It is easy to run out of superlatives when describing the great state of Texas. It is the largest US state in area by some distance ahead of Alaska and California. It produces more oil, cotton and beef than any other state and leads the country when it comes to production rate. These are objective observations, but if you speak to many Texans, they will also tell you that their state is also home to the friendliest people too. It is certainly true to say that the inhabitants of Texas are an unusually welcoming bunch, but we will leave this last one for you to judge on your next trip to the Lone Star State. While we are on the subject, here is a list of seven things that it would be criminal to overlook on any visit to Texas.
1. Camp at Enchanted Rock
If there is one thing that epitomizes the Texan way of life, it is spending the night out camping under the stars – and what better place to do it than at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Central Texas. This massive rock dome rises 425 feet from the horizon and is made of the same pink granite that gives Texas’s state capitol building its hue. It is the site of an important pilgrimage for the Comanche and Tonkawa Indian tribes, who are thought to have offered sacrifices to their gods at the base. Today, it is popular among locals and tourists alike for its striking appearance and incredible views.
2. Visit the San Jacinto Monument
At the site of the decisive battle in the Texan Revolution of 1835-1836 now stands the San Jacinto Monument. Built in the 1930s, the monument is a 567-foot column which proudly stands erect in a symbol of Texan pride and defiance. The significance of the victory and the story of Sam Houston’s (from whom the modern city of Houston takes its name) daring on the battlefield is cataloged in the nearby San Jacinto Museum of History which is well worth a visit if you are interested in American history.
3. Hit Up Route 66
Route 66 was one of the oldest highways in the US, dating back to 1926 and spanning the country from Chicago to Santa Monica. The highway was decommissioned in 1985 but has retained a legendary status in the popular imagination of the American people. Today, it makes a fun trip to visit the section that runs through Texas to explore the series of ghost towns that pepper its length and hopefully take a picture of yourself standing next to the iconic Route 66 road signs.
4. Big Bend National Park
In Texas’s far western expanse lies one of the natural jewels of the American South. Home to limestone canyons, rivers, hot springs, and diverse flora and fauna endemic to the area, Big Bend National Park is simply enormous and gives a real taste of the wilderness that has inspired the legends of cowboys and Indians since time immemorial.
5. Dive into Jacob’s Well
Let’s face it – who doesn’t like to jump from a height into a cool pool of crystalline waters on a hot summer’s day? One place that you can do this until your feet hurt from so much jumping is Jacob’s Well off Route 35 between Austin and San Antonio. Formed by a perennial karstic spring that emerges from the bed of Cypress Creek, Jacob’s Well is a seemingly bottomless underwater cavern that is filled with perfectly clear water and surrounded by smooth cliffs which are perfect for diving.
6. Bike Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon is a canyon system in the Texas Panhandle. It is second only in size to the Grand Canyon as the largest canyon complex in the United States. By far the best way to take in the full majesty of Palo Duro Canyon’s fantastical red rock formations is by taking a mountain bike tour. There are scenic trails for all abilities, although some of these trails may prove challenging for novice riders.
Texas is somewhere that any traveler with a passion for real American culture should visit at least once in their life. If you intend to visit this fascinating state, you will have to sign up to the ESTA visa waiver scheme before you fly to be allowed entry on arrival in the United States. Check out this excellent ESTA guide for more information on how to apply. Once you have all your documentation in order, you will be free to enjoy the famous Texan hospitality to your heart’s content.