Sulphur Springs: a Small-Town Gem Where the Livin' Is Easy

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Sulphur Springs Texas, TX, Sulpher Springs, Texas tourism

I'm sitting on a bench in Coleman Park, watching three guys, a gal and a small boy fishing off a pier and I can't help but feel a bit envious. On this breezy, blue-sky afternoon, I'd rather be there, lakeside, casting a line, than writing a blog. And I do love writing this blog - but there's something about visiting Sulphur Springs that just makes you want to slow down, pop open a beer and relax.

Sulphur Springs is a beautiful town in Northeast Texas. When you're here, you're likely to bump elbows with many city-folk from nearby Dallas who come to escape the urban hustle and bustle and spend a relaxing day out on one of the four lakes surrounding the town. Or, they come to hike and explore some beautiful nature trails, spend a fun-filled day at one of the parks, and do some sight-seeing. 

One of the things you must see in Sulphur Springs (and I mean, you "must see" it because you literally can't miss it!) is the Hopkins County Courthouse, located on the town square. Built in 1894 with pink granite, it's an architecturally-impressive sight. The grounds surrounding the courthouse are absolutely beautiful, featuring stately statues, flags, and a lighted, interactive fountain in the shape of the Texas star.

And right across from this majestic, historic and very serious courthouse is probably the city's most quirky feature: the see-through public bathrooms! You can see out, but don't worry, no one can see in. Still, it feels a bit odd to "take care of business" while the world walks on by (read about my first adventure with these public toilets earlier this year: "A Room With A View".)

After your unique restroom experience (I mean, c’mon, you’re know going to go in and check it out even if you don’t have to go!), make sure you stop by the Veterans' Memorial, a moving tribute to the service men and women from Hopkins County who served in all wars. A really nice feature is the computer screen where you can look up a veteran and see his or her service history. The square is surrounded by a lively downtown area with interesting shops and boutiques, restaurants, cafes…something for everyone!
  
Another worthwhile stop is the Southwest Dairy Center and Museum, especially if you are traveling with children. The museum chronicles the history of dairy farming in our country, and has a bunch of interactive exhibits perfect for kids. One fascinating exhibit shows what life was like on a dairy farm before electricity...I honestly don’t know how they did it! There’s also an old-fashioned soda bar serving up delicious ice cream and light lunches, and a gift shop. 

And then there's Coleman Park, where I'm sitting now. Beautifully landscaped, with small bridges and a waterfall, the park features many great trails for walking and jogging. There's a sports complex, a playground area, several of well-maintained ball fields, tennis courts and picnic areas near the 40-acre Lake Coleman with that fishing pier that's calling my name.

There are many other things to do in Sulphur Springs…but it’s also a perfect destination for those who don’t want to do anything!

Now...where can a guy borrow a fishing pole around here....?

Sweet, Cold, Creamy Fun at the Austin Ice Cream Festival

Monday, August 4, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Austin Texas, Austin Ice Cream Festival, Austin travel

I don't think I know a single person who doesn't like ice cream. Some folks go for those wild, creative flavors (Maple Bacon Jalapeño Swirl, anyone?) while others just opt for a good vanilla, but I think we can all agree that a frozen scoop (or two) is the perfect antidote for the blazing Texas summer sun.

On August 9th, the capital city will host the 8th Annual Austin Ice Cream Festival. Locals and out-of-towners will head to Fiesta Gardens for the all-you-can-eat ice cream party, featuring national and regional brands. Past participants have included Amy's Ice Creams, Austin Scoops, Blue Bell, Coolhaus, GoodPops, Ice Cream Social, NadaMoo, Rita's Water Ice, The Melting Cone, Weezie's Frozen Custard and Yeti Frozen Custard. I'm sure many of those will be returning, along with some new ones too. Your $10 admission fee includes samples from each participating ice cream sponsor (some are just a taste while others are full-size scoops). Oh, and kids under 8 get in free!

visit Austin, Austin Ice Cream FestivalThe ice cream is not the only reason Fodor's calls this event one of the "10 Best Summer Food Festivals". There's live music, games, activities for the kids and several fun competitions. Think you can scarf down a half-gallon of ice cream in record time? If you're the fastest, you'll take home the coveted "big spoon" award (it will make your brain-freeze worthwhile!) In addition to the ice cream eating contest, awards are given for the best popsicle stick sculpture contest and best homemade ice cream.

You can feel great about supporting this worthy cause because the money raised from the Austin Ice Cream Festival benefits several local charities including the Austin Children’s Shelter, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Habibi's Hutch.

Bring your friends, bring your kids and even bring your dog (yes, dogs are allowed!) to indulge in sweet, creamy, frozen, delicious fun.

Visiting Austin?  Want some more ideas on what to see and do?  
Check out the Tour Texas list of Top Ten Things to Do in Austin.

Columbus: A Perfect Place for Tree-Gazers, Rivers-Runners and Wildlife-Lovers

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Columbus is a charming city in southeastern Texas that certainly lives up to its motto: “The Home of Live Oaks and Live Folks”. Situated about 74 miles west of Houston, Columbus is famous for its beautiful old oak trees and friendly inhabitants. 

columbus texas, largest oak tree, texas getaway

As a matter of fact, Columbus is home to the 2nd largest oak tree in the State! (To see Texas' largest oak tree you'll have to head south to Goose Island State Park, in Rockport.) And even though Columbus’ tree doesn’t own the top prize, it is still quite impressive and a sight to see. Another popular and majestic oak tree resides at St. John's Episcopal Church. With its long, drooping limbs and mighty frame, it is a favorite with children and, I would imagine, is featured in many a wedding album!

But Columbus is not just about tree-gazing; it is also a wonderful place to do some paddling down the Colorado River. On this stretch of the river, you’ll see sandy banks, flat flood plains, wildflowers, cactus and…some more magnificent trees! You may hit a few calm rapids, but for the most part the ride is peaceful and tranquil. You’ll pass cattle ranches and even some islands that you can stop at for a picnic or just to rest.

Columbus Texas, canoing, Colorado River

Make sure to bring your binoculars because this area is home to a wide variety of fascinating birds, including vultures, egrets, flycatchers, herons, and hawks. And if you keep your eyes peeled you may spy beavers, raccoons, deer, turtles and quite possibly, a water snake or two. This 6.5 mile trail can take anywhere from two to five hours to complete, and the peaceful waters and calm rapids will give you a wonderful day on the river.

Back on land, there are many cool destinations waiting for you to explore, everything from the massive Stafford Opera House (the state’s largest, flat-floored opera house) to the tiny Alley Log Cabin which was built in 1836. The Opera House features a museum, the Visitor's Center and Chamber of Commerce, and periodically puts on shows.

The Colorado County Courthouse, with its neo-classic copper dome, working Seth Thomas clock, and gorgeous skylight is also well worth a visit. It was built in 1891 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

And for a little Christmas any time of year, head on over to The Santa Claus Museum, where over 2,000 Santa-themed items from all over the world are on display!

There are so many more things to see and do in Columbus, which makes it a destination well worth making…even if it’s just for the “Live Oaks and Live Folks”!
 

What's all the Buzz about a Mosquito Festival in Clute TX?

Monday, July 21, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Great Texas Mosquito Festival, Texas festivals, visit Texas, Tour Texas

It's an insect most people could do without. That's probably why there aren't many events dedicated to the mosquito. But in Clute Texas, this lowly pest becomes a local celebrity for a few days during the Great Texas Mosquito Festival, one of the most unique and popular annual events in the state (called “America's Number One Wackiest Summer Event” by Trip Advisor!)

Great Texas Mosquito Festival, visit texas, tour texas, vacationFrom July 24-26, the fun starts at the front entrance where you're greeted by the largest mosquito in Texas, the bright yellow inflatable "Willie Man-Chew" wearing a cowboy hat and boots. This 3-day celebration features almost too many events to list, but we'll include a few here: more than 85 arts and crafts and food booths, novelty games such as the annual horseshoes and washers competition and a dodge ball pitch, carnival rides and a variety of contests for all ages, including the Mr. and Mrs. Mosquito Legs Contest, Mosquito Calling Contest and Skeeter Beaters Baby Crawling Contest. However, it is the quality live entertainment that has firmly established the Mosquito Festival as a 'must-attend' event. Turnpike Troubadours, Clute Texas, Texas vacationHeadlining this year's stage are Turnpike Troubadours, JB and the Moonshine Band and Reckless Kelly. The website shows a complete list of performers and schedule of events.

Clute is located less than an hour north of Houston. The festival's annual attendance is around 20,000 people. (No official count on the number of mosquitoes though.) Details on free and discounted admission prices can be found here.

For more information, visit:

The Great Texas Mosquito Festival
Website
100 Park View Drive
Clute, TX
(800) 371-2971
buzz@mosquitofestival.com      .....or text "bite me" to 49798 

 

Take a Drive on the Wild Side at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

best drive-through safari, african safari, texas vacation

"USA WEEKEND" magazine recently rated the 10 best animal safaris in the U.S. The one at the top of the list is right here in Texas! 

Today I'm trading in my Stetson for a safari hat as I drive through the African Plains in Texas Hill Country. The Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch is a 400 acre safari park located between San Antonio and New Braunfels. The ranch is home to about 500 animals representing over 45 different species, including some endangered ones. 

There's something really special about being able to view these exotic animals and interact with them as you drive through their natural habitat. Zoos are fun, but here at the ranch, it's a unique experience as you can see the animals up close and personal and even get slobbered on by them. Many are very friendly--and hungry--which is what you want, because feeding them is half the fun. (Try to go early if you can because by the afternoon a lot of the animals may already be full.)  One of the most exciting aspects of the safari was driving along and not knowing what animal would show up next.

natural bridge wildlife ranch, best texas vacation, san antonioI saw zebras, antelopes, water buffalo, ostriches, emus and some creatures that I wasn't sure what they were! It would have helped if I had splurged for the ID book before beginning my journey…and a second bag of food, for that matter. At one point, an especially-friendly ostrich reached his head into my truck and picked the entire bag of food apart! The zebras can be a bit overenthusiastic, too…but amusing! They’ll come right up to your window, open their mouths and wiggle their lips at you.(Hint, hint!) And if, for some reason, you have any food left at the end of your drive, no worries, because the park lets you circle around as many times as you like! If you're traveling with children, save it for the petting zoo. The goats there will take care of any leftover food in no time!

I also really enjoyed having the opportunity to get out of my truck and stretch my legs in the Walk-A-Bout. A highlight was seeing the amazing giraffes, something you don’t usually see here in Texas! You’ll also see exotic birds, apes, and the popular Lemur Island. Next I would suggest grabbing a bite to eat at the Safari Camp Grill, and then checking out the many gifts and souvenirs available in the Trading Post.  

If you want to experience the thrills of a safari, you don’t have to travel halfway around the world; you can simply drive 40 minutes outside of San Antonio and pay a visit to The Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. A unique, educational and memorable journey you won’t want to miss!

Addison, TX Hosts One of America's Most Spectacular Fireworks Shows

Monday, June 30, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Kaboomtown, Addison TX, fireworks, July 4

Who would expect that a small Texas town would have one of the biggest and highest-rated July 4th celebrations in the U.S.?

Independence Day is an important holiday to me. I may talk of my Texas pride, but first and foremost, I'm an American and proud of it. I always enjoy the patriotism, the picnics and parties, the fireworks, the day off from work... but amidst the revelry, I always take a moment to remember where we came from and what the "rockets' red glare" really represents. 
 
Addison TX, kaboomtown, fourth of july, fireworks, DallasIf you enjoy fireworks like I do and want to see one of the country’s top fireworks shows, then you must make plans to visit Addison Circle Park for Kaboom Town! This nationally recognized pyrotechnic display is the largest fireworks show in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and it has been rated by USA Today, Travel + Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, and the American Pyrotechnics Association as one of the top ten "must see" Fourth of July events in the nation.

The Addison skies will not only be alive with dazzling fireworks, but also an amazing air show…another event that I love, and therefore, another reason for this travelin’ man to make Kaboom Town the place to be this year to celebrate our hard won independence. The show will feature formation flights, aerobatic acts, and historic planes doing flyovers over the park. There will also be musical performances (including military bands to set the mood), a Family Fun Zone which has activities for children of all ages, places where you can get food and drink...everything to make this the most explosive event of the year! Admission is free but guests must have a ticket to enter the event site. But even if tickets are sold out, I’m told it’s still worth the trip because this nationally-recognized fireworks show can be seen from anywhere in Addison. In fact, many restaurants and bars in the area have "watching parties", with special menus, events and great vantage points to see the fireworks.  > "Watching Party" list

Please note that the festivities take place on July 3, not the 4th, and are held at Addison Circle Park, 4970 Addison Circle Drive. The park opens at noon and the event runs from at 5 p.m. to midnight; fireworks begin at 9:30. Attendance will be limited, and guests are encouraged to leave bags and coolers at home, as all will be searched. Check this site for more information. 

As you can imagine, this event draws huge crowds, but if you’re like me and you want to avoid the traffic delays after the show, they've got you covered! You can wait it out while listening to some live post-fireworks music at the Dos Equis Main Stage. 

Images on this page from www.addisontexas.net 

The Coolest New Water Sport to Hit the Texas Skies!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

flyboard, flyboarding, watersports, fly boarding
Photo credit: Port Maguide Biscarrosse

When I woke up this morning, I didn't know that in a few hours I would be strapping a jet pack onto my feet and hurtling straight up in the air. But let me tell you, I had one of the coolest thrills of my life, and I can't wait to try flyboarding again.

Flyboarding?  What is that?

I had never heard of it until today. We were driving across the Lake Lewisville Bridge and out of the corner of my eye, I saw something odd in the distance.  It looked like a person being catapulted upward with jets of water coming out of their feet. I had to get a closer look.

flyboarding in Texas, flyboard, TXFlyboarding is a relatively new "extreme" watersport which originated in France and is becoming a new craze around the world. The appeal is obvious: it's an amazing, thrilling experience and it's easy. It's safe too, for ages 12 and up. Little or no skill is needed.  Just a quick lesson to learn the feel of the board and how to use the controls and 10 minutes later, you are flying! Beginners typically start by hovering just a bit over the water, maybe 5-10 feet. As you gain experience, though, you can get higher and higher. More experienced flyers hit heights of up to 30 feet and can do some very cool tricks. > Watch this fun flyboarding video

Flyboards are fairly simple devices -- essentially, a pair of jetski boots, attached to a board and powered by water pressure. A hose connects the board to the motor of a jet ski, which provides the power to rocket the board upwards. It lets you fly, straight up vertically, like Iron Man. With a little practice, you can also leap headfirst through the waves like a dolphin. 

Imagine the sheer exhilaration of rocketing high above the water's surface. In only seconds, you are flying!!!  It is amazing! I can't even compare it to any other activity I've done before.  You just HAVE to try this for yourself.

There are flyboarding locations all around Texas.  In the south, you'll find lots of options along the gulf coast beaches.  Further inland, look for large lakes that offer water activities.  

Prices vary widely, but on average, an hour of flyboarding, including instructions, will run you approximately $200.  Some places offer discounts for multiple riders and groups. Others have coupons or Groupons available.  I would suggest calling and inquiring about any available promotions before going.  I'd also urge you to make a reservation.  While I was able to just drive up spontaneously and get a spot, you may not be as lucky.

Add this one to your bucket list! Whether you make it part of a memorable Texas vacation or simply a weekend adventure, it's sure to be an adrenalin rush you won't forget!

Here is a list of just a few options around Texas to try this incredible activity. 

flyboarding in Texas, flyboard, fly board, TXNorth Texas
Flyboard North Texas - Lake Grapevine, Lake Ray Hubbard and others in Dallas/FW area

Flyboard Nation - Lewisville Lake, Frisco


South Texas

South Texas Flyboard - Lake Conroe, Montgomery

Max Pro Water Sports - Corpus Christi

Flyboard South Padre - South Padre Island

Extreme Water Sports - Galveston
 

Belton
Hydrofly of Central Texas - Lake Belton


Austin
Austin Flyboard – Lake Travis

 


 

Unique Museum Remembers the Medics Who Rescued U.S. Soldiers

Friday, May 23, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

U. S. Army Medical Department MuseumI'm in the San Antonio area this week and, with Memorial Day approaching, I thought I'd finally pay a visit to a place that's been on my list for awhile: the U.S. Army Medical Department Museum at the Fort Houston Army Base. The exhibits here pay tribute to those often-unsung heroes, the medics whose job took them to the front lines of battle to rescue the wounded, and the doctors and nurses who tried to save their lives.  It's one of the most outstanding facilities of its kind dedicated to the restoration, preservation and exhibition of significant historic medical items. 

The U.S. Army Medical Department Museum celebrates the history of the Army Medical Department from the Revolutionary War up to the present. At the front of the museum is a wonderful memorial dedicated to combat medics. I found it quite emotional as I prepared myself to enter and face the stories of tragedy, bravery and self-sacrifice. 

Combat Medic Monument

Inside, the layout is set up chronologically, with artifacts and memorabilia showing the contributions that were made by medics and the dedicated doctors and nurses who treated the soldiers at the bases and hospitals. There are displays covering specific events (such as the aftermath of the Battle of Little Bighorn), scientific advances, medical developments, and exhibits where uniforms, medals, and lots of interesting photographs are on display. 

They also feature some actual military medical vehicles which drew a lot of interest from the visitors, including myself. 

I was especially impressed to learn that 52 individuals serving with the U.S. Army Medical Department were recipients of the Medal of Honor, the United States' highest award for military valor. Many Purple Hearts were also awarded to these courageous medical men and woman.
 
For me, one of the most emotional moments was when I walked through a train that was set up as a mobile hospital and used during the Korean War. As I made my way through, I could only imagine what went on right where I was standing. Many lives were saved there, but countless lives were also lost …men and women fighting for our country.

Let us take time this Memorial Day weekend, and long after, to remember them and thank them for paying the ultimate price!

Note: There is no charge to visit, but when making plans, remember that the museum is closed on Sunday, Monday and holidays.

 

A Berry Fun Event: The Pasadena Strawberry Festival

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Pasadena Strawberry Festival, Pasadena TX

Pasadena was once known as the "Strawberry Capital of the South." The strawberries grown here were known for their size and sweetness and were shipped all over the country. Pasadena may have since relinquished its title, but since 1974 residents here have been paying tribute to their beloved fruit with a Texas-sized event that’s sure to satisfy the entire family: it's the Pasadena Strawberry Festival, an annual 3 day event (this year it’s May 16-18) that draws over 45,000 people from all walks of life to the midway. 

This year’s festivities will include live entertainment, rides, strolling performers, a Wild West show, specialty acts, beauty pageants and…strawberries! If you can make it here for the opening ceremony on May 16th you will get to see the unveiling of the world’s largest strawberry shortcake. It really is a sight to behold…and to taste!  And if you are not a big fan of our nation’s favorite fruit, or if you simply want to give your taste buds something else to savor, no problem because the festival is also host to a BBQ cook-off, featuring 70 teams, along with a wide variety of other festival fare.

The Pasadena Strawberry Festival is also the place to get down and dirty in the Texas State Mud Volleyball Tournament. The grounds are equipped with 16 mud-filled courts and the event is always a crowd pleaser.  If that’s not enough mud for you, make sure you come out on Sunday, May 18th because that’s when the mud pit hosts the Warrior Games, which include a tug-of-war…always a blast when there’s mud involved!  >> More info on the Warrior Game events.

The Festival also has an area called the Kids Zone with plenty of fun activities, including arts and crafts, games, pony rides, a petting zoo, shows and much more.

And if shopping is your thing then you are in luck because this year there will be over 300 vendors indoors and out for you to check out.

So why not make plans to stop by The Pasadena Strawberry Festival this year for 3 fun-filled days of everything strawberry...and then some! Come join the fine folks of Pasadena, Texas, for 106 acres of family fun!
 

Get "Rainbowed" at Color Events Across Texas

Friday, May 2, 2014 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Color Run, color race, colored powder, paint party

I'm sure you've seen the pictures on Facebook, Instagram and other media: smiling people in clouds of colored dust or jets of bright paint, their clothes and bodies covered in a palette of pigments. Sometimes they're running a 5K; sometimes, they're dancing to dubstep at an outdoor arena. Whatever the activity, they are getting covered in color and having a great time.  It's a technicolor trend that's been gaining momentum over the past couple of years and it's growing fast. Apparently, people really like getting "rainbowed".

Here's a rundown of some upcoming color events happening in Texas:

Races/Runs

Actually, to call them "races" is probably a misnomer because events like this are not timed and are really just for fun. You'll find most people walking with friends or jogging at a leisurely pace to the finish line (often in crazy outfits). At the start, participants are dressed in white. The run takes them through color zones, where people are waiting on the sidelines to douse the runners in a blaze of colored powders (powders are made of cornstarch and are non-toxic). The big finale at the finish line is a huge, celebratory, explosive color cloud, where the goal is to get as much color on yourself as possible and just have fun. It's also a great photo opp!

color run, color me rad, color race, texas

If you think you might like to try a color run, first read this list of 25 things to know before you do it. 

Color Me Rad 5K
June 29 | San Antonio

The Color Run
August 23 | Houston
Sept. 5 | San Antonio
Oct. 5 | Round Rock

Additional confirmed cities: San Angelo  /  Brownsville  
► Check complete schedule for more TX cities being added

neon dash, color run, texas

The Color Vibe
August 23 | Abilene
October 4 | Dallas/Ft. Worth
October 4 | Midland
► Several other TX cities TBD.  Check the Color Vibe website to see if your town is on the list.

Neon Dash Night Time 5K
Sept. 13 | Austin
Sept. 20 | Dallas

Run or Dye, Color Run, texas vacations


Run Or Dye
Aug. 30 | Austin
Sept. 13 | El Paso 
Additional cities dates to be announced): Laredo  / Wichita Falls  /  Abilene / Corpus Christi  / El Paso
► Check complete schedule for more TX cities being added
 

Paint Parties

These events vary greatly but the three things they always have in common are lots of great music, dancing and colorful paint blasts.

Paint party, texas travel, tour texas, Life In Color

Life in Color

"Life in Color" bills itself as the world's biggest paint party.  Here's how they describe their spectacular show: "we transport fans into the ultimate, mind-blowing, heart-pumping, electronic dance music experience, featuring the world's biggest DJs, art, soaring aerial acts, stilt walkers, contortionists and fire shows...leading up to the famous paint blast."

Catch their annual 4th of July IndepenDANCE Paint Blast. They promise fireworks and more lights, sound and PAINT!  
All Ages Welcome!

July 4 | Hildago
 

neon paint party, el paso texas, anthony texas, texas vacationNeon Paint Party

Get your glow on at The Neon Paint Party, featuring electronic dance music, black lights and a sea of neon colors. The event is held at the Wet N' Wild Waterworld in El Paso and all rides are OPEN. The party is open to all ages, but some features are 21+, including the Beer Garden and Hookah Lounge.
June 28 El Paso

Website | Facebook


color festival, colour festival, texas, HoliColor Festival

With its origins in India, the Color Festival was initially inspired by an ancient Hindu practice known as Holi, the "Festival of Colors", which would usher in the Springtime. It was meant as a happy reminder to put away bad feelings and throw worries to the wind. People would ceremoniously throw colored powders into the air, filling the sky with bright clouds of color.

The Color Festival is an all-day celebration of music, dance, fresh vegetarian cuisine and yoga, featuring their world-famous color throws which urge everyone to embrace happiness and love.  All ages welcome.

Sept. 6 | Dallas
Sept. 13 | Houston

 

So, what's the point of all these color events?  

Judging from all the smiling people having a great time, it's just all about letting loose, being happy and getting RAINBOWED!

 

 

 

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. 

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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

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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.