A state as vast and untamed as Texas is going to have its fair share of unusual attractions. From small-town celebrations of regional produce to mysterious natural wonders, Texans haven’t found a niche they couldn’t turn into a party.
Various Texas cities and towns pledge allegiance to one form of fruit or another and have the longstanding, impressively scaled festivals to prove it. The Poteet Strawberry Festival, founded in 1948, draws 100,000 visitors in April who gorge on the city’s famed strawberries while enjoying a parade, music, contests, rodeo performances, and a carnival.
The Luling Watermelon Thump, a four-day summer fest, dates to 1954 and boasts similar attractions as well as melon-eating, melon-judging, and seed-spitting contests. At Grapevine’s GrapeFest, held since 1986, you can flock to Main Street for live music and tastings from many of Texas’s 400 wineries.
Other food-inspired fetes include the springtime Texas Onion Festival in Weslaco, the summertime Parker County Peach Festival in Weatherford, the summertime Texas Blueberry Festival in Nacogdoches, the autumnal Lone Star Gourd Festival in New Braunfels, and the Floresville Peanut Festival in October.
Urban areas, meanwhile, offer thriving spaces for artistic expression. The Houston Art Car Parade annually attracts crowds as large as 250,000 with its procession of lavishly decorated cars. If you long to see a VW Beetle shaped like Yoda or a taco on wheels, this is your destination.
The parade began in 1986 as a modest procession of 20 vehicles and has ballooned into a multiday hurrah featuring 250 cars and live entertainment, food, and drinks. Year round, you can visit the Art Car Museum, founded in 1998 with conceptual origins in an influential 1984 show.
The state’s great outdoors offers the enigmatic and offbeat. In West Texas, you might discover the intrigue of the Marfa Lights, mysterious lights that blink in the distance off Highway 90. Spotted several dozen times a year, the blips have been explained as atmospheric reflections of car headlights and campfires, but lingering doubt leaves room for wild theories.
Just as confounding is Prada Marfa, an art installation on the same highway that’s a life-size replica of a Prada store. Despite its name, you’ll find this roadside photo op closer to the town of Valentine, about 26 miles northwest of Marfa. Five hours east, near Fredericksburg, enjoy 11 miles of hiking trails at Enchanted Rock, a land formation rife with ghost tales and history about local settlers and Native Americans. (The sunsets are enchanting, too.)
There’s more to see, including Cadillac Ranch, an installation of painted, half-buried cars in Amarillo; Stonehenge II, a two-thirds replica of Stonehenge in Ingram; and a 65-foot-tall Eiffel Tower with a red cowboy hat atop it in Paris, Texas.