Total Texas: 20 Adventures in the Lone Star State

Once a year Austin, Texas becomes the focus for all things cool and cutting edge when it plays host to the dazzling collection of festivals and conferences known as South by Southwest.  If you’re looking to make the most of your stay in the Lone Star State, here’s 20 adventures that show off the sheer diversity of one of the jewel’s in America’s crown.

1. Watch a film outdoors like it’s 1956

What? Tascosa Drive-in theater located in Amarillo,Texas. Home of the Double Features, Tuesday night specials.

Why? Since the 1970s drive-in theaters have been on a rapid decline, this small gem that runs alongside Dumas Highway still has 1950’s style diner and toilets intact.

More cinematic fun can be had down at the now infamous Alamo Drafthouse.

2. Admire the greats of aviation

What? Texas Air and Space Museum located in Amarillo.

Why? Run by two retired pilots, with planes from all eras, this is a love letter to the legends of air travel.

3. Get deep in the art of Texas

What? Unit B, Artpace, and FLIGHT are just three of many amazing small art spaces situated in San Antonio.

Why? There’s a thriving core of creatives in the region and with support for independent galleries springing up all over the place, now is the time to appreciate the experimental, original and innovative work that’s bursting out of the scene. You might even find something to take home as a souvenir from an aspiring artiste.

4. Go skinny dipping

What? Hippie Hollow Park (McGregor Park) is a park located at Lake Travis, northwest of Austin. After the woodstock era of the 1960s the spot was picked up as a perfect location to bathe in the nude and since 1983 has been the only official clothes-optional location in Texas.

Why? Texas has a reputation for being one of the most conservative states in the US, so a stark naked splash about, despite being completely legal, feels like a rebellious statement worthy of the flower power revolution.

5. Be a castle crasher!

What? The painstakingly recreated Falkenstein Castle that could have been pulled straight from the pages of a fairytale.

Why? The castle should be visited for its beautifully bonkers backstory alone, but it’s also a great opportunity to see authentically rendered European architecture in the most unusual of places (particularly if you haven’t gotten round to visiting the real thing yet). It’s positioning on the highest hill in Burnet mean you can fully appreciate its 174,240 square ft surroundings and take in views that stretch to 30 miles on a clear day.

6. Roll with the punches

What? Watch jammers and blockers battle it out at an action-packed Roller Derby bout.

Why? The adrenalin-packed sport has become increasingly popular across the world in recent years, but its alive and kicking to an extreme degree in Austin. Though first-timers may be confused by the rules at first, they’ll be the ones hollering loudest at the ref half an hour in. Whether you pick the Hellcats or Holy Rollers, make sure you scream your support from the sidelines – but be warned of the odd skater skidding straight off the track.

7. Head to the hippest part of town

What? SoCo (South Congress) in Austin

Why? Quirky pop ups, artsy boutiques, street food served out of silver airstreams, blinding neon lights – it’s a devastatingly trendy paradise dedicated to keeping Austin weird.

8. Lose yourself to dance

What? Honkey Tonk at The Broken Spoke

Why? You can’t leave the south without trying your hand – or rather foot – at linedancing and this local institution has been heralded as THE best place to experience a hoedown in the entire nation. Past visitations from the likes of Clint Eastwood and HRH’s entourage should certainly inform one that this is not a place to be sniffed at.

9. Be a beach bum

What? The coastal haven that is South Padre Island

Why? Texas isn’t usually associated with relaxing seaside spots, which makes a detour to this beachy locale an unexpected and conscientiously cheap treat. Plus, being only 10 miles from the Mexican border, a jaunt over the state line might just tempt you. Probably best to avoid during Spring Break when tens of hundreds of excitable teenagers take to the sands.

10. Bask in the bizarre

What? Texas’ many and varying roadside oddities e.g. The Beer Can House, the Gingerbread Man monument, the Toilet Seat Museum, the Big Fork (like the 4th plinth), the giant armadillo and the Hutto hippos. Whatever you can dream up, chances are you can find it – supersized – in Texas.

Why? Because half of the time, you won’t believe these things actually exist unless you see them with your own eyes.

Take your pick –

11. Spring forward and cool off

What? Jacob’s Well in Wimberley – the perfect (and very literal) pit stop

Why? This natural spring, that has become a popular spot for locals, hides the pathway to an incredibly complex underwater cave system that is a must for adrenalin seeking scuba fans. If staying above water is more your thing, just kick your shoes off and dip your toe in for instant refreshment.

12. Scoff down a slice of history

What? Tuck in to smoked sausages, beef brisket, potato salad, slaw and a fine craft beer in a distinctly Deutsch-inspired town such as Fredericksberg or New Braunfels.

Why? The state’s German heritage is such an integral part of the archetypal Texan taste that it would simply be rude not to indulge in a little bit of Bavarian BBQ. Be sure to check out local listings for regular Oktoberfest style celebrations.

13. Play with your perceptions of reality

What? Watch Living Black & White theatre at The Pegasus in Richardson

Why? It’s not every day you get to test your little grey cells, and while this ‘black and white movie brought to life’ may sound a little gimmicky, give it a go and you’ll likely find yourself hooked in by the ever-twisting murder mystery plots. New productions staged regularly / Poirot would be proud.

14. Watch the bats take flight

What? Witness the largest urban bat population in the world (over 1m) take flight every night (March to Nov) from under the Congress Avenue bridge.

Why? Simply put, it’s a truly awesome sight that you’re unlikely to witness elsewhere… unless you have a particular fondness for dark caves.

15. Say thank you for the music

What? Waterloo Record shop – once voted as one of the Top 5 record shops in the world – is stocked to the hilt with albums for every eclectic taste going and with regular all day parties dedicated to promoting local artists, it’s a veritable hive of raw talent.

Why? Austin has recently (and somewhat boldly) trademarked itself as ‘The Live Music Capital of the World’, but with an array of talented Texanites such as Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Beyonce, it’s a claim they can almost certainly back up.

 16. Feel at home on the range

What? Saddle up at a bona fide Bandera Dude Ranch

Why? Countless iterations committed to both big and small screens won’t make up for riding across the sweeping desert plains on your very own cowboy adventure. Start your day with a cookout and top it off by staring up at the stars in the indescribably vast skies. Hi ho Silver!

Several ranches to choose from, but those that come most highly recommended include: The Mayan, Running R and Silver Spur.

17. Rev up your engines

What? Nascar racing at the Texas Motor Speedway

Why? As national sports go, you can’t get much more American than Nascar. And while we don’t allow such reckless driving in our rentals, we would highly recommend getting your high speed kicks responsibly right here.

18. Grave expectations

What? Explore Texas’ spooky side with it’s countless cemeteries (Oakwood, Concordia) and ghost tours, the glowing grave of Karen Silkwood, Lee Harvey Oswald’s resting place, the National Museum of Funeral History, Dead Man’s Curve, and local legends like the Ring of Children, the Banshee, Bolivar Lighthouse, Loretto’s Tower and San Marco’s Pike House.

And for those without nerves of steel: Munster House, the grave of Ol’ Rip, Pancho Villa’s trigger finger and Big Bopper’s casket

Why? A seemingly statewide fascination with death-affiliated sites and spine-chilling stories has created a veritable smorgasbord of curiosities for those whose interests lie a tad on the morbid side. It’s a great alternative look at the region’s unique history.

19. Get lost in a good book…or several thousand.

What? Booked Up in Archer City houses an incredible collection of over 200,000 scholarly and rare interest tomes, most of which can be purchased (if you’re feeling flush).

Why? If you’re after a particular volume of that one book you could never when you were writing your dissertation, chances are you’ll find it here.

20. Pick of the bunch

What? Take the Bluebonnet Trail in Ennis

Why? Bluebonnets have been the official state flower since 1901 and with the season fast approaching, it would be a blooming shame to miss out. Just take precautions as you saunter through the fields, as a few unfriendly critters (such as scorpions, snakes and fire ants) might be admiring the blossoms too. Hey, we never said this was for wimps.