...And we would all go down together,
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 1800s. This 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.
While 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!
It's not just the proverbial snowbirds from the Northeast who are beginning to make their way south for the colder months; many actual birds have already begun their migrations, too. And one of the best places to see them (the real birds, that is!) is at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Alamo, Texas.
Earlier this summer, a friend of mine convinced me to do the Neches River Rendezvous with him. Actually, it didn’t take much convincing because I love anything to do with being out on the water! The Neches River Rendezvous is a 15-mile canoe trip that takes you down the scenic Neches River, and it attracts people from all over the state to the town of Lufkin in the beautiful Piney Woods area of East Texas.
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.
Texas brings you the best of Broadway, featuring many favorites in theaters across the state. Let’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.
Majestic Theatre: sanantonio.broadway.com
Hobby Center: bcm.edu
Music Hall at Fair Park: liveatthemusichall.com
Bass Concert Hall Austin: texasperformingarts.org
While most Texans are familiar with SXSW and ACL - located in Austin, the “music capital of the world,”- many are unaware of the other music festivals available around the state. Your music festival opportunities aren’t limited to two a year, nor are they limited to Austin! One such festival, “Wildflower!,” is an award-winning, multi-day eclectic arts and music festival located just north of Dallas and features six performance stages, a Taste of Texas Food Garden, a family-friendly Kidz Korner, and a whole lot more!
Wildflower! arts and music festival began in 1993 as a small community event held in a local park in northeast Richardson. It was designed as an event to celebrate the blooming of the wildflowers in the area as well as bring people together to ‘celebrate the impact of music… by creating access to a broad array of musical experiences and to encourage the education, development, and appreciation of diverse musical genres.’ Over the years, the festival has seen performances from some of the biggest names in the industry, including Lisa Loeb, Bowling For Soup, Peter Frampton, The Dixie Chicks, Blues Traveler, Ryan Cabrera, Smash Mouth, Sister Hazel, Miranda Lambert, Tanya Tucker, and numerous others. In two decades, the festival has grown to become the area’s most recognized and anticipated musical event, spanning over 30 acres and featuring multiple stages, arts, music, exhibits, and family activities.
The best part about learning of this festival now is: you still have an opportunity to get in for free! More than just free admission to the festival, entering the contest (detailed out below) is an opportunity to win access to complimentary food and drinks in the VIP Hospitality Area, A souvenir festival poster, special seating at main stages, and free hotel accommodations – an ultimate fun-filled weekend package!
To enter the contest, visit TourTexas.com and click the “contest” tab at the top of the page. At the bottom of the contest page, you will have an opportunity to fill out a brief amount of information. Be sure to make note: You can enter once a day leading up to the drawing to increase your chances of winning! GOOD LUCK!
Alright all you competitive contest-lovers, it's that time again for you to win free stuff! Right now we are offering 11 pairs of tickets for the combo of The Ultimate Mirror Maze Challenge and The Vault Laser Challenge in San Antonio, TX!
The Ultimate Mirror Maze Challenge is a winding maze of fun for all ages, with surprising corners, dead ends, and continuous circles! For an extra challenge, the maze offers 3D prism glasses. With these passes that last all day, challenge yourself to see how fast you can make it through!
The Vault laser challenge is equally intense. Test out your stealthy skills in a real-life James Bond kind of way with this laser beam challenge! As laser beams illuminate and the timer starts, it is your job to see how fast you can make it across the room without coming into contact with one of the beams of light. Make it a contest between family members! Varying difficulty levels allow for a challenge for all ages.
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 San Antonio, TX?
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 11 people to complete both steps will receive two free tickets to The Mirror Maze Challenge and The Vault Challenge combo tickets!
Don’t forget to complete both steps! Good luck!!
Okay, so maybe Valentine’s Day crept up on you a little faster than you expected… again. You had every intention of making big plans, but your work schedule interfered with the execution. Plus, as it turns out, that fancy restaurant where you two had your first date actually books up way in advance. So what will it be this year, red roses and the same Hallmark card you gave her last year? Gentlemen, here are five ideas to help you think outside the box of chocolates:
1. Get creative – together! For thousands of years, art has been used as a primary medium of expressions of love. Why not try out a museum? For example, The Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, TX is hosting a gallery talk on images of love in the Blanton collection, and the best part is: it’s free! After reveling in the beauty of artwork throughout the ages, why not try making some artwork of your own? For example, if you’re a Houstonian, check out Pinot’s Palette in downtown Houston for a creative night full of canvasses and cocktails.
2. We thoroughly encourage you to monkey around... with a trip to the zoo! This Valentine’s Day at the Dallas Zoo you can commemorate the experience by adopting an extra furry bundle of joy: Koalas are available for adoption, and as new parents you receive a photo, adoption certificate, andtwo admission tickets to visit the newest addition to your family. For animal lovers looking for a simpler agenda, visit a local animal shelter! But we can’t guarantee you won’t end up with a furry bundle of joy there as well.
3.. Instead of buying her the standard dozen red roses, why not give her thousands of flowers in every shape, size, and color? I promise you, it’s not a pricey arrangement! The Fort Worth Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in Texas, with over 2,500 species of native and exotic plants in 23 different specialty gardens. With tours at $5 a person, this SCENTsational experience is less than the cost of those cliché red roses.
4. Nothing says “I love you to the moon and back” like a trip to the planetarium. The planetarium at The University of Texas at Arlington is the largest planetarium in Texas, and is currently doing a showing of what it takes to become an astronaut and the effects of space on the human body. Talk about an experience that is out of this world! The Cook Planetarium in Corsicana, Texas, is the second largest planetarium in the state, and only 50 miles south of Dallas. If you’re a small-town Texan and the nearest planetarium seems light years away, you may actually have an advantage: grab some wine for two and spend an evening under a blanket of stars.
5. Prove to her that love really is in the air this Valentine’s Day: take a hot air balloon ride! For those in the DFW area, Rohr Balloons offers an unforgettable Valentine’s Day package full of champagne, souvenirs, and a trip that will take your breath away. Not ready to take your love to such heights? Check out the Houston Downtown Aquarium Ferris Wheel for a round trip that’s a bit more grounded.
It’s that time of year again when cupid makes his annual debut, rose bushes are chopped bare of their blooms, pink Hallmark cards are bought by the masses, red ribbons and confetti fill the air, and Russell Stover’s company triples its profits due to lovers conveying their affection the best way anyone knows how: with ambiguously-filled chocolates. But what if there was a better simple and creative way to show your affection and enhance that cheesy pink Hallmark card that just doesn’t quite do justice to the love you share? Valentine, Texas holds the key to just that.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking already: Valentine, Texas? Is there really such a thing? I hope you’re not suggesting I drive there just to experience the name. Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest you pack your bags and take a valentine’s road trip to west Texas (though that could be fun!) when there is a better way to bring Valentine, Texas to you!
Though Valentine, Texas is home to just over 200 people and sees an average of 100 pieces of mail a day, around cupid’s holiday there is an influx to up to 2,000 cards a day. Why, you ask? Because there is no better creative way to make your cheesy Hallmark card an “official” valentine’s card than with a postmark and cancellation stamp from Valentine, TX! It’s not to late to join in the fun. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Locate the perfect valentine card that expresses everything your heart wants to say to that special someone (or, write a letter of your own! I am in full support of unique and personal love letters from the heart).
2. Next, find a pink, white, or other light-colored envelope for the card or letter to be placed in (the Valentine stamp is red, so it won’t be seen on a red envelope), and address it to the one you love. Be
sure to place a postage stamp on your card, as Valentine, TX will just be stamping a cancellation
stamp on top of it, not adding a separate stamp.
3. Place your addressed card inside another larger envelope, and address it to:
Valentine Re-mailing Program
Valentine, Texas 79854
Lastly, prepare to share the story with your special someone as to why their card is one of the few truly “official” valentines cards out there!
If you're looking to make Valentine's Day plans in Texas, TourTexas.com has a wide variety of ideas, including:
It is amazing to me how often we go through life without a proper appreciation of history. I must admit, I am guilty of it too. Having lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for a couple years, how many times had I driven down Elm Street downtown without ever realizing what monumental event took place there almost exactly 50 years ago? When a friend recommended a visit to The JFK “Sixth Floor Museum,” I knew it was a must-see. I was not disappointed.
For an event that occurred such a long time ago, stepping out of the elevator onto the sixth floor was like stepping back in time. Though I am a museum lover, this museum is unlike any I had experienced; it is a museum with a story to tell. Equipped with an interactive headset that allows you to take in the story at your own pace - and request more details about the things you find most intriguing – you are taken on a journey through the life of the 35th President.
About halfway through the journey, you are standing at the corner of the building, at the exact location where assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was perched on that fateful day in 1963. Encased in glass, that corner has been preserved and untouched over the years, with even the storage boxes that Oswald had used to prop up his rifle positioned as they had been that day. It was eerie to look through the same windows he did and imagine what the world must have looked like outside a half a century ago.
For someone who was not alive when the assassination of John F. Kennedy took place, I left the museum feeling as though I had lived through the events of that day. At the end of the journey, guest books are available for visitors to leave comments about how the exhibit impacted them, or reflections on their experience of that historic day. Reading through some of the comments gave me insight into what a monumental day in history it really was – with so many comments reflecting on the details engrained in their memory.
One of the comments read, “I was sitting in eighth grade science class when I heard the news that the president had been shot. It was a day the world stood still.”
For those who lived through the assassination of JFK, the museum will elicit powerful memories. For subsequent generations, the museum offers a riveting trip back in time, bringing history to life.
Some people think of this season as Fall but to me, there's winter, spring, summer and football season. If there's one thing I love to do besides travel, it's watch a good game. Here in Texas we have two of the best stadiums to do that. If you're traveling near Houston or Dallas and you can fit a live game into your itinerary, I highly recommend doing so. But if your travels don't coincide with a home game, do the next best thing and take a stadium tour!
Fans of the powerhouse Texans head out to Reliant Field in Houston to show their support. This place is immense! It sits on 350 acres and consists of Reliant Stadium, Reliant Center, Reliant Astrodome, and Reliant Arena. It was pretty cool getting a behind-the-scenes look into the workings of the stadium and where the team works out and gets ready for a game. One of the interesting things I learned on the tour is that they remove the field (which is real grass) after every game and store it in another facility. I also enjoyed seeing the differences between the Texans' and the visiting team's locker rooms…talk about home field advantage! Other stops include the Press box, weight room, cafeteria, gift shops and the premium seating areas (which, for a lot of us is the only way we’ll ever get to see them up close!) Our tour guide also showed us how the stadium’s roof retracts. This way you can enjoy the nice weather outside, or if there’s too much of that famous Houston heat and humidity, the nice weather inside!
Cowboys’ fans flock to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. This relatively new football mecca (opened in 2009) is the largest domed stadium in the world and can accommodate 80,000 fans. Again, I’d highly recommend you take a tour if you want to really experience this amazing stadium. If you can, take the VIP tour as opposed to the self-guided tour. It's $10 more, but really worth it! I had a great guide. He explained in detail everything about the building. A really cool stop was the VIP suite where Jerry Jones, owner of the Cowboys, watches the games. I loved seeing the locker rooms - I could imagine myself as a Dallas Cowboy, getting suited up and ready to take on all challengers! And to add to my fantasy, we even got to walk out onto the field exactly as the Cowboys do, under a long hallway underneath a huge, lit-up Cowboys star on the ceiling!
Another thing I have to mention is the amazing high definition video screen. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in any other arena. The picture is clearer than my HD-TV at home! It’s so huge, so you get a spectacular view no matter where you’re sitting.
I highly recommend making a stadium tour part of your trip to the Dallas or Houston area.
For more information:
Reliant Stadium tours: http://reliantpark.com/public-tours
Cowboys Stadium tours: http://stadium.dallascowboys.com/tours/tourInfo.cfm
I have always been fascinated with space, “the final frontier”. As a kid, I followed the voyages of the starship Enterprise, joining Captain Kirk and his crew on many imaginary missions. But my real heroes were the actual space travelers - the NASA astronauts. When I found out that one of my real heroes, Neil Armstrong (the commander of the Apollo Space mission and the first man to walk on the moon) had passed away recently, I couldn't think of a better way to honor him than by visiting Space Center Houston, the official visitors’ center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Space Center Houston has several interactive exhibits, many of which are geared towards kids, but that doesn't mean they are "childish" -- adults will still find them pretty cool too. For example, there are simulations that allow you see what it feels like to walk in space or land on the moon. The Astronaut Gallery exhibits actual space suits that have been worn beyond earth's orbit. You can also take in a space flight related movie at the Northrup Grumman Theater (the largest giant screen theater in Texas) and experience the excitement of launching into space at the Blast Off Theater.
I suggest you head for the tram ride first, like I did. It's included in the admission price and is the most popular thing to do here so there’s usually a wait, but it's worth it. On this tour, you get to see some of the actual Space Center grounds, and you might even spot some real NASA employees at work. We stopped at The Mission Control Center, and even though there wasn't’t a lot of activity going on that day, it's sort of incredible to walk in there and realize that this is the room where moon landings and so many other famous missions were coordinated.
We also stopped at the international space station which was interesting, but seeing Saturn V in Rocket Park was by far the best part of the tour. It was huge, much larger than I realized, and an absolutely amazing sight to behold.
Save some time to visit the Starship Gallery, too. For me, it was worth the trip just to touch a real moon rock! But all of the artifacts in the Starship Gallery are incredible: space capsules, The Apollo 17 command module, the giant skylab trainer, to name just a few.
Check the Space Center Houston website for directions and hours. You can buy tickets online too.
All in all, I’d say even if astronauts aren’t your particular brand of hero, Space Center Houston is still a place that you'd enjoy. But if you are really into space or science, then this place is a must-see!
Can you believe that with all of the traveling I’ve done, I’ve never seen “Texas”? I’m not talking about Texas, the state. I’m talking about “Texas”, which has been hailed as the most spectacular outdoor musical drama in the world.
Performed at the Pioneer Amphitheater in the majestic Palo Duro Canyon, "Texas" depicts the trials, tribulations and triumphs of our forefathers in the Panhandle region during the 1800s. Besides learning about the history of this fascinating time and place, you’ll also be treated to singing, dancing, some of our unique brand of Texas humor, amazing special effects and the Dancing Waters of Texas! Fireworks, always a favorite of mine, provide a thrilling ending to a dazzling show. This family-friendly extravaganza, with a cast of over 60 talented actors, singers and dancers, has been performed since 1965 and returns every summer, bigger and better each year.
Enjoy the show!
My wife was born in the heartlands, but she has always had such a strong connection to the ocean that people just assume that she grew up on the coast. For me, that affinity is horses. I don’t know why... I have a friend who says it's because I must have been a cowboy in a past life. If that's so, I definitely didn't bring any of my cowboy skills with me into this life! Yes, I can ride, but I'm definitely not a "cowboy" rider, if you will. No problem, because here in Texas, there are plenty of opportunities for me to do the next best thing: watch people who are!
As I am on the road, traveling through Texas fairly often, I am lucky to see so much of the natural beauty our great state is blessed with. But as much as I see, Texas still manages to surprise me. I recently visited the Natural Bridge Caverns, about 30 minutes north of San Antonio and was awe-struck at the alien world that exists below the Texas soil.
- You are not allowed to touch anything in the cave and they are strict about it. Before you decide to bring small kids on a tour, be sure they understand "no touching"!
- The cave is wet and the path is slippery at times. There is a handrail to keep you upright, but wear appropriate footwear, preferably with non-slip soles
- It can get hot and humid in the cavern. Really hot. Dress accordingly. Bring some cold water.
- You don't have to be an athlete to take a cave tour, but there is a lot of walking and some climbing and, as previously mentioned, it gets hot. It's not extremely strenuous, but just know your own physical limits before going.
- Stay near the front of the pack so you can hear your tour guide. While seeing the formations alone is amazing, learning about the geology and ecology makes the trip that much more enjoyable.
According to the calendar, this past Sunday was the first day of summer. But we Texans don't need a calendar to know when summer starts. It's when the weather changes from hot and humid springtime temps to downright blistering summer heat. It's when people start dreaming of trips to the Gulf Coast. And, it's when peaches come into season. Many people think Georgia grows the nation's best peaches, but Texas is right up there at the top of the list. A Texas peach is the sweetest, drip-down-your-chin juiciest piece of fruit you'll ever eat. And, of course, they're much bigger here!
Coming in July: Parker County Peach Festival in Weatherford, north of Dallas.
I've got nothing against a good art museum or a sobering historical exhibit. In fact, I think a great museum is one of the high points of a trip to a new place. But, as Americans, I think most of us also love to explore the weird, the silly, the strange and the morbid. With that in mind, I present to you ten of Texas' weirdest, coolest and most unique museums.