Aesthetically pleasing images of West Texas

27+ Memorable Things to Do in West Texas (must-sees!)

Famed for its spectacular scenery, renowned art culture and access to a charming Mexican village across the river, there’s an abundance of things to do in West Texas.

Whilst there’s no official consensus on what constitutes West Texas, this expansive area of the state offers plenty to see and do, all with its unique local flair.

From stargazing, horseback riding, sand sledding and sleeping in a luxury dome bubble tent, here are some of the most fun, unique and interesting activities for your trip to this charming corner of the Lone Star state.


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How to get around West Texas

Like most of Texas, the best way to get around West Texas is to explore on your own by car!

If you’re visiting and need to rent a car, we highly recommend Discover Cars where they find you the best car rental deals from all of the competitors (has saved us so much money!).

Okay, everyone grab their best vintage Texas tee and let’s get going!

Credit: PassionisDesigns

1. Go stargazing at McDonald Observatory

 McDonald Observatory
Image: Davis Mountains-McDonald Observatory. jaygannett. [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

One of the most picturesque things to do in West Texas is go stargazing at the McDonald Observatory.

Located on the peak of Mount Locke and Mount Fowlkes in the Davis Mountains, the Observatory provides you an opportunity to see some of the clearest and darkest skies in the United States.

To help you make the most of your visit, the Observatory offers an Evening Sky Viewing program from its cavernous amphitheater, along with workshops and special viewing sessions.

2. Visit Davis Mountains State Park

Davis Mountain State Park
Image: Skyline Scenic Lookout at Davis Mountains State Park. Anne Adrian. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

The Davis Mountain State Park is one of the most scenic and popular attractions of West Texas.

With an expansive landscape of jagged mountains, rugged hiking trails, tranquil birdwatching and ample photography opportunities, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.

You can even book into one of the campsites or the Indian Lodge with its own in-house restaurant and exclusive swimming pool.

There are also equestrian campsites so bring your own horse to take a ride through one of the many riding trails in the park.

3. Visit Fort Davis National Historic Site

Fort Davis National Historic Site
Image: Fort Davis 1. jb10okie. [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

Fort Davis is one of the best preserved frontier military posts in the United States, and is a landmark piece of history you should not miss when in West Texas.

Part of the U.S. National Park Services, the site includes numerous restored buildings, parade grounds and an informative museum to help you learn more about the history and significance of the American Indian Wars, and the role that Fort Davis played during the time.

Whilst you’re there, keep an eye out for the costumed interpreters who are on hand to provide an authentic historical flair to your visit.

4. Marvel at Prada Marfa

Aesthetically pleasing photo of Prada Marfa
Image: Prada Marfa TX. Mobilus In Mobili. [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

Chances are you’ve seen a photo of the Prada Marfa store at the edge of a deserted highway.

This iconic and permanent sculptural art installation is just one of the many artworks that you can marvel at during your stop in Marfa.

Despite being a small town in West Texas, Marfa has a world-renowned art scene and a reputation as the home of many memorable examples of minimalist art.

Aside from the luxury designer store, other notable attractions include Building 98 and the outdoor installations displayed by the Chinati Foundation on an old army base.

5. See the Marfa Lights

Marfa lights
Image: Marfra Lights Observation Center. Nicolas Henderson. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

When visiting Marfa, keep an eye out for the Marfa Lights.

This mysterious phenomenon has been puzzling locals and travelers for almost 150 years.

Visible from the U.S. Route 67 on Mitchell Flat, just east of Marfa, visitors travel to see the beams of dancing lights, whose source is yet to be determined.

Believed by some to be the work of extraterrestrial beings, and others to be reflections of headlights and campfires, the lights are a fascinating and atmospheric show, and one of the most unique things to see in West Texas.

The city has installed a viewing platform for visitors to comfortably watch the Marfa Lights at dusk.

But the viewing area does get crowded, so be sure to nab a spot early and settle in for a spectacular light show.

6. Attend the Terlingua International Chili Competition

Image of a bowl of chili
Image: Mmm…chili. jeffreyw. [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

One of the most fun things to do in West Texas is attend the Terlingua International Chili Competition.

Hosted by the Chili Appreciation Society International, this festival is hosted in the spirit of chili, charity and fun.

Generally held on the first weekend of November, the weekend offers various family friendly activities to get involved in.

From live country music and performances, fortune tellers, rides, games and of course the all-important best Texas chili cook off, this competition is a great way to get a taste of the true Texas spirit.

7. Camp at the Basecamp Terlingua Bubble

Images of different places to stay at the Terlingua Basecamp
Photo credit: Basecamp Terlingua Facebook Page

When visiting Terlingua in West Texas, you have several unique accommodation options to choose from.

One of the most sought after accommodation providers are Basecamp Terlingua which have created a number of quirky and luxury camping options for visitors to get a unique overnight experience.

You can choose from a retro trailer, a luxury tipi tent, a spacious lotus or the highly sought after bubble dome.

These large bubble tents come in both one bedroom and two bedroom configurations and are equipped with modern amenities, including heating, cooling, WiFi and Keurig coffee makers.

During the day, you have acres of national parks, hiking trails and ghost towns to explore.

In the nighttime, retreat to your own sunken fire pit seating area for a starlit experience like no other.

8. Get a drink at the White Buffalo Bar

Images of different spots at the White Buffalo Bar
Photo credit: White Buffalo Bar Facebook Page

Named one of the ‘Best Hotel Bars’ by Texas Monthly Magazine, the White Buffalo Bar is a much loved local tequila bar, adjoining the stylish Gage hotel.

As a full service restaurant, you can spend a whole evening there, although the real highlight are the award-winning margaritas that keeps both locals and visitors flocking to this traditional-style Texas hangout.

9. Visit the Big Bend Ranch State Park

Big Bend Ranch State Park Texas
Image: Big Bend Ranch State Park-3.jpg. Steve. [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

The Big Bend Ranch State Park is the biggest state park in Texas and one of the best in the Western half of the state.

There’s plenty to see and do in Big Bend Ranch, including horse riding, hiking and four-wheel driving trails.

Also designated an International Dark Sky Park, there’s an uninterrupted expanse of dark sky for stargazing aficionados.

With some of the least light pollution and darkest skies of any national parks in the country, there’s plenty of opportunity to be star-struck at Big Bend.

10. Drive the El Camino del Rio

Image of a Texas road
Image: “A good traveler has no fixed plan and is not intent on arriving” – Lao Tzu. visualcause. [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

One of the most fun things to do in West Texas is to drive the El Camino del Rio, also known as the River Road.

Amongst one of the most scenic drives in the state, the River Road is primarily located within the Big Bend Ranch State Park, spanning from the towns of Lajitas to Presidio.

Hugging the Rio Grande, this is a stunning 50-mile scenic drive with seemingly endless twists and turns, traversing mountains and riverside vistas.

You’ll want to keep your camera ready here.

11. Hike in West Texas

A man admiring the Lost Mine Trail in Texas
Image: Admire. Adam Baker. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

For hiking fans, there are plenty of trails to explore, catering to all levels from beginners to the advanced.

Some of the most popular hikes are located in Big Bend National Park, including the popular Lost Mine Trail in the heart of the Chisos Mountains.

The Lost Mine Trail is a three hour round trip, and suitable for all experience levels.

Another popular and rewarding trail is the Hot Springs Historic Trail, which rewards hikers with soothing hot springs to cool off in before making their way back to the trailhead.

12. Hop across to Mexico

Image of the road leading to Boquillas Crossing
Image: The Road to Boquillas Crossing. PunkToad. [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

One of the most unique things to do in West Texas is to actually hop across the U.S. border and visit Mexico.

Boquillas is a small Mexican village that adjoins Big Bend Ranch National Park and allows visitors to experience the warm Mexican hospitality.

After parking your vehicle at the Boquillas Crossing, you can either walk across the river crossing at low tide or be ferried across in a small row boat for a small fee.

Once you’ve crossed over to the Mexican side of the river, you can continue your journey on foot, in a car or on horseback.

Spend a few hours visiting the local village, tasting authentic Mexican cuisine at the various eateries and admiring the handmade souvenirs and textiles available for purchase.

13. Visit El Paso Museum of Art

Exterior of the El Paso Museum of Art
Image: Sol Project. Visit El Paso. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

A small but impressive museum, the El Paso Museum of Art makes for one of the most interesting places to see and visit in West Texas.

Located in a former Greyhound terminal, the free to visit El Paso Museum of Art has a permanent collection of art spanning a number of centuries and artistic styles.

Fans of Baroque and Renaissance art will be delighted at the works from Van Dyck, Botticelli and Canaletto on display.

For history buffs, there’s also an impressive collection of works from the Byzantine era along with a revolving display of temporary exhibitions.

14. Visit the Chinati Foundation

Exterior image of the Chinati Foundation building
Image: The Chinati Foundation. Lars Plougmann. [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

The Chinati Foundation is another example of the minimalist and quirky art that West Texas is famous for.

Opened to the public in 1986, the Chinati Foundation is an expansive space dedicated to showcasing the remarkable talent of artists Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain amongst others.

A blend of modern, minimalist art and the stark open landscapes that West Texas is known for, the Chinati Foundation draws visitors from all over the world.

The most popular time of year to visit the museum is during their annual Open House, a weekend of free viewings, art, music and gastronomy.

15. Visit Alpine

Image of a mural in Alpine Texas
Image: Outdoor Mural in Alpine, Texas. Jonathan Curter. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

Often overlooked, the small frontier town of Alpine is much loved by locals for its low-key vibe that celebrates the authentic spirit of West Texas.

There are local restaurants offering traditional food, art galleries, street murals, live music productions and a weekly farmer’s market.

The town is located in the foothills of the Davis Mountains and surrounded by the stunning scenery that gives the town its picturesque name.

16. Get up close with the Bison and Longhorn Herd

Image of a Texas longhorn
Image: Texas Longhorn Steer. John Fowler. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

One of the most fun activities to do in West Texas is visit the San Angelo State Park where you can get up close with the official Texas state Bison Herd and Longhorn Herd.

Visitors can take a free tour during feeding time every Wednesday and Saturday morning, where they join a park ranger to learn more about the native Texan wildlife that calls this state park home.

17. Visit the world’s largest natural spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park

Beautiful Balmorhea State Park
Image: Balmorhea State Park. Bradford Fults. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

Did you know you can go scuba diving in West Texas?

Balmorhea State Park is home to the world’s largest natural spring-fed pool where visitors can swim and scuba dive amongst the 25 feet deep crystal clear water.

The water temperature stays cool all year round, at a refreshing 72 to 76 degrees, providing pleasant surroundings to take a dip and get a respite from the sweltering desert heat.

18. Explore Monahans Sandhills State Park

An image of a family playing in the sand at Monahans Sandhill State Park
Image: 02-Playing. JustTooLazy. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

The Monahans Sandhills State Park provides an afternoon of unrivaled fun in West Texas.

Home to endless peaks and valleys of golden sand dunes, there are activities for all ages and interests.

You can choose from a picnic in the desert, horse riding through the sandy trails, camping at one of the pre-booked campsites which offer water and electricity or an adrenaline-pumping afternoon of sledding down the sand dunes in your personal sled.

19. Visit Guadalupe Mountains State Park

Image of a man hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains in Texas
Image: Guadalupe_Mts_2016-27. Chuck 55. [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

A lesser known state park but one of the most interesting places to see in West Texas is the Guadalupe Mountains State Park.

This mountainous landscape is not for the faint-hearted hikers, but for those who love a challenge of rigorous mountain climbing, rugged desert terrain and pure solitude, there’s spectacular scenery to reward you after a thrilling climb.

20. Visit the Starlight Theater

Exterior of the Starlight Theatre in Texas
Image: Starlight Theatre. switthoft. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

In the quirky ghost town of Terlingua, the Starlight Theater is often considered the heart of this once bustling mining down.

Now the town’s population is around sixty permanent residents, although visitors often stop in to the Starlight Theater to sample the local cuisine, have a beer and enjoy the live music that is performed by both local and visiting artists.

21. Visit the The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Gardens

Image of a succulent at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center
Image: Victoria. Woody Hibbard. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

One of the best kept secrets in West Texas is the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Gardens.

This botanical oasis is located in the foothills of the Davis Mountains and provides a leafy respite from the surrounding desert landscape.

Visitors should stop by the Powell Visitor Center before embarking on a self-guided tour of the gardens.

Here they can pick up a detailed map, providing some interesting and notable history about the development of the Botanical Gardens and the hundreds of plants that can be found within it.

22. Downtown Abilene

Paramount Theater
Image: DSCN0393. mr_t_77. [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

What better way to start your exploration of this thriving city than downtown Abilene!

Serving as a shopping, dining and cultural hub in West Texas, downtown Abilene has recently undergone an exciting revitalization, preserving its history and heritage in museums and cultural centers, and drawing in people of all ages with its annual festivals.

Meander through the streets of downtown and discover many of the best Abilene attractions, like the historic Paramount Theater and the enchanting Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden, home to Abilene’s famous literary character sculptures!

Boasting a variety of restaurants, from authentic BBQ, mouthwatering steakhouses, and Mexican and Asian cuisine, there’s something to tempt anyone’s taste buds in downtown Abilene!

Enjoy 1.3 acres of green space and check out the 15 murals scattered throughout downtown as you get a feel for this vibrant community!

23. Visit the Buddy Holly Center

Located in Lubbock, this is one of the best things to do in West Texas for music lovers.

This collection of Buddy Holly artifacts celebrates this important man who paved the way for Rock n’Roll.

Lubbock, in general, has played an important part in the history of music and they celebrate that here with exhibits featuring Holly’s belongings from his childhood and profesional career, as well as the Buddy Holly sculpture outside and the photo op with a giant pair of his glasses.

You’ll also find the Texas Musician Hall of fame and the Lubbock Fine Arts Gallery here, with more exhibits on the arts and music in Lubbock.

Whether you’re a music fan or you just want to learn more about the history of Lubbock, this is the place.

24. Abilene Zoo

Credit: Abilene Zoo

If there’s an animal lover in your crew, head on over to the Abilene Zoo!

With 127 species of animals, behind-the-scenes tours and animal feedings, Abilene Zoo will satisfy your desire for furry friends!

A train ride, carousel and swan paddle boats offer even more fun to keep adults and kids alike entertained!

Located inside Nelson Park, the fun continues even after leaving the zoo and helps to make this a great Texas day trip.

Enjoy 2 playgrounds, a splash pad in the summertime, a baseball field and biking or walking around the lake.

It’s impossible to be bored with all this outdoor fun!

25. Stand in awe at the Silent Wings Museum

Photo credit: Silent Wings Museum Facebook

While the Silent Wings Museum is also great for adults, this World War II museum featuring the military gliders is also fantastic for kids.

Housed in what used to be the Lubbock airport, this museum has models of the gliders and life-size military history replicas which will leave any child in awe.

It’s not a boring museum with a bunch of long plaques to read with glass cases, but a truly immersive experience that allows you to see the gliders hung from the ceilings towering above you as well as get up close and personal to other World War II artifacts on display.

This would be best for elementary aged and teenaged children in Lubbock.

26. Dyess Linear Air Park

Credit: Dyess Linear Air Park

If you grew up watching the movie “Top Gun,” a visit to the Dyess Linear Air Park will reignite your love of air and speed and just might have you feeling like a maverick!

Showcasing 34 historic aircraft, including fighter and cargo planes, this air park is the largest of its kind in the United States Air Force.

Enhance your experience with a knowledgeable tour guide who can fill you in on the history of the aircraft and bring their stories as well as interesting facts about Texas to life!

Located on the Dyess Air Force Base, you can browse the Dyess Memorial Center before or after your tour and learn about the history of the base and the life of Lt. Col. Dyess.

Pay homage to the heroes of Dyess Air Force Base at the outdoor Dyess Memorial Park.

27. United Supermarkets Arena

Photo credit: United Supermarkets Arena Facebook

Whether you’re a big fan of Kane Brown or JoJo Siwa, chances as they’ve come through the United Supermarkets Arena on the campus of Texas Tech for an evening concert.

There are also sports games happening here, as it’s home to Texas Tech basketball and volleyball so there’s a good chance you can find an evening game in Lubbock here.

Check the schedule ahead of time to see if any big name comedy or musical artists are coming to Lubbock soon!

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