After some debate, you’ve decided your next family vacation will be to The Lone Star State. It’s a good choice. Texas is a great big state that is often referred to as the “Heart of America.” Not only is this due to its size or even its heart-like shape, but also to its people. Texans are incredibly hospitable, and you shouldn’t be surprised if your heart flutters now and then at the tip of a cowboy hat. However, there are certain things you should never do in Texas as a tourist. At least, not if y’all want to stand out.
In Texas, it’s extremely common to wave at people you know and at strangers. If you’re receptive to the warmth of Texans and offer a smile, or a hello in return, your vacation will be made infinitely better. For a while, you can be one with them, and pretty soon, you might even find that kind of politeness becoming second nature.
Not only are tacos absolutely for any meal of the day, they also make for a delicious kickstart to the day. Tex-Mex cuisine is huge in Texas, and if you’re not open to eating tostadas, fajitas, enchiladas, or even a delicious breakfast taco, Texans will wonder what’s wrong with you. And for good reason. Tex-Mex is a meeting of American food and Mexican food with every dish delicious enough to say, “Yee-Haw!”
If you proclaim, “it’s too hot” too loudly, that’s on you. It’s common knowledge that Texas is hot, and complaining about the heat isn’t going to make it get cooler anytime soon. Instead of complaining or sitting indoors with the air conditioning on, make the most of it the way Texans do. Head to a brewery or go out and get a frozen margarita or some fresh lemonade. It’ll cool you down while also getting you out of the hotel or your Airbnb.
The history of beer in Texas started with English recipes brewed at home for personal consumption. It wasn't until the Germans introduced lager in the 1840s that the game completely changed. Local breweries and craft beers make Texas a real heavy-hitter. With so many options, it's no wonder that even looking at a non-Texas beer is considered an insult.
While it’s true that you might find it hard to have a Texas vacation without hearing a little Willie Nelson or ZZ Top here and there, that doesn’t mean it’s all you’ll hear. One thing about Texans is the pride they have in where they’re from, and of course, that extends into their musical repertoire. However, nobody will force you to sit down and listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Furthermore, if they would, you’d have a dang good time of it.
Sure, a diet is all about the willpower one has to stick to it. However, Texas is so full of delicious food that you’d be cheating yourself if you didn’t let yourself indulge. As well as statewide Tex-Mex joints, there’s also kind of barbecue you’ll find nowhere else: Beef brisket that falls right off the bone, chicken-fried steak that gives strong opposition to Philly’s cheese, and Frito pie. Yum.
Nobody wants to line up when they’re hungry, but if you pass an open BBQ spot that doesn’t have a lot of people waiting, you’re probably in for a bad surprise. The best places to get BBQ in Texas are the places where the crowds flock on the daily, locals and tourists alike. In Texas, a long line always means there’s something good at the end of it.
Queso is Spanish for cheese, but it's an utterly sacred experience in Texas. Queso, a mixture of cheese, salsa, and Chili Peppers, is the unofficial dish of Texas, commonly eaten with corn tortilla chips. It's related to the Mexican dish queso fundido made from melted white cheese and green chilies. However, Texas queso is not just an addictive treat; it's a birthright.
In Texas, truck stops are more than just 18-wheeler stopovers. Some of them are cultural institutions. Buc-ee's is one of the most iconic. It started in 1982 and grew from a 3,000 square-foot stop to a 60,000 square-foot experience with shopping, food courts, and other storefronts. Whether you're on a road trip or just looking for something fun, check out Buc-ee's, Texas 87, and other iconic stops.
If you think waiting two hours for great BBQ is bad, you should know that driving anywhere in Texas will take you twice as long. Almost nowhere in Texas has a big public transportation system. Bigger cities like Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio are constantly aiming to better their public transportation. That being said, the state is just so big that even buses running on time proves to be more difficult than it should be. When you’re visiting Texas, you should always rent a car. If you’re in the city, especially one like Austin, there are also Ubers everywhere. But it’s still going to take forever.
Gruene Hall is the oldest dance hall in the State of Texas. It was built in 1878, and its layout has pretty much remained the same since, as has its tin roof. The hall is truly a Texan marvel, attracting hometown icons such as Willie Nelson and Loretta Lynn, not to mention acts who are on the brink of stardom. With live music almost every night of the week and chivalrous Texans who won't shy away from asking you to dance, a visit to Gruene Hall should definitely be on your dance card.
Before you leave Texas, give yourself one night to drive out into the country. Stay there late. Texas is full of national parks where you can sit back an take in the beauty of the starry night sky. With no light pollution for miles, the stars look bright and vast; look close, and you might even catch a shooting star.
The term Deep South is both a cultural and geographic description that Texans do not identify with. It refers to states that heavily relied on slave labor and plantations during the Civil War. While slave labor was present in Texas, it wasn't as developed as in states like Oklahoma and Louisiana. Yes, Texas is technically in the southern part of the U.S. but considers itself far different from its southern neighbors.
Being a Texan is a source of pride, and that goes for those born in the state, in another state, or who migrated from abroad. According to a 2018 data analysis, close to 5 million Texans were born in countries like India, Vietnam, and Jamaica. As Texas' population grows, so will its diversity. So, don't be surprised if you meet a Texan born in Japan or Australia, who makes a mean Queso and is a hearty connoisseur of local craft beer.
When you visit Texas, if you’re from a Northern state, one of the first things you might realize about Texans is the way they speak. Colloquialisms such as “y’all” and “fixin’ to” are stalwarts of Texas culture, but to hear it yourself is a marvelous thing. In fact, as well as taking home souvenirs, you might just take home a “y’all” of your very own. But, as they say, don’t mess with Texas.