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Texas

"The Lone Star State"

The Alamo in San Antonio Texas © IMSI
The historic site of the Alamo in San Antonio, TX.

The name means "friend" in the Caddo Indian language and new friends are what you will find in the second largest state in the country. Texas usually evokes visions of the lonely cattleman, gun-toting cowboys and rough oilmen but there is far more diversity of people and land in this great state.

Located in the middle of southern USA and on the Gulf of Mexico, the Lone Star State is actually six major land regions put together. As the areas flow into one another, the land changes from dark pine woods, to rolling hills and finally into sparse beautiful desert. Each area has its own commerce, agricultural specialties and distinctive weather but all the land is equal in its unique beauty and history.

East Texas: Pine Trees and Placid Lakes

East Texas is the wet eastern quarter of the state located on the border of Louisiana. This area is also called the Piney Woods area and is filled with hundreds of lakes, rivers and streams, making it a fisherman's paradise. The mix of pines and hardwood trees eventually give way to the Blackland Prairies, which are 12 million acres of grassland. Most of this land is used for cattle grazing and is covered in beautiful wildflowers during March and April. When passing through, be sure to check out the town of Tyler, the rose capitol of Texas. Tyler has seven museums, gardens, camping areas, theater, a zoo and beautiful historic homes. During March and April, the land overflows with colors from roses, azaleas and a multitude of wild flowers.

Gulf Coast: Sun, Shrimp and Deep Space

Johnson Space Center near Houston Texas © Carla Lee Suson / USATourist.com
The Johnson Space Center is located in Houston, TX.

The gulf coast region is 100-mile strip of land that curves around the Gulf of Mexico. This area sparkles with wind swept beaches and prairie farms. The gulf weather is tropical, usually not falling below 4C in the winter and the ocean breezes keep the beaches in a comfortable 32C range in the summer. This is a favorite winter location for migratory retired campers, locally referred to as "Winter Texans" or "Snowbirds". The oil boomtown of Houston is located in this area which today is the center of the Texas movie industry, technological companies and science research centers such as National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Center. While in Houston, be sure to check out Astroworld, with thrilling rides for the kids, and the Johnson Space Center tour.

If beach fun is more your style, then feel free to bask in the sun at any number of beaches in Galveston, Corpus Christi and South Padre Island. Mustang Island of Corpus Christi offers sandy dunes and deep waves next to a federal land preserve and bird sanctuary. South Padre Island beaches have become popular spring vacation spots for area college students. This town boasts lots of sparkling white sand and gentle waves in the day and a party lifestyle at night.

Hill Country: Outdoor Paradise

Central Texas, also called the Hill Country cuts acrros the center of the state. This region includes the great metroplex of Dallas-Ft. Worth. These cities were built as a railway center for the cattle markets of Kansas, they have grown together to become a leader in banking and insurance. The metroplex area offers too many wonderful sights to mention but this area includes the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art (Ft. Worth), The Ft. Worth Botanical Gardens and the Dallas Arboretum. Seasonal events include the Texas State Fair and Ft. Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo.

The state's capital of Austin is also nestled in the hills next to Lake Travis. This city is the home of University of Texas at Austin and a growing commercial center. The land is dotted with short small woods, lakes, rivers and caves. The hill country region area is great for freshwater sailors, deer hunters and fishermen. Central Texas weather can be a little more extreme. Winter months usually include two or more short ice storms while the summers can get as hot as 43C during July and August.

The Panhandle: Cattle Country

The Texas Panhandle is the very northern section of the state. It is made up of plains, mesas and rocky outcrops. This area is used mostly for cattle and sheep grazing as well as mining and oil drilling. The towns of Midland-Odessa and Lubbock are the largest cities. Their main industry is focused around energy and chemical production. This is the only area in the state that consistently gets snowfall every year. The winters can be icy and harsh but the summers are mild here compared to other areas of the state.

West Texas: Desert Beauty

West Texas divides the border between Mexico and New Mexico. It is beautiful but harsh cactus land that includes the Davis Mountains. The land is filled with limestone rocks, twisted mesquite trees and prickly pear cactus. For true desert beauty, check out Big Bend National Park, southeast of El Paso. It is a favorite place for hikers, campers and rock enthusiasts. Tiny towns and ranches are nestled among all the plateaus and canyons of this region. This area only has two seasons, warm and really hot. The best time to visit is from December to March when the days are warm, the nights are cool and the desert plants bloom from all the water in the air.

Fun for Everyone!

If fishing and camping are not to your liking, there are still plenty of things to do in this great state. Texas boasts at least 6 major entertainment parks ranging from Six Flags over Texas in Arlington to Schlitterbaun in New Braunfels. Art centers flourish in the Houston and Dallas region while romance blooms along the San Antonio Riverwalk or one of the many beaches. However, no matter where you plan on travelling in this great state, someone will be ready to greet you with a big smile and a loud "Howdy!" to make you feel welcome.

Written by: Carla Lee Suson
Top Photo Credit: @ Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: An old barn and tannery in Texas