Driving north and west from Dallas, the scenery soon turns to rolling hills and, just a bit further, to a flat frontier dotted with cacti and scrub brush.
In its oil and transportation heyday, this picturesque region saw tremendous growth and prosperity. And in Mineral Wells, Albany, and Cisco, legacies of restorative natural resources, elegant architecture, creative arts, and world-famous hospitality can still be enjoyed today.
When you arrive in downtown Mineral Wells, keep your eyes open and looking up. The city center has more than 20 vibrant murals scattered throughout. The buildings in the Mineral Wells Central Historic District — including the famous Baker Hotel and Spa, currently under renovation — have elegant architectural details that reflect its time as a popular tourist destination in the mid-20th century.
Mineral Wells’ reputation for “Crazy Water,” first drawn from a local well in 1881 and infused with rejuvenating minerals, has grown to include the Crazy Water Hotel and adjoining indoor shopping plaza. Inside it, the Crazy Water Coffee and Water Bar offers restorative waters along with standard coffee shop fare. Looking for a souvenir? The Crazy Water Company has handmade soaps, candles, and other gifts you won’t find elsewhere.
Albany is home to the stately Shackelford County Courthouse, built in 1884. The National Register of Historic Places recognized the courthouse and surrounding square for the enduring Victorian frontier architecture.
Built in 1878, Albany’s old county jail is well preserved and has been creatively repurposed as an art and history museum. The Old Jail Art Center is a destination with an impressive classic and contemporary collection and rotating exhibitions that compete with its peers in larger cities.
Fans of retro gas stations will be happy to see beautifully restored 1930s-era Sinclair and Gulf stations along Albany’s main thoroughfare.
Downtown Cisco is compact, with walkable streets, vintage signage, murals, and historic buildings. A bright and modern coffee shop, Waverly’s, also sells gifts and books. Red Gap Brewing and taproom is another place to sample Cisco’s local flavor.
Cisco has two fascinating stories. In 1818, it was home to the Mobley Hotel, the first-ever hotel purchased by Conrad Hilton — yes, of those Hiltons. Today, it stands as the Cisco Chamber of Commerce building. Inside are two preserved 1919-era rooms on display and a museum.
A few miles from Cisco’s historic downtown, find the Old Zoo Nature Trail, a decommissioned 1920s zoo turned into hiking trails. Paths wind through brushy, wild landscape overtaking structures once used for animal enclosures and now left to decay naturally. Explorers of all abilities will enjoy walking the trails or simply taking in the nature and preserved zoo buildings on the site.
Individually, these small towns are all within three hours of Dallas. A road trip visiting all three would take approximately five hours without stops. This journey guides travelers through beautiful Texas landscapes and engages with destinations that are just as unique.
Preston Hollow residents Stephanie and James Khattak founded K.Co Press to publish photography books, guides, and special editions celebrating eclectic travel and local gems and places off the beaten path in small towns in Texas and beyond.