If that phrase sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve been to The Great State Fair of Texas. Or, if you’ve lived in Texas long enough, you’ve received that hearty greeting from one of the locals.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived in the Lone Star State all of your life or that you’ve just gotten here; there’s a better-than-zero chance that you’ve not yet seen, heard, nor tasted it all.
I’d spent most of my life in the Dallas-Fort Worth area until moving to East Texas back in 2010. Over the years, business trips and vacations have taken me to every corner of our great country. But there truly is “no place like home.”
When I was a kid, my siblings and I and my cousins all attended school in the Dallas Independent School District. As a result, we all had the same Spring Break. Each year, our grandparents gathered up all of these grandkids (into one, giant Oldsmobile) and took us on adventures throughout the Great Southwest.
Sometimes, those adventures would take us out of state such as the time we visited White Sands National Monument in New Mexico or when we visited New Orleans complete with a visit to Cafe Du Monde for some tasty beignets and a ride on the Cotton Queen riverboat.(Beyond that, I don’t remember much about The Crescent City because my older cousin spent pretty much the entire week covering my eyes as we walked through certain parts of the French Quarter.) While I can’t seem to find the Cotton Queen, the Natchez is still there some 40 years later.
But the trips I remember the most are those that took place within the borders of Texas. We went as far west as El Paso (and into Juarez, Mexico) on a trip that included a stop at the McDonald Observatory. On the far-east side of the state, we took in the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas in Livingston. Then there was the time we visited Houston which included a visit to the beaches in Galveston, a stop at NASA, and, of course, the San Jacinto Monument and Battleship Texas. (No wonder the Texans won the war! They had a battleship! Just kidding, kids.) And then there was the time our Spring Break took us through the Hill Country with stops in Austin for sightseeing at the Texas State Capitol, The University of Texas (Hook’em Horns!), and Longhorn Caverns.
Of course, the grand prize for any Texas adventurer is a visit to the Alamo in San Antonio. My first Alamo experience was with the grandparents on one of those Spring Break getaways. As a native Texan, the Alamo has special meaning and its value is taught at an early age. Over the years, I’ve visited the Alamo many times. Seems that it doesn’t hold quite the same reverence among the visitors as in years past. I can remember a time when the men would remove their hats and the inside of the old church would be library-silent even when filled with people. There are efforts to restore the importance and sanctity of Alamo and I hope they will be successful. According to some, there are more people visiting Magnolia Silos in Waco than the Alamo these days. Some beg to differ. (Not a knock on Chip and Joanna Gaines and the “Fixer Upper” empire. They’ve done wonders for the City of Waco and I’m a big fan!)
These fond memories carried on into married life where my wife and I have been spending much of our parenthood recreating great family trips from our youth. Texas is a great state for traveling with children of all ages and families of any size. As the song says, “there are miles and miles of Texas” and much of it is paved so there’s no problem getting around from one part to another. And if the idea of driving more than a dozen hours to get to El Paso doesn’t appeal to you then we have facilities called “airports” that’ll help you get to those far-reaching destinations.
But I would argue that the very best part of Texas is all the stuff you can see, do, and taste along the way. Roll into any community and ask them about their favorite mom-and-pop restaurant. You won’t be disappointed. See a flying saucer near the Interstate outside of Italy, Texas? Pull over and take a selfie. By the way, it’s pronounced “IT-lee” ’round these parts. And, I’m afraid you missed out on that selfie. Into reptiles? Texas has plenty of them. Consider the Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo in New Braunfels or the alligators, and more, at the East Texas Zoo in Grand Saline. How about an event known as the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater? Yep, it’s a real thing.
Texas is much more than oddities, however. The food is amazing everywhere you go! If you like chain restaurants, I can promise you that the Tyler-Longview area, a noted test market for the food industry, has something appealing to those that prefer something familiar. It’s been said there are more restaurants per capita in that region than anywhere in Texas. Of course, the best culinary experience anywhere in the state takes place in that gas station that’s been converted into a restaurant or in that soul food kitchen in the heart of downtown (fill-in-the-blank), Texas. Lesson to be learned here — familiar is good, but local is best! Try it, you’ll like it!
Most out-of-staters think Texans are all big talkers. Well, we are. But we think you’re “all hat, no cattle” most of the time, too. (Look it up.) But you really can do it all in Texas. From anywhere in the state, you’re hours away from the beach, the mountains, the prairies, the forest, large metropolitan areas, or small-town remote outposts. Hey, we were all New Texans once upon a time. Just check your birth certificate for confirmation. Join us by creating your own Texas adventure today and please be sure to share your adventure with us!