Texas is so massive it can easy fit several other states inside its borders, so wouldn’t you expect to find regions with unique cultures, attractions, and ecosystems? There’s more to the Lone Star State than just transiting through DFW or partying it up during SXSW. We’ve got more food, people, and history to make anywhere else in the south blush.
1. The Panhandle
Easily the most overlooked part of Texas, the panhandle isn’t exactly accessible outside of the old Route 66 passing through Amarillo. The city still knows how to attract tourists with natural attractions like Palo Duro Canyon and the 72-oz. steak challenge at the Big Texan. If you want to stay inside our borders to head to the next region, you’ve got a long drive ahead of you on small state highways. On the plus side, you’ll get a glimpse of Lubbock and Texas Tech University.
2. North Texas
After a taste of dry air and isolation, you’re probably in the mood to experience some culture, grab a few cocktails, and party it up in the big city, right? Start in Dallas. Downtown Fort Worth, the western part of the metroplex, still has its draw with the Stock Show, but Dallas is where it’s at. We have professional sports teams like the Cowboys, Mavericks, Rangers, Sidekicks, and Stars. Deep Ellum brings you craft beers at the Deep Ellum Brewing Company and nightlife at It’ll Do. For a taste of culture, visit the Dallas Museum of Art and the Sixth Floor Museum. Just watch out for traffic from all those fancy cars the city folk like to drive.
3. East Texas
Dallas is more like the midwest than the rest of Texas, with wide open spaces still resembling the prairies frontiersmen had to cross to colonize the country, but it’s nothing compared to what you’ll see once you start heading towards Arkansas and Louisiana. Behind all the pine trees and lakes, there are some truly unique small towns and attractions. As the oldest town in Texas, Nacogdoches usually makes the list for residents touring locally with its charm and accessibility to Sam Rayburn Lake. The Texas State Railroad in nearby Rusk gives adults and children the opportunity to ride a fully functional steam locomotive train.
No tour of Texas would be complete without The People’s Republic of Austin. Deriving the name for its liberal views in a sea of conservative counties, the Texas state capital has as many visitors as Dallas or Houston, despite having half the population. The reason is crystal clear once you drive down I-35 and see the UT tower peaking out over the campus buildings; Austin may be the center of all government and policy in the great state of Texas, but it’s also the epicenter of weirdness for the universe. With festivals like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits and food like Chuy’s and Kerbey Lane Cafe, this city is a mecca of entertainment and comfort. Many visitors have to watch the bats fly out from the Congress Street bridge and hit up a few bars on Rainey Street.
Kerbey Lane CafeAustin, United StatesA chain of some of the more interesting food that keeps Austin weird. Come for the breakfast tacos, stay for the desserts #food #foodietravel #cheap-eats #open-late
5. West Texas
Halfway between the dead zone of the Panhandle and the activity of Austin is the west of Texas. Home to ranches, oil fields, and a whole lot of desert, this is where you go when you want an Instagram picture of the road stretching towards the horizon. The mystery of the Marfa Lights keeps travelers rolling through this neck of the woods – so to speak – as does watching the stars, big and brilliant in the Texas sky, from McDonald Observatory. There are endless hiking trails all the way to the Mexican border at Big Bend National Park.
Houston may be the most populated place in Texas, but it’s also not the first choice when people think about the Lone Star State, earning the nickname the Carcinogenic Coast for its factories and oil refineries. However, there are still a few attractions to bring out your inner child. Tours at the NASA Johnson Space Center are open to the public, and there’s a huge network of underground tunnels and cisterns to inspire your adventurous spirit.
7. South Texas
Always save the best for last, which is what the south of Texas represents for a lot of people. Neatly cutting off the state south of Houston and Austin, this part of Texas is the closest you can get to Mexico without crossing the border. Not only can tourists see the birthplace of the Republic of Texas in what remains of the Alamo, but you get a taste of that delicious Tex-Mex at restaurants on the San Antonio Riverwalk. Keep heading down along the coast and there’s even a taste of the tropics: palm trees, coconuts, and sandy beaches at South Padre Island.