Sam Houston: A Giant Among Men

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Huntsville, TX; Texas travel, Sam HoustonY'all don’t have to be from Texas to know that Sam Houston was a key figure in the history of this iconic state. The fact that one of our biggest metro areas is named after him is a clue that he did something significant.

In 1832, Sam Houston arrived in Texas which, at the time, was a territory of Mexico. Houston supported annexation by the United States and was tapped to command a ragtag Texan army against the Mexican forces. Houston proved himself to be a brilliant military leader and his decisive victory at San Jacinto secured Texas its independence.

You also don’t have to be from the Lone Star State to have heard the phrase: “Everything’s bigger in Texas”. And that's certainly the case when it comes to the way Texans pay tribute to the Lone Star Republic’s first president! In the city of Huntsville, which is about 70 miles north of Houston, you’ll find a 67 foot tall statue of Sam Houston standing on a 10 foot granite base. Built by artist Davis Adickes and named “A Tribute to Courage”, it's the tallest statue of an American hero, so don’t worry about not being able to find it! If you're driving along I-45 and see the traffic start to slow down as the statue comes into view, it's probably because people are trying to snap pictures of this awesome landmark. I would recommend that you concentrate on your driving and get off at the exit to the statue (if you're driving north, take exit 109; driving south, it's exit 112). This way you’ll be able to gaze upon and take pictures of the giant white man safely and without disrupting traffic. You'll also get the chance to visit the Huntsville Visitor Center. It’s a quaint, historic Texas building complete with charming porch swings. Inside there’s a gift shop, free brochures, and historical information about the Mr. Houston and the area. Granted, you won’t spend a full day here, but it is a nice place to stop, rest and learn about this historic area. And once you do, I’m sure you’ll want to plan on spending some time here exploring the many things to do in Huntsville

Besides, I’m sure it would please Sam Houston if you dropped by for a spell…and you don’t want to get a 67 foot tall man mad at you!

Visit the Sam Houston Statue and Huntsville Visitor Center on Facebook.

Photo source 

Ticket Giveaway for The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival - 22 Winners

Friday, April 4, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

 

TICKET GIVEAWAY - 22 WINNERS - ENTER NOW!

 

The Woodlands, Texas, free tickets


Ready for another big giveaway from TourTexas.com?

22 lucky winners will get a free pair of tickets to Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival
on April 12 and 13th! (A $24 value.)

The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival is a two-day outdoor celebration of visual, culinary and performing arts. This event has been recognized nationally as one of the BEST juried visual arts events in the U.S. You will be inspired by some of the most beautiful works of art and get to meet artists from around the country.  Watch the live "Art of Food" culinary demos and sample delicious hand-crafted food items. Enjoy live music and entertainment at the interactive ‘ARTOPOLY’ area (for kids AND adults). 

Tour Texas is giving away 22 pairs of tickets for FREE admission to the Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival being held on April 12-13.
 
 

Here’s how to enter:

1. Leave a comment here on the blog (below) and answer this question: What do you most look forward to doing in Springtime?

2. Send an e-mail to tickets@TourTexas.com with your name and mailing address.  We will need this to mail your tickets to you if you win. Addresses will only be used to mail tickets and will be deleted after the contest.

 

The first 22 people to complete both steps will receive two free tickets to The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival.

Remember to complete both steps!  Good luck!! 

>> Read more about the The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival

**Don't forget, this is a two-parter!  In order to get your free tickets, you have to leave a comment on this blog AND
send your name and mailing address to Tickets@TourTexas.com!

 

VIVA FIESTA® San Antonio! The Biggest Celebration in Texas

Monday, March 31, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Fiesta San Antonio, things to do in san antonio, texas travel

The whole city of San Antonio is getting ready for a huge party. They're sweeping the streets, grooming the horses, tuning instruments, reviewing plans, ordering up the food - all those things you'd need to do when your city puts on one of the biggest parties in the U.S. It's Fiesta® San Antonio!

Fiesta takes place each April to honor the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto, celebrating the diverse heritage, culture and spirit that make up the city of San Antonio. It's a city-wide phenomenon, with events happening all over town. This year, the party starts on April 10 and runs through the 27th.

In addition to being one the country's biggest festivals, it's also one of the oldest. It began 123 years ago with a parade to honor those who lost their lives at the Battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto. That parade, called the Battle of the Flowers, is still one of the cornerstone events at Fiesta. Other events include authentic Mexican rodeos, historical celebrations, art exhibits, masquerade parties and a gala formal ball, military displays and carnival rides. And, what party would be complete without lots of great music and food? Fiesta's got that covered with plenty of live music and delicious culinary treats.

It takes a whole city to put on such an enormous event. Run almost entirely by volunteers, Fiesta is sometimes called the “Party With a Purpose” because more than 100 local nonprofit organizations and military units create more than 100 terrific events you can enjoy over 18 days. For every dollar spent, you'll know you are helping out organizations that support education and youth programs, the arts, health services and much more.

Admission to Fiesta is free, although many of the events charge a fee. Check the website for the complete event schedule and to buy tickets (on sale now) .

Still going strong since 1891, Fiesta continues to honor those who gave their lives for our freedom, and all heroes, past and present, whose sacrifices keep our beloved country safe. Viva Fiesta! 

Fiesta San Antonio's website and Facebook pages.

Animals Gone Wild! at the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco

Thursday, March 6, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

As my readers know, I am the kind of guy who really enjoys the great outdoors and nature. Lucky for me, I live in Texas -- a state that is teeming with a wide variety of landscapes, terrains and wildlife to experience and enjoy. 

waco texas, things to do in waco, texas travel, texas tourism

When I really need to get my wildlife fix, one of my favorite places to visit is the Cameron Park Zoo, located in Waco. The zoo covers 52 acres and houses more than 1,731 animals from North and South America, Africa, Europe and Asia. (Where you’ll see endangered animals like Sumatran Tigers, Orangutans, and Komodo Dragons.) 

As you might guess, the Lion display is always a big hit, but believe it or not, so is Lemur Island, where a large viewing deck gives guests the perfect location to view not only these ring-tailed primates, but other animals who call the lake their home. I was impressed that the magnificent bald eagles they have in their aviary are only ones that cannot survive in the wild. That kind of concern is typical at the Cameron Park Zoo. The animals all seem to feel at home in their natural habitats and appear to be very well taken care of. They look happy and content with plenty of space for exercise and play. I am very sensitive to things like this; any signs mistreatment would not sit well with yours truly!

If you are looking for something fun and educational to do with your kids, look no further than the Cameron Park Zoo! Besides seeing and learning about all of the many different types of animals and habitats, there are interactive exhibits and a playground, complete with a splash area where the kids can cool off. The zoo is the perfect size for kids…and adults, too. You never feel like you have to rush to see everything; you can probably get through it in about 2 hours at an average walking pace. I tend to linger -- it’s not every day that you get to see animals like these roaming the streets of Texas!

So whenever you get a hankerin’ for a wildlife fix, take a journey to the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, the heart of Texas. I guarantee it’ll do the trick!

>> Cameron Park Zoo on Facebook

It's the World's Largest Event of Its Kind: the Annual Houston Livestock and Rodeo

Friday, February 28, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

rodeo houston, things to do in houston, visit houston, texas travel

Every great city seems to have a signature event: New York City has their annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, New Orleans has Mardi Gras, and Houston has the world famous Livestock Show and Rodeo. The event, also known as RodeoHouston, is the world’s largest entertainment and livestock exhibition and an event not to be missed!

houston livestock show and rodeo, rodeo houston, parade, texas travelHeld in Houston's Reliant Stadium, the actual rodeo begins on March 4 and runs through March 23 but there are fun things to see and do beforehand including the Rodeo Run on March 1 which includes events for runners, walkers and wheelchairs. All entry fees go to the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Education Fund. Following the races is the famous Downtown Rodeo Parade where Houston’s bustling city center is transformed into a down-home western celebration complete with horses (including dancing Andalusian horses), wagons, rodeo clowns, marching bands and western themed floats. There are plenty of other cowboy-themed activities too, like the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, a popular 3 day event featuring cooking, judging and eating, Cutting Horse demos, livestock shows and more -- all leading up to the main event.  
>> View the Daily Events here

houston livestock show and rodeo, rodeo houston, texas travelAnd that main event is, of course, the rodeo. The show is kicked off with the Grand Entry, followed by the National Anthem Salute, a moving experience as spectators rise and sing while a trick rider carries the American flag around the arena. Then it’s time to witness championship rodeo action at its best! Some of the thrilling events include tie-down roping, bareback riding, steer wrestling and - one of the most popular and dangerous events - bull riding.  You can smell the competition in the air (or maybe that's just the manure!)
>> View Rodeo Events here.

Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, Selena Gomez, Maroon 5, Adam Levine,Rodeo HoustonThe Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is also known for its concert series. Many of the world’s biggest recording artists have played there, including Elvis Presley, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson and ZZ Top, to name just a few. This year’s star-studded roster is just as impressive, with Blake Shelton, Selena Gomez, Maroon 5, Usher and Reba among the performers all scheduled to perform. 
>> View the Entertainment Lineup here.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has something for everyone, not just cowboys. But then again, I believe there’s a little cowboy spirit in all of us Americans (and certainly y'all who live here in Texas!)  And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate that than by experiencing The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo!

Tickets are available here for concerts and all other rodeo events.

 

> Rodeo Houston website

> Rodeo Houston Facebook page

Photo Credits:

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The Most Romantic City in TX Helps Guys Channel Their Inner Gentleman

Friday, February 14, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Valentine's Day, Texas travel, TX travel, romance, romantic, be a gentleman

Guys, if y'all are anything like me, it wouldn't kill you to get a little help in the romance department. And the style department. And etiquette and culture, too. In fact, when it comes to things I could use help in, the list is not a short one. But it's Valentine's Day! It's the time to go all out and make the changes that my lady deserves (even though we all know I'll be right back at my uncultured and low-stylin' self by the next day.)

Yesterday, I wrote about San Antonio, the Texas city that's proud to be considered the most romantic in the U.S. (read yesterday's blog here.) This designation puts them in a prime position to become a noted authority on romance -- and they know that we guys need help, so they've put together "The Gentlemen's Guide to Valentine's Day", a website that shares their collective knowledge on how a polished gentleman should behave.

Think you've got what it takes to sweep your "significant other" off their feet? Take the quiz. Then brush up on etiquette and style

Whatever you do for Valentine's Day this year, even if you're just staying home, step up your game a bit and let your date know they're special. 

Valentine's Day, romance, romantic, how to be a gentleman, texas travel

 

 

 

 

 

Which Texas City was Named Most Romantic? You May Be Surprised...

Thursday, February 13, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man
valentine's day, valentines, texas, san antonio
 
San Antonio.  Any time of year, the city oozes romance.
 
A stroll along the moonlit River Walk under a canopy of cypress trees, a glass of wine at a waterside table, the serenade of a mariachi band, the beautiful 18th-century Spanish colonial architecture -- it's all the perfect backdrop for an amorous getaway with the one you love. The city is a hotspot for marriage proposals and a huge wedding destination. No wonder, then, that Travel + Leisure, Amazon and Open Table all have named San Antonio as one of the most romantic cities in the U.S.  
 
And San Antonio certainly knows how to flaunt its strengths. In February, the destination transforms into the “City of Yellow Roses” and amps up the romance factor. Huge yellow rose decorations adorn the sights and landmarks around the city. 

Barges on the River Walk are specially decorated while marimba and mariachi musicians serenade with live music. Horse-drawn carriages bring you and your love through the historic downtown, passing the Alamo and other romantic missions. 

Romance specials and Valentines packages are available this weekend from many participating locations.
 
Hotels are offering added amenities such as complimentary champagne and chocolates, breakfast in bed and of course, long-stemmed yellow roses. Here's a list of participating hotels
 
Restaurants are also conjuring up romantic dishes, unique drinks and Valentine's menus. Whether your idea of romance is white linens and fine wine or barbecue and beer, you're sure to fall in love with these dining deals.
 
And, because San Antonio has become the guru on all things "romance", they've opted to give us guys a little help. Check out their "Gentlemen's Guide to Valentine's Day." For a whimsical look at Dating, Etiquette and Style, get some pointers, take the quiz and dial up your style a notch. 
 
 
>> More about San Antonio at Tour Texas.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

  Yellow Rose photo

Celebrate George Washington's Birthday in Laredo, TX!

Friday, January 24, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man
Laredo, Laredo Texas, TX, visit Laredo, George Washington, Washington's Birthday CelebrationGeorge Washington may never have stepped foot in Laredo, Texas, but that doesn't stop the town from throwing him the biggest and best birthday party in the US!
 
Every January, Laredo kicks off their Washington's Birthday Celebration, a month-long party that draws half a million visitors to the town each year. Founded in 1898, the event is in its 117th year and it is the country's biggest celebration of its kind.  The party kicked off last night and runs through February 24th.
 
But...you may be wondering: why Laredo?
 
It's true that this Texan city on the U.S.-Mexico border doesn't seem the most likely stage for such an American celebration.  In fact, in 1898, the city's culture was more Mexican than American and that was actually the reason it started. The original founders of the event wanted to infuse the city's Mexican culture with American patriotism.  What better way than to honor the Father of our Country? The commemoration takes the best of both cultures, blending red, white and blue Americana with a Mexican fiesta, paying tribute to the spirit of George Washington while celebrating the diversity of the nation he helped build.
 
This year’s celebration is scheduled to include extravagant pageantry, two parades, a wine tasting, tequila tasting and (new this year) beer tasting, a carnival, the world-famous Jalapeño Festival and the Washington's Birthday Parade. >> Full events list 
 
Here are some of the highlights:   
 
Noche de Agave Tequila Tasting (Jan. 24) -  Tequila aficionados can expect to sample various luxury tequilas (up to thirty) at this fundraising event! 
Jamboozie, Laredo Texas, Laredo TX, George Washington's birthday
 
Jamboozie (Jan. 25) - a Mardi Gras-style street party in Laredo's historic downtown.  .
 
The Border Beer Fest (Feb. 1) - Laredo’s first ever celebration for beer enthusiasts.  Enjoy an endless supply of music, food and of course, beer!  Sample a selection or premium brews and vote on your favorites.
 
George Washington Performance at the American Historical Theater (Feb. 12) - features a presentation by George Washington and other historical figures.  FREE! 
 
Stars and Stripes Air Show Spectacular (Feb. 16) - This exciting event showcases vintage planes, with demonstrations by paratroopers and precision pilot teams. 
 
visit Texas, tour Texas, Texas vacation, Laredo vacation, George Washington's birthday
Society of Martha Washington Colonial Pageant and Ball (Feb. 21) - Join the birthday-boy, George Washington and his wife, Martha, as they host this elegant event featuring spectacular and lavish Colonial dresses and costumes. 
 
Fireworks Extravaganza (Feb. 23) - This Grand Finale event of the Celebration lights up the night with an amazing display of pyrotechnics.  FREE! 
 
View the complete events list here.  Tickets to each of the events can be purchased online or in person at Laredo's Mall del Norte.
 
  The Washington's Birthday Celebration truly has something for everyone!
 
 
 
 
 
 
For more ideas on events and fun things to do in Laredo, visit Tour Texas!
 
 
 
 
 

The Houston Auto Show Drives Into Reliant Center

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man
 
 
visit Houston, Houston Auto Show, Tour Texas
 
The holidays may be in our rear view mirrors now but there is still one annual tradition I look forward to every January to welcome the new year: the Houston Auto Show at Reliant Center.
 
visit Texas, Tour Texas, Texas travelThis year's show kicks off tomorrow and will run through January 26th, occupying over half a million square feet of display space and featuring over 500 of the newest vehicles from some of the world’s top auto makers. I plan to do most of my “window shopping” at the Ultra Luxury Boutique. Last year my dream car was a Porsche, but this year I’m thinking I’ll go with an Aston Martin. (Hey, if it’s a good enough for James Bond, it’s good enough for me!)
 
Last year, I was really impressed with the Jeep exhibit. In addition to their display of vehicles, they had what they call Camp Jeep, an indoor 25,000 square foot exhibit that lets you experience some of the off-road driving capabilities of different Jeep models. I got to ride shotgun as my chauffeur drove through an obstacle course over rocks and logs and up a pretty steep hill. And they haven't forgotten about their future customers, either, because right next to Camp Jeep is the Jeep Kids Course, where kids can test drive some small scale Jeeps and maneuver a 25 foot rock climbing wall.  
 
visit Houston, visit Texas, Tour TexasThis year, Ram truck is presenting their own interactive experience for attendees, the Ram Ride and Drive. It’s similar to the Jeep experience, except you will be riding in the Motor Trend Truck of the Year, the Ram 1500. They, too, will have an area geared for the kids. And speaking of kids, the show also features The Kids Fun Zone, an area that has a variety of activities geared especially for young ones, including arts and crafts, Disney's towering Pixar Cars 22-foot dual lane slide, and the Space Shuttle bounce house, which always seems to be a big hit with the young ones. The Kids Fun Zone is open on the weekend of the show (Jan. 25th- 26th) and it’s FREE with admission!
 
Another nice feature of the show is the Ride and Drives. Some of the manufacturers will be offering test drives at no additional charge (…although I doubt my Aston Martin will be available for me to zip around Reliant Park in!)
 
The Houston Auto Show is a fun event that I would highly recommend for anyone at all interested in cars. Tickets are $10 for Adults and $5 for Children 6-12 (cash only!)  If you are able to go, make sure you take advantage of their coupons, which can be found here.
 
And BTW, if you see a man at the Luxury Boutique with his checkbook open, please inquire if it’s me…and if it is, get me out of there as fast as you can!
 
 
 
Photos from www.chron.com

A Room with A View: Glass Bathrooms in Sulphur Springs

Saturday, January 11, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

About 90 minutes northeast of Dallas, you'll find the small town of Sulphur Springs. It's an active community with a bustling downtown area, lots of fun events and music festivals, great shopping and dining, and fantastic fishing and boating on Cooper Lake. 

 

But there's one attraction that people go out of their way to explore, that they tweet pictures of and post to their Facebook page: the toilets!

Back in 2012, the town debuted two all-glass public bathrooms on their downtown square. Each small glass enclosure has the things you'd expect into see in a bathroom - a toilet, a sink, a roll of t.p. - and one thing you wouldn't normally expect: a panoramic view of the outdoors. From inside, you can clearly see everything around you: cars driving by, people walking around and sometimes, faces peering right into the bathroom.  While the glass is completely transparent from the inside out, no one can see in. 

These bathrooms are the first of their kind in the U.S. The city felt that in addition to their obvious function, they would provide an interesting art installation that people would come to see and use.  And they've been right! There has been a steady stream of tourists and curiosity seekers who want to see what it's like to perform a private function in public. 

It's strange, alright. I tried using the bathroom and just during a *ahem* personal moment, two young children ran up and pressed their faces up to the glass, trying to see in.  A woman walked over and fixed her hair in the mirrored exterior surface, oblivious that I was watching her from the inside. Two people took pictures. Before I went in, I had carefully examined the cubicle from the outside to make sure there was no possible way to see in. But as many times as I reassured myself about that, I still felt a bit.. exposed. When I noticed someone taking a picture of the exterior, my first instinct was to smile at the camera!

It's a novelty, for sure, and I can see why people want to check it out for themselves. Think you could "boldly go" in the middle of the town square? If you're one of the brave, why not plan a day trip or even a weekend in Sulphur Springs.  To explore all the town has to offer, visit Tour Texas.

Kick Off 2014 San Antonio Style!

Monday, December 30, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man
 
visit San Antonio vacation
 
December is almost over and another hectic Christmas season is behind us. There's still one more thing to think about though - the answer to that annual question "What are we doing New Year's Eve?"
 
If you're at all within striking distance of San Antonio, that's your answer. 
 
On New Year’s Eve, the City of San Antonio hosts Celebrate San Antonio. Thousands of local and visiting revelers take to the streets of downtown San Antonio where there will be stages set up for bands, entertainment areas for the whole family, great food and drink, all in one of the most exciting and beautiful areas of Texas! The party is held on South Alamo Street between Market and Durango and includes the historical arts village, La Villita, with its wonderful shops and galleries, HemisFair Park, and the world renowned River Walk. If you've never been, I can’t think of a better time to experience this iconic area! With so many wonderful bars, restaurants and hotels to choose from, you’re bound to find a party or two that perfectly suits your needs. Or just go for a stroll and take it all in with some "auld acquaintances" or some of the new friends you're bound to meet along the way. But make sure you make your way to the Tower of America for the spectacular fireworks display at midnight, the perfect way to ring in the New Year! Don’t worry, you can’t miss it.  At 750 feet tall, it’s the city’s most prominent landmark!
 
And, one of the most important things: the event itself is FREE! According to the San Antonio Parks Foundation, there is no other New Year’s Eve event of this size, with fireworks, that is offered FREE to the public in the state of Texas. 
 
It's still not too late to book yourself a room and make a mini vacation out of it.  With so many things to do in San Antonio, you can start off your new year having a great time in one of the best vacation spots in Texas! > More info about what to do in San Antonio
 
Whatever you end up doing, please have a safe and happy New Year's Eve and a wonderful year to come!
 
Happy 2014!
 
 

Photo from Tower of the America's Facebook page.

"Uniquely Texas" Christmas Fun

Thursday, December 19, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man
 
The countdown to Christmas is now in the single digits. There's one more weekend left before the big day.  For many people, that means frantically trying to finish shopping, decorating the house or baking cookies.  But for some of us, it's the last weekend to enjoy the many Christmas festivities that are happening all around us.  
 
I wanted to take a look at the how people across our state make this holiday our own, how we put our Texas spin on the activities, stories and celebrations that make Christmas in Texas a little different than anywhere else. Here are a few "uniquely Texas" things I've found.
 

Go and see a "Texafied" performance:

The Paramount Theater | Abilene
Fri. - Sun., Dec. 20-22
Set during the Great Depression of the 1930s, this Texas-themed take on the traditional Dickens story is billed as "a Christmas tale of greed, ghosts, and really spicy chili." > For tickets and more info.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
House of Blues | Dallas
Thur., Dec. 19, 7 pm
Sometimes, a Texas Christmas looks a little different than the "perfect" ones depicted in the old movies. Country legend Robert Earl Keen wrote a holiday song a few years back called "Merry Christmas From the Family". It was about a less-than-perfect holiday with a somewhat dysfunctional family and it must have resonated with a lot of folks because it became a hit and spawned a tradition: Keen, his guitar, a stage, and all the holiday hits you could ever want. > More info and tickets.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Celebrate cowboy-style

Longhorn Saloon | Bandera
Sat., Dec. 21, 12 noon
You know you're in Texas when Christmas caroling directions start with "Bring your horse..."
The annual Christmas Caroling by horseback event, “Singing in the Saddle” provides guitar players and sheet music. You provide the horse - if you don't have one, rentals are available, or just ride in the wagon. Santa Claus will be joining too. Meet at the Longhorn Saloon at 12 noon for a 1:00 ride out, then just sing from the saddle, stopping along Main Street. Afterward, enjoy cookies and hot chocolate at the chuck wagon. > More info.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Enchanted Springs Ranch | Boerne
Sat. - Sun., Dec. 21- 22, 10 am - 5 pm
Experience an Old West Christmas, with Cowboy Santa, "Texas' Night Before Christmas" Puppet Show, Pistol Packin' Paula, lots of live music, cowboy skits, and an Interactive Living Nativity. > More info and tickets.
 
 
 
 
Pioneer Hall | Anson
Sat., Dec. 21, 8 pm - midnight
This ball has a special place in history as it's a reenactment of a party that was originally held in 1885 at the Star Hotel in Anson. The historic Pioneer Hall is hosting the 79th Annual Texas Cowboy's Christmas Ball and the rules are the same as in 1885: Ladies must wear dresses on the dance floor (no split skirts!) and gentlemen must check their hats and spurs.
Come take a step back in history and enjoy a "fancy", fun night out. > More info
 
 
 
 
 
 

Texas Christmas Eats

 
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew | Austin
Now through Dec. 22
"On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me, Brisket Tamales and a perfectly-paired craft beer."
Over a dozen carnivorous days, Stiles Switch’s pitmaster, Lance Kirkpatrick, prepares and smokes one-of-a-kind, off-the-menu specials. This event started on Dec. 10 and sadly, I didn't catch it until now when there are only 4 more days left, but I thought it was still worth a mention in this uniquely Texas list. > For updated info, see their Facebook page.
 
 
 
Hands-on Tamale Workshops
Sat, Dec. 21, 6:30 PM
 
Mon., Dec. 23, 6:30 PM
Step aside, fruitcake and eggnog.  In Texas, tamales are one of the stars of the Christmas table. Classes like these in Fort Worth and Dallas can be found across the state teaching adventurous cooks how to make them. If you can't find a class in your area, or you're not feeling that adventurous, be sure to place your order with your favorite tamale restaurant by this weekend if you haven't already.
 
 

Deck Them Halls, Y'all!

 
Finally, I'll leave you with a few "uniquely Texas" ornaments and decorations I've come across:
 
 
 
 

Wishing Y'all a Very Merry Texas Christmas!

WIN TICKETS TO MAIN STREET AMERICA! 30 Pairs to Give Away!

Friday, December 13, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man
 
 
 
 

TICKET GIVEAWAY - 30 WINNERS  -  ENTER NOW!

 

Ready for another big giveaway from TourTexas.com?

30 lucky winners will get a free pair of tickets to Main Street America!

 
 
Main Street America, located in Spring, TX, is a new concept in theme parks. The park is based around 12 model homes, all built with the latest materials, up-to-the-minute design inspirations, cutting-edge technological installations and some very cool and unique home-remodeling options. Visitors to the park can explore the homes and get detailed information on every element from the exterior siding to the audio system to the furniture. >> Read more about Main Street America here.
 
We're giving away 30 pairs of tickets for free admission to Main Street America.  Tickets can be used any time that the park is open to the public.
 
 
 
 
 
Now through December 21st, Main Street America is
all dressed up for Christmas. All the houses are brightly lit and there are lots of festive holiday events going on.
 
Winners can use their tickets for the Christmas Festival
    OR
use them for regular park entry any day through March 22, 2014!
 
 
 
 

Here's How to Enter:

(you must complete both steps to enter)
 
1. Leave a comment here on this blog about your favorite thing to do for the holidays in Texas.
 
2. Send an email to Tickets@TourTexas.com with your name and mailing address.  
Addresses will only be used to mail tickets to winners and will be deleted when our contest ends.
 
 
The first 30 people to complete both steps will receive two (2) free tickets to Main Street America to be used any time, now through March 22, 2014!  
 
 
**Don't forget, this is a two-parter!  In order to get your free tickets, you have to leave a comment on this blog AND send your name and mailing address to Tickets@TourTexas.com!
 
Notes:
  • Each ticket admits one guest.
  • Tickets are valid through 3/22/2014.
  • Main Street America is open most days of the year, 7 days per week.  On the day you plan to go, please check the Main Street America website to ensure they do not have any private events or unforeseen circumstances that require closure to the public.
 

GOOD LUCK!

 

Go Nuts at Royalty Pecan Farms in Caldwell, TX.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man
visit caldwell texas
 
 
 
 
It's the day before Thanksgiving and in my house, the cooking and baking has already begun in preparation for the big feast. Many of my family's favorite holiday recipes will be requiring the services of that versatile and tasty nut - the pecan! From the pies on the Thanksgiving table to the cookies and pralines around Christmastime, plenty of folks will be heading out to their local supermarkets to pick up a bag or two of pecans. Nothing wrong with that, although such an outing is not usually up there on the fun meter. But buying pecans can actually be fun, if you pay a visit to Royalty Pecan Farms in Caldwell, Texas.    
 
texas travel pecan farmsTexas is one the country's largest producers of pecans and this is the time of year that the nuts are harvested. During November and December, Royalty Pecan Farms features their Harvest Saturday Tour so visitors can learn the journey of the pecan. Some people may think that doesn't sound all that interesting but they would be mistaken.  It's quite an interesting tour.  For example, do you know how pecans are harvested? A big truck with a "claw" drives alongside the tree, grasps its trunk and shakes it, really hard.  When the pecans are ripe, thousands of them drop from the tree at once in a dark curtain, covering the ground.  Another truck follows to sweep them all up and take them in for processing. The tour includes a ride around the farm in a covered wagon during which you'll view some spectacular scenery of the serene countryside. The tours commence at 11:30 am, 1:00 pm, 2:30 pm, and 4:00 pm, and cost only $3 per person. (Kids under 4 are free.) 
 
But let’s not forget that we're here on a mission: securing fresh pecans! And for that, you just head over to their wonderful gift shop where you'll be able to sample some of their pecans and other treats. And besides buying what you’ll be needing for your cooking and baking, why not treat yourself to a slice of their own pecan pie. I must admit I am not usually a fan of pecan pie, but I did enjoy theirs; it was by far the best I've ever had. It wasn't cloyingly sweet like most of the others I've tried, and the crust was fantastic too! You can also purchase a glass of wine, beer or soda and relax while admiring the lovely orchard views. Now what supermarket offers that?
 
Royalty Pecan Farms is family owned and operated, using sustainable farming practices that protect the environment. Besides growing, harvesting and processing the Texas pecan, they also sponsor special events, weddings, concerts, and host orchard tours.
 
It's definitely worth a visit to this nut farm!
 

All photos above from the Royalty Pecan Farms' Facebook page.

 
 
Try this amazing, authentic recipe for Texas Pecan Pralines at TourTexas.com.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

50 Years Ago Today in Dallas: A Remembrance of John F. Kennedy

Friday, November 22, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man
 
 
Today marks a dark day in our country's history.  It's the 50th anniversary of the assassination of our 35th president, John F. Kennedy.
 
This is a remarkable remembrance in more ways than one: it's the first time the city of Dallas is officially recognizing the anniversary. Over the past few days, crowds have already been building, giving off an oddly-mixed energy of quiet respect combined with a buzzing excitement.  They are here to see the somber landmarks, many of which have barely changed over the years. They come to Dealey Plaza to pay their respects, to memorialize a man who changed history, perhaps even more in his death than in his life. 
 
Some people leave flowers, some walk to the spot where the famous and brutal footage was filmed by Abe Zapruder. Others walk down Elm Street, along the tracks of the president's motorcade where the man last smiled and waved at the happy crowds. Many will visit the building previously known as the Texas School Book Depository, now known for the Sixth Floor Museum, where Lee Harvey Oswald laid in wait and fired the fateful, and fatal, shots. 
 
They are here to feel close to the scene of a crime that affected many lives, and that so many remember as if it were yesterday. For those over the age of 50 who remember exactly where they were on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, being here may re-open their wounds once more. Or, it may help bring closure to such a horrible memory. Many people will bring their children and grandchildren, to make history a little more tangible for them.
 
Today in Dallas, bells will toll across the city at exactly 12:30, the time the president was shot fifty years ago.
 
A moment of silence will follow. 
 
And a nation will remember President Kennedy.
 
 
If you have never been to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, I urge you to add it to your travel plans. Like many terrible events in our country's history, this tragedy is painful to remember, but important to never forget.
 
 
Read another Tour Texas blog about a visit to the museum: Sixth Floor and 50 years ago >
 
More information on the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza  > 

Get Thee to the Texas Renaissance Fest!

Thursday, November 14, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man
             Texas Renaissance Festival
 
I really didn't want to go.
 
I put if off last year and the year before that, but sometimes, when you write a travel blog, you have to go places and do things you'd really rather skip.  This year, I decided I was going to suck it up and just go already! And that's how I ended up wearing a fluffy white shirt and leather sash at the Texas Renaissance Festival.
 
Texas Ren FestOnce I resigned myself to going, I called my good friend, Jax, who's been to many Ren Fests around the country and asked him to be my guide.  He was glad to do it. Jax told me if we were going together, I had to, absolutely HAD TO wear a costume. It was hard to refuse when I picked him up at his house and he answered his door fully decked out in some sort of manly swashbuckler costume and thrusted the billowy, lace-up collar shirt and sash into my hands. I begrudgingly changed into the clothes, then we hopped in the car and headed toward the town of Todd Mission, about an hour northwest of Houston.
 
Almost every state has a Ren Fest or Faire on some scale, but the Texas Renaissance Festival is the nation’s largest, comprised of over 55 acres of interactive theme park, hosting half a million visitors every year.  It begins in mid-October and runs through the end of November; this year, until December 1st. The festival features over 200 daily performances, 300 arts and crafts shops, 60 food and beverage shops, nightly fireworks and more than 3,000 costumed characters strolling the grounds. There is entertainment at every turn: crafters demonstrating their trade, musicians playing period instruments, actors and dancers, comedians (medieval-style), jousting, games and rides.  It is virtually impossible not to have a good time here and the more you get into the atmosphere, the better time you'll have. 
 
Every weekend of the faire, there's a different theme.  Some themes from previous weekends included "Oktoberfest" and "All Hallows Eve." Still to come are "Barbarian Invasion," "Highland Fling" and "Celtic Christmas."  Jax and I were there during "Pirate Adventure" weekend.
 
And now it's confession time: I'm really glad my friend made me wear the costume.  I decided somewhere along the car ride that I had to drop my curmudgeonly resistance and just give in to the lace-up white shirt. And, after a few cups of honey meade, I was really embracing my inner-16th century buccaneer, even using words like "prithee," "scurvy wench" and "Huzzah!" I realized that it really is just more fun to become a part of the action.
 
If you come - and you really should try to make one of the upcoming weekends -  try to get here early, not only for better parking, but to catch the gate opening ceremony at 9AM. Basic admission at the door is $26  Adult/ $13 Child, but it's a bit less if you order online. There are also family packs and group discounts available. Check their website to buy tickets and to check for discounts.  You could also try doing a quick online search for other coupons and promo codes.
 
Why was I so resistant to come? I can't remember anymore.  The Texas Renaissance Festival is good fun, great entertainment in a perfect setting, lots of enthusiastic, happy people.  I'm sure I will be back again. 
 
Huzzah, ya'll!
 
 
 

Photo credits: MarkScottAustinTX via Flickr 

A Celebration of Life on "Day of the Dead"

Friday, November 1, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man
 
 
So, Halloween is now officially over for another year. But don't pack up your decorations just yet.
 
Today is Día de Los Muertos -- the Day of the Dead.
 
With its roots in Mexico, Día de Los Muertos celebrates the memories of those we've loved and lost. All over Mexico, families and friends get together to pray for the souls of their loved ones and to reminisce about their lives. Outside of Mexico, the holiday is most prominent in areas with large Hispanic populations. No surprise, then, that some of the biggest festivals in the U.S. take place here in Texas.
 
For those not familiar with the customs, it may seem Día de Los Muertos is very similar to Halloween.  While it's true that some of the common icons (skeletons, for example) are shared by both holidays, Halloween focuses more on fear, evil and the "dark side" of death. On the contrary, Day of the Dead is a happy celebration: on November 1st and 2nd ("All Saints Day" and "All Souls Day" in the Catholic religion) it is believed that the dead return to the living so friends and family can make contact with their spirit and let them know they are still remembered and loved. It's a day of joy and happiness as people are rejoined in life with those loved ones who have passed on.  
 
One of the most common tributes are the "altares" (altars) that are created and decorated to honor the soul of a friend or family member. People lay gifts on the altar called "ofrendas" (offerings) which may include candles, incense, photos, flowers (marigolds are considered symbols of the dead and are very common on the altars), skeletons and sugar skulls. Food and beverages that the person enjoyed in life are often included as ofrendas too. Gravesites are also visited and decorated while stories and memories of the dead are shared.
 
Many people who have not grown up within this culture are intrigued by Día de Los Muertos, but don't exactly know how to celebrate. But the best way to learn is to immerse yourself in the celebration and just soak it in -- all are welcome! There are many Día de Los Muertos celebrations across Texas; however, they often coincide with Halloween parties. Still, it's not too late: here are a few that are occuring today and tomorrow (Nov. 1st and 2nd) and even beyond.  If you've never been to a Day of the Dead festival before, why not join the celebration!
 
 
Austin Days of the Dead - began Oct. 19 and continues through Nov. 2nd.
 
Fort Worth Día de los Muertos -  November 2; drum and puppet procession from Marine Park to the Rose Marine Theater Plaza. Complete with music, dancing, face painting and pan de muerto. 
 
Houston's Día De Los Muertos Festival - Nov. 1-3; includes altar exhibits, traditional arts and crafts sale, themed performances, foods from Latin American countries, live music and more. 
 
San Antonio Muertos Fest- Nov. 1 and 2; live music, art "living altar" display contest
 
El Paso Día de Los Muertos - Nov. 2; held in Concordia Cemetery, featuring face painters, live music, ghost tours and story telling surround the cemetery with marigolds in the style of this Latin holiday. 
 
Corpus Christi Día de Los Muertos Street Festival - Nov. 2; features live entertainment, art vendors, altar exhibits.

 

Vietnam Memorial Wall Travels to Magnolia, TX for Veteran's Day

Thursday, October 31, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man
 
 
 
"We met as soul-mates / On Parris Island 
We left as inmates  / From an asylum.
And we were sharp / As sharp as knives 
And we were so gung-ho to lay down our lives..
...And we would all go down together,
We said we'd all go down together."
 
- Billy Joel, "Goodnight Saigon"

 

Texas travelThe first time you view the Vietnam Wall, it's a little hard to process.  So many names, each representing a human being who went off to serve our country and didn't come home.  Unlike today's military volunteers, most of those young men and women were drafted, forced to fight a war that many people did not agree with. Even so, they stood up to fight when America called them. Of those who survived, thousands came home maimed, disabled. Almost all came home damaged in ways not visible. And more than 58,000 paid the ultimate price.
 
This Veteran's Day, a traveling replica of the Vietnam Wall will stand at attention in Magnolia, the only Texas host city in 2013. If you've ever visited the actual Vietnam Wall in Washington DC, you already know how strikingly emotional the visual impact of 58,000+ names can be. It stirs feelings you don't expect. For veterans of any war, the names represent the toll that war takes, the human sacrifice that each Vet has personally witnessed. For those who fought in Vietnam, the Wall is an opportunity to remember and honor those who battled beside them and to help them on their lifelong journey of healing. And for those of us who are not veterans, a visit to the Wall is a way to express our deep gratitude to those who served and died on our behalf.
 
The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall is a 3/5 scale of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. It stands six feet tall at the center and stretches almost 300 feet from end to end.  
 
For those who can't make it to Washington DC to view the actual Vietnam Wall, take a trip to Magnolia, TX. There's no better way to observe Veteran's Day this year.
 
Where: Magnolia Apostolic Church/First Baptist Church Grounds
When: Friday, November 8 - Monday, November 11; 9am-9pm.
Admission is free. 
 
For more information, visit TourTexas.com or the Magnolia Historical Society.

Galveston: Beyond the Sunshine and Sand Lies A Dark Side...

Monday, October 28, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man



Galveston is a beautiful city situated on an island on the upper coast of Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. With its warm waters and long stretches of soft sand, it's one of the state’s most popular destinations. But the fun, beachy vacation atmosphere of the city masks a dark history and chilling reputation as one of the most haunted cities in the U.S.


Galveston's past holds some incredible stories, with death, destruction and horror all part of the landscape. Tales of pirates, Captains of industry (Galveston’s location and climate attracted many of the formidable "old money" families of the Northeast) and Civil War soldiers haunting the area abound. The greatest legend revolves around one of the worst natural disasters ever to strike the United States: the Hurricane of 1900. Most of the city was completely destroyed, with a death toll between 6,000 and 12,000 individuals. With so many dead, it was impossible to bury them all.  Legend has it that many of the drowned victims still restlessly wander the streets, especially in the area known as The Strand where many of the buildings are original to the city and date back to the late 1800sThis historical district of downtown Galveston is known for its architecture, museums, shops, art galleries, restaurants and…its disembodied spirits!  Visitors to the area report images of ghostly children playing in the local shops, a frantic nun slamming doors up and down the hall of the Galvez Hotel searching for a lost child, wandering soldiers, pirates. Others don't see haunted visions but describe feelings of heaviness in the air, a blanket of sadness that overcomes you.

Visit TourTexas.com for more information on Galveston Island

haunted Galveston TXWhile many visitors to Galveston Island come for the sun and sand, many others come in search of spirits. That’s where the "Ghostman of Galveston" comes in! Dash "Ghostman" Beardsley, a paranormal investigator, runs a company called Ghost Tours of Galveston.  Always interested in the mysterious, Dash investigated Galveston’s rich history and discovered many fascinating facts from his research and interviews with local residents. His "Original Ghost Tour on the Strand" is the most popular of the tours, although there are other excursions including a Restless Spirits Tour, and a Cemetery tour. Each one provides the chance to visit many fascinating locations in The Strand, while hearing haunting stories from the past and learning about the historical events that have shaped this interesting city.

Even if the only ghosts you see are trick-or-treaters, a visit to Galveston is never disappointing. Besides the lovely town, you'll be surrounded by beaches and marshes, a wide variety of birds (the Island is one of the country's largest bird migratory flyways) and a part of Texas you definitely won’t want to miss!

Happy Haunting!

 

Plan your trip to Galveston, TX with Free Brochures

 
 

6 Cool and Unusual Things to Do For Halloween in Texas

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

There's never a shortage of fun things to do in Texas during October.  Kids are pumpkin picking, carving jack-o'lanterns and making those all-important decisions about what costume to wear.  It's a fun time, if not a bit predictable.

Want to break the mold, even just a little bit?  Consider trying one or more of these activities to put a little spin on the season this year.

 

1. Get to Know the REAL Dracula
(Houston) In case a museum dedicated to death and funerals isn't already macabre enough, the
 National Museum of Funeral History amps up the creep factor with a few special events in October - November. The Dracula Cemetery Exhibit details the life and death of the real Count Dracula, infamous for his insatiable cruelty and blood-drinking. Visitors can put on a cape and fangs and have their photo taken in a coffin. Other events include a Haunted House, Halloween Car Show and Day of the Dead Celebration.
National Museum of Funeral History website

 

2. Stumble and Groan and Search for Brains
(San Antonio) What's trending in the world of horror these days?  Zombies! The walking undead are all around us in movies, TV shows and....in San Antonio during the city's annual Zombie Walk.  On October 27, the city will be host to hundreds of shuffling zombie-wannabes, in tattered, bloodied clothing, in search of brains and other good eats.  Why is this fun? It just is!  Think of a flash mob, but with a lot less rehearsal.  How can you get in on it?  Just show up in your finest zombie attire at Hemisfair Tower in downtown San Antonio between 5 - 6 pm, after which, the evil hordes will be unleashed and make their way towards the Alamo. Other than the cost of a ripped old t-shirt, the event is free.
More info on the Zombie Walk

Similar events in Wichita Falls, Spring and Paris.

Dallas travel

 
3. Summon a Dark Spirit with a Magical Potion
(Dallas and Ft. Worth) I suppose it all depends upon what kind of magic you need. Choose from the "One Night Stand Potion", "Break-Up Potion", "Dr. Strangelove Potion" or "Plum Sexy Potion".  Conjured up by Dude, Sweet Chocolate, these potions are made with chocolate, liquors like tequila or bourbon and other delicious ingredients that are sure to cast a spell. Bewitch the object of your desire with a Dr. Strangelove Martini. Slip some Plum Sexy potion over ice cream. They are to die for!
 
 
Dia De Los Muertes in Port Isabel Texas4. Celebrate the Dead, Tejano Style
(Port Isabel) For the biggest Dia De Los Muertos party this side of the Mexican border, you've got to hit Port Isabel on October 26. You might not think that a holiday called Day of the Dead would be a good time, but you'd be wrong.  I think that's actually the whole point of it - it's meant as celebration of the lives of friends and family who have departed this earth but live on in prayers and memories. One of the hallmarks of this event is the altars that are built for loved ones, embellished with photos, flowers, sweets, even special foods that the person enjoyed in their lifetime. The Port Isabel festivities will include an altar contest, music and entertainment, a costume party, and more.
 
 
Texas Renaissance Fest5. Get Thee to the Ren Faire
(Todd Mission) The Texas Renaissance Festival is the biggest fair of its kind in the U.S. It runs from Oct. 12 through Dec. 1 and although most people dress up in costume to attend the event, it's not generally considered a Halloween event.  That is, until, the weekend of Oct. 26 and 27th when the theme is "All Hallows Eve" and the typical renaissance attire takes a darker, spookier turn.  The weekend features carved Jack-o’-lanterns illuminating the night, a "Tricks or Treats Outing" and a costume contest with great prizes.
 

6. Kick back and have a few special brews
Drink a few beers?? How is this any different than any other night, you ask?  Why is this on a Halloween in Texas list, you wonder?  Because in celebration of the season, you're going to try some seasonal beers with cool names, made right here in Texas.  Start with a a "Krunkin Pumpkin" from Karbach Brewery in Houston. Follow that with a "Devil's Backbone" made by Real Ale Brewing in Blanco. TX.  Finish with a "Black Wit-O" from No Label Brewing Company in Katy. Better yet, bring a few six-packs of each to a Halloween party and make everyone else wonder why they aren't as cool and imaginative as you are.

 

 

Did I leave any off the list?  What non-typical things do you like to do for Halloween? 

Please let me know by leaving a comment