When a Spanish expedition was sent to Texas centuries ago, the peaceful native Americans of that time called them Thechas which means "friends" in their language. It later became the state name and Texas is often referred to as the Friendly State. Often associated with cowboys, Texas is sometimes portrayed as sprawling fields of dusty farmland with the odd tumbleweed blowing past a steakhouse.
Not far from Dallas, Fort Worth is a great place to get immersed into cowboy culture. There's cowboys paraphernalia shops and steakhouses everywhere, but the main action are the Stockyards Rodeo shows. The atmosphere was awesome. Bull riding, calf roping, bronco busting, etc the commentators delivered some great lines like "we have great paramedics, we just don't like to use them". The show is two hours long but after the bull riding, everything else was just dull in comparison.
In addition to the Rodeo, walking around Fort Worth Stockyards you can get a feel of old cowboy Texas. In short, it's acres of trains, shops, steakhouses serving gut busting portions, horses, longhorns, cowboys.. and a lot of country music. Country music is very endearing with songs usually about pickup trucks, ripped jeans, or a cowboy falling for a farmer's daughter.
In the evening, I went to Red River, a modern day saloon with live country music. I was one of the few not wearing any cowboy gear. They had a huge dancefloor, I asked a gorgeous cowgirl to teach me to dance to country music. She grabbed my hand and led me to dancefloor "Don't be shy, put your hand on my lower back" - well, I certainly was not going to complain about that.
I also made friends with a few cowboys, their thick southern accents was surprisingly easily understandable. I have since been using some cowboy expressions I picked up like "This ain't my first rodeo" or "Must be Georgia heat playing tricks on me".
Space Center Houston
Space Center Houston is the visitors center at NASA's Johnson Space Center. There's a tram tour that takes you to the mission control centre from which the moon walking broadcasts were made as well as the astronaut trying facility and to see the Saturn rockets. There's also a shuttle simulator and exhibits. And you'll know the full history behind the famous "Houston we have a problem".
Austin has the college town vibe, since The University of Texas has a very large campus there. The area to the west of the University along Guadalupe Street is known as "The Drag" and has a number of restaurants and stores catering to students so it's generally cheaper. Downtown Austin revolves around the many nightclubs on the infamous 6th Street.