What Is Texas Known For?

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Synonymous with the Wild West, wide open plains, barbecue, football and large urban living, Texas is nicknamed the Lone Star State. Texas was an independent republic before being admitted to the Union and is home to several important historic landmarks, none more so than the Alamo in San Antonio. Made up of a melting pot of different European, Spanish and Native American influences, cultures and traditions, Texas is defined by its three large urban centres in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, which are some of the most populated cities in all of the United States.

In between the Lone Star State’s ever-expanding urban sprawls are the nation’s most productive oil fields, some of the largest cattle ranches in the nation and several prestigious universities, representing the Lone Star State in both academia and sport on both the national and international stage. A major player in American politics, the United States economy and shaping the nation’s culture, Texas is a truly iconic part of the United States that more than lives up to its larger-than-life reputation. What is Texas known for? Check it out.

What Is Texas Known For?

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1- Large Cities

Dallas, Texas Cityscape With Blue Sky At Sunset
Large cities is what Texas is known for.

With its sheer size and ever-increasing urban population, it’s perhaps no surprise that the Lone Star State is home to several large cities and population centres, some of which are among the largest in the entire United States.

Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston are the largest cities in Texas and all boast populations of over 1 million residents across their metro sprawls.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex alone is home to more than 6.5 million Texans, and let’s not forget about Houston, whose inner-city population of 2.2 million Texans ranks as one of the top 4 largest cities in the nation, only behind Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City.

Each city has its own unique culture, speciality delicacies and riveting tourist attractions, yet each remains quintessentially Texan, making them interesting destinations to uncover and explore to get a sense of urban Texas, far removed from the Lone Star State’s oil fields and large cattle ranches.

Recommended tours:

2- Ranching and Cowboy Culture

Old Wild West Cowboy Town
Cowboy culture is what Texas is known for.

Perhaps best known for its rugged Wild West past and large ranches, Texas is a state perhaps more synonymous with ranching and general cowboy culture than any other destination in the United States.

Texas’ legacy as a frontier ranching hotspot stretches back to the 1690s when Spanish arrivals brought livestock to what is today Texas with their Entradas, with commercial cattle ranching a major economic boon for the Lone Star State for more than 300 years.

Cowboys and cowboy culture have seeped into all corners of Texan pop culture and history, such as with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, the Lone Star State’s most famous professional sports team who have been dubbed “America’s Team” due to their nationwide popularity and longstanding on-field success.

3- The Alamo

The Alamo
The Alamo is an icon Texas is known for.

No building or landmark site is as important to Texas and its people as the Alamo in San Antonio, the infamous setting of the Battle of the Alamo and the defining moment of the Texas Revolution.

The Alamo was founded as the “Misión San Antonio de Valero” by Spanish Roman Catholic missionaries in 1712 and became enshrined in American history when in 1836 frontiersmen Davy Crockett and James Bowie were slain at the Alamo while attempting a last stand against Mexican troops.

Following the Battle of the Alamo, the venue was used mostly as a garrison for soldiers by both Texan and Mexican troops before being abandoned just 5 years after the battle took place.

Meticulously restored and preserved as a Texan site of critical cultural and historic significance, the Alamo was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015 and remains the most visited attraction in San Antonio.

Recommended tours:

4- Tex-Mex Cuisine

Chili Con Carne
What food is Austin, Texas known for? Tex Mex cuisine is very popular.

Influenced by its strong Spanish and Mexican connections and geographic setting as a Southern border state, Tex-Mex Cuisine and flavours are truly unique to the Lone Star State.

Tex-Mex Cuisine was first introduced to Texas by Tejanos, people with Coahuila and Tejas ancestry, and has morphed into a beloved culinary style that’s enjoyed throughout the American Southwest and beyond.

Some popular Tex-Mex Culinary staples include dishes such as tacos, fajitas and tamales, with Tex-Mex food surpassing Italian food as the most widely enjoyed culinary style in the United States.

Best enjoyed with a large group of friends and family members, Tex-Mex dishes are native to southern Texas and are renowned for their generous uses of flavours such as chilli peppers, beans and flour tortillas.

Recommended tour: Austin Downtown Walking Food Tour With Secret Food Tours

5- Space Exploration

Johnson Space Center In Houston USA
The Johnson Space Center is one of the famous places Texas is known for.

Texas was thrust into the international spotlight when the city of Houston began serving as the command centre for NASA space missions during the mid-20th century.

The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center near downtown Houston has played an integral role in some of NASA’s largest space exploration efforts, most famously the Apollo program and the Space Shuttle program.

Apart from its key role in mission control duties, the Johnson Space Center has also been the long-time training hub for astronauts and was ground zero in orchestrating the first successful moon landing in 1969.

The centre was named in honour of former President Lyndon B. Johnson following his passing in 1973 and is now a fascinating museum which allows visitors to tour the original Apollo 11 mission control room as well as sneak a peek at several NASA artefacts. Skip the lines and buy your tickets here.

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6- The Texas State Fair

State Fair At Sunset
The Texas State Fair is an event Texas is known for.

Texas is a place known for doing things on a larger and grander stage, and the Texas State Fair is certainly no different.

Organised annually at Fair Park in downtown Dallas since 1886, the fair is a 24-day-long celebration of the Lone Star State’s people, cultures and traditions that regularly draws crowds of more than 2 million visitors.

The fair is one of the largest, longest and most-attended state fairs in the United States and is widely regarded as the premier state fair in the nation, with a litany of amusement rides, fairground festivities, food stalls and live entertainment on tap to keep visitors entertained all day long.

Usually kicked off in the last week of September with an opening parade through the streets of downtown Dallas, the fair is among the biggest attractions in all of Texas and is always a must-see event whenever the fair comes rolling into town.

7- Football

Texas Football Tribute
Football is one of the things Texas is known for.

No sport is more popular in the state of Texas than football, with professional and amateur football reigning supreme in all major cities and urban hubs across the Lone Star State.

The state of Texas is home to two professional NFL franchises, the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans, with the Cowboys regularly ranking as one of the most valuable professional sports franchises and brands in the world due to the team’s large fan base and long history of on-field success.

Texas has produced some of the biggest talents in professional football, thanks in large part to the state’s unrivalled high school football system and its more than a dozen NCAA Division I college football programs.

8- The Lone Star State

The Texas State Flag Waving
The Lone Star State – What is Texas known for? Find out more.

Few states boast a nickname so well-known throughout and beyond the United States than Texas, or the Lone Star State as it’s popularly referred to by both local Texans and those out of state.

The term “Lone Star State” is derived from Texas’ state flag which boasts a single star in its design, which was adopted following the territory’s independence from Mexico in 1836.

Texas was a republic for almost a decade between 1836 and 1845, making it one of only 6 US states that can claim to have been an independent nation before Texas’ admission to the Union.

Texans take great pride in their state and its nickname, so much so that the term “Lone Star State” also perfectly captures Texans’ affinity for being pioneers in their respective fields and having a reputation for doing things their own way.

9- BBQ

Texas Style BBQ Smoked Beef Brisket Meat Steak
Barbecues is what food Texas is known for.

While Kansas City is widely regarded as the barbeque capital of the United States, few delicacies and culinary styles in the Lone Star State can rival the popularity of Texan-style Barbecue.

Texan BBQ involves slow-cooking or smoking generous portions of pork or beef cuts such as ribs or brisket over a grill, paired with traditional BBQ side dishes such as potato salad, coleslaw, onion rings, or just more meat.

Even though the art of Barbecuing meat is a tradition practised by countless cultures around the world, it’s the large portions, tasty side dishes and cultural significance that make Texan BBQ a treat to savour that’s simply unmatched elsewhere in the United States.

Recommended tour: From Austin: Hill Country BBQ & Wine Shuttle

10- Oil

Texas might be better known for cattle and cowboys in pop culture, however, it is oil that’s the state’s biggest economic boon and one of the major reasons why Texas is the powerhouse it is today in modern-day America’s economy and politics.

Oil was first discovered in Texas around the turn of the 20th century near the city of Beaumont, which kickstarted an oil rush in the Southwest known as the Gusher Age.

The Gusher Age made Texas the largest petroleum producer in the United States by 1940 and helped the United States overtake Russia in terms of petroleum production.

Oil helped build Texan cities such as Dallas, Houston and San Antonio into the thriving modern-day metropolises they are today and would go on to fuel the state’s economic and population surge that’s still being experienced in the present day.

11- The Rio Grande

Rio Grande River Flows Through Santa Elena Canyon
The Rio Grande River is a natural feature Texas is known for.

Snaking along the southern stretch of the state of Texas and serving as the natural border between the United States and Mexico, the Rio Grande is one of the Lone Star State’s most notable natural features and a critical water source for countless towns, cities and communities throughout southern Texas.

Rio Grande, which translates to grand or large river in Spanish, was first spotted and named by Spanish explorers around the mid-1500s, with conquistador Don Juan de Oñate y Salazar establishing a colony along the Rio Grande in 1598.

Spanning a length of about 1,896 miles (3,051 km), the Rio Grande is among the longest rivers in the United States and passes through seven states across the US and Mexico before finally reaching the Gulf of Mexico near Brownville, Texas.

Recommended tour: Float the Canyons of the Rio Grande

12- Texas Longhorn

Texas Longhorns
Texas Longhorns is an animal Texas is known for.

Easily recognisable thanks to its long, slightly curved horns, the Texas Longhorn has been the Lone Star State’s official large mammal since being signed into law in 1995 by then-Governor George W. Bush.

One of 8 official state animals in Texas, the Texas Longhorn was initially introduced to the region by Spanish conquistadores shortly after Christopher Columbus’ Second Voyage up until 1512 and is renowned for its resistance to droughts and hot climates.

A cultural icon of Texas that’s as synonymous with the Lone Star State as any single symbol, the Texas Longhorn makes countless appearances in Southwestern pop culture and was even picked to be the mascot and team nickname of the University of Texas’ collegiate sports teams.

13- Prestigious Universities

Main Building On The University Of Texas
The University Of Texas is one of the institutions Texas is known for.

Home to several large urban centres as well as boasting numerous research, engineering and agricultural hubs, it’s little surprise to learn that Texas boasts its fair share of prestigious universities and colleges, many of which are home to some of the largest student bodies in the United States.

The state’s list of world-renowned educational centres includes public and private universities such as the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, Southern Methodist University, Rice University and Baylor University, all of whom feature faculty which regularly rank among the best in their respective fields in the nation.

Texas universities aren’t just known for their academic prowess though, with sports such as collegiate football, basketball, baseball and athletics among the many things that Texas universities and colleges dominate in nationally.

14- The Live Music Capital of the World

Dubbed the “Live Music Capital of the World”, Austin is both the Lone Star State’s official capital city and its unofficial live entertainment epicentre, hosting concerts, festivals and events all year round.

The slogan was officially adopted and incorporated by the city of Austin in 1991, with Austin hosting more live music venues per capita than any other city in the nation.

Austin is used as the home base for more than 1,900 recognised bands and musicians, and plays host to music festivals such as “South by Southwest”, the Urban Music Festival and “Austin City Limits Music Festival.”

No matter if you’re a fan of R&B, Country, Blues or Indie music, Austin’s got you covered, making it a great place to explore for those seeking world-class live entertainment while travelling through the Lone Star State.

Recommended tour: Austin Live Music Crawl

15- San Jacinto Monument

San Jacinto Monument Houston, Texas
The San Jacinto Monument is one of the icons Texas is known for.

Second to only the Alamo as the most important historic landmark to Texans, the San Jacinto Monument marks the site of the Battle of San Jacinto, the location where Texas troops defeated Mexico in the Texan War for Independence in 1836.

The monument features a 567-foot-tall (173 m) obelisk as well as a 34-foot-tall (10 m) Lone Star symbol at the top, making the monument the tallest monumental column in the world.

Completed in 1939, the monument sits roughly 16 miles (25 km) outside downtown Houston and boasts an observation deck at its top where visitors can enjoy breathtaking views across the San Jacinto Battlefield and Texas as far as the eye can see.

Map Of United States With Texas Highlight
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Jessica Shaw is a storyteller who has lived in four U.S. states - Missouri, Georgia, Ohio and Illinois - and has visited many others. She loves history and nature and is a big fan of road tripping.