Since Texas is an enormous state, many travelers opt to focus on a manageable region to maximize their time and resources for a state this huge. Fortunately, for those who want to visit several major cities in different areas, the interstate highway system is pretty impressive and you can get from most major cities to the others (excluding El Paso) in about three hours. Here is a quick guide to regions in Texas for help in planning your trip.
Dallas and Fort Worth
The towering twin metro cities of Dallas and Fort Worth are only separated by about 35 miles, but their cultural differences are extensive, offering travelers to this region the best of both worlds—glitz and grit, the Big D and Cowtown, the Old South and the Wild West. Though dominated by the “Metroplex,” North Texas is also home to a surprisingly large concentration of rivers, lakes, and charming small towns.
Austin and the Hill Country
Dubbed the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin is the region’s—perhaps even the state’s—mecca for music and performing arts. Home to the University of Texas at Austin, the city is a hotbed for creative thinkers and entrepreneurs, earning the tech-heavy business nickname “Silicon Hills.” Geographically, this region is marked by a convergence of the cotton-rich Blackland Prairie and the granite outcroppings of the Hill Country; culturally, it’s known for its German heritage, honky-tonks, and Dr Pepper (invented in Waco).
San Antonio and South Texas
Most of South Texas is defined and unified by its Tejano heritage. The majority of the region’s culture is tied to Mexico, including the legendary Alamo, constructed with four other San Antonio missions in the early 1700s to help expand Spain’s influence in the New World. Tejano heritage is concentrated in South Texas, where the border towns of Laredo, Del Rio, and Brownsville offer a taste of Mexico with a uniquely Texan twist.
Houston and East Texas
From historic oil boomtowns to five national forests to the megalopolis of Houston, this enormous region is an ideal place to experience the legacy of the Lone Star State. East Texas has a distinct Southern bayou influence, reflected in the food, heritage, and even accents. Standing apart is Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country and home to NASA, oil-related industries, and some of the most preeminent museums (and humidity) in the country.
The Gulf Coast
Stretching more than 350 miles along the Gulf of Mexico, this region’s moderate beaches and waves draw casual beachcombers, salty anglers, and frolicking families. The biggest city on the gulf, Corpus Christi, offers plenty of recreational activities to accommodate a quick weekend getaway and the ubiquitous Winter Texans. Once a year, students from across the country invade South Padre Island for a rollicking spring break, but otherwise, the region remains as low-key as the gulf’s lightly lapping waves.
El Paso and West Texas
This region is what most people envision when they hear the word Texas—hot and dry with an occasional cactus or cow skull. The Wild West spirit thrives in sun-baked cities like El Paso and Midland, and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park offers stunning views of colorful canyon walls and rugged outcroppings. Local cuisine reflects the personality of the region, ranging from spicy cheese-filled chiles rellenos in El Paso to sweet and hardy helpings of pecan pie in Odessa.
Big Bend Region
Everything about Big Bend is vast—the sky, the views, the mountains, and the canyons. It’s a relatively untouched land, where the natural elements dominate the landscape, and the visitors simply marvel at its beauty. The nearby community of Marfa has landed on the radar of the international art community, and its neighbors—Fort Davis and Alpine—are equally as compelling for their Old West charm. The rest of the Big Bend area is utterly inviting in its isolation.
The breathtaking views of colorful cliffs and imposing rock towers make Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo a can’t-miss experience, and legendary Route 66—still accessible along portions of I-40—offers a glimpse back in time. This region of the state, including the welcoming wide-open towns of Abilene and San Angelo, is home to many iconic Texas cowboys who branded their way into Texas’s mystique by corralling longhorn cattle on the open range.