Editor’s note: This article was originally published for Texas Independence Day.
Hooray, it’s Texas Independence Day! The day we Texans indulge in queso and barbecue and celebrate the fact that we get to live in the greatest state (and former country) in the country.
There’s no better way to pay tribute to our wonderful, diverse, beautiful state than to travel to its far reaches. Whether you pay homage to Whataburger at its flagship store in Corpus Christi or pose for a selfie at Cadillac Ranch, the experiences you have on Texas soil will stay with you forever.
Here are 15 experiences that every Texan should have on their travel bucket list. But of course it’s only a sample. Something we missed? Let us know in the comments. And also be sure to check out our list of 180 things we love about Texas, from George Strait to Buc-ee’s.
Because baby turtles! Sea Turtle Inc. hosts public releases on South Padre Island at dawn on certain days mid-June through August. Padre Island National Seashore also offers public releases during the same season.
Climbing to the top of this hulking granite dome is a rite of passage for any true Texan. When you’re done, reward yourself with a beer at nearby Luckenbach, where “everybody’s somebody,” then settle in for a night at Starry’s Studio in Fredericksburg.
I’m a pepper? You’re a pepper! Whoever you are, don’t miss your chance to celebrate Texas’ favorite soda at this beloved Waco museum. While in Waco, check out the incredible Waco Mammoth National Monument and say hello to the elephants at Cameron Park Zoo.
At 8,751 feet, Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park is the highest natural point in the state. Which means that if you climb to the top, you get the bragging rights of having been to the “Top of Texas.”
There’s nothing better than a long weekend getting back to nature at Big Bend. Also on your to-do list while you’re there: climb Emory Peak, hike the South Rim Trail and soak in the Boquillas Hot Springs.
Even if you don’t think you know about Cadillac Ranch, you actually do — it’s the Amarillo art installation that features colorful Cadillacs jutting up from the ground. While in Amarillo, make sure to go mountain biking at nearby Palo Duro Canyon and stop for dinner at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, where anyone who can finish their 72-ounce steak in less than an hour will get it for free.
Rocky Carroll, a second generation bootmaker, has worked with everyone from the Bush family to Dolly Parton, and he’d be glad to make you a unique pair, too. While you’re in Houston, drop by the amazing new Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, carve out some time for the Menil Collection and stop for lunch at the original Ninfa’s on Navigation.
Sure, it’s 10 miles long, but who cares when the ground is flat and the ocean is your backdrop? Bonus points for grabbing a shake at La King’s Confectionery, traipsing through the submarine at Seawolf Park or catching some beads on Fat Tuesday — Galveston has one of the best Mardi Gras celebrations in the country.
There’s a flagship Whataburger store in Corpus Christi. And it comes with oceanfront views, a bronze statue of founder Harmon Dobson and even an elevator. Can you imagine a better place to enjoy your Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit? Didn’t think so. Oh, and on a more somber note, while you’re in Corpus Christi also be sure to stop by the Mirador de la Flor statue, which honors “queen of Tejano music” Selena Quintanilla-Pérez.
Seeing the Alamo and marveling at how small it really is is a must for any Texan. But this time when you go, be sure to rock out to your favorite Phil Collins power ballad on the way, because the British superstar also just happens to be a huge Alamo fanboy. Seems against all odds, right? (See what we did there?) It’s not. He even donated his gigantic collection of Alamo and Texana artifacts to the Texas General Land Office, which will display the collection in a few years as part of a new Alamo museum.
Garner State Park’s idyllic location along the Frio River has long made it one of the most popular parks in the state, but to truly experience it you have to attend one of its famous summer dances, held nightly June-August.
There’s nothing better than a summer’s day spent floating the river. After, grab a bite at the Gristmill, then catch some live music at Gruene Hall. Don’t forget to schedule an annual trip to Schlitterbahn, either.
Then find a restaurant to cook your catch. Also don’t miss the ferry ride to St. Jo island for an afternoon, a drink along the water at Virginia’s, dinner at Shells or a sweet treat from Winton’s Candy Company. Extra credit if you time your trip with the annual Texas SandFest, which this year is April 21-23.
Then head to nearby Marfa, where your must-do list includes seeing the Marfa lights, taking a photo at Prada Marfa, wandering the Chinati Foundation, stopping for groceries at The Get Go and spending a few nights at El Cosmico.
We Texans love our kitschy cowboy culture, and what better way to embrace that than during a twice-daily cattle drive in the Fort Worth Stockyards? Complete the theme with dinner at Cattlemen’s Steak House, where you can pick out the exact steak you’d like to eat for dinner, and a nightcap at the Stockyards Hotel, where you can sip your spirits the way every true Texan should — from atop a saddle.