15 Perfect Spring Road Trips for When You Need to Escape Dallas

Pack all the bags you want—there’s no luggage fee.

Omni Resorts Barton Creek
Photo courtesy of Omni Resorts Barton Creek
Photo courtesy of Omni Resorts Barton Creek

If you haven’t flown lately, here’s the scoop: Airfares continue to soar, the crowds are back to pre-Covid levels, and staffing issues continue to cause unexpected delays and cancellations. We still love to hop on a plane to get a welcome change of scenery, air travel hassles be damned. But there’s still something about a good, old-fashioned road trip more than ever before. And we’ve got ideas on the best road trips from Dallas-Fort Worth.

Without our parents in the driver’s seat, we can go wherever we want, eat whatever we please, and make last-minute pit stops that transform “Are we there yet?” into “Let’s stop right here and explore!”

Whether you’re looking for a last-minute spring break getaway or something to infuse your life with some adventure between now and the heat of summer, we’ve got you covered. We have options for you throughout Texas, as well as short jaunts to Oklahoma and Arkansas. Even New Mexico and the far reaches of Louisiana are worth the drive if you have a few extra hours to spare on either end of your trip. From close-to-home wine country and scenic golfing excursions to secluded glamping, you’ll find a variety of bucket list-worthy trips in our list of 16 can’t-miss destinations.

Visit Tulsa
Photo courtesy of Visit Tulsa

Distance from Dallas: 258 miles, 4.5-hour drive
Oklahoma has a reputation for being that place “where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain.” That makes it sound like a big ol’ dusty state where the cowboys may know perfect choreography and sing their hearts out, but not much else. Well, we’re here to assure you that if you haven’t visited our neighbors to the north in a while, it’s time to take your Tesla to Tulsa. For a small city, it has immense appeal and real character. The Deco District is home to a large concentration of Art Deco skyscrapers in a small area, while the vibrant Arts District harbors quaint boutique hotels, fab local restaurants and bars, plus numerous festivals and art crawls. You’ll also find gorgeous hiking and biking trails, or test your luck at one of the casinos or race tracks. It’s close enough to head out right after work on Friday and be home Sunday night in time for your favorite HBO show.

Omni Resorts Barton Creek
Photo courtesy of Omni Resorts Barton Creek

Distance from Dallas: 200 miles, 3.5-hour drive
If a weekend of golfing sounds like a perfect way to spend a few days, then you might as well putt around one of the most scenic courses in the Texas Hill Country. With four different courses at your disposal at the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, you’re just as likely to see a whitetail deer scamper across the fairway as you are to catch a glorious sunrise. Relax after 18 holes at the on-property Mokara Spa, where you can recuperate with a deep-tissue massage or get a day pass to enjoy the steam rooms, whirlpools, and saunas. Hungry? You’ll never need to leave for sustenance, either, thanks to seven unique restaurants serving everything from Prime steaks to Peruvian-style ceviche.

Cadillac Ranch
Photo courtesy of Cadillac Ranch

Distance from Dallas: 379 miles, 6 hours
Known as the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” Palo Duro Canyon State Park offers breathtaking vistas without having to trek all the way to Arizona. Hike, camp, glamp, stay in a cabin—do it all!—along the canyon’s rim. Go horseback riding or commune with nature at the nearby Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge. (If you wait to visit come summer, you can catch the Texas Outdoor Musical for a fictional glimpse into the real-life struggles of settlers in the area back in the 1800s.) And if you’re more of a high-thread-count-sheets-in-a-hotel type of person, Amarillo’s only a hop, skip, and a jump away. Not to mention our own version of Stonehenge, a.k.a. Cadillac Ranch.

Walden Retreats
Photo courtesy of Walden Retreats

Distance from Dallas: 236 miles, 4-hour drive
Forget everything you thought you knew about camping in a tent. And we mean everything. The luxury, safari-style tents at Walden Retreats outside Johnson City feature king-size beds with luxury linens, clawfoot tubs, outdoor showers, well-appointed kitchens, outdoor grills and fire pits, wood-burning stoves inside (ideal for cool spring evenings), and views of the Texas Hill Country and Pedernales River below, which you can explore after trekking down one very steep hill on Walden Retreats property. After you set up camp (which means dropping off your suitcase and basking in the air-conditioning for a moment), venture out to nearby Pedernales Falls State Park, one of several wineries (William Chris Vineyards is a must), Garrison Brothers Distillery (the first legal whiskey maker in Texas), and the very presidential Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park recently designated an International Dark Sky Park. So, you know, plan to stick around after sunset.

Visit Hot Springs
Photo courtesy of Visit Hot Springs

Distance from Dallas: 286 miles, 4.5-hour drive
Known for decades as a relaxing spa destination thanks to its natural hot springs, this charming Arkansas burg has so much to offer visitors you’ll need several days to experience it all. For the most traditional spa experience, book a series of treatments at the circa-1912 Buckstaff Baths, one of only two original bathhouses still operating today. Grab lunch and a beer at Superior Bathhouse Brewery, the only brewery in a United States National Park and the only brewery in the world that makes its beer with thermal spring water as the main ingredient. Take a hike (or mountain bike) on one of many picturesque trails in the area. Go mining for crystals with Avant Mining on Fisher Mountain. Learn the town’s organized crime history at The Gangster Museum of America. Gamble your way through slot machines, card games, and horse races at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. And experience the ultimate bed-and-breakfast experience at The Reserve at Hot Springs (Kevin Costner was a recent guest, for all you Yellowstone fans.)

Ruidoso, New Mexico
Photo courtesy of Ruidoso, New Mexico

Distance from Dallas: 566 miles, 8.5-hour drive
Cool mountain air and an abundance of twinkling night-sky constellations await in the Rocky Mountain town of Ruidoso in the southeast corner of New Mexico. After some devastating wildfires last year, the popular destination for Texans needs tourists more than ever to help its citizens recover from the destruction. And unless you venture off the beaten path, you won’t even notice the charred landscape the fire left behind. Instead, wander up and down Sudderth Drive for shopping, dining, and drinking. Noisy Water Winery has a new in-town location in addition to its nearby Enchanted Vine outdoor spot in Alto for sampling delectable New Mexico wines, including one made with green chiles. Grab breakfast at Cornerstone Bakery Cafe, a refreshing drink on the multi-deck patio overlooking the river at Sacred Grounds Coffee and Tea House, and killer New Mexico-style Mexican food at Old Road Restaurant on Mescalero Apache land, one of our picks for the best Mexican food in the nation. Further support local by booking a cabin that suits your needs, whether you’re bringing your dog along or want to look at those night stars from the comfort of a bubbling hot tub.

Carolyne Parent/Shutterstock
Carolyne Parent/Shutterstock

Distance from Dallas: 261 miles, 4.5-hour drive
Known as one of the most Christmas-y places on earth during the holiday season, Fredericksburg shouldn’t be overlooked during the warmer months of the year. The German settlement has a special place in our hearts (and livers) as the fourth-largest wine-producing regions in the country. With more than 100 places to drink Texas wine and chat with winemakers while listening to live music and snacking on copious amounts of meats and cheeses, you can spend days winery-hopping and not even pop a fraction of the corks at your disposal. In town, make sure to indulge in frozen summer treats (including boozy ones) at Clear River Ice Cream, Bakery & Deli, or if you’re hungry for culinary innovation worthy of any big city, book a table at Hill & Vine or Sage. Then wake up to a picnic basket filled with a delicious breakfast delivered right to your door at The Evers House or its sister property, The Winchester Lodge, which also boasts a sparkling pool for chilling out (in every sense of the word).

Visit New Orleans
Photo courtesy of Visit New Orleans

Distance from Dallas: 492 miles, 8-hour drive
Sure, New Orleans has earned its reputation as one of the largest everyday parties on the planet, but the Crescent City has also become a place where visitors can enjoy the finer things in life. If you want to go all out, few places exemplify decadent indulgence more than the recently debuted Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans at the very edge of Canal Street, overlooking the Mississippi River. Dine at its two signature restaurants (Miss River or, our personal fave, Chemin à la Mer). The Spa at Four Seasons debuted last year, too, and it’s an exquisite experience (make sure to save time to relax in the lounge overlooking the Mississippi). Of course, if it’s your first visit you’re going to want to spend some time in the French Quarter, too, for a yard of beer or a potent Hurricane from touristy-but-fun Pat O’Brien’s, beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde, and some live music, maybe at the classically no-frills Preservation Hall. If you want something more off the beaten path, try dinner at Piece of Meat or Café Degas.

Grand Galvez
Photo courtesy of Grand Galvez

Distance from Dallas: 294 miles, 4.5-hour drive
Explore 32 miles of coastline, dine at scenic waterfront restaurants, and admire the (sometimes spooky) Victorian architecture. And speaking of old (but fabulous) buildings, book a stay at the “Queen of the Gulf,” the Grand Galvez, which welcomed its first guests back in 1911. Under new ownership, the hotel has been painstakingly restored to its extravagant early 20th-century glory, so you’ll be among the first to stay in one of the beautifully renovated rooms. Between visits to the sand and sea (only steps away), set aside some time at the incredible Grand Galvez Spa. And for the freshest fish served in a welcome casual environment worthy of a beach town at BLVD Seafood, an easy-to-miss spot on the Seawall that most definitely should not be missed.

Visit San Antonio
Photo courtesy of Visit San Antonio

Distance from Dallas: 275 miles, 4.5-hour drive
While Austin draws countless weekend road trippers, it’s worth driving the extra 80 miles south to San Antonio, home to one of the top culinary scenes anywhere in the United States thanks to the Culinary Institute of America and its graduating chefs who stick around to showcase their stuff. Despite what you might have learned in fourth-grade Texas history, the city has so much more to offer than the Alamo and River Walk—though, by all means, you should swing by both. Set up a home base at one of the top-notch hotels, including a few of our favorites: Hotel Emma, Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk, Mokara Hotel & Spa, The Hotel Contessa, or Omni La Mansion del Rio. If you’re a thrill-seeker and want to stay close to Six Flags Fiesta Texas—or you simply want a few days of complete and total relaxation—book a room at Seven Club Level, the adults-only floor at La Cantera Resort & Spa. And for the best of SA’s food scene, Downtown, Southtown, the Pearl, and the St. Mary’s Strip offer everything from classic (and fantastic) San Antonio-style Tex-Mex to innovative fusion and chef-driven delights.

Texas Parks and Wildlife
Caddo Lake State Park | Xiu Yu Photography/Shutterstock

Distance from Dallas: 168 miles, 2.5-hour drive
Fun fact: Nearly all the lakes in Texas are man-made—but not this one. Caddo Lake sports a tranquil yet mysterious vibe courtesy of cypress trees covered in Spanish moss that tower over the photogenic, alligator-welcoming waterways (keep your hands inside your ride at all times, just in case). The historic cabins on the lake, especially the romantic two-person units, make for an ideal way to de-stress. And if you want to get out and explore the area—and perhaps try your luck at the casinos (or get a world-famous Shrimp Buster) in Shreveport/Bossier City —the Louisiana border is just 30 miles away.

Beavers Bend State Park texas
Photo courtesy of Beavers Bend State Park

Distance from Dallas: 181 miles, 3-hour drive
The moment you drive into the Ouachita National Forest, you’ll feel worlds away from Dallas. Towering pines provide a dramatic landscape change, offering picture-perfect campsites nearly year-round. Discover a variety of activities at Beavers Bend State Park, located on the shores of crystal-clear Broken Bow Lake (seriously, this is one of the most gorgeous lakes in the region). From boat rentals and fishing to the 16-mile David Boren Hiking Trail, there are plenty of options to keep you busy in the fresh air while soaking up some sunshine-filled Vitamin D. Make the most of your stay with a luxury cabin rental that includes an outdoor jacuzzi for good measure—ecause crystal-clear hot water has a time and place in your life, too.

Longhorn Cavern State Park
Longhorn Cavern State Park | IrinaK/Shutterstock

Distance from Dallas: 200 miles, 3.5-hour drive
Explore the subterranean side of Texas in this glorious labyrinth of river-made caves in the Highland Lakes, with a natural thermostat set to 68 degrees year-round. Take a guided walking tour 130 feet below the surface and discover what took place in these dark spaces centuries ago while bats sleep peacefully overhead. Or tap into your inner Bear Grylls and book the adrenaline-pumping Wild Cave Tour, which is limited to 12 participants eager to crawl through tight spaces to see things few humans ever do. End your day with some well-deserved R&R and a long, steamy shower in a legit log cabin at nearby Log Country Cove or Canyon of the Eagles.

Ozark-St Francis National Forests
Photo courtesy of US Forest Service - Ozark-St Francis National Forests

Distance from Dallas: 360 miles, 5.5-hour drive
You’ll be rewarded for your drive here with not one, but two sprawling outdoor spaces, not to mention a variety of charming, vintage 1930s-era cabins. Highlights include Mount Magazine, the state’s tallest mountain, which looms large over the 1.2-million-acre Ozark National Forest. There are also great places to picnic and scout for wildlife in the considerably smaller 22,600-acre St. Francis National Forest. If you’ve got the need for speed (or really bumpy rides), the stretch offers more than 1,000 miles of designated off-road trails, too.

Marfa Texas
Marfa, Texas | Forge Productions/Shutterstock

Distance from Dallas: 520 miles, 7.5-hour drive
Home to a whopping 2,000 residents, this far-flung destination has way more going on than any town its size should. The Marfa Lights are one of the world’s most interesting unexplained phenomena, and they’re a heck of a lot closer to Dallas than the Northern Lights. During the day, putt and putter around Texas’ highest golf course, or go for a weightless glider ride high above the Marfa Plateau with only you and the pilot at the helm. Thanks to its popularity among the see-and-be-seen art crowd, the area offers several unique hotels, from the modern Hotel Saint George to El Cosmico, a property dotted with safari tents, vintage trailers, teepees, and yurts. The West Texas destination is similarly stocked with a surprisingly good food scene. Try the creative tasting menus at Cochineal, fill up on brisket and spare ribs at Convenience West, then cool off with a frosty beverage at The Sentinel.

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Steven Lindsey is a contributor to Thrillist.