Texas is the second-largest and second-most-populous state in the United States of America. Owing to its remarkable size, distinctive culture and politics, and colorful history, many Texans maintain a fiercely independent attitude, with Texan identity often superceding American identity. Few other American states feature their flag so prominently in businesses, on the backs of cars and in advertisements. The state's name derives from a word in the Caddoan language of the Hasinai, tαysha, "Friend".
Known for their generosity, hospitality, unusual accent, and penchant for the larger-than-life, Texans are wonderful people to meet, and the variety of cultural experiences, from feasting on bratwurst with the Germans of the Hill Country to watching Flamenco dancers with the Chicanos of the Rio Grande valley, is seemingly unlimited. The ethnic background of Texas is extremely diverse. Fully one-third of the population has some sort of Hispanic background. There are also many German settlements (Fredericksburg, New Braunfels, et. al.), as well as Norwegian, Polish, Czech, Swedish and French settlements.
The large size of the state should not be underestimated. Texas measures full 695,673 square kilometers by area, making it slightly larger than France. Having a car is essential for travel between cities, and within most. The traveler should factor on long driving times between cities and destinations. About half the state's population resides in either the DallasFort Worth or Houston metropolitan areas.
Texas is internationally known for its energy and aeronautics industries, and for its use of ship channel at the Port of Houstonthe largest in the U.S. in international commerce and the sixth-largest port in the world. The state is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies and has the second-largest economy in the United States. The Texas Medical Center contains the world's largest concentration of research and healthcare institutions.
France, Spain and Mexico have all laid claim to Texas at one point or another. However in 1836, Texas won its independence from Mexico and became the Republic of Texas. The most famous battle of the fight for independence was the stand at the Alamo. Although tragic, the sacrifice allowed the main army of Texas time enough to gather their strength and defeat the formidable Mexican army, led by General Santa Anna. Nine years later Texas agreed to be annexed by the United States and became the 28th state of the Union. Despite having existed under the auspices of six different nations (France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States of America, and the Confederate States of America), Texas has maintained its fascinating independent spirit, making for a unique and unrivaled exploration ground for any intrigued and intrepid adventurer.
Texas is a huge state and has an extreme variety of weather. Texas is very warm in the summer (commonly higher than 100F or 38C). In West Texas and the Panhandle, summers are usually dry with fits of stormy weather. North (Dallas/Fort Worth region) and coastal (Houston region) areas have unstable climates (hence the saying "If you don't like the weather in Texas, wait 10 minutes and it will change" though 10 minutes later you might not like the change). Thunderstorms are common, sometimes generating tornadoes and hailstorms. It is often warmer near the coast, though humidity can be unbearable in the summer. Conversely, the spring, autumn and winter are relatively pleasant for most of the state. It rarely dips below the freezing point in winter, except in the Panhandle region where the winters can get quite cold (Lubbock and Amarillo have suffered devastating blizzards in the past.). It has snowed as far south as San Antonio and Houston, but snow will often melt within moments of landing.
Texas shares an international border with Mexico as well as a 600 mile coastline. It is bordered on the north by the state of Oklahoma, on the west by the state of New Mexico, and on the east by the states of Arkansas and Louisiana. As a state of the United States, all visa and passport rules of the USA apply.
Texas has several international airports, including George Bush Intercontinental (or just "Intercontinental") in Houston, and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, both of which are major airline hubs and are relatively cheap to fly into. Other major airports can be found in San Antonio, El Paso, and Austin, though almost every reasonably sized city in the state is served by some kind of air transport.
Three Amtrak trains serve the state: The Texas Eagle, Sunset Limited, and Heartland Flyer. Fares are high and ride times are long, but the Amtrak offers a unique perspective for those who are interested.
Texas is well-served from other points in the U.S. by the United States Interstate Highway system, the quality and condition of which is generally very good. There are many roads which cross into Texas from Mexico, most notably in Laredo and El Paso. Due to the enormous amount of traffic from south and central America, Laredo is the country's largest inland port, and wait times at this and all border stations can often be tremendous.
Major ports in Texas include Houston, Corpus Christi, Galveston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and Brownsville. Cruise ships occasionally start and end their voyages in the various ports around Houston.
Attractions Don't miss the Alamo in San Antonio, where the erstwhile Republic of Texas saw its most tragic hour.
Fort Davis National Historic Site -- Partially restored fort, home of the Buffalo soldiers -- located in the town of Ft. Davis north of Big Bend Nat Park. Also in Ft. Davis is MacDonald Observatory, Ft. Davis State Park and a scenic loop drive that goes through the Davis Mountains and down on the prairie where you can see deer, pronghorn (also called antelope), eagles and some very beautiful scenery.
The Fort Worth Stockyards offer a look into the past, when cattle drives and cowboys were all the rage.
The original Six Flags theme park is in Arlington
The King Ranch, along the Gulf Coast, is a working ranch bigger than the state of Rhode Island.
As the largest city on the US/Mexico border, El Paso is a hotbed of Hispanic culture in America with a flavor that is more Mexican than Texan.
Not to be missed is the extraordinary Hill Country, with its fields of wildflowers covering sprawling cattle ranches.
Big Bend National Park is mountains, desert, wilderness, and river (Rio Grande) scenery. There are snakes, deer, javelina (wild pigs) plus many other types of wildlife. At the western entrance is Terlingua (an old ghost town) which is the home to the annual International Chili Cookoff. Farther down the road to the west along the El Camino Real (The River Road) scenic drive to Presidio is the town of Lajitas whose mayor is a goat (a real goat) that guzzles beer like water -- put a bottle or can near his mouth and he will grab it right out of your hand in his teeth and turn it up until it all drains into his mouth.
Get an idea of the size and space of Texas with a drive through the Chihuahuan Desert or through the Texas Panhandle.
Palo Duro Canyon
South Padre Island
Take a leisurely inner tube trip, floating down the Comal, Guadalupe, San Marcos, or Frio rivers.
Spend the weekend living the Old West at a Dude Ranch
You might want to go all "yee-haw" and visit a shooting range. However, you will probably need to present a US drivers license to be allowed to rent a gun (presenting a foreign passport is sometimes not sufficient).
Known for the vibrancy of its visual and performing arts, the Houston Theatre Districta 17-block area in the heart of Downtown Houstonis ranked second in the country (behind New York City) in the number of theatre seats in a concentrated downtown area with 12,948 seats for live performances and 1,480 movie seats
Houston is also one of only five cities in the United States with permanent professional resident companies in all of the major performing arts disciplines (the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Ballet, and The Alley Theatre). Houston is widely recognized as the nation's third most important city for contemporary visual arts.
Dallas and Fort Worth serve as epicenters of the North Texas region's art scene. The Modern (formerly the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth), founded in 1892, is the oldest art museum in Texas. The city is also home to the Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, the Will Rogers Memorial Center, and the Bass Performance Hall downtown. The Arts District of Downtown Dallas is home to several arts venues. Notable venues in the district include the Dallas Museum of Art, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, The Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, and the Nasher Sculpture Center.
Watch a sports game including the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars, Houston Comets and San Antonio Spurs.
The Hertzberg Circus Museum in San Antonio has one of the largest collections in the world.
Barbecue is the mainstay of any true Texan's diet (most Texans will frown at you if you call it B-B-Q). The International Barbecue Cookoff is held annually in Taylor, TX (northeast of Austin. The number one barbeque restaurant is the Kreuz Market in Lockhart (also near Austin), although there are several excellent places all around Texas.
Chili is the official state dish of Texas. There are many varieties of chili, but Original Texas-style chili contains no beans. The place to try all the varieties is the International Chili Cookoff, held on the first weekend in November in Terlingua, TX.
Tex-Mex is Mexican cuisine with Texas flair. Take ancient traditions (such as filled tortillas) and add beef, sauces, cheeses and spices, and Tex-Mex is born. Nachos, crispy tacos, crispy chalupas, chili con queso, chili con carne, chili gravy, and fajitas are all Tex-Mex inventions. Serving tortilla chips and a hot sauce or salsa as an appetizer is also an original Tex-Mex combination, and one that Texan diners insist on.
Down Home Cookin' is a blend of American and German cuisine brought about by the necessity of cooking from the back of a chuck wagon. Meals include steaks, stews, casseroles, breads and pies. There are many steakhouses around the state, notably the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Bob's Steak and Chophouse in Dallas, Fort Griffin General Merchandise in Albany and Taste of Texas steak house in Houston's west side.
The crime rate in Texas is on par with the rest of the United States. In the larger cities, if you stay in the tourist areas you will be generally safe (talk to your hotel concierge or manager if you aren't sure about a certain area). The rural areas have a very small crime rate. Texans have a (largely undeserved) reputation for carrying firearms or resolving disputes with gunfire, but such actions are no more common here than in other parts of the US.
Texas weather is rarely dangerous. However, be aware of the weather during hurricane season on the coast (June through November, though hurricanes move slow and provide days to weeks of warning), and of tornado season (spring and summer) if you're in the Dallas/Fort Worth region. Also, although Texas deserts are beautiful, the heat can be dangerous without the proper precautions. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
Texas is in "Tornado Alley". Check the Tornado safety page if you are visiting Texas.
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Harbor-front pier, southern Texas, U.S.A.
Prairies and Lakes
South Texas Plains
Big Bend Country
The road system is almost universally excellent, and even the most remote points in the state can be accessed with an average sedan. Gas stations are numerous. Texan highways are often built with parallel frontage roads and turnarounds at most exits. Speed limits are very strictly enforced in rural areas of the state, as traffic fines are often a primary industry for many smaller towns, but when traveling through larger cities observing the "common speed" is much safer. Texas Map features a detailed scrollable road map which can be printed in sections.
Texas is home to several major airlines: American Airlines (Dallas/Ft Worth Airport), Southwest Airlines (Houston Hobby Airport), and Continental Airlines (George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston). American and Continental fly to many Texas locations. Southwest is the no-frills discounter granddad and flies throughout Texas. Travel to any destination world-wide is quite painless from the larger Texas airports.
Since Texas cities are geographically dispersed, travel by train is expensive and often inconvenient, though Amtrak does provide several lines. Passenger service is no longer an option for cities in the Panhandle or southern Texas. Again, the size of the state is startling; traveling across the width of Texas (from Orange, in the eastern extremity, near Houston, to El Paso in the western extremity) is roughly the same distance as one would encounter while traveling from El Paso to Los Angeles or from Houston to Jacksonville, Florida. Texarkana, in the northeast corner of the state, is closer to Chicago than it is to the extreme southern tip of Texas.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), the Dallas area public transportation authority, currently covers 84 miles of track.
The Trinity Railway Express line connects Dallas with Fort Worth and is operated by an interlocal agreement between the DART system and Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) in Fort Worth.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO) operates light rail service in Harris County, which includes Houston. The light rail (METRORail) in Houston runs about 8 miles (13 km) from Downtown Houston to the Texas Medical Center and Reliant Park. METRO also operates bus service in Harris County and to two cities in Fort Bend County.
Greyhound provides intercity bus service. Other bus carriers include TNM&O, Kerville & Americanos.
Texas is known as the "Lone Star State".
Texas is the only state to have the flags of 6 different nations (United States, Republic of Texas, Confederate States, France, Mexico and Spain) flying over it.
This state produces more wool than anywhere else in the U.S.
The cattle population in Texas is estimated to be over 15 million.
Home to the largest herd of whitetail deer
Austin is known as the live music capital of the world.
The world's first rodeo was held in Pecos in 1883.
There is more farmed land in Texas than any other state
Waco Bridge was the first suspension bridge in the U.S. built in 1870.
Houston is home to the first domed stadium built in the U.S. in 1965.