15 Unique Experiences to Have in Texas
The Lone Star State has no shortage of attractions, from cutting-edge museums and rugged national parks to more barbecues than you can poke a T-bone at. At almost 700,000 square kilometres, the second-largest US state is hardly bite-sized – Qantas flies direct from Melbourne and Sydney to Dallas Fort Worth in around 16 hours – so knowing what to see is key. Start planning with our list of the best things to do in Texas.
Image credit: Travel Texas
Hike the Guadalupe Mountains1/16
Active types won’t want to skip Guadalupe Mountains National Park, home to the state’s highest point, the 2667-metre Guadalupe Peak. The steep 13.5-kilometre round-trip trek isn’t for the faint of heart, but at the “Top of Texas” you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and desert floor below.
Image credit: Travel Texas
Play astronaut for a day2/16
See the Apollo 17 command module up close, touch a moon rock and take a VR mission to Mars at Space Center Houston, which serves as the NASA Johnson Space Center visitor centre. Even better: join a VIP tour to go behind the scenes at Mission Control and visit the astronaut training facility.
Image credit: Visit Austin
Hit up a Honky Tonk3/16
Boot scoot down to The Broken Spoke, a memorabilia-strewn dance hall and Austin institution since the 1960s. Expect boisterous live music (the likes of Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks have performed here), two-step lessons, cold beer and classic country fare such as chicken-fried steak.
Image credit: Willow House
Escape to a desert retreat4/16
Tucked away in the remote town of Terlingua near the border of Big Bend National Park, Willow House sleeps up to 30 guests in a cluster of chic concrete cubes. After a long day hiking, retire to the 101-hectare property for an outdoor shower and cocktail by the fire pit.
Image credit: Mission Adventure Tours
Take the mission trails5/16
San Antonio is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site for its Spanish colonial missions: beautifully preserved Franciscan complexes that date back to the 18th century. Follow the riverside hike and bike trail to see all five, including the infamous Alamo, or paddle past on a guided kayak tour with Mission Adventure Tours.
Image credit: Visit Austin
Dip in a natural swimming hole6/16
Head to Hill Country in Austin for some of the state's most scenic swimming spots. Blue Hole Regional Park is shaded by cypress trees straight out of a storybook while Barton Springs Pool, in buzzy Zilker Park, spans 1.2 hectares. Entry passes are required depending on the season; visit during spring to witness the wildflowers in bloom, too.
Image credit: The Original Blacks BBQ
Taste mouth-watering barbecue7/16
Dubbed the barbecue capital of Texas, Lockhart is home to a slew of legendary pitmasters. Come with an empty stomach and try the melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket at Black’s, pork ribs at Smitty’s and jalapeño sausage at Kreuz Market (plus a slice of whatever seasonal pie is on offer).
Image credit: March
Travel via your tastebuds8/16
At March, a plush fine diner in Houston, the seasonal six-or-nine-course tasting menu transports diners to different regions of the Mediterranean. Think: razor-thin slices of chilled octopus served with charred red grapes and creamy lemon gelato drizzled with olive oil that capture the flavours of Greece.
Image credit: Dallas Arboretum
Admire the Dallas Arboretum9/16
Often cited as one of the world’s greatest botanical gardens, the Dallas Arboretum sprawls across 26 immaculately-maintained hectares on the shores of White Rock Lake. From the family-friendly adventure garden and cooking classes to the ‘Cool Thursdays’ concert series, there’s plenty to keep you entertained.
Image credit: The Loren Group
Book a room with a view10/16
Opened in 2022, The Loren boasts some of downtown Austin’s best vistas. Overlooking Lady Bird Lake, the city’s sparkling skyline and the Texas Hill Country in the distance, the hotel has a rooftop restaurant, a well-appointed pool area, a glam day spa and 108 quietly luxurious rooms outfitted with floor-to-ceiling windows and mid-century modern furnishings.
Image credit: The Chinati Foundation
Explore the Marfa art scene11/16
This old railway town has been on the art world map since minimalist Donald Judd purchased several buildings for art installations in the 1970s. See his geometric concrete structures at The Chinati Foundation, go gallery hopping and stop for a snap outside Prada Marfa (2005), a permanent "pop architectural land art project".
Image credit: International Dark-Sky Association
Go constellation spotting12/16
With some of the darkest skies in the United States, Big Bend National Park is the place to see constellations like the Milky Way, Orion and Andromeda at their brightest. Park Rangers regularly host free stargazing parties (you’ll need to book ahead) or check out the nighttime sky quality map for solo exploration.
Image credit: Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Visit an interactive science museum13/16
Kids will love the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, a futuristic five-storey facility next to Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. Highlights include stepping onto the “Earthquake Shake” at different magnitudes, reaching your hands into the tornado simulator and testing your speed against a T. rex or cheetah in the Sports Hall.
Image credit: Heath Sparkling Wine
Taste top local drops14/16
An hour-and-a-half drive from Austin, bucolic Fredericksburg is home to more than 50 wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms. Sip your way around cellar doors such as William Chris (a light-filled timber building surrounded by sprawling lawns), Heath Sparkling Wines (with its sleek, modernist patio) and Lost Draw (a cool barn).
Image credit: ByGeorge
Shop South Congress15/16
Of-the-moment designer fashion and homewares at ByGeorge, tons of vintage stores, real-deal cowboy boots at Allens: South Congress Avenue, or “SoCo” to Austin locals, promises a rewarding afternoon of retail therapy. Come sundown, there are plenty of options for bar-hopping (The Continental Club is a must for live music).
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