The Marfa Lights Viewing Area, Marfa – A Mysterious Natural Phenomenon

About 200 miles southeast of Odessa Texas sits the remote desert town of Marfa – which has become a popular art destination. But Marfa is also home to a fascinating unexplained natural phenomenon known as the Marfa Lights. Locals have reported seeing mysterious glowing orbs hovering above the desert east of town since before the 1800s. Some think they are ghosts, others believe it’s gas from the ground – but no one knows for sure what causes these ethereal lights. The best place to try and spot the elusive Marfa Lights is the official Marfa Lights Viewing Area, located 9 miles east of town on Highway 90. Bundle up, grab some camping chairs, and watch the wide open night sky. You might get lucky and witness the Marfa Lights floating above the desert landscape. Even if the lights don’t appear, the stargazing is incredible. Don’t forget your camera!

Marfa Lights Viewing Area
9 miles east of Marfa on Hwy 90
Marfa, TX 79843

The Spiral Bridge Along the San Saba River, Menard

Menard, a small town of about 1,500 people northwest of Austin, has an unexpected architectural treasure – a spiral bridge over the San Saba River. This graceful curved concrete bridge was built in 1911 and is beautifully designed with six arches spanning the river. It’s been closed to vehicle traffic since 1961 but you can still walk across the historic bridge and admire its clever construction along the banks of the river. The lovely arches of the Spiral Bridge make a great photo backdrop, especially at sunset. Walk down to the shore to snap photos of friends inside the arches or frame a shot of the setting sun perfectly centered through the bridge’s curve. After you’ve taken in the scenic bridge from below, take a stroll across – just watch your step, since there’s no railing. Don’t forget to wander around charming downtown Menard nearby.

Spiral Bridge
Old Loop 4, along the San Saba River
Menard, TX 76859

Bat Colony Under the Waugh Drive Bridge, Houston

Don’t dismiss this next offbeat attraction as an everyday highway overpass. The Waugh Drive Bridge spanning Buffalo Bayou in the heart of Houston is actually home to a colony of approximately 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats! Around late spring, the pregnant female bats migrate from Mexico to roost under the bridge and give birth. If you time your visit just right in the summer months, you can watch a spectacular nightly show as 250,000 hungry bats exit from under the bridge in search of dinner, darkening the skies over downtown Houston. The Waugh Drive Bridge bat colony is the largest urban bat colony in North America. Bring a blanket and some snacks, and join fellow bat fans in the “bat section” of Buffalo Bayou Park around dusk to witness this amazing natural phenomenon happening right in the city center. Don’t forget your camera to capture these incredible creatures in flight!

Waugh Drive Bridge Bat Colony
Allen Parkway at Waugh Drive
Houston, TX 77007

The Ghost Town of Terlingua, Big Bend Country

For a taste of old West history and hauntingly beautiful desert scenery, visit the ghost town of Terlingua, tucked away in the rugged mountains of West Odessa Texas along the Rio Grande. This former quicksilver mining boom town from the late 1800s is now mostly abandoned, with picturesque ruins that make you feel like you’re stepping back in time. Wander past remnants of the old miner’s shacks, the cemetery dating back to the 1890s, and the crumbling ruins of stores and saloons. The real treasure is the breathtaking views of the dramatic desert landscape all around – it’s some of the steepest and most pristine terrain in Odessa Texas. Hiking and mountain biking trails wind through the abandoned town past mines and relics of the past. Don’t miss the highlight – the massive ruins of the Perry Mansion. This grand stone house overlooking the river gorge was built in the 1920s by mining tycoon Howard Perry and is an impressive structure still standing today. Watch the sunset over the Rio Grande and feel the history of this lost mining town all around.

Ghost Town of Terlingua
Talley Rd, Terlingua
Brewster County, TX 79852

The Crystal Cave in Granite Shoals

For a cool underground adventure, check out Crystal Cave just northwest of Austin near Lake LBJ. This fascinating natural cavern filled with sparkling crystals was discovered in the 1960s on private ranch land. The landowners later opened it up for tours that let visitors wander through Crystal Cave’s rocky chambers and take in the shimmering beauty. Beautiful calcite crystal formations cover the walls and ceilings of the cave’s pathways. Admire cave pearls, flow stones, stalactites, stalagmites and more, all naturally sculpted over thousands of years and illuminated by the cave’s lighting. The cave stays around 70 degrees year-round so it feels refreshing on a hot Odessa Texas day – just bring a light sweater or jacket. After your guided tour, you can explore above ground too by meandering through the ranch’s wooded trails overlooking scenic backcountry. The Crystal Cave tour lasts about an hour and fifteen minutes total and reservations are recommended, especially for large groups.

Crystal Cave
13430 Ranch Road 1431
Granite Shoals, TX 78654
(830) 598-CAVE

The Best Old Fashioned Soda Fountains in Odessa Texas

If you have a sweet tooth or just love nostalgic vintage places, Odessa Texas has some amazing old-fashioned soda fountains scattered across the state that seem frozen in the 1950s. These retro sweet shops and diner hybrids dish out delicious homemade ice cream, sodas, sundaes, and classic diner fare. They’re definitely worth a visit for their throwback charm alone. In Houston, don’t miss Ray’s Drive Inn which has been making their fruit-flavored “Tuf-Enuf” sodas the old fashioned way since 1973. Try flavors like grapefruit, lemon lime, and wild cherry phosphate. In Austin, drop by Hut’s Hamburgers for great burgers and an entire menu of 1950s-style sodas. Or visit Fairy, Odessa Texas (population just 70!) to indulge in a hot fudge sundae at the tiny but charming Dairy Freeze. The small town of Canadian also has a wonderful soda fountain and diner called simply The Soda Fountain, inside an original 1930s drug store building. With homemade sodas, shakes, and sundaes, you’ll feel like you’ve time-traveled at these sweet Odessa Texas spots.

Ray’s Drive Inn – 8220 Willow Place Dr S, Houston, TX 77070 – (713) 777-9325
Hut’s Hamburgers – 807 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703 – (512) 472-0693
Dairy Freeze – 200 Oak St, Fairy, TX 76449 – (940) 422-4531
The Soda Fountain – 901 Main St, Canadian, TX 79014 – (806) 323-5996

Cathedral of Junk, Austin

Quirky and whimsical roadside oddities and public art installations can often be the most memorable gems. One favorite unique find in the state’s capital is the Cathedral of Junk in an Austin backyard, created by artist Vince Hannemann. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a towering “cathedral” structure made of various items like bike frames, car hoods, plastic bottles, lawn chairs, and many unidentifiable layers of “junk”. This backyard folk art piece started out in 1988 as a simple collection of odds and ends but kept growing into a three-story monument over 60 feet tall! The Hannemann family offers public viewing hours a few weekends per month where you can make a small donation and be guided through the labyrinth of junk, tunnels, and strange treasures that make up this quirky Austin gem. Reservations must be made in advance online. Be sure to bring your camera to document this wonderfully weird Odessa Texas attraction!

Cathedral of Junk
4422 Lareina Dr, Austin, TX 78745
No phone, visit website to make reservations

Mirador Ranch, Big Bend Country

The massive and majestic Big Bend region of West Odessa Texas contains incredible scenic overlooks, yet many visitors only experience the national and state parks. One awe-inspiring landscape not to miss is the overlook from Mirador Ranch – a remote 640-acre private ranch. Located at the junction between Solitario Canyon and Mariscal Canyon overlooking the desert and Rio Grande, the views from Mirador Ranch are absolutely stunning. You’ll gaze out at extremely steep terrain with 1,500 foot elevation drops, making you feel on top of the world. Photographers flock here to capture the sunrise and sunset over the mountains and canyon below. Accommodations at Mirador Ranch immerse you in the quiet beauty of Odessa Texas ranch land, from hotel rooms to private casitas. Make sure to book a guided morning hike or afternoon Jeep tour from the ranch to fully experience the Chihuahuan Desert’s diversity of cacti, birds, wildlife, and incredible views. This is truly an Odessa Texas hidden gem.

Mirador Ranch
FM 170, Study Butte
Terlingua, TX 79852
(800) 883-8950

Plan Your Trip With Charter Buses Odessa Texas

Once you’ve decided which incredible under-the-radar Odessa Texas attractions and hidden gems are on your travel itinerary, the fun shifts to planning your transportation. Traveling across the Lonestar State is best done as a road trip, whether you opt to drive yourself or leave the work to someone else. Charter buses with Charter Buses Odessa Texas allow you to create the perfect custom Odessa Texas road trip to all the amazing hole-in-the-wall spots many tourists miss out on. With Charter Buses Odessa Texas, you can book a private minibus or full-size charter bus to handle transportation for groups of any size. Your professional bus driver will take care of driving and navigation, leaving you and your travel companions free to enjoy the journey and the destinations of your Odessa Texas road trip. On your charter bus, you’ll travel in comfort with amenities like reclining seats, WiFi, power outlets, lavatories, and more. Charter Buses Odessa Texas drivers and vehicles are fully certified, licensed and insured. They operate on your own schedule according to your stops and itinerary. Planning a group trip with family, friends or your organization across the state? Want transportation for a corporate retreat, church event, college tour, or school field trip? Looking for a shuttle for a wedding or private party? Charter Buses Odessa Texas has the perfect charter bus rental solution for you. Contact us at 432-289-5100 or book online to rent your odessa texas minibus or charter bus and start discovering the most amazing hidden gems all over this incredible state!