Like many people who have had a reason to traverse I-35 many times in their life, I’ve driven through Gainesville dozens, if not hundreds of times–but it took until I was an adult to finally stop to explore the best things to do in Gainesville, TX!
It’s too that bad I waited so long, though: whether you’re on a road trip and looking for a place to stretch your legs for a couple of hours or are planning a weekend getaway, there are plenty of interesting Gainesville attractions to keep you busy.
Here’s what to do in Gainesville, Texas!
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The Best Things to Do in Gainesville, TX
Stroll through Gainesville’s Courthouse Square.
Pull into Gainesville’s Courthouse Square, and you may be surprised at how closely this beautiful place lies to I-35!
As the seat of Cooke County, Gainesville boasts an impressive square, lined with bustling shops and restaurants.
We’re personally partial to the Red Fox Lounge, which makes great use of space by operating as a coffee shop in the morning and a wine bar in the evenings.
Learn some local history at the Morton Museum of Cooke County.
The 19th-century building housing this small county museum–especially its gorgeous stained glass skylight–is a Gainesville attraction in and of itself!
For genealogy researchers and history buffs, the museum’s archives also hold plenty of interest.
The Morton Museum is also responsible for many beloved Gainseville events throughout the year, including the December Holiday Historic Home Tour when some of Gainesville’s most beautiful Victorian homes are opened to visitors.
… and at the Santa Fe Depot Museum.
What do the railroad, the Gainesville Community Circus, and Coca-Cola have in common?
There are historical artifacts from each of them on display at the Santa Fe Depot Museum in Gainesville, TX!
The museum has fairly limited hours (10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, Tuesday through Friday), but if you happen to be in town when it’s open, be sure to stop by.
Explore the sights at Leonard Park.
The centerpiece of relaxation in the city, exploring Leonard Park belongs on any list of what to do in Gainesville–especially for visitors who happen to be visiting Gainesville with kids!
The Frank Buck Zoo and the Frankie Schmitz Express Train–a working 1/4 sized replica of a steam train–are cherished favorites of local children.
All standard park features, from shaded picnic tables to a playground, can also be found at Leonard Park.
Check into the Lancaster Manor Bed and Breakfast.
For those hoping to enjoy a romantic getaway in Gainesville or those who simply prefer to sleep surrounded by history, you can’t go wrong with a stay at the Lancaster Manor Bed and Breakfast while in Gainesville!
Housed in a Spanish Victorian mansion dating to 1886, each one of Lancaster Manor’s four rooms is a fantastic retreat in the heart of Gainesville.
Lancaster Manor gets rave reviews thanks to the gorgeous property, delicious food on offer, and prime location.
Go wine tasting at nearby vineyards.
Gainesville may not be the first Texas town that comes to mind when you think about local vineyards, but there are plenty of beautiful places with delicious wines to choose from!
In the region dubbed the “North Texas Hill Country”, you won’t find a shortage of gorgeous vineyards in picturesque settings near Gainesville.
… And those are barely scratching the surface!
Keep in mind that most wineries in this area are not open all week, so plan a weekend trip to Gainesville if you want to make the most of them.
Snap photos with the curious brick chess statues along I-35.
If you’ve driven past Gainesville before, you’ve no doubt noticed the giant brick statues resembling chess pieces that stand, seemingly rather randomly, right off the highway.
These statues are actually positioned at the entrance to a ranch–you can read more about the artist and how the statues came to be in Gainesville here–and there is plenty of room off the feeder to safely pull over and snap a photo with them!
After spending most of my life curious about them, I finally pulled over recently in order to see them for myself.
They’re incredibly tall up close!
Try the famous Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies.
Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies may technically be an Oklahoma food, rather than a Texas one, but they have something of a cult following in the region and are worth a taste!
Picture the freshest, best-made fair food that you’ve ever eaten, and that’s Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies.
They come in both sweet and savory flavors and are a crowd-pleasing road trip stop when visiting Gainesville, Texas.
Stroll through lavender fields.
Did you know that Gainesville, Texas is home to its very own lavender farm?
At Lavender Ridge Farms, you can enjoy a lavender cafe, beautiful gardens, and even cut your own lavender during the blooming season from roughly late May through July.
If you’re looking for unexpected activities in Gainesville over the summer, be sure not to miss a chance to visit Lavender Ridge Farms!
Take your furry friend to the Dog Depot at Heritage Park.
If you’re visiting Gainesville on a Texas road trip and, like us, you have a dog along, you’ll be thrilled to know that Gainesville is home to a dog park where your fur friend can run around before loading back into the car!
The park is free to visit and has separate areas for small dogs and large dogs.
Stroll the Homegrown Hero Walking Trail.
This peaceful walking trail is lined with oak trees honoring local heroes and is a lovely place for a walk.
You’ll also find a section honoring Medal of Honor recipients.
The trail project is still ongoing, and interested parties can apply for a tree to be planted in honor of a hero.
Hop over to Oklahoma to enjoy some gambling.
Gainesville’s location near the northern border of Texas means that you don’t necessarily even have to stay in the Lone Star State when exploring Gainesville attractions!
The gigantic WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma, is only a 15-minute drive from downtown Gainesville and looks for all the world like it was plucked out of Vegas and placed magically on the Oklahoma plains.
Where to Stay in Gainesville
For something historic and memorable, you can’t go wrong with a stay at Lancaster Manor Bed and Breakfast when visiting Gainesville.
Looking for something a bit more modern?
The Holiday Inn Express located right next door to Leonard Park, and the Fairfield Inn & Suites located just a bit further north along I-35, also get excellent reviews and are well-positioned for enjoying the best activities in Gainesville.
Where is Gainesville, Texas?
Gainesville, Texas is located right off of the I-35 corridor in North Texas, less than 10 miles south of the Texas/Oklahoma state line.
For that reason, exploring the best things to do in Gainesville, TX is easily combined with an I-35 road trip passing through the area!