If you ever ask a Texan where they’re from, you’ll know the answer immediately. Not because of the accent, but because no matter where you are in the world, the answer will never be America. It’ll always be Texas.
Texas is known worldwide for its pride, but there is so much more to the Lone Star State than cowboys and horses.
As the second-largest state after Alaska, Texas is so big that it would be impossible to see everything in one trip. I’m a Texas native, and I still haven’t seen everything after living there for over twenty years, so I can testify that no matter where you go in Texas, you’ll never run out of things to do.
Whether you’re planning a trip to Texas and looking for places to visit or just curious about what there might be, here is a list, in no particular order, of the things Texas is best-known for.
1. Cowboys & Cowgirls
Ask anyone what Texas is known for, and they’ll tell you cowboys.
While they might not be easy to spot in the big cities, real cowboys are to be found in Texas, and it’s not totally uncommon to see them riding their horses on the side of the highway.
Of course, working on the range is not just for men. Cowgirls are every bit as tough as cowboys, maybe even more so.
Cowboys and cowgirls are easily recognized by the distinctive hats and boots, which many Texans will proudly wear wherever they go.
2. Cool Cities
Texas has the second-largest population of any state in the U.S.
In North Texas, Dallas hosts headquarters for many international businesses and is famous for the TV show of the same name. Houston, located in East Texas, is home to several energy companies in addition to NASA.
The capital, Austin, is in the center of the state and has long been known as a liberal city best-known for its slogan, “Keep Austin weird.” An hour and a half south of Austin is San Antonio, where the Riverwalk and the historical Missions celebrate the city’s Mexican history and lively Latinx culture.
If that weren’t enough, Fort Worth, El Paso, Galveston, and Waco are all exciting places to visit and are among some of the country’s largest and most famous cities.
3. The Alamo
This monument in Texas is known for the John Wayne film, but there is much more history to it than that.
When the Spaniards first came to Texas, they built a series of Missions, of which the Alamo is the most famous because its key role during the Texas Revolution. The phrase “Remember the Alamo” is one that every Texas knows.
While Davey Crocket and the other Texan soldiers all perished at the lost battle, the loss of soldiers in the Mexican army enabled Texas to eventually win the war with the battle of San Jacinto.
4. San Jacinto Monument
Though not as famous as the Alamo, the San Jacinto monument is just as worthy of a visit.
It was there that the Texan army defeated Santa Anna’s forces, which led the way to Texas becoming an independent country for several years before ultimately joining the United States.
The San Jacinto Monument commemorates the battle and is located close to Houston.
“Houston, we have a problem.” These aren’t just lines from a film. When astronauts have a problem, they actually do call Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming an astronaut, NASA is the perfect place to give it a try.
While you may not be able to launch off into space, visitors can learn about ongoing research and missions as well as visit the control room for the first moon landing in 1969. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can do activities like try on a spacesuit or eat astronaut food.
6. JFK Assassination
If you’re a fan of space-related history, then you’re probably familiar with the U.S. President who most influenced the space race, John F. Kennedy.
His presidential library is in Boston, but the JFK museum in Dallas located in the old school book depository near Dealey Plaza features the history of his assassination along with all the conspiracy theories it has generated.
It’s no coincidence that many of the big oil companies have headquarters in Texas.
Since the early twentieth century when the Texas oil boom took place, the state has been a center for oil rigging. Texas’s oil resources have made it a financial center for many international companies.
Driving through Houston, it’s impossible to miss the oil refineries and skyscrapers from some of the skyscrapers of some of the most important oil companies worldwide.
No true Texas gathering is complete without BBQ.
From brisket to pulled pork and sausage, no one knows how to BBQ like Texans. No matter where you are in the state, you’re going to find some good meat.
If you want a truly Texan dish, try a plate of chicken fried steak smothered in gravy. It might not be BBQ in the proper sense, but it’s just as good as a slice of brisket, if not better.
9. Tex-Mex Food
Taco rivalries in Texas are just as serious as BBQ rivalries. Tex-Mex food is best described as Texas-Mexican fusion.
Local favorites include enchiladas, fajitas, and, of course, tacos. If you love Chipotle and burritos, you have no idea what you’ve been missing until you’re in Texas.
The Czech Republic has the claim to inventing kolaches, but Texans can claim adding meat to this traditional pastry.
In the 19th century, Czech immigrants settled throughout the state, and thank goodness they brought their recipes with them.
For a traditional Czech kolache, try any sweet variation such as apple, blueberry, or, my personal favorite, cream cheese. For a true Texan kolache, try a kolache filled with sausage and, if you’re feeling dangerous, jalapeño.
Some of the most well-known and prestigious American universities are to be found in Texas. The two largest are the University of Texas in Austin and Texas A&M in College Station.
The two universities have a long-standing rivalry and are known for pulling pranks and trying to steal one another’s mascot. To this day, Texas A&M is the only major university to never have its mascot stolen, and they even managed to capture and butcher their rival’s longhorn and serve it in the university cafeteria for lunch.
Other major universities include Baylor, SMU, TCU, and Rice.
12. Sports Teams
Each university has its own famous football team, but Texas is known for professional sports.
The San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, and Dallas Mavericks are all competitive players in the MBA, and the Dallas Cowboys are one of the most well-known football teams in the NFL—though they are better known for their cheerleaders than their football players.
If you’re a baseball fan, head to Houston to catch an Astros game or Dallas to see the Rangers.
13. The Gulf Coast
You may not think of Texas as a beach destination, but the Gulf Coast is a popular destination for locals during the summer. It doesn’t have great waves for surfing like California or Hawaii, but it’s less crowded and better priced.
Just make sure not to be there when a hurricane hits.
14. Big Bend National Park
If beaches aren’t your holiday destination, head to Big Bend National Park for some of the country’s most stunning nature.
The park runs along the Mexican border and is home to a variety of endangered and important species.
A perfect family destination, Big Bend is a great destination for hiking, camping, and stargazing.
15. The Hill Country
For more stunning scenery, head to the Hill Country in Central Texas.
Settled by German and Czech immigrants, this area has many towns and festivals with central European origins such as the Oktoberfest and Wurstfest in New Braunfels.
There are many picturesque towns and ranches to visit, including the home of Willie Nelson.
While you’re in Texas Hill Country, you have to try Texan wine. Wine may not be the first thing that comes into your head when you think of things Texas is known for, but Texas is making a name for itself in the fine wine market.
Several wines from Texas have won prestigious awards, and there’s no better place to try them than Texas.
The Hill Country has many wineries that allow tours and on-site tastings, and the tasting rooms are much less pretentious and better priced than those in more well-known wine areas like Napa Valley.
For an insider’s tip, try a taste of some Texas Tempranillo.
George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were native Texans along with Lyndon B. Johnson.
For a bit of history, you can visit their Presidential libraries, which hold artifacts from each President’s tenure in addition to replicas of the Oval Office.
If you want a day trip, go to LBJ State Park to see the Johnson Ranch alongside historical homes and a living history farm.
Yes, Texans actually ride bulls and do barrel races. At least some of them do. The rest of us just watch.
Each major city hosts a rodeo once a year, and they are often a week-long event that normally features a stock show in addition to sports like bull riding.
You can often try some local products from small farms or eat some good BBQ.
19. Texas State Fair
In addition to rodeos, Texas has one of the largest state fairs in America.
Texas State Fair Park is located in Dallas and is home to Big Texas, a 55-foot mechanical cowboy statue that greets visitors in the park with his famous, “Howdy Folks!”
Every year, there is a different fried food special. The year I went, I got to try deep-fried Oreos. I only suggest indulging in this delicacy in small quantities and if you have a healthy heart.
20. Cultural Festivals
Rodeos and state fairs aren’t the only types of cultural events Texas is famous for.
Every year, Austin hosts Austin City Limits, a music festival that attracts thousands of people. In addition, Austin hosts South by Southwest, a film festival visited by some of Hollywood’s top directors.
More traditional festivals include Fiesta in San Antonio, a festival with a history of over 130 years when local women decided to decorate their carriages with flowers and throw them at each other, leading to the name Battle of Flowers.
21. Country Music
If you turn on the radio in Texas, you’re probably going to hear country music.
Texas rivals Tennessee when it comes to country music, and the state is home to several famous musicians such as George Strait, known by any country music fan as the King of Country, and Willie Nelson.
But you don’t need to go to a fancy concert to hear good country music. Swing by just about any bar on a weekend and you’ll find music that will make you want to dance.
22. Cool Animals
Texas is best known for cattle and horses, but there are lots of interesting animals to be found in the state, wild and domestic.
The state large mammal is the longhorn, which is easily recognized by its distinctive horns. The state small mammal is none other than the armadillo, which can cutely roll itself into a ball to protect itself from predators or, more frequently, cars on the highway.
Other animals to spot are roadrunners, coyotes, and, if you’re in Big Bend National Park, mountain lions.
This beautiful flower is one of the most well-known symbols of Texas. When bluebonnets are in bloom, Texans will frequently go to the fields for photoshoots and picnics.
Thanks to President Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird Johnson, bluebonnets have been planted along the highways in the state, so driving across Texas is always a scenic road trip whenever they are in bloom.
Unfortunately, you can’t take one home since picking bluebonnets is illegal.
24. Six Flags
For Texans, Six Flags is more than just a theme park.
The original property, Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, takes its names for the six flags that have flown over the state of Texas throughout its history: Spain, France, Mexico, The Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States.
However, since 2017 the original flags have been traded out for six American flags.
In addition to the original park in Arlington, Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio is worth a trip.
25. The Lone Star
Texas is perhaps most well-known as the Lone Star State because of its flag.
Along with the flag of Hawaii, the Texas state flag is the only flag in the United States that was once also a national flag, having served as the flag for the Republic of Texas.
The blue stands for loyalty, white for purity, and red for bravery. The star stands for the unity of Texas and as such has become its most famous and iconic symbol.
Did I leave out something on this list of things Texas is known for? Drop your ideas into the comment box below!