Usually, most days can easily feel like a road trip to me.
With 4 kids in 3 separate schools and all of those schools in different cities, I rack up the miles. Home in Irving to Dallas to Farmers Branch to Coppell, back home to Irving for work, and then do it all over again 5 hours later. And that’s just drop-offs and pick-ups. Add in activities and the inevitable traffic delays, I spend a good chunk of my waking hours behind the wheel.
One of my favorite games to play in the car is adding up the hours and miles and figuring out where else I could have driven in the same amount of time and distance. I always make it as far as Waco, usually to Austin, and on really bad days San Antonio or Houston.
To cut down on the risk of COVID-19 exposure, many families (my own included) are opting for driving over flying this summer. 2020, the summer of the great American road trip.
Lucky for us, Dallas is within a day’s driving distance of some great road-trip worthy destinations (defined by me as 7 hours or less). Here are 5 of my personal favorites.
Note: COVID-19 related rules and restrictions vary from place to place and can change rapidly. Many attractions are operating at reduced capacity, requiring you to book tickets well in advance, or asking guests (children included) to wear face masks.
While every attraction mentioned in this post is open as of the date of publication, be sure to reach out to individual businesses for up-to-date information.
Also, keep in mind your child’s tolerance for wearing face masks. If they can’t last the 10 minutes it takes to get in and out of the grocery store with a gallon of milk, they aren’t going to be able to handle a day at a museum. Don’t push it; choose another activity.
4 Road Trip Destinations from Dallas
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Driving Distance from Dallas: 286 miles, 4 ½ hours
Hot Springs, Arkansas offers a fun family vacation.
Some of my family’s must-see Hot Springs attractions include the Mid-America Science Museum, hiking in the Ouachita Mountains, the Garvan Woodland Gardens, and my kiddos’ favorite, the Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo.
Lake Ouachita State Park, both offering outside activities such as boating, birding, fishing, swimming, hiking, and camping.
For more information on Hot Springs, including COVID-19 related safety measures and updates, click here.
Palo Duro Canyon, Texas
Driving Distance from Dallas: 386 miles, 6 hours
Head to the Texas Panhandle for the second largest canyon in the country, Palo Duro Canyon State Park. You can explore the canyon’s rugged beauty by foot, mountain bike, horse, or car (and cross it off your state park bucket list).
Camping? You can choose from campsites with water and electricity and tent sites. Need more creature comforts? “Glamping” sites are also available, complete with refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers, bicycles, gas grills and fireplaces, and of course, air conditioning.
Amarillo and the Big Texan Steak Ranch are a short drive away.
For more information on Palo Duro Canyon, including COVID-19 related safety measures and updates, click here.
Driving Distance from Dallas: 443 miles, 6 ½ hours
There’s fun for the whole family in Memphis. From the Children’s Museum of Memphis to the Memphis Zoo and its giant pandas (yes, real pandas) and lots of fun in between.
Be sure to include a visit to Elvis’ Graceland. And no, you don’t need to be a huge Elvis fan to enjoy Graceland. I’m not sure my kids had ever heard of Elvis before we visited Graceland, and they enjoyed to kitschy memorabilia and fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches as much as I did.
For more information on Memphis, including COVID-19 related safety measures and updates, click here.
Driving Distance from Dallas: 427 miles, 7 hours
With 3 area lakes, dozens of attractions, and family-friendly lodging options for every budget, Branson is one of the top family destinations in the country. Enjoy breathtaking scenery on a hike in the Ozark Mountains. Wow the kids with a cast of riders, dancers, and 32 magnificent horses at Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner (and who doesn’t love Dolly).
History buffs will love the Titanic Museum, a detailed replica of the actual maiden voyage that holds one of the largest authentic collections of items from the ship (even the building is in the shape of the Titanic). Got a “bonnet head” (an affection term for someone who loves all things Little House on the Prairie) in the family? Then check out the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum, a short drive from Branson.
For more information on Branson, including COVID-19 related safety measures and updates, click here.
Looking to stay a little closer to home? For summer vacation destinations within 4 hours driving distance from Dallas, click here.