Travel Ideas: The Best Day Trips From Dallas

Take a day trip from the big city of Dallas to nearby small towns like Athens, Canton, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Granbury, Waxahachie, Glen Rose or Fort Worth.

There are many attractions to keep you busy within the metropolis of Dallas, but sometimes you might want to get away from Big D on a day trip. Many interesting attractions are located in smaller cities a short time away from Dallas, and there are many different types of activities in which you could engage, from fishing on the lakes, to browsing around flea markets, visiting museums, or having fun at parks. Here are some good day trips you could take from Dallas.

If you like fishing, the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center on Lake Athens has many different exhibits that would be of interest to fishermen and those who like nature. The center has lots of information on the ecosystems of Texas lakes, and there are both indoor and outdoor exhibits. There are huge aquariums, a fishing museum, a gift shop, and even a stocked fishing pond; the equipment needed for catch-and-release fishing there (even the bait) is provided free. In the outdoor exhibits, you can see plants and aquatic animals as you walk on a wetlands trail, and indoors you can view alligators, a movie, a dive show, the ecosystems of ponds, streams, and reservoirs, a hatchery, and record-breaking fish that were caught in Texas lakes. There's even a tram ride that will take you on a tour of the center. To get there from Dallas, take Highway 175S to Athens, turn left on Loop 317, and left on FM 2495; go 1 ½ miles on FM 2495 to reach the center.

Canton has a huge flea market that is held the weekend prior to the first Monday of each month. Billed as "the world's largest flea market," First Monday Trade Days is an event that has been going on in Canton for over 150 years; it draws thousands of vendors showing all kinds of wares. You can buy antiques, arts and crafts, clothing, garden accessories, home décor items, items for children, furniture, collectibles of all kinds, western items, gourmet food, and numerous other things that are for sale at the flea market. Although animals are barred from the First Monday market, they are sold at Dog Alley, a 20-acre market in Canton that sells pets of all kinds, and also has farm animals such as horses and mules. If you visit Canton's flea market, wear comfortable walking shoes because there's a lot of territory to cover; if you tire easily, large, comfortable scooters are available for rent, along with wagons, strollers, and shopping carts. You can reach Canton by traveling on I-20 east from Dallas, then south on either Highway 859 or 19.

If you don't want to do a lot of traveling for a fun day trip, go west just a few miles to Arlington and Grand Prairie. These cities offer many attractions that are especially entertaining for families, and other amusements such as Lone Star Park's thoroughbred horse racing that are just for adults. In Grand Prairie, families can visit Traders Village, a huge flea market that attracts thousands of visitors each weekend, Louis Tussaud's Palace of Wax and Ripley's Believe It or Not, located adjacent to each other north of I-30, and Joe Pool Lake, which is a great place for water sports or fishing. Arlington has Six Flags Over Texas, an amusement park with roller coasters and other thrill rides, family rides, and musical shows, and Hurricane Harbor, a water park with a wave pool, lazy river, slides, and other fun interactive activities; Six Flags is south of I-30, and Hurricane Harbor is north of I-30.

Ameriquest Park, home of the Texas Rangers, is also in Arlington, off I-30 on Ballpark Way. A major league baseball game is a great place to take the family, and there are lots of special events like fireworks shows and giveaways, such as hats, bobblehead dolls, and shirts, during the summer games. Kids can join the Junior Rangers Club and receive free tickets and special prizes each month, and there's a baseball museum and learning center for children that are open year-round. Inside the stadium are picnic areas; you can bring in food and drinks if you want, or eat the yummy hot dogs sold at the park. Attending a ballgame would be a fun day trip during the season; tours of the ballpark are also available year-round.

Granbury, a small town on Lake Granbury, is southwest of Dallas and has many attractions that would be fun to visit on a day trip. Granbury has an historic downtown filled with cozy little restaurants, unique shops, an art deco theater called Granbury Live, the Granbury Opera House, which presents old-fashioned melodramas and musicals, and an amazing old courthouse. There are riverboat cruises on the lake, and there's even a drive-in movie still showing double features in Granbury. You can shop for antiques, take a ride in a horse-pulled carriage, visit the old jail and museum, or have your picture taken while you're dressed in antique clothing. Granbury has several charming bed-and-breakfast inns if you want to extend your day trip, and you can have fun just walking around soaking up history or enjoying a festival in the Historic Square. To reach Granbury, take I-20 west from Dallas, and then go south on Highway 377.

Scarborough Faire is a Renaissance festival held during the spring near Waxahachie. To reach the festival from Dallas, go south on I-35E, and then west on FM 66 (Exit 399A). At the festival, you will be able to see many interesting shows, such as jousting, mud wrestling, glassblowing, music, dance, and more. Each weekend of the festival has a different theme, such as Renaissance Romance, the Highland Games, and Pirate Adventure, and you can watch artisans honing their crafts, or sample a wide variety of food and drink. Whether you want to take a ride on an elephant, watch some belly dancing, or listen to soothing harps and flutes playing Renaissance tunes, Scarborough Faire is a fun place to visit for a day trip.

Glen Rose, a town with many interesting activities for a day trip, is southwest of Dallas. Glen Rose is home to Dinosaur Valley State Park, which has visible dinosaur footprints and is located on the Paluxy River. If you've never seen a nuclear plant, the distinctive tower of Comanche Peak is visible from Glen Rose, and there's a fishing lake beside the plant. The old downtown area of Glen Rose has restaurants, unique shops, artists' galleries and workshops, and there's a park on the Brazos River that has several restored historic buildings. During the summer, Glen Rose hosts bluegrass festivals and a play in an amphitheater, and river sports such as tubing, canoeing, and kayaking are popular activities for visitors. One of the most interesting activities in Glen Rose is the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, which has over 1,000 exotic animals; you can drive your car through the park on a 10-mile road and the animals will come very close to you, or even eat from your hand if you buy them some of their special food. Many different tours are also available at the wildlife park, and there are family activities and picnic areas halfway through the drive. To reach Glen Rose from Dallas, go south on I-35E; continue south on Highway 67 after it merges with 35E.

Fort Worth is west of Dallas, and is a very different type of city. You can reconnect with the Old West at the Stockyards, an area of the city with a rodeo, a longhorn drive down the brick-paved streets, lots of western shops, restaurants and clubs, and Billy Bob's Texas, which claims to be "the world's largest honky-tonk." Fort Worth also has a world-class museum district; the Kimball Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art are three of the most popular. There's always something going on in downtown Sundance Square, and the Bass Performance Hall has frequent performances by well-known artists. Fort Worth is always an interesting destination for a day trip from Dallas.

You don't have to drive very far from Dallas to find exciting day trips, and if you want to relax on a day off, there are many small towns around the area that offer scenic views, country restaurants, and hometown festivals. The "Dallas Morning News" includes an entertainment guide in each Friday's newspaper that lists events taking place in nearby towns over the weekend, and most hotels provide brochures with information on nearby attractions; information is also available on city websites.

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