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18 Things to Know about Texas before your first visit

Are you planning a trip to Texas? Or moving to Texas?

You are going to have an amazing time in the Lone Star State. After all, Texas is on the bucket list of most travelers and tourists. 

It is the largest state in the mainland USA and has plenty of attractions for all kinds of visitors.

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However along with its size and diversity Texas is also associated with a lot of stereotypes and unfortunately or fortunately, almost all of them are true! 

Whether it’s the delicious BBQ or ranches and cowboys, Texas is pretty different from what’s depicted in the popular media. 

Things to know about Texas before you visit

Here are some things that you absolutely should know before your first trip to Texas! These also serve excellently to future residents as things to know before moving to Texas. 

“Texas is diverse”

Texas is cowboys riding on horses into the sunset. Texas is a sea of gorgeous blue wildflowers. 

Texas is amazing restaurants and food trucks in Dallas. Texas is Houston’s ever-growing skyline and the colorful riverboats on the San Antonio Riverwalk. 

Texas is the rust colored chasm of Palo Duro Canyon. Texas is the powdery soft beaches of the Gulf Coast. Texas is the hot desert full of cacti. Texas is beautiful fall foliage and evergreen pine trees that reach to the sky. 

That’s right, that all is Texas. Texas is huge and as a result, diverse. Whether it’s landscapes or people or cuisines, Texas is the ultimate melting pot. 

What that means, don’t expect to see Texas in one trip. It is just impossible. 

And that’s why Texas will look different on every trip depending on where you go. We suggest keeping an open mind and just enjoy what Texas chooses to offer you on your trip! 

“Texas-sized is not a joke”

It’s true, everything is really bigger in Texas. When we first moved to Texas, I used to be continually surprised by the size of food servings, cities, number of freeway lanes, height of trucks, enormous ranches, and even houses. 

You really need to remember this while eating out. Share a meal if you wish and if you’re ordering appetizers, expect to take half of everything back in to go containers. 

But leaving aside the bigger part we also honestly believe that everything is better in Texas. See my point about Texan Pride below for more details! 

“Barbecue is our religion”

Yes, the rumors are true. Texans take their barbecue very seriously. So don’t even try to say something like, “I’ve had barbecue just not in Texas.” When we say barbecue we mean Texan barbecue, especially brisket. 

Unlike other states famous for their barbecues, pork is not a big thing here. Most of the legendary barbecue joints are famous for the beef brisket and they serve it in two ways: sliced and chopped. We recommend trying both along with some pulled pork by getting a 3 meat plate. Yes it is going to be a Texas sized meal but so worth it!

There are several different styles of barbecue in Texas ranging from East Texas BBQ Central Texas BBQ and West Texas BBQ. We love them all! Some of the famous barbecue eateries include Franklin’s BBQ in Austin and Pecan Lodge in Dallas.

“Tex Mex is more than just a meal”

The other cuisine that you must try while in Texas is Tex-Mex food. This is not just a meal but an entire experience. You can have Tex-Mex for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. The leftovers also make excellent late night snacks. 

Surprised? Don’t be! The next time you are at Buc-ee’s, try a breakfast taco or a breakfast burrito and you’ll believe us. The Tex-Mex food is very different from Mexican food. Staples are items like burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, and queso. 

If you want the ultimate Tex-Mex dining experience, have a waterside meal on the San Antonio Riverwalk. Here you can have tableside guacamole prepared fresh in front of you and you can be serenaded by a Mexican Mariachi band as you eat your meal. 

“Donuts and kolaches together, forever”

Donuts and kolaches for breakfast is the ultimate Texan thing. Together, these are the Lone Star State’s favorite breakfast. You will find that almost every donut shop in Texas sells kolaches. 

The sweet and savory items work really well with each other and fill the stomach for quite a long time. And as long as you’re ordering kolaches, get one of the spicy jalapeno Boudin ones! 

“Chicken fried steak is just steak. And chicken fried chicken is well, chicken!”

The first time we saw chicken fried steak on a menu we spent a good hour wondering what the heck it was. Turns out, it’s just breaded and fried steak. It’s called that because it’s cooked similar to breaded chicken.  

Which kind of makes the name chicken fried chicken redundant! The next time you see it on a menu, recognize it for what it is: good old Southern fried chicken! Order one with gravy and you won’t regret it. 

“The only way to see Texas is on a road trip”

Texas is huge and has almost no public transport. You do need a car to get everywhere and yes expect to spend lots of time in traffic during rush hour. 

Even the big cities of Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio are best seen by driving your own car around the attractions. Most of the things to do are spread far and wide from each other plus the intense heat makes walking an unenviable chore. 

But don’t worry: a road trip in Texas is the best way to experience the state. You will be treated to amazing views, jaw dropping roadside attractions, and hole in the wall places serving delicious food. 

“There is really no other place you’d rather fill up than Buc-ee’s”

Your car and your stomach both, we mean! See the beaver wearing the red hat along the highways? That’s Buc-ee’s! 

Buc-ee’s is a Texas institution. It is everywhere and it is so much more than just a gas station. Some of the Buc-ee’s that I have visited are bigger than Walmarts in the Midwest. 

They sell everything from food, souvenirs, clothes, groceries, essentials, decor, and more. 

And when we say food we don’t mean typical gas station goodies but real gourmet meals. They have a deli section which serves excellent pulled pork sandwiches and their beef jerky is just fantastic. 

Other things to buy at Buc-ee’s includes Beaver Nuggets (a type of puffed corn snacks), roasted pecans, fresh fudge, toys, and more. 

They also have the world record for having the cleanest bathrooms ever! Visiting a Buc-ee’s is an essential Texas experience. Expect to spend anything from an hour or two in this ginormous store. 

“The Texas pride is a very real thing”

All the legends about Texan pride are pretty much true. The swagger, the drawl, the immense pride in everything Texan from BBQ to oil and from the music to the rodeo is quite real. 

Texas might not have been a republic for over a hundred years but if you hear a Texan talk about it, it might as well have been yesterday. 

When we say ‘Remember the Alamo’ we mean it with our whole heart. We get emotional when we visit the San Jacinto Monument. We celebrate Fiesta on the San Antonio Riverwalk with as much pride as New Orleans does Mardi Gras. 

“…..So is the famous southern hospitality”

Texans are very friendly and will wave at you every once in a while. They will say hello and ask you how you’re doing. 

They will chat you up and ask you questions: where you are from, what you are doing in Texas, and what do you plan to see on your trip. They will give their recommendations on restaurants, destinations, hikes, and even shopping. 

They will hold doors open for you and wish you a good day. They will compliment you about your outfit, about your hair, about your appetite (yes, we have actually had this happen to us) and about your kids. It is really a wonderful thing! 

“Only cowboys dress up like cowboys. The rest dress up like normal people.”

…because that’s what we are! We don’t know why but many tourists expect to see every other Texan dressed up as a cowboy. That’s not going to happen. 

Only real cowboys dress up as cowboys in Texas. And to them, it’s not dressing up – it’s wearing their everyday work clothes!

And if you’re primarily visiting the cities of Dallas or Austin then you won’t really see any cowboys. Unless you’re visiting Houston during the rodeo in March. That’s a whole other story!

But what you will find is people from all walks of life dressed up in a variety of ways. Dallas is much more fashionable while Houston and the Gulf Coast has a relaxed laid back vibe. In Austin and College Station you will find the latest fashion trends and a spunky youthful style. 

But overall Texas is very laid-back when it comes to fashion and clothing.  

“The heat will do its best to kill y’all.”

Temperature in most parts of Texas hovers around 100 F in the summer. It’s felt even more intensely in the panhandle and in the desert of West Texas than on the Gulf Coast. 

Visitors often make the mistake of underestimating the Texas heat. There are several cases of sunburns, dehydration, and heat strokes every year among tourists. 

So, what to know about Texas summers? 

To make the best of a summer trip to Texas you need to respect the heat. Pack a nice floppy sun hat and sunscreen. Plan your itinerary such that you are indoors during the most hot parts of the day. Carry sufficient water when hiking and keep yourself hydrated throughout the trip. 

“Yes, we say y’all in real life. And yeah, the drawl is also real.”

Visitors often wonder if Texans really say y’all or it’s a myth. Well here’s the truth: yes, we do! It’s just our way of talking and you’ll get used to it pretty fast once you come here. So much so that you won’t even notice it! 

Texans also have the slow draw that makes it difficult to distinguish words as they tend to run into each other. We also speak using unique expressions which make understanding us just a little bit more difficult. 

“Speaking of weather, it will change at least 15 times every day.”

The unpredictable Texas weather is the subject of a hundred jokes and memes. The weather is unreliable and changes every often throughout the year. 

On the hottest summer days, you will encounter unexpected thunderstorms and tornadoes. In winter, you might come here to escape the severe cold of the north and be greeted by a winter storm that drops several inches of snow over a majority of the state. 

Also Read: Best Places to Spend Winter in Texas

Fun fact: It can snow in Houston! The last time was in 2021. Yeah, not so long ago. 

Though the most unpredictable days definitely come in the spring and fall. In these months you can even experience all four seasons in one day! 

The best way to deal with it? Pack a light waterproof jacket and a couple of long sleeve shirts along with your shorts and dresses, irrespective of when you plan your trip. 

“Our love for guns is very real.”

In general, Texas is pretty big on guns. You will encounter concealed weapons, gun stores, gun ranges, and gun exhibitions throughout your trip to the Lone Star State. 

However, almost everyone follows the rules regarding carrying weapons and stores them safely so it’s not something that you need to worry about. 

Along with guns, Texans also love hunting and if you are into it then hog or deer hunting is an excellent experience to have in the Lone Star State.

“Sometimes, Spanish will get you a lot further than English”

About 40% of the Texas population is Hispanic. There are a lot of Spanish speakers in the state. Some are born here while others have immigrated from countries like Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the rest of Central and Latin America. 

Many of these people don’t understand English well and you can communicate most effectively with them in Spanish. This is especially true in small towns near the border, in small mom and pop stores, family owned eateries, flea markets, food trucks, taquerias, and while communicating with hired help. 

We have found that learning a few basic phrases of Spanish goes a long way in understanding each other and making friends in Texas. 

“We measure distance in hours, not miles.”

I personally honestly believe this one came about solely because of the traffic on I-45 in Houston! 

As we mentioned before, Texas is vast and the rush hour traffic can get pretty intense. There is no point knowing that you are just 2 miles away from work when you won’t be reaching there for another 15 minutes! 

Measuring the distance in hours is just more accurate and convenient. 

“Texas is not Southwest or West or Deep South. Texas is Texas.”

The great state of Texas was once a country all on its own. Since the times of the Republic of Texas, the state has developed its own culture and traditions that are quite distinct from the rest of the country. 

That’s why lumping Texas together with the Southwest or the West or the South is doing the state a great disservice. Texas has been famously called ‘a state of mind’ by John Steinbeck. We think that comes pretty close to encapsulating the feeling of being a Texan. 

Texas is and will always remain Texas. A pretty unique state with its own distinct identity! 

That’s it. Our ultimate post on the things that you absolutely need to know before visiting Texas! Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.

Also Read: Things that No One Tells You About Texas!