Over the past couple of decades, many have flocked to the state of Texas either to live or visit. These numbers include a rising number of travelers from around the world who visit cities in Texas. The state of Texas is expansive enough that each section has its own distinct and expressive culture, and that is best represented in its cities. With this article, we aim to showcase the top ten cities in the state of Texas that hold plenty of appeal for visitors!
The “Space City” of Houston by far the largest city in Texas with regards to population. As a matter of fact, its population size places it as the fourth-largest city in the United States. Long associated with NASA due to housing the Johnson Space Center and the booming oil and energy industries, Houston has embraced an identity that is strident and self-confident. In recent years, Houston has become highly diverse when it comes to its population—at present, 90 languages are spoken by citizens residing in Houston. Houston has a strong Vietnamese community in addition to the presence of immigrants from Mexico and Nigeria, among other nations.
Add to that mix an engaging Theater District with a selection of year-round companies in the arts, and a local culinary scene that runs the gamut from traditional Southwestern Cajun, Ethiopian and even dishes from all over Mexico. As far as shopping is concerned, a trip here isn’t complete without visiting the Galleria Mall in the Uptown District. History buffs will make a bee-line for the U.S.S. Texas (a preserved battleship museum) and the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, which commemorates over 400 years of the state’s history. The Houston Space Center is a prime opportunity for tourists to get an up close and personal look at the history of space flight and exploration in the U.S.
Chances are, you’ve heard a great deal about Dallas before even considering a trip there. This is thanks to the city’s prominence in pop culture. Popular television shows such as Dallas showcase and represent the unique character of this city for all the world to see. Also, Dallas is very famous for its NFL team—the Dallas Cowboys. This magnetic metropolis grew to its current level of prominence in part due to its oil and cotton industries. The character of Dallas is a piquant mix you get from envisioning life on the prairie coupled with a more cosmopolitan vibe. As a result, Dallas is a highly upscale city with some of the best shopping to be found in the world. Dallas also has a nightlife that is decidedly electric.
Those visiting Dallas often make it a point to check out the Reunion Tower and visit its large observation deck to marvel at the city skyline at night. Visitors also enjoy learning about a turbulent point in American history by visiting Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum. These attractions commemorate the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy. Another destination that many enjoy visiting here is the Nasher Center—an elegant museum that contains a swath of contemporary art.
3. San Antonio
San Antonio—located in the south-central part of Texas—tends to be seen as a laid-back kind of city. But that’s not entirely the case. San Antonio (AKA “River City”) has a rich history, exemplified by the Alamo Mission which is arguably the most revered site in Texas. Another key attraction here is the famed River Walk. It stretches through the downtown area for over 13 miles (20.9 km), and is fringed by a plethora of restaurants and bars. Those traveling here will also delight in seeing how the city has taken care to preserve many of the buildings from its past, such as the Mission San Jose and the San Fernando Cathedral.
San Antonio is also an attractive city within Texas because of its growing diversity in relation to its population size. The Natural Bridge Caverns located here is the largest underground cave complex to be found within the country. These caves feature limestone slab formations that can span over 196.9 feet (60 m). Lastly, those who venture through San Antonio in search of somewhere cool will find their mark in the Pearl District—a neighborhood bustling with outdoor cafes and indie bookstores that is treasured by natives of the city.
When Austin, Texas comes up in conversation, it typically revolves around the context of cities that are becoming well-regarded as hip. Austin’s reputation is justified when one visits this city and samples its warm, small-town vibe. The state capital of Texas, Austin has turned heads by fast becoming one of the most attractive cities to visit. This is thanks to some remarkable historical attractions found here. These include the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Austin is also home of the University of Texas, and as such, has a vibrant and youthful collegiate atmosphere felt throughout the town.
Austin is a city that isn’t afraid to embrace its quirky side. This is due in part to the crowds that gather at the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge each summer. These people do so in order to watch the flight of the world’s largest urban bat colony that resides under this bridge. Another event that draws many across the globe to Austin is the South by Southwest Festival. It is held each spring and is frequently referred to as SXSW. Another highly frequented event here is the Austin City Limits Festival. It celebrates musical artists from all genres. Other appealing factors of this city includes its barbecue scene, most notably Franklin’s Barbecue. It draws massive lines each day for its smoky brisket. This venue is also becoming highly popular among bikers!
5. Fort Worth
Extolling the motto “Where The West Begins”, Fort Worth is at times lumped together with the City of Dallas, but it has its own charm to entice travelers looking for a uniquely Texan experience. And by unique, we mean traditional—the frontier life is celebrated heavily here. The City of Fort Worth features attractions such as Log Cabin Village, which depicts how people lived in this part of the country back during the frontier days of America. Fort Worth also features the Stockyards Museum. This locale showcases the full history of the city’s thriving cattle industry. Other places that express the spirit of Fort Worth are the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. This region’s aviation history is also notable. Companies like American Airlines and Lockheed Martin have a presence here that dates back to the 1940s.
Fort Worth’s collegiate life also offers exciting attractions. In particular, Fort Worth is known for sports activities conducted by the Horned Frogs hailing from the Texas Christian University. Another facet of the exciting attractions Fort Worth has to offer is the Texas Motor Speedway—a major racecourse on the NASCAR circuit. There are also numerous events held here like rodeos, which showcase cowboy life. Lastly, Fort Worth’s downtown layout makes it an interesting place to walk around. While you’re here, do check out the Art Deco buildings that are still in use, as well as various museums in the city.
6. El Paso
Nestled on the shores of the mighty Rio Grande, El Paso stands out as the westernmost city in Texas. The border of Mexico is found right next to El Paso, on the left flank of the river, along with Ciudad Juarez. El Paso also stands out as a town that boasts a bevy of attractions on the natural and cultural front. With the former, desert landscapes are on full display here when travelers make a visit to the Franklin Mountains State Park. The park is considered the largest urban park in the U.S., clocking in at over 24,000 acres (9712.5 hectares). Also found in this city is the Wyler Aerial Tramway. It takes guests up to Ranger Peak (which is found within the park itself) via gondola. For those up for the journey, the Guadalupe Mountains National Park is 100 miles (160.9 km) east of the city and features 80 miles (128.7 km) of thrilling terrain to hike around, as well as Guadalupe Peak—the tallest rock formation in the state.
On the cultural side, the extensive history of the city of El Paso is on display in different structures and centers. First, there’s the Mission Trail. It links a couple of the remaining missions from the days of Spanish colonial life here during the late 1600s. The Tigua Indian Cultural Center found here showcases the history of the indigenous people that called this area home. Then there’s the Magoffin Home State Historic Site. It is a preserved adobe mansion from the 19th century. Lastly, El Paso also hosts a number of festivals such as the local KLAQ Great River Raft Race. This festival takes place on the Rio Grande. El Paso also hosts the oldest Hispanic cultural festival in the Southwest—Fiesta de las Flores.
7. Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi might be one of Texas’ more intimate cities, but it offers a great deal of sights to see and other activities to make up for its lack of size. This coastal city has a potent history behind it. This dates back to its discovery by Spanish explorers in the early 1500s, and its establishment as a military post before the American Civil War. This is partially shown off to visitors here when they make their way to Heritage Park—an area that’s a collection of vintage homes dating back to the late 1800s. Another point of interest that many flock to while they’re here is the massive U.S.S. Lexington: an aircraft carrier that was in the action during both World War II and the Korean War.
Corpus Christi is also well known for its abundance of coastal wildlife on display. There’s the Oso Bay Wetlands Reserve, which houses various species of birds and has a four mile (6.4 km) long walking trail found on the premises. It’s also close to Padre Island. It is the world’s longest undeveloped barrier island that stretches 70 miles (112.7 km) in length and is home to a stunning beach, which can be found at Mustang Island State Park. Within the city, there are some interesting spots to check out such as the Selena Museum. It is a studio and a shrine dedicated to the late Tejano singer. Also found in the city is North Beach: a popular hangout spot along the channel where you can gaze at ships coming in from the north of Corpus Christi.
The City of Arlington is considered part of a larger collection of cities that include Dallas and Fort Worth. Arlington also has enough attractions to draw visitors in for a spell. This city is a predominant location for many of Dallas’ professional sports franchises. Arlington is also home to the tremendous AT&T Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys play. The city also hosts the International Bowling Museum. Arlington has been around since the mid-1800s, and was a major player in the region’s farming and cotton gin industries.
Arlington enjoys a happening cultural scene thanks to the Arlington Museum of Art and Theatre Arlington. The latter is one of the biggest community theaters that exists in the country to date. This city has a family-oriented vibe that’s exemplified by the Six Flags Amusement company, which operates the Six Flags Over Texas and Hurricane Harbor theme parks.
9. College Station
If you’re keen on experiencing a city with a vibrant college atmosphere, College Station is one of the prime places to be in Texas. It’s the home of the main campus of the Texas A&M University. College Station is also the home of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library. This stately building is found on the Texas A&M campus, and offers a look into the life of the former presidential leader. It even has a replica of the Oval Office found in the White House! College Station also boasts an abundance of green spaces that highlight the beauty of East Texas. This is exemplified primarily in Lick Creek Park and Bee Creek Park, which come with manicured natural trails and swimming holes.
Visitors to College Station who are keen about military history might be interested in checking out the Museum of the American G.I. that was built in 2002. It is dedicated to capturing the life of American soldiers and how they experience various conflicts. This museum also features restored vehicles to boot. Another local attraction to check out here is Messina Hof—a winery that first began in 1977. This winery is open to the public for tours. If you’re looking for some places to have a drink and loosen your collar, the Northgate District is home to a number of happening nightspots.
10. Sugar Land
Sugar Land is a city just southwest of Houston, and is officially aligned with Houston on a municipal level. Sugar Land takes its name from its origins as a sugar plantation in the years before the Civil War. This city humbly started out as a company town that was home to the employees of the Imperial Sugar company. Today, it’s a place that’s become more and more attractive to businesses like Minute Maid. Most travellers visit here for a taste of upscale Texas life, as Sugar Land has also grown to become one of the state’s more affluent suburban enclaves.
With regards to attractions that Sugar Land offers, one that steps features in prominence is the pristine wonder of Cullinan Park. This green space spans 750 acres (303.5 hectares) of ponds and lush prairie. On a cultural level, Sugar Land also gives visitors food for thought beginning with the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Houston. This locale is a full-fledged Hindu temple that showcases the history of the Hindu faith found within a traditional structure. Those who hold a fascination with science can check out the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land. It features a large, domed exhibition space and has some rare dinosaur fossils on display.
Experience these hardy Texan cities firsthand
These ten cities certainly prove that Texas is worth experiencing firsthand. From space centers and lively riverwalks, to desert landscapes, each Texan city is unique in its own way, bringing with it attractions and brilliant styles that will not disappoint travellers. I’m sure that you’ll be able to appreciate the vibrant spirit of Texas, whether or not you’re a first time visitor. The Texan character is hardy and adaptable—proudly honoring its frontier spirit past, while still adapting to suit the contemporary face of America. We hope that this list will serve you well on your visit to this hardy and adaptable American state.
What is your favorite city in Texas? And what are your favorite things to do while you’re there? Let us know in the comments below!
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.