Top Fall Vacation Ideas in Texas

Great weather and varied events make autumn a prime time to visit

While the arrival of fall up north means some brisk days, in Texas it is still summer-like, with warm days and lots of sunshine. That alone is a good reason to head to the Lone Star State in the fall, but along with Texas' seasonably mild weather, a wide variety of things to do keeps visitors busy: food, music, nature and, of course, football.

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    Hill country at autumn, Guadalupe River, Texas, USA
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    New England isn't the only place to see colorful fall foliage in the United States. Portions of Texas actually see dramatic changes in foliage coloration. Lost Maples State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country has the most vivid fall leaf coloration in the state. Lost Maples has a special stand of Uvalde bigtooth maples, which are protected here. The peak season for seeing the fall foliage in Texas is from mid-October through mid-November. Area accommodations fill up fast so make your plans early.

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    Close up of cowboy mascot under blue sky.
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    Running from late September into October, the State Fair of Texas in Dallas is the largest fair and stock show in the state. During the nearly month-long event, fairgoers enjoy everything from live music to carnival rides to art shows. Fair food ranges from the traditional corny dogs and turkey legs to fried jello—winner of the 2016 Best Tasting award. The highlight of the fair is the annual Texas-Oklahoma football game. The dates of the fair for 2018 are Sept. 28 through Oct. 21.

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    settings Jousting Knight
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    Although the  Texas Renaissance Festival is most often associated with October, it actually begins at the end of September and runs through most of November over nine fall weekends, each with a different theme. In 2018, it runs from Sept. 29 through Nov. 25. The festival features New Market Village, a 55-acre English town re-created from the 16th century in Todd Mission, about 50 miles northwest of Houston. Magicians, acrobats, jugglers, and dancers perform on 20 stages throughout the village. Workshops feature artisans demonstrating the arts of glassblowing, weaving, pottery making, and blacksmithing, among other Renaissance pursuits.

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    Texas has a rich German heritage, which explains the numerous Oktoberfest events across the Lone Star State. Oktoberfest in downtown Fredericksburg is held the first week of October every year (Oct. 5 through 7 in 2018). Like all such celebrations, the event features German food, drink, and music. Listen to the oom-pah-pah at the ​OkTubaFest or enter the Hauptstrasse Chicken Dance on Main Street.

    Addison, Texas, also hosts an Oktoberfest celebration over a long weekend in mid-September; in 2018 it's on from Sept. 20 to 23. It is said to be an authentic re-creation of the Munich Oktoberfest in Germany and features a dachshund parade, a yodeling contest, and of course, lots of beer.

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  • 05 of 08
    Houston's Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade

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    Having kicked off the holiday season in the Houston area for nearly six decades, the HEB Thanksgiving Day Parade has become as much of a tradition in southeast Texas as Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas lights. Although the parade has changed names over the years, this is still the largest and longest-running Thanksgiving Day parade in Texas. The festivities kick off at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving morning in downtown Houston.

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    Female ruby throated hummingbird, Archilochus colubris, feeding on milkweed
    Jim Utton/Getty Images

    Texas is the winter home for a variety of birds, and many of them arrive in autumn, along with the year's first cool weather fronts. Each region of the state offers visitors different species to view. If you travel throughout the Lone Star State during the fall, you will be able to see hundreds of bird species.

    Houston is positioned on the Central Flyway, so it's a hotspot for the fall migration, which often lasts through November. Hummingbird migration peaks in September, hawks can be spotted at the Smith Point Hawk Watch till mid-November, and barn and tree swallows can be seen along the Gulf Coast through October. 

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    Houston Oilers Game in the Astrodome
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    Every weekend throughout the fall from Thursday through Sunday, high school, college, and professional football games take place across the Lone Star State. The biggest weekend for Texas football occurs in November over Thanksgiving weekend. These games are popular with Texas residents and visitors alike. For some pigskin action in the Lone Star State, head to one of its famous football stadiums: Catch the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, Texas A&M at Kyle Field in College Station, or the University of Texas Longhorns at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin.

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    Chilli con carne with kidney beans and bay leaves served in white casserole dish with lid on folded tea towel.
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    One of the most anticipated events of the fall season is the annual Terlingua International Championship Chili Cookoff, which is held every November in the small town of Terlingua. The event in 2018 runs from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4. For more than 50 years, the Terlingua International Chili Cookoff—one of the most prestigious chili ​cook-offs in the country—has been dishing up ribs, brisket, beans, black-eyed peas, and, of course, chili to its lucky attendees.