Epic, bigger-than-life Texas, or the sporty, action-packed Utah? It’s hard to choose between the two, but sadly many travelers just don’t have the time or budget to explore both.
First, we have Texas, a gargantuan state with its own unique and uniquely American culture, as well as some of the richest history found in the country. Utah, on the other hand, is undeniably one of the great outdoor states where nature lovers and adrenaline junkies can fulfill even their most extreme desires.
So – south or west? It’s up to you to decide. Today we’re going to compare these two states based on five important travel categories: cities, national parks, ease of travel, price, and things to do. Hopefully, showing you how these states fulfill these categories will give you better insight into which one will offer you the best travel experience that fits your needs.
Texas or Utah: Ease of Travel
One thing that new travelers to Texas need to keep in mind is that this state is HUGE. At almost 270,000 square miles, it is one of the biggest states in the US second only to Alaska. Utah, in comparison, sits at just under 85,000. It’s important to keep the sheer size of Texas in mind when you’re thinking about traveling here.
To put it lightly, Texas is bigger than many countries, and you won’t be seeing even half of the state on your first visit. You’ll have to pick your destinations here more strategically to ensure your trip isn’t stretched too thin and you don’t spend too much time on the road. However, travel through the state is not difficult and you can move around by car, bus or train.
Most travelers choose to see the state via car. Major cities like Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio do suffer from congestion and crawling traffic, so you should always take extra time into account if you’re driving. Thankfully, roads outside of cities tend to have very little traffic. If you want to travel across state by train you can purchase a USA Rail Pass from Amtrak, where you’ll be able to reach most major areas. You can also use public transport by bus in the cities, and reach less populated areas with bigger bus companies (think Greyhound and Amtrak).
Aside from the obvious size discrepancy, traveling through Utah is not too different from traveling through Texas. You can certainly get around by public bus or train, but cars are usually the preferred method of moving around. Traveling by car is especially important here, however, because so many of the best things to do are outside of the major city centers. Traveling by car gives you the freedom to see Utah’s best sights on your own terms.
Winner: Utah. Both states are equally easy to get around, but because Texas is so much larger, you will likely have to spend much more time on the road to see as many different places and attractions.
Texas or Utah: Price
The price of travel can vary somewhat between Texas and Utah. Of course, the cost of your stay in these places will also vary based on what you want to do, where you stay, and how much money you have to spend.
Traveling in Utah is likely to set you back around $50 to $100 per day for daily expenses as a solo traveler, and approximately $90 to $115 for a one to 3-star hotel room. A day of travel in Utah will probably cost between $140 to $215 for everything including transport, food & drink, entertainment, and accommodation.
Texas, on the other hand, has average accommodation costs of $156 per day. This is based on the largely varying costs of accommodation between cities. For example – the average cost of a hotel in Houston is $227, compared to only $90 in Austin. Daily expenses will cost around $50-80 from city to city. Travel costs in Texas will vary considerably based on where you are traveling.
Winner: Utah. Though Texas is affordable in some places, average prices are more consistent and lower in Utah.
Texas or Utah: Things To Do
No matter which state you choose, there is plenty to do in both Texas and Utah, and you’re unlikely to run out of fun in either place. While they share some similarities in terms of popular attractions, both states also have their own activities that are very much unique to them.
As they say, “everything is bigger in Texas,” so you can expect some epic, larger-than-life seeming experiences in the Lone Star state. This is particularly clear when you look at its history – you’ll find some of the country’s most impressive historic sites here, including the Alamo (part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park), the Texas State Capitol, and the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site.
Despite the historic significance of this enormous state, Texas certainly isn’t living in the past. Cities like San Antonio and Austin are at the forefront of American cuisine with some of the best restaurants and food cultures in the country. And Austin is also known as the “live music capital of the world,” so it’s a must for musos and travelers who want to indulge in some high-quality entertainment.
As mentioned, Utah is every part of an outdoor state, and many travels here to get the best in extreme sports, outdoor leisure activities, and some of the most vivid scenery in the American West. The national parks here are near unbeatable, and entire small cities and towns are built around winter sports, mountain biking, hiking, camping, and numerous other off-road adventures.
When it comes to Utah’s impressive national parks, we would recommend taking the time to visit all five. This is simply because there are several direct routes that make it easy to visit all three within a 1 ½-2 week period without making detours. If you have the time, we definitely recommend a National Park Road Trip of Utah.
Winner: Texas. As a bigger state with a much larger population, it just makes sense that there is more to do here, with a broader variety of attractions that appeal to more diverse groups.
Texas or Utah: National Parks
When you’re venturing from state to state in the US, national parks are an important thing to consider. These government-protected conservation spaces are some of the most significant sites for both international and domestic tourists in the country, and they’re something you want to add to your itinerary if you’ve got the time. So how do Utah and Texas’ national parks fare?
Utah has five national parks – Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef. These sites vary significantly in their geography and are a great way of seeing what the Utah countryside has to offer. There are also 12 other sites registered under the National Parks Service (NPS) – These include multiple fascinating historic sites, recreation areas, hiking trails, and memorial monuments.
Zion, with its red and white sandstone cliffs and epic canyons, is considered by many to be one of the best national parks in the country. Arches, with its incredible rock formations and naturally occurring bridges, and Bryce Canyon, with its rock columns and stargazing opportunities, are also held in very high regard.
Texas, on the other hand, has only two official national parks: Big Bend National Park, which encompasses most of the Chihuahuan desert on the US-Mexico border, and the Guadalupe Mountains, a lush mountain range with extensive hiking trails. Both are located in west Texas. It also has 14 areas under the NPS.
Winner: Utah. Both have their share of beautiful parks and conservation sites. But we’ll go with Utah as it does have five parks compared to Texas’ two, including the acclaimed Zion National Park, and the popular Bryce Canyon and Arches.
Texas or Utah: Cities
Texas and Utah are fairly different when it comes to their metropolitan areas, with Utah offering far more outside the city centers, where the true gems of the state can be found in the scenery and recreational possibilities of its stunning countryside. For the most part, its major cities are not densely populated in comparison to Texas. They don’t draw as many travelers as some smaller cities and towns that link up to Utah’s national parks and other outdoor attractions.
- Salt Lake City: The capital of Utah with the highest population, Salt Lake City offers many of the conveniences of city life while also giving you access to stunning outdoor scenery and recreational opportunities. Here you’ll have the opportunity to visit museums and historic sites while venturing out to ski, hike, bike, and fish in the Wasatch mountains and surrounding areas.
- Provo: This picturesque town is considered one of the best places to live in Utah. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Wasatch Front and sitting on the eastern shores of Utah Lake, Provo is a great spot for hiking, rafting, and enjoying what this scenic state has to offer.
- Moab: Moab is the mountain-biking capital of the state, and is the absolute definition of an “adventure town.” Here there is no shortage of fun – but we do recommend you rent a Jeep first so you can explore some of the best driving tracks in the state, and get the most out of the town.
- Park City: this resort town is a holiday haven for Utah residents and visitors alike. Park City is well-loved both for world-class skiing in the winter, and its excellent cultural festivals including the annual Sundance Film Festival.
Though there are towns and smaller cities that also offer attractive outdoor activities, Texas is well-known for its bustling cities full of rich culture, history, and attractions. And as densely populated cities they tend to draw more tourists than rural areas, compared to Utah where many tend to travel outside of the main cities.
- Houston: As the fourth largest city in the US, you could spend your entire holiday in Houston and still miss a lot of it. With renowned museums and live entertainment, you’ll find all the perks of a fully-developed city while still experiencing the energy and attitude that encompasses Texan culture.
- Galveston: Brimming with southern charm and perfect summer vibes, Galveston is an island city on the Gulf of Mexico, and is easily one of the most beloved vacation destinations for Texans. Here you can spend your days enjoying the 32 miles of beach and surf, and exploring the city’s fascinating historic district.
- San Antonio: San Antonio is best-known for the astounding history that can still be felt on its streets, with the Alamo and several other historic missions bringing in millions of tourists. We recommend taking the San Antonio River Walk, which guides you past many of the city’s most popular attractions.
- Austin: In recent years, Austin has taken off as one of the fastest-growing major cities in the country. With an innovative food scene, unbeatable live music, and thriving nightlife, there’s plenty to see and do.
Winner: Texas. While the towns and cities of Utah offer beautiful scenery and outdoor activities, the greatest cities in Texas are chock-full of history, culture, and innovation, and are some of the most popular cities to visit in the United States.
Texas or Utah: Conclusion
When it comes to choosing between Texas or Utah, Texas is probably going to be a more attractive travel experience for most tourists. In the major cities, you’ll find excellent entertainment opportunities on par with almost anywhere else in the country and some of the richest history around, and outside of the cities there are national parks, protected hiking trails, and beautiful beaches. It really is the best of both worlds and comes in first for us as it can appeal to virtually any demographic.
On the other hand, Utah is a veritable paradise for nature lovers and outdoor adventure-seekers. If your favorite things about travel include traversing beautiful national parks, exploring canyons, hiking through mountains, or skiing and snowboarding in the winter, then Utah will be a winner for you, hands down. It is also more affordable, which may appeal more to travelers on a budget.