Texas is a big state. In fact, geographically speaking, it is the second largest state in the Union. Planning a vacation to such a vast land mass can be overwhelming. In order to make planning such a trip easier - and the subsequent vacation more efficient and enjoyable - try thinking of Texas in terms of a collection of small regions, rather than one large state.
Practically every book, magazine and travel guide will divide the state into various regions. However, for the sake of simplicity, it is best to stick with the format used by the Texas Department of Transportation, publishers of Texas Highways magazine.
1. Panhandle Plains - The Texas Panhandle is formed by the convergence of Oklahoma and New Mexico. The rectangular region between these two border states is the Panhandle. The Panhandle Plains extend east nearly to Ft. Worth and south to an area just below I-20. Amarillo and Lubbock are the two most recognized cities in this region.
2. Big Bend Country - Also known as West Texas. El Paso is the most recognized city in this westernmost region of the state. However, most visitors looking to vacation in this area do so in Big Bend National Park. The Rio Grande River and Davis Mountains are also popular sights.
3. Hill Country - Probably more talked about than any other region of Texas, the Hill Country encompasses the area west of I-35 to the Big Bend region. Austin is the urban center of this region and draws an eclectic blend of visitors. However, smaller bergs such as Fredericksburg, Wimberley, and Kerrville charm plenty of tourists as well. In addition, the area's many lakes and rivers, Lost Maples State Park, the LBJ State Historical Park, and Enchanted Rock are popular attractions.
4. Prairies and Lakes - The region sandwiched between the Panhandle Plans and Hill Country to the west and the Piney Woods to the east is known as the Prairies and Lakes. Dallas and Ft. Worth are the major population centers, but this region also includes college towns such as Waco and College Station. As the name suggests, this region's many lakes and reservoirs are a top draw for fishermen, water skiers, and water sport enthusiasts.
5. Piney Woods - Sometimes referred to as Deep East Texas, the Piney Woods are comprised of the state's easternmost acres, many of which are covered by towering pine trees - hence the name. Many of the state's historic oil towns such as Kilgore, Marshall, and Longview are located here. The area's rich history is also reflected in the town of Nacogdoches, which was originally established as a Spanish fort in the mid-1700s. This region is also known for its numerous lakes, including Caddo, the only naturally formed lake in Texas, and is home to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.
6. Gulf Coast - This region is a long, narrow strip of land running from Sabine Pass south to the Rio Grande River. In between are a variety of coastal communities ranging from the marsh-surrounded Beaumont to tropical South Padre Island, as well as the historic towns of Galveston, Port Isabel and Brownsville. Corpus Christi is another popular coastal destination and includes the Texas State Aquarium, USS Lexington and Padre Island National Seashore.
7. South Texas Plains - The funnel shaped region from San Antonio south to the Mexican border is referred to as the South Texas Plains. San Antonio, of course, is the area's top draw with more attractions than one can hope to see in numerous trips. However, don't overlook the regions other history-rich towns such as Mission, Goliad, Laredo, and Kingsville. The area is also home to famed bass fishing destination Falcon Lake, as well as the World Birding Center.
As you can see, each of these regions is practically a vacation within themselves. Whereas it is possible to visit more than one - maybe even all - of these regions in one vacation, studying the attractions contained within each will make planning your trip much easier.