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

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

TICKET GIVEAWAY - 30 WINNERS  -  ENTER NOW!

 

Ready for another big giveaway from TourTexas.com?

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

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

Here's How to Enter:

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

GOOD LUCK!

 

Go Nuts at Royalty Pecan Farms in Caldwell, TX.

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

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

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

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

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

Get Thee to the Texas Renaissance Fest!

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

Photo credits: MarkScottAustinTX via Flickr 

A Celebration of Life on "Day of the Dead"

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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



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


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

Visit TourTexas.com for more information on Galveston Island

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

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

Happy Haunting!

 

Plan your trip to Galveston, TX with Free Brochures

 
 

6 Cool and Unusual Things to Do For Halloween in Texas

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Similar events in Wichita Falls, Spring and Paris.

Dallas travel

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

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

 

 

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

Please let me know by leaving a comment

Spending a Few Sandcastle Days in South Padre

Saturday, October 19, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last weekend, I crossed another item off my bucket list: I attended “Sandcastle Days 2013” on South Padre Island.

Sandcastle Days is a 3-day event which attracts master sand sculptors from around the world, all competing to become a “Master of Sand”. The annual event takes place the first weekend of October which fell this year on the 4th through 6th. It was started 26 years ago by Master Sand sculptors Walter McDonald (aka Amazin' Walter) and Lucinda Wierenga (aka Sandy Feet) and has grown from a local celebration to one of the most respected art events in the country.

“Sand Castle” is almost a misnomer for this event because most of the showpieces are not castles (though there are some). Designs typically include people, animals, buildings, mythical creatures. I’ve always been downright amazed by great sand art – it seems almost impossible to create such intricate detail in something as temperamental (and temporal) as sand. South Padre supposedly has some of the best sand for this art form so it’s a perfect location to host this event. I figured it would be entertaining to watch these sand sculptors at work. At the very least, how bad could a day spent on SPI’s beaches be?

I found out that it’s a bit more than just entertainment, this is true art. The skill of these sculptors is apparent in the minute detail of their work. I found myself mesmerized by the process of carving away the smallest bits of sand to create the fantastic detail in these pieces. At the end, I couldn’t believe that there would only be one first-place winner.

During the event, free sand sculpting lessons are available to anyone who wants to try their hand at it. I took one short lesson and I enjoyed it so much, I took another more “serious” class on my own with South Padre’s sand legend,  Amazin' Walter. Maybe “serious” is the wrong word, because Walter is not exactly a serious guy. He’s quite a character. He looks a bit like Santa on vacation, wearing his signature pith helmet and he had me chuckling at his funny comments and expressions. But he’s also a great artist, a wonderful teacher and very passionate about the environment.  I’m not much of an artist myself, but I did see that even without the inborn talent, there were many tricks of the trade and things I could learn to become at least a good amateur.

On the shores of South Padre, thousands of sand sculptures have risen up and been swallowed by the tides. But in some strange way, that is part of the appeal:  knowing that something so unique and beautiful is there in front of you for that brief moment and never again.

>> More photos

>> More info on South Padre Island

"Come and Take it!" in Gonzales, TX

Wednesday, October 2, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man
 
History buffs, listen up!  The story of Gonzales gives a little insight into why Texans are the way we are today:
 
Gonzales TX travelGonzales was established in 1825, about 75 miles east of San Antonio. It was the first Anglo-American settlement west of the Colorado River, and is known as the “Lexington of Texas” because the first shot in the battle for Texas independence was fired here.
  
So, here's what happened: in 1831, the Mexicans gave the settlers a cannon for protection against the Indians. When the Mexican government decided they wanted the cannon back, the settlers refused. So Mexico sent about 100 soldiers to retrieve it. And even though there were only 18 men in Gonzales, they still refused to give it back! Soon, other volunteers joined the settlers. They constructed a flag bearing the likeness of the cannon and the taunting words "Come and Take It”. They snuck up on the Mexican army, and fired the cannon. By the time the smoke cleared, the Mexicans were scattered and the Texas Revolution was on.
 
The story always makes me chuckle: "Come and Take It" is quite a bold challenge for a small, rag-tag group of colonists to make against 100 Mexican soldiers.  But those rough and tough ol' boys fired the first shot for our state's independence and were forerunners of the proud, brave and independent Texans we are today.
 
Gonzales celebrates this victory every year with the "Come and Take It" festival.  Join the party on October 4-6 and enjoy a parade, carnival, biergarten, food, live music, a cook-off, canoe race and much more.  Gonzales Texas vacation
On Oct 5, there's a re-enactment of the battle that started the Texas revolution.
 
Being one of the most historic towns in Texas, Gonzales has many fascinating sites to explore:
  • Gonzales Memorial Museum - this is where you can see the actual cannon that started it all. There’s also a tribute to the “Immortal 32” (32 men from Gonzales answered the call for help and hastened to the Alamo, joining 9 other men from Gonzales. They all died in the battle) and many other interesting exhibits and artifacts.  
     
  • Pioneer Village Living History Center - experience life in an early Texas town. The village features an extensive collection of buildings from 19th century Gonzales. Tours, demonstrations and battle re-enactments are offered throughout the year. 
     
  • The Old Jail Museum - houses the Visitors’ Center, where you can learn more about Gonzales and pick up a map for a self-guided walking or driving tour of this historic town.
 
There are also many gorgeous homes to see, cemeteries, a charming downtown, and if that wasn’t enough, the area boasts some wonderful parks (known for their wildflowers and wide variety of birds), golf courses, and lots of other outdoor activities.
 
Visit Gonzales and see where the fight for Texas liberty began!
 

Win Tickets to "Main Street America" Park

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man

 

 

TICKET GIVEAWAY - 36 WINNERS  -  ENTER NOW!

 

Ready for another big giveaway from TourTexas.com?
36 lucky winners will get a free pair of tickets to Main Street America!

 
Main Street America, located in Spring, TX, is a new concept in theme parks. The park is based around 12 model homes, all built with the latest materials, up-to-the-minute design inspirations, cutting-edge technological installations and some very cool and unique home-remodeling options. Visitors to the park can explore the homes and get detailed information on every element from the exterior siding to the audio system to the furniture. >> Read more about Main Street America here.
 
We're giving away 36 pairs of tickets for free admission to Main Street America.  Tickets can be used any time that the park is open to the public.
 
Coming up on Saturday, October 19, Main Street America will host their annual Fall Festival, a family-friendly celebration with trick-or-treating, face painting and more!  The entire park town will be decorated for Fall and children are encouraged to wear costumes. Winners can use their tickets for the Fall Festival, or any time at all.  Tickets are good any day the park is open and are valid through March 22, 2014!

 

Here's How to Enter:

1. Go to TourTexas.com and click on the Facebook "Like" button to become a fan of our Facebook page.
 
2. Send an email to Tickets@TourTexas.com with your name and mailing address.  
Addresses will only be used to mail tickets to winners and will be deleted when our contest ends.
 
 
The first 36 people to complete both steps will receive two (2) free tickets to Main Street America!  
 
 
 
 
 
 
**Don't forget, this is a two-parter!  In order to get your free tickets, you have to click the Like button on the TourTexas.com home page AND send your name and mailing address to Tickets@TourTexas.com!
 
Notes:
  • Each ticket admits one guest.
  • Tickets are valid through 3/22/2014.
  • Main Street America is open most days of the year, 7 days per week.  On the day you plan to go, please check the Main Street America website to ensure they do not have any private events or unforeseen circumstances that require closure to the public.
 

Main Street America: A Theme Park of a Different Kind

Monday, September 23, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man

houston travel

In the town of Spring, TX, there's neighborhood that seems to have it all - beautiful houses, manicured lawns, all the trimmings of an upscale suburban community. So why, then, does no one live here?

This is Main Street America. Some call it a theme park, though you won't find any roller coasters or carnival games here.  Instead, the park is based around 12 model homes, all built with the latest materials, up-to-the-minute design inspirations, cutting-edge technological installations and some very cool and unique options. Visitors can explore every aspect of each home and get information on a broad range of products, from interior finishes to structural components to home services. And not just the basics like kitchens and baths, but the fun stuff too: man caves, game rooms, family dens, a backyard putt-putt course. One house has a secret room hidden behind a bookshelf. It really is a grown-up playground for anyone looking to design or remodel a home or even just interested in seeing what's new.

At the core of the Main Street America experience is the variety of products on display throughout the showcase homes. Visitors are given use of an innovative hand-held gadget called TED (Technological Education Device), used to gain instant access to information on selected products and services featured in each showcase home. Interested in a specific lamp, a brick exterior, swimming pool accessory, surround sound system component or kitchen appliance? TED will access its brand name, list of features, provide buying information and create a virtual shopping list. Order it on the spot or save it to a wishlist which you can later access online.

Main Street America begins with the showhouse shopping experience but it doesn't end there: The park provides many educational opportunities, entertaining events, seasonal festivities and fun stuff for kids:

  • Learn something new - Classes and demos are offered on topics like creating a sports court, outdoor grilling or how to build the ultimate garage.
  • Make a gourmet meal - Take a cooking class at the on-site culinary school, The Main Course.
  • Or just make reservations - MAIN Restaurant is a world-class dining experience, located in the Guest Center of Main Street America.
  • Attend a Special Event - Check the calendar for special celebrations like Family Day, Women's Day, the upcoming Fall Festival and "Christmas on Main Street". 

Main Street America is open year-round, 7 days a week.

Admission is $15.00 for Adults (16 & over), $5.00 for kids (4-15) and free for kids 3 and under.

Whether you're planning a new house or just like to see what's trending in home decor and technology, your whole family will enjoy a stroll down Main Street. 

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. 

 

Matagorda County: Hardcore Relaxing in a South Texas Paradise

Monday, August 26, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man

I’ll tell ya’ll right now – I am seriously relaxed.  I've just spent 4 days in Matagorda County with my boots in the sand and a beer in my hand, watching the surf roll in and out. OK, I didn't really keep my boots on, but the beer and the relaxation part is true. There is just something about this place that makes all the worries of the “real world” fade away and leaves my mind at ease.

Located on the central coast of Texas, along miles of pristine beachfront, Matagorda County is a collection of historic towns, seaside villages, and miles and miles of soft sand and cool surf.  It’s a vacation retreat made for hardcore tranquility.

The beaches along Matagorda’s coast are something of an insider secret.  A bit smaller and more reserved than neighboring Galveston and Corpus Christi, they’re also not as touristy.  In fact, one of the best things about Matagorda beaches is the quiet, unspoiled and undeveloped waterfront, making it perfect for days spent strolling the beach, swimming, collecting shells or building sand castles away from the big crowds. Or, in my case, just planting myself on a hammock with a cold drink and watching the horizon.

If you prefer a little more on your agenda than just vegetating all day, plan some time at the Matagorda Bay Nature Park, a 1,600-acre preserve situated where the Colorado River empties into the Gulf of Mexico.  This merger creates a unique and interesting ecology of river banks, coastal marshes and dunes, providing habitats for a wide variety of bird and fish varieties.  With over 300 different feathered species, including migrating and resident songbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl, Matagorda County is known as the "Birding Capital of North America", drawing bird lovers from all over the country.

If your idea of relaxation includes some good bait and a fishing rod, you won’t find a better catch. With over 50 miles of Gulf shoreline and hundreds of miles of waterfront along creeks, rivers and bays, Matagorda is a fisherman's paradise. Cast your line from the beach or wade in to catch redfish and trout, plentiful year-round. Other in-shore species include catfish, mullet, black drum and whiting. If deep-sea fishing is your passion, fish the Gulf for grouper, wahoo, red snapper, kingfish and shark.

In my past visits to Matagorda, I’ve enjoyed the birding, the boating, the fishing and all the area has to offer. This time around, though, I've left that hard work up to others; I've just enjoyed soaking in the serene and tranquil beauty of Matagorda and although I feel renewed and recharged, I'm finding it hard to put my boots back on and leave this beautiful place.

 

>> Read "Top Ten Things to Do and See in Matagorda County" <<

House of Blues: Gospel Brunch Experience!

Monday, August 19, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man

Kirk Franklin Gospel Brunch

Are you ready for a foot-stomping, hand-clapping good time?  The world famous House of Blues® is celebrating their 20th Anniversary in a big way and has teamed up with Grammy-Award® winner Kirk Franklin, to produce a Gospel Brunch® experience that you will not want to miss!

This is not the “dinner show” you have seen in the movies of 50’s – this is a “non-denominational, participative celebration of gospel music” that includes an all-you-can-eat buffet, filled with southern cuisine at its best!   Cornbread muffins, maple butter, Creole chicken, shrimp jambalaya, chicken and waffles --  got your attention yet?  Of course, there will be more traditional breakfast favorites and even a create-your-own Bloody Mary and Mimosa bar.

Curious about who might be there on any given Sunday? (Be sure to check the line up and get your tickets in advance so that you don't miss your favorites!)

  • Anna Boney-Brown & Friends
  • Dana Jackson & Friends
  • David Wyatt & Friends
  • Gene Moore Jr. & Friends
  • Jackie Smith & Youth Development Ministry Mass Choir

Add to the amazing menu a rotating cast of Gospel and R&B favorites and this sounds like a Sunday afternoon that you should be a part of and fortunately, the great State of Texas has two locations to choose from, Houston or Dallas!

This is a limited-run show and the line-up does change, so be sure to check-in with the Houston location or the Dallas location for show times, availability and to purchase tickets.

Corpus Christi: Beautiful Beaches and a Mighty Warship

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man
 
Corpus Christi is one of the most popular vacation spots in Texas, and if you have ever been there, you know why. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, it is a beautiful area with miles of wide open beaches, gorgeous scenery, lots of fascinating wildlife, and…a battleship!
 
That’s right, Corpus Christi is home to the USS Lexington, an Essex-class aircraft carrier built during World War II. The ship saw extensive action in the Pacific and made quite a name for herself; her crew was awarded 11 battle stars and the prestigious Presidential Unit Citation for heroism in action against the Japanese.
 
After her exemplary military service, the USS Lexington was mainly used as a training center. In 1992, after serving longer than any other Essex-class ship, she began a new life as a floating museum, The USS Lexington Museum on the Bay. And what a museum it is! There are 5 self-guided tours that take you all over the ship. If you need any help along the way, just ask one of the friendly and helpful yellow-shirted staff members. (Many of these volunteers actually served on the Lexington!)
 
Some of the things you’ll see include vintage fighter planes and choppers, torpedoes, old battle ship models, the engine room, the Admiral’s and the sailors’ quarters, personal effects used by our brave boys back in the day, plus many more fascinating artifacts and exhibits. There is a 3-D show every day, included in the price of admission. I would highly advise that you allow yourself a couple of hours at least because there really is a lot to see and take in. And if you work up an appetite, or are in need of a cold drink, no problem.  They have a nice, air-conditioned café right on board.
 
 
Besides her admirable service as an aircraft carrier and now a museum, the USS Lexington (which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2003) also served as a location for such films as “Midway”, and the 2001 film, “Pearl Harbor”. And in 2007, the TV show “Ghost Hunters” came aboard searching for evidence of ghosts. I don’t know if they found any, but I’m sure they saw a bunch of other things just as fascinating! And believe me, so will you!
 
You can find out much more (and print out a $1.00 off admission coupon) at the USS Lexington website.  They also have a very active Facebook page.
 

Free Tix for Texans Football Summer Training Camp

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man

It’s July, the time of year for BBQs, vacations and…FOOTBALL! 

Yeah, I know, baseball is supposed to be the main event in the summer, but being an ex-high school linebacker, I miss the thrill and excitement of  football.  Lucky for me, it’s July…and time for the Houston Texan's training camp practice sessions!   

Seven training sessions will be open to the public, beginning this Tuesday, July 30th.  The tickets are FREE but you have to act fast to get them!  Beginning at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 17, you can claim your free tickets from the Texan's website. There's a limit of four per person, per practice while supplies last.  TICKETS GO FAST so be ready at your computer or mobile device to claim tickets to the session you want!!!

All training sessions take place at the Methodist Training Center, starting at 8 am and running about two hours.
 
Tuesday, July 30
Wednesday, July 31
Thursday, August 1
Friday, August 2
Monday, August 5
Tuesday, August 6
Wednesday, August 7
 
Gates open at 7 am.  Seating is first come - first served so get there early if you want a good seat.
 
After the practices, some of the players and Texan cheerleaders are available for autographs and photo ops.  It's a really fun way to spend a summer morning.
 
Hope to see you there! 
 

Giddy-up to Amarillo's American Quarter Horse Museum and Hall of Fame

Monday, July 15, 2013 by The Texas Travelin' Man
visit Amarillo TX
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Many people think of Texas as synonymous with cowboys and the "Old West". While that stereotype doesn't necessarily hold true for the whole state, it definitely does in Amarillo.  Located in the center of the Texas Panhandle, Amarillo's Western heritage is still alive and thriving and plenty of the area's residents make their living as cowboys on the back of a horse -- most likely, an American Quarter Horse.  
 
The Quarter Horse is the only horse breed native to America and is the most popular in the U.S., highly valued as a ranch horse, race horse and the star of rodeos and other western riding events. You can learn all about the colorful history of these amazing horses and the people who were key in the evolution of the breed at The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum, where you can try their interactive exhibits, view plenty of audio-visual displays and see historically-significant artifacts and incredible art.
 
The museum experience begins outside the building, where beautiful sculptures, showing the Quarter Horses in their various roles, surround the building. As you make your way inside, you'll enter the aptly named Grand Hall, a spectacular space with soaring rock columns. Here you can learn about the people and horses inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. Make sure you look down, too, or you’ll miss the interesting mosaic on the floor depicting all of the bloodlines that make up the present day breed. 
 

At the Kenneth Banks Theater, you can see some beautiful paintings done by the late Oren Mixer, the celebrated Western artist, including his vision of the “ideal” American Quarter Horse, which he was commissioned to paint in 1968.

The Hegel Stables section of the museum is really geared toward kids, but you'll find it fascinating, too. It's very hands-on and educational, even for those folks who've never owned horses. There are many other areas to explore, including The Experienced Eye Theater, The Champions Gallery, the Outfitter Shop, offering a wide variety of items and souvenirs to help you remember your visit. You can learn more about the museum, including hours and admission policies at their informative website.
 
So the next time you’re in the Panhandle area of Texas, make sure you pay a visit to Amarillo and The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum!
 
>> For more information on Amarillo, visit TourTexas.com.