Take a break from the routine of big-city life and get outdoors to enjoy all the glory of a stunning Texas prairie. Only 40 minutes outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Cleburne has a pastoral, country setting that makes it your adventure playground in North Texas. All businesses are open and social distancing is easy—and doesn’t have to ruin the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful summer weather.
Swimming and sunbathing are obvious musts at Lake Pat Cleburne, but you can (and should) easily explore the area by camping, paddling, hiking, biking, fishing and golfing—not to mention the town’s museums and live music. Known for beautiful skies and wide-open spaces, Cleburne is a haven if you’re looking to spend your summer vacation outdoors with minimal interaction.
Treat yourself to this stunning landscape by taking advantage of these seven outdoor activities in Cleburne.
1. Visit an outdoor museum.
Experience history without ever stepping foot indoors. The Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum & Big Bear Native American Museum have al fresco exhibits that can be enjoyed in nature on the shores of Lake Pat Cleburne. The Chisholm Trail was a famous path used to drive cattle over land in the late 19th century and is commemorated at this museum as an experience of early Western settlers. Check out the working blacksmith shop, a stagecoach, 1800s schoolhouse, teepees and the original Johnson County courthouse. They’ve also added a deck for bird watchers for budding ornithologists looking to check more species off their list.
The Big Bear Native American Museum boasts a collection of Native American artifacts that date back 13,000 years ago. The property is named after Leonard "Big Bear" Beal, a local who studied Native American history and donated his vast collection to the museum. There are plenty of grounds outside to peruse.
2. Go fish!
Looking to hook flathead catfish, crappie or white bass? Whether you’re drift fishing, or casting from brush piles or shallow-diving crankbaits fished on the riprap, Lake Pat Cleburne is the perfect 1,500-acre body of water to do it all just east of Cleburne. There are boat ramps on either side of the lake and bank fishing access for all kinds of anglers.
Tip: Cedar Lake in Cleburne State Park also allows guests to borrow fishing gear and catch freshwater favorites like largemouth bass and more—no license required.
3. Enjoy hiking and biking.
With flat, open spaces and rolling hills, Cleburne becomes the ultimate destination for cycling and biking. Feel the cool air rush by as you speed along trails and across wooden ramps.
Each July, the annual Goatneck Bike Ride usually attracts 2,000 riders from around the country. This year it will be a virtual ride due to the pandemic, but you can join along from afar and come for the real thing in 2021.
If walking is your thing, take a stroll along Buffalo Creek Trail, where a paved walking path winds along a picturesque creek. Historic markers will guide you through the area’s storied past. For those looking to amp up their hiking or biking experience, Cleburne State Park has 5.5 miles of bike trails throughout the 28-acre park. The park’s 116-acre spring-fed lake is a Zen-filled backdrop for those looking to get out in nature.
4. Cool down.
Swimming at Lake Pat Cleburne is a rite of passage during summertime. The cool waters are enjoyed by swimmers, sunbathers and jet-skiers alike. Likewise, there’s no need to fret over the little ones at Cedar Lake, thanks to its shallow areas that are perfect for families and groups to swim and play in. And since it’s only 30 minutes southwest of Fort Worth, you could be relaxing at the shore in no time.
If you’ve got kiddos, throw on your bathing suit and head to Splash Station, a waterpark attached to Hulen Park with a lazy river, whirlpool, water playgrounds and the Aqua Climb rock wall.
Paddling has been such a popular activity during the pandemic that kayaks and canoes are sold out everywhere. Instead of buying your own, the Friends of Cleburne State Park have recently installed a self-service rental machine with single and double kayaks, plus paddleboards. Paddlers can choose between two- and four-hour rentals and get out on the water for the day.
Paddlers will also find kayak rentals by Chisholm Trail Kayaking Adventures set up next to the deck at Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum.
5. Tee off.
Looking to hit the links this summer? Cleburne Golf Links sits on the banks of Lake Pat Cleburne. Take in the view of the water as you tee off to play 18 holes on a par-72 course. Even if putting is more your style of play, there’s a course for you. Leon Howard designed this course around the hilly terrain of Lake Pat Cleburne, making it both a challenging and visually interesting experience.
6. See live music.
Songbird Live is hosting its Songbird Summer Series at Fly By Night Cattle Co. and Steakhouse. For $60, guests are treated to dinner and a show with acts like Buddy Whittington Band, Rhett Butler and Cowboy Swing. There are four shows scheduled for the season. With plenty of space, the restaurant is able to socially distance tables and put measures in place to keep guests safe. Concertgoers can choose between tenderloin steak or chicken, with a bunch of sides and an open bar.
7. Dine al fresco.
Meals are served with a view in Cleburne, with many restaurants boasting outdoor patios and decks. If you’d rather order take-out or to-go and dine outside in beautiful, wide-open spaces, that’s available too.
La Cima Mexican Cuisine is a Mexican-food lover’s favorite, offering takeout as well as outdoor seating on its expansive deck. Sit outside with a glass of sangria, pitcher of margarita or cold brew and devour their chimichangas, indulgent flautitas or a lovely plate of salmon veracruz served with cilantro fried rice.
Loaf’n Dog is another local favorite. They have outdoor seating out back, as well as carryout options. Although they have creative daily specials, their Texas Dog with grilled jalapenos, barbecue sauce and Casey dog with chili and nacho cheese already has our mouths watering. They even have a two-foot long dog for those so inclined!
In October, Market Days at Market Square will resume on Main Street in historic downtown Cleburne. Hosted by the parks and recreation department, this annual event is an outdoor bazaar with over 20 vendors selling homemade and handcrafted items. It’s a good time to grab some local delicacies and then sit on a park bench or on the grass and enjoy lunch outside.
Whether you’re looking for contact-free curbside takeaway, delivery or outdoor seating on its deck, Black Sheep Baa and Grill is appealing to those social distancing and missing the restaurant experience. Their fresh black Angus burger with cheese and bacon is scrumptious, and if you need a pick-me-up, put a sunny-side-up egg on it! Texas specialties such as chicken fried steak share the menu with fried or grilled shrimp dishes. Translation: There’s something for everyone on this all-American grill menu.
Heroes Café is also doing curbside pick-up and delivery for those who want to make their next outdoor picnic perfect. A spacious patio outside the front door allows patrons to social distance while enjoying their famous Mama and Pappy spuds—huge potatoes covered with meats, cheese and homemade ranch sauce.
There are plenty of other ways to connect with nature and social distance in Cleburne, Texas. From a driving tour through historic homes to driving a boat across our waters, and everything in between, explore this stunning area that’s only a short drive from the hustle and bustle of city life in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington and Irving.