20 Things Texas is Famous For | The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The state of Texas often brings to mind images of people in cowboy hats and endless horizons. However, Texas is known for so much more than its landscapes and cowboy culture. So, what is Texas famous for? We’ve compiled a list of 20 things that the state is best known for. 

A word of warning – not all of these are fun and fascinating facts that will make you want to visit, and yes, some Texans may be offended by this list. However, as someone who spent a large part of my life in Texas, I have a pretty solid understanding of the state – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

our car at the Welcome to Texas sign
Driving through Texas? See how many of these things Texas is famous for you can spot!

Quick Facts about Texas

  • State Capital: Austin
  • State Flower: Bluebonnet
  • State Bird: Northern Mockingbird
  • Population: 28.64 million
  • Largest Industry: Energy
  • When it became a state: December 1845

What is Texas famous for? Top 20 things compiled by a Texas native

Let’s jump right into the list – as a former Texan raised in the Lone Star State, here are 20 things I personally think the state is most often associated with or famous for.

Its Unique Shape and Size

Of the 50 states in the USA, there are only a handful that can be immediately recognized for their shape. And Texas is definitely one of them! Its distinctive shape featuring a panhandle and jagged contours created by the Red River, Gulf of Mexico, and the Rio Grande River, all give this state a very unique shape. The shape is often depicted on many Texas souvenirs, like jewelry, wall art, clothing, and even waffle makers

Aside from its shape, Texas is known for its size. As the second-largest state in the US, trailing only Alaska, the state is so massive it has even coined the saying “Everything is bigger in Texas.” So, how big is Texas, actually? The state covers more than 268,000 square miles, making it larger in size than the entire country of France. 

Texas Accent and Southern Slang

a mural that says "howdy dallas"
Be Sure To Say Hi – Or Howdy – To Locals When You Visit Texas. | Bailey Alexander From Unsplash

Y’all hear me out, because this ain’t my first rodeo. Folks, I grew up down yonder in Texas, and you’re fixin’ to get a lesson on how Texans speak… And if you didn’t understand a lick of what you just read, well, bless your heart. 

Ok, so I might have gone a little overboard with Texas slang in the sentences above, but the state definitely seems to have its own language, sometimes. Turns out, many of the words I grew up hearing and saying in Texas weren’t commonplace in other parts of the country. 

Beyond the words Texans often use, the accent is perhaps even more famous. Characterized by slow, drawn-out speech patterns and elongated vowels, the accent is often associated with southern warmth and friendliness and has become popularized in western films and modern-day movies that depict the state. 

Barbecue 

Unlike Barbecue From Other Regions, Texas Barbecue Has A Rich Smoky Taste. | Photo By Luis Santoyo From Unsplash

There are several states that claim to have perfected the culinary art of barbecue, but my apologies to the states of Tennessee, Kansas, Missouri, and the Carolinas… but Texas reigns supreme when it comes to this particular style of cuisine. 

While many other states specialize in barbecued pork, like ribs and pulled pork, Texas is most famous for its beef barbecue. The process involves slow-cooking meats like beef brisket over a wood-burning fire that gives it a smokey taste and flavor.

American Football

a dallas cowboys game
The Dallas Cowboys are one of the most famous football teams in the world. | Photo By Sandler482 From Pixabay

Throughout the world, the game of “football” is what Americans call soccer. But in the US, “football”, refers to a popular team sport played with an oval-shaped ball on a rectangular field that has goal posts at each end. While the rest of the world calls this sport “American football” and the US simply calls it “football”, Texans call it the best sport on the entire planet!

Texas loves this game! In fact, in the part of Texas where I grew up, even high school football is widely celebrated and watched. There are even books and movies based on my high school’s love and enthusiasm for the sport. 

At the professional level, teams like the Dallas Cowboys have become one of the most famous sports franchises in the world with coaches, players, and even team owners gaining celebrity status. You can even tour the Dallas Cowboys football stadium in Arlington, Texas – a popular day trip from Dallas.

Cowboys 

cowboys on a cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards
The Fort Worth Stockyards District Is The Only Place In The World Where You Can Watch A Twice Daily Cattle Drive.

Not to be confused with the American football team, Texas is also quite famous for cowboys. You know, people who ride horses and wear boots, spurs, and wide-brimmed hats with a tall, creased crown… cowboys. 

Cowboy culture in Texas emerged during the 19th century when cattle ranching became a prominent industry in the region, and skilled horsemen had to drive the cattle from Texas to other parts of the country to sell it for a higher rate. 

The Fort Worth Stockyards is the best place in the state to learn about cowboy culture. In the historic district of Fort Worth, you can even witness a live cattle drive twice a day. It’s not only a unique reenactment of the city’s heritage, but also completely free and one of the best things to do in Fort Worth

Country Music

a man in jeans, boots, a western shirt, cowboy hat and guitars standing in front of a weathered wooden barn
Cowboys are perhaps one of the most stereotypical things Texas is famous for. | Photo by Patty Brito from Unsplash

Along with its own language, the state of Texas also has its own particular style of music. Texas is famous for country music – having produced notable musical legends like Willie Nelson, George Strait, and Waylon Jennings. 

But while country music is listened to and produced in many parts of the nation, like Nashville, for example, Texas has developed its own form of the musical genre known as “Texas country”. 

Texas country is a fusion of traditional country, folk, bluegrass, and rock. This style of music is often associated with performers like Pat Green, Randy Rogers Band, and Robert Earl Keen.

Conservative Politics

Texas has historically leaned to the right when it comes to political views. While you’ll find pockets or left-leaning communities primarily in larger, urban areas, the state as a whole has not supported a democratic presidential candidate since 1976.

A number of historical, cultural, and religious factors contribute to the state’s conservative values. The state tends to take a strong stance on the Second Amendment (more on that below). Additionally, conservative politicians in the state support limited government intervention in business practices yet have come under heat in recent years for excessive government regulation when it comes to social policies like women’s rights.

The Alamo

the Alamo in San Antonio - one of the places Texas is famous for
The Alamo Is A Historic Landmark In Texas. | Photo By Eric Francis From Unsplash

One of the most famous Texas landmarks, the Alamo is a site of historical significance.

Located in San Antonio, the old Spanish mission became famous for the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas war for independence from Mexico in 1836. It was here that a small Texas group defended the mission against a much larger Mexican army. Although they ultimately lost the battle, their resistance inspired Texans to continue fighting for independence.

Today, the Alamo is a popular tourist attraction and has become a symbol of Texas pride and strength.

State pride

Speaking of Texas pride, many of the residents of this state identify as Texans above all else. If you’re visiting Texas, it won’t be long before you hear a Texan make a remark about their state being the “best” at something. It is a unique sense of pride that few other states seem to have. 

Perhaps it stems from the traditions and history that set the state apart from the other 49, but Texans seem to have an unwavering loyalty to their state that is simply unmatched. 

Oil and Gas Drilling

a pumpjack against the backdrop of a starlit sky
A pumpjack is a common sight around Texas. | Photo by Jared Evans from Unsplash

The ground beneath Texas is rich in natural resources, which ultimately spearheaded the booming oil and gas industry in the state. One of the nation’s leading producers of crude oil and natural gas, many energy companies are headquartered in the state, and many residents of Texas are employed by those companies.  

You’ll see signs of the oil and gas industry throughout the state. If you’re on a West Texas road trip, you’ll pass hundreds of pumpjacks and drilling rigs set up to extract the resources from the ground, as well as smelly refineries that process those resources into usable products like gasoline, diesel, and heating oil.

Longhorns

A longhorn in Texas
If Texas had a state animal the longhorn would be it.

Ranching is another large industry in the state of Texas. And there is one particular animal that often comes to mind when people think about Texas. The longhorn has somewhat become a symbol of the state’s ranching heritage. 

Longhorns are hardy and strong and can adapt to the sometimes-harsh landscapes of Texas. Known for their distinctive horns, the longhorn is found in herds across the state and is even the mascot for the University of Texas. 

Tex-Mex

a plate of Tex-Mex fajitas, beans and rice
Fajitas at our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant.

If you’ve never had Tex-Mex go ahead and add it to your Texas bucket list now. Right behind barbecue, Tex-Mex is one of Texas’ most beloved cuisines.

Because Texas loves to put its own spin on everything, they took many of the popular foods you would eat in Mexico City or other parts of Mexico and made their own versions. Tex-Mex dishes often are made with a lot more cheese, tomatoes, and flour tortillas than traditional Mexican food, and include popular options like enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and fajitas.

JFK’s assassination

an x in the middle of the street where JFK got assassinated in Dallas texas
An X Marks The Spot Where JFK Was Assassinated In Front Of What Is Now The Sixth Floor Museum. | Photo By Tony B From Pixabay

A blemish on Texas’ past, one of the most shocking events in US history occurred in the state. In 1963, the city of Dallas, Texas was the tragic site where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated during a motorcade procession through Dealey Plaza in the downtown area.

The event stunned people around the world, leading to a flood of conspiracy theories that remain to this day. You can learn about JFK’s assassination and the lingering questions surrounding the circumstances that unfolded that day in 1963 at the Sixth Floor Museum – one of the best things to do when visiting Dallas.

Space Exploration

a rocket at the Johnson Space Center
Houston, Texas Is Home To One Of The Best Places In The World To Learn About Space Exploration. | Photo By Enlightening Images From Pixabay

Something to add to the “good” column of things Texas is famous for – the state has played a significant part in the United States’ space exploration efforts. 

Houston, the state’s largest city and one of the most underrated, is home to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, which serves as NASA’s hub for human spaceflight. At the center, they train astronauts, conduct mission control operations, and develop cutting edge space exploration systems. 

The center played a crucial role in the Apollo program which put the first man on the moon. More recently, the state has also hosted SpaceX launches, advancing the concept of commercial space travel. 

Its Weird State Capital

the paramount theater in Austin, a popular live music venue
Congress Avenue Is One Of The Best Areas To Hang Out In Austin To Experience The City’s Unique Culture. | Photo By Dayo Adepoju From Unsplash

While the state of Texas may be famous for its cowboy culture and conservative stance, ironically the capital city doesn’t quite conform with either of those state norms. In fact, Austin, Texas is renowned for its weirdness – even coining the slogan “Keep Austin Weird”.

The college town, home to the University of Texas, embraces all things creative – with a dynamic live music scene, annual festivals like Austin City Limits (ACL) and South by Southwest (SXSW), sustainable eateries, and a laid-back hipster vibe that has almost become cliche. 

Its mission to keep things weird has drawn innovative tech companies to headquarter there and has contributed to a laid-back and welcoming vibe.

LOOKING FOR OTHER “WEIRD” COLLEGE TOWNS IN TEXAS? CHECK OUT DENTON!

Bluebonnets

Texas Bluebonnets in Ennis
Bluebonnets Bloom Wild Across Texas Each Spring.

The Texas Bluebonnet isn’t just the state flower, it has become synonymous with the Texas landscape in spring. This beautiful blueish-purple flower grows wild around the state, blanketing fields, highway medians, and scenic trails like the Ennis Bluebonnet Trails south of Dallas.

This hardy wildflower thrives in the Texas heat – blooming from late March through early May before dropping seeds for the following season. During the spring season, photographers and families flock to the flower-covered meadows to take photos of this fragrant Texas symbol. 

Love Bluebonnets? You can also find them and other wildflowers in Oklahoma

Hot weather

west-texas-sunset
An iconic West Texas landscape as the Texas sun sets. | Photo By Semperfistar From Pixabay

If you’re visiting Texas in summer – expect scorching heat during your visit. Texas is famous for its hot summers (that last from May through September). Its sweltering temperatures are preliminary due to the geographical location of the state.  

Although all of Texas experiences intense heat during the summer, the heat is very different depending on where you are in the state. In West Texas, for example, the desert climate creates a dry heat, whereas in places closer to the Gulf of Mexico, like Galveston and Houston, you’ll also experience high humidity that makes the heat feel even more oppressive and unbearable.  

To escape the heat, Texans often seek shelter indoors, find shady outdoor areas, like the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens to avoid the sizzling sun, or seek out water activities like swimming or visiting Water Gardens or splash features like those in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square.

LOOKING FOR OTHER INDOOR ACTIVITIES? CHECK OUT THE MANY GREAT THINGS TO DO IN GRAPEVINE, TEXAS FOR FAMILIES.

Guns

If you’re not from Texas, you’ve probably heard the stereotype that all Texans are packing heat everywhere they go. While it is true that Texas is probably the largest supporter of the Second Amendment and the “right to bear arms”, not everyone in Texas actually owns a gun. I lived in the state for a large portion of my life and never owned one – although I knew plenty of people who did. 

According to a 2021 poll, 45.7 percent of adults in Texas live in a home with guns. Although that’s about half of adults in the states who live in a home with guns, most people who own guns in Texas do not carry them openly everywhere.

Understandably, the lack of gun control in the state has resulted in numerous gun-related tragedies. It’s something the state – and the USA as a whole – has come under fire for (pun intended) in recent years. 

Mexican border  

Boquillas crossing safest border crossing into Mexico
The Boquillas Crossing in Big Bend National Park is the only border crossing into Mexico that is not manned by border patrol agents.

The Texas-Mexico border spans approximately 1,254 miles making it one of the longest international borders in the world. In recent years, this border has become much more of a conversation topic due to political talking points about illegal immigration and proposals to build a wall.

There has been ongoing debate over the challenges of border security and human rights issues and has become a focal point for political discourse. Despite the contention and emphasis on illegal crossings, thousands of people legally cross the Texas-Mexico border each day.

While the ports of entry are typically heavily guarded with border patrol agents, in far west Texas, in Big Bend National Park, you’ll find the Boquillas Crossing, the only unmanned border crossing between the two countries.

Lone Star Flag

A WALL HANGING OF THE TEXAS STATE FLAG
Texas Has One Of The Most Recognizable State Flags. | Photo By Janaet Reddick From Pixabay

Texas is often referred to as the “Lone Star State”. Its nickname stems from the state’s highly recognizable flag, with a lone white star centered on a blue vertical stripe with two white and red horizontal stripes to the right.

The lone star symbolizes Texas’s former status as an independent nation. 

Other things Texas is known for

Famous people from Texas: Beyonce, Matthew McConaughey, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon B Johnson, Willie Nelson, Mark Cuban, Post Malone, George Strait, Shaquille O’Neal
Famous landmarks in Texas: San Antonio Riverwalk, Alamo, Fort Worth Stockyards, Dallas Reunion Tower, Guadalupe Peak, Marfa Prada installation, Big Tex, Texas Capitol, Houston Space Center, Enchanted Rock, Cadillac Ranch
Popular cities in Texas: Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, San Antonio
Famous foods from Texas: Brisket, Steak, Tex-Mex cuisine, Kolaches from West, PecanPie, Chili, Chicken Fried Steak

Did this answer your question “What is Texas famous for?” Or is there anything you would add to this list? Let us know; we’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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