Photo Credits: Houston Zoo, Dallas Zoo, Dixie Dude Ranch, Visit South Walton.com
By Annette Brooks
There’s a lot to love about spring break, and let’s be honest — it is very different this year and last due to the pandemic. Many of us still choose to drive versus fly, which means finding locations closer to home, or at least within a one-day drive. We’ve put together a few ideas for outdoorsy road trip destinations to inspire you to get out and enjoy spring break 2021.
Home on the Range
Bandera, Texas, in the heart of the Hill Country near San Antonio, has staked a claim as being the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” If you’re longing to experience the cowboy lifestyle and create memories of a lifetime, Texas’ dude ranches may be just the ticket.
Surrounded by the Medina River, the Mayan Dude Ranch (MayanRanch.com) is a fun family getaway. Stays include two 50-minute horseback rides a day, you can fish in the river, and when the weather permits, go swimming and tubing. Three meals a day are included, varying from barbecue to Tex-Mex.
Resting on 725 acres, Dixie Dude Ranch (DixieDudeRanch.com) is a working ranch that raises Longhorn cattle, Spanish goats, and pigs tended to by real cowboys. Relax by the pool or in the hot tub, go hiking, enjoy horseback riding, and throw a line in the seasonal fishing pond.
If you’re looking for a dude ranch that’s part resort park, Flying L Ranch Resort (FlyingL.com) may be an ideal choice. Guests can go swimming in the lagoon water park, play a round of golf on the 18-hole course, go on wagon rides, and sing songs around the campfire while making s’mores.
Coastal Towns of South Walton
Do you love the sun, sand, and long stretches of the beach? South Padre Island is an iconic spring break destination in the Lone Star State, but if Florida is on your mind, the upper gulf coast is within a day’s drive.
The well-heeled, pedestrian-friendly beach towns of South Walton (VisitSouthWalton.com), including postcard-worthy Rosemary Beach (RosemaryBeach.com) and Seaside, have been called the “Hamptons of the South.” Seaside’s quaint, breezy, pastel-colored beach cottages with white picket fences cast a laid-back mood. Pocket parks nestled among Rosemary Beach’s shaded streets are lined with pan-Caribbean-style homes and boardwalks that lead to the beautiful white sand beach. Both offer plenty of accommodation options, are easy to explore on foot, and have appealing downtown areas with unique shops and good restaurants.
Hit the Slopes
Yes, it’s around a 13 and a half-hour drive from Dallas to Vail and about 14 hours from Houston to Taos, but in most cases, you can make it in one day, especially if you have another driver taking a turn at the wheel.
With more than 3,000-acres of skiing in seven huge bowls (VailMag.com/best-of-vail/2019/03/into-the-bowls-2), Vail is hailed as one of the best ski resort areas in North America. Accommodations are plentiful, the shopping is fantastic, and there are many superb restaurants. The terrain isn’t too shabby, either. Runs range from green and blue to black. And here’s a hint. Riva Ridge is allegedly one of Lindsey Vonn’s favorite ski runs.
Taos Ski Valley (Skitaos.com) is on practically every skiers’ bucket list. Why not check it off? Tucked in the Sangre de Cristo Range at the edge of the Rockies, Taos has some pretty imposing runs, but there are plenty where beginners feel comfortable. While you’re there, drive from the ski valley to the town of Taos, known for its rich art history, and check out Taos (TaosPueblo.com). The only living Native American community, Taos Pueblo, is designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark.
Top-rated Texas Animal Parks
Kids of all ages and adults love going to the zoo, and we’re fortunate to have some of the top zoos in the nation right here in Texas. If you’re a Houstonian, drive up to Dallas for a long weekend and plan to fit the Dallas Zoo the Fort Worth Zoo into your visit. If you live in North Texas, head south and explore the Houston Zoo. These zoos were rated as three of the top 30 zoos in the country by U.S. News & World Report in 2019.
The Dallas Zoo’s naturalistic environments range from rainforests to their Giants of the African Savannah habitat. Visit the Chimpanzee Forest, spot the zoo’s trio of growing lion cubs, and meet the new man in town, Augustus, a young hippo. Be sure to purchase tickets in advance at DallasZoo.com.
Open since 1909, the Fort Worth Zoo (FortWorthZoo.org) boasts more than 7,000 inhabitants and is one of the few zoos in the country to see animals from all four great ape species. Other highlights include a 10-acre African Savanna, the Australian Outback, Texas Wild!, and more.
The Houston Zoo (HoustonZoo.org) is home to more than 6,000 inhabitants. Don’t miss South America’s Pantanal, a 4.2-acre multi-species exhibit, the enhanced orangutan habitat, and the Texas Wetlands expansion. Watch elephants cool off in pools at the McNair Elephant Habitat Area and offer giraffes a snack at the Giraffe Feeding Platform.
- Call to confirm hours and learn about any COVID-19 restrictions that may be in force for the destination and the state. Not all activities may be available, and some states may require you to quarantine after you enter.
- Clean your car before your road trip. You’ll have plenty of wrappers and debris to deal with as you drive along. Start with a clean slate.
- Get your vehicle checked a couple of weeks before your trip. Make sure fluid levels, tires, brakes, and anything else are up to par. Bring jumper cables and some extra wiper fluid.
- Preload your phone and tablet with apps, podcasts, and entertainment options. If you don’t have one already, create a memorable road
- Of course, you’ll bring chargers for your electronics, but it’s always a good idea to include portable power chargers for your phone, tablet, and laptop. Be sure to fully charge them before you leave.