Because it has a personality and cultural fabric all its own, Texas looms large on the tour-planning landscape, offering a diverse variety of sights to see, both urban and rural. Scheduling a fair, festival or other special event is one of the best ways to enrich your tour and tap into the Lone Star State’s inimitable way of life.

Here is just a sampling of major events that may show up on the radar of tour planners working on Texas itineraries:

Fiesta San Antonio, April 10-27. San Antonio celebrates its diverse cultures with parades, carnivals, balls, art fairs, concerts and food. Highlights of this 2014 ABA Top 100 Event include the big Battle of Flowers Parade, which attracts 350,000 spectators, and the Fiesta Flambeau Parade, one of the largest illuminated parades in the nation. Along the River Walk mariachi groups serenade guests from colorful floats and one night it’s the Texas Cavaliers River Parade. A Night in Old San Antonio takes place several times in the La Villita historic quarter, the site of 15 cultural zones comprising 200-plus food and drink booths and more than a dozen entertainment stages. Dates: April 16-26. (

Texas Ranch Roundup, Aug. 15-16, Wichita Falls. This event showcases top historic Texas ranches, the hard work of the real working cowboy and every facet of ranch life. Ranches will compete in chuck wagon cooking, cowboy art, and rodeo events like bronc riding, calf doctoring, team branding and wild cow milking. Also check out more than 200 booths at the Bit, Spur & Western Collectible Tradeshow. (

National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration, Sept. 4-7, Lubbock. The largest gathering of cowboys in the world, now in its 26th year, celebrates and preserves Western heritage and cowboy culture at Lubbock Memorial Civic Center. Included are entertainers, poetry and storytelling, Western author panels, film and movie seminars, a Youth Wild West Day, horse-handling demonstrations, a horse-themed parade, Native American Indian activities and presentations, the Chuck Wagon Cook-off, exhibits of Western artworks, and merchandise for sale. (

Texas State Fair

Texas State Fair

State Fair of Texas, Sept. 26-Oct. 19, Dallas. The grounds of Fair Park become the Fried Food Capital of Texas for 24 days as concessionaires cook up everything from the signature corn dogs to fried grilled cheese sandwiches, fried Nutella and chicken-fried meatloaf. Guests at the fair, one of the biggest and longest-running state fairs in the country, also enjoy free concerts, livestock competitions, carnival rides and an auto show featuring 2015 models. The 212-foot Texas Star is the tallest Ferris wheel in the Southwest. A ride up Top o’ Texas Tower provides panoramic views of the DFW Metroplex. The park is the year-round home of the Music Hall, Cotton Bowl and eight museums. (

Oktoberfest, October 3-5, Fredericksburg. The three-day celebration of Fredericksburg’s German heritage features more than 50 varieties of German, domestic and Texas beer and tons of food booths serving up German favorites like strudel, potato pancakes and sauerkraut. Oktoberfest also features live music on four different stages all weekend long, including oompah at its best. (

Texas Rose Festival, Oct. 16-19, Tyler. This 2014 ABA Top 100 Event, a tradition dating back to 1933, is highlighted by the grand floral Rose Parade. Festivities also include the Queen’s Coronation, the Rose Show and Queen’s Tea—amidst a backdrop of brilliant roses. An art show, arts and crafts fair, horticulture workshops and grape stomp at Kiepersol Winery are other crowd-pleasers. (

WRCA World Championship Ranch Rodeo, Nov. 6-9, Amarillo. This four-day blowout celebrates all things cowboy. Twenty ranches from across the US and sometimes Canada qualify for this event. More than 25,000 people make their way through the turnstiles at the Amarillo Civic Center to catch the rodeo action, enjoy cowboy art and music, and shop for everything from saddles, boots and tack to jewelry, clothing and ranch accessories. (

The Polar Express™ Train Ride, Nov. 14-Dec. 30, Texas State Railroad, Palestine and Rusk. This six-week event, based on the book and movie, is the railroad’s largest and most popular trip. Encouraged to dress in pajamas, guests ride the rails between Rusk and Palestine while enjoying hot chocolate and cookies and listening to the story read by actor Liam Neeson. Singing and dancing chefs and attendants add to the festivities, which are highlighted by a visit from Santa and his elves. (

Christmas Capital of Texas, Nov. 14-Jan. 4, Grapevine. Officially designated as the center of all things Christmas by the Texas State Senate, Grapevine puts on more than 1,400 events over a 50-day period, including Christmas stage shows at the historic Palace Theatre, the Light Show Spectacular at the Town Square Gazebo and a night parade down old-fashioned Main Street, which is decorated with a million lights. The Grapevine Vintage Railroad offers North Pole Express runs, plus Christmas Wine Train excursions for adults. Another focal point of yuletide fun is the massive Gaylord Texan Resort, whose ICE! attraction showcases colorful ice sculptures inside a refrigerated tent. The resort’s Lone Star Christmas display fills three atriums with elaborate decorations, from giant snowmen, candy canes and nutcrackers to a life-size gingerbread house. (

Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, Jan. 16-Feb. 7. Established in 1896, the nation’s oldest livestock show attracts one million people from around the world. The World’s Original Indoor Rodeo® features events like bull and bronc riding, steer wrestling and barrel racing. Outside Will Rogers Coliseum, the Carnival Midway offers rides and food, while regional bands entertain in the Rodeo Roadhouse. In downtown Fort Worth on the first Saturday of the show, the All-Western Parade is horses and wagons only—no motorized vehicles allowed. (