Seeking the thrill of the Texas frontier? Come visit the Lone Star State for a crash course in Western heritage and hospitality. It boasts a diversity of terrains, from the Panhandle Plains to Gulf Coast to Big Bend Country, and tons of things to do from touring NASA’s Mission Control, sampling the indie music scene in Austin or exploring American landmarks like the Alamo. Whatever Southern flavor you’re looking for, Texas is sure to have it. Here’s a glimpse of Texas' top cities:
Houston, all systems are go. To launch off your visit, explore the world-famous Space Center, home to NASA’s Mission Control. The center features astronauts training for the International Space Station, a behind-the-scenes-look into deep-space missions and the latest pivotal technologies in the exploration of Mars. You won’t be able to miss the Museum of Fine Arts, the largest in the Southwest, which for starters showcases two gallery buildings whose walls are covered in artwork from all over the world. The collections highlight pieces from Africa to Asia to Latin America, although it is best known for its European Impressionist paintings. Stay dry at the Downtown Aquarium as you step inside a 17th century Spanish shipwreck, learn about the Louisiana Swamp and stand in awe in front of the Sunken Temple of ancient Mayan civilization. The white tiger exhibit and Ferris wheel rides are also a must-see. Cap your evening off with a savory taste of Texas tacos at local favorites like Pistoleros on Westheimer Street.
As the capital of the Lone Star State, Austin is a hotbed for music and culture. If you’re here in October, be sure to check out the Austin City Limits festival. In March get blown away by South By Southwest (SXSW), a nonstop party of music, interactive displays and film festivals that takes place every spring. Without a doubt these fests are among the reasons Austin has been declared the “Live Music Capital of the World.” For local flavor the rest of the year, stop by Stubb’s Bar-B-Q for finger-lickin’ barbecue and musical acts that have featured artists like Cake, Ratatat as well as George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. The Red River District is the place in town to hear indie and alternative sounds pouring out from the bars. With Ladybird Lake cutting through the heart of the city, there is biking and kayaking to be had. Riding through scenic paths along serene lakes on the Town Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail is a great way to get your bearings in this mix of college town and musical haven.
The biggest urban arts district in the country can be found in Dallas. It is a 19-block spread of cultural rejuvenation that will leave your creative side drooling. If you haven’t had enough, carve a slice out of your day to visit the Irving Arts Center, which is a premier theater and outdoor sculpture garden. Keep the history reel running while you take a trip back in time at the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament to watch knights joust. Your older kids will leaping with joy after a trip to the Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park. If you’re picturing a more relaxing time for you and your travel-mates, take a stroll through the breathtaking Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, which was ranked the 2013 “Top Ten Botanical Gardens in the U.S.” by the Travel Channel. Top it all off with some tasty treats at Dallas by Chocolate and Dallas Bites for unbelievable chocolate and Bar-B-Q burgers.
As Texas’ (arguably) second-biggest city behind Houston, San Antonio has plenty to offer. Tour through the legendary Alamo, lose yourself amidst the peaceful San Antonio Botanical Gardens in Brackenridge Park or climb along the natural beauty of Enchanted Rock as you trace the footsteps where Native American warriors were killed - or at least so the legend goes. The River Walk is always a hit. It weaves across San Antonio River with dozens of restaurants, sidewalk cafes and street performers to make this Texas’ No. 1 attraction, according to U.S. News and World Report. Trying to get your John Wayne strut on? Fire away at San Antonio Western Shooting, a safe and excellent experience to handle real guns and bullets. No prior instruction is needed. If you need a break after your adrenaline shot to new Wild West heights, take a seat at the Majestic Theatre, a movie theater built in 1929 and a classic landmark of the city. It even has a domed ceiling covered with clouds and stars.
Put on your cowboy boots - or at least pick some up - because Fort Worth prides itself on its Western heritage. Check out the Texas Civil War Museum that displays the largest private Civil War collection west of the Mississippi. Country music stars perform onstage at Billy Bob’s Texas, the largest honky tonk in the world. Kids will love the Fort Worth Zoo, a superb destination for the whole family to catch a glimpse at lions and monkeys. If you want a legitimate reason to say “it’s not my first rodeo,” head down to the Cowtown Coliseum on the weekend to watch the rides of lifetime. For shoppers, Fort Worth has everything from authentic Western gear to modern shops for every budget. After grabbing a few gifts, hit the Cantina Laredo for delicious Mexico City-style food, or Del Frisco Double Eagle for a juicy steak. Swing by the Fort, it’s worth it.
Discover your rugged side in the Wild West, where Texas hospitality lives on.