As the heat of the Texas summer abates, enjoy a family vacation over Columbus Day weekend; take advantage of the cooler weather and autumn outdoor activities. From major cities to small towns with mysterious lights in the night sky, there are many exciting destinations across this large state. Wherever you plan your fall interlude, stay at one of numerous Texas vacation rentals for an unforgettable getaway. Here’s a cheat sheet to the 11 best Columbus Day weekend destinations in Texas.

1. Dallas

Spend this holiday weekend in the state’s second-largest city when you book a vacation rental in Dallas. Take the family for a day of fun at the Texas State Fair that runs from mid-September to mid-October. Kids love riding the rides and playing games of chance on the midway, and don’t forget to try some fried Twinkies. Located on White Rock Lake, Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is the place to take in all the gorgeous fall foliage and see plants, flowers, and trees from around the world.

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2. Todd Mission

Practice your British accent of the drive to Todd Mission, about an hour’s drive from Houston, and home of the Texas Renaissance Festival each fall. Although the theme changes from year-to-year, the New Market Village offers 55 acres of space to explore with jousting matches and massive turkey legs. Before leaving town, stop by Blue Heron Farm for a tour and let the little ones pet the farm animals.

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3. Austin

Stroll along the shores of Lady Bird Lake in Austin to see a full riot of colors as the trees begin to shed their leaves, or rent a paddle boat from Ziller Park and enjoy the cooler weather from the water. If the weather turns chilly, take the kids to the Austin Nature and Science Center to check out Camp Tadpole and the other interactive exhibits. In the evenings, head over to 6th Street for dinner at one of several terrific restaurants, or tap your toes to the live music coming from many of the clubs.

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4. Houston

Let your vacation go to the birds with a weekend away in Houston in the fall. As the weather cools in the north, birds begin to migrate south. Houston sits along the migration path, giving your family a chance to see some amazing birds during your visit. Stop by the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory to learn more about the migration and possibly catch sight of a Smith Point Hawk.

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5. Lost Maples

In the Texas Hill Country, the charming town of Lost Maples is an idyllic location for an autumn getaway over this holiday weekend. Wander along the hiking trails in Lost Maples State Park to view the beautiful fall foliage. With so many maple trees in the area, it’s one of the best places to see the leaves changing colors. Adults can take a tour of the Lost Maples Winery and sample the spoils.

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6. Fredericksburg

The Texas Hill Country is home to the quaint town of Fredericksburg and the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Over the weekend, put on your comfy hiking boots to do a little climbing and hiking in the cooler fall weather. Check out one of the largest natural rock formations in the country, a dome that rises 425 feet into the air. If you’re faced with a rainy afternoon, take the family to the Pioneer Museum, which showcases the German influence on this part of the state with artifacts and displays that date back to the 1800s.

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7. Marfa

Pack your bags for a tiny town in West Texas with a big mystery, Marfa and the “Marfa Lights.” Since 1883, lights have appeared in the evening sky almost every evening, and fall is one of the best times to get a clear night for viewing. Stroll around the quaint downtown area and grab a cup of Joe from Big Bend Coffee Roasters or some gifts to take home from the Marfa Brand Soap Factory and Shop.

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8. Canyon

Do you know that Texas has a smaller version of the Grand Canyon? When you book a vacation rental in Canyon, you have easy access to the Palo Duro Canyon State Park for hiking and sightseeing in the beautiful fall weather. A fork in the Red River formed this canyon, and the lowest layers come from around 250 million years ago. Learn more about the region through bones, fossils, and exhibits at the Panhandle–Plains Historical Museum.

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9. Galveston

Enjoy one last hurrah at the beach with a weekend away in Galveston. While it might be too cold to swim, the beaches in town are a great place for a picnic or to do a little seashell hunting. Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier opens on the weekends during the fall months Here, your younger children can make car sounds on the kiddie rides while your tweens and teens scream on the coaster. For dinner, indulge in all your favorite carnival foods.

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10. Salado

Located in the Texas Prairies and Lakes Region, Salado welcomes guests to enjoy its Old West feel with a horse-drawn carriage ride through the downtown area. Indulge in a little retail therapy at one of the popular artisan shops and enjoy a meal at one of the locally-owned restaurants. Hunt up a unique find to take home with you at the Salado Antique Mall or buy something new from Magnolias.

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11. Big Bend National Park

See the bears before they head into their dens for the winter. Big Bend National Park sits close to a couple of small towns in southwest Texas, making it a snap to find a vacation rental to use as home base for all of your hiking, climbing, fishing, and swimming. Pack your swimsuit because the water may still be warm enough for swimming in early October. While navigating the park, you might catch sight of black bears and mountain lions.

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