Best Places to Spend a Summer Day in Texas

Millions of people spend at least part of their summer vacation in Texas each year. And, as most people know, every day of vacation is precious. So, the question always arises -- Where is the best place to spend a summer day in Texas? There are dozens of great cities, towns and destinations in which to while awhile a summer day in the Lone Star State. This is a list of some of the very best places for summer vacationers to spend a complete summer day. The only caveat to this list is that it does not contain water parks. While there are a number of outstanding water parks in Texas, this list is meant to point out towns, attractions and destinations other than water parks in which vacationers can spend a full summer day. 

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Lady Bird Lake

People paddle boarding and kayaking down Lady Bird Lake surrounded by lush green trees

TripSavvy / Anna Haines

 Impounded in 1960 when Longhorn Dam was constructed across the Colorado River, Lady Bird Lake covers 468 surface acres. However, the lake "feels" much larger, as it stretches some six miles and varies in width from 400 to 2500 feet. The maximum depth of the lake is 18 feet. The water level remains fairly constant and the water is generally clear. Lady Bird Lake is the easternmost lake in the seven-lake chain on the Colorado River.

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South Padre Island

masked booby
Danno Wise

 South Padre Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state of Texas. Not only is SPI well known for its fine restaurants and clubs, but also for its natural beauty. With the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Lower Laguna Madre on the other, South Padre Island is surrounded by some of the clearest water on the Texas coast.

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New Braunfels

 River recreation on the Guadalupe River is legendary in Texas. This is the very spot where "tubing," also known as "floating the Guad," was invented.  New Braunfels offers excellent access this famed Texas waterway. Float tubing, kayaking, swimming and fishing are just a few of the recreational opportunities available on this stretch of the Guadalupe. Visitors can go the do-it-yourself route or hire one of the many outfitters operating in the area.

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Padre Island National Seashore

 Stretching more than 70 miles, the Padre Island National Seashore, known locally as PINS, is the largest stretch of undeveloped barrier island beach in the world. Although it has no modern development other than a picnic shelter or two, visitors to PINS will find plenty to see and do. Fishing, camping, shell collecting, birding, swimming and surfing are just a few of the activities beachgoers can partake in on this islolated stretch of sand.

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Lake Travis

 Stretching over 60 miles, Lake Travis offers fishermen, sailors and water sport enthusiasts plenty of room to spread out. Impounded in 1941, Lake Travis is located on the Colorado River, approximately 20 miles above Austin. Since filling, Lake Travis has been one of the most popular water sport destinations in the Lone Star State. Scenic, hilly shorelines and deep, clear waters afford the perfect backdrop for sailing, diving, boating, canoeing, windsurfing, water skiing and more.

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Garner State Park

 Encompassing just over 1,400 acres - including 10 acres of river frontage along the Frio River, Garner State Park is one of the most popular summer destinations for Texans and visitors to Texas alike. Hands down, the river is the draw. The park is a great spot for swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, tubing, snorkeling or just cooling off. Aside from the river, Garner State Park offers hiking, birding and nature watching. The majority of visitors to Garner State Park stay overnight, either in rental cabins or in tent camping sites.

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Stewart Beach - Galveston

 One of Galveston's most popular beaches, Stewart Beach is conveniently located at 6th and Seawall Blvd, just off Broadway. Stewart Beach is family friendly and offers a variety of amenities that make it the perfect spot to take the family for a 'day at the beach.' A children's play area, beach umbrella and chair rentals, an outdoor pavilion, souvenir shop, and freshwater showers ensure visitors have an enjoyable, comfortable visit. Stewart Beach also features a community building that is available for parties, receptions and other special events.

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Mustang Island State Park

 andwiched between the popular tourist towns Corpus Christi and Port Aransas on Padre Island, Mustang Island State Park offers visitors access to 5 miles of shoreline fronting the Gulf of Mexico. Camping, kayaking, fishing, surfing, swimming, birding and beach combing are all popular activities. The Mustang Island area is renowned for the number of sand dollars found along the tide line. 

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Barton Springs - Austin

 Located in Austin's famed Zilker Park, Barton Springs was formed when Barton Creek was dammed. Since its inception, Barton Springs has become one of the most popular swimming holes in the state. The City of Austin has operated Barton Springs as a park since 1917. Several improvements have been made to the Barton Springs "pool" over the years, but it remains a spring fed, natural water "swimming hole."

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Galveston Pleasure Pier

The Galveston Pleasure Pier, which extends nearly 1,200 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, offers visitors more than enough activities to keep busy for an entire vacation. TheGalveston Pleasure Pier features a number of great thrill rides, including the Iron Shark Rollercoaster, Pirate's Plunge water log ride, Sea Dragon swing ride, Texas Star Flyer (a 200-foot tall swing ride), a two-level carousel, bumper cars, and, of course, the iconic ferris wheel, The Galaxy Wheel. The Galveston Pleasure Pier also features a midway full of games and a number of unique souvenir shops.

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 Once a sleepy bayside berg, Kemah has blossomed into a modern tourist town. Yet, it has maintained its quaint charm and small town feel. And, with its convenient location between Houston and Galveston, it makes for a great weekend getaway, short family vacation or day trip.

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 Home to one of the best stretches of the Frio River - and only Garner State Park - tiny Concan offers 'river rats' some of the best stretches of river in the Lone Star State. Concan is a little bit "out of the way" but offers visitors a great escape from crowds that gather at some of Texas' better known summer vacation spots. 

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Lake Amistad

 Lake Amistad is perhaps one of the most famous lakes in Texas and is often on the short list of places outdoor-minded vacationers wish to visit. The first thing visitors need to understand is the remoteness of Amistad. The lake is a fairly good distance from anywhere. In fact, San Antonio, a little over 2 hours away, is by far the closest major population center. As a result, `day trips' to the lake are rare for most visitors. Therefore, finding a place to stay should rank high on the to-do list for those heading to Lake Amistad.

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Boca Chica Beach

Boca Chica Beach is located just east of Brownsville, Boca Chica is a sandy peninsula separated from Mexico by the Rio Grande River and detached from South Padre Island by the Brazos Santiago Pass. Aside from a few stilt homes near the pass, which can be viewed from South Padre Island, and a jetty protruding into the Gulf of Mexico, Boca Chica Beach has no development whatsoever. The State of Texas does own land on Boca Chica which, technically speaking, is a state park. However, there are no park facilities on this land, only access points.

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Canyon Lake

 Formed by damming the cool, clear waters of the Guadalupe River near New Braunfels, Canyon Lake is a favorite among boaters, skiers, fishermen, jet skiers and sailors

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San Marcos

 Home to Texas State University, San Marcos is also home to great watersports on the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers, Wonder World, Aquarena Springs, and many more attractions, not to mention a huge Outlet Mall.

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Lake Lewisville

 A favorite spot for Dallas watersport enthusiasts, Lake Lewisville offers visitors a variety of activities, including fishing, swimming, water skiing, jet skiing, sailing, sailboarding, and more.

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Lake Whitney

 Located in north/central Texas, Lake Whitney is a deep, clear impoundment on the Brazos River. Within Lake Whitney State Park there is a buoyed swimming area. Diving and snorkeling are also popular ways to enjoy Whitney's clear waters.

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Krause Springs

People in the shade under plants in Krause Springs

TripSavvy / Alisha McDarris

 Located a short distance outside of Austin, Krause Springs is located near the headwaters of Cypress Creek. Krause Springs encompasses two large swimming holes and numerous campsites.

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Natural Bridge Caverns

 Originally discovered and explored by four university students in 1960, Natural Bridge Caverns is one of the most extensive underground cavern networks in the United States. Open to the public for more than five decades, Natural Bridge is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Texas. Currently, Natural Bridge offers several different tours, as well as an extensive gift shop, onsite "mining company," watch tower, zip-line, and more. When combined with a visit to nearby Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, Natural Bridge offers a full day of unique family entertainment.

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Dinosaur Valley State Park

 Set along the Paluxy River outside of Glen Rose, Dinosaur Valley State park is just over 1500 acres, yet it contains some of the largest natural attractions in Texas. As the name implies, dinosaurs once roamed the area now known as Dinosaur Valley State Park. Inside the park are some of the best-preserved dinosaur tracks in North America. In addition to viewing the dinosaur tracks, visitors can partake in a variety of outdoor recreational activities, including camping, hiking, birding, fishing, mountain biking and swimming.

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McKinney Falls State Park

 Located in Austin, McKinney Falls State Park is one of the most scenic parks in the Texas State Parks' system. Onion Creek, which runs through McKinney State Park, gives the park its namesake falls and provides visitors with a number of recreational activities. Fishing, swimming, hiking, camping and nature watching are popular activities.

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Guadalupe River State Park

 Located in Comal County in the Texas Hill Country, Guadalupe River State Park encompasses a nine-mile stretch of the Guadalupe River, offering park visitors plenty of swimming and tubing opportunities.

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Lake Marble Falls

 Lake Marble Falls is situated just below Lake LBJ. Lake Marble Falls is not quite as large (it covers just over 600 surface acres) or deep (maximum depth is 60 feet) as many of the other Highland Lakes, but it offers plenty of waterborne recreational opportunities nonetheless. Boating, swimming and sailing are all popular activities, as are canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding.

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