As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas. There are quite a few big cities here that are nothing short of impressive, as well as mid-sized cities that have plenty to offer too. Texas is a state associated with many stereotypes. But as you travel more extensively around this massive plot of land, you’ll see that each place really does have something unique to offer tourists.
Some parts of Texas are known for ranches, while others have beaches or wineries. There is also an excellent state park system in Texas that showcases the state’s natural beauty and interesting landscapes. But to get started with your exploration of Texas, why not start in the cities and branch out from there? It’s a big place, so allow plenty of time to get a feel for what each region is all about. These are the top cities to add to your Texas travel bucket list.
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If you’ve never been to Texas before, a great place to start is San Antonio. Here you’ll find a perfect blend of history, modern attractions, and natural beauty…not to mention amazing food! Top spots to satisfy your taste buds are Boudro’s on the Riverwalk for prickly pear margaritas, the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills for local favorites, and the Menger Hotel for mango ice cream. Visiting the Alamo is a must, and check out the historic missions in the area too. There’s a Mariachi Mass at the San Jose Mission that’s worth checking out. Book your stay at Hotel Emma or the Mokara Hotel and Spa in San Antonio to treat yourself while you visit the city.
Some people are surprised to learn that Texas has a coastline, and the city of Galveston is one of the best places to experience it. It’s been called the “playground of the south” because there is always something fun going on here. Pleasure Pier has roller coasters, and The Strand hosts festivals during the year. The nightlife scene here is lively, with plenty of live music venues to keep you entertained. This is also a popular port to hop on a cruise ship and sail the open seas. Recommended places to stay in Galveston are the Hotel Galvez, which look out to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Harbor House, which is a renovated warehouse that’s been turned into a casual hotel. The Galvestonian and the Tremont House are other top picks.
Houston is a huge city, which means that the options are pretty much endless when you visit for a weekend or longer. There are some excellent hotel accommodations here to choose from, spas to relax at, and sporting venues to cheer on the local teams. Top attractions are the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, annual parades, and local rodeos. Of the many places to stay in Houston, The Landcaster, Hotel Granduca Houston, and The Whitehall Houston come highly recommended.
A trip to El Paso is like a trip back to the Old Southwest. It’s located in West Texas and in the corner of Big Bend County, near the U.S./Mexico border. You can enjoy nice year-around weather, shop for great Western wear, find amazing food, and play a few games of golf while you’re here. This area has a rugged mountain landscape that’s perfect for hiking, biking, and climbing. You can reach Franklin Mountains State Park in just a 15 minutes’ drive from downtown El Paso. Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site is another great place to visit if you enjoy rock climbing and history. Don’t miss the El Paso Mission Trail, which encompasses over 300 years of history that dates back to when the first European explorers moved into this area. Some of the fun festivals in El Paso to check out are the Hueco Rock Rodeo, the Sun Bowl, and Viva! El Paso. Some of the most convenient hotels are near the airport, such as the local Holiday Inn and Hampton Inn.
Austin is a modern city that defies the stereotypes that you may have about Texas. This is the place to come for live music festivals, craft beer, food trucks, and unique shops. Head to Sixth Street to find record stores, organic food markets, and hip restaurants. The city has a young, energetic, and quirky vibe that is a perfect setting for improv comedy shows and cultural events. It is also home to the state capital and the Governor’s Mansion. Just a short distance away from downtown Austin is Lake Travis, Town Lake, and Lake Austin, which are excellent places to visit if you enjoy water sports, fishing, and swimming. Consider staying at the Archer Hotel Austin, the Lone Star Court, or Travaasa Austin for your trip. There are also many popular chain hotels that are excellent as well, such as Homewood Suite by Hilton Austin-Arboretum NW and Hampton Inn at the University/Capitol.
Dallas is another huge city in Texas that can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t know where to go or what to do. The West Village neighborhood is a nice place to visit between McKinney and Blackburn Street and between Lemmon and Cole Avenues. Here you’ll find outside dining spaces and western shops to stock up on your western wear, boots, and hats. While you’re in Dallas, you can catch a game of the Cowboy, Stars, or Rangers depending on the season. Hotel ZaZa Dallas and the Ritz Carlton are wonderful places to book a hotel room when you visit.
Fort Worth is famous for its old stockyard, and you can visit the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District to learn more about the city’s role in Texas history. In this area, you can get into the honky-tonk spirit at Billy Bob’s Texas. The Fort Worth Cultural District is packed with museums to explore. There’s the Kimball Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum of Art, and the Texas Civil War Museum just to name a few. The Ashton Hotel, Stockyards Hotel, and Omni Fort Worth Hotel are some of the many recommended places to stay here.
The downtown area of Amarillo has been growing lately and become a place where Old West traditions meet new and exciting activities. It’s also famous for the collection of painted Cadillacs sticking out from the dirt at Cadillac Ranch along Route 66. The Big Texan Steak Ranch is the popular eatery with the 72-ounce steak challenge, which dates back to 1962 and challenges diners to finish an entire 72-ounce steak in an hour for a $0 bill. Other places to visit in town are the Amarillo Botanical Gardens, Amarillo Zoo, the Wildcat Bluff Nature Center, and the American Quarter Horse Heritage Center & Museum. Definitely make a point to hike around the dramatic and impressive Palo Duro Canyon State Park nearby because it’ll change your perception of the Texas landscapes. There’s a nice Drury Inn and Holiday Inn Express & Suites for your vacation here.
Head out to West Texas to experience the beautiful art and jewelry in San Angelo. The downtown area has lots of nice shops that specialize in Concho Pearls. This is also a great place to shop for Western wear, like belt buckles and boots. The San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts has a large ceramics collection, and the Fort Concho National Historic Landmark has special events to check out. Stay at the Baymont Inn & Suites or the Wingate by Wyndham when you visit San Angelo.
Another lovely seaside place to visit in Texas is Corpus Christi. Plan to spend plenty of time on the beach to soak up some sun and relaxation away from the hectic pace of daily life. From Corpus Christi, there are about 75 miles of shoreline that is part of the Padre Island National Seashore. The South Texas Botanical Gardens is worth a visit, and there’s a loop that you can drive to get around the beaches Mustang Island and the artists’ colony at Rockport-Fulton with lots of galleries to check out. Other top attractions are the Texas State Aquarium and USS Lexington. The Omni Corpus Christi Hotel and Embassy Suites by Hilton Corpus Christi are nice places to stay in town.