You’ve heard all the stereotypes and seen the Westerns, but there’s a whole lot more to the grand state of Texas than just cowboy culture, rich history and even richer food. Texas has been a popular tourist destination for decades, but no matter how big it gets, it always manages to stay true to its roots. Willie Nelson, The Alamo, Tex-Mex…the list of reasons to visit the Lone Star state goes on and on. So from calf scramblin’ and queso to cowboy boots and bolos, here are seven ridiculously Texan things you need to try at least once.
Eat your weight in BBQ and Tex-Mex
Whether it’s Texas border food or Texas BBQ, one thing’s for sure: Texans love to eat. That being said, Texas is most definitely not the place to calorie-count or worry about carbs. The list of smokehouses and BBQ pits in in the state is staggering, but not matter what city you’re in, you’re sure to find award-winning smoked meats and insanely delicious eats. Black’s BBQ has been serving up delicious food for four generations in the “Bar-B-Que capital of Texas”, Lockhart, and has now expanded to downtown Austin, TX.
Another famous BBQ joint in Austin is the ever-popular Franklin Barbecue, which is so freakin’ amazing that people wait in line for hours every day just for a taste (yeah, genuinely). For some fantastic border-style Tex Mex, try the chips and queso at Trudy’s in Austin, complimentary sopapillas at Leo’s in El Paso, or the original fried puffy taco at Henry’s Puffy Tacos in San Antonio.
Go line dancin’ and two steppin’ at a Texas Honky Tonk
In a state where country music prevails, you can’t throw a stone without hittin’ a dance hall, roadhouse or honky tonk full of Texas beer and Texas tunes. For a real taste of Texas history, test out your dancing skills at Gruene Hall, the oldest Dance Hall in Texas. Built in historic Gruene in the 1800s, this hall is famous for its original layout, impressive celebrity guest list and nightly live music shows for up-and-coming artists as well as world-renowned bands looking for a more intimate performance setting. From Garth Brooks and the Dixie Chicks to George Strait and Lyle Lovett, just about every big-time band has played at this historic hall.
Texas’s second oldest dance hall can be found just a few towns over in Schroeder. Steeped in rich German history and heritage, Schroeder Dance Hall is the home of the Texas two-step and hosts a wide array of renowned artists on a regular basis. Be sure to catch a Goliad Beer Garden and Brewery tour while there. You're welcome.
Attend the Rodeo and partake in all the festivities
If there’s one tradition that embodies the spirit of the state, it’s the rodeo. There’s something about drinking cheap beer and watching grown men riding bulls that just screams Texas. First off, check out one of the top indoor rodeos in the US at the Houston Rodeo and shed a tear over Selena’s last performance. Then head over to Fort Worth and visit the world’s first indoor rodeo, the Stockyards Championship Rodeo. Don't miss San Antonio either, which is home to the famous Stock Show and Rodeo, with plenty of animals and activities for everyone. While you’re there, you have to participate in the Calf Scramble, which involves chasing down an arena of calves in what can only be described as the most ridiculous display of chaos around.
Catch a Live ACL Taping in the Live Music Capital of the US
Austin has always been one of Texas’s weirdest and most artistic cities. From street art and music festivals to live shows and concerts, it's 100% the place for live music – whether it’s Country, Hip-Hop, Blues or Hard Rock. Some killer local places to catch an incredible show are at Stubb’s BBQ, Austin360 Amphitheater, Skylark Lounge and pretty much any coffee shop, bar, club and park.
But one of the highest and most coveted honors for a musician is a live ACL taping at the Moody Theater. Just about every famous artist, including Don Henley, ZZ Top, Sting, Slayer, Willie Nelson and Patty Griffin, have performed at Austin City Limits. So if you’re looking for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to catch a live music taping, there’s only one place to go, and that’s ACL Live. You’re gonna need your energy for this show, so be sure to fuel up right down the block at La Condesa, Lambert’s Downtown BBQ, Cooper’s BBQ or The Bonneville.
Party hard on the Riverwalk
The Alamo City is full of Texas history, border culture and seriously lit nightlife scenes. You may have heard of The Riverwalk before, since it is listed as one of the top tourist destinations in the US, but you can’t really know its full awesomeness until you’ve seen it and experienced it. Built along the San Antonio River a block beneath the streets of downtown San Antonio, and just a short walk from the historic Alamo, The Riverwalk is famous for its boat river tours and plethora of restaurants and bars nestled right along the water.
If you’re looking for a boozy good time (which you obv are), try bar hopping or pub-crawling along the Riverwalk at the Pearl Brewery, Nectar Wine Bar, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, Mad Dogs British Pub and Coyote Ugly Saloon. Alternatively, watch the colorful string lights dance above the river water while you dine at one of the many riverside restaurants (check out Rio Rio Cantina, Bohanan’s, Paesonos, Iron Cactus or Boudro’s).
Buy a Stetson and cowboy boots and wear them to every occasion
Whether it’s to a wedding or to a chili cook-off (yep, they're a thing!), Texans will always find an occasion to wear their Stetson hat and Cavender’s cowboy boots. So if you find yourself in Texas and want to look the part, head to one of the Lone Star state’s many quality custom boot-makers and western wear outfitters like Allen’s Boots, The Texas Boot Company or Heritage Boot and pick yourself up a pair of Texas-crafted boots, a perfectly-fitted cowboy hat, and a leather belt with an outrageously huge initialed belt buckle.
Break in your new cowboy kicks on a brewery tour of one of Texas’s many renowned breweries like Live Oak Brewing in Del Valle, Hops & Grain Brewing in Austin, Real Ale Brewing Co. in Blanco, or Saint Arnold Brewing, Texas’s oldest craft brewery, located in Houston.
Explore every terrain in one state
From majestic mountains and green forests to vast deserts and sandy beaches, Texas is home to just about every terrain you can imagine. The beautiful Blue Bonnet state is one of the few places on Earth where you can explore mountains, valleys, forests, deserts and oceans all under one state flag. Sun bathe and sip salt-rim margaritas by the Gulf Coast at South Padre Island and Galveston, or go adventure mountain biking at Big Bend National Park. Take in the wonder of Santa Elena Canyon, carved by the Rio Grande River and wander through the piney forests of east Texas.
You can sip your way through the lush greenery of Hill Country at its dozens of local wineries like Hye Meadow Winery, 4.0 Cellars and Woodrose Winery, or even partake in some of the best damn Mexican food you’ve ever had while you catch a glorious desert sunset in El Paso. (While you’re in El Paso, you absolutely have to try their local secret, Chico’s Tacos. Order a Single, French Fries and a Large Coke. Don’t ask, just eat. You’ll thank us later.)