Texas: History and Fun Facts

June 4, 2020

Paul Kay


History, fun, culture, tradition. Everything's bigger in Texas! We give you information about our home state. You'll want to add Texas to your travel list!

Texans reverently refer to their home as "The Lone Star State.” This references that the 28th state once was an independent republic.

Big Tex, Texas State Fair, Dallas, Texas

 Big Tex oversees the big Texas State Fair

Texas is big. It’s the second largest state by area and population in the U.S. Houston has the largest population in the state followed by San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth.

Only Alaska is larger in land mass. To give you an idea how big, it takes days to drive across it. The distance between Beaumont in the east and El Paso in the west is 830 miles by car. Beaumont to Jacksonville, Florida, is 786 miles. To drive from El Paso to Dallas, you’d travel 635 miles. It’s 616 miles from El Paso to Calexico in California.

Population

Big cities abound in Texas. Here are the top 10 biggest cities as of 2015.

Rank

City

Population

1

Houston

2,296,224

2

San Antonio

1,469,845

3

Dallas

1,317,929

4

Austin

931,820

5

Fort Worth

833,319

6

El Paso

681,124

7

Arlington

388,125

8

Corpus Christi

324,074

9

Plano

283,558

10

Laredo

255,473

Texas continues to grow and is doing so faster than other states. The cities with the greatest numeric growth between 2016 and 2017 include five Texas cities in the top 15. This is more than any other state.

City

2017 Population

Increase

San Antonio

1,511,946

+24,208

Phoenix

1,626,078

+24,036

Dallas

1,341,075

+18,935

Fort Worth, Texas

874,168

+18,664

Los Angeles

3,999,759

+18,643

Seattle

724,745

+17,490

Charlotte, N.C.

859,035

+15,551

Columbus, Ohio

879,170

+15,429

Frisco, Texas

177,286

+13,470

Atlanta

486,290

+13,323

San Diego

1,419,516

+12,834

Austin, Texas

950,715

+12,515

Jacksonville, Fla.

892,062

+11,169

Irvine, Calif.

277,453

+11,068

Henderson, Nev.

302,539

+10,534

Even with this many big cities, Texas brims with myriad small towns and county seats with quaint town squares and historic courthouses that haven’t changed for a hundred years.

Landscape

Texas is big as are its ranches. The King Ranch in South Texas contains more land than Rhode Island. Texas leads the U.S. in the number of farms and ranches with 248,800 farms and ranches covering 130.2 million acres. Rural lands, including privately owned forests, total 142 million acres or 84% of the state's total land area. Yet, only 12% of Texas' population resides in rural areas. Texas farms more land than any other state in America. When they think about Texas many think cattle. But sheep play an important role in ranching in Texas. More wool comes from here than any other state in the United States. Texas also boasts the nation’s largest herd of whitetail deer, which roam all over here.

Seven Climate Regions of Texas

 Seven Climate Regions of Texas

Texas is one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. Texas is divided into five distinct regions: Northern Plains, Trans-Pecos Region (also known as Big Bend Country), Texas Hill Country, Piney Woods, and South Texas. Using Interstate 35 as a dividing line, east of I-35 is subtropical; west is arid desert.

Wine Picnic Amongst Texas Bluebonnets

 When you think wine...

Wine Barrel With Texas Flag

 ...think Texas

These ecological regions make for interesting cultural and social impacts. Texas Hill Country, for example, is also known as Texas Wine Country. Texas has a long history of winemaking dating back to the 1650s when Franciscan priests planted vines near modern-day El Paso. That’s more than one hundred years before anyone planted vines in California or Virginia. With its dry, hot climate, the Texas Hill Country includes large tracts of hilly land shaded by tall steeple-high pine, cedar and oak. The weather and land help grapes thrive.

Bluebonnets, Texas Hill Country

 Bluebonnets, the state flower, in bloom in the Texas Hill Country

You’ll find something different in every season. In the spring, for example, catch bluebonnet season. The wild bluebonnet is the Texas state flower. The state plants bluebonnet seeds along many roadsides or highway divisions. The flowers bloom and show off their pretty blue hue. Blooming lasts about six weeks, from March till mid-April. Peak season is in April. Ennis is the self-proclaimed capital of bluebonnets; they bring in thousands of visitors during April. There’s even a driving tour of over 40 miles. Burnet, which is three hours south of Ennis, also has staked their claim as the bluebonnet capital of Texas. But you can see the state flower in farmer’s fields and along roads throughout the state.

History

Six Flags Over Texas

Texas has a long rich history. You might have heard about the six flags over Texas. (It’s the name of a chain of amusement parks.) The six flags include Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederacy and America.

Spain ruled from 1519 to 1685 and again from 1690 to 1821. France had a briefer reign than Spain when the French explorer Robert de La Salle founded a new colony in 1685, Fort Saint Louis, near today’s Victoria. After a series of mishaps, La Salle’s followers murdered him; the colony was abandoned by 1690.

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

 The Alamo

Mexico seized control of Texas in 1821. The Mexican general, Santa Anna, declared himself dictator and Texas revolted. In 1836, Texans revolted and reclaimed its land during the Texas War of Independence. The 13-day Battle of the Alamo proved Texans' mettle. The new Republic of Texas lasted from 1836 to 1845.

In 1845, Texas joined the U.S. as the 28th state; the Lone Star flag represented the new state. Texas seceded from the Union in 1861, joining 10 other states who formed the Confederate States of America. In 1865, when the U.S. Civil War ended, Texas rejoined the United States.

What to See

Texas has lots of beauty and you can see it everywhere. It contains two national parks, four national forests, a national seashore, 51 state parks, a state forest, and many other places to visit.

Grapevine Hills, Big Bend National Park, Texas

 Grapevine Hills in Big Bend National Park

Perhaps the most famous park in Texas is Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park in West Texas. The two parks protect an area of Chihuahuan Desert larger than the state of Rhode Island. It’s bordered on the Rio Grande, which also defines the border between the U.S. and Mexico. In Big Bend you’ll find desert, mountains and water. You can walk more than 200 miles of trails. You can ride horses or mountain bikes or take a boat trip down the Rio Grande. The park is known for its wildlife and birds. The park is a pit stop for hundreds of species of migrating birds.

Devil's Hall, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

 The Devil's Hall in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park also lies in West Texas. Millions of years ago, this area was a seabed, home to a massive 400-mile long coral reef. This reef transformed over time into the Guadalupe Mountains. A fossilized mountain range like this is rare. The remote park is used primarily for primitive camping. There are no restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores or hotels anywhere near. Visitors must drive 35 miles east to White's City, New Mexico for services. Carlsbad Caverns National Park also is nearby.

Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, Texas

 Climbers love Hueco Tanks State Historic Site

Hueco Tanks State Historic Site attracts lots of visitors, including rock climbers. The “tanks” are pits in the rocks that make for exciting climbing. You also can see ancient pictographs of depicting dancing figures, deer, birds and jaguars. And Hueco Tanks contains the largest number of mask paintings in North America, with more than 200 identified throughout the park. You need to make a reservation to access some area which are limited to 70 people per day.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

 Texas' grand canyon, Palo Duro

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of Texas. Palo Duro Canyon is in the Texas Panhandle just south of Amarillo. It is the second largest canyon in the country with complex geologic layers and steep, beautifully colored walls. The Apache, Comanche and Kiowa tribes fought many battles in this area, and it is the site of many movie highlights. You’ll see plenty of people on horseback with over 1,500 acres of horse trails. Hikers and mountain bikers enjoy over 17,000 acres of trails.

Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway, Texas

 Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway

Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway features tall red sandstone cliffs and Texas bison. These bison are unique because they have not been crossbred with domestic cattle. Caprock is located in the Texas Panhandle approximately 100 miles southeast of Amarillo. When you visit, check out the trailway, a 64-mile hiking trail running through the park. It follows the abandoned Fort Worth and Denver Railroad line between Estelline and the South Plains. The trail travels through three counties and over 46 bridges. It also goes through the Clarity Tunnel, which is home to a half-million Mexican free-tailed bats during the summer months.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Texas

 Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area provides a nearly 500-foot dome of pink granite. This place has been around for over a billion years and is one of the oldest sites of exposed rock on Earth. Enchanted Rock is visible for miles and has attracted people to its base and rounded summit for 12,000 years. If you are quiet, you might hear the creaking and groaning coming from the dome. Geologists say the sounds come from the outer layers of rock contracting and expanding with the heat. The local Native American Indian tribes treated the rock with great respect. The Tonkawa and Comanche tribes continue to conduct ceremonies here.

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

 Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore is part of the 350 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. Much of the shore has been developed, but a few sections of wild, pristine coast remain. The Padre Island National Seashore is home of the largest undeveloped stretch of barrier island in the world. Yet, this stretch is only 70 miles of dunes and tidal flats.

Front Entrance Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

 The Alamo

Country Music Dancing, Broken Spoke, Austin, Texas

 The Texas Two-step

River Walk with Boats, San Antonio, Texas

 The River Walk

Bats in Flight, Austin, Texas

 The bats in Austin's belfry

Other attractions abound in Texas: The Alamo and River Walk in San Antonio; the Space Center in Houston; the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas; food and music in Austin, the state capitol of Austin. And don't forget to check out the famous Bat Bridge, where nature’s mosquito repellents hang out.

Madeline and Paul, Segway Tour, State Capitol, Austin, Texas

We highly recommend a Segway tour of the city so you can see a lot in a short period of time. 

What to Eat

Texans love to eat. Three types of food ring when thinking about Texas food: barbecue, Tex-Mex and chili.

Texas-style Barbecue

 Barbecue variety platter

Barbecue is everywhere. Texans are passionate about their barbecue. They prefer beef over pork. This preference relates to the history and size of the Texas cattle industry. Texans also barbecue ribs, pork, sausage and turkey. If you like pork and chicken, though, you’ll still find plenty of places that serve those with typical Texas flair. If it’s beef, it’s most often brisket. No plate of Texas barbecue is complete without brisket. When you’re in Texas, you can’t leave without trying it.

Tex-Mex

 Tex-Mex smorgasbord

Tex-Mex is available throughout Texas. And it’s excellent! Tex-Mex isn’t what you are used to if you live in the northern states and go to a Mexican restaurant. Most of the difference lies in the ingredients used. You don’t see a lot of hamburger in Mexican food. Tex-Mex uses ground beef, cheddar cheese, flour tortillas, black beans, canned tomatoes and other fixings to create a unique blend of Mexican cuisine. Dishes such as nachos, hard tacos and fajitas are all Tex-Mex inventions.

Texas Chili

 Chili con carne y frijoles

Real Texas chili is another must-eat. It’s quite different than what you get in a can from the grocery store. Texas chili recipes define chili as a dish of meat, peppers and spices. There are no beans. You might hear a Texan say, "If you know beans about chili, you know chili ain't got no beans." But many restaurants offer beans as an option. Texans say, “chili con carne,” which means chili peppers with meat. For chili with beans say, “chili con carne y frijoles.” Some say tomatoes shouldn’t be anywhere near your bowl. Luckily, you can find your chili in all sorts of styles with various degrees of spice. Texas offers a chili dish for everyone.


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