One thing is for sure, no matter where you live there are several places in America that are on everybody’s travel wish list—from the Grand Canyon in Arizona to the sights of New York City. However, there is one location that I really haven’t heard much about: Texas.
To be honest, it wasn’t even on my radar. I had visited the state only twice in my adult years with both times being for work conventions and otherwise had only driven through on cross-country road trips. Fast forward to March 2017, my partner and I started planning our RV trip from Arizona to Ohio and Texas came up as an option. It was a logical choice for our route as well as to stay south for as long as possible. (I’m not the biggest fan of cold weather after spending my first 19 years in Ohio, so I basically travel like a migratory bird.)
We didn’t just talk about passing through Texas on our trip, we were looking at staying for at least a month if not longer. Always up for adventure and new places, I started researching RV parks in Texas and it was set. I didn’t really know what to expect other than everything is bigger and the stars at night are big and bright, *cue music*, deep in the heart of Texas. Well, I was happily surprised by how much Texas has to offer! These are my top seven discoveries of why Texas is totally underrated as a travel destination.
1. It’s not just flat land where you can see for miles in every direction.
The parts of Texas I had driven through all looked like dry prairie land with tumbleweeds and little to no greenery. So, naturally I expected other parts of the state to look the same—I hadn't seen enough of Texas to know better. Well, now I have! It has hills, trees, rivers, lakes, limestone formations, caves, and in the right time of year there’s even an abundance of beautiful wildflowers. Texas is a massive piece of land, so I can’t believe I expected it all to look like the small fraction I had seen. In fact, less than 10% of Texas is desert. How about that?
2. The people are incredibly nice.
Don’t let the “don’t mess with Texas” slogan fool you, the people here are very friendly and welcoming. The official state slogan is actually “The Friendly State”, which totally fits once you’ve spent time there. The media, TV, and movies have presented Texas a certain way, but I don’t think that’s accurate. Just going to the public library in Junction, I felt like I was part of the town. Locals introduced themselves and often included me in conversation. The friendliness isn’t just limited to the small towns either, even in Austin strangers would smile, say hello, and weren’t shy about starting a conversation.
3. It’s a great place to swim, kayak, canoe, paddleboard, or do pretty much any water activity you can imagine.
First, I’m not talking about the 600 miles of sandy beaches on the coast. There’s tons of great swimming holes, lakes, and rivers inland even deep in the heart of Texas. Everywhere I went, I could easily find a body of water to enjoy within a short drive. I even came across the world’s largest spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park, which is in a pretty remote area where I didn’t expect to find something so cool. It has over 15 million gallons of crystal clear water flowing through it daily, is 20-25 feet deep, and covers 1.75 acres. It was 46 degrees the day I visited, and the water was a toasty 72 degrees (and stays that way year-round).
4. One word… Food.
Being a vegetarian, I didn't expect to find any food in Texas that I could eat. I was wrong, and I am oh so glad that I was! The state is known for its barbecue, as well as a great selection of Mexican food, but not for its variety of vegetarian eats. At least not until you dig a little deeper, then you find vegan ice cream, vegan Mexican food, vegan cheesecake, vegan waffles, vegan bacon macaroni and cheeseburgers, and… You get the idea! See photos for the deliciousness.
5. Texas has a "wine country”.
Yet another pleasant surprise to discover upon arriving in Junction, I was only about an hour away from Fredericksburg and the heart of Texas’ wine country. Yes, you read that right, there is a gorgeous area with rolling hills and vineyards producing wine. Actually, Texas was home to the first winery in North America.
6. The speed limits are higher.
Everything in Texas is bigger, even the speed limits! I find this one quite entertaining because I never compared speed limits of different cities until I drove around Texas. On a road that would be a 45 mph limit in most places, the speed limit in Texas is 65 mph. Even driving through town, which would typically be 25 mph, is 35 mph in Texas. This may not be a bonus worthy of taking a trip, but it sure is enjoyable when you’re there.
7. Texas is home to the best rest stops ever.
This one is for the RVers and road trippers out there! Texas rest stops are some of the biggest, cleanest, and fanciest I’ve encountered. I even stopped at a rest stop that had outdoor workout equipment to stretch and get your body moving after being cooped up in the car. Bonus: Hardly any of the rest stops are closed, so there are plenty to stop at. You could be driving on a country road, not even a highway, and there’s a pullout with a picnic table and a nice view to take a break from driving. Texas is made for road trips.
I liked Texas so much that I stayed much longer than originally planned. It turned out to be a great two months in the south! If you’re looking for a new place to travel, Texas is worth adding to your list. It offers history, culture, diversity, nature, and plenty of fun to be had.
Have you traveled somewhere that wasn’t anything like you expected? Let me know in the comments!