Texas – The Lone Star State
Located in the south-central portion of the United States, Texas is the second largest state in that country after Alaska. The state is not only second in geographic size but it also second in population after California, with 26.5 million inhabitants. Although Austin is the state capital, it is the city of Houston that is the most populous, being home to 2.1 million people. And with cities this size in the state, you can be sure that there will always be things to do in Texas.
The ‘Lone Star State’ has had a turbulent history of colonisation, dating from the early sixteenth century with the first encounter with the area by the Spanish. In the subsequent years it was colonised by the French, the Spanish and the Mexicans, eventually becoming the independent Republic of Texas in the early nineteenth century after a war with Mexico resulted in Texan victory. The now-state was annexed into the United States in 1845.
The geographic size of Texas means that it doesn’t have one particular climate classification. Indeed, the state actually has ten climate zones, which is probably why there are 11 distinct ecological regions in the state as well. It is home to 65 species of mammal, over 210 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 590 species of bird life (the largest of any state).
Texas has a large and diverse economy, thanks to its big population size. Oil and agriculture are the leading industries in the state, but technology and commerce are also significant contributors to the local economy.
Regarding transportation, Texas has the largest (by length) road network in the United States, with 80,000 miles of public roads criss-crossing the state. There are also extensive rail networks in the state, and numerous airports and ports can be found dotted around the region. Dallas and Houston both have light rail systems in place, while Austin operates a commuter rail service for its inhabitants.
10 Great Things to Do in Texas Right Now
Visit Big Bend National Park
Covering over 800,000 acres in the far western reaches of the state of Texas, in the region of the Chihuahuan Desert, is Big Bend National Park. The park was named an international dark-sky park in 2012 and is one of only ten certified dark-sky stargazing places in the world.
Despite its quite harsh desert climate, Big Bend National Park is home to over 1200 species of plant, 75 species of mammals, 450 different types of bird, and 56 reptile species, so it is quite diverse with life.
Among all the national parks in the United States, Big Bend National Park is one of the largest, one of the remotest and one of the least visited, with only about 350,000 visitors entering its boundaries each year. The park’s main attraction is hiking and backpacking, with many trails available for walkers, and professional guide services for those that need them. Visitors can also enjoy bird watching, fishing, horseback riding, river trips, and, of course, stargazing.
Although the park entrances are open 24/7, 365 days of the year, the various ticket booths have variable opening hours, depending on the season. Click here to see all the fees associated with the park. If you are running out of things to do in Texas during your visit, make sure you think about visiting this national park.
Visit Wonderland Park, Amarillo
Opened in 1951 as little more than a couple of kids’ rides on some waste ground, Wonderland Park, which is located in Thompson Memorial Park, Amarillo, in the state of Texas, has burgeoned into a 29-ride amusement park that welcomes over 200,000 visitors annually.
With 13 main rides that include Fantastic Journey, Fiesta Swing, Himalaya, Scrambler, Sky Ride and Texas Intimidator, five water rides, four roller coasters and numerous children’s’ rides, there are also attractions such as mini golf and arcade games. There is also a food booth, drink booth and cotton candy booth to satisfy those hunger pangs.
Opening hours vary, depending on the time of year, but it typically opens afternoons and evenings only. Entrance fees range between $16.95 and $39.95 for a day pass, depending on the type of pass purchased and the day of the week.
Visit Wyler Aerial Tramway, El Paso
Located in located in Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso, Texas, and operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Wyler Aerial Tramway was actually built by a radio station in 1959 to enable them to build a transmitter on the 5,600-foot Ranger Peak, on the east side of the Franklin Mountains. The carriages traverse two 2600-foot long steel cables to reach the peak, in a trip that takes four minutes.
The tramway starts at an elevation of 4,500 feet, so visitors make the drive to the location, enjoying the beautiful scenery as they go. The views of El Paso from the parking area are stunning. Once at the top of Ranger Peak, visitors are treated to 360o views that take in almost 7000 square miles that encompass two countries and three states!
The Wyler Aerial Tramway facilities include observation platforms, a gift shop and restrooms. There is no entrance fee to visit the tramway, but there are ranger tours on offer that cost $8 for adults and $4 for kids under 12. So for something different if you are thinking about things to do in Texas, why not visit the Wyler Aerial Tramway.
Visit Space Centre, Houston
The Space Centre, Houston is the official visitor centre for NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. The centre has many attractions available to its guests, including actual space hardware. These include the Mercury 9 capsule, the Gemini 5 capsule, the Apollo 17 command module and Saturn V. Some of the other attractions on site include special tours, tram tours, movie theatres for related space documentaries and the like, and live interactive performances. All in all, there are over 400 different things to see and do while there.
Among the must-see attractions are the Starship Gallery (home to the majority of the centre’s artefacts), Independence Plaza, the NASA Tram Tour, Astronaut Gallery, and the International Space Station Gallery. Kids can enjoy science shows and a multitude of simulator rides.
The centre opened in 1992, now welcoming almost 750,000 visitors each year. It is open each day from 9am to 7pm, but it gets busy at the weekend, during public holidays and at the height of the summer. There are two gift shops on site, and a diner is on hand if you feel hungry during your visit. There are also outdoor picnic facilities if you want to take a packed lunch.
Visit Dallas World Aquarium
The Dallas World Aquarium is actually an aquarium and zoo located in West End Historic District of downtown Dallas, Texas. Opened in 1992, it features five exciting exhibits: Mundo Maya, Orinoco, Aquarium, South Africa, and Borneo. Not only has the Dallas World Aquarium been a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (since 1997) but it is also a member of World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The exhibits house an assortment of weird and wonderful creatures including sea anemones, coral, jellyfish, electric eels, poison dart frogs, vampire bats, caecilians, tamarins, Orinoco crocodiles, toucans, and scarlet ibis.
There are feedings and talks on a daily basis, the schedule for which can be found by clicking here. There are also three restaurants on site for when you feel a little peckish.
Apart from Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, the Dallas World Aquarium is open every day from 9am to 5pm. No need to worry about things to do in Texas when this site is open every day. At the time of this writing, admission for adults is $20.95 + tax and for children aged 12 and under it is $14.95 + tax. Under 2s go free.
Visit the Alamo Mission in San Antonio
Built in 1744, the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas, more commonly known today as just ‘the Alamo’, was originally constructed as a Roman Catholic mission and fortress. Now a museum, the site is most famous for the Battle of the Alamo, which took place in 1836 when Mexican troops launched an assault on the Alamo Mission after a siege lasting for thirteen days during the Texan Revolution. As of July 2015, the Alamo has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hosting an array of events and exhibits (including one by British rock star Phil Collins(!)) as well as offering tours of the site and the surrounds, the Alamo Mission in San Antonio offers visitors a unique glimpse back into the often-violent Texan history. Closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the Alamo is open every other day of the year from 9am to 5.30pm (7pm closing in summertime). There are ample car and bus parking spaces on site, and there is also a gift shop that sells everything you would imagine from such a location. When it comes to things to do in Texas, the Alamo should be right up there at the top of the list!
Visit Lady Bird Lake, Austin
Located in the downtown area of Austin, Texas, Lady Bird Lake is a reservoir formed by the construction of the Longhorn Dam on the Colorado River. With a surface area that exceeds 415 acres, the primary function of the reservoir is flood control, but it is now a major recreational area for the inhabitants and visitors of Austin.
A 10-mile-long hike and bike trail follow the banks of the reservoir while a large park and landscaped areas sit adjacent to the lake. The water is spanned by nine bridges, one of which is the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, the underneath portion of which happens to be home to North America’s largest colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. From around March to September, locals and tourists alike line the bridge at dusk to watch the amazing spectacle of 1.5 million bats taking flight on their nightly forage for food.
There is a recreational area on the lake that allows for non-motorised watercraft such as kayaks and canoes, and various clubs and rowing teams use the water for their practise and training purposes. The lake has been stocked with a variety of fish to allow for recreational fishing. There are also venues along the banks that host various musical events and festivals throughout the year.
Visit Fort Worth Botanic Garden
Established back in 1934, Fort Worth Botanic Garden in Fort Worth, Texas has the honour of being the oldest botanic garden in the state of Texas. Covering an area of almost 110 acres, the gardens are home to over 2500 species of plant, both exotic and native, all of which are housed within one of 21 speciality gardens.
Among the speciality gardens are the conservatory, which, at 10,000 square feet houses tropical displays of, among others, orchids and bromeliads as well as a plethora of trees. There is also the Four Seasons Garden with its iris and chrysanthemum varieties, the Fragrance Garden, the 7-acre Japanese Garden (with ponds, bridges, waterfalls, pavilions, a zen garden, and more), the Oval Rose Garden, and the Water Conservation Garden. If nature is your thing and you are looking for things to do in Texas, and you happen to be in Fort Worth area, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden is well worth a visit.
There is a gift shop, restaurant and garden centre on site, and tours can also be arranged of some of the speciality gardens. The Main Garden is open all week, from 8am-8pm daily, and admission to the Main Garden is free. However, there is a charge for entering the Japanese Garden (9am-7pm, daily) of $7 per adult, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children aged 4-12. Kids aged 3 and under go free. There is also a fee for entering the Conservatory (same opening times as the Japanese Garden) of $2 per adult and $1 for kids aged 4-12.
Find out more about Fort Worth and things to see and do in the city by clicking here.
Visit the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, Fort Worth
Located in Fort Worth, Texas, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, which opened in 2001, has been set up to honour those that have somehow supported the rodeo and the western lifestyle in the state of Texas.
One-hundred-and-twenty-five cowboys and cowgirls are represented in the Hall of Fame, each having a dedicated area displaying personal memorabilia of the person in question. At the time of writing, eight exhibits were also showing at the centre, including Adventures of the Cowboy Trail, Zigrang Bit Collection, The John Justin Trail of Fame, and Applewhite-Clark.
Open daily (different days have different opening and closing times), the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame also has tours available as well as education programmes. Admission prices are $5 per adult, kids aged 5-12 $3, and there are family tickets for $15 (2 adults and up to 4 children aged 5-12 years).
Visit the Vintage Flying Museum, Fort Worth
Another attraction located in Fort Worth, and something different if you are looking for things to do in Texas, the Vintage Flying Museum can be found at Meacham International Airport. This aviation museum’s primary goal is to preserve America’s flying heritage. One of the aims is to help historic aircraft fly again, trying to keep them flying thereafter. As you can tell, restoration plays a big part of what they do here.
Their current collection currently comprises over 20 historic aircraft, including an Aeronca L-3B Grasshopper, Boeing PT-17 Stearman Kaydet, Douglas C-49J, North American F-86 Sabre, and Stinson L-5 Sentinel.
Open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (and Thursdays June-August), at different times depending on the day, admission costs $8 per adult, $5 for teens and seniors, and $3 for kids aged 6-13. Under 6s go free.