For those unfamiliar with Waco, the little city in the heart of Texas might be tough to decipher.
Forty 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.”
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.
The 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.
“I am loving the plains more than ever it seems—and the SKY— Anita, you’ve never seen SKY—it is wonderful.”
On 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.
Abilene 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.
The beaches of Padre Island are so inviting that inland lakes have been known to import loads of Padre sand for their own waterfronts.
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.
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.
Not many places have the distinction of inspiring a George Strait hit such as “Amarillo by Morning.”
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.