of petrified- wood structures, Glen Rose also harbors a picturesque courthouse square, diverse shops, restaurants, and lodging, and a restored 19th-Century gristmill and surrounding buildings that serve as a museum of history and art.

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