Discovering Texas | Family Road Trips West of Dallas

After living abroad, Ireland & Scotland, I moved back to my home state, Texas, and realized that I really needed to explore my own state more. I think often on people getting the itch to get on a plane and explore the “exotic” world while overlooking their own unique backyard, their hometown, city, state or country where they live. Discovering Texas | Family Road Trips West of Dallas is Part One in a series of posts, Discovering Texas and Family Road Trips from Dallas.

Family Road Trips from Dallas
Discovering Texas | Family Road Trips West of Dallas

In this post, I’ve listed details about our family road trip traveling West of Dallas, Texas. All posts for the Discovering Texas series will include itineraries, historical stops, offbeat roadside stops, heritage stops, museums, other stops of possible interest, and pictures. *At the time of this trip, my boys were 5, 3, and 3 yrs old.

Part One: Discovering Texas | Family Road Trips West of Dallas:

Our Itinerary from Dallas, TX to West Texas:

#1 Dallas to Monahans Sandhills State Park. (5 hr drive)
#2 Short Stop in Merkel, TX before reaching the Monahans. (3 hr drive)
#3 Merkel, TX to Monahans. (2 hr drive) Then to Odessa (1 hr drive), TX to see The World’s Largest Jackrabbit.
#4 Odessa, Tx to the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, TX (25 minutes).
#5 After Midland, we drove north to Amarillo and Palo Duro Canyon.
That itinerary will be posted in Part Two: Discovering Texas | Family Road Trips from Dallas.

Walking and Sand Surfing in the Texas Desert

#1 Monahans Sandhills

For our family road trip west of Dallas, we headed straight for the Monahans Sandhills. Years ago, when I first discovered the Monahans I was extremely surprised to discover a little desert aka a “TX-sized-sandbox” that is miles upon miles of beautiful sand dunes.
Actually, these dunes extend about 200 miles from south of Monahans, west, and north into New Mexico. Some dunes can be up to 50 Feet Tall!!

Family Road Trips from Dallas
Family Road Trips from Dallas: Discovering a little Texas desert!

Honestly, I was so shocked when I first saw the Monahans that I felt as if it was a mirage. This place is fun for adults and children.

Family Road Trips from Dallas
I’m at the top about to sand surf!!

With and without kids, I loved walking the dunes until I could see nothing but sand around me, taking time to feel alone in my mini-desert environment and private lost-in-time adventure.
Family Road Trips from Dallas
The trails and dunes are not marked, so make sure you are aware of your surroundings. Family Road Trips from DallasAt one point, I had wandered off very far, with one of my boys, and had a panicky moment of confusion as to where I had started. Thankfully, our footprints were the only ones in the sand in every direction so we retraced our footprints.

Try sand surfing the dunes. You can bring your own gear or you can rent disks at the park. More information about Sand Sledding, Sand Surfing, and Sandboarding will be posted in a followup post.
Family Road Trips from Dallas
Winter time is a great time to visit the park. Family Road Trips from DallasYou can see in our pictures that even during the month of February, we were in short sleeve shirts. During the summer months, the dunes get extremely hot with the sun and heat reflecting off the sand. Family Road Trips from Dallas
For only $15 per site, you can camp at the State Park. The park is open from 8am-10pm. Watching the sunset over the sandhills is amazing!! Entrance fee to the park is $4 for adults.

Family Road Trips from Dallas
When you check into the park, make sure to ask for a free Junior Ranger Activity Journal and to borrow an Explorer Pack.

Click here for a Monahans Sandhills Facility Map.

Family Road Trips from Dallas
The Explorer Packs also include information on what is growing and living in the area.

#2 Short Roadside Stop in Merkel, TX. More information about this stop will be posted shortly.

Merkel, TX; Ghost town?

#3 World’s Largest Jack Rabbit: (802 North Sam Houston, Odessa, 79761) Jack Ben Rabbit is an 8-foot statue located downtown at North Sam Houston and 8th Street.

Family Road Trips from Dallas
World’s Largest Jack Rabbit: It’s a BIG Texas photo opportunity!

#4 Museum of the Southwest: (1705 W Missouri Ave, Midland, TX)
We spent the whole day and into the night at the Museum of the Southwest. In addition to the Mini-City Children’s Museum, we walked through the Sculpture Garden, watched a few shows at the Planetarium, and attended a late night Star Party with astronomers. More information about this museum, along with pictures, will be posted shortly.

Other Possible Roadside Stops to make from Dallas to the Monahans Sandhills:

Discovering Texas | Family Road Trips West of Dallas | WiseMommies
Discovering Texas | Family Road Trips West of Dallas | WiseMommies

#1 Mary’s Café: (119 Grant Ave, Strawn, TX 76475) I’ve been told that this Cafe cooks up and serves all the hallmarks of a Southern kitchen.

#2 Petroleum Museum: (1500 W Interstate 20, Midland, TX, 79701-2041) Several exhibits dedicated to the petroleum industry and its impact on our daily lives. The Chevron Energy City is specifically geared towards children ages 6-9yrs of age. This interactive city teaches children about various forms of energy and how they can conserve energy in their everyday lives. The Petroleum museum also has a mineral gallery with over 90 global mineral specimens.

#3 American Airpower Heritage Museum: (9600 Wright Dr) This museum houses the world’s largest collection of WWII aircraft in flying condition. The collection shown rotates regularly, showing just 20+ of the planes at a time. The rest of the planes are housed in the nearby hanger.

#4 Meteor Crater: (3100 Meteor Crater Road, Odessa, 79761) The Odessa Meteor Crater, an interpretive center full of science fact alongside a giant hole in the ground. As a matter of fact, this is the second-largest landmark of its kind in the US. The biggest US crater is in Winslow, Arizona and is considerably larger than the Odessa Meteor Crater.

Family Road Trips West of Dallas : WiseMommies.com
Discovering Texas | Family Road Trips West of Dallas | WiseMommies

#5 Million Barrel Museum – Giant Oil Tank: (400 Museum Blvd, Monahans, TX) A quirky but historical stop. There is a huge hole in the ground which once held a million barrels. There is also the Rattlesnake Bomber Base museum at this location, a historic 1909 house, and two decommissioned railroad cars. For snake lovers, the Bomber Base Museum was named “for the numerous rattlesnake dens that were uncovered during construction.”

Discovering Texas | Family Road Trips West of Dallas is Part One in a series of posts. Check back for Part Two in the series, Discovering Texas and Family Road Trips from Dallas.

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