Texas

Texas

Eastern and Western Texas

Texas is enormous. With over 268,000 sq miles of land, and 25 million people, this Lone Star State is the second largest in the US in both size and population. If Texas’ land was a country, it would be the 40th largest.

The state is commonly divided into seven regions, each with its own version of the ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ attitude! Covering the whole state in one trip may be ambitious, but breaking it down by regions will help. From the fashionable city of Dallas in the East, to El Paso’s Tex-Mex vibe in the West, the vast lands of Texas have one thing in common: Texas pride.

Who wouldn’t be proud of cowboy boots, southern drawls, saloons and pickup trucks? If you’re not proud, Texans have the love it-or-leave it attitude, so saddle up your horse and giddy on out of there.

‘Everything’s bigger in Texas’ is the theme throughout this vast state. The East contains big malls, big SUVs and girls with big hair. The West has big museums, large parks, and of course, big enchiladas. Barbecue, country music and football can be found all across the state.

Introduction and History

Wagon-Wheels-by-Woody-H

Texas is the second largest state in landmass and the third largest state in population.  With a land area of 268,000 miles it occupies approximately 7% of the total land and water areas of the United States and is bigger than Germany, UK, Ireland, Belgium, and the Netherlands combined.

Previously part of Mexico, Texas has been fighting for freedom since European explorers first arrived in the region in 1519.

In 1528, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish explorer was shipwrecked on what is now believed to have been Galveston Island.  Of the original 600 crew members he was one of 4 eventual survivors and the first European to explore the interior of Texas.

Cabeza de Vaca and his companions lived among the Native Americans for eight years before returning home to what is now Mexico. They took with them tales of cities of gold that caused great excitement. In 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado set off with an army to find the fabled cities of gold. Coronado searched all the way to present day Kansas without ever finding the wealth described by Cabeza de Vaca.

Since then, this former independent republic has resisted claims from Spain, Mexico and even the USA, which it finally joined in 1845.

Having fought hard to keep its autonomy, Texas may not be the richest state in the US, but it certainly boasts an immense cultural wealth and is a wonderfully unique blend of history, fame and fortune.

Must See's and Do's

  1. Austin-for its legendary music scene and the world’s largest bat colony.
  2. San Antonio-for the Alamo & River Walk, as well as the surrounding ‘Hill Country’.
  3. Houston Space Center for a glimpse into this ‘out-of-this-world’ life.
  4. Dallas and Houston for some city experiences.
  5. Take a drive through Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
  6. Climbing at Hueco Tanks State Park.
  7. El Paso and the Mission Trail.
  8. For a ‘roadie’ experience, don’t miss Texas’ part of Route 66 through Amarillo.
  9. For a bit of Rock n’ Roll, head down to Corpus Christi and South Padre Island.
  10. Big Bend National Park and Marfa.

National Parks:

  1. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – Hueco Tanks
    Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – Palo Duro Canyon 
    Chamizal National Memorial Park

Notable Museums:

  1. Texas Prison Museum
  2. Space Center Houston
  3. The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
  4. The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
  5. The Alamo
  6. The Devil’s Rope Museum

Entertainment:

  1. Stockyards Championship Rodeo
  2. Fort Worth Stockyards
  3. Stockyards Station
  4. Billy Bob’s Honky Tonk, Fort Worth
  5. Legends of Texas
  6. Six Guns and Shady Ladies
  7. Lile Art Gallery
  8. Route 66: The Mother Road
  9. Fort Worth Gun Show
  10. Romantic Remembrances, Dallas
  11. El Paso Historical Commission
  12. Route 66 – Crocodile Lile
  13. Bowen Ranch, El Paso
  14. Texas Rowing Center, Austin

Getting There

Texas is a state that can be visited year-round due to the great weather. The best time to go is during the spring (late February to April). You don’t need to plan your visit too far in advance, unless it’s during a major event.

Look into transportation ahead of time, for there are many options. The state is vast, so pick a region or two that interests you and take off with a road map.

Unless you live close enough to Texas to drive there, flying into Texas then renting a car is the easiest way. If you’re arriving from outside the USA, Texas’ main international airports are Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport from Europe, and George Bush International Airport in Houston from Latin America

The US domestic airlines often have cheap deals on flights within America, including those to all airports in Texas if you fly into a different state.AMTRAK provides the only train service in Texas.

The Texas Eagle travels daily between Chicago and San Antonio. Its connecting service, between San Antonio and Los Angeles, is available three times a week via the Sunset Limited.  This is a sleeper train, though non-sleeper carriages can be booked.

The main form of transport in Texas is car, so consider renting a vehicle. A small car typically costs $25 minimum to rent per day. If you’re driving from one city to another Alamo specializes in one-way car hire.

There are fairly good public transportation bus services available in the larger cities. Dallas, Houston and Austin have light rails.

Climate: 

Texas has a variety of climates. The west is known to be arid where as the east is more humid. Late February to April is the best time to visit Texas, when the humidity is low and wildflowers are in bloom.

Visiting during the summer can lead to sweaty days with temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit with no drop at night. If you do find yourself in Texas during the summer, everywhere you go will have air-conditioning.

Southern Texas winters are mild; Corpus Christi rarely gets below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Winters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and up in the Guadalupe Mountains often see ice and snow.

Dress

Casual dress is absolutely fine in Texas. In fact, during the summer months shorts and a T-shirt, or equally ‘hot weather clothes’ are advisable.

If you are lucky enough to already own a pair of cowboy boots, wear them whenever possible-all the locals will notice and grant you immediate respect. If you don’t- get the credit card out, Texas is one of the best places to buy them! Look for a pair of Tony Lama boots at a store like Starr Western Wear.

Dallas is a shopper’s paradise!

Health:

Texas ranks last in the US for quality measures of social wellbeing. It has the worst air-quality in the nation. Porch-sitting, barbecues and tubing down lazy rivers are all common activities.

There are no serious health risks associated with visiting this region, but visitors to America will require travel insurance with full medical cover as even basic medical treatment is expensive and private.

Visas: 

All foreign visitors will need a US consulate visa, apart from Canadians and anyone entering under the Visa Waiver Pilot Program. Your passport must be valid for 6 months after your point of entry into the country.

After September 11th these regulations are very much in flux so it’s very important to check with the nearest US embassy or consulate for the latest information.

Check the US State Department site.

Practical Info

Population:

The 2011 census recorded Texas’ population at 25,674,681. Texas has the second largest population in the US, behind California. An estimated 15.6% of the state is foreign born. Texas is filled with a large number of Hispanics. In the 2010 census, 37.6% of the state proclaimed they were of the Hispanic or Latino origin. This group includes immigrants mostly from Mexico, Central America and South America.

Notorious for their friendliness, Texans are easy people to get along with. Visitors engage in small talk with the locals. Straightforward yet respectful conversations are common, using the words ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ in everyday life.  Lost in a conversation? Bring up football and you’re golden!

Currency:

Texas has the second largest economy in the nation. The state is full of wealth; 42 out of the 400 richest Americans are Texans. Just because the state is full of wealth, doesn’t mean you need to be rich to travel around Texas. There is plenty to do with a low to midrange travel budget.

More expensive times fall during rodeo season in Houston and the SXSW (South by South West) music festival in Austin.

The national currency is the US dollar ($). The approximate conversion as of 2012 is:

●$1=.757 Euro
●$1=£.634 sterling
●$1= 78 yenFor up to date currency information, check the Currency Converter.

Language:

English is the official language of the United States. Due to its proximity to Mexico and the recent immigrants, Spanish is also widely known across the state. Don’t be surprised by the Texas accent; Texans speak English with a unique southern drawl. Women get ‘sugar-pied’ daily with terms like ‘honey’ and ‘doll’ thrown at one another. Be sincere in conversation, Texans don’t like a brown-noser.

GlobeTrekker Itinerary

The world's only twice daily cattle drive can be seen at the Fort Worth Stockyards.

The world’s only twice daily cattle drive can be seen at the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Starting off in the State capital, Austin, Globe Trekker explores exactly what is meant by the slogan ‘Keep Austin Weird’.

Host, Zay Harding, then heads off to the heart of Texan pride, the Alamo in San Antonio where he discovers the history behind this state characteristic.

With his interest in the history of Texas piqued he travels by train to El Paso to uncover the extent of the fusion between Texas and Mexico and finds out how the current unrest in neighbouring Ciudad Juarez is affecting the city and its people.

Venturing away from politics he throws himself into the past once more, and finds out more about the old stagecoach trail that once allowed people & cargo to travel from Missouri to San Francisco in just 2 weeks.

Travelling, not by stagecoach, but by plane to Fort Worth, Zay throws himself into the cowboy lifestyle, getting roping lessons from a former Miss Rodeo America and being entered into the local Rodeo.

Zay’s Eastern Texas journey  starts in ‘cow town, Fort. Worth.  Once a major cattle exchange, these days it is a showcase for the spirit of the Texan cowboy.  Zays leaps right in, taking some roping lessons from a former rodeo star Pam Minnick and takes part in the evening’s whip-cracking rodeo show.

But no cowboy would be complete without his trusty pistol and Ft. Worth is home to the longest running Gun Show in the State.  Having little experience himself Zay explores the show and learns why Texans are so attached to their firearms but none of the answers are as shocking as his encounter with a taser display!

Onwards to Dallas, where Zay experiences a darker side to Texan history by visiting arguably the most famous spot in the city: the scene of President Kennedys assassination.  Zay relives JFK’s final moments with the help of Pearce Allman, a local newsman, who witnessed the tragedy first hand.

No story on East Texas would be complete without mention of that old ‘black gold‘ – Oil! Zay travels to Kilgore, the heart of the East Texas oil boom of the 1930‘s.  This small town was once home to the richest acre in the world and helped to create the oil-rich reputation the state enjoys to this day.

Texas also has a long-standing reputation for tough justice.  Moving south, Zay stops at one of the most fearsome prisons in the State: Huntsville.  Texas executes more people than any other State in the union and all of them occur in the Huntsville State Penitentiary.  Zay explores the sensitive subject by meeting a former warden from the prison’s death house and some newly-released prisoners.

For the final leg of his journey Zay travels to Houston, the 4th largest city in the US and home to NASAs Johnson Space Centre.   After a tour of its awe-inspiring visitor centre, Zay goes behind the scenes and finds out what astronauts go through when training for their missions into space and meets Astronaut Alan Bean, the 4th man to walk on the moon!

Back on sturdy soil, Zay completes his journey in the tiny town of Chappell Hill where 4th of July celebrations are nothing short of BIG!   Zay joins in the festivities and experiences the infectious nature of the independent spirit this big old State holds dear.

Where to Stay

Cowboy-Motel-Texas

We stayed in some fantastic hotels during our shoot in Texas.  Each one of the below was a truly wonderful experience and comes highly recommended by the crew.

Affordable:

Hilton Garden Inn, Fort Worth North
The Hilton Garden Inn Fort Worth North hotel in Ft. Worth, TX provides Everything. Right Where You Need It. Offering features that will accommodate both business and leisure travellers in a relaxed atmosphere with ultimate friendly service with a Texas flair.

Hilton Garden Inn, El Paso
This Hilton Garden Inn hotel in El Paso, Texas is in the heart of El Paso’s Entertainment District boasting over 50 restaurants and clubs within a five block area.

Moderately Priced:

The Aloft Hotel, Dallas
Far from ordinary, Aloft Dallas Down town offers guests a new experience with a fun scene . Enjoy a signature cocktail at thehotel  bar or play a game of pool – with complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the hotel which is always useful for travellers.

The Ambassador Hotel, Amarillo
Voted Amarillo’s best hotel nine consecutive years, the Ambassador Hotel is the embodiment of Texas Hospitality. Superior accommodations, extraordinary service and hospitality without equal make the Ambassador the choice for luxury accommodations in Amarillo.

Luxury Hotels:

The Omni Hotel, Austin
The Omni Austin Hotel Down town is a well appointed luxury hotel that surrounds you with comfort and style.  With the heart of the thriving downtown business centre at your doorstep, you’ll be just steps away from the Austin Convention Centre and the Texas State Capitol.

Hotel Indigo, Houston
A uniquely inspired boutique hotel that offers a stylish yet comfortable home away from home.

Eat and Drink

Jethro's BBQ, Des Moines by Jerry Huddleston

Jethro’s BBQ, Des Moines by Jerry Huddleston

What comes to mind when someone says Texas food? Meat, meat and more meat! Whether it’s the huge variety of the Salt Lick BBQ in Austin, or the challenge of eating a 72, oz steak in under an hour in Amarillo, Texans love their meat.

‘Everything is bigger in Texas’ holds true to Texas meals, the portions are beyond massive so you will never starve in this state. Main staples include barbecue and Tex-Mex.

Debates surge daily over which barbecue recipe is the best. As for the Tex-Mex, bordering Mexico can only guarantee Mexican food throughout the state. It’s been heard that the best Tex-Mex can be found in El Paso and L&J’s café comes highly recommended.

If you like a good beer at the end of the day, try the Texan special Lone Star Beer.

Some Great Restaurants:

The Big Texan, Amarillo
The Edge of Texas, El Paso

Useful Websites

Tourist Boards:

Other Sites:

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