It's summer. Summer means "let's go somewhere". But where? So you google "list of where do I go on a day trip". My family's been here since the 1830s. I've been all over this state. I've read every list. Taken my elementary school daughters to the most random places. You can follow the crowd, or find something unique and fun. These are not in any guidebook, and most are in the middle of nowhere.
Calvert, Texas - This was the richest town in the state 120 years ago. It has the largest collections of Victorian mansions in the state and they will blow your mind. Main St literally is Highway 6 and all the buildings are c. 1880-1920. Great coffee at the Farmers to Market Coffee Shop, locally grown wine tasting room called En Gedi, antiques, and a bunch of artist studios. Blink and you'll miss it. Things may or may not be open. Be warned, people who stop have a tendency to retire here just for the houses.
Old Fort Parker, Groesbeck, Texas. A Civilian Conservation Corps gem. Middle of nowhere. Multiacre massive wood fort building in the 1930s and rebuilt in the 1960s as a replica of the original Fort Parker of Cynthia Ann Parker fame. It's like $2 and you just let the kids run and climb.
Hearne Depot, Hearne, Texas. Free. But you should donate. Limited hours. Small train history museum in a restored train depot. Bob, who runs it has moved his massive model train set in and let's your kids drive the trains. And they've just built a platform so you can climb up and watch the real Union Pacific trains roll by. Almost 200 years after rail started and trains are still awesome. The only way to get the kids out is by promising a Sonic slushy (about 150 fee away).
Dilorio's Farmers Market in Hempstead. Institution my whole life. They have like a wall of jams and jellies. And rows of fresh produce. And no AC. Not on the freeway. You have to go wander into town to find it.
Marathon, Texas and the Post Oak Park. Marathon is a fancy hot destination for weddings these days if you're in the in crowd. And you've heard of the Terlingua Chili Cook off in Big Bend if you're in the counter culture and everything crowd. But not this. The Cabrito Cook Off - At a tiny little CCC built oasis park in the middle of the desert outside of one of the smallest towns in Texas, they have the most mouth watering food festival on the planet. I now understand why my grandad always said cabrito was his favorite food. Oh yea, and the Ranchwater cocktail was invented here. Stop at the Gage Hotel and drink one. (That's in all the guidebooks, but hey, while you're there).
Then stop in at Valentine, Texas, and mail a letter to your sweetheart from the post office, on your way to Fort Davis and the McDonald Observatory - which everyone should see once. West Texas stars, are well, you'll see. Lunch at the Stone Village Market in Ft. Davis. They randomly serve whatever they feel like, and it's all good. There's a guy in Valentine running the smallest radio station in Texas from a little backyard shack amongst the ruins of old houses in this town of 118.
Ignore all the Austin-y guide books. Just do the Hill Country caverns. Longhorn Cavern, Natural Bridge Caverns, and Innerspace Caverns. Actually there are about a dozen of them. Just google them all and go. Pick at random is fine. I've still a few left to see. That will take you a couple of days. And guess what? You can go in the summer and it's not hot because it's gasp, underground.
Dinosaur Valley State Park and the Glenrose Petrified Wood Houses - You've heard of Dinosaur Valley State Park, there are freaking dinosaur tracks everywhere. It's well, very cool. Right next door is a little town of Glen Rose, TX. Stop at the Stone Hut on the way. Mr. Bussey who owns it. Rocks and gems everywhere. Amazing prices. A little girl's heaven. Ask someone local about where to find the Petrified Wood Houses. Literally houses made out of petrified wood. Only happened in Texas in the 1930s, and Glen Rose was where it started.
Mary's Tacos & Burgers, Goldthwaite, TX. Best burger in the state. This one will leave barely able to walk. And it's not even their signature dish. Randomly stopped here on a drive and won't ever forget that burger.
The Butterfly Museum in Mt. Vernon, Texas - ok. It's actually the Firehouse Museum, and has a collection of Don Meredith memorabilia alongside more bird eggs and butterflies than you knew existed. Rooms of them. Football, Eggs and Butterflies. Only in Texas. Make sure they take you to the vault room. It's right off the square in downtown.
Double Lake, Coldspring, Texas, another old CCC Construction project. 23 acre lake to camp fish and canoe on. Nobody outside of the area has heard of it.