In a state that’s bigger than almost all of Europe, it’s no surprise to find that the Lone Star state packs a mean draw when it comes to sheer diversity and experience. Whichever way you head; north, south, east or west, you’ll find a uniquely Texan experience ready and waiting for ya. Head north to Fort Worth and you’ll find that rodeo aint no gimmick; scoot off west and find epic cowboy landscapes unfurling before you; dance down south to the rhythms of Austin’s and San Antonio’s musical beats; and don’t forget to venture east where you can join Houston’s space race and seek out the stars. Pile on top of that all the Tex-Mex and barbecue you can eat, a music scene that will have you tootin’ merrily along and a people so warm hearted that smiles shine down like its ever-present sun, and what you’ve got is a place that’s iconic and unique… That’s Texas.
the north: fort worth and dallas
The town with the strongest Texan twang, Fort Worth is the place to slip into your Texan attire and rawhide around town. Watch from the stands as Cowboys (boot spurs, wide-brimmed hats, chunky belt buckles, checked shirts, and all) take part in rodeos, bucking back and forth beneath the awesome power of the bull. Then watch them chase on horseback, lassoing any bull that crosses their path in this most authentic of cowboy traditions. That’s not to say Fort Worth doesn’t revel in its modern culture too, with art galleries and a trendy troop of restaurants and bars down at Sundance Square. But don’t forget the most authentic Fort Worth experience of all; Billy Bob’s Texas is the place where all of this thoroughbred Texan culture comes together: Live Honky Tonk bands bring that Texan spirit to the sound waves, while bull riding, barbecues and dances compete for your attention in this historic Fort Worth Stock Yard setting. Thirty five miles east, is the shiny, sparkly, millionaire’s hub of Dallas. Famous for its TV show that celebrated the glamorous lifestyles of its wealthy oil lubbers, Dallas is where you’ll find Cowboy culture gone glitz. Here’s where to max out the credit card on super-luxurious restaurants, and then saunter around the Sixth Floor Museum dedicated to JFK and the world-changing assassination that changed the course of American life.
the south: austin, san antonio and corpus christi
Swing by Austin and discover the Texan music kings who give this swinging city its unique beat. You’ll find bumper stickers extolling you to ‘Keep Austin Weird’ and it’s this alternative, eccentric vibe that gives Austin its spirit of creativity. Don’t expect it to be all guitar-strumming Cowboy beats either, this is the heart and soul of music country where a little bar hop can develop into a rhythmical music tour that will have you spinning and diving, swinging and jiving, hopping and bopping to any number of Austin’s musical talents. Wander into a samba beat-fest, groove onto a jazz-funk underground bar, bounce to some indie-rock, mellow to some Texan acoustic, and settle down to some soulful Texan country music…and we could go on.
With the sounds of Austin ringing sweetly in your ears, shimmy on over to San Antonio, scene of the ever-famous Alamo. But you won’t be a lone rider here, with over 3 million visitors a year choosing to swat up on Davy Crocket and all the Tex-Mex history that has brought such a unique shade to the State. San Antonio also boasts The River Walk, a hotbed of bars, shops, cafes, restaurants and an electric buzz of San Antonio’s culture along the meandering bends of the San Antonio River. Every year, the spring Fiesta San Antonio brings a procession of flowery floats parading down the river. A great spectacle, and a wonderful insight into San Antonio’s unique cultural scene.
Keep heading south and hit the gulf coast town of Corpus Christi. With constant sunshine and warm seas, it’s surfer culture that dominates here, but that doesn’t mean that the Texan twang isn’t in fine fettle either, with the Cowboy and Hispanic influences giving the city that Texan flair. This is the place for a bit of beach time, and to test your skills against those rolling waves as well.
the east: houston and galveston
More South-East than East (which is dominated by the sun-drenched greens of the Sabine and Angelina National Forests), for this part of Texas it’s best to rent a car and cruise the wide boulevards with the endless billboards entreating you to dig into a plus-sized plate of Tex-Mex classics (kilogram steaks, ribs piled high, twelve-stack pancakes to name but a few) at one of the many diners and restaurants en route. But with each of Texas’s regions offering something unique, this out-east part is the ultra modern, multi cultural hub to keep you on the cusp of innovation. You’ll get what we mean when you visit the Johnson Space Center (‘Houston, we have a problem’) and see the place where NASA designs, builds and controls those missions that went to the moon and that now trawl outer space looking for signs of our long-fingered alien cousins. Peek inside Apollo 17’s command module, see Mission Control, zero-gravity labs and actual moon rocks, and then venture to Rocket Park to see the gigantic Saturn 5 rocket.
And then comes Houston’s multi-cultural vibe, with almost any nationality you’d care to think of represented here with their own restaurants, groceries and markets. It shouldn’t come as much surprise either, with Houston being the 4th largest city in USA, and all this influence brings with it a fantastic choice in ethnic dining, as well as eclectic and innovative art and fashion. Rolling around town, you’ll uncover several micro-breweries, with dozens of bars brewing their own Texan specialties. Not quite Cowboy country, but Houston packs its unique multi-influenced charm. Seek some escape from Houston’s tarmac and whistle across the bridge into Galveston Island with its water park, botanical gardens, historic downtown, as well as its slow-paced chilled out beaches that offer the perfect antidote to the metro-city bustle of Houston.
the west: guadalupe mountains, el paso and the wild, wild west
Watching John Wayne and Clark Gable you might have been forgiven for thinking that the Wild West was a whole heap of fiction, but heading into this cacti-covered, stony-hilled, sauna-heated wild, and you’ll see the real stuff of Hollywood legend. Saddle up on horseback and mind the tumbleweed at the epic national parks; Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. At the former, wonder at the landscape that rolls with desert mountains and deep river-cutting creeks, and then move onto the latter and gaze in awe at the rising snow-capped peaks of the Guadalupe Mountains. In between, find some surprising pop-up culture, with artistic hubs and historic hotels tuning you in to some modern Wild West culture. Furthest west is El Paso, a bright-light oasis in the basin below the Guadalupe Mountains. The Texas literary capital, El Paso’s surrounding landscape inspired the isolation captured so brilliantly by writers like Cormac McCarthy, especially in his epic novels ‘The Road’ and ‘No Country For Old Men’.