Texas flag with bluebonnets
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Everything's Bigger in Texas

It's an undertaking to fully explore the nation's second-largest state, but it’s worth your efforts to do so. From sprawling cattle ranches and dusty oil fields to the wealthy enclaves of Dallas and historic towns such as San Antonio, the state's bounty is vast.

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Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Johnson Space Center

Johnson Space Center

Think you have the right stuff? Find out at Johnson Space Center, 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). 960 1280

Space Center Houston   

Texas State Capitol

Texas State Capitol

When the Texas State Capitol 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. 960 1280

iStockphoto   

Congress Avenue Bridge Bats

Congress Avenue Bridge Bats

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 downtown Austin is their favorite hangout. See this spectacular sight for yourself -- it’s the largest urban bat colony in North America. 960 1280

iStockphoto   

Cowboys Stadium

Cowboys Stadium

Go Cowboys! Venture inside the Cowboys Stadium 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. 960 1280

Reuters   

Houston Rodeo

Houston Rodeo

A cowgirl races around the barrel at a rodeo. Check out heart-stopping action like this at the Houston Rodeo, 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. 960 1280

iStockphoto   

The Alamo

The Alamo

Remember the Alamo! Visit the Alamo, 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. 960 1280

iStockphoto   

San Antonio River Walk

San Antonio River Walk

Talk a stroll along the San Antonio River Walk, 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. 960 1280

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Texas State Fair

Texas State Fair

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 Texas State Fair -- a tradition since 1886 that takes place every fall at Dallas’ historic Fair Park. 960 1280

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Schlitterbahn

Schlitterbahn

Splish-splash, plunge into fun at Schlitterbahn, 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. 960 1280

Schlitterbahn  

Barbecue in Lockhart, Texas

Barbecue in Lockhart, Texas

Don't leave Texas without tearing into a rack of BBQ ribs. The place to go is Lockhart, TX. Billed as the “Barbecue Capital of Texas,” this small city 25 miles southeast of Austin is home to 4 major barbecue restaurants (including Kreuz Market), which attract roughly 250,000 BBQ-lovers each year. 960 1280

Dennis Sabo  

SeaWorld San Antonio

SeaWorld San Antonio

What kid wouldn’t love this? Find these adorable bottlenose dolphins at SeaWorld San Antonio’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. 960 1280

Nan Palmero, flickr  

Texas Hill Country

Texas Hill Country

In a state second only to Alaska in size, take time out for a Texas day trip 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. 960 1280

Kenny Braun  

Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon

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 Big Bend National Park, the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert in the US. 960 1280

Kenny Braun  

South by Southwest

South by Southwest

The largest music festival of its kind in the world, South by Southwest 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. 960 1280

Extreme Airshots  

Rio Grande Valley

Rio Grande Valley

If it’s bird-watching you’re after, head to the Rio Grande 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). 960 1280

Kenny Braun  

Billy Bob’s Texas

Billy Bob’s Texas

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 Dallas, bills itself as the “world’s largest honky-tonk -- and with more than 127,000 square feet, that’s no exaggeration. 960 1280

jahborgs, flickr  

Dallas Zoo

Dallas Zoo

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 Texas. 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. 960 1280

Perry Quan, flickr  

Chicken Fried Steak
Chicken Fried Steak

Chicken Fried Steak

This well-known Texas dish consists of a piece of steak coated with seasoned flour, then pan-fried. Its name, chicken fried steak, is thought to come from the similar preparation styles of the steak and fried chicken. 960 1280

iStock  

chili con carne

chili con carne

Chili con carne is a spicy stew. It is commonly made from chili peppers, garlic, onions and cumin, along with ground beef. In 1977, chili con carne was named the official dish of Texas by the Texas Legislature. 960 1280

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With more farms than any other US state, Texas is one of the highest producers of beef. No surprise, finding a steakhouse in Texas is an easy task. 960 1280

iStock  

Pork BBQ Ribs

Pork BBQ Ribs

Texas has 4 different styles of barbecue. East Texas cooks the beef slowly over hickory wood until it falls off the bone. In Central Texas, the meat is rubbed with spices and cooked over indirect heat from burning pecan or oak wood. In West Texas, the meat is cooked directly over mesquite wood. And lastly, South Texas features thick sauces that make the meat very moist. 960 1280

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Brisket

Brisket

Brisket is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest. In Texas, the brisket is smoked over wood such as oak, pecan or hickory. The meat comes off the pit looking black, but once you cut into it, the meat is juicy and tender. 960 1280

iStock  

Prickly Pear Fruit

Prickly Pear Fruit

The fruit of prickly pears, also known as cactus figs, can be eaten -- once you remove the outer shell with the spines, that is! The fruit is often used to make jelly, candies and drinks such as vodka and lemonade. 960 1280

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Start the morning off right with a breakfast taco. Filled with scrambled eggs and meat, it makes for a hearty breakfast. 960 1280

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Corona Beer

Corona Beer

Corona Extra, better known as Corona, is a beer produced in Mexico. It is the top-selling imported beer in the US and is particularly popular in Texas. This is not surprising given the state's close proximity to Mexico. 960 1280

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Margarita

Margarita

The margarita originated in Mexico and has become popular in the US, including Texas. The cocktail consists of tequila, an orange-flavored liquor and lime or lemon juice. It is typically served with salt around the rim of the glass. It can be on the rocks (with ice), blended with ice (frozen) or straight up (no ice). 960 1280

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Another popular beverage in Texas is iced tea, sweetened and unsweetened. Often the tea comes mixed with flavors such as lemon, peach, lime and cherry. 960 1280

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Shiner Bock

Shiner Bock

A popular local beer is Shiner Bock. The amber beer is brewed in the tradition of Bavarian beers with a rich, full taste. 960 1280

Shiner Beers  

Pecans

Pecans

Texas is one of the top producers of pecans. These nuts are used in everything from candies to salads. 960 1280

iStock  

Pho Noodle Soup

Pho Noodle Soup

Dallas has a large Vietnamese community, therefore noodle soups such as pho are popular. It is usually served with beef or chicken and typically includes basil, lime and bean sprouts. 960 1280

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Texas was home to a large early here is a German community; their influence can still be seen in popular local food, such as grilled bratwurst. 960 1280

iStock  

Red Chili Peppers

Red Chili Peppers

Chili peppers contain high amounts of vitamins, potassium and iron. They have many different uses in the kitchen. A common use is in Tex-Mex food as part of the dish or ground up in a powder. The chili peppers have a kick and add spice to a dish. 960 1280

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Chips and Salsa

Chips and Salsa

Salsa and chips make a great Tex-Mex appetizer. 960 1280

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A Tex-Mex essential is the tortilla. These "little cake" flatbreads are used in dishes, such as tacos, burritos and enchiladas. 960 1280

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Sopaipilla

Sopaipilla

Sopaipilla is a fried pastry. In the US, it is commonly served as a dessert with honey added between the layers. From 2003 to 2005, the sopaipilla was designated the official state pastry of Texas. 960 1280

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Cake Pops

Cake Pops

For dessert, the latest craze is cake pops. A small taste of cake on a stick makes the perfect bite. 960 1280

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Looking for another option for your sweet tooth? Try chocolate-covered bacon. This salty-sweet treat is big in Texas. 960 1280

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Taste of Texas  20 Photos

Visit downtown Dallas for superior shopping, excellent eating and tons o' fun. 960 1280

  

Thrill-seekers ride the 212-ft. Texas Star Ferris wheel. It's one of several rides featured at the Texas State Fair. 960 1280

  

The Morton H. Meyerson Center, home to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, is located in Dallas' downtown arts district. 960 1280

  

Explore Dallas' history at the Old Red Museum located near Dealey Plaza, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. 960 1280

  

Dallas has several stores that sell a variety of Western gear, including colorful boots for cowboys and cowgirls. 960 1280

  

Exploring the sights in downtown Dallas can be hectic when traveling on Highway I-35. 960 1280

  

A man enjoys the sunrise while rowing his boat on White Rock Lake in Dallas. 960 1280

  

Check out the beautiful Dallas skyline at dusk. 960 1280

  

Dallas has some of the best rodeos in the world. From the Cowtown Coliseum to the Mesquite Rodeo, you'll find lots of rodeo entertainment in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. 960 1280

Picasa 2.7  

It's all about over-the-top fashion and cattle icons in Texas. 960 1280

Chris Kocek  

Reunion Tower (far left), one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Dallas skyline, is a 560 tall observation tower with a rotating restaurant: Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck. 960 1280

  

The iconic image of Texas is the longhorns. 960 1280

  

Cowboys Stadium, the largest domed stadium in the world, has a retractable roof and serves as the home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, TX. 960 1280

  

Dallas Slideshow  13 Photos

Fiesta Texas, Six Flags
Fiesta Texas, Six Flags

Fiesta Texas, Six Flags

Quick, turn! Your little thrill-seeker will love Six Flags Fiesta Texas. The 200-acre theme park is home to 20 kids’ rides, including this classic bumper car ride. Older visitors will want to try Bahama Blaster -- a new addition in 2014 that blasts riders on a 40 mph free-fall. Fun, huh? 960 1280

SACVB  

Witte Museum

Witte Museum

What’s a museum got to do with family fun? Lots at the Witte. The big draw here is the museum’s native wildlife exhibit, from bison to piney woods black bears, and further back in time, dinosaurs … what kid wouldn’t be transfixed by a big bad Triceratops? 960 1280

Witte Museum  

SeaWorld San Antonio

SeaWorld San Antonio

Thar he goes! Watch Shamu and friends breach the water at SeaWorld San Antonio. The 250-acre marine mammal park and kiddie wonderland will keep the little ones happy with amazing displays of sea life, as well as additional thrills like Journey to Atlantis, the first ride of its kind in North America. 960 1280

SeaWorld San Antonio  

Natural Bridge Caverns

Natural Bridge Caverns

Your kids will be amazed by this: a rocky underground wonderland of stalagmites and columns, shimmering calcite and slimy-looking flowstone. It’s all on display at Natural Bridge Caverns, the largest natural underground space of its kind in all of Texas open to the public. 960 1280

Jason512, flickr  

San Antonio Zoo

San Antonio Zoo

These gorgeous Australian lories are among the attractions at San Antonio Zoo. The 35-acre zoo is home to over 3,500 animals, representing 750 species -- in addition to having one of the largest bird collections in the world, the zoo is home to exotic wildlife like hippopotamus, the Nile crocodile and more. 960 1280

San Antonio Zoo  

Texas Transportation Museum

Texas Transportation Museum

All aboard! The Texas Transportation Museum keeps the Lone Star State’s locomotive heritage alive. Hop aboard this full-sized train. Plus, check out the museum’s collection of fire trucks (including an 1898 steam fire pumper), horse carriages (like a 1903 Studebaker) and antique autos, from 1924 to 1963. 960 1280

Colleen Pence, flickr  

San Antonio Botanical Garden

San Antonio Botanical Garden

A butterfly rests on a flower at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. A total of 33 acres, the grounds showcase formal and display gardens (including a Japanese garden), as well as plants native to Texas Hill Country and South Texas. 960 1280

amboo who, flickr  

Institute of Texan Cultures

Institute of Texan Cultures

Visitors walk past a huge neon Texas flag at the Institute of Texan Cultures. Spanning 65,000 square feet, the museum showcases exhibits on various native and immigrant populations, and their contributions to Texas’ diverse cultural history. 960 1280

Institute of Texan Cultures  

Enchanted Springs Ranch

Enchanted Springs Ranch

Pistol Packin’ Paula puts on a show at Enchanted Springs Ranch. The world champion gun spinner is one of the main attractions at this 86-acre Western theme town, animal park, movie set and working ranch roughly 30 miles northwest of downtown San Antonio, in Boerne, TX. 960 1280

Enchanted Springs Ranch  

SegCity

SegCity

How’s this for family fun -- take a Segway ride through San Antonio. Great for everyone from teenagers to grandparents, the ride has you cruise past San Antonio’s theater district to Main Plaza, as well as the River Walk to King William District, with a stop at the Alamo along the way. 960 1280

SegCity  

Tower of the Americas

Tower of the Americas

Atop the 750-foot-tall Tower of the Americas are a whole lot of jaw-dropping views. The observation tower, which doubles as a restaurant, offers visitors a 360-degree shot of San Antonio. The dining isn’t known as high-class fare, but the views will certainly make up for it. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Schlitterbahn

Schlitterbahn

And of course, if you’re in San Antonio during the summer months, you’ll want to cool down at Schlitterbahn. Cool rides here span the more relaxed, from Congo River Expedition, to the more adrenaline-pumping, like Down Racer -- yep, head first all the way down! 960 1280

Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts   

Destinations in Texas

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