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Things to Do in Texas

Be it portion sizes, rugged landscapes, or cowboy hats, everything is bigger in Texas. The state offers an abundance of country culture mixed with modern metropolises, ghost towns, and even a replica of the Eiffel Tower topped with a cowboy hat in Paris, Texas (just outside Dallas). San Antonio’s River Walk winds through the city, and Dallas’ sprawling skyline is dominated by the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. Hip Austin combines award-winning barbecue and a sizzling live music scene, Houston reveals the history of space travel, and Big Bend National Park affords incredible photo opportunities with its striking landscapes.
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Medieval Times Dallas
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Transport to a time of knights, kings, and queens at Medieval Times in Dallas, a unique dining and live-action experience that’s entertaining for the whole family. Enjoy a four-course feast included with your ticket while you watch sword fights, jousting from horseback, and even falcons in flight.
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Houston Museum of Natural Science
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Located in Hermann Park, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is dedicated to providing interesting and educational science exhibits and experiences. Visitors can find four floors of science halls and exhibits in the main building, as well as a planetarium, butterfly center and big screen theater. You could easily spend hours perusing all the institution has to offer.

With so much to explore, where do you begin? The permanent exhibits are included in your general admission ticket and host some worthwhile attractions. For example, the Paleontology exhibit is a common favorite, as it showcases a unique display of predators in action, creating an illusion that the skeletal displays are alive. A progressive timeline layout showcasing over 50 dinosaurs and a section on human evolution also keeps things interesting.

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John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza
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Simple but profoundly moving, the open-air John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza focuses on the granite slab bearing the assassinated president’s name etched in gold.The granite memorial is surrounded by soaring concrete walls, creating a roofless space for private contemplation and reflection, free from outside distractions.

The Memorial was dedicated in June 1970, and was envisioned by architect Philip Johnson as an open tomb or cenotaph. The plain white walls appear to be free-floating, capturing the feeling of loss felt around the world following Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

By day, the floating white walls are reflected on the monument’s gilt lettering. At night, the monument is a beautifully floodlit city landmark.

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Market Square Park
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Set in the heart of downtown Houston at the site of the city’s original founding, Market Square Park is the greenest, hippest, and most historic square block in town. The urban park is popular with picnickers, cyclists, and anyone looking for quiet reflection in the middle of the bustling city.
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Texas Capitol
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The Texas State Capitol building and its stunning presence on the Austin landscape earns its place on the National Register of Historic Places with ease. An extraordinary example of stonework and 19th-century architecture, the Texas State Capitol is widely regarded as one of the nation’s most “stately” state capitols with its elaborate limestone work and impressive dome, which reaches 15 feet above its Washington counterpart.

Offering a panoramic view over all of Austin from the capitol dome, the 1888 Texas State Capitol has the largest square footage of any state capitol in the Unites States, and is only seconded by the National Capitol in Washington D.C. A tour through these beautiful grounds will do more than expose you to the history of Texas legislation, but will tell “a true Texas story.

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Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
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The Sixth Floor Museum chronicles the events leading to the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963.

It’s a moving and eerie experience to visit the museum, taking up the very spot Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots that perhaps killed the president.

Film, photographs, artifacts and exhibits examine the event and the ensuing investigations.

Oral history and eyewitness accounts form an important part of the museum’s collection, and you can take an audio walking tour of the area.

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The Alamo
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The Alamo is one of the most famous sites in US history, forever linked to the 13-day siege in 1836 that ended with the deaths of defenders James Bowie, William Travis and Davy Crockett. The 18th-century Mission San Antonio de Valero complex became known as the Alamo after it was fortified by Mexican soldiers. When the complex was taken by Texan troops in December 1835, the fight was on between the Texan defenders and Mexican attackers.

After the events of the 1830s, the Alamo’s semi-ruined buildings were used as a garrison and storehouse. Over the past 100 years, the Alamo has been restored and now receives more than 2.5 million visitors a year. Tour the chapel and barracks, small museum, diorama and gardens to learn more about the Alamo and early-Texan history.

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6th Street
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Sixth Street, located in Downtown Austin, is the hustling hive of community from which all things stem from in this music-oriented city. More than just the sleek street which bears its name, the 6th Street Historic District is a neighborhood filled with live music venues, honky-tonk hole-in-the-walls, restaurants, pubs and art galleries. Added to the National Register of Historic Places, the area plays host to many music and film festivals throughout the year, even the occasional biker rally.

A big night on the town often starts and ends here, and if live music, sawdust on the floors and the walls bending with riotous drum-rolls and crowd cheering sounds like a good time, then 6th Street Austin is where you want to be.

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Downtown Aquarium
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Located in downtown Houston, the Downtown Aquarium is home to more than 200 aquatic animal species from around the world, housed in 500,000-gallon underwater complex. The attraction caters to children and families and, while not the largest aquarium, does have some interesting exhibits that will keep you interested. Experience Shipwreck, where you can walk inside a replica of a sunken seventeenth century Spanish galleon to view living coral reefs, octopus, moray eel, Clownfish and more.

There’s also the Shark Voyage Tunnel, a ride aboard a C.P. Huntington Train that takes visitors through an aquarium tunnel filled with a variety of shark species which will swim right over your head. The Downtown Aquarium allows you to explore more than just underwater marine life as it’s home to a variety of eco-systems.

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More Things to Do in Texas

Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Lake

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Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) is Austin’s preeminent lake and located at the northeastern end of Zilker Metropolitan Park. Known for its excellent hiking, biking and running trails (and for providing Austin with a beautiful skyline), Lady Bird Lake is where Austin locals go to relax and soak up some of the beauty of this man-made reservoir.

The biggest in the area and home to a healthy population of large-mouth bass, catfish, carp and sunfish, Lady Bird Lake has a large recreational following. Enormous carp are caught here regularly, and you’ll see sincere locals along the shoreline with bobber and smile in place. A placid and constant-level lake, Lady Bird Lake is ideal for canoeing, fishing and bird-watching for those who don’t indulge in fishing, while photographers can be seen shooting sunsets over two of the lake’s pedestrian-only bridges.

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Spanish Governor's Palace

Spanish Governor's Palace

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A National Historic landmark, the Spanish Governor’s Palace is perhaps the last remaining early-Spanish mansion in Texas. A poignant reminder of San Antonio’s early-18th-century past, the former capitol building is almost 300 years old.

Now a museum, the building has a Spanish colonial design built around a lovely central courtyard and fountain. The white stucco walls are fringed with purple bougainvillea, and the interior is decorated with rugged colonial furnishings, whitewashed walls and a sturdy timber roof.

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Space Center Houston

Space Center Houston

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For those with an interest in aeronautics and space, Space Center Houston is full of interactive exhibits, presentations and attractions that will help you understand the past, present and future of the universe. Additionally, because Space Center Houston is the official visitors center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, there are many one-of-a-kind experiences to be had, like watching astronauts train for missions, touching a real moon rock brought back by Apollo 17 or touring NASA’s control center.

While there are myriad points of interest within the Space Center Houston -- like collections of used spacesuits, galleries of crew photos, space station simulations, space theaters and IMAX films -- there are a few must-have experiences. First is the NASA Tram Tour, which takes visitors to the iconic Apollo Mission Control Center, the place where all space shuttle missions and activity onboard international space station assembly flights is directed.

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Houston Zoo

Houston Zoo

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Home to more than 6,000 animals and 900 species, the Houston Zoo is a popular attraction for locals and visitors to Houston. Located in the beautiful Hermann Park, the 55-acre zoo features many exhibits, animal encounters, shows and ecosystems to explore. Additionally, the attraction is well-staffed, and there is always a knowledgeable worker to answer your questions or direct you.

While the zoo has numerous interesting sites within it, there are a few experiences you shouldn’t miss. First is the Masai giraffe feeding, which can be done daily from 11am to 2pm. Visitors can feed these long-necked creatures crispy lettuce leaves while getting a close-up view. Another not-to-miss attraction is the African Forest exhibit, which will transport you to a different continent as you trek through an African jungle full of chimpanzees, rhinos and antelopes, Masai giraffes, zebra and ostriches. Part of the experience is also authentic drumming and art.

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Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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Located in the Houston Museum District, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH) contains over 6,000 years of history within more than 63,000 works from six continents, making it one of the largest museums in the country. There are seven separate facilities to explore, which you can spend all day browsing. The institution has an impressive display of permanent collections sorted by geographical region, including Africa, Asia, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean, Europe, North America, and the South Pacific.
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Children's Museum of Houston

Children's Museum of Houston

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Located in the Houston Museum District, the Children’s Museum of Houston makes learning fun for children and families. Founded in 1980 by a group of parents who hoped to make early childhood development a priority in the community, the museum features 14 interactive exhibits that allows for myriad fun experiences. At Invention Convention kids can build robots, cars and rockets using LEGOs, magnets, batteries, switches and more, while Think Tank allows them to enhance their problem solving skills with brain teases, puzzles and optical illusions.

Kidtropolis is another favorite station, as children can act like adults by governing life-sized city. Taking on the roles of city leaders, business owners and community members, children are given an ATM card with 40 Kidtropolis dollars to budget with, needing to get a job, purchase groceries and deposit wisely.

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Pioneer Plaza

Pioneer Plaza

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Pioneer Plaza, located in downtown Dallas’ Convention Center District, honors the 19th-century cattle drives on the Shawnee Trail with a bronze sculpture of 49 longhorn steer driven by three cowboys on horseback. With a waterfall and artificial cliffs, the park is one of the most popular tourist spots in Dallas.
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Reunion Tower

Reunion Tower

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Located in the heart of downtown Dallas, Reunion Tower has been a city landmark since 1978. Referred to affectionately as “The Ball” by locals, the tower offers sweeping panoramic views from the only indoor/outdoor observation deck in the city, plus high-definition telescopes and cameras, interactive exhibits, and two rotating restaurants.
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San Fernando Cathedral

San Fernando Cathedral

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The oldest continuously operating religious community in Texas, San Fernando De Bexar Cathedral was constructed between 1738 and 1749. In fact, the dome of the original church was the point from which all mileage in Texas was measured in the 1700s. The cathedral is well-maintained, and mass still goes on daily so make sure to be respectful when entering.

One major attraction inside the sacred space is the Alamo Coffin, located near the church entrance, which is believed to hold the remains of the men who lost their lives at the Alamo. The cathedral played a part in the battle, as it was President-General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s headquarters during the siege of the Alamo, and from where he sent a terrifying message. Instead of flying the tri-color Mexican flag from the church’s belfry he flew a blood-red flag, letting the defenders of the Alamo know he would kill them even if they surrendered.

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Dallas Arts District

Dallas Arts District

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The Dallas Arts District is a hub for performing arts, museums, and architecture, and at 69 acres and 19 blocks in size, it is one of the largest urban arts districts in the United States. Visitors interested in the arts will want to check out the Winspear Opera House, Meyerson Symphony Center, and the Wyly Theatre, among others.
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JPMorgan Chase Tower

JPMorgan Chase Tower

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As they say, “everything’s bigger in Texas,” and the skyscrapers here are no exception to the rule. Houston has some of the best skyscraper architecture in the world, and the Chase Tower is a proud addition to that list. Standing 75 stories tall and topping out at just over 1000 feet, the Chase Tower is just under three-and-a-half football fields tall and boasts a unique five-sided design with expansive 85-foot wide glass running up its western face. This audacious height makes the Chase Tower the tallest building in Houston, and correspondingly makes for incredible photo opportunities from the ground or high atop the tower itself.

Guests can ascend to the Sky Lounge on the 60th floor and roam about at their leisure. The Sky Lounge boasts panoramic views of downtown Houston, and from here you can point out every major building in Houston – making a visit to the Chase Tower one of the best free things to do in the downtown Houston area.

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Tower of the Americas

Tower of the Americas

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Located in the center of HemisFair Park, this 750-foot tall tower offers one of the best aerial views of San Antonio in the city as well as a variety of experiences. First there is the Flags Over Texas Observation Deck, which allows you a bird’s-eye view of iconic sites -- either through the telescope or by using photographs on the deck floor that show you where to find specific buildings and landmarks. Additionally, you can learn about over 300 years of Texas history through a mural exhibit on the walls. Included in your admission ticket is also a 4D Theater Ride, “Skies Over Texas.” The interactive ride takes you on a sensory journey through the state to watch NASA astronauts train at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, attend a local football game, view horses running in the wild and visit some of San Antonio’s most important attractions.

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La Villita Historic Arts Village

La Villita Historic Arts Village

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San Antonio’s historic roots are preserved at La Villita Heritage District, a protected enclave of heritage buildings. The arts village is a living and breathing part of San Antonio, with boutiques, restaurants and galleries taking up the historic old buildings.

On a walking tour of the precinct you’ll see Cos House, one of the oldest buildings, dating back to before 1835. Other old buildings include the 1873 house occupied by Villita Stained Glass, and the 1839 cottage known as Losana House.

Shops in this vibrant quarter include Texan outfitters, art and craft galleries, souvenir shops and jewelry stores. You’ll also find a couple of typically Texan grills and cafes for snacks, meals and cocktails.

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Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park

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Houston residents love their Astros—and they also love their park. Ever since 2000 when the stadium opened to immediately rave reviews, Minute Maid Park has been one America’s most loved park’s for baseball. Hitters love how the left field wall is only 315 feet away, and fielders love how natural grass is used instead of turf. Spectators love how the retractable roof can create the ideal conditions, as well the train that chugs on the tracks with every Astros home run.
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