A beginner’s guide to Texas
If it’s cowboy culture you’re looking for, Texas should be the top of your American holiday wish list.
The Lone Star State is buzzing with deserted cowboy towns, rodeo shoes, food trucks and fascinating history. But it is also more than that. Within its rustic landscape lies the modern cities of Houston and Austin, all-American sports, craft beer and a sunny shoreline looking over the Gulf of Mexico.
So grab your cowboy boots, we’re going to Texas.
Where to go
Clocking in at 695,662 square kilometres, Texas has a lot of attractions and realistically, you won’t get around it all in a two week holiday. To help, we’ve rounded up the five top attractions to consider.
Space Center Houston
This educational space complex boasts more than 400 artefacts including Pete Conrad’s Apollo 12 Suit, the new interactive Mars exhibit and the world’s largest collection of lunar rocks.
Dr Pepper Museum
In Britain, we claim to either love or hate Dr Pepper, but in Texas, it is considered the national drink. At the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, you can listen to gallery talks, take part in a scavenger hunt and pick up some branded merchandise in its gift shop.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
This is the best place to learn more about the striking Texan landscape. Guadalupe Mountains National Park protects the world's most extensive Permian fossil reef, the four highest peaks in Texas and an environmentally diverse collection of flora and fauna.
If walls could talk, the Alamo would have a lot to say about the history of Texas State. Older than Texas itself, The Alamo has existed since the 18th Century and was used as a military lookout as the state changed hands between the English, French, Spanish and Americans.
Dallas, Houston and Austin
As we said, Texas isn’t all cowboys and desert. In the cities of Dallas, Houston and Austin you’ll find museums, nightlife and food trucks. Everyone who has visited all three has a strong opinion on which one is their favourite - so we’ll leave it up to you to decide.
Food and Drink
Everything is bigger and better in Texas, and that includes the portion sizes. Make sure you leave plenty of room for dinner and only order what you can realistically eat. BBQ food is a really big part of the local foodie scene and you can easily find queues of people waiting for a seat at the big BBQ restaurants. Chilli is also the official dish of Texas and you’ll find plenty of authentic Tex-Mex on offer. One Texan stereotype that holds true is their love of meat, so vegetarians might struggle – though liberal Austin is good for plant-based food.
Texas also boasts a large selection of home-grown beers, most with German heritage. Some of the best include Lone Star Beer, Ziegen Bock and Shiner Bock. There are also several award-winning wineries in Texas, mostly located around Hill Country west of San Antonio and Austin and in the Panhandle region around Lubbock.
Also, keep an eye out for Tito's Vodka – a Texan vodka made from yellow corn that is distilled six times. Like most US states, the legal drinking age is 21.
When to visit
The shoulder seasons are the best time to visit Texas. The heat during the peak of summer can be uncomfortable for travellers used to a British climate, but the spring and autumn are more relaxed. Weather is still warm in winter, but some attractions are closed.
How to Get There
Texas has three main airports, based out of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Non-stop flights are available from both Manchester and London. Amtrak also offers three routes through the state so you can fit your Texan escape into a wider American adventure.
Other hints and tips:
- Many locals consider themselves Texans first and American second so you’ll find the Texas flag flying outside many official buildings
- If you’re hiking in Southern Texas, be mindful of the Mexican border. It’s not always very well marked.
- English is the official language of Texas, though you’ll hear a lot of Spanish (especially in the cities)