The world’s largest livestock show … the biggest state capitol … the largest urban bat colony in North America -- we’re just getting started. See what else is really, really big in Texas.
Think you have the right stuff? Find out at <a title="Johnson Space Center" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/video/andrew-lives-a-childhood-astronaut-dream-11930" target="_blank">Johnson Space Center</a>, a 1,621-acre complex where NASA astronauts and international partners train for space missions. Take a tram tour past sites such as Historic Mission Control, where NASA once monitored space programs. Plus, see a full-scale replica of Space Shuttle Adventure’s mid-deck and flight deck (pictured).
When the <a title="Texas State Capitol" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/austin/articles/austin-history-tours" target="_blank">Texas State Capitol</a> was unveiled in 1888, it was billed as the “Seventh Largest Building in the World.” It’s still pretty spectacular: Surrounded by 22 acres of grounds and monuments, the capitol in Austin, TX, has nearly 400 rooms and over 900 windows, making it the largest state capitol in the US.
Bats, bats and more bats. Every spring, hundreds of thousands of mostly female, pregnant Mexican free-tailed bats migrate north to give birth; the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in <a title="downtown Austin" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/austin/articles/austin-city-guide" target="_blank">downtown Austin</a> is their favorite hangout. See this spectacular sight for yourself -- it’s the largest urban bat colony in North America.
Go Cowboys! Venture inside the <a title="Cowboys Stadium" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/dallas/photos/doing-it-cowboy-style-in-dallas?page=13" target="_blank">Cowboys Stadium</a> in Dallas, and prepare to be wowed: With a seating capacity of 85,000 spectators, it’s the third-largest stadium in the NFL. It’s also home to the world's largest column-free interior and the fourth largest high-def video screen. Plus, it’s the world’s largest domed structure.
A cowgirl races around the barrel at a rodeo. Check out heart-stopping action like this at the <a title="Houston Rodeo" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/outdoors-and-adventure/photos/americas-biggest-rodeos?page=12" target="_blank">Houston Rodeo</a>, the world's biggest live entertainment and livestock exhibition, held each March. The annual 20-day show attracts between 60,000 and 150,000 people each day.
Remember the Alamo! Visit <a title="the Alamo" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/history/articles/battle-of-the-alamo" target="_blank">the Alamo</a>, a Roman Catholic mission and fortress of yore near modern-day San Antonio that saw 13 days of battle between Mexican and Texan forces in 1836. Each year, more than 2.5 million people visit the 4.2-acre complex, which endures as a dramatic symbol of Texas’ independence from Mexico.
Talk a stroll along the <a title="San Antonio River Walk" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/video/san-antonios-river-walk" target="_blank">San Antonio River Walk</a>, a lively pedestrian walkway along the banks of the river lined with shops, bars and restaurants. Or glide along in an open-air taxi. Quieter stretches of the river walk await along its northern section, known as Museum Reach; a river taxi stop is located here, near the San Antonio Museum of Art.
Get ready for 24 days of excitement … and lots of fried food: deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried s'mores, deep-fried pork ribs, deep-fried peanut butter… did we say “fried”? But first, hop aboard this 212-foot-high Ferris wheel, the largest in North America, at the <a title="Texas State Fair" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/video/texas-state-fair" target="_blank">Texas State Fair</a> -- a tradition since 1886 that takes place every fall at Dallas’ historic Fair Park.
Splish-splash, plunge into fun at <a title="Schlitterbahn" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/video/schlitterbahn-waterpark" target="_blank">Schlitterbahn</a>, a family-owned-and-operated waterpark with several locations throughout Texas. Take your pick: the 26-acre Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark, the 15-acre Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark on South Padre Island, and in summer 2013 Schlitterbahn Cedar Park, an entertainment resort eventually slated to span 95 acres.
Don't leave Texas without tearing into a rack of BBQ ribs. <i>The</i> place to go is <a title="Lockhart, TX" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/video/visit-the-bbq-capital-of-texas-12149" target="_blank">Lockhart, TX</a>. Billed as the “Barbecue Capital of Texas,” this small city 25 miles southeast of Austin is home to 4 major barbecue restaurants (including <a title="Kreuz Market" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/video/austins-kreuz-market" target="_blank">Kreuz Market</a>), which attract roughly 250,000 BBQ-lovers each year.
What kid wouldn’t love this? Find these adorable bottlenose dolphins at <a title="SeaWorld San Antonio" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/video/stingray-falls" target="_blank">SeaWorld San Antonio</a>’s Dolphin Cove. The 250-acre marine mammal park, oceanarium and animal theme park is the largest of the 3 waterparks in the SeaWorld chain; it is also home to the world’s largest marine-life park.
In a state second only to Alaska in size, take time out for a <a title="Texas day trip" href= http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/austin/articles/austin-day-trips" target="_blank">Texas day trip</a> to a place refreshingly … small. Kick back in the tranquil town of Fredericksburg, TX. Located in the heart of Texas Hill Country, the town still retains the personable touch of its early settlement days, in 1846 by 120 German immigrants. Explore quaint shops like this, big on small-town charm.
Put your pedal to the metal with a mountain-bike trek through Palo Duro. Known as the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” this sweep of rock and mesa walls in the Texas Panhandle is the second largest canyon in the US. For more natural wonders, head south to <a title="Big Bend National Park" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/road-trips/articles/big-bend-national-park-texas" target="_blank">Big Bend National Park</a>, the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert in the US.
The largest music festival of its kind in the world, <a title="South by Southwest" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/arts-and-culture/articles/south-by-southwest" target="_blank">South by Southwest</a> attracts more than 2,000 performers each year, playing in 100 venues. Recent headliners have included Lee Ann Womack and Lucinda Williams, along with conference guests like Al Gore, author Neil Gaiman and … Grumpy Cat.
If it’s bird-watching you’re after, head to the <a title="Rio Grande" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/daily-escape/rio-grande-village" target="_blank">Rio Grande</a> Valley. Situated in the southernmost tip of South Texas, the valley is home to more than 500 bird species, including many tropical bird species -- found nowhere else in the US -- that don’t stray far from the tranquil Rio Grande River (pictured).
Texas and honky-tonk go hand-in-hand, and the place for all the boot-stomping action is Billy Bob’s Texas. This country-and-western nightclub in the Fort Worth Stockyards, near <a title="Dallas" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/arts-and-culture/articles/in-your-own-backyard-dallas" target="_blank">Dallas</a>, bills itself as the “world’s largest honky-tonk -- and with more than 127,000 square feet, that’s no exaggeration.
If you’ve got kids, they’ll want to see this zoo. Spanning 106 acres, the Dallas Zoo ranks as the largest of its kind in <a title="Texas" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/texas" target="_blank">Texas</a>. It’s also the oldest (established in 1888), with an impressive list of exotic creatures: Find them in the “Giants of the Savanna,” an 11-acre expanse home to giraffes, impala, zebras, lions, cheetahs, elephants and more.