The Big and the Small | Best Places to visit in Texas
“Everything’s bigger in Texas” an often heard and at times overused statement. However, being the largest state in the continental United States, Texas inarguably has much to offer people of even the most peculiar tastes.
Its big cities and small towns each provide their own unique flair for everyone.
Austin | Best Places to visit in Texas
Austin, the Paris of Texas, stands at the heart of and capital of Texas. This city often called “The Violet Crown of Texas” has within some truly amazing places to eat, with art to view, and people with a certain “flare for the dramatic”.
No matter the pallet Austin’s variety of restaurants; Torchy’s Tacos, were you can order the Trailer Park taco and even make it “trashy” by adding some guacamole, Hula Hut, a taste of the ocean-atmosphere in central Texas, or stop into Gourdoughs and try their burgers, made infamous by their fresh cooked doughnut buns, truly is a foodie’s paradise.
Surprising to many a traveler, Austin is the music and concert capital of Texas. From classic artists to new and upcoming talent from Texas and around the world, anyone who has ever had the dream is always encouraged to play their hearts out.
In the history, buff Austin has many stories to tell. A short walk north of Congress and 6th street the traveler would find a most peculiar statue of a woman frantically firing a cannon into a building.
The story behind this statue even more amazing, it tells the story of Angelina Eberly and her story of how she launched a cannon to alert the citizens of a dastardly deed, a plan to move the documents and declarations, and the very capital of Texas itself from Austin to Houston, part of the Archives war in Texas.
At the Texas State Cemetery among the tombs and plots of many Texas heroes you will find a Statue dedicated to Joanna Troutman “the Betsy Ross of Texas” her design of the Original Republic of Texas flag, a single blue star with the words “Texas and Liberty” on the front and “Where liberty dwells there is my country” on its back.”
A short walk from there you will find the largest statue within the cemetery, dedicated to the namesake of the city Stephen Fuller Austin “The Father of Texas” credited with being its founder after leading the second attempted and ultimately successful colonization of the land, his father Moses Austin received a land grant from Spain to attempt such a task, but upon his death in 1821 Stephen took the task upon himself.
Though he originally sought to keep peace and compliance with the country of Mexico and its laws, helping quash the Fredonian rebellion (the first attempt at Texas independence), It was in January of 1834 after Austin was arrested on suspicion of trying to incite rebellion, though no charges were pressed, that Austin realized that working towards any peaceful resolutions with Santa Anna was futile.
Have a nocturnal naturalist in your group?
What better way to keep Austin weird than joining fellow night owls as they watch as estimated 1.5 million, making it the largest population for these in the world, Mexican Free-tail bats as they swarm from underneath the Congress Avenue bridge.
For those interested in seeing such a sight the best time of the year would be early spring to early fall.
While it cannot be guaranteed how many if any will come out for their show you are always encouraged to call the batline at (512) 327-9721 and get reports on when the bats have merged and how many have been spotted to give a rough estimate on best time and place.
Dallas | Best Places to see in Texas
While often mistaken for the capital of Texas, Dallas is definitely the capital of Texas culture. Resting in the northeast of the state, the Dallas-Fort Worth area is the second largest city in the Lone Star State.
For the country cowboy, the Fort Worth Stockyards has a classic old-fashioned salon feel to it. Have yourself a drink where “Walker Texas Ranger” filmed the scenes taking place in CD’s Bar, The White Elephant Saloon.
If you’re feeling especially brave mount onto one of the various Longhorns used at the rodeos within the arena.
For the city slicker downtown Dallas offers the Reunion Tower, second tallest observation tower in the state.
With an impressive view of the city and rotating restaurant by Wolfgang Puck (dress code is enforced), Reunion tower serves up the romance be it a first date, the golden anniversary of anything in between.
The Hyatt Regency located next to the tower will help provide a great end to the romantic evening.
For most alive at the time, November 22, 1963 will be a date forever engrained in their minds. Where, in Dallas’ Dealy plaza, at approximately 12:30, a fatal shot was fired ending the life of Americas 35th president John F Kennedy.
A somber white X marked the spot of the president’s motorcade when the final bullet did its dastardly deed.
Though the X disappears from time to time those wishing to pay their respects a memorial was constructed about a block away.
Designed by Philip Johnson as “a place of quite a refuge”, its design nothing more than a simple square with an open top, made to symbolize an open empty tomb.
In a search for understanding or to put to rest any questions of conspiracy, the sixth floor of the book depository (the perched used by Oswald for the assassination) has been opened up as a museum dedicated to exploring the questions and finding answers left behind so many years ago.
On the other side of the Road, you will find a small stone column. While not having anything to do with this dark day, this monument commemorates Dealy plaza as the Birthplace of this city and welcoming the people to the doorway to Dallas.
When you’re out to have some fun be sure to stop by and say howdy to Big Pete at the Dallas Fairgrounds, a giant statue that’s become a symbol of the park.
Explore, take in the sculptures, and while you’re there see if you can identify the 6 different women each of whom represent one of the six flags that flew over Texas; Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederate States of America, and United States of America.
Further, inside the park is the Hall of State, dedicated to the history of Texas presenting various statues of its heroes as well as artifacts that made it what it is today.
San Antonio | Best Places to visit in Texas
Offering its visitors a “little Venice” many a San Antonio traveler will spend at least a day walking along, shopping at, or gently sailing down river walk.
The restaurants lining the edge cater to everyone, with such places as The Hardrock Cafe, The Rainforest Cafe, The Iron Cactus, and many more, most willing to deliver to the boats so that you may eat as you enjoy your river tour.
Step off the raft and stop inside the various shops that nestle in-between the restaurants for various cultural nic naks or souvenirs to remember the experience.
Along the riverwalk you will find one of the five Spanish missions of San Antonio, recently classified as a world heritage site, the most infamous of these missions,
The Alamo. Here “The Cradle of Texas Liberty” truly earned its reputation. It was here that some 182 to 257 men from around the world stood against an 18 hundred man army and the brutal tyrant that controlled them, General Santa Anna.
While technically considered a loss for the Republic of Texas it served as an inspiration to others for generations around the world.
So moved by the passion here Dr. Shigetaka Shiga wrote a poem expressing that “Whoever knows the heroes of the Battle of Nagashiro, Knows the heroes of the Alamo” this poem was later inscribed on two small stone monuments one placed in the Alamo and the second in Okazaki, Japan, binding these two cities and battles for independence.
A short walk from the Alamo, right next to the city hall, you will find both the Cathedral De San Antonio and Spanish Governor’s Mansion, the latter where General Santa Anna commanded his forces and the former where the burned remains of three of the most well-known fighters, William Travis, James Bowie, and Davie Crockett are enshrined.
Standing above the various buildings hotels and banks, one can easily spot The Tower of the Americas.
Located in Hemisfair Park, site of the 1968 world’s fair, this tower stood as the tallest tower in the United States, surpassing even the Seattle Space Needle until 1996 upon the completion of Las Vegas’s Stratosphere.
The tower’s top serves as an observation deck, museum, and rotating restaurant. On the ground floor, guests are encouraged to take part in a 4D theatric experience where the audience is flown over Texas taking in all the different climates and sites, this short movie is a sure delight for families especially children that may be nervous about riding to the top of the tower.
Looking for places to stay in San Antonio?
Many hotels provide guests with views of the Alamo the riverwalk or the tower. The historic Menger hotel, located across the street from the Alamo once served President Theodore Roosevelt as he recruited for his rough riders and is still an elegant and grand hotel in operation today.
Houston | Best Places to visit in Texas
In the southeast lies Houston, Texas’ New York City. Purchased in 1836 by the Allen Brothers, intent on founding a city, Houston would eventually become the largest city in the state of Texas and 4th largest in The United States.
Placed next to the Gulf of Mexico this city serves as a major shipping port for packages traveling by land, sea, and air.
The Port of Houston is one of the busiest ports in the US with ships hauling goods, most common grains from the Midwest and petroleum products from the Gulf.
For those looking to relax in the big city Houston currently has over 300 different parks to help its residents and visitors find a place to relax and take the edge off.
Buffalo Bayou wraps its way around the city offering fresh air and pleasant walks and fishing with the family.
For those with excitement running through their veins stop into Minute Maid Park and take in a game with the Astros, winners of the 2017 World Series.
Once finished with downtown take an out of this world trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Here witness the training US astronauts must go through before take off. Sit in the gallery where mission control first heard those now infamous words “that’s one small step for man one giant leap for mankind” and with baited breath mission control worked frantically as the terrifying message came across the airwaves, “Houston, we have a problem.”
once finished at mission control take a walk in rocket park where you can examine early prototypes and then walk alongside a Saturn V rocket, used during many Apollo missions. Before leaving be sure to step into the vault where you can join the rare few who can lay claim to touched the moon.
Travel to the outskirts of the Houston metro district and you will find the small town of La Porte, home to two very famous Texas landmarks. As you make your approach the first one will become obvious.
Standing at over 567 feet, the San Jacinto Monument is the tallest masonry column in the world, its giant star at the top helping surpass the 554 foot Washington monument.
At its base, the monument tells the story of Texas, from its beginnings to the battle of San Jacinto which was fought not far from there, and for which the monument is named. Inside a museum dedicated to the battle and the men and women of that time period is found.
Visitors are encouraged to take the elevator up to the viewing area just under the star. At the top you can see far off into the Texas wilderness, in the bay just below the horizon you will see the second landmark, the USS Texas.
BB-35 is a New York class battleship, the second ship to be named Texas, and the very first battleship to be made into a museum. On board, you can explore this 1914 era battleship.
Observing first-hand how life must have been like in the US Navy during the wars. From its steep cramped stairwells to floors that easily pass for a maze, it becomes apparent the respect and admiration these men earned serving our country on board this ship.
El Paso | Of of the Big cities in Texas
Be it the spaghetti westerns of old or the deep romanticization of the location, the mere mention of Texas will conjure up images of sand, sun, tumbleweed, and the occasional cactus.
While this is not true for much of the state, nothing could be closer for El Paso, the Texas of Texas.
With the Mexican state of Chihuahua to the south and New Mexico to its north and west, this city is nestled in the northwest corner of the state.
While not as vast as San Antonio’s Mission Trail, El Paso’s Mission Valley offers a look into an early Spanish colonial period.
Once finished stop into the Franklin Mountains state park and take a ride on the Wyler Trams, where on a clear day you can see deep into Mexico on one side and three different states on the other.
With any luck, you may even get to view the giant star placed on the mountains light up, often times to celebrate various holidays or events. It is quite a sight to behold and something truly Texas.
The Small | Best places to visit in Texas
Scattered in between these five major cities there lies a great many hidden treasures waiting for the traveler to discover. San Angelo is a small town famous for its sea life’s all natural pink pearls.
Gonzalez is home to the Come and Take It flag, a bold and determined dare made to the Mexican government that if they were to take the cities primary defense, a small cannon, it would have to be done with force.
It was just outside of the city, were this dare was taken and the first shot of the Texas Revolution was fired.
In Washington-on-the-Brazos, a town so small that if you blink you will miss it, explorers are encouraged to visit Texas’ Independence Hall where the convention of 1836 was held and the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed by its 60 delegates.
In Goliad, as you walk along the remains of the mission and its Presidio, you will come to understand the duality of the human experience.
A large memorial stands upon Goliad’s rolling hills as a final resting place of over 400 men who were killed in the Goliad Massacre, under the order of General Santa Anna.
The brutality of this crime encouraged the rebellious fighters at San Jacinto to not only cry out the infamous “Remember the Alamo” but “Remember Goliad” with equal fervor and rage.
A smaller monument, though certainly no less important, pays homage to The Angel of Goliad, a brave woman named Francita Alavez who’s tireless intercession convinced the soldiers to spare some 100 plus men who would have been executed alongside the others.
Fredericksburg offers a small piece of Germany for the lone star state, well known for its peaches as well as its wine.
Just outside this little tourist stop the families athletes will be particularly pleased to take on the hike up Enchanted Rock a pink granite monolith that provides trails for the casual hiker or the hardcore climber, the view from the top is truly worth it regardless of which path you choose to take for it.
As you make your way across the state, always remember that with a place so big it can hardly be expected to take it all in at once.
Doing a road trip?
Be sure to stop in at Bucky’s road stops for a taste of true Texas for the road.
We certainly encourage visitors to take their time, take in the sights and absorb the different cultures to be found in Texas. We will be here just as friendly and just as hospitable as we always are.