Texas is steeped in tradition, folk lore and legend. Much of Texas’ oversized reputation has been actually been legislated into official state symbols. Many visitors to the Lone Star State enjoy finding and seeing these symbols in order to get a firsthand taste of Texas folklore. While many of these symbols are easily seen throughout the state, others may take a little looking. Nonetheless visitors to Texas can certainly find plenty of official Lone Star State symbols if they know where to look.
Among the most iconic symbols of Texas, obviously, is the Lone Star Flag. The flag can be seen virtually everywhere in Texas. All government offices, schools and business display the red, white and blue flag with the namesake Lone Star. This flag, which is actually the 1839 national flag of the Republic of Texas, is perhaps the easiest of all official Texas symbols for visitors to spot.
Another fairly easy official state symbol to see is the state flower – the Bluebonnet. During spring, many visitors embark on road trips to view this iconic flower. Drives throughout the Texas Hill Country and south central Texas are always good bets for seeing acres of blooming bluebonnets during the spring season. The state bluebonnet city, however, is Ennis, where visitors are always treated to fields of blooming bluebonnets during spring.
To almost no one’s surprise, the official state footwear is the cowboy boot. Visitors will almost assuredly come across Texans wearing cowboy boots while visiting the Lone Star State. However, attending an event such as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo ensures they will get to see a wide variety of cowboy boots.
While the above mentioned state symbols are easily spotted, others are much more rare. Such is the case with the official state reptile – the Texas Horned Lizard. Actually listed as a threatened species, the Texas Horned Lizard is still somewhat populous in some parts of the state, such as Deep South Texas and West Texas. One of the best places to see Texas Horned Lizards these days is the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Deep South Texas.
One official state animal that is easy to find is the state small mammal, the Nine Banded Armadillo. This unique mammal has a hard, protective outer shell and can be seen throughout Texas. However, they are generally found in the greatest abundance is East Texas, North Central Texas and South Central Texas.
The official state large mammal is also a fairly common sight. But, that hasn’t always been the case. The Texas longhorn was actually on its way to extinction in the early 1900s. Thanks to efforts by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department as well as private ranchers, the Longhorn has made its way back from the brink. Texas Parks & Wildlife’s Foundation herd is the official longhorn herd of Texas. Several zoos and ranches across the state also feature longhorns. And, of course, the longhorn is the mascot of the University of Texas. Anyone attending a UT football game will get a glimpse at Bevo, easily the state’s most famous longhorn.
Texas beaches are always a popular place for visitors. And, they are also home to a handful of official Texas state symbols. The official state shell is the Lightning Whelk. The Lightning Whelk is only found in the Gulf of Mexico and can be spotted along beaches up and down the Texas coast. While it may be tempting to take home a Lightning Whelk shell, responsible shell collectors return all shells with living whelks back to the water. It is possible to find uninhabited shells, which are fine to take home.
Further down the Texas coast, essentially from Corpus Christi south to South Padre Island, beachgoers can see another Texas symbol. The Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle is the official state sea turtle. The Kemp’s Ridley’s traditional nesting area is along Padre Island. The Padre Island National Seashore, Mustang Island and South Padre Island are all good spots to see Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles throughout the year. Please keep in mind when viewing Kemp’s Ridleys that they are an endangered species and protected by law, so people should not feed or otherwise try to interact with the turtles.
A symbol that is found along the coast that people can interact with is the official saltwater fish, the red drum. Commonly known as the redfish, red drum are the most popular saltwater gamefish swimming in Texas coastal waters. Also one of the most plentiful marine fish species, redfish can be caught along every beach and in every coastal bay in Texas.
Texas is also well known for its food and a variety of edible items have become official state symbols. The official state dish of Texas is chili. And, while bowls of “Texas red” are served at restaurants across the state, the best place to enjoy a bowl of chili is at one of the many chili cook-offs held in Texas, including the granddaddy of all chili cook-offs, the Terlingua International Chili Cookoff.
Chili isn’t the only spicy food item to be an official symbol of Texas. Texas actually recognizes two different peppers as state symbols. The state pepper is the jalapeno, while the state native pepper is the chiltepin. The annual Houston Hot Sauce Festival is a great place to encounter foods utilizing both of the official Texas state peppers.
A much milder state food item is the official state pie – Pecan pie. Pecan pie is actually one of a trio of pecan related state symbols, as the pecan tree is the official state tree and the pecan itself is the official state health nut. All things pecan can be enjoyed at the annual Texas Pecan Festival in Groves.
These are but a handful of the many state symbols that add the legend and lore of Texan culture. Working these and other state symbols into a Texas vacation can certainly add to the experience and help visitors feel as if they got a true taste of Texas – in some cases quite literally – while visiting the Lone Star State.