Spanish and French explorers visited the territory in the 16th and 17th centuries, but it was American pioneers, led by Stephen Austin, who began settling the region in 1821.
A decade later, the famous Mexican border disputes at the Alamo in San Antonio, and Sam Houston's victory at San Jacinto led to complete severing of ties with Mexico on Texas Independence Day on March 2, 1836.
Top tourist attractions in Texas include the Alamo in San Antonio (left); the Space Center in Houston (middle); and fun-in-the-sun at Texas Gulf Coast beaches around Galveston (right).
San Antonio, home of the Alamo, also features more of the state's peak vacation attractions including two most popular theme parks SeaWorld San Antonio and Six Flags Fiesta Texas. While in San Antonio, also don't miss the No. 1 attraction in all of Texas, the San Antonio River Walk featuring a scenic network of walkways in downtown lined with shops, restaurants, and lots of public events and entertainment throughout the year.
through Houston in March, make your way to the weeks-long Houston Rodeo featuring live rodeo shows, top concert entertainers, and the country's biggest barbecue!
In late September, also don't miss the end-of-summer Texas State Fair in Dallas (the original home of the corn dog) for a taste of old-fashioned Americana.
In addition to the Space Center, family-friendly attractions in Houston abound. Don't miss a fun trip to the Houston Downtown Aquarium for displays of more than 200 species of aquatic life, some of which you can see from a giant, eye-popping wall-to-ceiling fish tank situated in the middle of their onsite
There's more for younger kids and toddlers at the Children's
Museum of Houston, one of the best in the country - featuring an entire miniature town, a water play area, a playground, and live animal displays.
In the Dallas-Forth Worth area, a top hot spot for families is Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington offering a full-day excursion of thrill rides, gentler attractions for younger kids, and live entertainment. For younger kids and toddlers, get your walking shoes on for a trek through the giant Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens offering beautiful surroundings and play areas to inspire young imaginations.
Meanwhile, fun for the entire family is in store at the Dallas
World Aquarium with popular must-sees including regularly scheduled shark feedings as well as an exotic birds area with
a 40-foot waterfall.
In San Antonio, historical displays at the Alamo compete with other major tourist draws including the new children's activity center at the Do Museum and recently made-over Brackenridge Park which is a delightful combination of city park, zoo, old-fashioned amusement park rides, play areas and stroller-friendly pathways. Plan to spend the day!
DID YOU KNOW? Texas Travel Fun Facts
Going batty in Austin at sunset.
• Near Corpus Christi, the King Ranch is one of the largest and oldest working cattle and horse ranches in the world. At 825,000 acres it is larger than Rhode Island and has over 2,000 miles of fencing.
• Austin is home to North America's largest urban bat population.
• The annual Fiesta San Antonio is one of the largest parades in the nation, second only to Mardi Gras.
• Because delicate instruments are senstive to heat, Space Center Houston maintains an interior temperature of 60 degrees year round. You should bring a light jacket or sweater to keep warm when visiting.
More information about Texas tourist attractions around the Web:
Welcome to Texas Highways - The state's official online travel magazine with timely vacation features, pictures, fascinating facts, famous and offbeat attractions, Texas history, folklore and trivia, reader tips and recipes.
Texas Parks & Wildlife - Vacation fun in the sun with everything you need to know about where to boat, fish and swim, hike & bike in the state parks network with facts & information on opening times, safety, licenses, forecasts, FAQ.