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Explore Texas through art, culture and history

From its rich Hispanic heritage to live music and a portal to the past at the Alamo, there's no place like the Lone Star State

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Travel Texas

Explore Texas through art, culture and history
May 14, 2024
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While Texas is a premier vacation destination known for outdoor adventure and the distinctive western experience, the state is also filled with fantastic opportunities to immersive yourself in its vibrant arts scene, unique culture and rich history.

A state of the arts

The Lemon Twigs - SXSW 2023© Erica Fuchs
The Lemon Twigs - SXSW 2023

From visual arts to live music, every region of Texas is packed with attractions, events and venues showcasing local celebrities and world-renowned talent.

Art aficionados can admire remarkable works in galleries and museums across the state. The El Paso Museum of Art, San Antonio Museum of Art and Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts all showcase extensive collections and touring exhibits. The Texas Artists Museum in Port Arthur, southeast of Beaumont, was founded in 1972 to focus solely on artists from the Lone Star State. The Dallas Arts District is the largest contiguous urban arts district in the United States and a must-visit area, with galleries, theatres, performance spaces and public events, including the annual Dallas Art Fair. And one of the most unusual arts hubs in the state is also one of the most charming: the desert town of Marfa, in west Texas. This vibrant community is thriving with artists and creatives, from painters to photographers, along with galleries, museums and events that all revolve around art. 

Museum of Fine Arts Houston Cullen Sculpture Garden
Museum of Fine Arts Houston Cullen Sculpture Garden

The birthplace of artists such as Beyoncé, Janis Joplin and Willie Nelson, Texas is also paradise for music lovers. Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World and is home to both Austin City Limits (the TV series and the annual music festival) and the legendary SXSW festival, where icons and indie bands alike gather for a week of music-making magic. Music festivals for all manner of genres exist all across Texas, from UTOPiAfest, which coincides with the solar eclipse this year and will be an amazing place to catch it, to Kerrville Folk Festival in Hill Country and Cattle Country Music Fest in Gonzales, which featured Eric Church, Whiskey Myers and Tanya Tucker this year. And whether it’s bars, dance halls, auditoriums or amphitheatres, the state boasts an endless array of live-music venues where talented singers, songwriters and instrumentalists take the stage. 

Cultural impacts

Texas State Fair© Kevin Brown c/o Texas State Fair
Texas State Fair

With iconic annual events—such as the mammoth State Fair of Texas in Dallas every autumn—plus festivals, activities and places of interest celebrating the state’s diverse heritage and landscape, culture mavens will never run out of awesome things to see and do in Texas. 

Hispanic heritage is woven throughout the fabric of the state. Fiesta San Antonio, for example, is an 11-day event celebrating the city’s history and inhabitants. It takes place every April and is the largest cultural festival in Texas, tracing its roots back to 1891. The Latino Cultural Center in Dallas is a multidisciplinary space that hosts performances, rotating exhibitions, lectures and more to further the advancement of Latino and Hispanic arts and culture. And Charro Days Fiesta in Brownsville each spring celebrates the charro—a traditional Mexican horseman—with parades, a carnival and tasty traditional cuisine. 

Other notable cultural events across Texas include: Viva! El Paso, an annual outdoor musical performance saluting the city’s four cultural influences (Native American, Mexican, Spanish and American); Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg and Wurstfest in New Braunfels, which tip their Tyrolean hats to their towns’ German roots; and the Texas Folklife Festival, which celebrates the kaleidoscope of nationalities in the state’s population.

For something quirkier, culture-wise, check out the Plano Balloon Festival, a three-day hot-air-ballooning celebration on land and in the sky; the Luling Watermelon Thump, a four-day event that promotes the town’s watermelon industry with a carnival, a car show and multiple melon-centric competitions; and Texas SandFest—the biggest beach sand-sculpture festival in America—which takes place in Port Aransas every April.

Step into history

The Alamo
The Alamo

The proverbial cup truly runneth over for history buffs in Texas, where every corner of the state from Big Bend to the Gulf Coast delivers a fascinating glimpse into the past.

While historic sites and history museums can be found throughout the Lone Star State, some of the most famous are clustered in the South Texas Plains—more specifically, in San Antonio and along the San Antonio River. There, you’ll find such treasures as the Alamo and the San Antonio Missions, the latter of which were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The San Jacinto Museum and Battlefield in La Porte and Casa Navarro State Historic Site in San Antonio also pay tribute to, respectively, key battles and figures in the Texas Revolution.

Visitors interested in more niche aspects of Texas history can choose from a variety of destinations. Fascinated by space travel? Beam into Space Center Houston, where tours, exhibitions and even overnight stays explore NASA’s work. Feel like dipping a toe into maritime history? The 1877 iron barque Elissa, a one-time cargo vessel and now the state’s official tall ship, is anchored in Galveston’s historic seaport and offers daily tours. Seeking subterranean satisfaction? Wander into Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, an 87,500-square-foot underground reservoir built in 1927 and decommissioned in 2007. Excited by archeology? Explore Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site to see pictographs created thousands of years ago.

Stunning historic architecture also abounds throughout Texas. Roughly halfway between San Antonio and Houston is the town of Schulenburg, home to the historic painted churches of Texas, which were built by European immigrants in the 1800s. In the east end of Galveston, along the Gulf Coast, is a stunning collection of beautifully restored 19th-century buildings, including the Grand 1894 Opera House and the 1892 Bishop’s Palace, a National Historic Landmark. And notable more-recent architectural wonders include the assorted art deco buildings in Fair Park in Dallas, and Robert Bruno’s UFO-like Steel House in Ransom Canyon.

To learn more about all the amazing things to see and do, or to request a free travel guide, visit Travel Texas. And visit our Hello, Texas hub to see what else the Lone Star State has to offer.

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