Statehood: Dec. 29, 1845 (28th state)
Time zone: Central United States (GMT-5 Daylight Savings/GMT-6 Standard)
Main airports: Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW), the second-busiest airport in the country; Houston George Bush Intercontinental (IAH), a hub for United Airlines; Austin-Bergstrom International (AUS), where you can catch a live music performance in the terminal; San Antonio International (SAT), with easy access to Mexico; and El Paso International (ELP), the most convenient airport to Big Bend National Park, 315 miles away.
Fun fact: Measuring a whopping 268,597 square miles, Texas is bigger than any country on the European continent. (Russia and Turkey are larger, but both straddle Europe and Asia.)
Left: The Rio Grande River snakes through Boquillas Canyon in Big Bend National Park, Texas. Travelers can explore it via a hiking trail or by canoe or raft trips.
Right: Millions of years of erosion produced Big Bend’s canyons and geologic formations such as Balanced Rock, pictured here.
Why you should visit Texas
Big skies and bigger parks. Barbecue and Tex-Mex food (don’t miss the breakfast tacos). A vibrant live music scene in Austin and world-class birding in South Texas. Plus, cowboys.
Best time to visit Texas
Spring: March and April bring colorful wildflowers (indigo-hued bluebonnets, red-and-yellow Indian blankets) to the highways and backroads in Central Texas. In Austin, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has 284 acres of native plants inspired by the Texas-born first lady.
Outdoor festivals crowd the calendar. Austin’s South by Southwest Festival offers films and concerts each March; San Antonio’s ebullient Fiestacelebrates the city’s Hispanic heritage with parades, a stuff-your-face food festival, and concerts in April. And midway between Austin and Houston, the March Round Top Antiques Fair fills tents, barns, and hayfields with French furniture, vintage cowboy boots, and more.
Summer: Y’all, it’s hot, with temperatures often soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat the heat at one of the state’s Gulf of Mexico beaches, including South Padre Island, where you can watch hatchling releases of baby Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. Or do as the locals do and go tubing in the Guadalupe River near New Braunfels or in the Frio River in Garner State Park.
Autumn: Cooler temps lure Texans outdoors to events such as the Austin City Limits Music Festival, with bands in Zilker Park, or the State Fair of Texasin Dallas where you can eat a corn dog and wave to Big Tex, the 55-foot-tall animatronic greeter. Lost Maples State Natural Area, northwest of San Antonio, has the state’s best fall colors. Celebrate New Braunfels’ German heritage at Wurstfest.
Winter: Mild weather makes outdoor activities pleasant around the holidays. In San Antonio, stroll the Riverwalk, where the bald cypress trees are draped with twinkling lights. Amid the Victorian downtown of Galveston, Dickens on the Strand brings costumed revelers and roving musicians.
In the south, San Antonio was once a part of Spain and later Mexico, a history that shows up at the Alamo and the San Antonio Missions. Houston has high culture (art museums, the acclaimed Alley Theatre) and the NASA Johnson Space Center, where tram tours take in Mission Control and other sites.
Sister cities Dallas and Fort Worth are just 30 miles apart in North Texas. In “Big D,” catch home games from the Dallas Cowboys football team or hear live music in funky Deep Ellum. A good art museum scene and cowboy culture rule in neighboring Fort Worth, where hatted herders lead longhorn cattle through the Stockyards District every day.
The capital city of Austin is known for live music, barbecue, and Barton Springs Pool, a natural, spring-fed watering hole and the soul of the city.
In the Rio Grande Valley, an agricultural region bordering Mexico, there are cities such as McAllen and Brownsville plus the varied wildlife habitats (wetlands, thorn forests) of the World Birding Center.
In West Texas, El Pasooffers Tex-Mex bordertown culture amid the stark beauty of the Chihuahuan Desert and the foothills of the Franklin Mountains, best explored via mountain bike or hiking trails.
Parks and smaller cities
The Hill Country
The rolling terrain of the Hill Country in Central Texas is home to Fredericksburg, with its throwback main street full of indie boutiques and German restaurants plus 60-plus wineries in and around town. You’ll also find cowboy culture in Bandera and the beer-drinking enclave made famous in Waylon Jennings’ song “Luckenbach, Texas.”
The Big Bend
Two of the state’s largest parks—Big Bend National Park and the adjacent Big Bend Ranch State Park—lure hikers, bikers, and campers to the desert and mountain landscapes of West Texas. Stargaze at the University of Texas’ McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, or check out the Donald Judd art installations in funky Marfa.
The longest barrier island in the world, Padre Island stretches for 113 miles from the tip of South Texas to Corpus Christi.Farther north, Galveston Island is the birthplace of Juneteenth and home to Victorian mansions.
Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the U.S. and a state park, carves through the Panhandle for 120 miles.
Getting in and around Texas
By plane: Dallas-Fort Worth International, George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, and Austin-Bergstrom International offer domestic and international service; San Antonio International serves Mexico and other cities in the U.S.
By car: Texas is easily accessible via major interstates including I-10, I-20, I-35, I-45, and I-37. One of the most scenic drives is FM 170, or the River Road, which hugs the Rio Grande and cuts through Big Bend Ranch State Park between Presidio and Lajitas.
In town: Major cities including Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and El Paso have bus service and bike share systems. DART rail in Dallas serves 65 stations. Austin’s CapMetro rail operates a single line from downtown to the northern suburbs. Houston’s three METRORaillines connect tourist destinations. The Streetcar in El Paso loops through uptown and downtown.
Know before you go
Cultural history: Native Americans have occupied Texas for more than 14,000 years. Coastal tribes like the Karankawa were semi-nomadic, the Caddos in East Texas and Jumanos in the West farmed and traded. Comanches and Apaches hunted bison and raided villages in the north and west. Enslaved Africans helped the Spanish settle parts of Texas in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The flags of France, Spain, and Mexico once flew over the state, which declared its independence from Mexico in 1836 and joined the U.S in 1846. Texas seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America in 1861. The end of enslavement was announced in Galveston at the end of the Civil War, leading to the Juneteenth holiday.Immigrants from around the world, including Germany and Czechia, arrived during the 18th and 19th centuries, making their marks on places such as New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, and Kerrville.
LGBTQ+: Texas ranked 27th in a 2020 24/7 Wall St. report of the most LGBTQ+-friendly states in the U.S. Despite Texas’ conservative politics, cities such as Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio get high marks on the Human Rights Campaign 2022 Municipal Equality Index scorecard.
How to visit Texas sustainably
Help preserve habitat by sticking to designated trails and roads. Support businesses that promote dark night skies. It’s legal to drive on public beaches, but watch for wildlife, including nesting sea turtles, and use reef-safe sunscreen. The Love Fredericksburg and Port A Way stewardshipcampaigns encourage visitors to keep an eye out for wildlife and pick up litter. Look for LEED-certified hotels and restaurants committed to selling locally grown food.
What to read
Empire of the Summer Moon, by S.C. Gwynne. This sweeping historic account follows four decades of fighting with the Comanches, Spanish colonialism, the decimation of the American bison and the arrival of railroads.
Forget the Alamo, by Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson and Jason Stanford. The myths surrounding the Texas “cradle of liberty” get debunked and explored in this fascinating look at the evolution of the Lone Star State, its legends, and its prejudices.
Valley of Shadows, by Rudy Ruiz. In this novel set in 19th-century West Texas, tensions along the Mexican border bubble up in dramatic, dark style—with a dash of magical realism.
Source : National Geographic