San Diego to the Lone Star State

From San Diego to the Lone Star State: 9 Must-See Sights in West Texas

The entire stretch of countryside known as West Texas is undoubtedly synonymous with football, delicious Tex-Mex cuisine, and lush oil fields. However, this area is so much more than just this mere handful of things that seem to define the region. It’s also bursting with culture, history, and sweeping landscapes rarely found anywhere else in the country. 

Explore These Must-See Sights in West Texas

Whether you live in the Permian Basin, El Paso, Lubbock, or any of the neighboring cities — or you just happen to be passing through on a road trip from San Diego to Las Vegas and beyond, and you want to make a quick pit stop in one of the friendliest states in the nation — we’ve compiled a handy list of nine things you can do while you’re in the westernmost part of the Lone Star State.

Monahans Sandhills State Park

Monahans, Texas is a small town located off I-20 and is home to Monahans Sandhills State Park. With a small entrance fee of only $4, you can explore the ever-changing landscape of the Texas dunes. Boasting some 3,840 acres of dunes and no marked trails, the possibilities are endless for where and what you want to explore. 

Grab some friends and enjoy a picnic on the dunes while you experience the breathtaking sunset. Don’t want to hike on foot? Experience the dunes on horseback within the 800-acre equestrian area. You can also stay overnight at one of the 26 campsites the park has to offer with electricity and water. Need a tent, but you’re on a budget? Check out these 10 tents that are under $100.

  • Address: Exit 86, 2500 I-20, Monahans, TX 79756
  • Phone: (432) 943-2092
  • Everyday Hours: 6AM – 10PM

Big Bend National Park

Located in Southwest Texas, Big Bend National Park is a 1,100 square mile adventure that includes tours down the Rio Grande, where vast canyons surround you on either side. Many companies offer unique experiences such as boating, hiking, and zipline tours that make for a memorable trip. A few of these companies are: 

  • Big Bend Boating and Hiking
  • Wild Adventure Outfitters 
  • The Lajitas Zipline 

Although Big Bend National Park is a must-see, it does require heavy preparation because of its remote nature. It’s important to know these 20 essential items to pack when visiting a national park to ensure you have everything you need for your trip.

  • Address: Big Bend National Park, TX
  • Phone: (432) 477-2251
  • Hours: Park entrances are open 24 hours a day, all year.
    However, entrance fee stations and visitor centers vary by season.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Texas has not just one, but two national parks within its borders. For anyone interested in a serious hike, consider trying your hand at hiking to “the top of Texas.” This 8.5-mile round trip journey will take you to the highest point in the state of Texas, and the views up there seriously won’t disappoint. You might even discover that they’re arguably as breathtaking as the vistas found on the trails here in La Jolla.

For a milder hike, consider the McKittrick Canyon Nature Trail. This 30-to-60-minute journey exposes you to desert wildlife, as well as information on the geology of the Permian Reef. No matter what hike you take, the 80 miles of trails available at Guadalupe Mountain National Park provide an experience that you won’t forget. Like Big Bend, though, be sure to take precautions and pack essential gear when visiting the park.

  • Mailing Address: 400 Pine Canyon, Salt Flat, TX 79847
  • Phone: (915) 828-3251
  • Everyday Hours: 8AM-4:30PM

True Texas Barbecue

You can’t have a truly Texan experience without having some authentic barbecue while here. For those of you looking for a less physically demanding activity in the heart of West Texas, consider dining out at True Texas Barbecue. Located in Odessa, True Texas Barbecue was named the best barbecue chain in Texas and comes highly recommended by the locals. 

With all-natural meat slow-smoked over Texas oak wood, you can’t go wrong when you pop into this iconic restaurant. If you’re feeling especially hungry, you’ll want to sink your teeth into a full rack of ribs. That said, if you’re hankering for lighter fare, you can’t go wrong with the lean brisket meal and a side of coleslaw. Be sure to save room for some cobbler afterward!

  • Address: Inside the H-E-B, 2501 W University Blvd, Odessa, TX 79764
  • Phone: (432) 368-8460
  • Everyday Hours: 11AM – 9PM

Midland Army Airfield Museum

The Midland Army Airfield Museum highlights the unique aircraft of WWII that aided the allies to victory. Offering free admission and parking (though donations are always welcome!), this aviation museum opens its doors to the public on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. With ever-changing exhibits, you can learn all about the various MAAF artifacts that help preserve the history of the global conflict.

This museum also focuses on the role that West Texans had in the war in Europe, as well. Featuring interactive exhibits that even allow you to step inside the cockpit of a WWII-era plane, the Midland Army Airfield Museum is an educational experience the whole family can enjoy — especially on a hot day in Texas!

  • Address: 9600 Wright Dr., Midland, TX 79706
  • Phone: N/A
  • Hours: Open Saturdays 10AM – 3PM

I-20 Wildlife Preserve

Located in Midland, the I-20 reserve is a conservational habitat that harnesses the wildlife of the entire West Texas region. With an unwavering mission to help promote conservation, research, education, and restoration (as well as just enjoying the beauty of the natural landscape), the 86-acre urban playa is home to a variety of fauna, including different species of: 

  • Snakes 
  • Flowers
  • Birds
  • Insects
  • Lizards
  • Turtles
  • Mammals (like bobcats and raccoons)

Experience and be educated on the true habitat of Texas through well-kept lands that have been unstained by civilization. With almost 700 total species, you’re bound to see something spectacular. And remember: Be sure to take only pictures and leave only footprints, as you don’t want to disturb the natural habitats of the wildlife that call it their home.

  • Address: 2201 S Midland Dr., Midland, TX 79703
  • Phone: (423) 853-9453
  • Hours: 8AM-6PM, Closed Mondays

Ellen Noel Art Museum

Who says small towns can’t have great art museums? Located in Odessa, the Ellen Noel Art Museum houses four incredible galleries that include work from highly respected, world-class artists. The museum also hosts a variety of exhibitions year-round, meaning there’s always something new to be found here. 

These exhibitions have included works by Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol, and many other local Texas artists. If you’re looking to take a class and enrich yourself further, they also offer a number of programs and workshops for budding artists of all ages. For more information, you’ll want to be sure to check out the Ellen Noel Art Museum website for updates on their upcoming exhibitions and events.

  • Address: 4909 E University Blvd., Odessa, TX 79762
  • Phone: (432) 550-9696
  • Hours: Closed Mondays
    Opens at Noon All Others
    Closes at 5 PM except on Thursdays, when it’s open until 8 PM

Big Sky Theatre

After you’re done exploring the entirety of West Texas all day (provided you were able to squeeze it all in!), you can check out Big Sky Theatre in Midland to unwind. Big Sky is a local favorite with fair prices on newly-released movies and tasty concession food. The drive-in theatre consists of three huge main screens with a beautiful night sky backdrop. 

On a clear night, this drive-in is a great way to spend an evening with your loved ones. Make sure you compare Texas auto insurance quotes if you plan on driving and living in Texas, though, so you can make sure you have more money set aside for movie tickets and not on your car insurance rates!

  • Address: 6200 W Hwy 80, Midland, TX 79706
  • Phone: (432) 617-3001
  • Hours: Depends on showtimes

The Permian Basin Petroleum Museum

As mentioned earlier, Texas prides itself on being lush with oil. The Permian Basin Petroleum Museum is a great way to learn the vast history of the petroleum industry in a fresh and engaging way. With a recent renovation totaling $18 million, this museum has a lot to offer to its visitors. 

New exhibits like “The Birth of an Industry” take visitors back in time through the recreated town of 1930s Midland. This immersive experience educates viewers on the beginning of the petroleum industry in Texas. Other exhibits include a movie that debunks common petroleum myths and a family-feud-style game show. This innovative museum is sure to entertain adults and children alike. 

  • Address: 1500 I-20, Midland, TX 79701
  • Phone: (423) 683-4403
  • Hours: Mon-Sat 10AM-5PM
    Sundays 2PM-5PM

Have Fun Experiencing All That West Texas Has to Offer

As you can see, virtually all of West Texas is rich in diverse culture and history. It truly has something for everyone to enjoy, whether you want to climb to Texas’ highest point or simply feast on the authentic barbecue. If you ever plan a road trip from California to Texas or visit this area of Texas, be sure to plan your trip with enough time to visit these remarkable places so you can take them all in — at your own leisurely, West Texas pace, of course — during your stay here! 

Note: The banner photo of a stretch of highway in West Texas by Mizzu Cho.