Texas, nicknamed the Lone Star state, borders New Mexico, Arkansas, and Louisiana, as well as the country of Mexico. With over 268,500 square miles, it’s the 2nd largest state in America.
The famous slogan, “things are bigger in Texas”, does not just apply to its land mass. As you’ll see below, even their landmarks are bigger!
The size and geological features of Texas, such as the Balcones Fault, make it home to a wide variety of landscapes that are reminiscent of both the South and the Southwest in the United States.
Although the state of Texas is often thought of in connection with the deserts of the American southwest, only around 10% of the state is actually desert.
Former prairies, meadows, woodlands, and coastal landscapes now host the majority of the population centers.
From coastal wetlands and piney woodlands in the east, to rolling plains and rough hills in the middle, and ultimately the desert and mountains in the Big Bend in the west, Texas’ landscape is incredibly diverse.
Below are some of the most famous landmarks in the State of Texas.
Famous Landmarks in Texas
1. Big Bend National Park
Located in West Texas, on the Mexican border, Big Bend National Park is referred to as Texas’ gift to the nation. Famous for its recreational activities and natural resources, it’s also rich in history. The area was named for a large bend in the Rio Grande River that runs through the park.
Established in 1935, the park covers over 801,000 acres. It’s home to the Chisos Mountains. The only United States mountain range fully contained within a national park. About 118 miles of the Rio Grande is inside the park as well. The park officially opened for visitors in 1944.
Long before that, the area was home to nomadic indigenous people. This is evident from pictographs and archeological finds. When mineral deposits were found, miners set up camps. Then, as people moved west, cattle farmers used the land for ranches.
Also Read: Famous Landmarks in Arkansas
Today, Big Bend has over 1200 species of plants, 600 species of vertebrate animals, 3600 types of insects, and 450 bird species. Multiple natural hot springs are scattered throughout the park.
Despite its natural beauty and abundant wildlife, Big Bend is one of the least visited national parks in the country. Largely due to its remote location, it averages less than 400,000 visitors a year. However, it’s popular with hikers because of the looping, scenic trails.
2. The Alamo
Built in 1718, The Alamo is a former Spanish mission church and fortress compound. It was founded by Catholic missionaries in the 18th century in what is now San Antonio, Texas.
In 1836, it was where the Battle of the Alamo took place. This is where famous American folk hero Davy Crockett was killed.
Originally, the Alamo was built to educate local Native American people after their conversion to Christianity.
Eventually, it was abandoned and then became a fortress housing the San Carlos de Parras military unit. During the Texas revolution, the Mexican army surrendered the Alamo to the Texans.
It was occupied for many months until the infamous Battle of the Alamo. The battle was fierce and many soldiers were killed. Upon their retreat, Mexican soldiers tore down walls and set fires.
Also Read: Famous Landmarks in New Mexico
Over the years, the space was used for various purposes, including housing soldiers. In 2015, after many attempts to preserve it, the site was designated a World Heritage site. Today, The Alamo museum complex welcomes over 4 million visitors a year.
3. San Antonio River Walk
The river walk is publicized as the number one attraction in Texas. It’s 15 miles of fun, food, and festivities. Folks can leisurely stroll along the riverside paths and footbridges admiring the lush greenery, flowers, and towering cypress trees.
5 miles of the walk are in the heart of the city. Along this section is where you will find an endless number of eateries, shops, museums, historical spots, recreational opportunities. Seasonal celebrations are also a common occurrence.
From parades and artisan shows to fireworks and festivals. There’s something for everyone in this unique attraction that has grown since it’s inception in 1941.
4. Dallas Museum of Art
The Dallas Museum of Art is home to over 24 thousand pieces. The artifacts date back as far as the 3rd millennium BC. The museum is known for its excellent educational programs and non- circulating library.
With over 159,000 square feet, it’s one of the largest museums in the United States. The museum began in the Dallas public library with a few paintings in 1903.
In 1932, a new Art Deco style structure was built to hold the explosion of artwork and artifacts that had been collected in the library.
Today, the museum has several galleries dedicated to art concentrations, like:
- Colonial America
The museum also holds coveted pieces by iconic artists like:
- El Greco
The museum hosts several events each week for the community, like jazz concerts, film screenings, lectures, and book signings.
5. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The Museum of Fine Arts is located in the heart of Houston’s museum district. Upon its recent 8 year long expansion project, the museum officially became the 12th largest art museum in the world.
With over 300,000 square feet of space, the museum holds over 70 thousand pieces spanning 6 continents.
Also Read: Landmarks in Oklahoma
The museum is a 14 acre complex comprised of 9 buildings and a sculpture garden. One of the buildings, The Glassel school, is dedicated solely to art education.
The school holds a variety of classes, workshops, and educational opportunities for students of all ages.
- Italian Renaissance
- French Impressionism
- American art
- Post-war European and American
Some artists on display include:
- Fra Angelico
- Van Gogh
6. Guadalupe Mountains National Park
The highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak, lies within the mountains of this national park. At 8751 feet high, it towers over the rest of the state. The park is located in Culbertson county in western Texas.
Established in 1972, the purpose was to preserve and protect geological assets, scenery, and the wilderness of the northern Chihuahuan desert. Archeological evidence suggests the presence of humans using the land as far back as 10,000 years.
Since then, the land has been used by Spanish explorers, Apache tribes, and cattle ranchers. In 1921, William Pratt, a geologist, bought 6,000 acres of land there.
Upon his death, the Pratt family donated the land and it became the centerpiece of what became the national park a few years later. The park is known for its great hiking and 3 campgrounds are available year-round tent and vehicle camping.
7. Space Center Houston
The Space Center is a space and science museum in Houston, Texas. It’s the official visitors center for NASA. In 2014, it was given Smithsonian affiliate status. Opened in 1992, the museum is over 250,000 square feet.
There are over 400 artifacts, including the space capsules Mercury 9, Gemini 5, and Apollo 17. The Starship gallery includes several space capsules used for training and a large collection of moon rocks.
Independence Plaza is another section of the space complex that is home to the world’s only space shuttle replica. It sits atop a retired shuttle carrier.
One of the permanent exhibits is Mission Mars, which includes an educational center and artifacts such as a lectern used by President Kennedy and spacesuits.
The museum also offers a host of activities such as:
- live presentations
- a theater
- interactive experiments
- day camps
- overnight experiences
- sensory friendly evenings
8. Houston Zoo
Located within Hermann Park, the Houston zoo is 55 acres and houses over 6000 animals. It is the 2nd most visited zoo in the United States. The zoo receives over 2 million visitors annually. Opened in 1922, the zoo’s mission is to connect communities with animals to inspire action to save wildlife. Exhibits include:
- African forest – Home to many native African species like zebras, giraffes, rhino, and ostriches
- Asian elephant habitat – features a herd of Asian elephants with a 7000 square foot barn and a 160,000 gallon pool
– one of the largest collections in the United States. The zoo has over 800 birds from over 200 species.
- sea lion pool
- world of primates
- Texas wetlands
- bug house
- petting zoo
The zoo takes about 3 hours to walk through.
9. Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Palo Duro State Park is in the heart of the Texas panhandle, and is home to the 2nd largest canyon in the United States. Visitors can explore the canyon by foot, bike, horse, or car.
Several campsites are available for various camping styles. Pavilions are available for weddings and parties. Glamping sites are also available for a luxury experience. A park store is on site and offers souvenirs, pottery, and jewelry. Guided tours through the canyon are also available.
The canyon was formed by millions of years of water erosion. The descent into the canyon is 800 feet. It’s 120 miles long and averages 6 miles wide.
Beautiful geological features, including multi-colored layered rock formations, caves, and hoodoos are scattered throughout the park.
10. Cadillac Ranch
Located in Amarillo, Cadillac Ranch has been a roadside attraction on iconic Route 66 since 1974. The art installation was the creative brain child of Ant Farm artist group members Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez, and Doug Michels.
This unique piece consists of 10 Cadillacs ranging from the years 1949 to 1963. The cars are buried nose first in the dirt. They are tilted at the same angles as the Giza pyramids.
The Ranch was originally in a wheat field but was moved 2 miles west to interstate 40. Though located on private land, ( belonging to millionaire Stanley Marsh who funded the project), people are encouraged to “trespass” to get up close to the project.
Folks are even allowed to spray paint the cars with graffiti and messages about social justice. The site has been used for several movies and music videos.