Every Texan knows that the U.S. looks like this…
1. The stars at night are big and bright.
The sky at the University of Texas’s McDonald Observatory in west Texas.
2. Clear eyes, full hearts.
Can’t lose. Friday Night Lights was based on a true Texas story, and the brilliant show was filmed in Austin, where Landry’s band still plays around town.
On Sept. 4, 1981, Houston, Texas gave the entire world the gift of Beyoncé Knowles.
4. Breakfast tacos
An essential part of every Texan’s diet. The New York Times once ran an entire story titled “Tacos In The Morning?” about how Austin loves breakfast tacos and we were all like, “YES, TACOS IN THE MORNING. Tacos all the time.” Get with the program.
5. Barton Springs
Barton Springs, the natural spring-fed pool in the middle of Austin, is where Robert Redford learned to swim when he was 5 years old. It’s also where Texas authors J. Frank Dobie, Roy Bedichek, and Walter Prescott Webb met every afternoon in the ’40s and ’50s for what was known as the Salon of the West — nowadays, there’s a statue of the three of them gracing the entrance of the pool. The sprawling pool remains a chill 68 degrees no matter the weather, and it is a home away from home for families, hippies, and hipsters alike.
6. The most authentic country and folk music.
Screw that buttoned-up Nashville stuff. Texas country is the real deal. This perfect man pictured above was born in Poteet, Texas, and christened George Harvey Strait. All his exes live in Texas. He is perhaps the finest living cowboy — evidence below.
Willie Nelson, who was born in Abbot, Texas, wrote his first song at age 7 and joined his first band at age 10. Ever since, he’s been the face of righteous outlaws everywhere, smokin’ dope and reppin’ Texas right.
Don Williams, the gentle giant of country, was born in Floydada, Texas, and his voice has been crooning Texas girls to sleep and serving as a surrogate dad-whenever-you-need-one for over 50 years. A friend of mine who spent time in Ghana, West Africa, told me that they love Don Williams there too. Texas country = universal feels.
Robert Earl Keen was born in Houston and has worked as a musician in central Texas since the early ’80s. He’s part of a wonderful scene of musicians such as Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, Jerry Jeff Walker, Steve Earle, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Guy Clark, who have achieved success but manage to keep it real, constantly playing shows for the Texas music fans in Houston, Dallas, and Austin.
Townes Van Zandt was a genius singer-songwriter, born in Fort Worth, who never got the respect or fame he rightly earned while he was alive…except in Texas, where he is and always has been revered as the singular talent and poet that he was. TVZ also once gave the perfect answer to someone who asked him why all his songs are sad. “I have a few that aren’t sad. They’re just hopeless, they’re totally hopeless. And the rest aren’t sad, they’re just the way it goes. You don’t think life’s sad?”
The Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Houston Rockets could just play one another every day and it would make for a pretty great basketball league. See the evidence below as Houston’s Olajuwon completely decimates one of the greatest basketball defenders of all time, the Spurs’ David Robinson.
The semisweet pastry comes from central Europe, but it has gained a curiously widespread popularity all over Texas. Kolaches haven’t caught on in the rest of the country, which is completely insane, because kolaches > doughnuts. Here’s an entire long-form article from America’s Test Kitchen about trying kolaches throughout Texas.
The coolest small town named after The Brothers Karamazov in the world. Pop art exhibit “Prada Marfa,” pictured above and located outside of town, is just one of the examples of culture that permeate the small-town-meets-art-town. Acclaimed minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa from NYC in 1971, and ever since, Marfa has been a small but bustling home for modern art despite housing only around 2,000 permanent residents. There’s also the mysterious lights in the sky on some nights, which clearly prove that aliens and/or ghosts exist.
10. Dr Pepper
The lifeblood of discerning soda drinkers even has a museum dedicated to it in Waco, where it was invented back in the 1800s.
The best French fries, the best milkshakes, the best taquitos available at 3 a.m. Essential.
12. Austin City Limits
A PBS program featuring intimate, beautifully filmed concerts from a variety of musicians, ranging from Willie Nelson to Radiohead. Above, legendary Texas group The Flatlanders perform on the show.
13. The State Fair of Texas
The State Fair of Texas, held in Dallas, which features a full-blown auto show, a “Birds of the World” show, several rides, dog and pig races, and a bike show. Big Tex, the fair’s lovely mascot of sorts, pictured above, burned down last year but will live in our hearts forever. Most importantly, the fair is the site of countless innovations in deep-frying, featuring deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried Twinkies, deep-fried s’mores, deep-fried PB&J sandwiches, deep-fried Coca-Cola, deep-fried ribs, deep-fried cheesecake, deep-fried Girl Scout cookies, deep-fried sundaes, and DEEP-FRIED BUTTER. That’s called “doing it right,” y’all.
14. These uniforms
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you these vintage Houston Astros uniforms are tacky. They are objectively wrong. These uniforms were a rainbow’d gift from Texas to baseball lovers everywhere, and they are the greatest sports uniforms of all time.
15. The Texas Ruby Red grapefruit
When it mutated in the ’20s, it earned the first-ever patent delivered to a grapefruit. Texas: officially inventing grapefruit since 1929. It is also the juiciest and most delicious fruit ever.
Texas Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes are pictured above, but there are dozens of gorgeous wildflowers native to Texas, scattered in fields and on the side of the highway all over Texas, painting the landscape with color.
17. Rock ‘n’ roll, then and now.
Born in Lubbock, Texas, on Sept. 7, 1936, Buddy Holly went on to become “the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll” (according to critic Bruce Eder) before his untimely death in a plane accident on Feb. 3, 1959.
The most infectiously catchy rock ‘n’ roll music of the aughts was made in Austin, Texas, by Spoon.
ZZ Top, the greatest beards in rock history, formed in Houston.
Explosions in the Sky: creating the most beautiful “post-rock” instrumental music on the planet since growing up in Midland, Texas, and forming in Austin.
Janis Lyn Joplin was born in January of 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas. She went on to rock the pants off of life and music for 27 years, becoming rightfully known as “The Queen of Rock and Roll” along the way.
18. Impressively bearded dudes are never in short supply.
The Austin Facial Hair Club are the stars of the IFC Channel’s Whisker Wars reality series for a reason. The men of Texas take their beard and mustache grooming very, very seriously, and the world is obviously a better place for it.
More species of bats live in Texas than anywhere else in the U.S., and one of the largest bat colonies in North America resides right in the middle of downtown Austin underneath the Congress Bridge. During peak bat-viewing season, 1.5 million bats live there, making it the largest urban bat colony in North America. Watching them pour from under the bridge for their nightly feed is one of the most intense natural experiences one can have in the middle of a city.
20. The Bush gals
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