Expected: Bona fide cowboys
When you walk into a saloon in Texas you will find hooks fixed to the booth. Ladies, these are not for your bag - they're for cowboys to hang their hats on. Authentic cowboys are found in rural areas away from the wannabes that the cities attract. If you want to see the genuine article, the town of Bandera is the cowboy capital of the world. Expect horses hitched to posts and meals from the back of a chuck wagon.
Unexpected: Spanish flair
You will hear the word Tejano (Spanish for Texan) spoken often in San Antonio, where the majority of people have Hispanic heritage. Sombreros replace cowboy hats, tacos are a breakfast food and the city's market square is the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico. Here you're likely to find flamenco dancers and mariachi bands, and you may spot some charros horsemen (traditional Mexican riders) in their sombreros. Salsa is not just a side dish in San Antonio; at establishments such as Rosario's Café y Cantina salsa dancing is fuelled by Tex-Mex food and margaritas.
Expected: Texas style proportions
They say that everything's bigger in Texas - and that begins with meals. The Texan barbecue is an obsession and fat slabs of beef are a testament to the state's cattle industry. Most self-respecting barbecues will serve steak, ribs, sausage and bread on a stack of butcher's paper that doubles as a grease-relieving hand wipe. Do not commit the faux pas of asking for barbecue sauce - most places won't deliver, saying they have nothing to hide. Don't expect forks either - as one venue puts it, they can be found "at the end of your arm".
Unexpected: Small eccentric venues
With the town slogan "Keep Austin Weird", you know you're in for a surreal time in this city. Roadside food is all the rage here and some of Austin's best grub comes from the smallest of venues - the Airstream trailer. Found in car parks, these moveable feasts dish up some wacky cuisine.
At food cart Oh my Lard! everything is deep fried, from the Oreos to the dill pickles. At the Chocosutra trailer you can try spicy chocolate guacamole before cooling down with a basil spritzer from The Ice Cream Social Truck.
Expected: Vast stretches of desert
Think Texas, think cactus. When in bloom the distinctive plant provides a shot of technicolour to the otherwise ochre uniformity of the desert. The largest piece of protected Chihuahuan desert in Texas is at Big Bend National Park, where you'll find the Chisos Mountains. The most popular attraction in the park is a vantage point called The Window, where a break in the red rock frames a view of terrain that seems to wrap around the horizon.
Unexpected: Rolling green hills
Forget boulders and sand, Texas has a little known landscape of undulating green fields aptly called Hill Country. The New York Times compared this region to Tuscany and nominated it as the number one place to visit in North America. Wildflowers are so prolific in spring that there is a Bluebonnet Trail consisting of country roads meandering through pastel-carpeted meadows. The scene is that of an Impressionist painting streaked with yellow, blue and red. This region is increasingly recognised for its quality wine too.
THE TRUTH ABOUT TEXAS
Did you know?
Texas is larger than Great Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands combined.
It's illegal to put graffiti on someone else's cow.
It is still a hanging offence to steal cattle.
The hamburger was created in Athens, Texas in the late 1880s.
The soda drink Dr Pepper was invented in Waco in 1885 by Charles Alderton who was a pharmacist.