Where do you start with a round-up of things to do in Texas? The second-largest US state is a vast and varied land with no shortage of stuff to see and do. So, whether you’re a hiker, history-lover, beach bum or wannabe cowboy, the Lone Star state has something for everyone. Here are seven of the most memorable things to do in Texas (cowboy boots optional).
- Stretch Your Legs in Big Bend National Park
- Embrace Cowboy Culture at a Rodeo
- Get To Know the Alamo
- Relive the Space Race
- Tick Off the Top Museums
- Admire Ancient Rock Art
- Hit the Beach
Encompassing a mind-boggling 800,000 acres of river, desert and mountains, Big Bend National Park is a heaven on Earth for hikers. There are more than 150 miles of trails to explore, leading through landscapes that look like they’ve come straight out of a Hollywood western. From the cacti-studded expanse of the Chihuahuan Desert to the rugged Chisos Mountains and the rolling Rio Grande river, you could spend weeks walking here and never tire of the views. For an iconic introduction to the park, hike the South Rim Trail to the peaks of the Chisos, a 12-mile loop that serves up epic vistas of undulating mountain terrain. Big Bend is an International Dark Sky Park too, so stick around after the sun sets for some extra-special stargazing – one of our all-time favourite things to do in Texas.
In the 1860s, the vaqueros and cowboys of Texas herded around five million cattle to markets in the north to meet America’s growing demand for beef. Those cattle drives made the Texan cowboy a legendary figure. You can still catch the iconic cattle-wrangling skills in action at a rodeo, which is one of the most Texas things to do in Texas. Events take place throughout the year, including the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in January and Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in March. There are also small-town competitions aplenty, where you can get up close and personal with the cowboy competitors, before celebrating with the victors at an after-rodeo dance. If you’ve always wondered whether you’d suit a Stetson, a night at the rodeo is your perfect opportunity to give one a spin. Yee-haw!
San Antonio is home to the Alamo, scene of the most famous battle in Texan history. In 1836, the fort was besieged by thousands of Mexican troops, with a much smaller band of revolutionaries dying in its defence. These events eventually led to Texas gaining independence from Mexico and joining the United States. The main building, now known as the Shrine, was built as a mission church by Spanish priests in the 18th century and can be visited on tours of this historic landmark. The Alamo might be the best known of the six Spanish missions in Texas, but the other five are also enticing places to explore, making up the only UNESCO World Heritage site in the state.
In more recent history, Texas has become the home of the US space programme. One of the most popular things to do in Texas is visit its NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. An excellent way to learn more about the lunar landings and satellite launches of the sixties and seventies, you’ll be transported to an era that was at the height of extraplanetary exploration, when the eyes of the nation were firmly fixed on outer space. See the world-famous Mission Control, where daring expeditions were monitored and managed, and tour exhibits of everything from retro space suits to lunar landing modules. You might not ever get to leave Earth’s orbit yourself, but the Space Center is a good substitute for planet-bound travellers.
It’s no surprise that a state larger than France should have plenty of great museums to pick from. So, to help you plan your trip, here are three of our favourites. Located in a striking glass and steel building, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth contains works by established and emerging Texan artists, as well as pieces by Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. It also has its own cinema, showing both old favourites and critically-acclaimed new releases. In Austin, Laguna Gloria has an outdoor gallery made up of 14 acres of walking trails, winding through lush trees where sculptures and sound installations sit hidden among the greenery. It’s a pretty place to sample a slice of culture while enjoying the perpetually pleasant weather. Lastly, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame shine a light on the often-overlooked women who lassoed and wrangled their way through the American West. Explore the interactive galleries to understand how these unsung heroes combined grit and girl power to make their mark on a man’s world.
A three-hour drive from San Antonio, near the Mexican border, is Val Verde County; home to more than 300 sites where ancient pictographs can be found adorning the rocks. These colourful depictions of animals and human figures are over 4,000 years old and offer a captivating insight into ancient life in a state that’s stuffed with history. We recommend joining a ranger-led hike at Seminole Canyon State Park to see the most mesmerising examples of rock art.
The state might not be famed for its beaches, but with more than 350 miles of coastline to discover, hitting the beach should be on your list of things to do in Texas. Wildlife watchers will love Sea Rim State Park, a 4,000-acre wetland that’s brilliant for birdwatching, with a maze of waterways for kayakers to conquer too. Meanwhile, families frolic happily on Rockport Beach, known for its immaculate golden sand and steadily sloping shallows that are simply made for little ones. For a castaway, crowd-free coastal getaway, head to Matagorda Island. This unspoiled idyll has no electricity and no drinking water, and you need to charter a boat to reach it. But with blissfully deserted beaches and more wildlife than people, it’s a little piece of paradise.