― Going your own way in the Lone Star State. ―
Summer is here, and we’re all revved up for a Texas road trip!
If you and your family want to get out and see some wide open spaces, keep in the mind the best Texas road trip routes might not be the same anymore. Tons of popular destinations like Big Bend National Park and Hamilton Pool Preserve are closed to the public due to COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hit the road to enjoy some fresh air, stunning sights, and quirky finds here in the Lone Star State.
Texas is so much more than bluebonnets and barbecue. Below are some unique photo ops and stops we’d make on the road less traveled in our beloved state. Read on and see what sparks your interest – and your thirst for adventure! Click the destination names for more info, and use our interactive map to take a closer look and plan your Texas road trip route.
High Island Rookery
2205 Old Mexico Road, High Island, TX 77623
With free admission and gorgeous views, the Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary on High Island is an unparalleled bird watching destination. Bring a good camera along as you explore nearly 200 acres and see waterbirds like the gorgeous roseate spoonbill. Summertime means the egrets, herons, and spoonbills are building nests and raising their young. The best time to visit? Around sunset, when the birds fly in to settle down for the night. Bring cash; a day pass is $8 per person. Check out a guide to the birds here!
Royse City Future House
9573 State Highway 276 W Royse City, Texas, 75189
Tiny homes may be trendy now, but this one was truly ahead of its time. Architect Matti Suuronen, hailing from Finland, produced less than 100 of these sci-fi inspired domiciles in the 1960s. The modular design and fiberglass-and-plastic fabrication meant they could be erected wherever, whenever. Even though this one is in a state of disrepair – with a barren graffiti-coated interior – it’s still an architectural marvel worth checking out on your way through Texas.
507 Cemetery Rd Aurora, Texas, 76078
When it comes to Martian conspiracies, there’s more than just Roswell. Aurora was once abuzz with UFO rumors, including a spaceship crash in 1897. Apparently, the body of the alien pilot was recovered and buried beneath a tree in this cemetery. The headstone was stolen, but a historical marker in the cemetery still mentions the little guy. UFO theorists have even asked for the site to be exhumed, but have had no luck.
The Leaning Tower of Texas
I-40, Route 66 Groom, Texas, 79039
Our own slice of Pisa! This water tower was purchased, installed, and modified by Ralph Britten to drive traffic to his nearby truck stop and restaurant. Though they’ve since been lost in a fire, the tower still stands as one of the most photographed landmarks in the area. No Texas road trip would be complete without it!
I-40 Amarillo, Texas, 79124
Built in 1974 by The Ant Farm art collective and Stanley Marsh (the eccentric millionaire, not the South Park character), this site sports ten Cadillacs wedged into the dirt. Make your mark – visitors are encouraged to add to the graffiti all over the cars! Cadillac Ranch also inspired copycat installations in Texas such as the VW Slug Bug Ranch in Conway and Combine City in Amarillo, plus Carhenge all the way in Nebraska!
This aesthetic anachronism was built in 2005 by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, a pair of artists from Berlin. Miuccia Prada gave them her blessing and even helped select the merchandise. To discourage thieves, the windows are heavily reinforced, the handbags have no bottom panels, and none of the shoes come in pairs. Take Route 90 west out of Valentine to find this little Texas road trip gem. While you’re in the area, check out the eerie Marfa Lights viewing station off Highway 67.
Check out the Instagram hashtag: #pradamarfa
US-90, Alpine, TX
In Brewster County, between the towns of Marathon and Alpine in West Texas, sits the tiniest Target storefront you’ll ever see. The structure appeared mysteriously in 2016, and although it is clearly inspired by the Marfa Prada, no one has stepped up to take credit for it.
Check out the Instagram hashtag: #targetmarathon
World’s Largest Spur
902 US-281 Lampasas, Texas, 76550
They say everything’s bigger in Texas… and it doesn’t get much more Texan than this! Created in 2016, this 35-foot, 5-ton art piece is made of steel, iron, and copper. It is verified by The Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Spur. Visit at night to see the neon lights at the top!
Japanese Tea Garden
400 N. St. Marys, Suite 101 San Antonio, Texas 78205
Converted from an abandoned limestone rock quarry, the San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden is perhaps the most picturesque stop on our list. Parks Commissioner Ray Lambert consulted Japanese-American artist Eizo Jingu for the design of the garden in the early 1900s. Open daily with free admission, the gorgeous south-central Texas road trip attraction boasts exotic plants, koi fish, lily ponds, and even a waterfall. The pavilion is a popular venue for weddings, and you can grab a snack at the Jingu House Cafe next door.
5808 McKinney Falls Parkway Austin, TX 78744
Currently, McKinney Falls State Park is currently open for day visits of groups of fewer than 10 people. Check out the beautiful sights of Onion Creek along the hiking and biking trails. This is the perfect place to flex your photography skills! Kids can download a free Junior Ranger Activity Journal to follow along with, courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife.
Ms. Pearl the Squirrel Statue
137 Berdoll Loop Cedar Creek, Texas, 78612
Located just outside of Austin in Cedar Creek sits the world’s tallest squirrel statue, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into. The Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Company’s mascot is a towering 14-foot-tall squirrel, and boy is she happy to see you. Created in 2011 and christened “Ms. Pearl,” she makes for a great photo op and gives the Buc-ee’s beaver statues a run for their money. While you’re there, check out the Berdoll pecan orchard and gift shop.