Texas is larger than 49 other states and many countries. Within its nearly 270,000 square miles are cultures as different from each other as nations are. From the urban skyline of Dallas to the plains of the panhandle, Texas is proud to be Texas, and Texans are a breed apart. Visitors can choose from a dizzying assortment of things to see and do, including historical locations, national landmarks, local and national sporting events, and Texas culture at its finest. Unless you plan on spending the rest of your life in the Lone Star State, you'll probably barely scratch the surface of Texas attractions on a typical vacation.

01South Padre Island Dolphin Research and Sealife Nature Center

A Dolphin watches as children look on at the Texas Aquarium Balashark / Getty Images

You've probably heard of a bird's eye view. The Dolphin Research and Sea Life Nature Center let you see the world through a dolphin's viewpoint. The center serves up a hearty portion of education and encouragement to conserve these awesome mammals. Visitors can reach out and touch various fish and other marine life in the touch tanks and behold the beauty of crabs, starfish, and other denizens of the deep in the numerous aquariums. You can even hit the seas in a chartered boat for some dolphin watching in their natural habitat.

02McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis

"As a wildfire burns dangerously close, the astronomers at the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas continue to work through the night." Neutronman / Getty Images

If you listen to National Public Radio, you've surely heard the Stardate announcements. They come from the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis on the campus of the University of Texas. The remote location capitalizes on being far away from the lights of the major urban areas. A lack of light pollution helps to improve the view of its collection of large telescopes, such as one of the world's largest, the Hobby-Eberly telescope. The observatory is focused on educating and connecting with the public via daytime tours, star parties, and special nighttime gathering to catch heaven's never-ending star cast.

03Dealey Plaza, Dallas

"Dealey Plaza in Dallas showing the Book Depository, from where Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald. And the white cross on the road where Kennedy was hit." FrankvandenBergh / Getty Images

One destination with historical significance is Dealey Plaza, the Dallas landmark from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the three shots that killed President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The sixth floor was where Oswald chose to launch his attack and is currently open for perusing the actual site and its collection of exhibits that detail JFK's life. There is also a café, bookstore, and a gift shop. Any trip to Dallas should include a stop at Dealey Plaza.

04Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail, Austin

Right in the middle of Austin is where you'll find Lady Bird Lake, which is surrounded by the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. The lake gets its name after 36th president Lyndon Johnson's first lady, who was a noted conservationist. The trail is 10 miles long and meanders around and over the lake by way of a recently completed boardwalk. Some 1.5 million bikers, hikers, and runners visit every year, and commuters also take advantage of the shortcut through downtown Austin.

Austin Texas skyline. The Boardwalk Trail at Lady Bird Lake

05Space Center Houston

Visitors who relate to the scientific arts will enjoy Space Center Houston's world of exploration. Its displays are perfect for the young and old, including moon rocks and various artifacts from our trips into the heavens. You can check out the real NASA Mission Control, examine a Saturn V rocket up close and get a taste of what life in space. The Smithsonian Affiliate is sure to arouse the STEM urges that we all repress.

The Apollo 11 Command Module "Columbia" on display at Space Center Houston

06AT&T Stadium

home of the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium located in Arlington, Texas USA,

Among the largest and most technologically advanced stadiums in the world, the Dallas Cowboys call this Arlington landmark home. "Jerryworld" is also the site for prizefights, concerts, rodeos, and some college sports. You can check out the luxury boxes, the abundant artwork, and the on-site restaurant offering food that's a far cry from typical stadium fare in quality and price. Choose from a self-guided walkabout or a VIP tour with a guide to show the features you might otherwise miss.

07San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden

San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden Redheadedhornet / Getty Images

For nearly a century, this used-to-be rock quarry has been lovingly transposed into a garden filled with arches, walkways, and its own island. Community members donated their time, plants, and bulbs to create this living labor of love. Tourists and residents enjoy the tranquil relief and the on-site café that serves Japanese and American food. If you'd like, you can even rent the space for weddings or other social gatherings. It's a great place to decompress from the daily pressures of life.

08Remember the Alamo!

The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, USA. Sean Pavone / Getty Images

Most people know the story of the Alamo, a San Antonio mission that was converted into a fort. Some 200 heroes fought valiantly against a giant Mexican army commanded by Santa Ana. Famous American frontiersmen Davie Crockett, Jim Bowie, and Daniel Boone were among those who were killed in the battle for Texas's independence. Self-guided tours with audio include the chapel, fort, barracks, as well as a gift shop and arcade for the history buffs who make this the most visited historical site in the state.

09Cadillac Ranch

he Cadillac Ranch. Famous sculpture of half-buried Cadillac-cars that was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels.

Cadillac Ranch is a collection of 10 half-buried Cadillacs that was a 1974 collaboration between millionaire Stanley Marsh and a California art collective, The Ant Farm. The display is set up the same way as the Cheops' pyramids in Egypt, facing downward and tilted. Visitors should add their own graffiti to the vehicles to contribute to a constant evolution of color. This display was the first of this nature and is an inspiration to others, such as Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska.

10Terlingua Ghost Town

Terlingua Ghost Town - Texas near Mexico Boarder Leieng / Getty Images

This abandoned town near the Mexican border enjoyed several decades of prosperity thanks to once-flourishing Cinnabar and mercury mines. However, once the mercury was gone, the mining companies and their employees left, leaving the town to bake for about half a century. Terlingua is located between a national park and a state park, which allows visiting all three. Lajitas is another ghost town within a thirty-minute drive.

11Hamilton Pool, Austin

Hamilton Pool

An underground river is the source of this natural spring and the plants in the vicinity that create such a lush setting. The oasis was initially covered by a limestone dome that collapsed, revealing the spring. Now, swimmers love the clean water, incredible vegetation, and 50-foot waterfalls that keep them cool when sunbathing.

12Enchanted Rock

The Amazing Granite Stone Slabs and Boulders of Legendary Enchanted Rock, a Small Dome Mountain, in the Texas Hill Country. Richard McMillin / Getty Images

Legends abound regarding the source of its name, and each is a tale of courage and love. The pink granite dome is 110 centuries old and covers nearly 650 acres. If you believe the stories, spirits of dead warriors and Indian princesses haunt the grounds. On frosty nights, the rocks squeak as they cool off after baking in the sun, which probably prompted the stories of ghosts.