Things to Do in Texas
Simple but profoundly moving, the John F. Kennedy Memorial in Dallas comprises a granite slab bearing the assassinated president’s name etched in gold. The slab is surrounded by soaring concrete walls that appear to be free-floating, capturing the feeling of loss felt around the world following Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963.
Everything is bigger in Texas, and the Texas Capitol building in Austin follows suit. It’s the largest by square footage of any state capitol, and is 15 feet (4.6 meters) taller than the US Capitol. Its rosy hue, stunning at sunset, comes from the red granite exterior. Texas Hill Country limestone and granite were used in the building’s construction.
Space Center Houston, the official visitor center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, offers visitors some out-of-this-world experiences. Watch astronauts train for missions, touch a real moon rock, and tour NASA’s control center. Anyone with an interest in aeronautics and space will appreciate Space Center Houston’s interactive exhibits, presentations, and attractions that dive into the past, present, and future of our universe.
With more than 3,500 animals and upwards of 750 species, the San Antonio Zoo is home to many of the world’s creatures. Walk the zoo's winding paths to encounter giraffes, lions, elephants, tigers, pelicans, hippos, crocodiles, and other creatures in habitats designed to be engaging for both you and the animals.
The Alamo is one of the most famous sites in United States history, forever linked to the 13-day Battle of the Alamo in 1836, which ended with the deaths of defenders James Bowie, William Travis, and Davy Crockett. Today, the 18th-century Mission San Antonio de Valero complex, now known as the Alamo, welcomes more than 2.5 million visitors per year to its chapel, barracks, gardens, and small museum.
Located in Houston’s sprawling Hermann Park, Houston Museum of Natural Science features four floors of exhibit halls; a planetarium; giant-screen theater; and a butterfly center. The museum is known for its stellar lineup of special exhibitions, which cover topics far beyond the scope of traditional natural science.
Houston’s Downtown Aquarium is a fun and educational attraction, especially for families. Children can get up close and personal with more than 200 types of underwater creatures, including myriad fish, eels, rays in a touch tank, sharks, and white tigers. Kids also love the amusement rides and dining in the underwater aquarium restaurant.
Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge is home to roughly 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats—the world’s largest urban bat colony. Spectators gather here on summer nights, cameras in hand, to watch these flying mammals emerge from beneath the bridge to hunt in the sky above Lady Bird Lake.
The River Walk winds through the heart of downtown San Antonio, past several parks, historic missions, and other major attractions. Lined with shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants, this pedestrian- and bike-friendly waterway—home to the largest urban ecosystem restoration in the United States—is popular with tourists and locals alike, and is a must-see for any San Antonio visitor.
John F. Kennedy’s presidency, ending with his assassination in Dallas, profoundly shaped American history. Explore his legacy at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Filled with insightful exhibits that celebrate JFK’s personal and political life, you’ll come away with a deeper understanding of this notable American president.
More Things to Do in Texas
The 416-acre (169-hectare) Lady Bird Lake, at the northeastern end of Zilker Metropolitan Park, anchors a host of outdoor recreational opportunities in downtown Austin. Locals and visitors alike hike, bike, and walk it, as well as birdwatch, canoe, paddleboard, and fish for carp, largemouth bass, catfish, and sunfish in and around this man-made reservoir once known as Town Lake.
Located in the center of Hemisfair Park, this 750-foot (229-meter) Tower of the Americas offers one of the best aerial views of San Antonio. The Flags Over Texas Observation Deck affords a bird’s-eye view of iconic sites, while the rotating Chart House Restaurant offers upscale dining with panoramic views of the city.
The oldest operating hotel in Austin, the Driskill has been legendary in Texas since it was built in 1886. Celebrities have visited the historic landmark over the years, including former president Lyndon B. Johnson, who took Lady Bird there on their first date. Today the Driskill Grill and 1886 Cafe & Bakery restaurants are here as well.
Located in Hermann Park, the 55-acre (22-hectare) Houston Zoo is home to more than 6,000 animals that span hundreds of species. Spacious enclosures, educational activities, and seasonal events have earned Houston Zoo the accolade of one of the US’ most-visited zoos.
The oldest continuously operating religious community in Texas, San Fernando De Bexar Cathedral was constructed between 1738 and 1749 and served as General Santa Anna’s headquarters for a time. Don’t miss the Alamo Coffin, located near the church entrance, which is believed to hold the remains of the men who lost their lives at the Alamo.
A visit to Barton Springs Pool in Austin’s sprawling Zilker Park is a treasured experience for both Austin locals and visitors. The pool, which is more than 3 acres (1.2 hectares) in size is the result of a naturally occurring underground-fed spring. Generations have enjoyed the fresh, cool water, which stays a constant temperature of about 68°F (20°C).
Located in downtown Austin, Paramount Theatre is an important and historic live and movie theater venue. John Eberson, one of the most renowned theater designers in US history, designed the original classic revival-style building. He built approximately 1,200 theaters, but less than 25 are still in existence today.
The Paramount opened its doors in 1915, originally called the Majestic Theatre. It featured vaudeville shows, a popular style of entertainment during that era. Performers like Harry Houdini even graced the stage at the Majestic Theatre. As vaudeville began to disappear, silent and later talking films began to develop. The theatre was revamped in 1930 to include wall-to-wall carpeting, upholstered seats, and a state of the art sound system. After the art deco renovations were complete, the theater was then renamed the Paramount Theatre. It was during this time that the Paramount Theatre began showcasing live performances like ballet.
After World War II, with the subsequent invention of the home television and the rise of suburban movie houses, the Paramount Theatre went into a period of decline before rising again in 1973 and hosting live shows again.
By the 1980s, the theater was a cultural icon, attracting major events and shows like A Chorus Line and My Fair Lady. Celebrities like Rodney Dangerfield, Lily Tomlin, and George Carlin have performed here. The Paramount was chosen as one of the official theaters to rerun Casablanca on its 50-year anniversary in 1992.
Today, the Paramount Theatre hosts a number of events and theater screenings, and has even produced its own blockbuster comedy shows like Greater Tuna. Look for non-performing art speaking engagements as well, such as Rick Steves, a travel writer and published guidebook author.
San Antonio’s historic roots are preserved at La Villita historic arts village, San Antonio’s first neighborhood. This protected enclave has a history dating back nearly 300 years, with a collection of heritage buildings that today house boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries. The complex hosts more than 200 annual events.
Austin’s 6th Street, sometimes known colloquially as Dirty Sixth, is the epicenter for late nights, free-flowing drinks, and all-around good times in the Live Music Capital of the World. This historical neighborhood is lined with bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops, and car traffic is blocked on weekends so pedestrians can take their party into the street.
The Spanish Governor’s Palace in San Antonio, which served as housing for a series of Spanish aristocrats, is the only remaining 18th-century Spanish colonial townhouse in Texas. Along with the Alamo and other historic missions, the Governor’s Palace invites visitors to witness an important chapter of Texas history for themselves.
Pioneer Plaza, located in downtown Dallas’ Convention Center District, honors the 19th-century cattle drives on the Shawnee Trail with a bronze sculpture of 49 longhorn steer driven by three cowboys on horseback. With a waterfall and artificial cliffs, the park is one of the most popular tourist spots in Dallas.
Just off the city’s River Walk, the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) is a must for anyone with an appreciation for art. It houses the largest collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Asian art in the southern US, with more than 30,000 pieces spanning 5,000 years in its collection.
Take a tour of San Antonio’s King William Historic District for a peek into the city’s first suburb, settled by wealthy German merchants in the late 1800s. Stroll throughout the 25 blocks of historical mansions—many of which have been converted to shops, cafés, and museums—to admire the district’s Greek Revival, Victorian, and Italianate architecture.
Houston residents love their Astros—and they also love their park. Ever since 2000 when the stadium opened to immediately rave reviews, Minute Maid Park has been one America’s most loved park’s for baseball. Hitters love how the left field wall is only 315 feet away, and fielders love how natural grass is used instead of turf. Spectators love how the retractable roof can create the ideal conditions, as well the train that chugs on the tracks with every Astros home run. In a nod to the city’s railroad history, part of the park has incorporated the historic Union Station, which now serves as the park’s main entrance adjacent to the left field wall. During days when there isn’t an Astros home game, visitors can enjoy a tour of the park that includes the broadcasting booth, press box, luxury suites, dugout, and historic Union Station. Or, if it’s a day when Houston is gearing up to cheer for their hometown team, there are 40,963 seats if you’d like to purchase a couple of tickets and be an Astros fan for a day.
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