There are hundreds of lists of things to do in the USA, or individual states like Texas, but we’ve come up with one thing in every state plus D.C. in 21 different categories. Truly something for everyone, from historic places to foods you have to try, from the downright quirky to amazing museums, and from weird places to stay to fun things to do. Our primary criteria were we have or want to see them, and they are things you can physically visit or try.
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Historic Place: The Alamo
“Remember the Alamo” – a battle cry that turned the defeat of March 6th, 1836 into a call to arms and an eventual victory. The resolve it gave, to remember those who fought to the death, stimulated other rebels to continue the fight. So it was just six weeks later at San Jacinto, that Sam Houston saw his chance and defeated Santa Ana’s army, securing the independence of Texas and forever putting the Alamo into the history books.
Famous Person: Lyndon B Johnson
The 36th President, born in Stonewall, Texas, became president after the assassination of JFK, before winning a landslide victory on his own ticket in 1964. Famous for escalating the Vietnam War, as well as pushing a war on poverty and enhancing civil rights, the estate where he was born, lived and died can be toured in your own vehicle.
Natural Wonder: Palo Duro Canyon
Despite proving that not “everything” is bigger in Texas, the second largest canyon in the United States is still a stunning place to explore on foot, by bike or maybe even riding a horse (it is Texas!).
Food & Drink: Chicken Fried Steak and Dr Pepper
Ah… chicken fried steak. It doesn’t actually contain any chicken (though you can get chicken fried chicken!) but it tastes fantastic though you may want to exercise off all those delicious calories in the afternoon. And what else can you wash it down with other than Texas’ own Dr Pepper?
Factory Tour: Blue Bell Ice Cream
“Eat all we can & sell the rest” – that’s what it says in the staff room at the Blue Bell ice cream factory. Thankfully they make WAY too much for them to eat it all so we get to enjoy some too. On the tour of the factory, you’ll see how they make ice-cream, fill tubs, create ice cream sandwiches, and then enjoy your favourite flavour in their ice cream parlour.
Man Made: BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Temple
The Mandir Temple is a Hindu place of worship that was built from Turkish limestone and Italian marble. Consisting of 33,000 individual pieces, hand carved in India and then assembled on site like a huge 3D jigsaw puzzle, it positively gleams in the Texas sun.
Record Breaking: Largest State Capitol Building
Completed in 1888, the Texas State Capitol building in Austin is the largest state capitol building by area. Free tours of this expansive and impressive building are available inside. Be sure to climb up the rotunda to look down on the huge Texas State Seal on the floor as it’s beautiful.
Photo reproduced with kind permission of Billy Bob’s Texas
Quirky Record: Worlds Largest Belt Buckle
What else could Texas have but the “world’s largest” of but a belt buckle? Permanently situated in Billy Bob’s Texas, the buckle is an impressive 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) tall and 2.59 m (8 ft 6 in) wide. Not sure how big the person who could wear it would have to be!
Activity: Be a Cowboy/Cowgirl
Dixie Dude Ranch, situated on 725 acres, is one option to visit a real working ranch that raises cattle, pigs, and goats. Stay for a night, a few days, or just be a cowboy or cowgirl for the day.
Atlas Obscura: The Big Bubble
Hiding in downtown Houston is a big red button on a wall just begging to be pressed… Will you dare? If you want it to be a surprise, then DON’T reveal what happens below before you visit.
Most Visited: River Walk, San Antonio
The River Walk allows you to walk, shop, or cruise the river down below the hustle and bustle of the city above, all whilst still enjoying the Texas sunshine. The cruise boats are well worth a trip to relax and learn lots of interesting information about the area.
State/National Park: Big Bend
Admire the scenery, enjoy the isolation, go on a day hike, or, our favourite idea, take a river trip down the border between the United States and Mexico – it’s all possible at Big Bend National Park.
Event: The Texas Renaissance Festival
Visit England and travel 400 years back in time, all whilst not leaving Texas! The Texas Renaissance Festival recreates a medieval English town with shows, shops and attractions of all kinds. They even change all the $ signs to £, though we suggest you still pay in dollars as 1:1 is not a good exchange rate! :-)
Different Place to Stay: El Cosmico
Try a more nomadic existence by staying at El Cosmico in one of their quirky abodes. From vintage trailers to teepees and safari tents, they all offer something a little different from a boring hotel.
Different Place to Eat: Pecan Pie Vending Machine
Where else can you buy a fresh homemade pecan pie from a vending machine?
Have Some Fun: Roam the iconic Fort Worth Stockyards
With 46 buildings included on its National Register of Historic Places entry, the Fort Worth Stockyards can definitely support its historic district claim. At the last remaining standing stockyards, you can ride the Grapevine Vintage Railroad or a mechanical bull, watch a cattle drive, walk into a saloon, or check out the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame… plus much more.
Film Location: Texas Chainsaw Massacre
This one’s a twofer! The scariest gas station in the world? Last Chance Gas Station is where the hitchhikers tried to buy fuel and had to stay the night as the pumps were dry. You can now do the same if you aren’t too scared…
Also, whilst not in the place where the film was made, the picture above is the famous Leatherface house from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. After being left vacant for many years, it was rescued by being cut into six pieces and moved to Kingsland where it is now a restaurant.
Map Waco Suspension Bridge, Waco, Texas 76701
The first suspension bridge in the United States was Waco Bridge. Built in 1870, it’s still in use today as a pedestrian crossing over the Brazos River.
Something Different: Prada Store
Map US-90, Valentine, Texas 79854
Don’t crack open the wallet or purse because you can’t buy anything at this Prada Store. It’s an art installation, the brainchild of Elmgreen and Dragset from Berlin. Don’t think it’s an easy place to steal a Prada handbag or pair of shoes either. The handbags have no bottoms and all the shoes are for right feet!
Museum: National Museum of the Pacific War
Based in the boyhood hometown of WWII Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, this museum documents WWII from a Pacific perspective, rather than the more common European view. Don’t miss the living history re-enactment of the taking of a Japanese bunker; the weapon demos are interesting, the mock battle is fantastic, and heat from the flamethrower is incredible.
Scenic Drive: Davis Mountain Scenic Loop
This 75 mile drive along the highest highway in Texas loops around Mount Livermore and showcases the Davis Mountains. Through forests, past canyons and valleys, across plains and around sweeping curves all with mountains as a backdrop, this a great Texas drive.
Don’t miss Dead Mans Canyon for a great view of the valley.
We’d love to hear what you think. What did we miss? What do you think we should have chosen instead?
If we love your idea, we might just swap it into the list, if we like it, maybe will give it an honourable mention; either way we’ll be sure to give you credit, AND add it to our list of things to see and do when we are in the area.
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