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20 Things Every Self-Respecting Texan Needs to Do Before They Die

Texas Insider Guides
by Turner Wright Jun 11, 2015

Or wannabe Texan…

1. Hit up Cooper’s in Llano for some BBQ.

The Lone Star State has its fair share of barbecue, but all Texans universally agree that Cooper’s is the place to go for BBQ. Once you smell the hickory from the fire pits you know you’re close to Llano.

2. Tailgate at a football game.

The Dallas Cowboys. The Texas Longhorns. And the fans who arrive hours before a game just to hang out in the parking lot, set out coolers of beer, and grill up some meat.

3. Say yeehaw on horseback at sunset.

4. See the Marfa Lights.

These are still somewhat of a mystery, and a great place to stop when you’re making a road trip to Big Bend National Park. Some have said they’re from UFOs, others a phenomenon like the aurora. I just think they’re cool.

5. Hang out at the DQ.

Dairy Queens aren’t completely unheard of outside of Texas, but before Starbucks made its entrance as the “something every roadside stop has to have”, there was DQ to mark the size of a town. Wichita Falls? Dairy Queen. San Angelo? Dairy Queen. You don’t have to be a fan of the Blizzard shakes or Hunger Buster burgers to appreciate the presence of this fast food chain.

6. Get tipsy from purple margaritas at Baby A’s.

Or, if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, getting the maximum of 10 from all five locations in Austin (each cuts you off at two). The Tex-Mex at Baby Acapulco’s is good in and of itself, but this drink is iconic.

7. Drink Shiner Bock as you float the Guadalupe River.

There are so many aspects of Texas for which we are proud, but I think two rise to the top: football and beer. As for the latter, drinking a cold one from a floating cooler as you float the river is one of the best ways to appreciate a summer in central Texas.

8. Inhale kolaches at the Czech Stop Bakery in West.These are only available in Texas. Even the Czech Republic doesn’t have kolaches as Texans have grown up knowing them in West. Pigs in a sweet blanket at a little roadside stop just outside of Waco.

9. Throw up your horns.

Even if you’re not a UT grad, you still hook ‘em horns.

10. Know what to do when someone says “the stars at night are big and bright…”

CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP – Deep in the heart of Texas!

11. Learn the history of the Alamo.

Visiting the Spanish mission in San Antonio is one thing (it’s touristy and across from attractions that make Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco look like an escape to the countryside) but knowing why we should “Remember the Alamo” is something all Texans grow up hearing from teachers, parents, and pop culture.

Some enlightenment: Two hundred men, including Davy Crockett, lost their lives defending the outpost from thousands of Mexican soldiers. Less than two months later, troops under General Sam Houston defeated Mexican forces under the battle cry “Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!” This paved the way for the founding of the Republic of Texas.

12. Attempt to eat a 72-oz steak at the Big Texan.

“Attempt” being the operative word. In Amarillo, deep within the panhandle, there lies a restaurant which offers a challenge to anyone willing to risk their health and sanity: finish a shrimp cocktail, salad, roll, butter, baked potato, and a 72-oz steak in under an hour and you get the whole meal free. Lose, and you pay $72 + tip. To date, about 9,000 out of 55,000 have completed the challenge, including professional eater Molly Schuyler in under 5 minutes.

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13. Eat Mexican food on the Riverwalk in San Antonio.

It may be touristy, but there’s a reason why (besides, why should tourists have all the fun?). The Iron Cactus is a solid choice for cocktails and Mexican food.

14. Attend a star party at McDonald Observatory.

One of the darkest places in the country (if not the world) and one of the best for viewing astronomical phenomena is north of Big Bend National Park in the middle of nowhere (though, to be honest, that describes most of west Texas). As city dwellers, we often forget just how bright the stars can be, or how easy it is to see the Milky Way. Star parties at McDonald make it possible to see the rings of Saturn.

15. Defend his/her accent to outsiders.

We don’t ride horses to school. Not many people wear full cowboy regalia to work. Chuck Norris is not waiting around every corner ready to roundhouse kick your head (but he does push the earth down with every push-up). And if you grew up in Dallas or Austin, chances are you don’t speak with the famous Texas twang. Doesn’t mean you’re not 100% Texan and proud of it.

16. Learn why Six Flags has its namesake.

Maybe this is just a pet peeve of mine, but I’m always a little annoyed when I hear about people visiting Six Flags in New Jersey or California and then being surprised when they learn the amusement park got its start in the Lone Star State. Why? Because Texas actually has six flags in its history: Spain, Mexico, France, the Confederate States, the Republic of Texas, and the United States.

17. Play some genuine Texas Hold ‘Em.

Gambling may be illegal in Texas, but there are still some Native American reservations scattered across the state where one can hold ‘em, fold ‘em, and bet everything on the river. The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass is one, but many Texans cross the border to try their luck at Winstar Casino in Oklahoma or any number of places in Shreveport or Lake Charles, Louisiana.

18. Stand in awe of the Capitol building at night.

Aside from gazing at bluebonnets as you speed up I-35 in the spring, walking through downtown Austin under the light reflected from the Capitol is one of the more awesome experiences being in Texas.

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19. Eat the best cowboy breakfast at Palo Duro Canyon.

Believe me when I say there’s no limit to the amount of food you can eat in one sitting in Texas. At the Elkins Ranch near Palo Duro Canyon, you might take the opportunity to don full Texas regalia – cotton plaid shirt, bolo tie, cowboy hat, jeans, shiny belt buckle, and boots – and enjoy one of the most scenic places as genuine cowboys cook up a chuckwagon breakfast of eggs, sausage, gravy, biscuits, and coffee.

20. Cycle the Hotter’N Hell.

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You think marathon runners are masochists? Try 100 miles of torture in the middle of Texas in August. That’s described this cycling race for over thirty years.

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