Made in America: Why a visit to Texas is the best way to experience the real US

From mountains and prairies to beaches and forests, Texas’ geography offers something for everyone. Add national parks, regional food and some good ol’ Southern hospitality and you’ll want to go right now.

Andy Rhodes
10 July 2019



The Big Bend National Park (Shutterstock)

Big. Bold. Bodacious. These words barely scratch the surface of Texas’ enormous cultural legacy, but they certainly set the Lone Star State apart from the nation’s 49 others. Add a mix of cosmopolitan swagger, stunning natural beauty and a dynamic population of proud residents, and you get a sense of what makes Texas distinctive in the United States.

From mountains to prairies to beaches to forests, Texas’ diverse geography offers something for everyone. Toss in an eclectic combination of national parks, regional foods and some good ol’ Southern hospitality, and Texas’ immense appeal starts to take shape.

Texas’ residents and landscapes are equally captivating, intense, rugged, and charming. The Lone Star State’s independent spirit is as much of a draw as its panoramic skies. You could visit 100 times and mosey away with a different experience after each one. These are a few to prioritise…


1. The great (big) outdoors 

The ‘Big’ in Big Bend National Park references a colossal curve in the Rio Grande River, but it also describes the area’s panoramic sky, rugged mountains and sense of wonder. For those seeking adventure via hiking, paddling or cycling, the Big Bend region in West Texas is a must. Experience the towering walls of Santa Elena Canyon in a kayak or canoe, discover colourful desert cacti on the Lost Mine Trail and soothe your weary muscles in the historic hot springs. Just a few hours west, Franklin Mountain and Hueco Tanks State Parks offer outdoor adventures with stunning vistas and tales of Native American heritage.

2. The epic road trips

Enjoy epic road trips in Texas (Shutterstock)

In a state as big as Texas, a three-hour drive is considered ‘just up the road’, so a journey via highway is a required epic adventure. Plan a long weekend to explore the Hill Country, with stops at wineries and antique shops in charming Fredericksburg, plus a visit to the ‘Texas White House’ at the Lyndon B Johnson National Historical Park, and a trek to the granite dome summit at Enchanted Rock State Park. If lighthouses and seafood are more your style, take a few days to discover the Gulf Coast, including shops and restaurants in historic Galveston, birding in Port Aransas/Mustang Island, and watersports on South Padre Island.

3. Ranching culture 

A visit to Texas would be incomplete without headin’ ‘em up and movin’ ‘em out to a ranch for some true cowboy culture. Proudly billing itself as the ‘Cowboy Capital of the World’, Bandera is a quaint little Western town near San Antonio surrounded by working and guest ranches. Visitors can get in touch with their inner cowboy or cowgirl at the historic Dixie Dude Ranch or higher-end Silver Spur Guest Ranch. About 90 minutes west of Fort Worth is Wildcatter Ranch, which features comfortable lodging, horseback trail rides, and hands-on ranch activities in a serene and picturesque location.

4. Natural wonders 

Enjoy cowboy culture at a ranch (Shutterstock)

Texas is filled with stunning natural scenery, especially in the often-overlooked Panhandle region. For travellers seeking the wonders of nature, Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo is an absolute must. America’s second-largest canyon (there’s only one Grander) features colourful cliffs, rock towers, and canyon walls showcasing hues of red, orange and yellow. Visitors can experience Palo Duro’s topographic splendour by foot, bike, car or horse. About 90 minutes southeast, the Official State of Texas Bison Herd lives at Caprock Canyons State Park, offering similarly spectacular natural delights.

5. Not-so-lone stars

Like the song says, ‘The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas…” It’s true – the Lone Star State’s celestial ceiling is stunning, with wide-open skies providing a panoramic canvas for millions of shining stars. Two Texas sites are officially designated ‘International Dark Sky Parks’ – Big Bend National Park and Enchanted Rock State Park, where visitors can gaze for hours at constellations and see a bright band of the Milky Way. For up-close views, visit the McDonald Observatory north of Big Bend for Star Parties and opportunities to look through massive telescopes.

6. Culinary creations

The Palo Duro Canyon is America’s second largest canyon (Shutterstock)

Texas’ food options are unlike any others, with an impressive menu of barbecue, Mexican cuisine, chilli, Southern fare and even vegan options. Barbecue is the prime representation of Texas food, because it’s all about the meat—beef, pork, turkey, goat, or anything else a Texan can smoke over hot coals. Sample the best Texas has to offer at Franklin’s Barbecue in Austin, Gatlin’s in Houston, or Pecan Lodge in Houston. Mexican food can also mean a variety of things—savoury sauces on seafood, or border-inspired Tex-Mex with seasoned beef, gooey cheese and homemade flour tortillas. Go bold and try a new twist on Tex-Mex at San Antonio’s Mixtli. And while grilled meats may be among the state’s most celebrated foodie triumphs, there’s a growing vegan and vegetarian movement in Texas, with an appetite for new and innovative eateries inviting a diverse range of diners. Austin is a vegan hotspot, but you’ll find a range in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas too.

7. Huge history 

Not surprisingly, Texans have immense pride in their history. The state was once famously its own country and there’s a reverence for the past that’s not often found in other states. From the Native American contribution of the word tejas (meaning ‘friends’), to the state’s nearly 400-year-old Spanish mission buildings in San Antonio (including the iconic Alamo), to maritime history in Galveston, Texans wear their history as a badge of honour. Get an overview of it all at Austin’s Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

8. Adventure for all

Experience some stunning stargazing (Shutterstock)

Texas is growing in leaps and bounds, drawing visitors in search of activities for ages 2 to 102. Its mild climate and younger demographic are an ideal combination for outdoor recreation and indoor respite. In the cooler months, hike or bike scenic trails at one of nearly 100 state parks. During the summer, visit one of Texas’ new or expanded museums and cultural destinations, including Fort Worth’s unique National Cowgirl Museum, Dallas’ innovative Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Houston’s enormous Museum of Natural Science and Corpus Christi’s immersive Texas State Aquarium.

This year, Texas are our partners for Photo of the Year. Enter here to win a photography commission to this beautiful state. 

All images courtesy of Shutterstock, unless otherwise stated 

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