Budget Travel

Toll-free Texas: the best samples by mail to complete within the Lone Star State

Whether drawn to the current architecture of Houston or the historic streets of Dallas, there are plenty of attractions and events that make the Lone Star State worth visiting.

And while most of the museums, galleries and top holiday destinations across Texas count the cost of entry, there's also lots of places to go to that do not cost a dime. From city parks to hill country hikes, here's our help guide to the very best free things to complete in Texas.

Tour the Capitol Building in Austin

After Texas won independence from Mexico in 1836, the capital of the new republic moved many times before finally settling in Austin. Construction on the first state building began in 1853, but today's structure is actually the 3rd iteration from the Capitol. At 302.64ft (92.24m) tall, the iconic pink granite dome is taller compared to Usa Capitol (289ft/88m) in Washington, D.C., which was the building's model.

While just the sixth tallest state capitol in the country, the Texas Capitol has more space on the floor than every other state building at 360,000 sq . ft . (33,000m2). With nearly four hundred rooms, 800 windows and a whispering gallery in the central rotunda, visitors can go for either a self-guided or guided tour from the building – both are free. Be sure to wander the grounds as well, where tall trees and historic statues adorn the sprawling lawn.

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

While NASA and Houston's many, many galleries are a big draw to Texas' largest city, Houston also has urban green spaces that offer a getaway in the heart of the metropolis. About four miles from downtown, the Houston Arboretum and Nature Focus on the western fringe of Memorial Park provides rest from bustling city life.

With 155 acres and five miles of free trails, this non-profit nature sanctuary plays an important role in protecting native plants and animals. Find interactive exhibits and activities in the Discovery Room in the Nature Center, or see the Nature Look for gifts and souvenirs.

NorthPark Center, Dallas

While components of the shops at Dallas' NorthPark Center are not free, the shopping center is a nice spot to catch some free art installations, because of the Nasher Sculpture Center. Specifically designed within the 1960s to accommodate some of Patsy and Raymond Nasher's growing contemporary art collection using the public, this luxury retail space is really a free option to entry at the Nasher Sculpture Center.

Wander the Historic Riverwalk in San Antonio

Thanks to its historic significance in the war for Texas Independence, the Alamo has become the top tourist spot in San Antonio. Here, a fledgling Texan army sacrificed their lives defending the small fort against the much larger forces from the Mexican army. As the Alamo's legendary status could mean it looms larger in people's minds before visiting, walking with the surviving structure is a helpful way to grasp precisely how small the fort was – and the way much the small Texas army was facing.

But make sure to catch another San Antonio missions, too: well before the Alamo became a turning point in the fight for Texas Independence, it was known as the Mission Dallas de Valero, the first of five Spanish missions in the region. Now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site (and the only one in Texas), the missions are connected with a hike and bike trail with about 2.5 miles between each one. The traditional aqueduct of Mission Espada is a superb place to start, winding your way back to town toward missions San Juan Capistrano, San José, not to mention, the Alamo.

Scenic drive in El Paso

Following the southern tip from the Franklin Mountains and the winding Rio Grande, Scenic Drive is popular at night for city-lights viewing as it offers expansive vistas of El Paso, Ciudad Juarez and also the surrounding mountains. Take N Mesa St to Kerbey Ave (across from the university), head east till it becomes Rim Rd, then turn directly on Scenic Dr. On the way, look out for little Murchison Park (4222ft), a fine location for sunrises.

Snap a selfie with Buddy Holly in Lubbock

Recently moved next door in the new Buddy Holly Museum, this statue to one of Texas' legendary country musicians is a perfect photo opportunity within this north Texas town. Born in Lubbock, the famous musician died tragically within an airplane incident in 1959, but not before changing the future of rock and roll forever. Surrounding the statue are plaques from the West Texas Walk of Fame, and also the whole plaza is floodlit during the night so that you can see the statue from nearby Interstate 27.

Davis Mountains scenic drive

While most West Texas sojourners can make the 40-minute trek from Marfa to Valentine to spot the famous Prada Marfa art installation, many lose out on the natural wonders another short drive away in the Davis Mountains. If you're starting out at Prada Marfa, circle back on US-90 before the turn at Ranch Road 505, which eventually connects to Texas 166 before looping down again Texas 118 into Fort Davis. Passing Mount Livermore, Texas, this dramatic mountain drive loops with the highest point on Texas highways and offers unforgettable views.

Hike Hancock Hill

Known for the iconic twin peaks of Paisano Pass in the distance, Alpine hosts the gorgeous campus of Sul Ross State University. Established in 1917 and area of the Texas State University System, Sul Ross nestles in to the side of Hancock Hill, in which a short but steep hike supplies a spectacular look at Alpine and also the surrounding mountains. Take in the views at the Desk, which three Sul Ross students dragged to the peak of the hill in 1981. Today, visitors can continue to sign the guest book and read messages from previous visitors to the scenic writing spot.

Galveston sea wall

Gulf Coast views will always be worth a stroll along the sea wall in Galveston, which results in the Pleasure Pier. Reopened in 2012 after being destroyed by Hurricane Carla in 1961, the area icon stands in the same position like a pleasure pier from the 1940s but still provides the perfect backdrop for the sunset beach photos.

Sulphur Springs

Not to become confused by the Colorado capital of scotland- exactly the same name, Sulphur Springs, is a great spot to consume small-town Texas. Walk around the beautiful Hopkins County Courthouse, Celebration Plaza, and also the Hopkins County Veterans Memorial, or hike the walking trails that circle Coleman Lake nearby.

Old Tunnel State Park

A few miles outside Fredericksburg, Old Tunnel State Park is the site of the abandoned railroad that once connected Fredericksburg to the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway. The railroad ceased operations in 1942, then several colonies of bats used residence within the abandoned tunnel. Between May and October, tickets have to view the emergence of the Mexican free-tailed bats in the evening, but there is no entry fee to gain access to the park's short hiking trail for bird watching and wildlife viewing.

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