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The Lone Star State might bring to mind images of oil wealth and cattle drives, but as one of the largest states in the USA, Texas provides a wide variety of geography and culture. It has beachs along the gulf coast, urban cities like Dallas and Houston, wild nights in the capital of Austin, and endless desert out to the west.
Founded and settled by Spanish, parts of Texas traded hands between the Spanish, Americans, Mexicans and those who wanted to see Texas be an independent country throughout the 1800s. A famous stand was staged at the Alamo in San Antonio in 1836. Though the fort was lost to the Mexicans, the Texan independents got their independent country during the Battle of San Jacinto fought near Houston, when 1600 Mexicans were defeated by Sam Houston's 800 strong Texan army, with only nine Texan casualties. The Republic of Texas didn't last long, however, and nine years after being formed, Texas, in need of an infusion of American money, joined the union in 1845.
Texas is the second largest U.S. state, behind Alaska, with an area of 696,200 km2. Texas is in the south-central part of the United States. Three of its borders are defined by rivers. The Rio Grande forms a natural border with the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the south. The Red River forms a natural border with Oklahoma and Arkansas to the north. The Sabine River forms a natural border with Louisiana to the east. The Texas Panhandle has an eastern border with Oklahoma at 100° W, a northern border with Oklahoma at 36°30' N and a western border with New Mexico at 103° W. El Paso lies on the state's western tip at 32° N and the Rio Grande.
The Gulf Coastal Plains region wraps around the Gulf of Mexico on the southeast section of the state. Vegetation in this region consists of thick piney woods. The Interior Lowlands region consists of gently rolling to hilly forested land and is part of a larger pine-hardwood forest.
The Great Plains region in central Texas is located in spans through the state's panhandle and Llano Estacado to the state's hill country near Austin. This region is dominated by prairie and steppe. "Far West Texas" or the "Trans-Pecos" region is the state's Basin and Range Province. The most varied of the regions, this area includes Sand Hills, the Stockton Plateau, desert valleys, wooded mountain slopes and desert grasslands.
Texas has 3,700 named streams and 15 major rivers. The largest of these rivers is the Rio Grande. Other major rivers include the Pecos, the Brazos, Colorado, and Red River, which forms the border with Oklahoma
Other significantly sized cities and important towns include Laredo, Lubbock, Irving, Bandera, Brownsville, Grand Prairie, Pasadena, Mesquite, McAllen, Carrollton, Waco, Abilene, Beaumont, Denton, McKinney, Midland and Killeen.
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This building in San Antonio is famous for the battle that took place here. The battle is the most well known battle that took place during the Texan Revolution. On the first day of the battle (February 23, 1836) 2,400 Mexicans attacked the Alamo, where between 180 and 250 Texan soldiers where housed. After a couple of attacks on the building the Texans ran out of possibilities to fend off the attacks. On March 6, 1836 the Mexicans launched the final assault, resulting in killing all the Texans. After the battle the Alamo gradually became known as a battle site rather than a former mission. The Texas Legislature purchased the land and buildings in the early part of the 20th century and designated the Alamo chapel as an official Texas State Shrine.
The Alamo is open every day of the year except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Hours of operation are 9:00am to 5:30pm Monday through Saturday and 10:00am to 5:30pm on Sunday. The Alamo remains open on Fridays and Saturdays until 7:00pm during the months of June, July and August. Admission to the Alamo is free.
The Alamo is located at 300 Alamo Plaza in downtown San Antonio, Texas. To Reach the Alamo from U.S. 281/Interstate 37 southbound, exit at Houston Street, turn right, and proceed three blocks to Avenue E, turn left and continue to the intersection of Houston and Alamo Plaza. From Interstate 37 northbound, exit at Commerce Street, turn left on Commerce and proceed ten blocks to Alamo Plaza, turn right and continue on one and one half blocks. Parking is available at several pay lots in the vicinity of the Alamo.
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If you want to visit a typical Texas town, which, although popular among travellers, still has kept much of its original charm, you can not go past Bandera. This town, less than an hour northwest of San Antonio, calls itself the Cowboy Capital of the World. You can still go to fantastic pubs, where horses are 'parked' next to Harley Davidsons. The town has about 1,000 inhabitants and is an easy daytrip from San Antonio.
Big Bend National Park is one of the natural beauties of Texas. The park covers about 1,250 square miles and is located in the western part of the Lone Star State, bordering Mexico where the Rio Grande bends, hence its name. Most of the people visit the Chisos Mountains and Basin, where you will also find the only accommodation within the park proper.
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Texas mostly has a subtropical climate with higher humidity in the south and drier conditions more to the north and west. Summers are from May to early October with temperatures mostly well above 30 °C and during June-August tempatures over 40 °C in the central and northern parts are not unheard of. Winters can be cold at night but southern winters are still relatively warm. During the day it's still 20 °C or more in most of the state though sudden frost and sometimes even snow are possible. Spring and autumn are great times for a visit, with generally warm, dry and sunny weather and avoiding both heath as well as peak tourism season.
The main gateways to Texas are Dallas and Houston, each having a major international airport as well as a smaller airport with more domestic flights. Other regional airfields can be found in San Antonio, El Paso, Austin and Amarillo, to name just a few.
1. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (IATA: DFW, ICAO: KDFW, FAA LID: DFW) is about fifteen miles (24 kilometres) northwest of the centre of Dallas and about the same distance northeast of downtown Fort Worth. This is the largest airport in the region and the one most international visitors will arrive at when visiting Texas. It is the largest, and main, hub for American Airlines and its affiliate, American Eagle. The airport has five semi-circular terminal buildings designated by letters (A through E). Terminal D is the newest, and is the designated international terminal. All terminals are served by a new, elevated, fully-automated tram system called Skylink. The Skylink system is free to use and runs every two minutes. All stations are inside the security perimeter, so transfers between terminals can be made without having to pass through security a second time.
To/from the airport
2. Dallas Love Field (IATA: DAL, ICAO: KDAL, FAA LID: DAL) is Dallas' second-largest airport and is about five miles (8 kilometres) from the centre of Dallas. Love Field was the main airport for Dallas until DFW opened in the early '70s. With only three runways and twenty gates, Love Field isn't as busy as DFW, which some people prefer. Love Field is primarily served by Southwest Airlines, though a few other carriers have operations there as well. Note that Southwest Airlines does not operate out of DFW, so any travel involving that carrier will be through Love Field.
Austin's airport is Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (IATA code AUS), located 5 miles (8 kilometres) southeast of the city. It only serves US cities, though there are seasonal flights (December to April) to/from Cancun.
To/from the airport
The approximate cost of a taxi from the airport to downtown is $20 - $30 depending on traffic conditions, and should take 20 minutes. The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CapMetro) operates "Airport Flyer" bus services to and from the University of Texas main campus, stopping in Downtown Austin each way. A bus to downtown is available at a cost of $0.50, and also takes approximately 20-30 minutes. Check the schedules online.
Amtrak operates three trains between Texas and a number of other states and cities in the United States. These are:
The I-10 East-West Interstate passes through Texas from Louisiana to New Mexico.
Greyhound Bus Lines has buses to and from most major Texan cities and towns.
The Port of Galveston near Houston is a frequent start and end point for cruise ships around the Gulf of Mexico.
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
Greyhound Bus Lines offers connections between major cities and towns.
The major cities in Texas have a wide range of restaurants serving every kind of cuisine you can think of. From Asian to paleo via the trademark steak and Mexican. In Houston the steakhouses don't serve steaks smaller than 12oz, so bring an appetite. One lets you select the raw meat in their butchering section which is then cooked to your required done-ness. The Mexican food in Texas is different to that found in California as it originates from the eastern states of Mexico rather than the Baja region which has heavily influenced Mexican cuisine on the East Coast of the USA.
There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Although they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:
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