Life is too short not to live it in Texas. But recently we asked ourselves an uncomfortable question: If we had only one year left on earth, what would we do in the Lone Star State? A spirited conversation ensued, writers and editors submitted their picks, and more than two hundred ideas poured forth. We overlooked suggestions like seeing the Alamo or going to the Capitol because we assumed that everyone has already done those things (you have done them, right?). Instead, passionate arguments were made for who makes the best barbecue, which books to read, and where to see Willie Nelson perform. In the end, we asked the staff—and a few friends—to write about the 63 most interesting ideas in the bunch, which are numbered but not ranked. Of course, we fully expect you to have many more than twelve months to complete this list, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get started right away.

1. Take the Ultimate Road Trip

When you get tired of hearing about how big Texas is, go find out for yourself. Drive from Dalhart, in the Panhandle, to Brownsville, where Texas, Mexico, and the Gulf converge. Depending on your route, it’s about 842 miles. You’ll travel down the Staked Plains toward Amarillo, heading south by southeast to Lubbock, Big Spring, and San Angelo, lulled by a symphony of wind and space. Then weave through the Hill Country toward San Antonio, basking in the dry crackle of history. From there you’ll head to Corpus Christi, down U.S. 77 through Kingsville and the King Ranch. There is no more desolate—or fascinating—stretch than the final hundred miles or so to the Rio Grande Valley. After you arrive Lord-knows-how-many-hours later, cross the international bridge into Matamoros and treat yourself to a margarita. You’ve earned it. Gary Cartwright

2. Eat Barbecue at Snow’s, in Lexington

Eating at Snow’s is like scaling Mount Everest: Only the hardy and fully prepared reach the summit. Snow’s is in the middle of nowhere, about an hour east of Austin. Furthermore, the window of opportunity is minuscule, because it is open only on Saturday mornings. On top of that, Snow’s septuagenarian guru of ’cue, Tootsie Tomanetz, cooks a limited number of briskets, chickens, pork ribs, and pork butt. When they’re gone, they’re gone. So get up before dawn, make a thermos of coffee, drive to Lexington, and wait your turn. Your reward is the most celestial barbecue in Texas—that and the knowledge that you are one of the few, the brave, who have summited Snow’s. 516 Main, 979-773-4640. Patricia Sharpe

3. See Willie at Floore’s, in Helotes

There are no bad shows at the John T. Floore Country Store, and there’s no bad place in all the world to see Willie Nelson. Still, there’s nothing like watching Texas’s greatest entertainer on his home court. Willie started playing here regularly in the sixties, making Floore’s—and not Austin’s long-gone Armadillo—the refuge where he sloughed off Nashville expectations and grew into the singer/songwriter/holy man who would win over the planet. He still plays the old dance patio about once a year, and when he eases into “Yesterday’s Wine,” you’ll be able to look up at the same Hill Country stars he once dreamed on while downing the same cold Lone Star, homemade tamales, and fresh baked bread. It’s like a night in history. 14492 Old Bandera Rd., 210-695-8827. John Spong

4. Play Chicken Shit Bingo, in Austin

At just before four each Sunday afternoon, grandmas, hipsters, middle-aged lovers of the two-step, and kiddos who haven’t caught up to the legal drinking age start to fill Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon. They happily cram the dimly lit hole-in-the-wall just as Dale Watson begins his set. But the real reason they’ve flooded this dive is to play chicken shit bingo. At Ginny’s, there is no spinning basket of lettered and numbered balls, no elderly gentleman calling out squares. There’s just a piece of plywood, gridded with boxes numbered 1 through 54, sprinkled with feed and hand-torn bread, and enclosed with chicken wire. For $2 you buy a number and hope that the “caller,” an auburn-feathered hen named Sissy, eats enough of that feed to, ahem, relieve herself on your square. If she does, you win the pot of money, which just might be enough to buy you and your friends a chicken dinner. 5434 Burnet Rd., 512-458-1813. Stacy Hollister

5. See the world in San Antonio by Flaco Jiménez

I love to experience the incredible view from the top of the Tower of the Americas. It was built for the World’s Fair in 1968 and is 750 feet tall, making it the tenth-tallest building in Texas. The view is amazing—you can gaze from the Alamo down the River Walk and peer into the hazy distance of South Texas. Stay for dinner in the revolving restaurant and watch the sun set and the city begin to sparkle with lights. Someday, maybe the Texas Tornados will play there. Jiménez is a legendary Tejano accordionist and member of the Texas Tornados.

6. Visit the State Fair of Texas, in Dallas by Bob Phillips

It was the autumn of 1963 and my best friends, Charles McCommas and Greg Chitsey, and I were all twelve years old. Dallas of the fifties still lingered. It was an innocent time for us and the world. That would all change in November, but on that day we were simply young boys in search of adventure. We got free tickets and Friday off from school for State Fair of Texas Day. Better yet, our parents had decided it would be okay for us to go alone. It was the most freedom we had ever enjoyed in our short lives. I still get those feelings every time I go to the state fair today. Big Tex! The midway! Fried food! The rush of memories and the sense of independence from that day nearly fifty years ago still come back. Phillips has been the host of the television program Texas Country Reporter since 1972.

7. Explore Palo Duro Canyon

At 120 miles long, about 20 miles wide, and 800 feet deep, Palo Duro Canyon is big enough to make any Texan proud. You can explore it by car, on foot, or on horseback and take in the stunning hues of purple, gray, and orange rock mixed in with the greens of mesquite and juniper trees. The canyon also provides the dramatic backdrop for the musical Texas, which runs from June to August and tells the story of the struggles and victories of the Panhandle settlers. The amphitheater fills with people from all over the world wanting to learn about the state and its myth. And nothing says Texas like a horseman carrying the Lone Star flag and a brilliant fireworks show. Patricia Busa McConnico

8. Buy A Pair Of Custom Boots

The happiest of all the many booted Texans are those who can slip on a pair made by hand just for them. With the leather (calfskin to crocodile), design (gentleman rancher or dance hall dandy), and artistry (spare or ornate) all of your choosing, custom boots can be an outward expression of your inner cowboy or cowgirl. And they’re assured to fit like gloves hewed from warm butter. Well-thought-of bootmakers abound in Texas, whether it’s cobbler to the stars Lee Miller, at Austin’s Texas Traditions, who apprenticed under bootmaking legend Charlie Dunn (see the song “Charlie Dunn,” by Jerry Jeff Walker); San Angelo’s M. L. Leddy’s (also in Fort Worth); El Paso’s Rocketbuster Boots; or San Antonio’s Little’s Boots. Find a reputable shop and get in for a fitting. Soon enough you’ll be standing taller, truly well-heeled and happy in your very own custom creations. David Courtney

9. Float A River

You might get sunburned. You might scrape your butt. And you might lose a beer or three when your cooler overturns. But is there a better way to defy the torrid summer heat than splayed across an inner tube on a spring-fed waterway? There’s the Guadalupe (light rapids and celebratory college students), the Comal (blessedly short), the San Marcos (so clean you could drink it), the Brazos (nice and slow), and the Frio (secluded and icy cold). Whichever river you choose (and whichever of its numerous outfitters; find a list at, bobbing lazily for a few hours restores belief that life in triple-digit temperatures is actually possible. At least until you reach the take-out point and have to wait for the van ride back. Katharyn Rodemann

10. Sip a Dublin Dr Pepper

It is ten o’clock in the morning, and I won’t lie to you: I am drinking one right now. The ice-cold eight-ounce bottle proudly proclaims the signature ingredient, Imperial Pure Cane Sugar. No need for the high-fructose corn syrup that has become part of the standard formula for Dr Peppers elsewhere. That simple tweak makes a Dublin—named for the city whose bottling plant has been producing the Texas-born refreshment since 1891—a throwback indeed. I drank my first one in elementary school. After I returned home from a hard day of spelling tests and multiplication tables, Mom poured a small amount in my Billy Joe Dupree mug as part of my snack. I’ve been hooked ever since. And with two more left in my refrigerator today, you can guess what I’ll be doing at two and four. Brian D. Sweany

11. Attend a Star Party at the McDonald Observatory, near Fort Davis

“The stars at night / Are big and bright / Deep in the heart of Texas.” But the stars are even bigger and brighter when seen from atop the Davis Mountains, in far West Texas, under what is one of the darkest night skies in the contiguous United States. Every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday nights after sunset, the McDonald Observatory hosts “star parties” at which visitors can peer through several high-powered telescopes and follow along as staff members identify the celestial objects overhead. You might be lucky enough to glimpse the rings of Saturn, but simply gazing up at a starry night sky unsullied by big-city lights is thrilling enough. Pamela Colloff

12. Marvel at the Painted Churches, in Little Bohemia

Some of the state’s most interesting art does not hang on gallery walls. It exists in the elaborate interior murals and frescoes that fill about twenty churches built by Czech and German immigrants one hundred years ago or so. The best place to see these masterpieces is near the towns of Schulenburg, Dubina, High Hill, Praha—an area known as Little Bohemia. The churches themselves are lovely, with lone steeples rising from the prairie, arched Gothic windows, and stone or white clapboard siding. But the painted wooden interiors are simply stunning. The colors are dazzling, the designs intricate. At the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church, in High Hill, there is even trompe l’oeil—the wooden ceilings are painted to give the illusion of Gothic groin vaults. S. C. Gwynne

13. Visit the dead in Fort Worth by Bob Ray Sanders

There is one place most of us will visit after we die, but I would suggest two spots that people should see while they are still in the land of the living. Pioneer’s Rest, on Samuels Avenue, was started in 1850 after land was donated to bury the children of Major Ripley Arnold, the commander of the fort he named Worth (he would later be buried there too). Also on the north side is the sprawling Oakwood Cemetery, on Grand Avenue. It contains two other cemeteries, Calvary and Old Trinity, a historic graveyard once reserved for black people. From large crypts to simple plots, many of the city’s pioneers are buried here, including John Peter Smith. In the Old Trinity section is also the grave site of William “Gooseneck” McDonald, the owner of the city’s first black bank. Sanders is a longtime columnist at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

14. Order a Ribeye at Perini Ranch Steakhouse, in Buffalo Gap

The weathered dining room looks like a bunkhouse (it was). The cooks look as if they should be tending a chuck wagon (they have). Owner Tom Perini, wearing boots, pressed jeans, and a white Stetson, looks like the gentleman rancher he is. The only meats Perini Ranch Steakhouse serves are ribeye, strip, filet, and prime rib, but that lineup has been satisfying customers for 27 years. Wet-aged, butter-tender, and extravagantly marbled, the USDA Top Choice meat is seasoned with Perini’s dry rub (salt, pepper, garlic, beef base, and a touch of oregano). Then it is expertly cooked over mesquite coals. Yes, there may be steakhouses with fancier equipment and decor, but I’ll gladly take the limestone fireplace at Perini’s. For a steak that tastes the way God intended, there’s not a better place in Texas. 3002 FM 89, 325-572-3339. PS

15. Take in the River Walk at Christmas, in San Antonio

The Alamo and the Buckhorn Saloon are only steps away, but the real action is down by the water, where enormous strands of oversized blue, green, orange, and red lights dangle from the trees and everyone seems thrilled to be celebrating the holidays in San Antonio. As our family stood on a footbridge just west of Navarro, a boat full of carolers approached and slipped beneath us. We all waved, and a singer called out to my four-month-old son, “Merry first Christmas!” Such are the simple yet unforgettable memories we will treasure every holiday to come. BDS

16. Climb Mount Cristo Rey, near El Paso by Bobby Byrd

You haven’t been to El Paso until you’ve made the pilgrimage to Mount Cristo Rey on a feast day. Sure, its peak is in New Mexico and its roots boil up out of Mexico, but it’s still El Paso. Thousands will visit the statue of Christ the King. It’s 4.4 miles round-trip, with huge vistas of the Chihuahua Desert, the Franklin Mountains, and the Rio Grande. Get lost amid a river of brown faces, some gringos, abuelitos, cholos, pretty girls, and barefoot penitents, like the monk in a white robe with bleeding feet. Spanish is in the murmur of prayers and Hail Marys, voices giving thanks and asking forgiveness, the promises of love, the secrets and gossip. At the top the 42-foot Christ welcomes everybody. The pilgrims light candles, weep, pray, take photos, laugh, sing. But eventually they must come back down—legs aching, feet sore, happy and at peace. Byrd is the co-founder of Cinco Puntos Press.

17. Dive in at Dolan Falls, along the Devils River

The Devils River may be the state’s greatest natural wonder. Running southward from its headwaters near Ozona to Lake Amistad on the Mexican border, it is one of the most remote rivers in the country. The first thing you notice is its color: Dazzling turquoise pools call to mind travel posters from Tahiti. Then there is its purity: It tastes like expensive mineral water. Then there is the wildlife that abounds everywhere: hawks, falcons, and belted kingfishers in the air and beavers, spotted gars, and smallmouth bass in the water. The most spectacular feature of this spectacular river is Dolan Falls, which lies a mile or so south of the Devils River State Natural Area, near Del Rio. Here water cascades into a thirty-foot-deep, crystalline pool that is probably the best place in the state to go for a swim. Climb the limestone rocks on the downstream side of the falls, then dive into the swirling water. There is no other experience like it. SCG

18. Drive the River Road, near Lajitas

It doesn’t have a name, there’s hardly a sign or marker, yet it’s one of my favorite vistas in the entire state, with an amazing view across time itself. Take FM 170 from Terlingua past Lajitas, and you’ll suddenly find yourself driving along the Rio Grande. The road twists and curves sharply as it rolls west. In a few miles, you’ll pass a rest stop with three tepees, and right away, you begin a steep climb up the two-lane road. At the top, pull over. Scramble over the giant rocks, but scramble carefully: It’s a long way down. The only other sound will be the wind. You can see for miles. That’s the dark and impenetrable Sierra Rica mountains, in Mexico; on our side, to the east, are the Chisos Mountains. Look south at the river as it snakes through Big Bend. Though the Rio Grande is narrow and small or all trickled out through most of the state, here you get a sense of how mighty it is—the river seems to split this whole rugged country in two even as it gently flows along, as it’s been doing for millions of years. Michael Hall

19. Drink a Free Beer at the K. Spoetzl Brewery, in Shiner

Prosit! That’s what ought to come out of your mouth before the refreshing goodness that is a free beer goes into it. It’s a toast that means “good health.” The K. Spoetzl Brewery has been in operation for more than one hundred years and offers tours every weekday. Included in the price of admission (free!) is a visit to the hospitality room. There you can pay homage to the state’s German and Czech heritage with a fresh-poured cup of one of the six or seven beers brewed on-site. The first one comes with three wooden nickels that can each be redeemed for another free beer. Prosit, indeed. 603 E. Brewery, 361-594-3383. DC

20. Fish with your kids at Caddo Lake

Did you know that Caddo Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in the South? Or that it contains the largest cypress forest in the world? Or that this bald cypress wetland, home to four-hundred-year-old trees and some nine hundred species of plants and animals, is the only natural lake in the state? Well, your kids probably didn’t either. So grab your children and your gear and go fishing. Spring is the best time to catch largemouth bass, and with any luck, your adventure will start your children’s lifelong appreciation for the place Don Henley calls his church. While you’re casting, you might have the chance to spy a rare heron or an osprey. But be careful if your expedition takes you into the sloughs and back bayous, because your offspring just might meet the lake’s reputed 901st species—the Texas Bigfoot, who some people swear roams the swampy forests between Uncertain and Gethsemane to this day. Charlie Llewellin

21. Learn to Ride a Horse

I took horse-back riding lessons every Saturday of my childhood from a woman named Lona Collins, and I can still hear her voice, telling me I was on the “wrong diagonal,” meaning I wasn’t lifting my body up at the same time my horse’s leg—the one next to the rail—went forward. Yes, I learned to ride English, which was noodley for a Texas kid, and I think in seven years I won two blue ribbons. But Lona’s lessons didn’t really have to do with winning. Jumping on a horse at five years of age is an act of faith and an act of love, and a triumph over fear and common sense. I fell off too many times to count, but got back on just as many. It’s the best lesson a kid can learn—and it’s not a bad one for parents either. Mimi Swartz

22. Eat Calf Fries at Riscky’s Steakhouse, in Fort Worth

The swinging anatomy that separates the bulls from the steers also separates gastronomically bold Texans from their weak-stomached compadres. Sampling a plate of calf fries—a.k.a. Rocky Mountain oysters or calf testicles—is a seminal challenge for any Texan, a way to honor the “waste not, want not, fry everything” machismo of our cowboy heritage. Today the chewy morsels are standard menu items at meat meccas across the state, including Riscky’s Steakhouse, a down-home joint in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards. It’s not far from where Theo Yordanoff, an enterprising Yugoslav cafe owner, started selling his 15-cent calf-fry sandwiches in the twenties. At Riscky’s, you can get seven ever-so-slightly-sweet nuggets, served with the requisite homemade cream gravy, for just shy of six bucks. Proving that you have the guts to eat nuts is, of course, priceless. 120 E. Exchange Ave., 817-624-4800. Jordan Breal

23. Witness the annual coral spawning in The Gulf Of Mexico

It will be the last August of my life, just after the full moon. I’ll head for the coast, gorge on fried shrimp, and board a dive boat for the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, almost a hundred miles out into the open Gulf. In the stillness of the night, while flying fish are gliding above the waves and whale sharks are stirring up eddies of phosphorescent light, I’ll put on my gear and sink down sixty feet to the reef. And there I’ll finally see it, the event that takes place once a year at this precise moment like some secret alien rite: the annual coral spawning. I’ll find a good observation spot, a little sand channel, perhaps, and watch millions of tiny coral polyps releasing their gametes, their snowflake bundles of eggs and sperm. As my last year comes to a close, as the days of glory in the flower, splendor in the grass, and all-you-can-eat fried shrimp dwindle, it will be a fine and fitting thing to witness this frenetic upward rain of new life. 409-621-5151. Stephen Harrigan

24. Nap Beneath an Ancient Oak in Austin

What could be better on a hot summer afternoon than a dip in Barton Springs? How about a dip followed by a nap under the great canopy of oaks in Zilker Park? Some of those trees have been there for more than a century. The grass is firm and cushy, its smell sweet, earthy, and intoxicating. There will be some kite fliers across the way, but no one will disturb you. You’ll see buzzards riding the wind currents across a blinding blue sky and, if you’re lucky, hear the distant whistle of a Union Pacific train, bound for who-cares-where. Take a book, if you will. My guess is, you’ll be catching z’s before you get past chapter one. 2100 Barton Springs Rd. GC

25. Learn the Two-step

You very well know—come on, admit it, you know—that a honky-tonk is somewhere close by your house. And you very well know you’re supposed to go there, to a place like Billy Bob’s, say, in Fort Worth, because that’s what Texans do. Still, you’re nervous. You’ve stared in bewilderment at the cowboy-hatted couples flying around the perimeter of the dance floor, making two quick steps, then two slightly slower steps, all the while twirling and wheeling like birds in flight. You’re convinced that if you try dancing like that, you’ll step on your partner’s feet and break a toe or trip into some good ol’ boy and his wife who will both beat you to a pulp, and you’ll end up being escorted out of the club by a bouncer who will call you a pansy suburban loser. My advice? Suck it up and take one of the dance lessons that all these clubs offer early in the evenings. Find out how easy it is to do the exact opposite of what your partner does, moving your right foot back, for instance, when your partner moves her left foot forward. Soon you’ll start turning. And then, like magic, you’ll be off, moving counterclockwise, going faster and faster—so thrilled to be a part of the great sweeping Texas herd that you’ll never want to stop. Skip Hollandsworth

26. Visit Donald Judd’s 100 Mill Aluminum Boxes, in Marfa

The greatest piece of art in Texas is also the easiest to make fun of (“Boxes?!? All it is is boxes?”), but if you’ve never walked through the two former artillery sheds in Marfa where Judd’s masterpieces are housed, you’re missing out. Go in the early morning or the late afternoon, when the light brings the aluminum alive, and take your time as you walk back and forth through the buildings, watching as the hard industrial forms become fluid and the reflections carry your eye out the giant plate glass windows, over the dry yellow grasses, up into the hard rock hills, and back down again. Before long you’ll understand why, after touring the installation, a Jesuit priest once turned to Judd, who died in 1994, and said, “You and I are in the same business.” 1 Cavalry Row, 432-729-4362. Jake Silverstein

27. Discover Santa Rita No. 1, in Texon

We take oil for granted, but for earlier generations it was a miracle, something to behold with awe. Nothing captures the sentiments of the oil boom better than an obscure monument in the ghost town of Texon, a collection of decaying frame shacks and ancient wells in the wastes of the Permian Basin. This is the site of Santa Rita No. 1, the discovery well for one of the greatest oil fields on earth. This desolate land and its bounty belong to the University of Texas, and long ago a board of regents erected a monument to express its gratitude. Ignore the bland state historical marker nearby; this one captures the spirit of an age: “The events which have followed [the discovery of oil] stretch the imagination. . . . What took place here compels one to be amazed at the great goodness of providence, the wisdom of early Texans in setting aside land for the development of the educational system of the state.” It is a testament to the transforming power of oil. Paul Burka

28. Order a Brown Derby at Your Favorite Dairy Queen

In Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, Larry McMurtry neatly summarizes the vital necessity of this fast-food chain to rural Texas: “Before the Dairy Queens appeared the people of the small towns had no place to meet and talk.” These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a county without a DQ or two (Texas has nearly six hundred, more than any other state). To fit in with the locals, order a Brown Derby—vanilla soft-serve dipped in chocolate—slide into one of the red vinyl booths, and soak up the gossip. You’ll learn about the last school board meeting, the farmers’ bumper crop (or the drought), or the latest scandal to rock city hall. Now, that’s what I like about Texas. Andrea Valdez

29. Watch the Swiftettes, in Nazareth

Talk all you want about the high school football dynasties in Texas. Then try to compare any of them with the Nazareth High School Swiftettes. That’s right, a high school girls’ basketball team located in a tiny town outside Amarillo with a population of 358 people. On freezing winter nights, the prairie-hardened residents pack into the high school gym to cheer on a group of mostly undersized girls who have won eighteen Class A state girls’ basketball championships since 1977. ESPN has called the Swiftettes “the most dominant girls’ high school dynasty in the nation.” If you want to experience what small-town pride is all about, travel to Nazareth to watch the town celebrate its girls. The sound of that crowd roaring after another Swiftettes’ victory will never leave you. S. Hollandsworth

30. See the Marfa Lights (Or at Least Say You’ve Seen the Marfa Lights)

The truth is out there, though as any sage will tell you, the truth is relative. Do the Marfa lights exist? Locals say yes. Skeptics might note that the lights you see from the round adobe bathroom on U.S. 90—also known as the Marfa Mystery Lights Viewing Center—are actually cars on U.S. 67. But believers will tell you to go elsewhere to see the real lights, the ones that come shooting out from the horizon, the ones that hover over you like motherships, the ones that dance around you like fireflies. For those you have to drive on Nopal Road, which is west of the viewing center. Go slow, make it all the way to the long-out-of-use railroad tracks, then, if you dare, stop the car, turn off your headlights, and wait. You’ll see something, all right. MH

31. Have a Drink at the Mansion on Turtle Creek, in Dallas

It’s only 1,800 square feet. It’s so dark that you have to squint to see who’s across the room. But for the past thirty years, the Mansion bar has been the place where Dallas bigwigs, society dames, up-and-comers on the prowl, and the latest “it” girls in miniskirts have gathered to see and be seen. When it first opened, members from the cast of Dallas could be found there just about every night. Today you can still spot a visiting celebrity throwing down one of the bar’s famous $15 Blazing Turtle drinks (a mixture of ginger-mint simple syrup, fresh peach purée, a splash of Lillet Blanc liqueur, and four ounces of champagne). But the real fun is watching the Dallas crowd getting its buzz on. Lots of marriages have begun and ended at that bar during a Saturday night of what a certain regular describes as “active drinking.” The last time I was there, I watched one of the city’s best-known titans shuttle back and forth from his table at the restaurant, where he was dining with his hoity-toity wife and their rich friends, to a cozy table in a corner of the bar, where his young girlfriend was drinking a little too much and flirting with a bartender. Sadly, there were no theatrics. “Oh, well,” someone said. “There’s always next Saturday night.” 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214-559-2100. S. Hollandsworth

32. Swing Your Partner at the Conjunto Festival, in San Antonio

Marquee names, such as Esteban “Steve” Jordan, Ruben Vela, and Mingo Saldivar, are the festival’s big draw, pulling in the crowds nightly from Thursday to Saturday (this year’s event will be held from May 13 to 15). But my favorite time to stop by is Saturday afternoon, when a mellow family crowd gathers in the outdoor amphitheater at Rosedale Park and many generations take a spin on the dance floor, gracefully shuffling their feet to the music. While the performers may not be as well-known, the vibe is warm and neighborly. 303 Dartmouth, 210-271-3151. Katy Vine

33. Rev Your Engine at the Art Car Parade, in Houston

At some point along the journey from filling your bucket to kicking your bucket, you’ll no doubt go looking to be inspired. I recommend taking a curbside seat along Houston’s Allen Parkway, between Taft and Bagby, for the annual Art Car Parade (this year’s event is May 8 and begins at 1 p.m.). What will roll past are more than 250 of the funkiest, freshest, and oftentimes funniest vehicles for creative expression on the planet. Some of the art cars will be painted with wild designs, others sculpted and welded into something altogether new. Yet more still will find themselves the beneficiary of adhesives, much like the “Sashimi Tabernacle Choir,” a 1984 Volvo covered bumper to bumper with serenading Big Mouth Billy Basses and Rocky the Singing Lobsters. S. Hollister

34. Read Horseman, Pass By

Larry McMurtry, the author of forty books and counting, is the one indispensable native-born Texas writer, and the place to start is with his first novel, a trim 179 pages compared with the massive epic Lonesome Dove. In Horseman, Pass By (1961) McMurtry uses the familiar iconography of the western—cowboys, cattle, cacti—to dramatize the cultural bleakness of provincial rural life in the fifties, the still-relevant issues of racism and sexism, and the transition from the frontier to the modern world. The novel introduced a frankness of four-letter discourse into a literature steeped in gentility, nostalgia, and nature worship. The narrator’s voice brought Texas fiction into the twentieth century: “It hadn’t been long since half the boys in the town had had a wild soiree with a blind heifer, out on a creek one cold night.” No one ever wrote about dating livestock better than that. Don Graham

35. Memorize the Texas Pledge of Allegiance

“I’m a native Texan.” I have uttered those words more times than I can count, but what about “Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible”? To my horror, I realized earlier this year that I didn’t know the pledge of allegiance to the Texas flag. As my daughter stood with her right hand over her heart, reciting it earnestly with her first-grade classmates, I looked at the flag and fumbled. I vowed to learn it. And during the process, the words really hit me. Texans are Texans first. And Texans know that being a Texan is more than where you’re from, it’s who you are. So go ahead, say the pledge. Live the words. Be proud. Be Texan. PBM

36. Get Your Mexican Food Fix at H&H Car Wash and Coffee Shop, in El Paso

Some of the world’s great culinary palates have singled out this quirky, multitasking hole-in-the-wall as one of the best places to eat Mexican food. The El Paso institution, which was opened by a Syrian immigrant in 1958, has been featured on the cover of Saveur, lauded by the James Beard Foundation, and visited by Julia Child, who politely devoured a plate of huevos rancheros. But it doesn’t take a fancy-pants gourmet to recognize the appeal of squeezing in at the turquoise Formica counter and tucking in to a plate of cheese-stuffed chiles rellenos (deep-fried before your eyes) or a stack of thin enchiladas rojas while your ride is hand-washed outside. The experience is unapologetically cross-cultural: Immigrants and visitors, Texans and non-Texans all set aside their differences of creed and language and station as they polish off their carne picada and watch as their Ford trucks and Honda hybrids are buffed to an immaculate shine. 701 E. Yandell Dr., 915-533-1144. JB

37. Ride the Ferry Between Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula

The nighttime version: When I was growing up in Galveston, it was the perfect end to a high school date. Park at the ferry landing, walk onto the boat, and find a spot along the forward rail. The wind would blow cold off the water, and your sweetie would snuggle up for the twenty-minute trip across Galveston Bay to the Bolivar Peninsula. (The return trip was often better because it was into the wind.) The daytime version: Grab a loaf of whole wheat, stand at the back rail, and cast your bread upon the water. Seagulls spot the activity and flock to the scene of the action. Their cries fill the air as they swoop and dart and intercept the crusts in midflight. Seldom does a piece reach the briny deep. 409-795-2230. PB

38. Lose Yourself in History Near Amarillo

One of the great places to get lost in search of Texas history is about ninety miles outside Amarillo, where you are left with the same feeling the settlers had: the awe of the limitless plains and the lonely sound of the wind. Take Texas Highway 207 north from Stinnett for twelve miles until you see an inconspicuous sign with an arrow pointing east that reads “Adobe Walls.” Follow that road until it turns to dirt and the flat plains turn to rocky breaks, some fifteen miles; descend the cliffs to the lovely Canadian River Valley; and discover the location of not one but two of the most famous battles in the state’s history. In 1864 it became the site of one of the largest Indian battles of the Civil War, when Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson was dispatched with 335 men and 75 Indians to put an end to Comanche and Kiowa attacks on wagon trains (Carson barely escaped with his hide). At the second Battle of Adobe Walls, in 1874, 28 men and 1 woman held off more than 700 Indians under the command of the Comanche chief Quanah Parker. It was here that Billy Dixon is said to have made the most famous shot in the West, a blast that knocked an Indian off his horse at seven eighths of a mile. SCG

39. Attend a Day Party at SXSW, in Austin

If you’re short the six or seven hundred bucks it takes to attend the annual South by Southwest Music Festival—the long lines, closed-out shows, and overcrowded venues can be a drag, anyway—don’t let that keep you away from Austin in mid-March. Though some of the biggest bands stick to the official nighttime showcases, the spirit of rock and roll has gravitated to the daytime hours too, when dozens of bars, art galleries, and—why not?—barbershops host free showcases with titles such as Little Steven’s Underground Garage Day Party and Bands, Burgers, and Beers. Onstage—if there is a stage—are plenty of performers who don’t make the SXSW cut, but also plenty who do, and are just happy to play for as many people as they can, amid bountiful kegs and sunshine. Jeff Salamon

40. Pour Whiskey on John Wesley Hardin’s Grave, in El Paso

Life seemed to be taking a positive turn for the outlaw John Wesley Hardin: After serving fifteen years in prison, where he studied law, Hardin set up an office in El Paso and began courting a former bandit’s widow. But his luck turned in August 1895, when Constable John Selman gunned him down at the Acme Saloon. (The coroner is said to have remarked, “If Mr. Hardin was shot from the front, I’d say it was excellent marksmanship. If he was shot from the rear, I’d say it was excellent judgment.”) Concordia Cemetery hosts an annual Hardin murder reenactment each August at the grave site, where you may spot a few history buffs covertly pouring a nip around the headstone, but if you choose to pay your respects some other time, the cemetery’s 60,000-some residents won’t tell a soul. At the corner of Yandell and Stevens, off Interstate 10. KV

41. See the King of Rock and Roll, in Los Fresnos

Large wrought-iron gates with musical notes open onto Simon Vega’s eccentric tribute to Elvis Presley. Vega, who met Elvis in an Army chow line in Germany, turned the second floor of his small abode into a shrine complete with every knickknack and collectible imaginable: pictures, clocks, plates, neckties, statues, albums—even “Love Me Tender” shampoo. The personal tour culminates with a rare aural encounter, when your modest host plays a 1978 recording penned by Vega himself, “The Ballad of Elvis Presley.” 701 W. Ocean Blvd., 956-233-5482. KV

42. Spray-Paint a Car at Cadillac Ranch, Near Amarillo

If you head west on the Interstate 40 frontage road and enter the privately owned cow pasture with an unlocked gate, you’ll find ten Cadillacs, half-buried in the flat plains and covered with graffiti. The unusual public art installation is the brainchild of the millionaire prankster Stanley Marsh 3 and the infamous avant-garde art trio the Ant Farm, who wanted to create the ultimate sightseeing destination along historic Route 66. Nearly three decades ago the group dug ten enormous holes in a wheat field owned by Marsh and planted the cars—Cadillac models ranging from 1949 to 1963—nose down. (In 1997 Marsh relocated the exhibit two miles farther west as development encroached on the once isolated spot.) In the years since, the exhibit has been the best place for Texans to live out their dreams of being graffiti artists. So grab your spray paint, but don’t worry about getting pinched for a misdemeanor: According to the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce, “If you want to paint the cars, knock yourself out.” AV

43. Sit in Silence in the Rothko Chapel, in Houston

Yes, the paintings are dark, and they suggest the dark end the artist himself came to. But the light in the Rothko Chapel is magical and healing. I like to go on a day when the sun comes and goes and the paintings shift with the changes. The benches are hard and backless, so you aren’t tempted to linger—Dominique de Menil, the chapel’s patron, wasn’t big on cozy comfort—but if you stay quiet and breathe in the silence, something will move inside you. Soon enough, you are prepared to step into the busy world again, ready and ever so slightly transformed. 1409 Sul Ross, 713-524-9839. MS

44. Relax at the Live Oak Friends Meetinghouse, in Houston

You can find inspiration at the Rothko Chapel, but just west of the Heights is another sacred space I also love, the Live Oak Friends Meetinghouse. Sit on the simple white-oak pews near sunset and turn your head heavenward: That open space in the ceiling, the Skyspace created by artist James Turrell, becomes an homage to the fading day as the sky shifts from bright blue to a velvety navy. Sometimes a bird flits across your line of sight, sometimes you can feel the night air settle on your upturned face; always you are reminded of the solemnity and brevity of life, how it is impossible to catch and hold on to time, how it disappears, right before your eyes. 1318 W. Twenty-sixth, 713-862-6685. MS

45. Celebrate the Day of the Dead in San Antonio

El Día de los Muertos, which falls on November 2, is not nearly as gloomy as it sounds. The festival pays tribute to departed loved ones but is also a joyful, whimsical celebration of life. If you don’t feel up to building an ofrenda—an offering, or altar, that is festooned with candles, photos, marigolds, sweets, and the deceased’s favorite foods and possessions—then you can head to San Antonio, where the holiday is a citywide cultural event. Local galleries and museums display ofrendas, musicians honor conjunto greats who have passed away, dance troupes perform traditional Mexican folklórico, and Day of the Dead processions wind their way through the city. Of course, wherever you may be on November 2, you can always raise a glass of tequila and toast your ancestors. PC

46. Watch Two Classic Texas Films

As stories about heroes go, Lonesome Dove was a lot better than any John Wayne film, but let’s forget about legends and talk about movies where the heroes are harder to define. The Last Picture Show, adapted from another Larry McMurtry novel, is a loss-of-innocence story set in a West Texas town in the fifties where there was never a whole lot of innocence to begin with. The film is nostalgic, but it’s unvarnished too: A mentally handicapped kid has sex with the town hooker, a lonely teenager sleeps with his football coach’s even lonelier wife, and the town’s most respected figure has never gotten over the affair he had with a married woman. Tender Mercies, written by beloved Texas playwright Horton Foote, is the story of a burned-out country singer who turns his life around with the help of a widow, her young son, and her church. The movie was shot near Waxahachie, and Robert Duvall spends a lot of time staring off into the plains, where there is not a damn thing to look at—no rugged mountains, no swollen rivers, no cattle drives. Nothing but people, and the things they do to, and for, each other. Nate Blakeslee

47. Eat a Chicken-Fried Steak at Mary’s Cafe, in Strawn

The full Mary’s experience begins with the inevitable hike in from wherever you parked on the dusty two-lane highway out front. (Do not arrive at noon or six p.m.) It continues with the wait for a table in the plain-Jane room, with its beige walls, black chairs, and beer signs. (Repeat: Do not arrive at noon or six p.m.) Once you place your order for a chicken-fried steak, things start hopping. Unless the place is slammed, your steak will arrive at supersonic speed in all its golden-brown, plate-lapping glory. Half an inch thick, tenderized on-site, it’s cooked on a flat grill, the old-fashioned way. In other words, it’s not one of those preposterously battered, preternaturally fluffy modern CFSs. Cut off a piece with your fork (knife unnecessary) and take a bite. It tastes of meat, not grease or batter. Dip it in the cup of generously peppered cream gravy that comes alongside. The flavors meld deliciously. By the time you finish your steak, choice of potato, and Texas toast, you won’t be hungry again for a week. 119 Grant Ave., 254-672-5741. PS

48. Visit Buddy Holly’s Grave, in Lubbock

The bespectacled rock legend was still a rising star when his brief career was cut short by a plane crash in 1959, but his influence continues to this day. For dedicated fans, Holly’s flat granite headstone at the City of Lubbock Cemetery is sacred ground, and about a dozen visitors stop by each week to sing a chorus from their favorite song, make a video, or leave behind sunglasses, CDs, and guitar picks. For reasons that remain unclear, some folks leave pennies and nickels, as if contributing to an eternally low tip jar. 2011 E. Thirty-first, 806-767-2270. KV

49. Drive the Freeways at Night in Houston

I always tell my son to stay off the freeways after eleven o’clock, because that’s when terrible things happen to people, especially NBA stars driving too fast in their zillion-dollar cars. But sometimes, when the world is closing in and the night air is just too stifling, there is only one thing to do: Get on the freeway, roll the windows down, and turn the radio up. If you follow Loop 610, you can travel from the lights of the Galleria to the lights of the refineries and back again. Out on the Southwest Freeway, the neon from the titty bars and strip centers—those are different things in Houston—offers a rainbow of comfort for whatever ails you. Take Interstate 45 south and you can be in Galveston for the sunrise. Just don’t tell anyone under 21 that you did it. MS

50. Attend a Classic High School Football Game

Football in Texas is a hallowed tradition, like barbecue and religion. Every Friday in fall, high school stadiums fill with family, friends, and fans as the lights shine big and bright, illuminating the young stars on the field. Whether it’s a 5A dynasty or a 1A six-man team, this is football in its ideal form. Think of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees leading the Westlake High School Chaparrals to a 16-0 season and the 1996 5A Division II state championship. Or Colt McCoy taking his 2A Jim Ned High Indians all the way to the championship game in 2003, where the San Augustine Wolves prevailed. Southlake Carroll, Katy, Temple. Lake Travis, Longview, Abilene Cooper. Albany, Goldthwaite, Wellington. Fort Davis, Paducah, Throckmorton. Parents work the concession stands, girlfriends lead the cheers, and the band thrills the crowd at halftime. It’s Friday night—and it’s pure Texas. DC

51. Visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, in Austin

You could do as you’ve done every April: Throw the kids and a camera in the car, drive to the nearest highway, and—quick! there!—pull over to record that instant in the bluebonnets. But if it’s a moment of transcendence you seek, then you’ll head to the mecca of native blooms instead: the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Here, surrounded by the reds of Indian paintbrush and winecup, the pinks of spiderwort and prairie verbena, the yellows of tickseed and Texas star, and the blues of dayflower and, of course, our beloved Lupinus texensis, you’ll experience the riotous explosion of spring like nowhere else. Dial in to the cell phone audio tour—you’ll hear an introduction by the patron saint of wildflowers herself—and walk among ponds and sandstone arches, explore dirt trails, marvel at pupating butterflies in the insectary, and revel in the six-hundred-plus kinds of flora before you. Oh, yes—and take photos. Lots of photos. 4801 La Crosse Ave., 512-232-0100. KR

52. Roll Down Miller Hill, in Houston

AstroWorld may be gone, but the city’s original roller coaster, 24-foot-high Miller Hill, in sprawling Hermann Park, can still be enjoyed from six in the morning until eleven at night. Race to the top, lie down on your side, and let gravity do the rest. The dizzying rush lasts longer than most amusement park rides, the slope never breaks down, and the place is free. Eat your heart out, Six Flags. 6201 Hermann Park Dr., 713-524-5876. AV

53. Attend Mass at Mission Concepción, in San Antonio

Come, all ye who are heavy laden—whether with life’s travails or an insatiable interest in history—and you will find rest at Misión Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña. As the best preserved of the churches in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, this eighteenth-century chapel is also arguably the most beautiful: The original walls, roof, and twin bell towers remain intact, as do many of the frescoes. A renovation project that began last fall has temporarily shuttered the building, but as soon as the replastering and repainting is completed (sometime this month), slip in at ten o’clock on a Sunday morning for Mass. The ancient carved stonework, the bilingual liturgy, the unrivaled acoustics that always make the choir sound bigger than it is, and the congregation’s members around you—who are almost all second-, third-, and fourth-generation parishioners—unmistakably evoke our Spanish colonial past. 807 Mission Rd., 210-534-8646. KR

54. Collect a Lightning Whelk on Matagorda Bay

Stop beachcombing for starfish and sand dollars and concentrate instead on sifting the sand for a lightning whelk. Named for the brown, lightninglike streaks running vertically down its side, the official state shell features a rare counterclockwise spiral with a left-handed opening. The mollusk is common enough in Gulf waters, but an abandoned shell can be an elusive souvenir. Your best bet? Matagorda Bay, near Palacios, whose relative lack of visitors increases your chances of spotting the perfect specimen. AV

55. Enter a Chili Cookoff

Do you turn up your nose at Frito pies bedecked with canned chili? Do you brag on the secret family recipe that’s been passed down for seven generations? Then quit boasting from the confines of your kitchen and put your bowl of red center stage. Thousands of chiliheads regularly celebrate our state dish by devoting hard-earned Saturday mornings to cookoffs, hoping for a coveted first-place trophy and the chance to earn enough points to qualify for one of the championship cookoffs in Terlingua. Contact your local chamber of commerce to find the closest competition, and start stewing up your magical mix of meat, red chiles, secret spices, and various other ingredients, which, I’m obligated to point out, cannot include beans. The major chili societies forbid the offending filler. AV

56. See the Dogwoods Bloom in Palestine

“If winter comes,” asks the poet, “can spring be far behind?” In the forests of East Texas, it is not the west wind of Shelley’s ode that heralds the turning of the seasons but the dazzling white blooms of the Cornus florida, commonly known as the flowering dogwood. The name of the tree, which can grow forty feet high, comes from a variety that originated in England, where its bark was used to help bathe mangy dogs. And the best place to see dogwoods in all their glory is Davey Dogwood Park, in Palestine, which has hosted the Dogwood Trails Festival every year since 1938 (held on the weekends of March 20, March 27, and April 3 this year). The park has more than five miles of roads where you can drive among the trees or walk on the trails. Yet a more, well, romantic option is to ride the Texas State Railroad, a journey through the forest from Palestine to Rusk and back. 210 N. Link, 903-723-3014. PB

57. Buy a First Edition in Archer City

Why hasn’t Archer City become the next Marfa? It has all the qualifications: It is perfectly located on the way to nowhere, a famous film was shot there, it has lots of quaint buildings downtown that nobody is using, and it has a patron saint in Larry McMurtry, who over the past 24 years has turned his quiet North Texas hometown into a magnet for a particular type of visitor. With more than 250,000 books, McMurtry’s bookstore, Booked Up, now fills four downtown buildings, making it one of the largest collections in the country. One recent arrival was a 1929 inscribed first edition of The XIT Ranch of Texas and the Early Days of the Llano Estacado, by the West Texas historian and antisocialist crusader J. Evetts Haley. At $1,500, it’s still cheaper than most of the art for sale in Marfa, and you can look at it and tell right off the bat what it means. 216 S. Center, 940-574-2511. NB

58. Stop for Kolaches at the Czech Stop, in West

Remember these coordinates: fifteen miles north of Waco, exit 353, east side of Interstate 35. It’s there that you’ll find a modest Shell gas station that happens to be one of the most frequented pit stops in the state. Road-trippers in the know jockey for spaces in the parking lot (and the overflow lot across the street) to wait in line for the kolaches made daily at the bakery inside. The yeasty rolls, which come sweet (fruit and cream cheese) and savory (sausage and cheese), are served right from the oven. As a friendly employee stuffs a box with your requests—a couple of the švestkové (prune), a handful of the trešnové (cherry), a few of the broskvy (peach), throw in a jablkové (apple)—take a moment to silently thank the Czech and German immigrants who began settling (and baking) here more than one hundred years ago. Bolstered by the smell of sweet dough filling your car, you can veer back into the slipstream of maniac drivers on I-35 knowing that happiness is a warm kolache. 105 N. College, 254-826-5316. JB

59. Read the First Chapter of Los de Abajo at the Pablo Baray Apartments, in El Paso

Mariano Azuela’s Los de Abajo (loosely translated as “The Underdogs”) is not exactly a Texas classic, but it should be. Azuela, who had been a field doctor for Pancho Villa’s forces, wrote the first novel of the Mexican Revolution while living in exile in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio. It was published as a serial in the city’s Spanish-language weekly, El Paso del Norte, in 1915, during a period in which many key figures of the revolution were coming and going in El Paso, plotting, planning, arguing, and writing. Azuela’s action-packed book (shots are fired on the very first page) gives a vivid sense of the men and women at the heart of this epic war. Read the first few paragraphs while standing on the sidewalk in front of the Pablo Baray Apartments, at 609 S. Oregon Street (where El Paso del Norte’s printing press was located and near the site of Azuela’s residence) and listen to the Spanish and English being spoken all around you and you’ll also get a vivid sense of El Paso’s rich international history. J. Silverstein

60. Snag a Picnic Table at Railroad Blues, in Alpine

You can play pool, drink one of 128 beers, and watch touring rock bands play on the big stage inside. The real action is outside, though, especially on Friday evenings around five. Take a seat at a picnic table and listen in on a crusty bunch of local lawyers, writers, politicians, businessmen, and Sul Ross professors who gather to talk, bitch, argue, pontificate, fulminate, and drink. A few of them—like journalist Jack McNamara (who calls the gathering the “Ain’t It Awful?” seminar)—are famous, at least as these things are measured in West Texas. Political gossip is welcomed, then debated. Conspiracies are offered and mocked. Heroes are praised and torn down. You can take part or you can just sit and watch as the sun crosses the high-desert skies and the train races past just thirty feet away. 504 W. Holland Ave., 432-837-3103. MH

61. Attend the Futurity, in Fort Worth

No offense to bull riding and barrel racing, but for me, nothing captures the spirit of the cowboy way more than cutting. And no event is more important or authentic than the National Cutting Horse Association’s World Championship Futurity, at Will Rogers Coliseum (this year it runs from November 20 through December 12). Fans can enjoy riders from all backgrounds as they saddle up and work to keep one cow separated from the herd for a short period of time, a skill that is an absolute necessity on a working ranch. The elegance of the sport is apparent in how the rider and horse function as a team to keep the animal at bay; the drama comes when one realizes how fast a calf is—and how determined it is to return to the fold. 3401 W. Lancaster Ave., 817-392-7469. BDS

62. See Stephen F. Austin, in Austin

A well-preserved state secret—hiding in plain sight—is the Texas State Cemetery, a place every Texan should discover firsthand. It’s located just east of downtown Austin, between Seventh and Eleventh streets, a beautiful and tranquil sprawl of hills, dales, and pastures, pleasantly shaded and amazingly alive. A walk through the cemetery’s 21 acres is a trip through time, our state revealed in all its greatness, courage, tragedy, and pomposity. You’ll see the grave of Stephen F. Austin, with its bronze Coppini statue, as well as the final resting places of more-contemporary Texas leaders like Ann Richards, John Connally, Barbara Jordan, and Allan Shivers. But this isn’t just a place for politicians: Also buried here is Willie “El Diablo” Wells, who played in the Negro Leagues and is perhaps the greatest shortstop who ever lived. 909 Navasota, 512-463-0605. GC

63. Appear on the Cover of texas monthly

Only a handful of texas monthly writers have ever appeared on our cover. Richard West was once accompanied by a beautiful model. I was accompanied by a bowl of chili, which, when readers turned to the story, was flipped upside down on my head. It was November 1978, and the Legislature had just declared chili the official state dish. Outraged at the snub of barbecue, I decided to write a story debunking chili—chili cookoffs, chili restaurants, chili recipes, chili chic, chili lore. I said no to the cover idea, but the art director bribed me with the offer of a new suit. Before the shoot, I called the cleaners. “Can you salvage a suit with chili all over it?” I asked. “Bring it in right away,” they said. “It won’t have chili on it until tomorrow,” I replied. The cover line was “I’m Paul Burka, and I hate chili,” and if I didn’t really hate it before I was on the cover, I sure did after the magazine came out. I didn’t go out in public for a month. If you’d like to be on the cover of texas monthly doing something on your bucket list, go to and follow the directions to upload your photograph. PB