The other day, New Wife and I were suffering a little from cabin fever, so we thought about taking a weekend drive trip somewhere — preferably out of Texas, because there are huge swathes of the U.S. that she has yet to see.

The problem was that we are confined to a day trip — i.e. one day’s drive out, stay overnight, and one day back (because of NW’s M-F job) — and because we live in the Great State Of Texas, we are somewhat limited in terms of destination choice, viz.:

Because of the stupid Chinkvirus restrictions, we’d have to confine ourselves to sight-seeing of the “Nature’s wonder” kind.  But the problem is that within the confines of the above circle, there’s a whole lot of fuck nothing (e.g. Oklahoma, Kansas, etc.) and I don’t want to go to the collection of suburbs known as Lake Of The Ozarks.

Given that north Texas is flatter than Gwyneth Paltrow, we have to drive a long way before the scenery becomes a little less monotonous.  And we’ve seen West Texas, thank you, so a westward journey is a non-starter.

Anyone have any ideas?


  1. Since it sounds like the Branson area is a no go for you – although its one of those places that “everybody needs to visit once” – here are a couple of more scenic places you might consider:
    Beaver’s Bend state park tucked down in the SE corner of Oklahoma. A very pretty place and they have some nice cabins that you might be able to book if you plan far enough ahead.
    Queen Wilhelmina state park in Mena Arkansas. Not a lot of activities in the area but beautiful scenery and a great place to unwind.
    Hot Springs Arkansas can get a little busy but the surrounding countryside is gorgeous. We found the town with its heritage of gambling and gangsters to be fun too.
    Petit Jean Mountain Arkansas state park (SW of Little Rock) has a decent restaurant, nice cabins (same disclaimer as Beaver’s Bend applies), and an outstanding car museum.
    Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge outside Lawton OK. Lawton itself is a bit of a third world pest hole but the refuge is one of the few places you’ll see relatively large herds of buffalo roaming free.
    I’m doing these in no particular order. Just as they come into my head as I’m playing with the dog this morning.
    Robbers Cave state park in OK is worth a look.
    The Arbuckle Mountain area in south central Oklahoma is also pretty.

    You’re hitting what passes for the leaf season in this part of the world. We grew up in the northeastern US and you’ll never see the spectacular fall colors of Vermont and New Hampshire but you might see some reds and yellows before everything turns brown.
    As a general comment anything in this area that’s advertised as a “mountain” could be sued for false advertising but there are some pretty hills.

    1. You’ve obviously never driven I-70 across Illinois. I grew up in the Ozarks and once thought as you did, but after driving across Illinois a few times the Ozarks do start to appear as mountains.

  2. We’ve always enjoyed the Texas hill country. Austin area is a traffic nightmare but once you get past that, then New Braunfels area is real nice. Or Wimberley. Fredericksburg. etc.

    1. Hill country…Austin to Fredericksburg. This is a nice time of the year, things are greening up.

      Or, College Station. Always a nice drive, when it’s green.

      Just stay off the interstates.

  3. The Caverns outside San Antonio are a lot more interesting than Mammoth Cave. The Alamo was a disappointment when I saw it. My wife liked the River Walk. Maybe too close and she’s already seen them?

  4. There’s quite a few good spots in east Texas. Not a lot of “tourist” places, but plenty of nice little hotels on lakes, in the middle of forested areas. Look around Lake Caddo, for a start.

  5. ltdavel has great suggestions. Talimena Skyline Drive is very scenic and the best way to get to Queen Wilhelmina. Watching the hang gliders launch off the drive and finally land in the clearing way below is calming. The Forest Heritage Center Museum at Beavers Bend is interesting. It has dioramas from way back, painted by Harry Rossoll. I certainly enjoyed riding my motorcycle in SE Oklahoma. I lived in Paris, TX for 5.5 years on assignment for Kimberly-Clark. Jefferson, TX, Caddo Lake, and Lake of the Pines are also scenic.

  6. Got beaten to it- Broken Bow/beavers bend park. Easy 3 hours from dfw. Nice drive through farm and ranch country. Bring your own booze/beer.

  7. Looks like a four hour drive to San Antonio area. I could recommend the Nimitz museum in Fredericksburg. Lots of German restaurants in that town as lots of Germans settled around there. (Like the Nimitz family, for example) A maybe the Riverwalk and a maybe on the Alamo as Mark D states. I have been to both. As Dave Barry said when visiting, “Where is the real Alamo, like in the movies?”
    It is not as flat as great swaths of Texas as the area is known as “Hill Country”.

  8. We just did a trip to Arkansas- Ouachita Lake, Caddo River area. Not a bad drive from DFW- about 5 hours. Very peaceful and interesting. Stayed at a great Air BnB that is on a farm and very peaceful (can pass reference if you are interested) . Great people and its of places to hike.

  9. The Art Deco loveliness of Tulsa is worth a trip.

    I’ll second Hot Springs, and you could spend an hour or so at Murfreesboro and get her a diamond.

    Vicksburg is an interesting trip. Leave I-20 at Shreveport, take the small roads South through Winfield, then back up to Vicksburg. That will take most of a day. Wander the Vicksburg battlefields on the morning of day two, then have an easy run back on I-20.

    The Gage Hotel at Marathon is excellent, and the mountains of Big Bend are a fun drive. Getting there might involve too much flat/straight for you to enjoy.

    If you travel Arkansas, do stop at Mena and piss on the gate for Commonwealth College. A notable commie outpost a century ago.

    1. I was stationed in Vicksburg not too far back. I second the battlefield. Just not in the summertime, unless you enjoy swimming through a sauna-like environment. The Natchez Trace Parkway is a beautiful drive any time of year – it also has the gravesite of Meriweather Lewis.

  10. Texas Hill Country, where I live NW of San Antonio is rather pretty, our town of Bourne is having Market Days on the Plaza today and tomorrow with a whole lot of folks in town and beautiful driving between the towns of Bandera, Kerrville and further out to Utopia. The fact that you will see TRUMP ~ PENCE signs on stores and in fields and folks driving around with Trump Flags on Saturday morning is not too bad either. Lots of gun ranges and gun stores 38 FFL’s listed in our town of 17,000 people. Within an hours drive of Boerne you can be in San Antonio or head the other direction and go thru Kerrville on I-10 where the speed limit goes up to 80 and folks try to stay under 90. Mostly nice people down here and if you like to shoot .22, and there is not a match, I can open up the Boerne Gun Club, a nice little .22 only because it is in town on the edge but one of the oldest gun ranges in the USA in continuous use, an old German Schutzen range that goes back to 1864 and the range Ad Topperwein grew up shooting on. ‘Just Saying’. Just get on highway 87 coming South out of Dallas and then pick up 281 and it is a pleasant drive without doing the I-35 NASCAR race between Dallas and San Antonio which is never much fun.

  11. Maybe check out the art colony in Marfa. I’m told there’s good food, interesting art, and you may have the opportunity to kick a hippie.

    1. Isn’t Marfa one of those mysterious “spook light” places? If. I recall correctly I think that Joplin MO is another such place. I guess such things depend on how much you’ve had to drink and/or smoke.

      1. @ltd,
        Marfa as a “spook light” place? Can’t say .. never went. Back when I was married, Satan had a VERY ODD cousin who decided to get married in Marfa. At the time of the wedding, I lived near Boston, and the thought of spending $4,000 on a 4-day trip for a cousin I didn’t quite “get” just didn’t make much sense. We sent a nice gift. From what I’ve read about Marfa, it’s a VERY STRANGE place.

  12. Eureka Springs, AR is an interesting place. Or was, I haven’t been in many years, but a couple guys I know have been recently and liked it. Google says it’s 6 hours from Plano.

    1. Also Palo Duro and Caprock Canyons, both in the panhandle, are in your circle. They are worth a drive.

      1. A little farther than Palo Duro is Raton, NM. I like the place, but the wife always asks why. Perhaps it’s the Townes Van Zandt song. Drive up over the pass into Colorado, just to say you did.
        Near Raton is the NRA Whittington center. Small museum, a bunch of ranges, and lodging, I think. Just this side of Raton is my secret place, Johnson Mesa, a beautiful high mesa that I try to visit whenever I am in the neighborhood. There are several groups of antelope there and it’s fun to try and find them. Most visits you will see zero other cars or people.

        1. I made a day trip from Colorado Springs to Raton, driving over Johnson Mesa to Folsom, NM, then up to Branson, CO and followed back roads back to Trinidad, CO and the interstate. Very pretty drive, but the road over Johnson Mesa was pothole city. Raton makes a great hub to explore northern NM, you can take the Enchanted Circle drive around Wheeler Peak, visiting Taos, Red River, etc., then back to Raton. Cimarron canyon, along the way, was cool as well.

  13. Have New Wife call out sick for a couple days (Covid-19 might be a logical excuse, as it seems all the rage right now.) Two or three extra days would probably double your range to roam, or increase the amount of time you could spend somewhere.

    Do any of the major hotels offer a “staycation” package? Perhaps a long weekend sleeping in and lounging around (heavy drinking) in Austin, Hub of the Western Cultural World, would be to your liking.

  14. The wifey and I spent a day and a half in Galveston, TX, and found it delightful. The music scene, eateries and the Gulf Coast scenery in general were top notch.

    However… that was a few hurricanes ago. They did have a very nice aircraft museum in Gal – located at the airport, only a few feet above mean high water. Not the best of choices. After a couple of damaging hurricanes and floods, they relocated — a loooong way from the Gulf.

    1. I think they moved the aircraft museum inland. The old place was heavily damaged during Ike.

      Some years back I had a work conference thing at Moody Gardens, which is right beside where the old museum was at the time. When I pulled up into the parking lot, the museum staff were pulling the B-17 out for a test run. I hung out in the parking lot and enjoyed listening to them fire up all four engines. That was better than a thousand Harleys, it was the pure sound of Freedom, Baby!!

      Needless to say I was late getting to my conference.

      1. Oh, coooooools!

        I was a docent at the Melbourne, FL air show a couple of times. Three years ago I ran a hospitality table for the corporate patron’s tent set right by the taxiway – the one used by the B-17 giving rides… When she went by, not a lot of hospitality got done. ;^)’

  15. That range would get you to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, as well as Sonora Caverns in Texas. Somebody already mentioned the Palo Duro canyon and caprock territory. Right on the edge of the circle is White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, and probably also Alamogordo and Cloudcroft up in the mountains.

    I can also second the recommendation for the Hill Country, and the Nimitz museum in Fredericksburg. If you’re feeling beachy, I’d prefer Corpus Christi to Galveston, and the Padre Island National Seashore. Your circle doesn’t quite go far enough east to hit the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, but that’s another worthwhile museum with nice beaches in the area (that area of the Florida panhandle is called the Redneck Riviera).

    I don’t have much experience with the north and east part of your circle. Most of my east coast experience was up in New England, which is way out of range for a weekend trip.

  16. Merrimac Caverns in Missouri, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, or maybe White Sands National Monument? I see these have already been mentioned.

  17. At the very edge (11 hour drive according to Mapquest) of your range is Bandelier National Monument, an Anasazi ruin. That’s something uniquely American and may whet her appetite for a longer exploration of others at Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon when you have more time.

  18. I wouldnt recommend NOLA right now unless you just want to drive/walk around. Things are too closed down unless you goto local neighborhood spots. That said there is more to LA than NOLA. Cajun country cant spell corona and you can still do lots of fun activities. Weather is good for swamp tours, coastal fishing, hella good food, daintcin etc

    1. I was going to suggest NOLA, but this might be up your alley, Kim. Rip Van Winkle Gardens was a wonderful place to visit that I was introduced to by my aunt and uncle when they lived in Lafayette, LA 20 years ago. This might pique your interest: Joseph Jefferson, built a hunting lodge on Jefferson Island in 1870. He was an actor and played the part of Rip Van Winkle on stage over 4500 times. That is where the island got it’s name: Rip Van Winkle Gardens on Jefferson Island.

      Cajun country is stunning. A visit to Avery Island where Tabasco pepper sauce is headquartered is worth it, too

  19. Lots of good suggestions here. I thought of a couple of places that I’ve driven through, but never had the chance to stop and look around. The closer one would be Eufaula Lake just south of Muskogee, OK. I always like largish bodies of water. I’m sure there are some scenic and recreational possibilities.

    The other is a bit further away and the main route there is over some of the least scenic interstate highways in the country. That would be the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers around Cairo IL and Hayti MO. I would enjoy poking around the backroads and backwaters of that area. It might not appeal to everyone though.

  20. Just did a day trip to Tyler. The wife is an gleeful gardener, so the rose garden was the entire morning, and should be better now than it was in august. Lunch at Stanley’s bbq, and the the Goodman legrand house museum for the afternoon. Home in time for dinner.

    1. You have to work really hard to find a bad restaurant in New Orleans. I haven’t succeeded yet.

  21. Since West Texas is flat out of the possibilities (I’ve been to Dalhart once, and even once was too much), Zane Grey country in New Mexico and Arizona is out, too. These are places that figure prominently in Zane Grey’s novels, and people (including a friend from my Boy Scout days) go there regularly to see the places that figure prominently in his novels, and the location of his famous “hunting cabin”, which is in its third iteration due to vandals and forest fires.

  22. Lot’s of good places but our little part of the big state of Texas in the Hill Country is rather nice for one of your trips, that’s all I have to say about that, and we will put you all up for a night or two.

  23. Second the recommendation for the Whittington Center in Raton. Go mid-week and it will be pretty empty unless they are having an event. This time of year, there might be a hunt. Don’t shoot the deer and pronghorn that wander downrange sometimes.

    Just North of there there is stuff in SE CO. You may think it is flat because it is out on the plains but it’s not. Canyon country. Bent’s Fort. Crack Cave. Big horn sheep, bear in there too.

    Right at the edge of your circle is Great Sand Dunes in CO.

  24. Knowing your interests, have you been to the J.M.Davis gun museum in Claremore, OK? Largest private collection of firearms in the country.
    I confess I haven’t been there in over 30 years, but it was an easy way to spend a day. My father used to stay at the old hotel where J.M. Davis originally displayed his collection. Dad told me (hearsay) that Davis only agreed to let Oklahoma host his collection if they did NOT name the museum after Will Rogers. Davis thought Rogers had his name on enough buildings in Claremore.

    1. What a great tip! Thanks. I don’t know how I had never heard of this place before.
      Even better, the website doesn’t say they are not open during the current unpleasantness.

  25. Omaha might be a good spot. I know we have gone there several time as it dates back to some of the earlier times. New Orleans is good spot. Architecture and food are it main draws. Need to go the Wisconsin area for really old stuff. Saw on the one building a corner stone that dated back to 1690.

    I’m sure anywhere you go with the new wife would be enjoyable.

  26. Wife and I spent Thanksgiving week of 2015 at Big Bend National Park and loved it. For those who think “West Texas is flat” – well, it’s not. There is a range of mountains that starts South of I-10 and continues intermittently all the way past the Rio Grande. BBNP had been largely closed due to Covid but is supposed to have opened back up at the beginning of October.

  27. If you are interested in history you may want to give my area a look.
    The historic city of Vicksburg, Ms. We may not have the best food places
    or the best bars, but we do have some of each.
    What we do have is the Vicksburg National Military Park. It was created to
    to teach about the 47 day Siege of Vicksburg in 1863. Now they have had some
    roads wash out during some recent heavy rains so the whole park may not be open
    but most of it is. There is also the Union gunboat the Cairo which was sunk by electric
    torpedo in the Yazoo River. We also have the Old Court House Museum which served
    as a hospital during the siege and contains a wealth of civil war items.
    We also have several beautiful homes in the city some of which serve as B&B’s.
    Within a short driving distance there are the ruins of Windsor and the Grand Gulf State Park.
    Grand Gulf acted as one of the forts protecting the Mississippi River.
    Look it at Vicksburg on the web you may find something you would like to do.

  28. Given that you are a transplanted Texan you likely already know, but in Northern TX is Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Pretty awesome, not to mention unexpected, given the Gwyneth Paltrow-like flatness of its surroundings. Gwyneth Smell My Pu$$y’s flatchestedness is readily evident, along with her flatlined brainwaves……..

  29. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwest OK. Bison, longhorn, and some very nice territory

  30. Boca Chica is seriously cool if you’re at all interested in SpaceX’s new rocket. You can drive down the beach to the border, and wave at the Mexican across the Rio Grande. South Padre Island is a great beach town and cheap in the off season.

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