Ignore most of what you’ve heard or read about Texas. The Lone Star State is a land of contradictions and extremes. Vast, wide-open plains rule the Panhandle in the north, while lush, natural rolling hills and crystal-clear rivers surround the Hill Country in the central part of the state. Breathtaking mountains border the state in Far West Texas. Travel to the southeast, and discover the balmy, tropical flavor of the Gulf coast. Cowboys, cattle, barbecue, and music are still a core part of its culture. But Texas’ metro areas also offer luxurious accommodations and elegant, world-renowned restaurants.

01Arriving There

Texas is a massive state, offering nearly 270,000 square miles of terrain and culture to explore within its borders. With 24 passenger service airports and 12 international airports, you can land in just about any part of the state you choose to start your journey. Despite the availability of airports, many destinations are smack-dab in the middle-of-nowhere. If you plan to utilize a driving app, such as Uber, to get where you need to go, check ahead to make sure there are drivers available in that area. Texas is a great destination for road trips. But in the less-populated, rural areas, cell coverage can be a bit spotty. Pick up a backup map before starting your road trip. The rail service Amtrak also travels to a limited number of destinations within the state.

decorFun Fact

There are only three power grids in the U.S. Texas has its own, the ERCOT Grid, established during World War II.

02How To Make the Most of Your Time

Many of the sites visitors seek out in Texas are unique, to say the least. However, if challenging yourself to eat a 72-ounce steak in Amarillo isn’t quite your style, never fear. Texas has more than one type of experience for curious explorers. North of Fredericksburg, take Ranch Road 965 to Enchanted Rock, an extraordinary pink granite dome that juts 425 feet above its surrounding panoramic landscape. It’s a mysterious place, the source of Native American folklore and tales of magical events. Campsites are available at this state park, but fill up quickly. For an art-inspired exploration, head to the West Texas town of Marfa, a town filled with local, national, and internationally inspired exhibits. Maybe you’ll catch sight of the Marfa Lights, a recurring paranormal phenomenon in the night sky that is so popular, it has its own festival in late summer.  

03What to Avoid

Texans are friendly for the most part, and the majority of them are happy to provide directions, offer personal stories on local culture and history, or suggest places you should visit. Residents consider common sense and courtesy to be virtues and expect these traits from visitors as well. The famous “Don’t Mess With Texas” campaign warns against tossing litter in places other than a garbage can. If caught, expect a hefty fine. Like other states, Texas has crime issues in both large and small cities alike, so be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. Don’t wander the streets alone, especially after dark. Be mindful that as you venture further away from the larger metropolitan areas into the smaller, more rural areas, conservative views tend to be more prevalent.

04Live Like a Local

Texas has a diverse population, and not everyone is a cowboy. But, every year, locals flock to rodeos around the state. The Livestock Show and Rodeos in Houston or Fort Worth are exciting and impressive to see. Smaller, well-respected rodeos have become popular yearly traditions for generations of Texas families. For more than 80 years, the XIT Rodeo and Reunion in Dalhart has played a legacy role in Lone Star culture. Its parade, free barbecue, and live music performances attract people from all over the state. In the spring, many Texans make a yearly trek to the Hill Country to witness the splendor of bluebonnets in full bloom. During football season, you’ll find big crowds and experience the intensity and excitement of a Friday night high school game in just about any town or city across Texas.

05Things You Can Do Without Any Spending Money

Texas has its share of high-dollar tourist attractions and gimmicky events. But it also offers a mixed bag of enjoyable experiences that don’t cost a dime. Austin City Limits Radio provides a series of free music events called Blues on The Green throughout the summer in Texas’ capital city. Don’t forget to bring your blanket and a favorite cold beverage. Just a short hour-and-a-half drive from Austin is Luckenbach. The motto here is, “Everybody’s Somebody in Luckenbach.” You’ll find a welcoming atmosphere and free music performances all year. In the heart of San Antonio, a stroll down the beautiful, historic River Walk is free and an excellent way to experience its diverse local culture.

06Where to Take Instagram Pics and Where to Put the Phone Away

If you are looking for the perfect setting for beautiful photos, Texas offers a long list of Instagrammable opportunities. Caddo Lake in East Texas lies within a beautiful state park. Giant cypress trees and abundant wildlife create a mystical appearance, especially when a fog rolls over the swamp in the early morning hours. Head to Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Panhandle to find hikeable trails with abundant opportunities for colorful and scenic pics and unforgettable sunset views. Once you’ve grabbed that once-in-a-lifetime shot, put your phone away and enjoy the majestic surroundings. Make your way to Houston’s East End to find Graffiti Park just a few blocks away. You’ll encounter an array of murals with exploding color and contemporary images painted on building walls, remnants of a 2015 urban art festival.

decorFun Fact

Texas has its own German dialect, a version of the German language that is not spoken anywhere else. People who speak Texas German mostly reside in the towns of Fredericksburg, New Braunfels, Boerne, Schulenburg, and Weimer.

07Festivals & Events

Most people have heard of the SXSW Conference & Festivals in Austin. The annual multi-media festival takes place in March and lasts for two weeks. Events are city-wide, and many of the performances and presentations are free, but lodging skyrockets in price during the event. For those who enjoy a bit of roleplay at their festival, plan to attend the Kerrville Renaissance Festival in the beautiful Hill Country in late January. Or, celebrate the Chinese New Year in Houston at the Texas Lunar Festival. The Prison City Film Festival in February is aptly located in Huntsville, a city with several prisons. You’ll enjoy film and documentary screenings, trailers, and special presentations.  

08Where to Eat & Drink

Food is a significant part of Texas culture. Barbecue reigns as a top favorite meal and locals often stand in line to get a plate full. There’s no shortage of barbecue experts in the Lone Star State, so you’ll find it in small-town cafes as well as upscale restaurants. Tex-Mex is another popular cuisine available in eateries across the state. Similar to Mexican food, Tex-Mex dishes include chili con carne, fajitas, queso, and nachos. The Texas culinary scene is also earning credibility on the national stage as well, including James Beard Foundation Chef and Restaurant Awards nominations. With prominent whiskey, bourbon, rum, and vodka distilleries across the state, and a long list of great beer breweries, visitors are sure to find a Texas-made beverage that suits their taste.

decorFun Fact

Dr. Pepper was invented in Waco, Texas in 1885. To this day, the company keeps the recipe in two halves, in two different safety deposit boxes at two Dallas banks.