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 

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.

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

 
 

Bird-Lovers Take Flight to the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man

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.

This place is a mecca for bird-watchers; over 400 species have been spotted here, and some you won’t find in too many other places in the United States. I enjoy being surrounded by wildlife, but to tell you the truth, I wouldn't know a Hook-Billed Kite from a Great Kiskadee!  That's why I took a tour.  My guide was able to point out several species for me and told me that occasionally they’ll get some rare birds from Mexico showing up at the refuge -- always a thrill for the die-hard birders!
 
If you are thinking about visiting (and you should!), now would be a great time to go because at this time of year, thousands of birds pass through the refuge on their way to Central and South America. This is one of the reasons that Santa Ana is one of the top birding destinations in the world!
 
But besides being a must-see for birders, anyone who loves nature will absolutely adore this place! There are 2,088 acres of diverse habitats to explore: woods (where you’ll see many trees beautifully decorated with Spanish moss), lush fields, ponds and the Rio Grande River. And you don’t have to go it alone because the guides lead nature walks, and canoe trips on the river.
 
Don’t forget to bring along your camera, even if you’re not a birder, because there are many other types of wildlife to shoot besides our feathered friends. I didn't get to see any of the park's endangered and elusive ocelots, but I did spot a bobcat! And if you love butterflies like I do, you’re in luck because many different types call the refuge home. (Plus, there’s a really nice butterfly garden right next to the visitors’ center.)
 
I’m sure that once you visit this natural wonder, you’ll know why the birds come back year after year!
 
 

Lufkin, TX and The Ellen Trout Zoo

Tuesday, September 10, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man

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.

For a quaint town, it’s surprising how many things there are to see and do here, including top-notch golfing (the Crown Colony Country Club has been rated as one of the top 10 golf courses in Texas), bass fishing, dining at some really fine restaurants, shopping, visiting museums and spending a day at the zoo! Yes, I said zoo…and I’m not talking about the type of zoo you usually find in a town this size - you know, a place with a few squirrels, some local birds and if you’re lucky, maybe a raccoon or two! No, the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin is home to over 700 animals and has received numerous state and national awards. 
 
The zoo is kept clean and the animals appear to be well cared for. The place has a lot of shade and seating areas where you can take a break and watch the beautiful peacocks strolling around. A major attraction is the train ride, especially popular with the kids, which takes you through the zoo and around Ellen Trout Lake. But keep in mind that the train only runs on weekends during the school year.
 
The Zoo is open every day of the year from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The cost is very reasonable: $5.00 for adults, $2.50 for children (4 – 11) and free for children under 4.
 
For more information, visit the Ellen Trout Zoo website.
 
 

 

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

Enter to Win FREE Tickets to "Wildflower!" Music Festival!

Monday, April 22, 2013 by Anna Woita

 

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! 

Free Ticket Giveaway to The Ultimate Mirror Maze and The Vault Laser Challenge: Enter Now to Win!!

Monday, March 11, 2013 by Anna Woita

 

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!! 

 

For those of you perpetual contest lovers, also check out our monthly giveaways on TourTexas.com! Right now we're giving away an exciting trip for the whole family in New Braunfels, TX!! 

Valentine’s Day Procrastinators: It’s Not Too Late to Create the Perfect Day!

Monday, February 11, 2013 by Anna Woita

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. 

 

A Valentine’s Day Idea That Would Make Cupid Proud

Monday, February 4, 2013 by Anna Woita

It’s that time of year again when Cupid makes his annual debut, rose bushes are chopped bare of their blooms and pink Hallmark cards are bought by the masses. But what if there was a simple way to show your affection and enhance that cheesy 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? Because there is no better, creative way to make your 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:
Postmaster
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:

Fredericksburg: Wine Lovers Trail

Palacios: Valentine Parade and Dinner

Lufkin: Corks and Forks 

Arlington: Symphony Arlington Performance

Santa Fe: Valetine Dinner with a Side of Tango

Sixth Floor and 50 years ago...

Monday, January 14, 2013 by Anna Woita

 

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. 

Cowboys or Texans fan? Take an insider's tour of the Stadiums!

Friday, October 19, 2012 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

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

 

3-2-1 Blast Off at Space Center Houston!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 by The Texas Travelin' Man

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 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!

 

Whet your appetite with this short video of the actual Saturn V launch.  
Now - don't ya'll want to come and see this powerful rocket up close and personal?  

Fort Davis: Immerse Yourself in Living History

Friday, August 10, 2012 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

Can you imagine what life was like for a soldier in the 1800s whose job it was to protect our state from travel to Fort Davis, TXIndians? If you need some help with that, you need to visit the Fort Davis National Historic Site in Jeff Davis county. This restored fort is considered by many to be one of the best examples of a frontier military post in the mid-1800s in the Southwest. U.S. In fact, it is so authentic that military hobbyists and historians from all over the country visit the Davis Mountains specifically to see the Fort.
 
Fort Davis played a key role in the history of the region. During the mid 19th century, troops stationed here protected the West Texas frontier from Comanches, Kiowas, and Apaches. Soldiers also provided protection for wagon trains and mail coaches traveling on the San Antonio-El Paso Road. But by 1891 the Indian Wars in West Texas had ended, and Fort Davis was ordered abandoned by the army.  Seventy years later, in 1961, the fort was authorized as a national historic site, a unit of the National Park Service.
 
The fort is well maintained with partially and fully restored buildings, wonderful exhibitions, an excellent book shop and a museum. I’d recommend you begin your journey at the visitors’ center where you should definitely take in the 15 minute video explaining the history of the fort. This way you’ll be able to get the most out of your visit, since the tours are self-guided. If you have any questions, there are knowledgeable rangers throughout the site, ready to lend a helping hand. 
 
I found this place to be a truly immersive experience: I interacted with people dressed in period clothing, heard the bugle's call-to-arms, flinched at the loud cracking of the artillery demonstrations and smelled the gunpowder. All my senses had me convinced I was living in 1854.  I had an absolutely wonderful time here. And at only $3 admission per person, I'd say Fort Davis is a must-see destination.
Texas travel Fort Davis
 
For more information about the Fort Davis area, visit TourTexas.com.

 

"Texas" - a dramatic theater experience under the stars!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

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.

Buy tickets in advance on the show's website. Prices range from $9.95 to $29.95 (plus fees), varying with the seat location and date of the show. Show begins at 8:30 P.M. and last about two hours.  Discounts can be found online, including this one for 20% off.
 
For a more immersive experience, come early for the old-fashioned Chuck Wagon BBQ.  You'll enjoy a hearty meal from Big Texan Steak Ranch, which includes a fresh-from-the-grill ribeye steak, several delicious sides and fantastic desserts. 
 
You can find more information on their website and on their Facebook page

Enjoy the show!