or some, Texas conjures images of wide-open spaces, glorious swathes of desert backed by majestic mountains and rivers that meander beneath limestone canyons. Others might picture a scene straight from a classic Western movie, where cowboy boots kick up dust and saloon doors swing, creakily, in the breeze.
Maybe it’s a magnificent menu that springs to mind? Perhaps the Lone Star State makes you long for a platter of wood-smoked barbecue ribs or a breakfast of Tex-Mex tacos heaped with refried beans, scrambled eggs and potatoes. Or is it the epic music, art and dining of cities such as Austin, Dallas and Houston that sets your heart racing?
Whatever your expectations of Texas, America’s second-biggest state is sure to exceed them. From the final frontier of space travel to innovative cultural scenes that continue to push boundaries, there’s always something new to discover – as these five dynamic destinations prove. Prepare yourself for the holiday of a lifetime…
Discover a different Dallas
Just like its skyline, Dallas is a city that shines. Take the Arts District, whose art installations and renowned museums such as the Dallas Museum of Art offer an array of works spanning several centuries, cultures and styles.
Or the Design District, with plenty of art galleries, and the avant garde Dallas Contemporary, presenting work of local and international emerging artists. You might spot works of art while out and about too, thanks to a thriving street art scene.
One might even walk past you on the street, with Dallas increasingly becoming known for fashion, thanks to the number of designers – and fabulously attired residents – in the city. It’s easy to find the best pieces at Forty Five Ten, a luxury retailer in Downtown Dallas.
There’s plenty to get dressed up for, with incredible dining options from hip food courts to sleek restaurants around Dallas’s neighbourhoods. Also, strike a pose in a bar in the vibrant Deep Ellum neighbourhood – the heart of the music scene in Dallas – while catching an up-and-coming band.
Soak up the new and old in San Antonio
San Antonio has always pushed boundaries. It’s the last big city before the US meets the Mexican border, famous as Texas’ first civil settlement and, of course, for being the site of the legendary 1836 Battle of the Alamo.
The honey-hued fortress is one of San Antonio’s biggest draws, with tours around the architectural monument bringing the bloody 13-day battle to life. In the past decade or so, however, San Antonio has expanded its horizons with a host of new attractions.
The Pearl District, a riverside hub of shops, restaurants and green spaces on the site of an old brewery, encapsulates the mix of old and new brilliantly: find it just off the River Walk, an art-lined path knitting together historic Tex-Mex spots, bars and neighbourhoods.
Make time to explore this atmospheric stretch at your own pace – you could take a leisurely stroll one way, unwind over food and drink, and then catch a boat back, soaking up the sights.
See the Modern West in Fort Worth
Few destinations showcase the eclectic experiences of Texas as Fort Worth, where you can truly experience the vibrant, modern West. Fort Worth was a key trading post at the end of the Chisholm Trail, a 19th-century cattle driving route. It’s now one of America’s fastest-growing cities, with one cowboy boot rooted in its past.
Nowhere is that more evident than Stockyards National Historic District: once home to cowboys, cattlemen and outlaws, the area now boasts the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive and a twice-weekly rodeo. Kick back at ‘the home of the honky tonk’, Billy Bob’s Texas, and feast on classic Lone Star State cuisine and country music, where everyone is welcome.
Embrace the quirky in Austin
Anyone questioning Austin’s reputation as offbeat should head to South Congress Avenue: shop after shop is stocked with hand-stitched boots, vintage clothing and art. Peer in the windows and you’ll likely spot the ubiquitous sign ‘Keep Austin Weird’.
And you don’t have to look far to experience something memorable: down the road, on Congress Avenue Bridge, there’s a sunset show like no other as nesting bats emerge from under the arches like a fabulous flurry of soot.
Austin also wears the badge of ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ with pride. There are more than 250 venues, including iconic Antone’s Nightclub, to savour multi-genre performances from lively locals to visiting big names, plus festivals such as SXSW and Austin City Limits.
The fun doesn’t stop there: from the ecstatic crowd at the Texas Longhorns’ stadium to the bars of twinkly-lit Rainey Street and the party mood in the queue for barbecue at Franklin, Austin is a city of joy.
Hit new heights in Houston
Short of actually flying into space, Houston is the ultimate destination for anyone fascinated by the final frontier. Visitors to Space Center Houston can marvel at artefacts from Apollo missions and Moon landings, then walk through a replica space shuttle at Independence Plaza.
Back on earth, Texas’ biggest metropolis – also one of the most diverse cities in the US – enjoys wonderfully walkable neighbourhoods with vibrant cultural and culinary offerings. Houston’s food scene is out of this world: think global cuisine with a Texan twist. From food trucks to fine dining, it’s all on the menu. Beyond the classic steakhouses, you’ll find laid-back offerings such as Railway Heights, a market hall with food stalls, beer garden and a farm housed in a shipping container.
Get a gulp of the great outdoors and explore Houston further on Buffalo Bayou Park’s riverside hiking and biking trails, which are dotted with sculptures, or slice through the water on a kayak tour. visithouston.com
To discover more about Texas and plan your trip to the Lone Star State, visit traveltexas.com