Locals often say Texas is like a whole other country—one that offers everything from beautiful beaches to forest getaways to oases in the Southwest desert.  Check out these top three options:

1. Marfa: A Wacky Taste of the West

Photo by Paul Joseph via Wikimedia Commons

Marfa is a tiny Texas town with a lot of personality. Nestled far from all the major transportation hubs in the West Texas desert, Marfa is known for its UFOs, tumbleweeds, and its quirky art scene; the town has become a mecca for all types of artists in recent years. Take a horseback ride to the controversial Prada store, which is considered a piece of artwork—the likeness of a real Prada store that will never open its doors for business, encased in bulletproof glass and destined to disintegrate on its own over time.

Settle in at the historic El Paisano hotel for the night. The building was originally designed to be headquarters for the legendary 500,000-acre Trost ranch. After that, take time to explore the area outdoors by day. Take in Marfa’s art scene, or spending a day hiking in Big Bend National Park. If you get lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the unexplained Marfa Lights.

2. San Antonio: Refined Texas Luxury

Photo by nan palmero via Flickr

You can expect your bellman to wear a cowboy hat and the front-desk attendants to address your family as “y’all,” but don’t underestimate the luxury and refinement of the real San Antonio. If you’re traveling with your significant other, you’ll love the quintessentially American Riverwalk, one of America’s perfect date options. Take a stroll down America’s largest urban ecosystem, lined with Cyprus trees and offering a variety of delicious restaurants, including Tex-Mex and Southwestern spots that’ll give you a taste of Southwest culture.

While you’re in San Antone, watch history come alive at the Alamo, the first mission in the area built in 1718, that served as a way-station for travelers from Texas to Mexico. Looking for something for the whole family? Spend a day at one of the city’s amusement parks or get out and explore the area’s rich history.

3. Port Aransas: Relaxed Coastal Style

Photo by Jim Nix/Nomadic Pursuits via Flickr

Port Aransas has long been a haven for families looking to get away from the daily grind during hot summer months. Rent a small, personality-filled beach house, or stay in one of the island’s newly-improved hotels for your stay. A free ferry frequently runs between Port Aransas and the mainland, so you won’t have any trouble getting back and forth.

But you won’t have to leave unless you want to; Port Aransas Island offers everything you need, whether you want to relax on the beach or at a spa, or are more interested in working in some deep-sea fishing during your trip. If you want to hit the water, hire a local boat captain or come prepared with your own Texas boat license. If you love the outdoors, bring your binoculars; the Port Aransas Nature Preserve is a top destination for birders.

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