The State of Texas

The State of Texas anaheimer

El Paso Evening - by Greg Bulla - WikimediaTexas is the largest state in the contiguous U.S. and was an independent republic for a short while before joining the Union.

They say everything is bigger in Texas. We experienced it firsthand as we crossed this massive state. It took us 2-days to cross, and along the way, we saw megacities like El Paso, San Antonio, and Houston.

Interesting facts: Texas had six flags over the years — those of Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, and the Confederacy—which inspired the name of the Six Flags amusement park chain.

So, what things are actually bigger in Texas – apart from the Texan egos?

  • The state capitol building is the largest in the country. It is even taller than the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
  • Not necessarily a good thing to brag about, but Texas is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases in the United States.
  • Texas has the largest wind farms in the U.S.
  • New Braunfels, Texas, boasts the largest convenience store in the world.
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Airport is the largest in the U.S.
  • On some state highways, you can drive 85 miles per hour (ca. 137 km/h).
  • There is plenty of big money in Texas. Of the 540 billionaires in the United States, thirty-three are Texas residents.

Note: this story is a part of an epic road trip from California to Florida and back. You can read about it here.

As we drove through the state on Highway 10, the landscape gradually changed from desert to lush green.

Around the city of Junction, we started to see lakes, rivers, farms, and forests. It was a relief for our sore eyes from the long expanse of desert.

El Paso

El Paso - San Jacinto Plaza - AlligatorsEl Paso is a border town along the Rio Grande with Ciudad Juárez across Mexico's border.

If you look at the area on a map, it seems like a megacity, combining the US and Mexican sides.

El Paso has the second-largest border crossing in the U.S. With that comes a lot of commerce and the flow of workers, shoppers, and immigrants.

But we were not here for any of that; we were interested in the major attractions, which include:

El Paso Museum of Art, Wyler Aerial Tramway, and National Border Patrol Museum.

If you are in downtown, don't miss a visit to San Jacinto Plaza – a well-appointed park with a fountain and Alligator statues.

The pond originally contained seven live – and very popular – alligators. The alligators were moved to the El Paso Zoo in 1965 but were memorized with the statues.

El Paso - Taft DiazDowntown is also home to some excellent restaurants. During our visit, we had dinner at Taft Diaz.

The restaurant and bar take a corner of a business building with ultra-modern decor, pleasant lighting and music, and a creative menu.

During our visit, we tried the Bok Choy and the Cappelletti Pasta – both were delicious.

We tried the Bread Pudding and Sorbet for dessert - a wonderful way to end the meal.

El Paso Rafting Rio Grande - by B575 - WikipediaThe Aerial Tramway is the only one in Texas. It carries riders on a 4-minute trip to a peak in the Franklin Mountains at an elevation of 5600 ft. The park and tramway are currently closed.

If you want a magnificent town view, take Scenic Drive. The winding road skirts around the east side of the Franklin Mountains, offering up some of the city's most stunning views.

El Paso is also home to many cultural events and festivals. Our timing was off, so we didn't see any of them, but I sure want to attend the Great River Raft Race and the Balloon Fest next time I visit.

Fort Stockton

We stopped at Fort Stockton out of necessity – after a long drive. We didn't find anything significant to see. It was still an arid desert.

The Historic Fort Stockton intrigued us, but we didn't see anything but the ruins of a fort when we arrived.

We just spent the night and departed the following day.

San Antonio

San Antonio Alamo - by Daniel Schwen - WikipediaThe first things that pop into my head when I hear San Antonio are the Alamo and Riverwalk. But the city is much more than those two attractions.

It started as a Spanish mission in 1718 and later as a Mexican town. In 1835, the standoff at the Alamo helped Texas gain its independence from Mexico.San_Antonio Riverwalk

Along with a visit to the Alamo, a stroll along the Riverwalk is a must.

The Riverwalk is a paved pedestrian-only path stretching for fifteen miles, connecting several neighborhoods and waterside parks.

San Antonio Tower of the Americas - RiverWalk - by Jim_Evans - WikipediaThe most popular part of the River Walk is the loop between San Fernando Cathedral and Market Street adjacent to the Alamo. This is where you'll find the most restaurants, shops, bars, and tourists.

We enjoyed a tasty dinner at Boudro's right on the riverbank. Great service, great food, and a remarkable view.

San Antonio also has two major theme parks: SeaWorld and Six Flags. If wild rides and sea creatures are not your things, you can spend time at the Botanical Garden, Zoo, Tower of the Americas, or Natural Bridge Caverns.

Houston

Houston is the largest city in Texas by population and served as the capital of the Republic of Texas for a brief period.

The city is named after General Sam Houston, who liberated Texas from Mexico and became its president during its independence.

Houston Independence at Space Center - by Alex Ruddick - wikipediaHouston is a sprawling city with a lot of history and culture. There are too many things to see in one visit, but here are my favorites: Johnson Space Center, Museum of Natural Science, Houston Zoo, San Jacinto Museum of History, and Cockrell Butterfly Center.

At the space center, you can take a walk through the space program's history. The center has several exhibits highlighting NASA's ships, a replica of the shuttle Independence, and Mission to Mars – the newest exhibit.  

A stroll through downtown Houston will take you through a thriving business hub with many attractions, entertainment, and eateries.

While in Downtown, you can admire the high-rises, visit the aquarium, relax at a park, have a meal, or take in a show at the theater district.  

Winnie

We spent the night at this small town outside of Houston – on the way to New Orleans. There are no major attractions nearby, but there are many good restaurants.