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 

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.

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!
 
 
 
 
 

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.

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  > 

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

Lake Jackson: The City of Enchantment

Tuesday, September 3, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Texas is home to many different types of cities – from large, bustling metropolitan areas to small western towns that many people associate with this great state. One of the most unique cities that I have had the pleasure of visiting recently is Lake Jackson. Situated in Brazoria County, the town was built where the old Lake Jackson Plantation house once stood, and was created by Alden Dow (son of Herbert Henry Dow, the founder of the Dow Chemical Company) as a planned community to meet the needs of the incoming employees of the Dow Chemical Company, which came to the area in 1940.

You can learn all about the history of this area by visiting the Lake Jackson Historical Museum. The exhibits and interactive displays are quite extensive and they don’t only cover the planning and building of the community; the displays go back as far as the prehistoric era and cover the opulent plantation era as well. From August 10 through September 22, the museum is presenting a special exhibit which explores how the ideals and philosophies of Alden Dow guided him in his establishment of this fascinating community.

Another nice trip to take while in the area is a visit to the Jackson Plantation Site. A Texas Landmark, the Jackson Plantation was a prosperous sugar plantation on the banks of Lake Jackson. It was destroyed by a hurricane in 1900, and today you can see just how destructive that hurricane was. You’ll learn how sugar was processed in the 1840’s, how slave labor gave way to convict labor, and much more. This year, their Plantation Day Celebration will be on September 7. There’ll be reenactments, craft displays, activities, games, refreshments…something for kids of all ages!  You can find more information on all of these locations at the website.

Sea Center Texas is also nearby and worth a visit. Here you’ll find an aquarium, fish hatchery and education center. On most days, tours are available which include going behind the scenes to see the hatchery were the fingerling redfish are spawned and raised until old enough to be released into the nearby bay waters. The admission price is free. 

Lake Jackson's location along the central flyway used by migratory birds, and its pivotal location on the Gulf of Mexico makes it a perfect place for the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory. This 34-acre sanctuary is dedicated to protecting birds and their habitats along the Gulf of Mexico. Offering education and community outreach, kids can participate in their Birding Day Camp, bird identification and photography. Special events are offered throughout the year.  Coming this month, September 14 and 21, is the XHX Event: Xtreme Hummingbird Xtravaganza, featuring hummingbird banding, Adopt-A-Hummer, nature trails and more.

Lake Jackson's natural beauty, quirky personality, and unique vision have earned it the nickname: “the City of Enchantment”, a well-deserved title. 

 

The Best of Broadway in Texas

Thursday, June 20, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Texas brings you the best of Broadway, featuring many favorites in theaters across the state. San Antonio vacationLet’s take a tour of the great state of Texas and find out what’s on stage this summer and fall!

First stop – San Antonio, Texas, a place where modern attractions are combined with celebrated monuments of Texas history.  Here you will enjoy the grandeur of the ornate Majestic Theatre, one of the few remaining vintage vaudeville movie palaces. It’s been said that the twinkling lights and moving clouds adorning the ceiling are alone worth the price of the ticket. If you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants traveler, head to San Antonio this week (June 18-23) and catch a showing of "Flashdance" or if you need a little more notice, plan your trip for the fall and enjoy "The Book of Mormon", September 17-29.

Next we head to Houston, Texas, where you will experience a rich cultural fusion of world-class arts and award-winning cuisine. Located in the heart of downtown Houston, The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is the premiere entertainment complex in the Houston District. This first-class setting features distinguished theaters, an impressive grand lobby, a contemporary American cuisine restaurant and convenient parking for their acclaimed theatrical performances and special events. Watch the untold story of the witches of Oz unfold in the musical “Wicked”, on stage July 10-August 11 at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.

 

In Dallas, you will experience the largest contiguous urban arts district in the nation as well as top museums, performance halls and award-winning architectural designs, arts and culture. Nestled among this architecture is The Music Hall at Fair Park, a nationally recognized venue for Broadway musical touring companies, grand opera, ballet and other dance productions, concerts, national pageants and a myriad of other large and small-scale public and private functions. You won’t want to miss the upcoming performances of "The Lion King", a phenomenal musical taking the stage October 2-20 at The Music Hall at Fair Park.

Finally, we arrive in Austin, Texas, the music capital of the world and one of the most unique places you will ever experience.  The city is also home to the Texas Performing Arts Center at The University of Texas at Austin, one of the most important contributors of cultural life in Central Texas.  Make plans to visit Austin this fall and catch "The Book of Mormon", showing October 1-13 in The Texas Performing Arts Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

 

 

 

 

Photo credits:
Majestic Theatre: sanantonio.broadway.com
Hobby Center: bcm.edu
Music Hall at Fair Park: liveatthemusichall.com
Bass Concert Hall Austin: texasperformingarts.org

Galveston Beach: Taking Sandcastles to a Whole New Level

Monday, May 20, 2013 by Anna Woita

 

Most everyone has childhood memories of building sandcastles either at the beach or in a sandbox.  But for the team members of the American Institute of Architects Sandcastle Competition, those childhood playtimes were primordial preparation for the big league. 

For over two decades teams of architects, designers, and engineers have “suited up” in Galveston with shovels and sculpting tools in hand to construct some of the world’s most elaborate sandcastles.  The competition really heats up as teams compete for the prestige of taking home the coveted 1st place Golden Bucket Award.  Second and third place winners receive Silver and Bronze Shovel Awards, respectively.  Numerous other honorable mentions are named, including Most Complex, Most Hilarious, Most Realistic, Best Architecture, and Best Traditional.  Recognition is also given for teams with the best t-shirt designs, costumes, and best signage, allowing numerous avenues for teams to exhibit their creativity. 

The creative sandcrafting you see is no impromptu affair, as most teams spend months preparing ideas, collecting tools, and assigning tasks for the day of the competition.  Aside from awards and a day of creative fun in the sun, the sandcastle competition is also a fundraising event for AIA Houston and ArCH Foundations, with proceeds going to support various public education programs sponsored by the Houston chapters.  The event is also one of the top five revenue-generating events for the City of Galveston. 

If this sandtastic competition is one you haven’t experienced yet, it’s time you pack up your beach gear and head down to Galveston beach Saturday, June 1, for a first class seat at this one-of-a-kind event, notably listed in Patricia Shultz’ book “1000 Things You Should See Before You Die”.  The assembling begins at 9 a.m. and continues for five hours, with awards presented late afternoon. 

For more information or to get involved in the sandy competition, visit the AIA website here.

 

The Pasadena Strawberry Festival: A Texas-sized festival of fun!

Monday, May 6, 2013 by Anna Woita

 

After 40 consecutive years of successful festivals, including a 2012 turnout of 50,000 attendees, you know the creators of the Pasadena Strawberry Festival are doing something right!  But really, where else can you find some of country music’s biggest stars, an epic mud volleyball tournament, an authentic Texan BBQ cook off, and the world’s largest strawberry shortcake all in one place?  Only in Pasadena, Texas!

It all began 40 years ago when Pasadena earned itself the proud title of “Strawberry Capitol of the South”.  To celebrate San Jacinto Day – the 1836 battle against Mexico which secured Texas’ independence – the city of Pasadena decided to host its first annual Pasadena Strawberry Festival.  Today, the festival has grown to fill the 106-acre Pasadena Convention Center and fairgrounds, with over 500 volunteers and 50,000 attendees!

If you haven’t attended before, this year’s 40th annual celebration is the year to join in the fun!  The excitement kicks off on Friday, May 11th at 10 a.m. with the Pasadena Strawberry Festival Parade, and fun for the whole family. The following weekend brings in the country music, featuring performances by Brian Evans, Casey Donahew Band, Keith McCoy, Pat Green Band, and numerous others.  For those of you with little ones, the Buzzberry Kids Adventure Zone provides endless entertainment with arts and crafts, a strawberry-eating contest, pony rides, a petting zoo, inflatable games, a live puppet show, and much more!  For those of a competitive nature who don’t mind getting down-and-dirty, the annual mud volleyball tournament is a competition of seriously messy proportions.  After you’ve exhausted your energy diving into the mud, dive into world-record holding deliciousness with a plate of Pasadena’s Strawberry Shortcake –the 2005 Guinness book of World-Record largest cake at 1905 square feet!

The best part of the Pasadena Strawberry Festival is the cause behind it all: proceeds from the Pasadena Strawberry Festival benefit The San Jacinto Day Foundation.  This foundation funds various projects including scholarships for area high school and college students, books for college libraries, preservation and promotion of Texas History, and fundraising efforts for local civic, youth and non-profit groups.  

Bring out the family and join in the Texas-sized fun that keeps on giving at this year’s 40th annual Pasadena Strawberry Festival! 

Cinco De Mayo: History Brought to Life, Texas Style

Monday, April 29, 2013 by Anna Woita

 

Because Texas was once a part of Mexico, many traditions and festivities of Mexican heritage are very much alive in Texas, the most well-known of which is the celebration of Cinco de Mayo.  “Cinco de Mayo,” as you may know, is Spanish for “the fifth of May,” and commemorates the anniversary of the 1862 battle between Mexico and France in the Mexican state of Puebla.  While the largest celebration occurs in Puebla each year, Cinco de Mayo is richly celebrated throughout Mexico as well as many cities in the U.S., especially cities throughout Texas.  Here is a list of some of the primary hot-spots for Cinco de Mayo festivities throughout Texas:

1. San Antonio is the largest Texas city closest to Mexico, and therefore maintains the strongest ties to Mexican heritage. Thus, San Antonio annually hosts quite a celebration for Cinco de Mayo at its historic Market Square.  Festivities include Mariachis, Tejano and Conjunto music groups, Folklorico dancers, arts and crafts, concerts, and of course a cornucopia of authentic Mexican food. The Cinco de Mayo events at Market Square usually draw between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors annually. 

2.In North Texas, Denton’s Cinco de Mayo celebration is “centered on the spirit of celebration and friendship” and showcases a parade, rich cultural traditions, songs, dances, art exhibits, and Mexican food, as well as a 5k run for all ages.  What started several years ago as a very small celebration has grown to include two entertainment stages and use of the whole Quakertown Park and Civic Center.  The celebration in Denton draws over 6,000 visitors annually.  

3. Austin’s celebrations give an extra incentive to attend: proceeds are donated to the Fiestas Patrias of Austin scholarship fund, as well as various community programs.  At Fiestas Patrias 8th annual two-day Cinco de Mayo celebration, Mexican traditions fill the air with a variety of Tejeno and conjunto bands that bring the heart and soul of Mexico to life.  Highlighting the event this year will be performances by: Gary Hobbs, Baraja de Oro, Joel Guzman y Sara Fox, Los Fantasmas del Valle, Yayo Castillo y grupo Rumores, and many more.  Chuy’s will also be celebrating their 30th annual Hot to Trot 5k and Kids 5k on May 5, with proceeds benefitting the Special Olympics. 

4. San Marcos joins in the fun with a three-day event featuring their "Viva"! Cinco de Mayo parade which takes place at 10 a.m. on May 5 in downtown San Marcos.  The festivities also include: a state-wide cook-off, a Miss and Little Miss Cinco de Mayo pageant, Folkloric dancers, and live music all at the Hays County Civic Center. 

Wherever you’re from and whatever your background, take time to join in the celebrations and excitement of Cinco de Mayo has to offer, bringing Mexico’s history and traditions to life.  Arriba! 

Buckhorn Saloon and Museum : Enter Now to Win Free Tickets!

Thursday, April 25, 2013 by Anna Woita

 

It’s that time again where we offer you the chance to win your free tickets to great Texas adventures!  Right now we are offering 9 pairs of tickets to the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum in San Antonio, TX

Conveniently located in the heart of downtown San Antonio, just two blocks from The Alamo and a block from the Riverwalk, a visit to Buckhorn Saloon and Museum provides you with the perfect starting point for a day of exploration of the city.

The museum’s lure is in part due to its intriguing origins.  In 1881, Seventeen-year-old Albert Friedrich, a bartender and bellhop at the Southern Hotel on Main Plaza in downtown San Antonio decided to roll up his entrepreneurial sleeves and start a saloon across the street.

After learning that many patrons passing through couldn’t afford to purchase a drink by conventional means at The Buckhorn Saloon, Albert decided to start trading horns and antlers in exchange for his beverages.  His collection grew to become one of the world’s largest and most unique collections of horns and antlers.

Today the museum – one of the oldest in the state – features wildlife from all across the globe, including fish from the seven seas and animals from every continent.  The halls of the museum comprise over 520 species of wildlife – many of which are record holders, including a 1,056 pound black marlin and a 10,000 year old pre-historic Irish elk.  Visitors of all ages continue to visit year after year and marvel at one of the most elaborate collection of animals in the world!

Enter now to experience The Buckhorn Saloon and Museum – for free!

Here’s how to enter:
1. Leave a comment here on the blog and answer this question: What is your favorite thing to do in the summer in Texas?
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.

The first 9 people to complete both steps will receive two free tickets to Buckhorn Saloon and Museum!

Don’t forget to complete both steps!  Good luck!! 

 

Texas: Justified Pride

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 by Anna Woita

 

In light of San Jacinto Day rapidly approaching (April 21), I set out to investigate the origins of Texans’ pride.  When it comes to state pride, there’s really no questioning that Texans are unparalleled in their love for their state.  I feel as though I’ve seen it all – from oversized Texas tattoos to a full set of longhorns on the front of a truck driving down the interstate.  When they say “everything’s bigger in Texas,” Texas pride is included.  

Where does this pride come from?  I did a little digging, and here are my top five reasons that justify Texas pride:

1. History.  This has to encompass the most substantial aspect of Texans’ pride.  Though most are familiar with the phrase “remember the Alamo,” many are unaware of what the battle fought there really consisted of.  Though it ended in a defeat for the Texans, the mere fact that the Texans persisted and that the battle raged on for nearly two weeks without surrender, fighting with only 100 troops combating Mexico’s 1,500 is a feat worthy of recognition. Colonel William Barret Travis’ words amidst the battle illustrate the men’s courage: “To the People of Texas and all Americans in the world,” “I shall never surrender or retreat,” and “Victory or Death.” 

If there is one thing that could ignite a surge of bravery to suit-up for battle throughout the rest of Texas, it was seeing the unwavering valiance of the men who fought at the Alamo.  Thus, The Battle of San Jacinto took place less than a month after The Battle of The Alamo in what is now the bay area of Houston, with much different results.  In a battle lasting only 18 minutes, hundreds of Mexican soldiers were killed, injured, or captured, compared to a mere 35 Texans.  General Santa Anna was captured, and negotiations were made for Texas to become independent from Mexico.  What other state can boast of such gallant history?

2. All the landscapes you need in one place.  When it comes to diversity of land, Texas seems to be a country unto itself yet again.  This is in part due to the fact that, quite frankly, Texas is huge.  Okay, our disjointed neighbors of the north (Alaska) may be the one state that has bragging rights on size bigger than Texas, but how often do you hear of people flocking to the tundra? Not when they find out that Texas has it all – from deserts and plains, farmlands and forests, to the rich urban culture of city life, there’s not much you can want landscape-wise that you can’t find in Texas... unless, of course, it’s tundra.

3. Southern hospitality and chivalry.  There’s just something about the “yes sirs” and “yes ma’ams” down here that I just can’t get enough of.  I’ve visited a great number of states, but few can hold a torch to Texas when it comes to the sweetness of the south.  It’s no wonder that Frisco, TX made Forbes’ list of America’s Friendliest Towns, or that San Antonio was listed as #1 on NBC Today’s list of Friendliest Cities in America.  It’s more than just a happenstance disposition; it’s a way of life that has been engrained in Texans for years.  And with universities like Texas A&M bringing up men of honor in the corps, it’s not hard to see why southern gentlemen are still alive and well in Texas.

4. Texas continues to produce greatness.  Starting from the top, three out of the last nine U.S. Presidents have been from Texas.  Texas can also boast of having its very own cuisine: Tex-Mex, a sensation your tastebuds can never seem to get enough of.  Speaking of tastebuds, Blue Bell ice cream, boasting with dozens of mouthwatering flavors, also originated in Texas.  Texas has also produced a number of the world’s top musical talent including Willie Nelson, Beyonce Knowles, George Strait, Buddy Holly, Jessica Simpson, Miranda Lambert, Pat Green, and numerous others.  But are any of these really as substantial as being able to boast of Chuck Norris, Texas Ranger? From the political scene to the music scene and more, Texas has been generating impressive talent since its inception.

5. The economy.  In terms of gross domestic product, if Texas were its own country, it would rank 14th in the world – just below Australia and above Mexico, with a total GDP of $1.3 trillion (according to 2011 stats).  I’d say that’s something to boast about.  Along with that, Texas has maintained a significantly lower unemployment rate than the national average, escaped the foreclosure bust that crippled other states, and tapped into even greater oil money than before through a process called “fracking”.  If ever there came a day when Texans felt the need to secede, combine the state’s self-sufficient economy with their love for guns and all I can say is, “don’t mess with Texas.” 

Shamrockin' Good Times Across Texas for St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 4, 2013 by Anna Woita

 

St. Patrick's Day FestivitiesAlong with the promise of spring just around the corner, March brings with it another “green” celebration filled with merriment and tomfoolery, shamrocks and pots of gold.  That’s right, St. Patrick ’s Day is nearly here, and we’ve got plenty of ways you can celebrate down here in Texas. Whether you’ve got the luck of the Irish flowing through your veins or not, it’s time you throw on your green getup, grab a pint of ale, and celebrate like you do. 

1. St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Shamrock, TX.  Clearly Texas has it all: what Valentine, TX is to Valentine’s Day, you can be assured Shamrock is held to the same expectations when March rolls around.  Luckily, the town does not disappoint.  Located just an hour east of Amarillo, The Shamrock celebration kicks off with a carnival and Irish banquet on Friday, March 15th.  The carnival runs throughout the weekend, but it is joined by arts and crafts, a parade on Saturday, and plenty of Irish jigs!  But the most unique aspect of Shamrock’s St. Patrick’s Day tradition is the annual “Donegal contest,” where men of all ages compete starting in January to grow the most Irish-looking facial hair that would make any leprechaun proud.  If you have an opportunity to make it out to Shamrock, TX, we guarantee you the excitement will not disappoint.

2. St. Patrick’s Day festival in Austin, TX.  Who doesn’t love an excuse to head to Texas’ most eccentric city for a weekend of fun?  At the St. Patrick’s Day festival held at the Shoal Creek Event Center, your craving for Irish entertainment will be filled to the brim with river dancing, children’s story telling in Irish, and a full supply of Irish beers on tap from Guinness to Smithwick’s.  But what would Austin be without a solid dose of live music?  The Celtic Cultural Center of Texas has organized for an authentic Irish performance by Goitse, an extremely talented band of five from Limerick, Ireland. 

3. St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dallas, TX.  What better place for a parade on St. Patrick’s Day than down Greenville, Ave.?  Since its humble community beginnings in 1979 with a few cars and a few cold ones, this Dallas celebration has grown to see nearly 100,000 spectators annually.  With over 100 floats to see, this parade is among the top green parades to be seen, giving other top metropolitan cities a serious run for their pot o’ gold. 

4. St. Patrick’s Day festival in Dublin, TX.  Okay, so just when we thought Shamrock, TX had to be the quintessential location for all-things-Irish in Texas, we discovered Dublin.  With a parade, gun show, carnival, stew cook-off, and “shake-your-shamrock” dance, Dublin offers an array of festivities sure to satisfy your St. Paddy’s Day cravings.  And, if your green leprechaun getup is fitting just a little tighter than you’d like this year, Dublin has a great alternative to the Irish pubs: the Shamrock Shuffle 5k, held March 16 in downtown Dublin. 

5. Houston St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.  For those Houstonians out there, fear not, the luck of the Irish is still alive and thriving in the heart of Houston.  Not only does Houston provide a shamrockin’ good time at their 1960 St. Patrick’s Day parade, the proceeds of the parade go to  benefit EMS Education scholarship programs.  Your fun goes to support to a good cause! Now that’s something the Irish would be proud of.  For the adults out there looking to celebrate, Lucky’s Pub will be hosting their fifth annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration including live music, leprechauns, bag pipers, and plenty of green beer to go around.