Top Destinations for 2016: Texas
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Forget what you think you know about Texas: the Lone Star State might be home to numerous ranches and a good few cowboys (and yes, cattle are still driven throughout the streets of Fort Worth on a twice daily basis) - but whilst its traditions are very much alive, there’s a youthful, forward-thinking aura in the southern air. Take Houston, for example. The state’s most populous city and most famous for its Space Center, Houston has an average age of 33, has recently been named the coolest city in the USA by the New York Times, and has a theatre district second only to the Big Apple itself. Those plaudits are difficult to argue with. This understated yet very real charm extends to the rest of the state, too - from the Instagram-ready, cosmopolitan hub of Dallas to the laid back charms of traditional Fort Worth to the Mexican-influenced San Antonio, via state capital and live music hub Austin. Texas’s cities are much more affordable, both in terms of hotels and nightlife, than most others in the US, and the state has a warm climate to boot - making it an ideal destination at any time of the year. Of course, no visit to Texas is complete without remembering its old charms – so make sure you pay the cowboys a visit whilst you’re there. They’ll be waiting for you with a typically warm Texan welcome. Where to go Texas is often the third destination for travellers to the USA – a wing-stretching option for when the East and West coasts have been sufficiently explored. We think it deserves to be a higher priority, though – because it’s so disarmingly unique, but also because it’s probably more cost-effective than you’d imagined. Three international hubs make it cheaper to visit than many other US states, and daily flights between London and Houston mean it’s more accessible than you might expect, too. For complete contrast to aforementioned largest city Houston, head north to Fort Worth. Once an important trading post for cowboys, it’s developed into a vibrant a modern city that has lost none of its old-world charm. Visit the (newly renovated, as of 2015) National Cowgirl Museum, experience the twice daily cattle drive, breathe in years of tradition with year-round rodeos at Fort Worth Stockyards (you can also take a walking tour with a cowboy), and get in step with free line-dancing lessons at Bill Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest Honky Tonk. If you’re looking some something a bit more modern, Fort Worth can also offer you free outdoor concerts at Rockin' The River, and a lively entertainment scene that stretches three miles between the Sundance Square, Stockyards National Historic District, West 7th, Near Southside and the Fort Worth Cultural District neighbourhoods. It’s also an easy city to navigate, with 100 bike share stations and numerous bike lanes and trails. Only a few miles from Fort Worth is Dallas, where neighbourhoods packed with street art, restaurants and live music are complimented by breweries and local delicacies in the famous Emporium Pies. A “City of Opportunity” for employment and creativity and one of the most diverse in the state in terms of regions and experiences, there’s more to modern day Dallas than back-stabbing and shoulder pads. Right in the centre of the state, San Antonio is a Mexican-influenced city with a 15-mile long Riverwalk (visit at Christmas to see it lit up in all its glory), that is known for being home to the best Tex Mex cuisine in the world. San Antonio is gearing up to celebrate its 300th birthday in 2018 – which, by US standards, makes it a pretty older timer in the city stakes. It also has a vibrant arts scene, with top museums, studios, galleries and public art – including more than 50 murals on the city’s Westside. Finally, make sure you don’t overlook Austin – the Texan capital is home to South by Southwest (SxSW) festival, a weeklong annual celebration of independent film, music and media, set against the backdrop of one of the USA’s most vibrantly musical cities. What to do Be wowed by a real Texan rodeo Houston plays host to this most traditional of southern spectacles for the first three weeks of March every year, whilst Fort Worth can proudly say that it hosts the only year-round rodeo in the world at Fort Worth Stockyards. Better remember to pack your cowboy boots. Soak up Americana at a real drive-in movie theatre
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