Let me set the scene for you. A family member or close friend is flying in from, I don’t know, Germany (aka they know nothing about Texas aside from stereotypes), and you’re freaking out trying to decide where to take them to really show them what our state is all about. You’re completely justified in your panic – after all, our state is huge. It can be overwhelming just deciding on the next family vacation when you’ve lived here your entire life! But your worry ends here. We’ve gone straight to the core, leaving off well-known tourist traps and delving into the nitty gritty, no frills, true essence of Texas that will leave your visitor pleasantly surprised. Here are 17 totally underrated places in Texas to take someone who’s seeing our great state for the very first time.
1. Drive the bluebonnet trail in the hill country
This scene almost looks fake - but rest assured, it's 100% real. Texas is the bluebonnet capital of the WORLD!
2. The rodeo!
No better way to indoctrinate...uh, I mean welcome, a newcomer than taking them to see some good ol' fashioned ropin' and ridin'.
3. Visit the Texas Capitol
More than just being the center of legislation for our state, the Capitol building is actually a beautiful piece of architecture. It's based on 15th-century Italian buildings and is truly captivating to look at on an extensive guided tour.
Museums are often overlooked, but Texas is chock-full of them. Check out the Houston Museum of Natural Science - you'll learn some pretty neat stuff there.
5. Watch the lights come up over El Paso on Scenic Drive
6. Take a stroll in a charming downtown square like that of Fredericksburg
The true essence of Texas lies in its smallest towns, so taking a newcomer to one of them is a sure-fire way to get them to fall in love with Texas.
7. Head out to the historic Stockyards to experience some real country livin'.
8. Go marvel at the mysterious Marfa lights
Nothing says "Welcome to Texas!" like supernatural phenomena, am I right?
9. Go stargazing
Yes, you can do that just as well in the bed of your truck out in East Texas, but it might be neat to take a visitor to a more formal setting to showcase all there is to do in Texas. The McDonald Observatory in the West Texas Davis Mountains hosts "Star Parties" consisting of constellation tours and spectacular views of various cosmic bodies.
10. Hike the Guadalupe Mountains
When you think of mountains in Texas, the first place that comes to mind is usually Big Bend. Rightfully so, because the Chisos Mountains are breathtaking. But the Guadalupe Mountains are pretty dang beautiful, too - and chances are, your visitor hasn't heard of them yet.
11. Visit the sixth-floor museum in Dallas
I can guarantee you this doesn't even cross the minds of out-of-staters when they think of Texas. Supposedly, Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots that ended President Kennedy's life from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, where he worked at the time - and you can stand right in that very spot.
12. See Texas from a different perspective - dine at the revolving restaurant of the Tower of the Americas while you look out at the lights of San Antonio at night
13. Take a hike to the breathtaking Gorman Falls
This hidden gem isn't even known to most Texans, let alone those from out-of-state. If you want to keep someone in Texas, this is the place to bring 'em!
14. Go kayaking on Medina River
This is especially beautiful in the fall. The autumn leaves of the canopy-like trees hanging over the river make for an absolutely mesmerizing experience.
15. Explore the Dallas Botanical Gardens
I can personally attest to the beauty of this place. It's HUGE - so many different areas with different unique plants to look at.
And if your visitor happens to come near Halloween, they have the biggest pumpkin patch you ever did see. I didn't even know that many varieties of pumpkin existed!
16. Take a day trip to Moody Gardens
Between the ginormous aquarium, the rainforest, and the discovery pyramid (almost like a science museum), you and your visitor will learn so many new things while getting stunning views of marine life and exotic land animals. Can't ask for much better than that.
17. Go to the San Antonio Missions Park
Sure, the Alamo is important, but I'm sure that's the only mission in Texas your visitor has ever heard of. There are so many others that played an integral part in shaping our history, so you'll help provide a more accurate account of our state's history by bringing your tourist here.
Have you ever taken a visiting out-of-stater to any of these places? Where else in Texas would you take a friend or family member who isn’t from here? Let us know in the comments!