Whether you’re a born-and-bred Texan or just got here as fast as you could, there are a host of things you need to do and see in our great state before calling yourself A TRUE TEXAN.

For Texas Highways50TH ANNIVERSARY, we curated a list of adventures that’ll propel you to True Texan status. You can sign up for our accompanying newsletter series that will guide you through each item. Here are 50 ADVENTURES TO CHECK OFF before you don your cowboy hat and ride off into the sunset.

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Watch Texas longhorn cattle stomp down the street at the Fort Worth Stockyards

Don your Wranglers and cowboy boots: It’s time for a cattle drive! The quintessential experience at the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District is the Fort Worth Herd cattle drive, where authentic cowhands drive aExpand herd of Texas longhorns down the brick streets of Exchange Avenue daily at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. The cattle drive, which is free to watch, celebrates “the diversity of the American cowboy, the Old West, and the livestock that had such an impact on our economy,” says Kristin Jaworski, herd trail boss. For even more cattle, don’t miss the Fort Worth Herd Experience, a free hourlong program where folks can watch pros groom and saddle horses and demonstrate roping, branding, and more at 1:30 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. While you’re in the Stockyards, catch a show at the renowned Billy Bob’s Texas or grab a seat at Booger Red’s Saloon. fortworthstockyards.org

I've done this!

The San Antonio Riverwalk

Will van Overbeek

Stroll and shop along San Antonio’s River Walk.

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Texas, the 15-mile River Walk, or Paseo del Rio, that meanders through downtown San Antonio and beyond is known as the “American Venice.” Beyond walking the wide promenade, visitors can board aExpand riverboat cruise, peruse cowboy hats and other souvenirs, and sit and relax while sipping a margarita or eating a meal. For a less bustling section of the River Walk, head north to Museum Reach, where it connects with the old Pearl Brewery, Brackenridge Park, and the San Antonio Museum of Art. Or head south, where the River Walk was extended for 8 miles in 2013 and links with the San Antonio Missions in a section called Mission Reach.

Been there!

A styrofoam Buc-ees cup being filled with dark cola

Dave Shafer

Make a pit stop at the original Buc-ee’s in Lake Jackson.

Perhaps no place has become more recognizable in the landscape of Texas pop culture than Buc-ee’s, the roadside convenience store that has garnered a cult-like following thanks to its massive size, famously clean restrooms, oddly addictive Beaver Nuggets, and grinning cartoon mascot. There are nearly 40Expand locations in Texas, and some out-of-state as well, but true fans must make the pilgrimage to the original location, Buc-ee’s No. 1, which opened in Lake Jackson in 1982. The inside may not be as immense as newer locations, but visiting will certainly give you bragging rights about your Buc-ee’s obsession—and that counts for something, too. buc-ees.com

I've done this!


A golden piece of chicken fried steak topped with cream gravy

Brandon Jakobeit

Dig into a chicken-fried steak.

The tiny West Texas town of Lamesa claims to be the birthplace of the battered beef favorite and hosts a festivalExpand dedicated to the dish every April. Traditionally a cube steak that’s coated in seasoned flour and smothered in cream gravy, there are now haute variations such as the fried rib-eye at Cabernet Grill in Fredericksburg, which is topped with lobster and Hatch chiles. Where to eat: AllGood Cafe in Dallas; Teddy’s Barbecue in Weslaco; and Miss Hattie’s Restaurant in San Angelo.

Eaten it!

A person wearing a Texas Longhorns no. 5 jersey points his finger to the sky


Cheer on your favorite non-professional football team, whether on the bleachers or at a stadium.

Whether it’s Friday night lights or Saturday afternoon sun, it’s no secret that Texas is a football state. There’s no better way to experience the full scope of what it means to be a fan of the gameExpand than to attend one of the state’s storied rival games, ranging from the annual Bum Phillips Bowl between Port Neches-Groves and Nederland high schools to the Red River Showdown between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma. “The game is so big and the fan bases so passionate,” says former UT and NFL player Quan Cosby. In 2005, he played in the UT-OU matchup, held annually at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. “It’s a very emotional game,” he says.

Done that!

An illustration of a person standing across the state line between Texas and Arkansas

James Yates

Walk the line between two states in Texarkana.

Bend time and space in Texarkana, a town that’s half in Texas and half in Arkansas. Home to the only post office that’s housed in two states—and a colorful sign out front that’s ideal for photo ops—Texarkana makes it easy toExpand walk the line, literally. Located in a complex that was built in 1932 and also includes the federal courthouse, this working post office even has two separate zip codes. ourtexarkana.com

Been there!

Take a scenic (and slightly terrifying) drive over historic Rainbow Bridge in Port Arthur.

We can’t guarantee there’s a pot of gold at the end, but if you want the distinction of having driven across the second tallest bridge in the state of Texas, point your car toward Rainbow Bridge in Port Arthur. Standing as tall as a 20-story Expand building, the truss bridge was completed in 1938 and links Port Neches to Bridge City via state highways 87 and 73 in southeast Texas. Clearing the underlying river by 176 feet, the bridge is a must-see for architecture enthusiasts. Just don’t be surprised if driving the steep incline delivers a white-knuckle experience. visitportarthurtx.com

Been there!

Enter your kid to compete in mutton bustin’ at the Houston Rodeo.

For an exhilarating (and adorable) twist on ropin’ and ridin’, grab a seat at one of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s mutton bustin’ events. Watch as pint-sized buckaroos try to ride a sheep for asExpand long as they can. “The absurdity of mutton bustin’ had me smiling from my first viewing,” says Monica Golemo, a League City resident, who has entered her daughters into the lottery to participate to no avail. While at the rodeo, established in 1932 and one of the largest in the country, don’t miss the carnival, concerts, and more. rodeohouston.com

Done that!

Sip on a frozen margarita.

In 1971, Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez tweaked a Slurpee machine to produce the cocktail world’s choicest chilled libation: the frozen margarita. Martinez’s eponymous East Dallas dining destination, Mariano’s, still serves a Expandstellar version, which you can order swirled with fresh fruit puree or sangria. Where to drink: Chimy’s in Lubbock; El Carlos Elegante in Dallas; and Beto & Son in Trinity Groves, which has a margarita mixed with encapsulated fruit pearls and liquid nitrogen.

Done it!

A colorful Ferris wheel on a long wooden pier over blue water

Vadim Troshkin

Ride the Ferris wheel overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston’s Pleasure Pier.

Brisk Gulf breezes kiss your cheeks and the smell of funnel cakes fills the air as you step onto the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, a multimillion-dollar waterfront entertainment Expand destination featuring rides, midway games, shops, and food vendors. Joining cities like Chicago and Santa Monica, where amusement piers have been a cornerstone of family entertainment, Galveston embraced the tradition and billed itself as the “Coney Island of the South.” There is no better place to get the full Pleasure Pier experience than from atop the Galaxy Wheel, a 100-foot-tall, LED-light-bedecked attraction that anchors the pier and offers sweeping views of the Galveston seawall and the Gulf of Mexico. “As a Galveston local, I was hesitant to go for a ride for a long time—fear of heights—but I finally took the plunge,” says Mary Beth Bassett, spokeswoman for Visit Galveston. “The views over the Gulf are amazing, and there’s a wonderful perspective of the island that you don’t normally see.” pleasurepier.com

Been there!

Learn to pronounce these placenames the Texas way.

You can't call yourself a Texan till you learn to talk like one—and we don't just mean adopting the word “y'all.”Practice your pronunciation!

I'm an expert!

Get a feel for a small town’s individual charm.

Texas may be home to some of the biggest cities in the country, but the small towns that dot the landscape have their own special charm. To get the full character of a place, head to the townExpand square or main street. Wimberley’s square is chock-full of art galleries, Fredericksburg’s Marktplatz boasts wineries and German eateries, and Waxahachie is known for its gingerbread-style homes and Richardsonian Romanesque courthouse. There are hundreds more. Start a list and get moving.

No problem!

A man carefully works the leather on a pair of boots

Will van Overbeek

Get fitted for cowboy boots at a custom bootmaker.

If you want cowboy boots made from prime materials and molded to your feet, go custom. Some of the most famous master bootmakers in Texas are locatedExpand in the Rio Grande Valley. Armando’s Boot Co. in Raymondville or Camargo’s Western Boots in Mercedes have crafted custom boots since the early 1980s. But you can’t order them online. You must go to the stores in person to have your feet measured by the artisans and pick your materials, like ostrich and alligator.

Been there!

Top a treat with chamoy.

A flavor-packed syrup made from pickled fruit, chiles, and spices, chamoy has become a staple of Mexican street food snacks. The sweet-and-sour treat is extremely versatile, and you’ll find it poured over cups of fresh fruit at the Houston Farmers Market, coating theExpand rim of raspados at countless fruterias, and drizzled on gummy candies like Sour Patch Kids. Where to eat: Fruteria Tropical in Plano; Pícate Mucho in Laredo, and Alamo Candy Company in San Antonio, which soaks dill pickles in chamoy.

Done it!

A cheesebuger with lettuce, onion, and tomato on a golden bun

Brandon Jakobeit

Order one of our favorite combos at Whataburger—and don’t forget the spicy ketchup.

Order a Whataburger No. 1—beef patty, lettuce, tomato, diced onions, pickles, and mustard; a patty melt; or a honey butter chicken biscuit, and eat it while cruising down the highway on a road trip. (Bonus points if you wash your meal down with a Dr Pepper.)

Done that!

An illustration of a person flying off of a mechanical bull

James Yates

Hop on a mechanical bull—and hold on tight.

Taking a spin on a mechanical bull might seem like a rite of passage in the Lone Star State, but the places where you can still do so are fewer and fartherExpand between. Thankfully, Cowboys Dancehall in San Antonio has kept the tradition alive and buckin’ thanks to its on-site mechanical bull, which welcomes both locals and tourists who are eager to hit their 8 seconds. Need to brush up on your two-stepping? Cowboys also offers free dance lessons Wednesday-Saturday starting at 7 p.m. cowboysdancehall.com

Done that!

Dip your chip in queso.

Chili con queso has made appearances on restaurant menus and in community cookbooks since the early 1900s, when it was the most popular dish at the Original Mexican Restaurant in San Antonio. The decadent combination of processed American cheese and chiles isExpand universally beloved by Texans, but that hasn’t stopped chefs across the state from innovating with new flavors like red curry and crawfish. Where to eat: Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ in Buda; Matt’s El Rancho in Austin; Killen’s in Pearland.

Done it!

A black and red steam locomotive speeds by on train tracks in a natural environment

Stan A. Williams

Embark on the Texas State Railroad’s route through the Piney Woods to travel the old-fashioned way.

The Texas State Railroad carries passengers on a leisurely round trip between the East Texas towns of Palestine and Rusk. The rail line was built in the early 1900s to transportExpand iron from the Rusk state penitentiary’s foundry, but since the 1970s the railroad has carried tourists rather than cargo on the 25-mile journey through the Piney Woods. Visitors can ride in an open-air coach, glass-walled observation dome, or elegant presidential car, all pulled by a restored steam or diesel locomotive. Special rides showcase the flowering dogwood trees in the spring and feature wine tastings and catered dinners. During the holidays, the train transforms into the magical Polar Express that travels to the North Pole in the 1985 Chris Van Allsburg book (and 2004 movie) of the same name. Staff members read the book to hot cocoa-sipping families as the train trundles along, and Santa and his elves gift each child a silver bell. “It’s an immersion,” says Cassie Ham of Palestine’s visitors center. “My little boy is convinced he rode to the North Pole, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was just Rusk.” texasstaterailroad.net

Done that!


An astronaut suit

Will van Overbeek

Spend a day among the stars at Space Center Houston.

Budding astronauts and outer space enthusiasts will soar through this 250,000-square-foot educational complex that features 400-plus space artifacts, exhibits, and more. GuidedExpand tours bring visitors to NASA’s historic mission control, used for the first lunar landing in 1969, and to today’s astronaut training facility where, from an elevated walkway, they can take a bird’s-eye view of NASA engineers and astronauts at work. Visitors can also take a tram to the George W.S. Abbey Rocket Park to see a Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo spacecraft to the moon. Leave time to explore the flight deck and living quarters of a full-scale space shuttle replica. spacecenter.org

Done that!

Cruise the Boogie Woogie Highway to learn the genre’s origins.

Boogie Woogie's roots can be traced to the logging camps of East Texas, where formerly enslaved people played tunes for respite from their toils, accentuatingExpand the piano’s rhythmic properties to get people dancing. Defined by a walking bass line—a repeating sequence of notes that propels the rhythm forward—the music is perfect for a road trip through the Piney Woods where it originated. In 2012, musicologist John Tennison dubbed a 280-mile stretch of US 59 between Houston and Texarkana the “Boogie Woogie Highway.” Travel the route and stop at key landmarks, like The Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club in Houston and Texarkana’s Museum of Regional History, home of a piano like one owned by Scott Joplin. boogiewoogiemarshall.com

Been there!

Indulge in the state dish of Texas: chili.

You won’t find any beans here, but you will find plenty of chiles, spices, and tender Texas beef in the state’s official dish (designated in 1977). It’s believed that immigrants from the Canary Islands introduced the first iterations of it as far back as the 1700s. And the state’sExpand cultural crossroads continue to influence modern interpretations. Where to eat: Texas Chili Parlor in Austin; Starlight Theatre Restaurant & Saloon in Terlingua; and Tolbert’s in Grapevine.

Done it!

People exmaine the exterior of an historic stone building

Tiffany Hofeldt

Survey the San Antonio Missions—including the Alamo—to learn Indigenous, Spanish colonial, and Texas history.

Founded in 1845—though home to Indigenous people long before that—our state has a multifaceted history. A good place to start learning about it is the 18th-century San Antonio Missions, aExpand National Park Service site and the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas. At the Spanish missions Concepción, San José, San Juan, and Espada along the San Antonio River, you’ll learn about colonizers’ efforts to convert Indigenous peoples to Catholicism and teach them agricultural skills and the Spanish language. Then head to Mission San Antonio de Valero, also known as the Alamo, to see how Texan revolutionaries repurposed the old structures and reframed them in public memory as a landmark of Texas independence. nps.gov thealamo.org

I remember!

Admire the Painted Churches crafted by Czech and German immigrants near Schulenburg.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Czech and German immigrants built churches in communities they established near Schulenburg and decorated them with vividly painted walls and ceilings andExpand magnificent stained glass. In Sts. Cyril and Methodius Shrine in Dubina, for example, the ceiling is a brilliant blue dotted with 3,000 gold stars. The Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce offers guided tours and sells a map visitors can use to follow their own path. “You think you’re in a Central Texas prairie in the middle of nowhere with a very simple plain church, and when you step across the threshold it blossoms into a European experience,” Chamber director Terri Wagner says. schulenburgchamber.org

Been there!

An illustration of a person repelling up the side of a lighthouse

James Yates

Scale the Port Isabel Lighthouse—if you’re not afraid of heights.

Built in 1852, the Port Isabel Lighthouse is the only lighthouse in Texas open to the public. Climb the state historic site's 75 steps, including a spiral staircase and two ladders, to the catwalk for aExpand close-up look at the replica of the original lens and a sweeping view of the Laguna Madre and South Padre Island. portisabellighthouse.com

Done that!

A tall building with pointed tops on a white background

Victor Barajas

View Henry Trost’s architectural masterpieces throughout downtown El Paso.

Start researching architecture in our state, and you’ll quickly hear the name Henry Trost. Born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1860, Trost moved to El Paso in 1903 and opened an architecture firm with his brothers, Gustavus and Adolphus. OverExpand the next 30 years, their firm designed and built hundreds of buildings in the El Paso area and beyond. Heavily influenced by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, Trost’s architectural styles ranged from Mission Revival to Bhutanese to Art Deco. In El Paso, one must only step foot in the downtown area to see Trost designs. The Hotel Paso del Norte, for example, first opened in 1912 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Now part of the Marriott Bonvoy Autograph Collection, the building displays Trost’s affinity for Spanish Colonial Revival Style arches. Other notable structures include the Anson Mills Building, which was the largest poured-concrete building in the world when it opened, and the Plaza Pioneer Park, an Art Deco building where Elizabeth Taylor once lived. henrytrost.org

Been there!

The Texas Captiol dome and underground rotunda in evening light

J. Griffis Smith

Tour the ornate Texas State Capitol building.

Brush up on Texas history and government in a free half-hour tour of the Capitol building, the largest statehouse in the country. The route includes the rotunda, the undergroundExpand extension, and the House and Senate chambers, where visitors are often surprised to learn that the lawmakers’ desks are the 1889 originals. tspb.texas.gov

Taken the tour!

A large, dark, obelisk shaped sulpture in a fountain

Matthew Johnson

Explore the 9 square miles of Houston’s Museum District.

Twenty world-class cultural institutions make up 9 square miles of the extraordinary Museum District in Houston and feature impressive exhibitsExpand that cover fine arts, natural science, photography, and more. “All of the museums are very welcoming for those new to art or new to a certain kind of art,” says Amy Yeatts, executive manager of the Houston Museum District. “The museums want to bring visitors to each genre and are happy to have them be a part of the experience.” The museums are arranged in four walkable zones, and they’re affordable. More than half of the institutions are free to the public, and the others offer special hours where admission fees are waived. houmuse.org

Been there!

An illustration of two people dancing

James Yates

Master the Texas two-step at Gruene Hall, the Broken Spoke, or Billy Bob’s.

Our state is rich with dance halls and honky-tonks built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and inside you’ll find young and old moving to the music.Expand Open since 1878, Gruene Hall in Gruene is the oldest dance hall in the state and has hosted country icons including George Strait. Gruene Hall offers swing dance lessons, but for those who want to learn the two-step, head to 60-year-old Broken Spoke in Austin for $10 lessons on Wednesday through Saturday evenings. If you want to go big, check out Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth, which boasts 100,000 square feet for dancing. “There aren’t many things people can do and experience pure joy,” says veteran two-stepper Kylah Torre of Austin. “Dancing makes everyone happy.” gruenetexas.combrokenspokeaustintx.netbillybobstexas.com

Done that!

Cheer on the Cowboys (or your team of choice) at a pro sports game.

You don’t have to look far to find dedicated sports fans in Texas. The Dallas Cowboys, known as “America’s Team,” are a favorite. They’ve won the Super Bowl five times. But if football isn’tExpand your thing, there are plenty of other teams to root for. Baseball fans can choose the Houston Astros or the Texas Rangers, who won the World Series in 2023. Basketball lovers know that this season, Coach Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs has the youngest team in the league, including French phenom Victor Wembanyama. And the Dallas Mavericks have stars like Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić. In 2018, major league soccer arrived with the founding of Austin FC. For ice hockey, root for the Dallas Stars. The franchise has appeared in the Stanley Cup finals five times and won the championship in 1999. dallascowboys.com mlb.com/astros mlb.com/rangers nba.com/spurs austinfc.com nhl.com/stars

Done that!

Plan a year’s worth of fun with the Texas Highways Events Calendar.

From the Texas State Fair to Wurstfest in New Braunfels, you can find iconic events happening across the state each season with our online events guide. Check it out!

Done that!


Tour extravagant light displays for the holidays.

Despite the limited snowfall in Texas, the holiday spirit is bright. Even more so since there are numerous dazzling holiday light displays throughout the state. In San Antonio, more than 100,000 lights are artfully arranged amid the elegant branches of the bald cypress trees that bend over the sinuous thread of the downtown River Walk. FurtherExpand east, travel to Galveston and take in Holiday in the Gardens, which features a mile-long walking trail festooned with more than a million colorful lights and animated creatures and characters at Moody Gardens. Two other destinations for festive illuminations: Christmas Nights of Lights in Fredericksburg, and Grapevine, known as the Christmas Capital of Texas. thesanantonioriverwalk.com moodygardens.com visitfredericksburgtx.com grapevinetexasusa.com

Been there!

A replica Eiffel tower with a small red cowboy hat

Sam Craft

Travel the world in Texas.

You don’t need to renew your passport and hop on an overseas flight to experience a global expedition to “foreign” cities. Instead, take a drivingExpand tour around Texas without ever crossing state lines. In Paris, made popular by the 1984 Wim Wenders’ film by the same name (even though the film was shot in Terlingua), visitors can discover myriad attractions, including a 65-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower. And in Dublin, considered the Irish capital of Texas, you can visit the Dublin Rodeo Heritage Museum, which features historical rodeo memorabilia, and see the world’s oldest Dr Pepper bottling plant. In East Texas, check out Moscow near Lake Livingston State Park, where you can fish and camp. There are many other “international” cities to visit, including Naples, Edinburg, Geneva, Vienna, Liverpool, and London. Take your pick—and map out your own driving tour.

Done that!

A man in a cowboy hat singing into a microphone

Bob Malish

Attend a concert in the Live Music Capital of the World.

The hills of Central Texas are alive with the sound of music. Throughout Austin and the surrounding area, you can hear live music every day of the week. There'sExpand something for everyone, whether you want an intimate venue like the Continental Club or a massive, state-of-the-art arena like the Moody Center, which attracts some of the top acts in the world. Nearly 40 music festivals take place in Austin throughout each calendar year, including South by Southwest in March and Austin City Limits Music Festival every October. And be sure to check out the star-studded schedule of Austin City Limits, the longest-running music program on TV, recorded and produced by PBS. If you’re looking for music outside of the city, travel to outdoor venue Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels, which holds up to 5,600 concertgoers. Texas icon Willie Nelson & Family will perform on May 10. continentalclub.com moodycenteratx.com sxsw.com aclfestival.com acltv.com/tapings whitewaterrocks.com

Done that!

A person slices meat around numerous barbecue offerings in front of a small scale

Will van Overbeek

Eat your weight in barbecue in Lockhart.

Head to the undisputed Barbecue Capital of Texas early on a Saturday, when all of Lockhart’s destination joints are slingingExpand smoked meats at full capacity. Start your tour at Black’s Barbecue, where fall-apart beef ribs pair perfectly with spiced Mexican rice and classic creamed corn garnished with a sprinkle of house rub. Afterward, head downtown for a stop at the town’s most hallowed institutions, Smitty’s Market and Kreuz Market, both decades-old establishments known for beautifully barked brisket and rarer finds, such as tender, post-oak-smoked pork chops and showstopping shoulder clod. Finish your feast at Barbs-B-Q, a relative newcomer that’s blending South Texas and Mexican influences with traditional Hill Country techniques. Try the creamy, poblano-spiked green spaghett and “Molotov” pork ribs, which are coated in a spicy-sweet serrano glaze speckled with lime zest. lockhart-tx.org

Done that!

An illustration of a cow looking at person while standing on a plate

James Yates

Attempt to down a 72-ounce steak at the Big Texan.

Located just off what used to be Route 66 in Amarillo, the Big Texan embodies peak Texas kitsch. But the prevalent longhorn and state flag décorExpand are only part of the appeal. Try to devour an entire 72-ounce steak—that’s 4.5 pounds of beef!—as well as shrimp cocktail, two sides, and a buttered roll for a free meal and a chance at gluttonous glory. If you fail, as so many have, you’ll have to pony up $72 for the honor. bigtexan.com

Done that!

Tipple down the 290 wine trail for a taste of Texas terroir.

Dubbed the “Texas Wine Road,” State Highway 290 is now home to more than 30 wineries and vineyards, each with its own approach to winemaking. Visit Crowson in Johnson City for distinctive, minimal-intervention wines like its juicy,Expand High Plains-sourced mourvedre, or head to nearby Calais to learn all about its approach to the varietals of Bordeaux. In Johnson City, Lost Draw Cellars has a stunning new tasting room designed by Michael Hsu with a covered porch, retail store, outdoor bar, and full-service kitchen. Owned by the same folks as the venerated William Chris Vineyards, its oenophile focus is exploring Texas terroir through Hill Country grown grapes such as Lost Draw’s single-vineyard Alta Loma syrah. texashillcountrywineries.org

Done that!

Several colorful pastries in a glass case under bright lights

Brandon Jakobeit

Grab a kolache and klobasniky for the road.

A vestige of the influence Czech immigrants have had on local cuisine since first arriving in the state in the 1880s, the kolache and its savoryExpand cousin the klobasnik are essential road trip fare. Rivaling only breakfast tacos for early morning supremacy, these puffy pastries are made from sweet yeast dough stuffed with fruit jam, cream cheese, or sausage. Where to eat: Czech Stop and Slovacek’s in West; Hruska’s Bakery in Ellinger; and The Original Kolache Shoppe in Houston.

Done that!

A photograph of a taco with a triangular piece of pineapple on top

Sara Marie D’Eugenio

Try tacos in three regions of Texas to determine which one reigns supreme.

The city with the ultimate Texas taco is hotly debated. San Antonio’s had them on the menu since at least 1889, when the Original Mexican Restaurant began serving Tex-Mex cuisine. Austin isExpand the home of taco experimentation on classics like carne asada and al pastor. And the Rio Grande Valley's proximity to the border makes it a taco hotspot.

Tried ’em all!

A person in a blue shirt eats a large fried item at a fair

Will van Overbeek

Fill up on fried fare at the State Fair of Texas.

A fall tradition since 1886, the State Fair of Texas serves a dizzying array of deep-fried options that are an even bigger draw than Big Tex or the 212-foot-tall Ferris wheel. Sample chicharron nachos weighted down with fajita chicken and Expand Hatch chile queso; crackly beignets bursting with shrimp etouffee; and fried pho that offers rice noodles, herbs, bean sprouts, and ribbons of beef in every tortilla-shrouded bite. Hoisin-laden broth is served on the side like au jus. If that all sounds a little too indulgent (and messy), meander down the Midway until you see the Fletcher’s stand, longtime home of the fair’s beloved corny dog. bigtex.com

Done that!

A waffle cone of ice cream filled with bright pink, yellow, and brown scoops

J. Griffis Smith

Visit Blue Bell Creamery for specialty flavors and a scoop of history.

Brenham’s beloved dessert icon boasts a self-guided museum where you can learn about the history of Blue Bell and watch the ice cream-making process in real time from an observation deck perched above the facility. Before youExpand leave, hit the scoop shop for a selection of exclusive flavors, like seasonally available banana pudding and caramel turtle fudge. bluebell.com

Been there!

A stream of dark soda is poured into a glass

J. Griffis Smith

Concoct a new flavor at the Dr Pepper Museum.

This Waco spot has welcomed more than 2.5 million visitors since it opened its doors in 1991. Besides offering an in-depth look at the history of the iconic Texas brand, it’s also one of the few places where you can score a throwbackExpand Dr Pepper soda fountain experience. “We’re hand-mixing the syrup and the carbonated water, and our goal every day is to make the best Dr Pepper that you can find anywhere,” says Mary Beth Farrell, the museum’s director of visitor experiences. drpeppermuseum.com


A tall rock formation is visible in a canyon desert scene under a pink and blue sunset

Rob Greebon

Hike the Lighthouse Trail in the Panhandle’s Palo Duro Canyon.

The second-largest canyon in the U.S., Palo Duro Canyon State Park is an outdoor lover’s dream. Clocking in at 120 miles long and 800 feet deep, the canyon—part of the Caprock EscarpmentExpand near Amarillo—has 15,000 acres of trails to hike, bike, and explore on horseback. The Lighthouse Trail, perhaps the best known of the canyon’s trails, is just under 6 miles long and takes about two hours to hike. Dogs are welcome on leash but be sure to pack plenty of water and be prepared for extreme heat or rain.palodurocanyon.com

Been there!

An illustration of a person standing on top of a mountain

James Yates

Climb to the top of Texas, then jump in at its lowest point.

Guadalupe Peak towers 8,751 feet above sea level, offering commanding views of Guadalupe Mountains National Park and the rolling deserts of West Texas. The trail to the top is 4.2 miles each way, and you’ll have to ascend 3,000 feet throughExpand high desert and sky-island forests to reach the top of Texas. nps.gov To get the full measure of the state, drive about 600 miles east to any of the beaches along the 367 miles of open Gulf shoreline. You can't get any lower in Texas without swimming.

Done both!

A nighttime photograph of a large white telescope and sky full of stars

Clark Crenshaw

Stargaze and explore the heavens at McDonald Observatory.

On the high, barren slopes of the Davis Mountains, the McDonald Observatory is a window into the heavens—and not just for astronomers. Visitors can join two-Expand hour tours held in the observatory’s amphitheater, and learn about the history, mythology, and science of familiar constellations. (Pro tip: Dress warmly. Desert nights can be chilly.) The Rebecca Gale Telescope Park behind the visitors center offers a closer look at celestial objects. mcdonaldobservatory.org

Done that!


A group of people float in blue-green water in yellow tubes

Kenny Braun

Tube a Texas river as a salve to the summer heat.

Relaxing on an inflatable tube in the water is a practically universal pleasure. But you haven’t really tubed until you’ve floated one of the cool, clear rivers of theExpand Texas Hill Country. The Comal and San Marcos rivers, fed by the two largest springs in the Southwest, have the most dependable flows, with water temperatures hovering between 70-72 degrees year-round. In wet seasons, the Guadalupe, Medina, and Frio join the ranks of Texas’ top tubing rivers.

Float on!

A Monarch butterfly


Marvel at 100-plus species of butterflies at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

People flock to South Texas for the birds, but other connoisseurs of winged life arrive for the butterflies. More than 300 species of the colorful nectar-drinking insects are found in the diverse habitats on the southern tip of the state—moreExpand than the rest of the eastern United States combined. In the sprawling Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, 130 species of butterflies take flight, often with whimsical names to go with their gorgeous wings, such as red-bordered pixies and dainty sulphurs. The region owes its richness in butterflies to its proximity to Mexico and the southward migration path, and many of the species found at Laguna Atascosa are visitors from over the Rio Grande. To see them, simply stroll quietly along the park’s butterfly gardens, or visit the preserves’ miles of trails. Butterflies are active during the day throughout much of the year, with a significant dip in the coldest months of January and February. Visit on a hot summer day, and there’ll usually be quite a few colorful insects wafting on the breeze. fws.gov

Been there!

A person swims toward the surface in crystal-clear blue water

Kenny Braun

Take a dip in the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool at Balmorhea State Park.

The blue jewel of the West Texas desert, the 1.3-acre pool at Balmorhea State Park is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. Built during the New Deal Era, the pool is 25 feet at its deepestExpand and contains (on a good year) 3.5 million gallons of clear water fed by San Solomon Springs. With a temperature that hovers around 72 to 76 degrees year-round, it’s the ultimate desert swimming experience. The pool is open daily with a park entry fee, but reservations are required. And be warned: There are no lifeguards on duty. tpwd.texas.gov

Been there!

A spotted longhorn cow looks directly at the camera

Kenny Braun

Become acquainted with the state’s official longhorn and bison herds.

Longhorn cattle are an iconic feature of Texas landscapes past. But by the 1920s, the breed declined. As rail access improved, the range was closed in by barbed wire, and meatier breeds gained popularity. Enter the Official State of Texas Longhorn Herd, intended to allowExpand future generations to see longhorns as they were on the open range of yore. Now numbering approximately 250 cattle, the herd resides primarily at Fort Griffin State Historic Site, about 15 miles north of Albany. Visitors can get nose-to-nose with the cattle (through a fence) and learn how folklorist J. Frank Dobie helped preserve the breed in the ’20s. You can also visit The Official State of Texas Bison Herd at Caprock Canyons State Park in Quitaque, southeast of Amarillo. Roaming freely throughout the park, the bison are descendants of those saved from hunters by Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight in the late 1800s. thc.texas.gov tpwd.texas.gov

Met them!

An illustration of people taking pictures of wildflowers

James Yates

Snap family photos in a field of wildflowers.

Drive any of the state’s 79,000-plus miles of highways and you’ll find swaths of wildflowers every spring. But the colorful blooms don’t get there byExpand accident—30,000 pounds of flower seed are sown across the state annually. Top wildflower destinations include the Hill Country and upper coastal plain, but lesser-known spots like West and South Texas and the High Plains don’t disappoint. Stop in state parks, historic cemeteries, and preserves—anywhere nature is allowed to run unfettered. wildflower.org

Done that!

Tall trees with bright orange leaves beneath in a rocky outdoor scene

Eric W. Pohl

Peep fall foliage at Lost Maples State Natural Area.

You don’t have to leave the state for autumnal color. Tucked away in a Sabinal River canyon, Lost Maples State Natural Area’s titular trees—a stand of Uvalde bigtooth maples—put on a fieryExpand show every fall, alongside year-round opportunities for swimming, hiking, and wildlife watching. Check Texas Parks and Wildlife’s fall foliage color report or try your luck and book a day pass during the month of November. tpwd.texas.gov

Been there!

A person stands on a ridge with cacti overlooking a river in a desert scene

E. Dan Klepper

Channel your inner explorer at our state and national parks.

Texas has 89 state and 18 national park sites-—with Big Bend National Park being the largest. The parks offer every type of adventure imaginable, including camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, climbing, fishing, swimming,Expand stargazing, and wildlife watching. Learn history, how to shoot an arrow, identify a bird, or cook on a campfire. Stay in a rustic cabin or comfortable lodge. Join a crowd to count hawks or escape miles into the backcountry. Get up close to a genuine Texas Longhorn or a shaggy bison. The possibilities are practically endless. tpwd.texas.gov nps.gov

Done that!


A group of people stand in the water beneath a waterfall in a green lush setting

Kenny Braun

Dive into a Hill Country swimming hole on a hot day.

When it comes to spring-fed swimming holes, Texas has more of them than any other state in the U.S. “By our analysis, Texas has 4,159 springs that flow at least 4.5 gallons per minute,” says Robert Mace, executive director and chief water policy officer at The Meadows Center forExpand Water and the Environment. Many of those springs feed swimming holes. Some are civilized such as Barton Springs in Austin, Blue Hole in Wimberley, Krause Springs near Spicewood Springs, and San Pedro Springs in San Antonio. Others are on-your-own propositions, like Shumacher Crossing on the Guadalupe near Hunt, the Devil’s Waterhole at Inks Lake State Park, and Neal’s Lodge on the Frio in Concan. But honestly, when the heat is on like it is every summer, any swimming hole with public access and parking will do just fine.

Done that!

Three people observe as hundreds of small bats emerge from a grey stone cave

Will van Overbeek

Witness millions of bats emerge from their caves at dusk.

Every year from May to October, Mexican free-tailed bats emerge in huge numbers from their roosts to hunt agricultural pests and delight viewers. The most famous flight in the state is the nightly emergence of 1.5 million bats from under Expand Austin’s Ann Richards Bridge. Other sites have even more: Fredericksburg’s Old Tunnel State Park, which is accessible with a ticket, hosts around 3 million, while the biggest emergence in the state is from Bracken Cave Preserve near San Antonio, home to a staggering 15 million bats. To see them, check with Bat Conservation International, the cave’s managers, for a reservation. austinbats.orgtpwd.texas.govbatcon.org

I've seen 'em!

Three people observe as hundreds of small bats emerge from a grey stone cave

Sean Fitzgerald

Soak in the hot springs at Big Bend National Park.

A rugged 2-mile gravel road and short trail end at a 105-degree hot spring on the bank of the Rio Grande in Big BendExpand National Park. In 1909, the water’s therapeutic reputation lured Mississippi native J.O. Langford here, and his bathhouse foundation still provides a perch for modern-day soakers. nps.gov

Been there!

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