Fairgoers gather at Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas, home to the Red River Showdown football game between Texas and Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl October 6, 2018 in Dallas, Texas.
Photo by Ron Jenkins for the Washington Post

20 Things Every Texan Should Do At Least Once

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in 2018. We're sharing it again as part of our month long celebration of Texas. 

Whether you're a Texan by birth or by choice, you only get about a century or so to explore this glorious, vast swath of land from corner to corner. And if you love Texas as much as any self-respecting Texan, you know that's not nearly enough time. So why wait? You can get started on the ultimate Texas bucket list today. Here are 20 things every Texan should do at least once.

20. Get Caught Up on Gossip at Your Local Dairy Queen

Ok, so Dairy Queen wasn't born in Texas (it was established in Joliet, Ill.), but those welcoming bright red "DQ" signs that dot Texas interstates and small towns have become known as "Texas stop signs." That's because Texas has more Dairy Queens than any other state. Each Dairy Queen in Texas seems to have it's own regional flavor (with the same classic favorites). Texas Dairy Queens even have their own signature "Tex Mex" menu that's not offered in any other state. The "DQ" is also the unofficial small town gathering place in rural Texas so you're sure to get your fill of the local gossip.

19. Eat BBQ at Snow's in Lexington

 Pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz stands in the pit at Snow's BBQ on July 31, 2021 in Lexington, Texas.

Photo by Jim Bennett/Getty Images

Tootsie Tomanetz has been cookin' up delicious barbecue at Snow's in Lexington since 1966. The legendary meat market is only open one day a week, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and requires a lengthy wait in line. But it's oh so worth it.

18. Say 'Howdy' to Big Tex at the Texas State Fair

The Texas State Fair in Dallas is a right of passage for any Texan. Where else can you sample deep-fried bacon and chase it with a deep-fried Coca Cola? You can also wave to the world's largest Texan, Big Tex, who looms over the crowds each year.

17. Score Some Treasures at Antique Week in Round Top

Every year the tiny town of Round Top is flooded with visitors looking for the perfect antiques to take home with them. These self-proclaimed "junkers" are serious about their aged treasures. Wandering through the fields of aged treasures while snacking on a slice of pie from Royer's Pie Haven is a true Texas experience.

16. Eat a Kolache (Or a Dozen) at Czech Stop

There might actually be a law against driving down I-35 between Dallas and Austin and not stopping at the Czech Stop Bakery in West. For decades the little bakery has been delighting weary travelers with to-die-for kolaches.

15. Go to a Star Party at the McDonald Observatory

The University of Texas at Austin uses the Mcdonald Observatory for astronomical research, teaching and public education

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Located in the mountains of Fort Davis, the McDonald Observatory is home to regular "Star Parties" in which visitors can view the cosmos through the observatory's giant telescopes. Tucked away in far West Texas, the night sky is completely untouched by light pollution, making it the perfect spot for star gazing and learning about the galaxy.

14. Read The Last Picture Show in Archer City

Larry McMurtry was the Shakespeare of Texas. His books, from Lonesome Dove to The Last Picture Show, summed up the Texas experience. In addition to his contributions to literature, McMurtry continued to do his hometown of Archer City proud. His Archer City bookstore, Booked Up, houses a seriously impressive collection of page-turners. Where else can you get the chance to buy a copy of Lonesome Dove from the man who wrote it?

13. See the Bluebonnets at Muleshoe Bend

Every Texan has an obligatory photo of themselves squatting in a patch of bluebonnets. But it's hard to beat the sea of bluebonnets at Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area.

12. Take a Dip in Hamilton Pool

Hamilton Pool, located just outside of Austin, is a little slice of heaven on earth. When the heat starts creeping into three digits, this serene lagoon will wash away the summertime blues.

11. Drive the Most Beautiful Road in the Hill Country

The breathtaking winding road between Vanderpool and Leakey is a destination all on its own. Keep driving until you reach Concan, then take a dip in the Frio River at Garner State Park.

10. Hang Out at Willie's Place in Luck, Texas

 Singer, songwriter and guitarist Willie Nelson performs live on stage at the Luck Reunion on March 17, 2022 in Luck, Texas.

Photo by Jim Bennett/WireImage

That's right, the patron saint of Texas has his own little town right here in the Lone Star State. Located about 40 minutes outside of Austin, Willie's Luck Ranch is a respite from the outside world. Each year, Willie opens up Luck Ranch for the Luck Reunion, an all day music festival on the grounds. Families also gather for a yearly Easter celebration at the little ranch chapel.

9. See Live Music at the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe

The Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe in Galveston is an iconic music venue. Everyone from Townes Van Zandt to Hayes Carll has cut their teeth here and you never know when the next big thing might be taking the stage.

8. See the Lighting of the Oil Derricks in Kilgore

In 1930, oil was discovered in Kilgore, bringing national attention to the East Texas town. The town pays tribute to its history and contribution to Texas culture with the annual lighting of the oil derricks. The town is also home to the East Texas Oil Museum.

7. Visit Palo Duro Canyon

Lighthouse Peak and un-named finn, Palo Duro Canyon, Canyon, Texas.

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That other canyon in Arizona may be grand, but Texans have their own canyon in the Panhandle and they're quite proud of it. Known as the Grand Canyon of Texas, the Palo Duro Canyon is a must-see for any Texan.

6. Sing a Song (Or Just Listen) at Cheatham Street Warehouse

Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos is home to the Wednesday songwriters circle. The weekly event was started by the venue's original owner, Kent Finlay. Legendary Texas songwriters, from Bruce Robison to Randy Rogers, have gotten their start here. Rogers loved the venue so much, he bought it. Cheatham Street is known as one of the best listening rooms to hear original music.

5. Visit the Original Whataburger

It all started here. In 1950, the very first Whataburger was established in Corpus Christi. Pay homage to the orange-and-white W by visiting the original burger mecca.

4. Eat a Chicken Fried Steak at Mary's Cafe in Strawn

The chicken fried steak, or the CFS for those in the know, is a staple of Texas cafe cuisine. While there's no shortage of delicious chicken friend steaks in the Lone Star State, Mary's Cafe in Strawn is the best of the best.

3. Spin Around in the Rotunda of the Texas Capitol

Most Texas kids have visited the Texas Capitol at least once. And all of them have spun around in the rotunda until they were dizzy. But why stop in adulthood? Texas lore has it that the act will bring you good luck.

2. Two-Step With Your Sweetie at Gruene Hall

Gruene Hall

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If the worn wooden floors of Gruene Hall could talk, they'd surely have some stories to tell. Many a couple has twirled through the iconic dance hall. If you've never shared a dance with someone special at Gruene Hall, it's time to hit the dance floor.

1. Go Camping in Big Bend

North America, USA, Texas, Big Bend National Park, Chisos Mountains, Casa Grande.

Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

No Texan's life is complete without a stay at Big Bend National Park. The park is the largest protected area of the Chihuahuan Desert topography in the U.S. To watch the sun rise and set among the mountains is an unforgettable experience.

READ MORE: 12 Texas Dance Halls Every Country Fan Should Visit