Texas is big, and not just in size – with its huge range of natural landscapes and features, a culture stemming from a historical legacy of six different ruling nations, and a distinctive musical style, it lives up to the adage that ‘everything’s bigger in Texas’.
With the Great American Road Trip more popular than ever, according to Forbes, Texas provides a wealth of opportunities for automobile adventuring, whether you plan to take a weekend break or a month-long tour. So what are some of the must-see locations across the state, and what will you find when you get there?
Food for thought
Discovering local delicacies is often a key element of any vacation, and a trip to Texas will not disappoint. With Spanish and German influences, and distinctive Southwestern style, the menu has a range of interesting and unique dishes to sample, and a great range of craft beers available too – those stopping off in Houston can visit the Saint Arnold Brewing Co. beer hall, stop off at some of the numerous craft breweries, and enjoy a taco or two at some of the top rated restaurants in the state. The art scene is strong in Houston too, with museums and exhibitions aplenty showcasing the culture and heritage of the area.
The gastronomical journey continues along the road to San Antonio – 190 miles from Houston, and home to many restaurants serving tlayudas (a bit like an open taco, topped with meat, refried beans and cheese), tacos al pastor (filled with boneless pork shoulder sliced extremely thinly) and cerviches (a flavorful fish dish). Popular tourist hotspots include the Alamo and Riverwalk, which extends further along the Mission Reach Trail to lead you to the city’s four southernmost Spanish colonial missions: Concepcion, Espade, San Jose and San Juan. Those looking for some thrills and spills will also enjoy the Six Flags Fiesta theme park, Sea World San Antonio, and Morgan’s Wonderland.
Hills and caverns
San Antonio marks the beginning of Hill Country, an area often considered to mark the border between the American Southeast and Southwest, and heralded as the center of the Texas wine industry, with tall rugged granite and limestone hills framing the view as you drive. The tallest of these, Paddlesack Mountain, rises to an impressive height of 800 feet to tower above the Llano River running beneath it. A vast network of caves and aquifers pocket the region, with many, such as the Inner Space Cavern, the Natural Bridge Caverns, and the Cave without a Name (named by a local student who won the town’s naming contest!) offering exploration tours for all ages and abilities, with some including more challenging routes with off-trail spelunking involved. In addition, fantasy and folklore abound along Route 32 between San Marcos and Wimberley, including wandering Spanish Monks, the spirits of confederate soldiers on their horses, and even the specter of a wolf, according to local legend.
Capitalize on your time
Austin is the next logical destination (with a quick pit stop in Lockhart to sample some of the best barbecue globally), and as the Texas capital and fastest-growing city in the US, it has plenty of outstanding restaurants, as well as the Hope Outdoor Gallery (a graffiti exhibition you can add to yourself), and a range of unique shops and outlets. You’ll also find Zilker Park here, home of the natural Barton Springs Pool. Further down the road sits the Big Bend National Park, which takes ten hours to drive through in a truck or SUV, or alternatively, park up and take a hike instead to view the impressive canyons, Chisos Mountains, Glenn Springs and the Mariscal Mine. Pass through Marfa (a must for anyone looking for cultural experiences, with 16 galleries forming a significant proportion of the buildings in this isolated town), and finish your trip in El Paso, taking a journey up the Wyler Aerial Tramway for some unparalleled views of the city and its neighbor, Juarez, in Mexico.
With these, and many other unusual and interesting destinations on offer to visit across the state, Texas is an excellent choice for a unique road trip adventure. With its rich and vibrant culture, range of natural features, family friendly experiences and exceptional cuisine, you’re certain to find something that fits your wants and needs.