One's general impression of Texas is of a place where everything is bigger and better, where the state's estimated 16-million cattle roam free, and where life is at a cowboy's pace. However, as the second largest state in the US, dotted with half a dozen huge cities, Texas is vast and varied and defies its stereotypes.
Hills, lakes, mountains, beaches, bogs, and desert stretch between its Gulf Coast and the Red River boundary north of the Panhandle. There are 23-million acres of woodlands, 125 state parks, and four national forests. Texas' large cities like Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio provide the opportunity to soak up culture at a world-class art gallery before meandering through a scenic park. Home to the largest oil industry in the US, Texas also has one of the country's biggest wine-growing regions, and has some of the nation's finest restaurants.
Historically, Native American groups like the Comanches and Apaches roamed the Texan plains and Spanish settlements only began in 1690. In the following centuries, Texas became a conglomeration of settlements of various immigrant groups, and was an independent republic for 10 years with its characteristic Lone Star flag, finally acquiring statehood in 1845.
The word Texas is a corruption of a Native American term for friend, and the hospitality of the cosmopolitan Texan people reflects this in a state that caters for everyone's interests.
Texas is home to a lot more than merely cowboys and rodeos. A rich state with so much to offer its visitors, the Lone Star State has a wealth of features and attractions. Not only is Texas perfect for those who enjoy the outdoors, but tourists will also find loads to see and do in any one of its world-class cities.
Particular favourites for sightseeing tourists include San Antonio's River Walk and the famous Alamo, the latter having played a very important role in the wars waged over Texas. Dallas is certainly worth the stop for those looking for arts and culture, easily found in the many museums and galleries, such as the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Old Red museum of Dallas County History and Culture. The famed Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza where the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is commemorated, is also a must when in Dallas. A trip to Texas would somehow feel incomplete without a visit to the State Capitol in Austin, and of course the popular Space Center in Houston is a top attraction for both adults and children.
Texas is also a region home to some notable vineyards and wines, which can be enjoyed in any one of its many fine restaurants and bars, which means those looking for some good food and entertainment will not leave disappointed.
A diverse state with something on every corner to see and explore, Texas is a brilliant destination for visitors of all ages.
The city of Dallas' history is preserved in a living museum nestled in 13 wooded acres just south of downtown, known as Old City Park.
This historical village consists of 38 buildings and houses, including a working farm, elegant Victorian homes, a school, church, general store, saloon, and a bank that is alleged to have been robbed by Bonnie and Clyde, all dating from between 1840 and 1910. All the structures in this recreated turn-of-the-century village have been collected from various locations in and around Dallas, and restored and re-assembled here.
Visitors are encouraged to make themselves at home in the village and interact with the houses, shops and other buildings. Visitors are also welcome to bring picnic lunches along and enjoy them on the park's lawns. The museum hosts several seasonal and year-round programs, such as the Plow, Plant and Shear program that takes visitors through the farming process.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy is commemorated in the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza where the 1963 shooting took place. Most chilling of the exhibits is the window area in the former Texas School Book Depository building from where sniper Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired the fatal shots at the 35th President's motorcade.
The sixth floor of the museum also documents Kennedy's life and legacy, featuring more than 20,000 artefacts and a large amount of archival material, recreating the socila and political climate of 1963 and making the assasination a reality to those who didn't live through it. The seventh floor hosts temporary exhibits related to the shooting in some way, such as A Photographer's Story: Bob Jackson and the Kennedy Assasination, and Dallas Law Enforcement: Voices from History.
A granite marker at the corner of Houston and Main Streets outside shows where Kennedy was assassinated and a memorial stands in nearby John F. Kennedy Plaza. Visitors to the museum can also view the Zapruder film of the assassination.
Fort Worth is the place to experience the romance of the American Wild West, and the Stockyards National Historic District is the ideal starting point. The district encompasses 15 blocks packed full of exciting 'cowtown' attractions, from rodeos to cattle drives, country music shows, shops selling genuine cowboy gear, saloons, and Texan diners.
The Stockyard District is also the venue for several annual festivals and western events and home to the world-famous Billy Bob's Honky Tonk, a giant (three acre) country music club comprising an indoor rodeo, a massive dance floor, many bar counters, cafes and restaurants, and a general store. Further attractions in the district include the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Jersey Lilly Old-time Photo Parlour, the Fort Worth Stockyards Stables, and the Stockyards Museum. The area also offers plenty of barbecue restaurants and steakhouses.
Fort Worth's Modern Art Museum is second only in size to its counterpart in New York, and is the oldest art museum in Texas, having been chartered in 1892. It was initially conceptualised by a group of 25 women keen to make the town more than just a centre for cows and horses. The collection officially began in 1904 with the group's acquisition of George Innes' Approaching Storm. Five years later the museum had grown enough to host its first exhibition of 45 paintings. From there the museum continued to grow by leaps and bounds and became the impressive collection that it is today.
The museum's permanent collection of modern and contemporary paintings includes works by Picasso, Andy Warhol, Rauschenberg and Pollock, and is particularly strong on works in the Pop and Minimalist genres, as well as German art from the 1970's and 1980's. The museum also hosts visiting exhibitions and features a large sculpture collection. Altogether, the permanent collections on display amount to 3,000 works.
The museum is housed in an elegant building, consisting of five long flat-roofed pavilions atop a 1.5-acre pond, designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando and opened to the public in 2002. The new space boast 53,000 square feet of gallery space and has a state-of-the-art auditorium attached to it. Performances and shows are regularly hosted in the auditorium.
Established in 1979, the Cattle Raisers Museum is dedicated to telling the story of the cowboy and cattle ranching industry of the southwest. Talking mannequins, interactive exhibits, authentic artefacts, and theatre presentations are used to bring alive the legends and lore of the Wild West, from Texas Rangers to rustlers.
The exhibitions cover four broad eras of cattle herding: the Open Range trail from 1850 to 1890, the New Horizons trail from 1890 to 1940, the Vision trail from 1940 to 2000, and the Digital trail, from 2000 to the present day. Several exhibits are named after those who donated to them or played an important role in cattle herding, such as the Ken Spain Saddle Collection, the Joe Russel Spur Collection and the Leonard Stiles Branding Iron Collection, the largest collection of branding irons in the world.
Fort Worth's Zoo started off quite humbly in 1909 with one lion, two bear cubs, an alligator, a coyote, a peacock, and a few rabbits. Since then the zoo has grown and is now ranked as one of the top five in the United States, home to more than 5,000 animals living in natural habitat settings like Raptor Canyon, the Koala Outback, and Asian Falls.
A recently opened new eight-acre section called Texas Wild takes visitors on a journey through the state to see indigenous animals like swift foxes, ocelots and white-tailed deer. This section includes a mock-up of a Texas town with a restaurant, store, saloon, and jailhouse. Another popular diversion here is the chance to try managing a computer-simulated ranch.
Even more recently, a Parrot Paradise, Great Barrier Reef display, Penguins exhibition and a Museum of Living Art (MOLA) have been opened. In addition to wildlife focused attractions, there are further entertainments available, such as a rock-climbing tower, a movie theatre, a carousel, a small express train, a weather theatre, and a shooting gallery.
Focusing on physical, earth, and life sciences, the Don Harrington Discovery Center is set in a 51-acre park with a lake and picnic area. The centre contains more than 100 hands-on activities and a recently renovated Space Theater. There is also an aquarium on site featuring both saltwater and freshwater tanks, as well as a botanical garden. The most popular sights here are a Foucault Pendulum, rotating independently of the earth's gravitational pull, a helium technology exhibit, and a weather-watch section with a tornado machine.
The centre was recently renovated and now includes several permanent exhibitions: Hunters of the Sky, focused on birds of prey, Amazing Bodies, all about the wonders of life and living bodies, Planetary Landscapes, an interactive exhibit that makes planetary weather systems and galactic motion more understandable, and Bounce, an examination into the physics and maths behind round shapes.
The centre runs summer camps as well as so-called Parents' Night Out on Friday nights, when parents can leave kids to learn and play for a few hours.
The Texas Panhandle's one and only accredited art museum is the Amarillo Museum of Art. The museum was established in 1967 by a group of community leaders who felt that those living in the Amarillo area deserved a proper art museum, and in 1972 the museum opened its doors to the public. The museum has six galleries housing a permanent collection that includes 17th through 19th century European paintings, 20th century modernists, photography, Asian art and Middle Eastern textiles.
Some well-known artists represented in the collection are Georgia O'Keeffe, Franz Kline, Louise Nevelson, Helen Frankenthaler, and Francesco Guardi. Since 1995, the museum's collection has grown considerably due to the contributions of Dr. and Mrs. Price of Amarillo. Their contributions led to the naming of the Price Gallery of Asian Art, a collection that contains Edo period Japanese wood block prints, as well as South and Southeast Asian sculptures. The museum also offers frequently changing exhibits ranging from contemporary art to the American and European masters.
A Concert Hall building is part of the museum complex and hosts various concerts and talks throughout the year. The museum hosts regular Art After Dark events, when the museum stays open in the evening for a special exhibition that is accompanied by live music, street food stations, possibly a demonstration or presentation of some kind, and further activities such as screen-printing tutorials.
A million years ago a branch of the Red River carved a massive canyon through the northern Texas plains. The walls of the Palo Duro Canyon, meaning 'hard wood' canyon, named after the hardy juniper trees that grow in the canyon's sides, plunge down 1,000 feet (305m) at points, exposing the multi-layered coloured rock strata.
The Palo Duro Canyon State Park is a few miles east of Amarillo, reached via Texas 217 highway. The park offers picnic and camping facilities, a visitor's centre with a shop, an amphitheatre where shows are staged, and horseback riding trips.
The park is also home to a famous historic site where the last great battle between troops and Indians took place in Texas. In 1874 Colonel Ranald Mackenzie and his 4th Cavalry defeated a large band of Native Americans camped in the canyon and transported them to reservations in Oklahoma. Visitors can watch the park's longhorns being fed by rangers at appointed times every few days, and occasional educational talks are hosted by the park to educate visitors on various aspects of life in the canyon over the years.
The visitor's Space Center is attached to the headquarters of America's manned space programme, Nasa's 'Mission Control' that directs the space shuttle project and guided the pioneering astronauts. The Space Center, Houston's most popular tourist attraction, is located at Clear Lake, 20 miles (32km) southeast of downtown, off the Gulf freeway I-45.
There are numerous wonders to behold at this facility, which both entertains and educates, from a mock-up of a space shuttle to an Imax theatre and hundreds of hands-on exhibits. Visitors are taken through the NASA Johnson Space Center where engineers are at work, and some lucky visitors might even get to see astronauts training and preparing for a mission.
The Feel of Space exhibit gives visitors an idea of what it's like to carry out everyday tasks in a low-gravity environment, and there is even an opportunity for visitors to practice some basic astronaut skills on simulators, such as landing the orbiter. Tram tours run every half hour taking in the highlights, including Rocket Park where retired spacecraft come to rest, Mission Control and even astronauts in training.
Set within a scenic part of central Houston is the city's Museum District, featuring 19 varied institutions and numerous restaurants set among some lovely green spaces like Hermann Park, all within a 1.5 mile radius of the Mecom Fountain. One of the highlights in the area is the Byzantine Fresco Chapel on the corner of Branard and Yupon Streets, containing 13th-century frescoes from Cyprus. There is also a children's museum, contemporary arts museum, and the Houston Holocaust Museum.
One of the most interesting museums in the district is the Museum of Health and Medical Science, which features a walk-through re-creation of the human body. The Menil Museum has a collection of contemporary, surrealistic, and 20th century art in an interesting building at Sul Ross. In Hermann Park is the comprehensive Museum of Natural Science and Planetarium, the Houston Zoo and a Japanese Garden.
Further museums included in the district are the Asia Society, Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, Czech Center Museum Houston, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Houston Center for Photography, the John C. Freeman Weather Museum, the Jung Center of Houston, Lawndale Art Center, Museum of African-American Culture, the Rice University Art Gallery, and the Rothko Chapel.
For a touch of the bizarre call at the Orange Show to see how obsession can become art. A former postman spent 26 years of his life assembling a collection of weird and wonderful objects and meshing them together into a labyrinth of passages and staircases, almost all of it orange. The result is a quirky curiosity, which is billed as 'folk art', and has spawned the popular Art Car Parade, a city-wide parade of cars decorated in weird and wonderful ways.
Several other sites are included in the Orange show, such as the Beer Can House - a house covered entirely in so-called siding made from beer cans, and decorated with garlands made from beer cans. the house was covered i beer cans by a retired upholsterer, for fun. There is also currently another park under construction, called Smither Park, that will follow the aesthetics and philosophy of the Orange Show. The park is billed as Houston's first folk-inspired green space and will play host to city-dwellers' leisure time as well as personal ceremonies such as weddings. Public performances and shows are also planned for the space.
The Sam Houston Historical Park near the city's visitor centre in Bagby Street provides visitors with a large as life look at Houston history. The 19-acre park features seven of the city's oldest buildings that have been restored and relocated here.
The oldest building is a small 1823 cabin that originally stood at Clear Lake, while one of the more recent is the 17-room home built in 1905 for oil field pioneer Henry T. Staiti. Some of the other buildings located in the park are the 1847 Kellum-Noble House, the 1850 Nichols-Rice-Cherry House, the 1868 San Felipe House, the 1868 Pillot house, the 1891 St. John Church, the 1870 Yates House and the 4th Ward Cottage. Each building has been renovated and furnished to appear exactly as it would have when it was first erected.
The park itself was bough by a mayour of the city in 1900, and was carefully landscaped into a beautiful Victorian garden. Several sculptures and memorials are displayed permanently in the park, such as the Neuhaus Fountain, the Alexander Hodge Memorial, the World War I Memorial and the spirit of the Confederacy sculpture. Visitors to the park today can explore each of the houses as well as the garden
The magnificent pink mansion in the marshy elbow of Buffalo Bayou in Houston's River Oaks area was the home of Miss Ima Hogg, a woman much loved in the community until her death in 1975, at the age of 93. Miss Hogg and her two brothers bought the woodlands estate in 1925 and for two years, Miss Hogg worked on the gardens. At her death, Miss Hogg left her home and the gardens surrounding it as a legacy for the city.
The house contains a remarkable collection of Americana dating from 1620 to 1870 and is regarded as a cultural treasure, with several thousand objects displayed in 28 period room settings in the mansion. Miss Hogg designed the gardens as outdoor living rooms, fed by bayou waters, and today they continue to provide a peaceful oasis in the middle of the metropolis planted with indigenous species. Dedicated teams work on the gardens to preserve and enhance them. Amongst the improvements made is the garden's conversion into an entirely organic space. The gardens were the first 100 percent organic gardens in the state of Texas.
At Barren Springs near Houston's International Airport is an unusual private museum run by a major funeral company in the United States, dedicated to funeral memorabilia. It is the largest museum dedicated to funerary practices in the Unites States, and probably the world.
Customs, rituals, and traditions associated with burial from ancient Egypt to the present day are represented in this institution. Highlights of the collection are restored horse-drawn and vintage automobile hearses, and a unique 1916 Packard funeral bus. The museum also features a gallery devoted to the funerals of the famous, containing memorabilia from the funerals of Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, and Rudolph Valentino.
Some of the permanent exhibits that can be viewed at the museum are Celebrating the Lives and Deaths of the Popes, a History of Embalming, 19th Century Mourning Customs, Presidential Funerals, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Reflections on the Wall, Coffins and Caskets of the Past, Ghana and Fantasy Coffins and Japanese Funerals. The museum sponsors an annual golf tournament in May, as well as an annual Halloween Classic Car Show.
Austin's impressive pink granite capitol building is rivalled only by that of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Encircled by its original wrought-iron fence topped with gold Lone Stars and standing proudly in a hectare (three acres) of ground, the domed building was constructed in 1882 out of granite quarried from Granite Mountain 75 miles (121km) away.
The design used the Renaissance Revival style and is an excellent example of late 19th century public architecture. The building was expanded with an added wing in 1993, and throughout the 1990's both the building and its park-like grounds were given extensive renovations and restoration work.
Events and exhibits are regularly hosted at the Capitol Building. Visitors can take guided tours of this interestingly designed building, or attend legislative sessions, which are open to the public. The grounds are also open to the public and are well worth a visit, filled as they are with seventeen monuments including those to the Heroes of the Alamo, Volunteer Firemen, Confederate Soldiers and Terry's Texas Rangers.
The 140-hectare (347-acre) Zilker Park, donated to the city by the German immigrant who gave it its name, is Austin's most popular public recreational area, dominated by its ancient spring-fed natural swimming pool, known as Barton Springs, which Native Americans believed to have healing properties. The pool is about the size of a football field with water at a constant warm temperature all year round.
Zilker Park has other attractions, too, including a botanical garden which features dinosaur tracks, a nature preserve, the Umlauf Sculpture garden and museum, canoes for rent and eight miles (13km) of biking and walking trails; there are sports facilities aplenty and amusements for children like the Zilker Zephyr miniature train and paddleboat rides.
The Zilker Hillside Theatre hosts musical concerts throughout the year, and the park also plays host to the Austin Nature and Science Center where exhibits and workshops run throughout the year. The Zilker Park's annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony is a popular event, boasting a tree that stands 155 feet (47m) tall and is made up of 39 streamers each holding 81 lights, making for a grand total of 3,309 lights.
Texas hill country is renowned for its glorious spring blooms, and former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, founded this centre dedicated to the study and preservation of native plants in 1982. There are 72 hectares (178 acres) of wildflowers in display gardens, including a garden designed to attract butterflies. There are also some interesting indoor displays, and the centre offers free lectures and guided walks at weekends.
The centre's exhibition area hosts displays of artwork and photography inspired by nature, especially flowers. In 2006, the centre was made an Organized Research Unit for the University of Texas at Austin. A new feature at the centre is the Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum, where visitors are invited to learn more about Texas' trees all in an easy-to-navigate, compact space. The focus is on the Texas oak, but many other species are included.
The opulent plantation-style mansion home to the Texas State governor is one of the oldest buildings in the city, dating from 1856. Although it is still lived in when the governor is in town, the mansion is open to the public for limited hours each day and many historical artefacts are on display, including portraits of Davy Crockett and Sam Houston, and a collection of mementoes from each administration. The mansion has been recently renovated, guided tours are available, which offer interesting anecdotes about previous governors.
A major stop on national art circuit tours, the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas in Austin is ranked among the top 10 university art museums in the country. Highlights here are the Suida-Manning Collection of European paintings featuring 250 works by the Continental masters, and the collection of 20th-century American Art assembled by novelist James A. Michener.
There is also a large collection of Latin American Art consisting of more than 500 key works. The permanent exhibitions on show at the museum include Stacked Waters by Teresita Fernandez, a piece of installation art in the museum's atrium. Changing exhibitions often have themes that focus on aspects of American history and scenery as depicted in art, as well as displays of current artists' work.
One of the more unusual tourist attractions in Austin, is the nightly flight of millions of Mexican free-tailed bats emerging from their roosts under the Congress Avenue Bridge. The bridge was revamped in the 1980s and regularly-spaced crevices underneath the new structure inadvertently created a perfect resting spot for thousands of bats.
The bat colony takes up residence under the bridge in mid-March each year and returns to Mexico in early November. There can be up to 1.5 million bats living under the bridge at the height of bat season. During their sojourn in Austin visitors are amazed by their mass evening emergence from their roost, which generally takes place at dusk.
The Congress Avenue Bridge is 10 blocks south of the State Capitol building, spanning Town Lake. A Bat Observation Center is located on the southeast side. During bat season hundreds of people gather on and around the bridge each evening to witness the spectacle.
The rugged wilderness of the Guadalupe Mountains in west Texas was originally a barrier reef under the waters of an ancient sea. Today fir trees and pockets of lush vegetation cling to this mountain range rising from the desert. Formerly the home of the Apache nation, the National Park is now occupied by hundreds of plant and bird species, 60 species of mammals and 55 varieties of reptiles and amphibians.
Visitors can traverse more than 80 miles (129km) of trails on foot or horseback, or take the 4WD route provided. There are several historic sites in the park including Frijole Ranch History Museum and the ruins of a stagecoach station. McKittrick Canyon in the northeast corner of the park is regarded as the most beautiful spot in Texas, where oaks and maples make a colourful display in fall. There is a Junior Ranger program available to keep children entertained. Horseback riding is allowed, although not provided by the park.
The Dallas Holocaust Museum, Centre for Education and Tolerance, is a non-profit organisation dedicated to memorialising the Holocaust and its victims. It provides guided tours for groups, audio tours for individuals, public lectures, and exhibits.
The current exhibitions at the museum's temporary location focus on the role of the bystander in the Holocaust. It portrays in detail three different bystander's behaviour, all on the same day during World War II. In this way, the exhibition brings to light both the courage and the indifference displayed in response to the Holocaust. The museum also contains archives and a library, and a Garden of Remembrance and Tolerance designed by a local boy scout.
Originally situated in the Jewish Community Center, the museum has relocated to a larger premises in the centre of Dallas' historical district, adjacent to the Sixth Floor Museum, due to lack of space and having to turn away thousands of visitors each year. But even this is a temporary measure as an even larger museum is planned, which will be a powerfully symbolic structure to support its profound educational message.
The Alamo has assumed mythological significance in American culture. The Alamo was originally built as a mission by Spanish priest in 1724, and was named Mision San antonio de Valera. In 1794, the Spanish missionaries secularized the land and gave it to the converts living there in order to continue their farming.
However, in the early 1800's the Spanish military stationed a cavalry at the old mission station, and it's then that the place's history began to change. The cavalry men began calling the mission the Alamo, a reference to their hometown in Spain, and during the following wars over Texas, the Alamo played a very important role. Davy Crocket and his small party held out for 13 days against a 2,500-strong Mexican army before finally being overrun and executed.
The Alamo is now described as the cradle of Texan liberty and for years after the siege Texans would cry "Remember the Alamo" during battle. The actual Alamo building is smaller than most visitors expect, and its gravitas slightly undermined by tacky amusement park rides and souvenir shops. That doesn't daunt millions of annual visitors who make a pilgrimage here, often without really knowing why.
The centre of San Antonio's shopping and dining district, the Riverwalk winds its way for five miles (8km) along the banks of the San Antonio River. Visitors can explore the Rivercenter Mall along the way and take a stroll around La Villita Historic District.
An equally good way to enjoy the landscape and scenic variety of the Riverwalk is take a narrated cruise or dinner cruise with one of the many river boats. Over 20 events take place every year along the Riverwalk, such as Downtown Residents Thirsty Thursdays, Fiesta Noche del Rio, the Memorial Day Arts and Crafts Show, the Ford Canoe Challenge, Riverwalk Lucky Duck Race, Light Coffins on Parade, Caroling Nights with Santa, Fiesta de las Luminarias, and many more.
The cobbled walkways are a full level below the city's streets lending the Riverwalk a secluded, peaceful atmosphere. The Riverwalk is a good place to go for a night out on the town when in San Antonia, as there are plenty of restaurants and bars all along the path. Some famous attraction found along the Riverwalk are the Pearl Brewery, the Alamo, the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Arneson River Theatre, and the La Vilita.
The city's biggest theme park and one of the best-known in the United States, the place keeps raising the bar with the recently added water rides to enhance its theme park rides, roller coasters and musical shows. Avoid eating a large meal before embarking on the Superman Krypton Roller Coaster, looping Boomerang coaster, or the Scream, which entails 20-story free fall. The rides all come with a rating, from mild to moderate to max.
The park has won Amusement Today's award for The Best Theme Park Shows in the Country for 10 years in a row. Xcelleration, a BMW-themed skills show is guaranteed to impress the teenagers, while cartoon-character themed shows are hosted throughout the year and musical concerts , particularly contry music, are also a regular occurence. Plenty of snack shops, ice cream parlours, barbecue restaurants and other fast food joints are available to fuel visitors on a long day out, and for those who tire of all the excitement, there are many shops available for more relaxed browsing. The park is happy to organise and coordinate group outings including picnics.
In the true spirit of the Wild West, the Buckhorn saloon contains over 8,000 wildlife exhibits, wax effigies, horns, and other western memorabilia. The saloon was opened in 1881 by a young Albert Friedrich, who discovered that many travellers in the Wild West had little cash on them to pay for drinks and food. However, what they did have were interesting artefacts collected on their travels. Friedrich accepted the horns and skulls of various animals as payment, and so the great collection began. Mrs. Friedrich herself preferred to collect rattlesnake rattles in lieu of payment that she then used to create unusual artwork still on display at the saloon.
Attached to the saloon is the Ranger Museum, filled with revolvers, handguns, shotguns, ranger badges, and more. The main Ranger Museum attraction, however, is a reproduction of San Antonio at the turn of the century that visitors can walk through to get a feel of the old town. There is also a shooting gallery, an arcade and a wonderfully eclectic shop, dubbed the "World's Oddest Store".
Apart from the museum, there is also an actual working saloon where visitors can choose from a selection of local craft beers and get the feel of an old-time saloon, decked out with the original marble and cherry-wood bar counter. The Buckhorn has been open for over 129 years and has rich and ribald history populated by cowboys, baddies, card sharks, and plenty of cattle. The original brass foot rail still lines the bar.
Described by National Graphic as the most beautiful building in San Antonio, the diminutive palace once served as the headquarters for the Spanish rulers of this region. The ten-room building is built in the Spanish Colonial style, and although the exact date isn't know, it could have been erected as early as 1722. The lovely building is filled with treasures and historical relics from the 18th century and the patio flows onto a relaxing garden that is perfect for contemplating the glory of times past. The palace is an easy walk from the San Antonio Riverwalk and it tis worth taking some time out of exploring the Riverwalk to take a look at the palace. On the last Sunday of every month a living history group visits in period costume and shares information and reenactments with visitors.
The rolling, rugged hills that begin on the northern outskirts of San Antonio are known as the Texas Hill Country. The region is known for its natural beauty, carpets of flowers in spring, and abundant woodlands. Key attractions include Enchanted Rock, an enormous granite dome located 15 miles (24 km) from Fredericksburg, the town of Blanco, famous for its Lavender, and the water sports of San Marco.
The New York Times declared this region the "Number one vacation spot in the nation" and its many attractions have been responsible for making Texas second only to Florida as a retirement destination. Texas hill country is home to a unique blend of Spanish, German, Swiss and Austrian influence that's easily noticeable in the region's food, beer, architecture and music. The are has also recently emerged as the center of the Texas wine region, home to three American Viticultural Areas growing mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grapes. San Antonio and Austin are both included in the region.
Corpus Christi is a resplendent South Texas coastal city, with a small population and a laid-back atmosphere. Just 143 miles (230km) from San Antonio on Interstate 37, and boasting its own international airport, travellers to Texas would be remiss to pass up the sea breezes and blue skies that characterise this 'sparkling city by the sea'. Several of the city's beaches are located within easy walking distance from most major hotels and the city centre.
Over and above the beaches, visitors can enjoy the sights on offer in the city's museum district (including the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay), eleven beautifully restored and preserved Victorian houses and mansions that form the Heritage Park and Cultural Center, birding trails that wind through impressive botanical gardens, and the bustling promenade, with its vibrant nightlife. The Padre Island National Seashore, the longest undeveloped stretch of barrier islands in the world, is easily accessible from Corpus Christi, and should not be missed.
The first of the Six Flags theme parks, Six Flags Over Texas has been a consistently popular family attraction for over 50 years. Situated in the small town of Arlington, midway between Dallas and Fort Worth, the amusement park is an ideal family day-trip destination. The park offers something for everyone, from 'thrill rides' (including the award-winning Texas Giant), to kids rides, to attractions and activities that can be enjoyed by the entire family at once.
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, the largest water park in north Texas, is just across the road from the main Six Flags park and provides many water-based rides, pools and other water-based fun for the whole family. Six Flags Over Texas also stages events and festivals throughout the year - such as Spring Break Out, and Fright Fest (held over Halloween). With over a million annual visitors, Six Flags Over Texas has earned its reputation as one of the premier theme parks in America, and visitors to Fort Worth - and especially those travelling with kids in tow - would be ill-advised to miss it.
Texas is a very large state, with an incredibly diverse topography and therefore the Texas climate is hard to pinpoint. The Gulf Coast has a typically maritime climate, with hot, humid summers and mild winters. The central and northern areas are more continental, with hot summers and cold winters. Dry and hot conditions exist along the Mexican border in the southwest, and in the northwest, in the Texas/Oklahoma panhandle, winters are colder with snowfall a common occurrence. The state has two principal seasons - summer usually runs from about April to October, and winter begins in November, lasting until about March.
In summer, temperatures can range from 96°F (36°C) in El Paso in the southwest, to 91°F (33°C) in Amarillo in the panhandle, to 88°F (31°C) on the Gulf Coast, while winter temperatures in the same three areas can range from 29°F (-2°C), to a more mild 48°F (9°C) on the Gulf Coast. The rainfall is Texas can vary too, with the western areas experiencing the least amount and east and southeast along the Gulf of Mexico experiencing the most. The Gulf Coast is susceptible to hurricanes, and tornadoes also occur, and the state has experienced severe floods, as well as droughts.
Situated in La Mansión del Río in the downtown area, this highly regarded Tex-Mex restaurant offers both fabulous food and a wonderful setting on a riverside veranda shaded by palm trees. Tapas are available for each meal of the day; main courses are anchored on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Check out the $12 lunchtime 'Two Courses in 40 Minutes' special.
Start off slow at the super-modern first-floor bar before heading upstairs to the restaurant for some of San Antonio's best dining experience. Enjoy the elegant cuisine with the restaurant's celebrated chicken-fried oysters or blue-crab spring rolls. If you're on a budget but your appetite isn't, get here before 6.30pm for the 3-course dinner at only $30.
Fine dining in a beautiful 19th century house with gorgeous views of the river. The dishes are European fusion, with plenty of fresh fish and modern reinterpretations of classic dishes such as beef Wellington. The desserts are sensational and the wine list quite possibly the best in town.
This temple to Tex-Mex is hugely popular with locals, as much for its excellent food as its fun and lively vibe. Prepare yourself for Tex -Mex legends like crabmeat quesadillas and superb fajitas. The margaritas are an irresistible accompaniment.
If you're looking for barbequed meat done just the way you like it, accompanied by a choice of award-winning wines, head to fun and friendly Vic & Anthony's. This restaurant has a comfortable, tasteful dining room to host its clientele of carnivores, most of which are regulars.
By some margin Houston's best Indian eatery, Indika earns rave reviews for its unique combinations of Texas ingredients and Indian spices. Great desserts too. Don't miss the duck tandoori and order some naan bread to accompany just about every dish you order.
Serving authentic French country cuisine, such as escargot and shrimp Provencal, and tournedos Rossini, Chez Nous is the place to go for a memorable meal or a celebration. The airy, tasteful décor complements this venue, a former Pentecostal church. Book well ahead and dress in your best.