Texas is the largest state in the continental US. With three major cities, a vast stretch of wilderness, and over 300 miles of coastline, you can be assured that there’s plenty to do in the Lone Star State.
The biggest problem with visiting Texas is deciding where to go. Unless you have over a month of vacation time, it’s hard to see it all. To help you decide, this list of epic things to do in Texas showcases fun adventures in each region.
Start planning your trips to Texas and check out some of the cool things the state has to offer!
Remember the Alamo
Head to San Antonio and visit the famed battle site in the war for Texas’ independence from Mexico. The Alamo is a small fort where 200 Texan volunteers resisted invading Mexican forces for 13 days.
Although the battle was lost and most of the volunteers, including famed frontiersman Davie Crocket, perished in action, the effort became a rallying cry. “Remember the Alamo” turned into a battle slogan, motivating Texans to join the fight for freedom.
The Alamo is located on the city walk in downtown San Antonio.
Tour a Mission
The Alamo is just one of the many 18th-century Spanish Missions that call San Antonio home. The most iconic is the Mission San Jose, dubbed “Queen of the Missions.” The 300-year-old structure was restored to its original glory in the 1930s and is protected by the National Park Services.
Visitors should also check out Mission Conception, the oldest unrestored stone structure in the US, and Mission San Juan Capistrano, which features a bell tower that’s still in use.
Although San Antonio is home to the most famous missions in Texas, you can find more of these historic structures sprinkled throughout the state. There’s a scattering of missions along the border near Laredo, a few on the western edge near El Paso, and a few still-standing missions near Texas’s oldest city, Nacogdoches.
Sip Tea in a Japanese Garden
The Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio is a perfect location for a short respite. The garden features a serene coy pond, trickling waterfall, and enclosed pavilion ideal for relaxation.
The Japanese Tea Garden has a long history. Operating for over 90 years, the garden serves as a cultural resource and educational center for Japanese Americans. It’s also available for weddings and special events.
The Jingo House Café is the tea house serving the garden, but unfortunately, it’s currently closed for renovations.
Stay in a Haunted Hotel
When visiting San Antonio to stroll the riverwalk or visit the Alamo, consider staying in the historic and haunted Emily Morgan hotel.
The Emily Morgan often makes the list of America’s most haunted hotels. The hotel sits near the grounds of the historic Alamo battlefield, and its early history includes a stint as a medical hospital that was rumored to have housed psychiatric patients.
Hotel staff and guests have long reported strange occurrences, such as randomly ringing phones, pillows thrown from beds, doors closing for no reason, and strange smells. Although the hauntings are likely just a story, it’s exhilarating to stay at a hotel with such a spooky history.
San Antonio isn’t the only Texan city with haunted hotels. Head about 90 minutes North to the state’s capital and stay at the Driskill on 6th street to catch a glimpse of some of Austin’s most famous ghost residents.
Keep Austin Weird! The city embraces the weird, promoting small businesses and street art over corporate chains and pristine cookie-cutter layouts.
An excellent example of Austin’s love of weird is the Museum of the Weird on 6th street. This dime store museum features an eclectic collection of oddities from around the globe. View shrunken heads, fantastical creatures, and more at this must-visit Austin locale.
If you want more weird, check out the Cathedral of Junk and the Toy Museum, both fun reminders that Austin loves to keep things weird.
Taste Texas Wine Country
Texas may not be known for its wine, but the state’s growing viniculture industry is looking to change that. Texas features over 4000 acres of vineyards and 500 wineries, primarily located in east Texas.
To experience Texas Wine Culture, you must visit Fredericksburg, a small town about 90 minutes west of Austin. The village is the epicenter of Texas Wine Country, featuring over 50 wineries and tasting rooms for your enjoyment.
Although the town’s main draw is its wine, Fredericksburg has plenty to offer non-drinkers. It’s home to numerous small galleries and museums of western culture and has a variety of fine dining experiences to offer visitors.
Stop and Smell the Flowers at a Botanical Garden
Although most major cities in Texas have at least one botanical garden to enjoy, Austin and Dallas are the best places to stop and smell the flowers.
Dallas is home to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, a 66-acre complex bursting with colorful flora from around the state (and the world!). The park features a magnolia grove, pecan farm, rose garden, and various seasonal events. Although blooms vary by season and are most common in spring and summer, the Botanical Gardens is a beautiful place to visit all year.
Although the botanical garden in Austin isn’t as large, it’s equally as impressive and important. The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to conserving and promoting native Texas species. Founded by former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, the park is a research center and place where visitors can appreciate the wildflowers native to Texas.
Unfortunately, one of the main things Dallas is known for is the assassination of the beloved president, John F. Kennedy, in 1963. However, the city paid tribute to the political figure and the event that shook the nation by turning the book depository into a museum in his honor.
Although conspiracy theories regarding the assassination abound, the official report is that Leo Harvey Oswald committed the atrocious act from the 6th floor of the depository. Visitors can learn about Kennedy’s life and legacy at this historic site.
Visit the Space Center
Houston, we have a problem.
The iconic words from the hit movie Apollo 13 may have real-life implications at the space center!
As the official visitor center for NASA, the Space Center Houston is dedicated to educating the public on space exploration, shuttle technology, and the universe in general. Visitors can get a glimpse inside the Apollo 17 command center, stroll through the history of space suits, and even get inside a shuttle replica on Independence Plaza.
Those looking for an even more immersive experience can purchase the VIP behind-the-scenes tour, granting access to mission control, the space mission simulation facility, and the real-life astronaut training facilities.
Take a Long Walk on a Short Pier
Whether embarking on a voyage or not, you should consider adding Galveston to your Texas Bucket list. Galveston’s Historic Pleasure Pier features rides, shops, games, dining, and even a 5D theater ride!
The pleasure pier is a perfect destination for a family getaway, as there are plenty of activities for kids of all ages. The pier features a variety of fun fair foods, from turkey legs to cotton candy, and there’s also a brew station conveniently serving beer right on the dock.
There are also a variety of restaurants and breweries near the pier for those who don’t want to pay inflated prices for fair food & drink.
Enjoy a Beach Getaway
Texas likely isn’t the first state you consider when planning a beach getaway. However, Texas has over 300 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico and includes one of the only tropical islands in the continental US!
Head to the very southern tip of Texas to find South Padre Island, a pristine barrier island featuring miles of white sand beaches, sparkling emerald waters, and everything a tourist needs for a relaxing beach vacation.
Don’t let the idyllic destination fool you – there’s plenty to do for vacationers seeking a little fun! Embark upon a deep-sea fishing adventure, learn how to build sandcastles, or enjoy the various activities available at the adventure park. San Padre Island has something for everyone and is one of the best places to visit in Texas.
Watch the Mysterious Lights
In the Southwestern deserts of Texas stands a small town with a big secret. The problem is no one is certain what that secret is.
Marfa, Texas, is an unassuming town but plays host to a mysterious phenomenon. The Marfa Lights, as it’s come to be called, is a series of strange lights that dance in the distant desert. Stories abound about the lights’ origin, spanning from the paranormal to the mundane. Some believe the lights are extraterrestrial in origin, while skeptics maintain they are simply car lights from a distant highway.
Whatever their origin, the Marfa lights cause quite a stir. The city even hosts a festival dedicated to the spectacular show every year in September.
View the Galaxy
The area around Marfa and southwestern Texas, in general, is barren. Some areas are so remote that you won’t encounter a single car for miles. The solitude and desert atmosphere make these regions ideal for star gazing.
The best place for stargazing in Texas is the McDonald Observatory, a University of Texas property nestled in the mountains about two hours North of Big Bend. The observatory is open to visitors during the day but also features a variety of nighttime programs for stargazers. It has five telescopes dedicated to uncovering the secrets of the universe.
Texas features an abundance of secluded areas free from light pollution for those who wish to watch the stars on their own. Consider visiting Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the panhandle, or Brazos Bend State Park near the gulf, for glimpses of the undiluted night sky.
Dripping Springs, just east of Austin, was the first community in Texas to receive “international dark sky community” status and hosts a night sky festival each year in March.
Hike the Desert Wilderness
Nature loves visiting Texas will want to experience the state’s most iconic National Park: Big Bend. The park is situated on the border of Mexico and features immense desert landscapes, scenic canyons, and access to the Rio Grande. Exploring this natural wonder is one of the top things to do in Texas.
Visitors to Big Bend National Park need to keep the climate in mind. The park encompasses a large portion of the Chihuahuan Desert, and in the summer, temperatures in these areas often reach 100 degrees and higher. The scorching heat limits the activities available in the summer months, so adventure seekers may prefer to visit this park during the shoulder seasons or in winter.
Eat REAL BBQ
If there’s one thing Texas knows, it’s barbeque. Though many states fight for the crown of “best BBQ in the nation,” nothing beats an original Texas smokehouse.
Wherever your travels in Texas take you, you will likely find great BBQ. Feasting on the tender smoked brisket is almost a rite of passage for visitors to the state.
If you’re in Austin, check out Franklins BBQ, often said to be the best in the state. The long lines can be problematic, so if you can’t wait it out, head to Terry Blacks just south of the river for the most delicate beef rib you’ve ever encountered. There’s also a Terry Black’s in Dallas, but Smokey Joe’s and One90 often top the lists of “best BBQ in Dallas.” Houston’s Truth BBQ and Corkscrew BBQ are praised as the top BBQ restaurants in the state.
Texas is filled with BBQ restaurants, though, and you probably can’t go wrong with any family-owned joint in the state.
The abundance of major cities in Texas gives visitors to the state ample opportunity to appreciate fine art.
The Dallas Museum of Art is one of the largest art museums in the US, featuring a collection of over 25,000 objects spanning five centuries of human history. The collection includes works by influential artists such as Jackson Pollack, Pablo Picasso, and Camille Pissarro, to name a few.
Dallas’s sister city is home to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which features a collection of over 3000 works from the 1950s-present day. The museum is a splendid repository of works from significant 20th-century art movements such as Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.
Visitors to Houston may want to explore the Museum of Fine Arts. The museum is home to various works ranging from antiquities to modern art. The 70,000-object collection makes the Dallas Museum look small by comparison!
Austin, El Paso, and San Antonio also have smaller art museums to explore. Wherever you find yourself in Texas, you can likely find a gallery nearby!
Visit a Horror Convention
Texas features one of the best horror conventions in the United States. Enjoy the horror genre by checking out the best horror conventions across the US.
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