The Texas Lakes Trail is made up of 31 counties in North Central Texas, and it's where you can find the best of both worlds — rural and urban, small town and big city.
Anchored by Dallas-Fort Worth, the Lakes Trail boasts a mix of world-renowned museums, historic downtowns, and Western culture in addition to great shopping, dining, and events.
Put these five historic Lakes Trail destinations on your short list, because each one also happens to have an impressive downtown square with a beautifully restored courthouse, thanks to the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program.
With the Hood County Courthouse and its three-story clock tower keeping watch over Historic Granbury Square, it's no surprise that this was the first courthouse square in Texas to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The imposing French Second Empire-style courthouse was designed in 1890 by prolific Texas architect W.C. Dodson.
There are more historical gems to be found downtown, too. For one, the 1886 Granbury Opera House has been restored to its original glory and hosts Granbury Theater Company productions throughout the year.
The square also boasts a variety of restaurants, bars, a thriving art scene, museums, and specialty shopping.
You can also throw it back to the fab '50s at the Brazos Drive-In Theater, which was built in 1952 and has been in continuous operation as one of a handful of drive-ins left in the state.
After your screen time, stop for a bite along the Granbury "Eat Where the Locals Eat" Foodie Trail. Word to the wise: The toasted pretzel ice cream sandwich at Silver Saddle Saloon is a great nightcap.
Five miles outside of Granbury, in Acton, look for a statue of Davy Crockett's second wife, Elizabeth Crockett; it marks her burial site and pays tribute to the widow of one of the nation's most celebrated folk heroes.
Home to the longest floating boardwalk in Texas (just under a mile over Lake Weatherford!) and the longest bar in Texas (at Old School Texas West), Weatherford already flaunts some seriously fun cred.
Add to that a nature-lover’s oasis at the Clark Gardens Botanical Park — with its lush blooms, sparkling waterfalls, and wandering peacocks — and you have a good place to get outside of big-city limits.
There’s also a growing downtown shopping, dining, and arts scene in Weatherford, centered by the iconic 1886 Parker County Courthouse, which was likewise designed by W.C. Dodson in a style similar to his courthouses in Hood, Hill, and Lampasas counties.
The Paris, Texas film, a deep and dramatic portrait of America that swept the awards at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, imbued this small Texas town with a stylishly avant-garde aura all its own — despite the fact that the entire movie was shot elsewhere.
And while the second-largest replica of the real Eiffel Tower (the first is in Vegas) is a popular photo opp, don’t sleep on the Lamar County Courthouse that was built in 1916. It’s regal in its own right with its Classical Revival design and marble and pink granite exterior.
The restored 1926 Plaza Theater hosts popular productions from the Paris Community Theater. Another gem is the 1867 Sam Bell Maxey House State Historic Site, where you can take a tour of the dramatic High Victorian Italianate style.
Because this is Paris, a croissant is in order, and Paris Bakery has the best around in addition to many other treats, baked goods, and Friday night pizza.
This charming town combines past and present, where you can explore one of the most important cattle driving trails at The Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum, cast a line for some of the best bass fishing around at the 1,500-acre Lake Pat Cleburne, or go for a ride at Cleburne State Park, which has built a lofty reputation for having some of the best mountain biking trails in Texas.
For a dose of arts and culture, attend a musical at the Plaza Theatre Company or head to the Gone With the Wind Remembered Museum to explore one of the world’s largest collections of the movie’s memorabilia.
Downtown, look for Cleburne’s 1913 Johnson County Courthouse, which was commissioned to be built in a Classical Revival style with Prairie-style elements after the 1883 courthouse burned down. The architects Lang and Witchell were seen as progressive for their time, shying away from the traditional and “safe” Beaux-Arts and Late Victorian styles — and you can really see the difference.
You should know that Waxahachie’s legendary Ellis County Courthouse, completed in 1897, is the most photographed courthouse in the state of Texas. So it’s definitely worth a shot for its historic, castle-like vibes and its clock tower that rises nine stories. There's also some local lore about the stone carvings of faces on the building’s four porches, which are characteristic of the Romanesque style. Do they tell the story of unrequited love?! Maybe, maybe not.
In “Hachie,” you’ll also love the vibrant, authentic small-town vibes and the historic streets that are lined with hundreds of beautiful pink crape myrtle trees that are celebrated every year during July’s Crape Myrtle Festival.
A newer attraction on the downtown scene, Railyard Park has an amphitheater with a large, covered stage for concerts, performances, fitness events, and more. The community gathering place also has places for picnics, a sensory music garden, food trucks, historic appreciation areas, and more.
Learn more about the history — and the hot spots — in the Lakes Trail region here.