8 Great Day Trips From Dallas (Under 3 Hours’ Drive)

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Article written by: Rebecca
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Craving a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of Dallas? Here are some great ideas for day trips from Dallas – all within a 3-hour drive.

Whether you’re a long-time resident, a newcomer to the city or visiting Dallas for a weekend, sometimes you just need a change of scenery. And what makes Dallas so great is that within 3 hours’ drive you could be soaking up the sun by a lake, living your cowboy or cowgirl dream, or discovering dinosaur footprints.

Dallas was my home for 2.5 years, and while there’s so much food, nightlife and history to be discovered, there are also some incredible day trips that get you out of the city and exploring more of Texas.

So, if you’re looking to escape the Big D, here are the best day trips from Dallas.

A traditional cattle drive with cowboys on horseback herding longhorn cattle through the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, near Dallas.

1. Denton

A close-up image of a meal at a restaurant. The main focus is on a plate with a cheeseburger and a large serving of thin, crispy fries. The burger has a toasted bun and visible layers of cheese and pickles. In the background, a person is partially visible, sitting at the table with a salad, a glass of pink beverage, and a glass of beer.

Forty-five minutes northwest of Dallas, Denton has been a college town since 1890.

Start your day trip to Denton with a stroll around Denton Square, checking out the cute shops, candy stores and historic buildings. There are a huge number of second-hand stores, full of all sorts of bric-a-brac. You’ll find old toys that bring back childhood memories, nostalgic signs and knick-knacks.

Check out the street art, which line the buildings from Fry Street to downtown.

When you’re ready to eat, the burger at Barley & Board can’t be beat. Simple, with just two thin patties, cheese, pickles and a creamy sauce, it’s perfectly cooked and something worth driving 45 minutes to eat!

Finish up your day trip with a beer at Oak St. Drafthouse. Located in one of the oldest houses in Denton, it’s a cool spot with indoor seating and a huge outdoor patio.

2. Fort Worth

The entrance to a lively venue in Fort Worth, with a prominent neon sign reading "FORT WORTH." Below the sign, there are various other illuminated signs and decorations, suggesting a bustling nightlife scene. The interior is dimly lit, with colourful lights creating a vibrant atmosphere.

Dallas’s sister city, Fort Worth is always a must-visit. Just half an hour from Dallas, it’s so close but has such a different vibe.

Your first stop in Fort Worth should be the Sundance Square environment distract, where you can shop until you drop at its unique boutiques, eat your way through a variety of cuisines or listen to live music.

You also can’t miss the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. It’s here that Longhorn cattle are paraded through the streets twice a day – time your visit to Fort Worth with this!

Once you’ve had your cowboy fix, Fort Worth is also home to the oldest botanic gardens in the state, as well as award-winning museums like the Kimbell Art Museum and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

Hungry? Eat at 61 Osteria, a classic Italian restaurant that’s a local favourite. Atico is a rooftop tapas bar with great views over the Fort Worth Stockyards and the city.

While Fort Worth is one of the best day trips from Dallas, it’s also one of the best romantic getaways in Texas if you want to stay a little longer.

Recommended by Ossama of Awesome Traveler

3. Glen Rose

An outdoor scene at a dinosaur park, featuring large statues of a green Brontosaurus and a brown Tyrannosaurus rex. The Brontosaurus is on the left, facing the T-rex on the right. The sky is partly cloudy, and the park has grassy areas and a dirt path, with informational signs in the foreground. Glen Rose is a fun place to visit near Dallas.

As the Dinosaur Capital of Texas, Glen Rose is a must-visit from Dallas.

A million years ago, herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaurs roamed the area. They left hundreds of footprints that you can still see along the bed of the Paluxy River in Dinosaur Valley State Park. When the river is low in the summer is the best time to look for dinosaur tracks at the Dinosaur Valley.

Besides looking for dinosaur tracks, visitors enjoy hiking around here because they can get some elevation. And when the river flows and the weather gets warm, the Paluxy River becomes a favourite swimming hole.

A few yards before you enter the state park, you’ll see Dinosaur World on the left-hand side. Hundreds of life-sized dinosaurs are spread in a natural setting throughout this park – you’ll feel like you’re walking with the dinosaurs, just like in Jurassic Park. Families with little children will love it. You can bring a picnic lunch, and dogs are welcome, too.

Another place that’s worth a stop is Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. It offers ecotourism to visitors via guided tours or drive-your-own vehicles. You’ll get a chance to feed giraffes from inside your car. Isn’t that cool?

When it’s time to eat, head out to Loco Coyote Grill. Try their delicious monster burgers, BBQ or chicken fried steak with an order of onion rings for the side. It’s open from Thursday to Sunday and dog-friendly.

If you like Mexican food, go to Mama Mia – their poblano rice is to die for.

Recommended by Umiko of Two Worlds Treasures

4. Grapevine

A bustling sidewalk scene in the small town of Grapevine near Dallas TX, with a brick building housing various shops. The storefronts have large windows and metal awnings. There are outdoor tables with umbrellas branded with Pepsi logos, where people are seated. Two women are walking down the sidewalk, and an American flag is visible on the right.

Grapevine’s downtown is loaded with shops, wine-tasting rooms and restaurants, and you can even hop aboard the Grapevine Vintage Railroad for a short excursion. 

The town is an easy day trip from Dallas and is popular with visitors from all around. Grapevine is just 27 miles, or a half-hour drive, from downtown Dallas. It also makes a good stopover for airport travellers with time on their hands as it’s just a 10-minute shuttle ride from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. 

There are lots of fun things to do in Grapevine. The Settlement to City Museums is a complex of historical museums that includes two 19th-century pioneer homes and a school house. Several model train exhibits are located in town. And a favourite spot with children is Nash Farm, a sort of living museum that displays and re-enacts life on a late 19th-century farm. 

The incredible Meow Wolf has also opened in Grapevine. Meow Wolf is an immersive, interactive art venue that’s a lot of fun – and very Instagrammable!

Among the many restaurants, Esparza’s Restaurante Mexicano is a favourite. Situated in a renovated 1800s house, it’s well-known for its Tex Mex cuisine (don’t miss the deep-fried stuffed avocado) and margaritas. Old-school Italian classics and wine flights are a specialty at Farina’s Winery & Café.

One of the best times to visit Grapevine is Christmas. The town is the official Christmas Capitol of Texas and schedules more than 1,400 events over 40-plus days. Festivities happen all around the town. 

Recommended by Carole of Travels with Carole

5. Jefferson

Jefferson is an ideal day trip from Dallas. Just under 3 hours from Dallas, it offers both historic attractions and nearby natural wonders.

It’s a small town where it’s easy to talk to the locals and see everything in a day. To begin, take a historical tour in a vintage red bus. It will take you to the highlights of the town, such as the magnificent Kennedy Manor Bed & Breakfast and the traditional buildings of the town centre.

Jefferson was founded prior to the Civil War, so its history stretches far back. Named after the USA’s third president, you can learn more about the city’s history at the Jefferson Historic Museum.

After a great tour, enjoy lunch at Jefferson’s epic McGarity’s Restaurant & Saloon. It’s an institution in town, with kitchen decor and everyday objects hanging from the ceiling. The menu is classic and varied, from pastas to steaks, fish and herbivore dishes. If it’s full, head next door to the Haywood House Restaurant, with its vintage decor.

If the weather’s nice and you’d rather explore the surrounding countryside, you’ll find two beautiful lakes: Lake O’ the Pines, a 15-minute drive west of Jefferson, and Caddo Lake and its incredible Wildlife Refuge, a 20-minute drive east of Jefferson.

All of these options make Jefferson one of the best road trips from Dallas.

Recommended by Soline of On the Road Diary

6. Mineral Wells

A serene lakeside view featuring a rocky shoreline, sparse vegetation, and clear, calm water extending into the distance. The sky is clear and blue, suggesting a peaceful and pleasant day. Trees and bushes are visible on the left side, with the water reflecting the blue sky and the distant horizon. This is Lake Mineral Wells, a great day trip from Dallas destination.

Mineral Wells is a surprising haven of cultural, historical and outdoor opportunities, located under an hour and a half from Dallas. This makes Mineral Wells an ideal Dallas day trip, with a small-town vibe and plenty of places to unwind away from the big city.

Mineral Wells is a mecca for outdoor recreationists. There’s the Brazos River, with plenty of fishing and boating opportunities. The Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway is a 20-mile-long multi-use path perfect for runners, walkers, and bikers. Enjoy the botanical Clark Gardens, or conquer some challenging mountain biking at Texas Frontier Trails.

Finally, there’s beautiful Lake Mineral Wells State Park, one of the top 8 state parks near Dallas, with its namesake lake, miles of trails and campgrounds. The highlight of the park is the ominously named Penitentiary Hollow, filled with craggy canyons and cliffs that’s home to some of the best rock climbing in Texas.  

Downtown Mineral Wells is lined with small shops and historic icons like the Baker Hotel.  Downtown also hosts several yearly events, including the annual Crazy Water Festival, now in its 44th year.

When it comes to historical roots, there are several places of interest, including the Fort Wolters Historical Park and the National Vietnam War Museum.  

After all those outdoor activities you’ll need to fuel up. The best local German food can be found at Jamie’s German Restaurant, or go for traditional Texas BBQ at Natty Flat Smokehouse.  

Mineral Wells is an ideal year-round day trip from Dallas, but if outdoor recreation is on your list, the best seasons to visit are fall and spring, in order to avoid the more extreme temperatures.

Recommended by Kristen at Yonderlust Ramblings

7. Tyler

A close-up image of a blooming rose. The main flower is a soft, pale yellow, with delicate petals. In the background, there are smaller orange-tinged rosebuds. The image captures the fine details of the petals and the natural beauty of the rose. Tyler TX is the Rose Capital of the World.

Tyler is the perfect choice for a day trip from Dallas. In just an hour and a half, you’ll be transported to the Piney Woods of East Texas – a refreshing change of scenery!

Tyler is known as the Rose Capital of the World, so you’ll definitely want to visit the Tyler Rose Garden. One of the city’s biggest celebrations is the annual Rose Festival. Held in October, this is a great time to visit. And don’t miss the Azalea and Spring Flower Trail, held from the end of March through the beginning of April.

Even if you’re not a big fan of flowers, there are plenty of fun things to do in Tyler. History buffs will enjoy stepping back in time at the Goodman-LeGrand House and Museum. If you’re interested in the arts, visit the Tyler Art Museum, featuring works by Texas artists. 

Visiting with kids? Check out the interactive science exhibits at the Discovery Science Place.

For lunch, sink your teeth into smoky brisket or ribs at Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue. Enjoy hearty Tex-Mex fare at Mercado’s – the fajitas are fantastic, and don’t forget to grab your free soft-serve ice cream cone on your way out! Or, for lighter fare, enjoy salads and sandwiches at the Potpourri House, a local favourite.

Recommended by Lisa Garrett of Travel to Lyon

8. Waco

A charming garden in front of a building labeled "Magnolia Seed + Supply." The garden features raised wooden planters filled with colorful flowers, including pink tulips in the foreground. The building is rustic, with a wooden exterior and a metal roof, and a gravel path leads up to it. There are a few people visible near the entrance. Waco is one of the most popular day trips from Dallas.

For a wonderful day trip from Dallas, check out the sweet town of Waco, Texas. Located just 1.5 hours from Dallas, Waco offers outdoor adventures, historic architecture, and several fun things to do

Head downtown to visit the Dr. Pepper Museum to experience hands-on activities with plenty of taste testing allowed! For gorgeous views of the skyline, take a stroll across the Waco Suspension Bridge.

Waco’s National Mammoth Monument allows visitors to experience a real archaeological site with prehistoric animals, including the remains of 24 Columbian mammoths. For more history and science, walk the beautiful Baylor University campus and visit the Mayborn Museum featuring several exhibits that vary from geology to space technology.

Waco’s most popular place to visit is undoubtedly Magnolia at the Silos, featuring Chip and Joanna Gaines’ beautiful shops filled with treasures. You’ll also find seasonal events, a great outdoor lawn space with a wiffle ball field and food trucks, and of course, their delicious bakery cupcakes. True fans will want to take a tour of their renovated homes or even visit their castle.

Next to Magnolia Market is Union Hall, an indoor food hall with several delicious restaurants to choose from. For southwestern fare with a river view, check out Café Homestead and don’t skip the peach cobbler!

Spring and fall are wonderful times to visit Waco, not only for the fantastic weather, but also for the festivals that take place throughout the seasons. The Texas Food Truck Showdown, Homestead Fair, Annual Rodeo and Silobration are filled with tasty food, live entertainment and local culture.

Recommended by Sierra of Very Truly Texas

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What are your favourite Dallas day trips?


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About REBECCA

I'm a travel junkie who started dreaming about seeing the world from a very young age. I've visited more than 40 countries and have a Master of International Sustainable Tourism Management. A former expat, I've lived in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Argentina and the United States. I share travel resources, tips and stories based on my personal experiences, and my goal is to make travel planning just that bit easier.

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