Make Waves: Riding ATVs on the shores of Lake Texoma may be frowned upon, but borrowing the neighbors’ dog, Charlie, is highly encouraged. Elizabeth Lavin

Weekend Getaways

Six Unexpected Vacation Escapes Two Hours From Dallas

Beaches, treehouses, mid-century modern bungalows, and trailer resorts, all just a short drive from Dallas. Go ahead and leave it all behind.

This summer, it’s time to get out of town. We drew a two-hour radius around Dallas and tried to find the most creative and under-the-radar areas of respite to help you recharge over a long weekend. There are lakeside retreats and tiny houses, shipping containers and treehouses. You won’t regret trading your old standard for something new.

A propane grill, drip coffeepot, and Keurig coffee maker are all provided, but plan to bring your own firewood for the fire pit.
Elizabeth Lavin

Beachfront Cabin

Kingston, Oklahoma

2 hour drive   ☀   $359–$649/night


I start the day with a barefoot stroll—as one does when staying at a cabin a mere 900 feet from the sandy edges of Lake Texoma. The sun bakes the sand. It’s warm underfoot as I look out across the choppy waters that stretch so far and wide you forget it’s a huge engineered reservoir. Still, it feels like a secret beach. I didn’t encounter another soul for at least a mile. (My peace was worth getting walloped by the wind—the price of solitude, I guess.)

Of course, Lake Texoma is not a hush-hush vacation spot. Rather, it’s a well-known go-to for boating, fishing, and all-around outdoorsy leisure. And this A-frame is a recreationist’s dream stay. There are some woody trails walkable from the backside of the property, including a 30-minute loop that connects to other nearby hikes. There are ATV trails, too, if you’re looking to cruise. Just be mindful not to tear up the sandy landscape, and stick to the approved paths. This is the natural domain of snakes and such, after all.

When the sun begins to set and the white-breasted nuthatches peck and yammer in the post oaks, it’s time to make a fire in the pit on the sizable back patio. It’s just you, chirpy bugs, and crackling firewood. Plus 18 others, if you so choose. This place sleeps 19: the garage has been flipped into a second cabin with a huge couch, pool table, and extra beds.

The exterior of the main A-frame has been painted a farmhouse white, which gives the old log cabin a fresh and modern vibe. Inside, though, its retro style is embraced. There’s nary a surface that’s not polished log. Even the spiral staircase that leads to another three rooms and bathroom, is made of smooth, glazed wood plank steps.

This isn’t the most secluded cabin. You might hear the neighbors whacking weeds or mowing their lawns, or you might find a constant companion in the yellow Lab that lives next door. But this retreat among post oaks still gets you close to the serene lakeshore and far from the incessant ping of your email inbox. —Rosin Saez

The Details

  • Reservations: Click here to book a stay
  • Drive time: 2 hours
  • Cost per night: $359–$649
  • The specs: 6 bedrooms/3 baths, sleeps 19
  • Pets: Not allowed
  • Best read: Circe, Madeline Miller’s retelling of the titular Greek goddess who harnessed the power of nature
  • Picnic to pack: Stop on your way at Local Yocal Farm to Market for wagyu beef bacon and pasture-raised eggs for breakfast; Empire Baking Company sourdough and local honey and jam for afternoon sandwiches; and wagyu McKinney steaks, asparagus, and russet bakers for dinner. Throw in some beer from local Tupps Brewery, and don’t forget Sweetie’s cheesecakes for dessert.

 

Shipping Container Home

Mabank, Texas

1 hour drive   ☀   $200+/night


Out of habit, I wake with the sunrise. Through the large west-facing bedroom window, I can see a haze of fog rising from Cedar Creek Reservoir. Great blue herons stand fishing in the shallows while largemouth bass jump for their breakfast a little farther out.

The house started with a single shipping container, and then it was expanded to double the square footage and add a rooftop deck. It’s the labor of love of two Dallas couples—Annie and Cameron Weldon, and Elizabeth and Kevin Blair. Kevin, a Dallas real estate agent with Compass, was able to snatch it up off-market. The couples recently bought a second property 15 minutes down the road. It also sits on the water but is designed for larger groups (up to 10).

Elizabeth Lavin
Elizabeth Lavin
The kitchen is fully stocked, and rooms are outfitted with Roku smart TVs. You’ll want to bring firewood for the fire pit, charcoal for the grill, water shoes for the kayaks, and binoculars for the waterfowl.

I make a pot of coffee and sit with a cup on the patio before portaging one of the two provided kayaks down to the water’s edge. It is quiet except for the low hum of early-morning traffic over the Main Street bridge, on the north end of this fork of the lake. The water is calm, so I head upstream in that direction, past a few weekend cottages and tidy single-wides.

As I paddle under the road, a gulp of swallows erupts from the mouths of their mud nests, tucked amid the beams. It’s a preview of the full-on nature documentary taking place on the other side, as the scattered lake houses and lawn chairs along the shore are replaced by open farmland and grazing cattle. Dozens of large fish (crappies?) violently splash (spawn?) in the aquatic vegetation. Three pairs of white pelicans leave their perches to leisurely cruise the lake and are soon followed by a raft of black ducks. (Black scoters? American coots?) Alexa can’t help me now.

This isn’t a fancy part of the lake, but it has plenty of its own treasures on this fork less traveled. I just need to figure out what they’re called. —Kathy Wise

The Details

  • Reservations: Click here to book a stay
  • Drive time: 1 hour
  • Cost per night: $200+
  • The specs: 3 bedrooms/2 baths, sleeps 5
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Best Read: The Box, economist Marc Levison’s account of how shipping containers changed the world
  • Picnic to pack: Place your order online with Bonton Farms for some house-made biscuits and honey butter for breakfast; a Swiss chard and sausage quiche for lunch; Hassle Cattle Co. wagyu steaks and fresh herbs and vegetables for dinner; and some house-made chocolate chip cookies to enjoy with coffee or bourbon by the fire.
In The Heights: Pack bug spray, closed-toe shoes, long pants, and a rain jacket. But don’t get weighed down: whether you’re staying in the Majestic Oak or Bare Creek Hollow treehouse (pictured), whatever you bring in must be carried up.
Elizabeth Lavin

Creekside Treehouse

Celeste, Texas

1.25 hour drive   ☀  $230 weekdays or $260 weekends


I loved the Disney classic Swiss Family Robinson when I was young, which meant I was a child besotted with treehouses. Susan and Ron Van Volkenburgh may not have been so enamored, but five years ago they bought a parcel of land with two treehouses and turned it into a spot for events, weddings, and sleeping in trees.   

Perched above a creek, the Bare Creek Hollow treehouse looks like a full-size farmhouse dropped straight out of the sky, with a balcony sporting an antique rocking chair high above the creek. The Majestic Oak treehouse, meanwhile, curls around a 200-year-old oak. Its central living space hugs the trunk, while a bathroom with a glass-enclosed shower and bedroom with sliding windows are set on other limbs, nestled in the surrounding canopy.

This is the one for me.   

The swooping, upward-slanting walkway that climbs to the doorstep is like something out of the movie. In the central room, there’s a kitchenette and French doors that open onto a trampoline-like net, which isn’t for bouncing but a reminder that you can lie in the forest’s embrace, suspended 25 feet above the ground.

Elizabeth Lavin
Elizabeth Lavin
Perched above a creek, the Bare Creek Hollow treehouse looks like a full-size farmhouse dropped straight out of the sky, with a balcony sporting an antique rocking chair high above the creek.

Taking in the digs, we ride a vintage tandem cruiser past the herb garden and greenhouse, past the tufts of the lavender field (there’s a wedding chapel yonder, in a clearing) and the duck pond (we’ll paddle later in the single canoe). At dinnertime, we help feed the goats, the fuzzy donkey, the geese, and the chickens, whose henhouse is a replica of our treetop abode. Later, we soak in the hot tub (at ground level) with a bottle of wine and watch lightning fork across a sky that would otherwise be filled with stars.

That night, the raindrops will trickle along ingeniously placed gutters girding the sturdy tree trunk as we channel our childhood and sleep, rather than in the primary bedroom, in the crow’s nest in sleeping bags under the aluminum roof. It’s magical to be this close to the elements. Forget the Robinsons; now we’re tree sprites. —Eve Hill-Agnus

The Details

  • Reservations: Click here to book a stay
  • Drive time: 1.25 hours
  • Cost per night: $230 weekdays or $260 weekends for 2 guests; extra guests are an additional $15 for children or $20 for adults
  • The specs: Bare Creek Hollow sleeps 4 (or 6 with air mattresses); Majestic Oak sleeps 7
  • Pets: Not allowed, except for registered service animals
  • Best Read: The Overstory, Richard Powers’ Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that exalts trees
  • Picnic to pack: Stop at Patina Green for sandwiches—their roasted cauliflower or famous ham and cheese—and sides like a vinegary, mustardy potato salad or chile-laced slaw; locally made pasta; and pillowy house focaccia. Just around the corner is Emporium Pies; a whole pie might even last until breakfast.
Sarah and Paul were avid Airstreamers themselves when Sarah had the idea four years ago to build what she couldn’t find: her dream RV park.
Elizabeth Lavin

Vintage Trailer Resort

Ennis, Texas

30 minute drive   ☀   $594+/three nights


The bar at The Range Vintage Trailer Resort is fittingly situated in a converted 1959 Airstream with a mirror shine. After bellying up to the counter, we are about to order a couple of Range Waters when we spot Paul’s Rum Surprise on the menu. In addition to being the bartender, Paul is married to Sarah Beauregard, the former Dallas-based marketer who came up with the idea for this place. We figure he knows a good thing when he sees it. So we opt for the Surprise.

Our cocktails match the color of the setting sun behind the windmill-fed swimming pool. We sit on a hay bale and sip as others begin to arrive for the Saturday night dinner of espresso-crusted filets and horseradish whipped potatoes prepared by Keith Browning, whose weekday gig is serving as the executive chef at The Meat Shop in Dallas.

A young man with the most beautiful German shepherd I’ve ever seen and an older woman with silver hair and a matching sparkly silver blouse make small talk about where they’ve been and where they are headed in their respective Airstreams. It feels like we are eavesdropping on a secret nomadic world, untethered by mortgages or foundations.

Sarah and Paul were avid Airstreamers themselves when Sarah had the idea four years ago to build what she couldn’t find: her dream RV park. One that only let vintage models inside, so as not to junk up the place with modern behemoths. One that was set on a 30-acre wooded property along Ennis’ bluebonnet trails, where the lots could all be spaced at least 100 feet apart and each have its own raised patio with a handcrafted picnic table, propane-fueled fire pit, bronze-colored Weber grill, and shaded hammock under string lights.

The Range has only been open a year, but the Beauregards have already anticipated their guests’ every need. They built a cedar timber barn big enough to host weddings, dug a pond for fishing, and added a laundry and bathhouse for when guests want to wash their capsule wardrobes or take more spacious showers.

As Sarah describes it, The Range VTR had a slow opening. Like, real slow. Due to the pandemic, the Beauregards chose to limit the number of trailer rentals and the length of stays from Thursday to Sunday, allowing the couple ample time to air them out and disinfect them between guests. But it has been a blessing in disguise, giving visitors the luxury of added time and space, which has led to numerous repeat bookings.
Elizabeth Lavin

There are seven converted trailers to rent for those who don’t have their own, ranging from a 1953 Boles Aero to a 1966 Shasta, with more on the way. They are all impeccably furnished, and Sarah is quick to add a welcoming touch, dropping off a grazing box or offering to make a run to the Bristol General Store for jalapeño-laden sushi and noodles.

Tonight, there is no need for takeout. After dinner, we gather around a campfire where Browning’s wife is dishing out blackberry and peach cobbler from a cast-iron skillet. In the glow of the coals (and a few more Rum Surprises), there is a great deal of laughter and some debate about the best places to roam. But these well-traveled wanderers all agree: they have never before found a place quite like this. —Kathy Wise

The Details

  • Reservations: Click here to book a stay
  • Drive Time: 30 minutes
  • Cost per night: Open sites, $98; vintage trailer rentals, $594+ for three nights, Thursday to Sunday
  • The specs: Sleeps 1–4, depending on the model
  • Pets: Allowed on-site, but not in the property’s vintage trailers
  • Best Read: Nomadland, the nonfiction book by Jessica Bruder that inspired the Oscar-winning movie
  • Picnic to Pack: Place your order online with Profound Foods for Bean Life coffee and Lenore’s Handmade poppy seed bagels (pack a toaster and French press); Along Came Tamale’s chicken tomatillo tamales; and A Bar N Ranch wagyu rib-eyes. Add a bottle of Dude, Sweet Chocolate’s One Night Stand Potiona mix of reposado tequila, agave, and dark chocolateto pour in your evening coffee by the propane-fueled fire pit.
All Wright: This modern home’s rear wall of floor-to-ceiling windows was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laurent House in Illinois.
Elizabeth Lavin

A Mid-Mod Pad

Granbury, Texas

1.5 hour drive   ☀   $161+/night


There are vacation rentals that have been spiffed up with basic creature comforts—decent toilet paper, secondhand games with pieces missing, knives so dull you’re wondering if the Swiss Army blade in the car can chop onions. Then there’s Agave House, a crisp-white little rambler that sits on a quiet curve of creek in a quaint Granbury ’hood.

Jamie Alexander and her family paddle the creek often, and they first spied the home’s back façade of endless windows from their kayak. Last spring, they spied a “for sale” sign. The home was built around 2008, but it’s got an old soulwith good reason. The original homeowners were inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laurent House in Illinois, where a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows embraces the natural surroundings. Here, too, the outdoors feels like a cinematic story from behind the glass.

Atop a cushy chaise on the deck, coffee in hand, I watch migratory waterfowl dip and dive into the water below. Cardinals dash blurs of red from tree branch to bush. A black cat across the way tumbles down a slope of grass to find a prime sun-basking spot. Life moves peacefully.

The home was built around 2008, but it’s got an old soul.
Elizabeth Lavin

Inside, Alexander took design cues from her trips to Palm Springs. Which is to say, there is a strategic use of pink paint and palm leaf motifs in one bathroom. Whereas other Granbury Airbnbs may tend toward the rustic and antique, Agave House adheres to a midcentury modern aesthetic.

Every nook has its own character and purpose, like the cozy hangout space with a couch, games (all pieces intact!), and a vinyl record player. The kitchen is stocked with complimentary snacks, plenty of dishes, and cutting boards. You won’t find a tin of stale coffee grounds but instead beans, a grinder, and a clean French press. It may seem like small matters, but I’ve been in enough Airbnbs to curse myself for not packing my whole cookery arsenal. This kind of attention to detail paired with a strong design point of view is what makes Agave House feel like home. In California. —Rosin Saez

The Details

  • Reservations: Click here to book a stay
  • Drive Time: 1.5 hours
  • Cost per night: $161+
  • The specs: 2 bedrooms (3 beds, sleeps 5)/2 baths
  • Pets: Not allowed
  • Best read: Mary Oliver’s Upstream, a collection of essays and meditations on the natural world
  • Picnic to Pack: Stop at C&J Butchers for chicken breakfast sausage, already smoked baby back pork ribs, Berkshire Heritage tomahawk pork chops, and stuffed mushrooms. Throw in some Slaton Bakery vanilla wafers for a sweet snack in the canoe.

Tiny Homes on Lake Texoma

Pottsboro, Texas

2 hour drive   ☀  ~$119-$129/night


I spent the first 18 years of my life vacationing solely in tents. It runs in the family; my great-grandfather owned a canvas tent company. But sometimes a girl gets tired of waking up in the morning and being told to wipe the condensation and mud off the tarp with paper towels to keep the mildew at bay. A solid roof, air conditioning, and a place to plug in my hair dryer (no cellphones back then) were the amenities of my dreams.

Paradise on Lake Texoma is designed to satisfy everyone from camping purists to finicky teens. There’s a walk-in primitive camping area in addition to seven sites with picnic tables and power hookups. There are 50 fully outfitted RV sites, just steps from the lake. There are a few dated cabins and the Paradise Express, a converted train car with a couple of basic bedrooms and bathrooms. But the newest and cutest options are the tiny “kasitas” and “kabanas.”

Kabanas have queen beds and are set on the waterfront. The efficiently designed kasitas have child-size lofts and a lake view. Both are air-conditioned, and the bathhouse is just a short walk away.
Elizabeth Lavin

Each mod unit has its own cozy patio and seating area overlooking the lake; an all-in-one barbecue station with a charcoal grill and sink connected to a hose; a fire pit; and a simply furnished interior with a mini fridge, Bluetooth speaker, USB charging station, and a small air conditioning and heating unit. Kabanas are outfitted with a queen bed; kasitas have a king-size daybed and a child-size sleeping loft. A bathhouse with showers is just up the drive.

There’s a protected cove with a sandy beach around the corner, and stand-up paddleboards and kayaks are available for rent. There’s not much in the way of hiking on-site, but just to the south is Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, where you’ll find a number of nature trails ranging from less than a mile to nearly 6 miles round-trip. They traverse native prairie and bottomland hardwood forests, and offer plenty of bird-watching and wildflower viewing opportunities.

Save for the potential for wild boar encounters, my teenage self would be jealous. —Kathy Wise

The Details

  • Reservations: Click here to book a stay
  • Drive time: 2 hours
  • Cost per night: $119 average for kasitas; $129 average for kabanas
  • The specs: Kasitas sleep 2 adults and 1 child comfortably; kabanas sleep 2; bathrooms are separate
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Best Read:Wild Boar, Dorothy Yamamoto’s study of the beasts from England’s forests to Tokyo’s streets
  • Picnic to Pack: Stop at Sara’s Market & Bakery for fresh plums and yogurt for breakfast; whole wheat pitas, baba ghanouj, and feta for lunch; lamb chops and fresh fava bean pods for grilling; and halal marshmallows, graham crackers, and European chocolate for s’mores.

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