Why Spend a Weekend in Fort Davis?
Spending a weekend in Fort Davis, Texas is the perfect way to explore and experience the central region of West Texas. There is a long and storied past here, and it has something for everyone. Need I say more?
Perhaps, if you aren’t sure why you should be interested in visiting this corner of the world- yes. Well, if nothing else, Fort Davis is home to the aptly named Fort Davis National Historic Site. So, if you are like me and you are trying to visit as many national park units as possible, this little town is a must-stop. If you aren’t on that quest, but you enjoy traveling in ways that allow you enjoy nature and culture/history around the world, then Fort Davis has a great mix of the two.
If you aren’t interested in either of those… well, why are you here?! But seriously, even if you prefer to just relax when you travel, and perhaps you want to sample some wine and do some people watching- Fort Davis has you. The Veranda Historic Inn was super relaxing with its beautiful building, caring owner, and steady provision of tea/cookies. And you’ve got Chateau Wright just outside of town!
So, in short, the only thing you won’t get here is a white sand beach holiday. So… what are you waiting for? Let’s plan your weekend in Fort Davis.
Where to Stay – The Veranda Historic Inn
I loved the Veranda Historic Inn, and I think you will too. I would 100% suggest that you book a room here when you visit Fort Davis.
When I was able to visit in 2021, the Veranda was a small business where I truly felt the attention to detail and care for guests that their website describes. When I arrived (and every day that I was there) I was surprised to find homemade cookies waiting for me. After hiking to the high point of Texas and driving for more than 4 hours, I immediately tucked in and coupled them with tea (which was always available- along with coffee).
Due to COVID, breakfast in the dining room was cancelled, but unlike the big chains, Veranda decided to pack every guest a high-quality breakfast based on selections that you made every day and they delivered it to your room. I looked forward to this food every single day. Breakfast included homemade goodies, and everything else was characteristically placed with care. I loved snuggling up in bed with my beautiful breakfast each morning of my stay.
The Veranda is also a truly historic place to spend a weekend in Fort Davis. The building itself is more than 130 years old and it has gone by many names. For travelers like me who enjoy historic hotels, the Veranda has the just the qualities that you are looking for. It’s classic in all the right ways, with old (but cared for) furnishings that allow you to almost imagine that you are living back in the time of frontier adventurers. I also loved the courtyard, which is full of plant life, and a little piggy. And of course, the veranda itself is beautiful. The perfect place to relax in the sun and just watch the world go by.
For people who are a little less certain about historic settings, every room and part of the guest experience is handled with warmness and care. Yes, there are a few things that are aged here, but there is no chain hotel that can beat the heart of Veranda.
Give this place a chance and support a great small business- you won’t regret it. Just be sure to get reservations ahead of time! There are only 10 rooms here and word on the street is that in better years, people love and return to this beautiful spot. (I know why now!)
What to Do In Town
I’m going to be honest, Fort Davis is a very small town. In fact, they don’t even have any stop lights there, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find plenty to do in town or just down the street.
Fort Davis National Historic Site
For you national park buffs out there, this one is for you! Right in Fort Davis is the Fort Davis National Historic site. As the name might suggest, you can visit the old, frontier fort here. There are buildings in various states of reconstruction or preserved disrepair, but you get a very good sense of what life was like at the fort from exploring the grounds.
Things were a little bit limited when I did my weekend in Fort Davis due to COVID as well as some updating that they were doing to their exhibit spaces. But even so, there was plenty to do. I enjoyed walking the grounds; the historic buildings are beautiful, particularly the officer homes. And the natural setting surrounding the fort is both lovely and stark. It’s not hard to imagine the difficult lives of the men and women that called this place home.
In particular, I connected with the stories that you can follow through the park towards the old hospital. They cover a few different people who had lived at the fort and either got sick or injured; then their treatment (or lack thereof) and the what happened to them. It was heartbreaking, and maybe not the most expected thing, but I thought that these stories were a powerful way to connect you to the place and the people that used to call Fort Davis home.
Shopping, Wine, and People Watching
For the people watchers and vacation relaxers (and anyone else!), your weekend in Fort Davis should include some time to stroll the main street. An easy 10 minute walk from one end to the other, there were plenty of cute little shops and restaurants to visit even during COVID times. When things are safe again, there will be even more to do. Stop by one of the town coffee shops and hang out for a bit. Shop for local arts and crafts. And grab a bite to eat. Fort Davis is a great example of beautiful small town America.
If you’d like to relax even more, just outside of town is Chateau Wright where you can enjoy some fresh air with a glass (or bottle of wine). The grapes come right from there- so you will get a taste of Texas! Word is that there is also a food truck stationed there with some very good eats.
Hiking Near Fort Davis
There is plenty of nice hiking in this area, which makes a weekend in Fort Davis perfect for anyone else like me that likes to hit the trails while traveling.
I went and did the Madera Canyon Trail which is about 2.4 miles round trip through the Davis Mountains Preserve of the Nature Conservancy. This short adventure wasn’t particularly strenuous (which I appreciated having just summited the Texas highpoint the day before), but it was delightfully varied. You will cross through a riparian area, and then walk up to the top of a plateau. The environment here reminded me of the arid forests that grow in Arizona between the desert and the higher elevations of our state. Short shrubby trees, grasses, and ephemeral water sources. It’s also free to hike here!
If you are looking for more trails with longer options, you can check out the Davis Mountains State Park. It is $6 per adult to recreate at this park, but it is close to town and will keep you busy for a while if you plan on exploring some of the higher mileage trails.
The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center is about 7 minutes south of town and it has 5 miles of hiking trails as well as a nature center and botanical gardens. This makes it a great spot to learn more about the ecology of the Chichuahuan desert. This is the perfect stop for families, couples, and solo travelers spending the weekend in Fort Davis. It is also very affordable to visit! Just $6.50 per person.
Astronomy at the McDonald Observatory
Just around the bend from the Davis Mountains Preserve (about 50 min or so out of Fort Davis) is the McDonald Observatory. Whether you are interested in learning more about scientific telescopes or want to go to a star party, they got you covered. You can visit the museum during the day for $3.00 and you can get a joint museum ticket/tour of the telescopes for $10.00 (you will need reservations). For the tour, you will start you adventure from the museum, so get there about 30 min before your tour time so you can explore the museum and run to the bathroom. Then you will head up the hill with your guide to the scopes.
There are some amazing views from the top! And the tour guides do a great job teaching you as much as they can about the science of astronomy. Honestly, it may be a bit disappointing to some to not go inside, but even the outside of these buildings are impressive. In post-COVID times, you will be able to go into the telescopes again most likely, since they are primarily gathering data at night.
Since this small town is remote, no weekend in Fort Davis would be complete without a night enjoying the stars. Of course, you can do this on your own just outside of town. But if you want someone to guide you through the night sky, consider the McDonald Observatory’s star parties or nighttime programs.
Respectful Travel to Fort Davis
No matter where you are going, it is absolutely essential that you respect and care for the people and places that you visit. It is important to put the well-being of local people and their community before your enjoyment (but not your safety). What I mean is, please don’t do things that will ruin local quality of life. Here are a few little tips for respecting local people and this destination.
(1) Stay safe! When it comes to exploring nature, you keeping yourself safe keeps everyone else safe as well! Wilderness rescues are expensive and are dangerous for the rescuers. Of course, accidents happen, and rescuers are there to help, but do what you can to protect yourself. Wear good shoes, hike only when the weather is good, bring food and water, and always let someone know where you are going.
(2) Be polite. No matter where you come from, being extra careful, patient, and polite while traveling is important. Do not litter. Drive the speed limit, give people the benefit of the doubt when it is safe to do so, and leave residents’ homes alone. For more information on respectful travel in the US, take a look at our guide!
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