Texas is the land of cowboys and cacti, a place of barren landscapes where Stetson-wearing cattle rustlers still roam… or is it? Times change, and Texas – like everywhere else on planet Earth – changes with it. Case in point, check out these surprising things about the Lone Star State.

    With the sheer size of its land, it’s large enough to handle the modern sign of the times. Texans have this mental map called the “Texas Triangle” where most of the actions happen, and the trends have taken place around this triangle-shaped cluster of counties; Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, College Station and Austin. 


    Cowboys and Southern belles are not a common sight

    Don't expect suede boots, big hats and big bouffant. Locals enjoy sporting the athleisure gear in the comfort of their ranches. However, if you’re looking for the wilder side of the west, Tyler, a town right outside of Dallas, has kept its authentic gaucho charm with ponies and vast cattle grounds.  

    Fort Worth Stockyards in Dallas is the place to see all the riding shows, with cattle driving, shooting, rodeos and square dancing. But overall, locals prefer sports wear for their everyday farm work these days.

    photo by Larry Johnson (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Vegetarian and vegan food is booming in Texas

    Vegetarian food has slowly taken up the supermarket shelves and restaurants. Once upon a time, steak, tacos and BBQs were the staple of Texans. Locals, new and old, have become a bit more health-conscious with their red meat intake. 

    Nowadays, in a local supermarket, shoppers can find almond milk, non-dairy cheese, avocados, seven different kinds of tofu, and even gluten-free bread. Also, with more diverse cuisines to meet the needs of the newcomers, chances are you can find a boba tea in almost every city. 


    Arts festivals have expanded to almost year-round

    The most known festival in Texas is South by Southwest, which lasts about ten days. It’s a combination of film, technology and music, that brings artists from around the world. Other festivals vary from Old Settler’s Music Festival, Austin Reggae, Austin City Limits, River City Rockfest, Floatfest, and many others. Frequent and regular events also include celebrity talks, seminars, and stand-up comedies. 

    Austin has become a casual meeting spot for big names in entertainment industry who come here for a creative gathering and scouting for new talent.  You can find jazz ensembles in churches, as well as rock concerts and free movies in the parking lots of Austin. 

    photo by Shane Hirschman (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Not everyone has a Texan drawl

    Young adults with families from western states have become the new population, partly because there is no state income tax. At least, not yet. Nonetheless, this state hasn’t lost its charm with the everyday pace of living. Expect things to move a bit slower here in terms of hospitality and services. 

    Locals will compliment your T-shirt and start a genuine conversation. Your barista might speak with a Midwestern accent, while the guy behind you in the coffee line might have a Brooklyn ‘Lawn Guyland/Long Island’ accent. 


    Texas is becoming the next Silicon Valley

    Austin just cannot seem to stop growing, attracting huge companies to set up shop in the city. This includes Amazon, Google, Apple and other software giants. Dallas is also a city on the rise, attracting a mix of start-ups and old-school tech companies. The city has become modernised and you can feel the high-energy vibe. 

    For repeat visitors, it’s a stark contrast from the tumbleweeds and Stetsons. Today, you’ll see provocative graffiti arts on shop houses, giant electronic billboards, the booming sushi bars, and new breeds of craft beer.


    Houston is the most diverse city in the US

    University campuses and tech jobs have brought an inpour of international people to the region. There are also new residents from places like Oregon, Colorado and New York – particularly young professionals.  

    As a result, the state has embraced the diverse sports, performance arts and new-age culture. Visitors can enjoy authentic Korean fried chicken for lunch, and then go see a mariachi band with a side of margaritas, followed by playing a game of cricket. Of course, nightlife and quirky establishments have sprawled with fun places like The Anger Room in Dallas and art workshops inside the wine bars of Austin.  


    Chic neighbourhoods are trending

    Not long ago, Waco was a sleepy, mundane town in the middle of nowhere.  Homes inspired by celebrity designer Joanna Gaines' Fixer Upper TV show have turned southern plantation homes into posh cottages in counties like Waco and made its way to suburban Dallas.  

    Made famous by the Home and Garden Television Channel (HGTV), this home-flipping trend has become a national sensation, and became the main attraction for HGTV fans from all over the country to the Magnolia Market. During high season, lodging in Waco can cost up to $600 a night.


    Rising cost of living

    Along with the influx of new residents, prices in Texas have increased, driven by newbies who have more purchasing power. For tourists, this means a moderately higher cost for things like food, Uber rides and highway tolls. But all in all, the portions meet the price. For example, a beef rib platter for 2 racks of ribs is $20 and a homemade peach cobbler is $6 at the famous County Line Riverwalk in San Antonio, while the ‘baker street swizzle’ cocktail is $12 at the Midnight Cowboy bar in Austin. Don’t forget the taxes and gratuity to be added. 

    photo by H. Michael Karshis (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Texas is still large, no matter how you slice it

    The charm of Texas is in the size of things; large roads, big cars, bottomless margaritas and generous food portions. Unless you’re staying in a big city, locations are mostly spaced out and getting from one place to another requires a car. 

    Simply put, not having a car or a reliable form of transportation can make or break your vacation in Texas. Even for locals, going to the nearest coffee place or an ATM can be a typical 5-minute drive, while public transportation is not as up-to-date as it should be. 


    Its natural beauty hasn't changed

    You can always enjoy sunrise and sunset from anywhere. Because of its vast, flat lands and central plains, Texans can seize the twilight moments from their own backyards. This huge land is home to beautiful bayous, caverns and about 200 lakes. 

    Be warned, August is the hottest time of the year, and considered a low season as it can reach the hundreds in Fahrenheit. Despite its hot days, summer swimming can be so gratifying with perfect water temperature in quarries and lakes, along with river tubing, birding, catch-and-release fishing, horseback riding and camping under the stars. 

    Joy Sanyapongse | Contributing Writer

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