It’s the most wonderful time of year—but, sometimes, in the midst of the holiday rush of shopping sprees and sparkling soirees, festive antics and crazy family dynamics, you just need some straight-up girl time. And, a standard GNO in Houston is not going to cut it.
Cue the road trip; it’s just the thing to bond with your besties while getting away from reality for a bit. And, the best thing is that these 21 drivable destinations are pretty surreal—from natural wonders to bohemian rhapsodies, Instagrammable glamping, and even a whole load of extravagant Christmas cheer.
So, grab your gal pals, pack your bags, and hit the road. Your December just got a little bit—actually a lot—brighter.
Hit the capital of Louisiana
Where: Baton Rouge
4 hr drive
With a unique vibe full of history, festivities, live music, and good food, Baton Rouge is a dynamic destination that’s not too far from Houston. And, it’s extra festive around the holidays; the downtown Christmas parade on December 8 is quite a spectacle and has been rolling through the city since 1948. Make sure to check out Louisiana’s Old State Capitol, a Gothic, castle-like building where you can tour the onsite museum and also attend the Ghosts of the Castle show. The Houmas House Plantation, located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, is just as impressive with 38 acres of lush gardens; you can take a tour, stay at the inn, or dine onsite.
Get lost in Lost Maples State Natural Area
Where: 37221 F.M. 187, Vanderpool
4 hr 15 min drive
If fall colors (and forest bathing) are you and your girls’ happy place, Lost Maples in Central Texas is just the thing. It has a certain dream-like quality with steep canyon walls, the crystal-clear Sabinal River, and a special stand of its namesake Uvalde bigtooth maples. It’s a wilderness wonder you won’t soon forget.
Sleep in the trees at Cypress Valley Canopy Tours
Where: 1223 South Paleface RR, Spicewood
3 hr 30 min drive
You’ll never forget your first time — sleeping in the trees. Not just a destination for zip line adventures, Cypress Valley also has an even better treat: glamping in tree-top havens nestled in ancient cypress trees. The Juniper, Willow, and Nest treehouses are all lovely, but indulge in the whimsical, round Lofthaven. It has a huge trunk growing right through the middle and features a romantic canopy bed, hammock, and wraparound porch. A bridge connects to a bathhouse with a waterfall-filled tub. It’s made for love.
Have an early Christmas in NOLA
Where: New Orleans
5 hr 15 min drive
Forget Mardi Gras! New Orleans really gets lit around the holidays. From the French Quarter to Kenner, the lights-on ceremonies right after Thanksgiving make the city dazzle the entire month of December. The ‘Celebration in the Oaks’ at City Park is 25 acres of lights displays and it’s a must, as is Luna Fete on December 6-9, an annual light, art, and technology festival that you have to see to believe. The Roosevelt also gets in on the action; the hotel transforms its block-long, gilded lobby into a wonderland with 44 Birch trees, more than 22,000 twinkling lights, and scores of dressed Christmas trees. And, don’t forget to grab a drink at Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 for Sippin’ Santa, a Tiki Christmas pop-up bar.
Wine down on Wine Road 290
Where: Multiple locations, Fredericksburg
3 hr 45 min drive
Sip ’til you drop and then wine down some more in the heavily German-influenced town of Fredericksburg that’s also considered the epicenter of the Texas Wine Country. Wine Road 290 boasts 19 award-winning wineries at your disposal; you may want to book a limo or tour to traverse the beautiful 45-mile stretch of US Highway 290 in the Hill Country. Lucky for you, Fredericksburg also has a bunch of charming bed-and-breakfast places to sleep off the vino.
Stop and smell the herbs at Fredericksburg Herb Farm
Where: 405 Whitney, Fredericksburg
If you’re all wine’d out, the darling cottages at this Fredericksburg farm have you covered. The garden environment is the perfect place to slow down and catch up with your friends. Plus, Fredericksburg boasts antique shops, boutiques, and more, should you want to leave the farm for a bit — not that you really need to do so, what with the Nature Spa, the bistro’s farm-to-table fare, and a gift shop all onsite.
Glamp at Green Acres
Where: Elgin, exact address available upon inquiry
Houston: 2 hr 15 min drive
Green Acres really is the place to be — this hidden wonderland looks like a modern, boho dream come to life. And, the Pinterest-perfect accommodations provide eco-lodging at its very finest. Sitting on 25 acres in Bastrop County, the retreat is owned by two families who have created the coolest sanctuary for rest and rejuvenation in nature—without any of the stresses of traditional camping. With two luxe yurts, a rustic-chic lodge with a swinging porch bed, a kitschy-sleek Airstream land yacht, and a 1955 restored “Spartan Mansion” trailer—all with the highest level of amenities and comforts—your squad’s biggest conundrum will be where to lay your head. Coffee, gourmet s’mores, and farm fresh eggs (when available) also come with your stay, as do hammocks, an outdoor community kitchen and grills, horseshoes, ping pong, farm animals, and nature trails.
Cowgirl up at Mayan Dude Ranch
3 hr 30 min drive
Dude ranch it up in the Cowboy Capital of the World. It’s probably the closest you’ll get to an authentic wild West experience because this place is passionate about keeping the traditions of the Texas cowboy alive. Just bring your boots; you’ll want them when you commune with the real cowboys over chuck wagon meals, trail rides, and more.
Chase waterfalls at Gorman Falls
Where: Colorado Bend State Park, 2236 Park Hill Dr., Bend
3 hr 45 min drive
Become one with nature and seek out these waterfall located deep within Colorado Bend State Park. Water dances over dramatic travertine formations and lush vegetation—it’s the reward after the hike.
Follow the Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail
Where: Locations vary
1 hr drive
Raise a glass to the winter season and follow the Holiday Crystal Wine Trail during the first two weekends in December. It’s a unique experience featuring the Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail’s seven wineries, where you’ll get two specially-selected wine tastings paired with holiday food samples at each stop. Of course, if you don’t make during those weekends, any time is a good time to say cheers at the wineries that include Bernhardt, Cork This!, Messina Hof, Peach Creek Vineyards, Pleasant Hill, Saddlehorn, and Texas Star—all located within close proximity to the greater Houston area. Just remember: No drinking and driving!
Stroll along the The River Walk
Where: Downtown San Antonio
3 hr drive
The world-renowned urban waterway is always a destination worth exploring. But, it’s especially festive in the winter with all the holiday lights that decorate the River Walk through the first of the New Year along with Ford Holiday Boat Caroling that runs from November 30 to December 21. And, the Ford Fiesta de las Luminaries adds even more enchantment; it’s a century’s old tradition with more than 2,000 Mexican Christmas lanterns that line the banks of the river on weekends from November 30 through December 16.
See what the Marfa hype is all about
8 hr 30 min drive
The quintessential girls’ trip, Marfa is like a magical mirage in the desert. You may feel like you’re driving forever, but it’s so worth it once you arrive. The quirky-cool place lives up to the hype, between sleeping in a teepee (or a tent or a Mongolian yurt) under the stars at the bohemian El Cosmico, to the mysterious Marfa Lights; trippy art; and of course the now-iconic Prada Marfa installation. The Instagrammable moments are innumerable, too.
Hike to the top of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Where: 16710 Ranch Rd. 965, Fredericksburg
3 hr 45 min drive
This place lives up to its mystical name. Located near the cute town of Fredericksburg, it's technically a giant pink granite dome that was believed to have a spell cast on it by a Spanish conquistador. Hiking to the top of the rock is a reward in and of itself with 360-degree views of the surrounding Hill Country. But, where the magic really comes in is after dark; the view of the night sky is phenomenal.
Go underground at the Caverns of Sonora
Where: 1711 PR 4468, Sonora
There’s a surreal subterranean kingdom waiting for you where the Texas Hill Country meets the Chihuahuan Desert. The natural landmark was once called the “most indescribably beautiful caves in the world” by the founder of the National Speleological Society, which promotes the exploration and conservation of caves. So, you know you’re walking into something pretty special.
Fall into a fairytale at Enchant Christmas
Where: Globe Life Park, 1000 Ballpark Way, Arlington
4 hr drive
This world of wonder is like a Christmas fairytale come to life. There’s so much to see and do at this fantastical extravaganza, including an ice skating trail, Christmas market, all the glittering lights, live music and shows, and the World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze, where you’ll help Santa find eight gifts hidden by the mischievous Eddie the Elf. You have until December 30 to experience the enchantment.
Channel your need for speed at Winter Wonderland at The Circuit
Where: Circuit of the Americas, 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd., Austin
2 hr 15 min drive
Start your engines—COTA’s high-octane holiday experience is back and brighter than ever. The second annual Winter Wonderland is an immersive, captivating experience that boasts the largest outdoor ice skating rink in Texas along with the H-E-B Tunnel of Lights, Singing Trees, Santa’s Workshop, camel rides. and a petting zoo—plus, the world-famous Chinese Lantern Festival. Enough said. Don’t miss this adrenaline rush of holiday cheer on select dates through December 30.
Escape to the whimsical wonderland of Rancho Pillow
Where: 11222 Schuster Rd., Round Top
1 hr 45 min drive
A bohemian babe’s dream, this 20-acre destination is nestled near the tiny art town of Round Top. The place began as a family compound in 2006 and transformed into a true artistic adventure for owner and designer, Sheila Youngblood. Both poetic and playful, it’s decked out with Latin American folk art, colorful architectural restorations, and collected curiosities from both Sheila’s worldly travels and years of hunting in her Round Top backyard—which means, it’s pretty much just magic, and the perfect place to go with the girls.
Drive up to a movie at Showboat Drive-In Theater
Where: 22422 FM 2920, Hockley
35 min drive
There’s something just so fun about a drive-in theater and this retro place is just a short jaunt out of the city. So, you can watch a movie under the stars with your girls. Bring blankets!
See the light at Lights Spectacular
Where: 100 E. Main St., Johnson City
3 hr 15 min drive
Johnson City has already flipped the switch on its stunning display of lights, making it the twinkliest town in the Texas Hill Country. More than a million lights dazzle across three city blocks, including the highly decorated Blanco County Courthouse, at this free, family-friendly and pet-friendly extravaganza. The lights stay turned on through January 6.
Stargaze at George Observatory
Where: 21901 FM 762, Needville
45 min drive
It’s time to get star-struck. Every Saturday, the Houston Museum of Nature and Science’s George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park comes alive with celestial stargazing. And, if you may want to head there on Wednesday, December 12, too, for a special night to spot the Geminid Meteor Shower from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. If you want to do something else while you’re in Needville during the day, explore the state park itself with its 37 miles of trails across 5,000 acres of prairie land, forest canopies, lakes and marshes, and more.
Get lit at the Austin Trail of Lights
Where: Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd.
It’s ATX’s largest holiday tradition—and second largest event—boasting more than 40 displays, two million lights, food trucks, nightly entertainment, and all sorts of other holiday activities. You can’t miss it—literally—what with the beacon of the mega 155-foot-tall Zilker Tree strung with thousands of lights and bulbs.
The fantasy of it all runs for two weeks from December 10-23. But, you and your friends have a few chances to get in on the illumination early. There’s a Fun Run on December 1, where you can jingle and jog your way through the lights in your best holiday costume and then attend the ultimate after party, the Finish Line Festival. The best part is that you get to see the lights before anyone else, which is reason enough to lace up those running shoes, if you ask us. Or, attend the “Night Lights” Preview Party benefiting the Trail of Lights Foundation on December 8 with local headline performers, lights bites and cocktails, complimentary Ferris wheel and carousel rides, and a classic car show.