When people think of Texas, they often imagine large homes, vast lands, and oversized critters, but not everything in the state is supersized. The Lone Star State offers better treasures in some of its smaller towns. No matter the time of year, there are always things to do or see.
Springtime in Texas is breathtaking. Depending upon the weather, parts of the state ignite with fields of bluebonnets. These bright little lupines are a bit finicky as to when they choose to bloom, so their best viewing time can vary from year to year. Bluebonnet central is Brenham, a moderately-sized town nestled between Austin and Houston. Every spring, they host the Bluebonnet Festival. For updates on the best time to see the bluebonnets in full bloom, and to enjoy the annual festival, visit Brenham’s official website at www.visitbrenhamtexas.com.
To get the full experience of the Lone Star State in spring, consider staying at a place called Texas Ranch Life, where guests can observe the daily business of ranching. The 1,800-acre Texas Longhorn ranch is owned by John and Tania Elick. According to John, their place offers a haven for guests to “cowboy up.”
It gets hot in Texas, so summer is the perfect time to satisfy that watersport fix. Canyon Lake, located on the Guadalupe River, offers 80 miles of adventurous, scenic shoreline. Nestled between San Antonio and Austin, it is one of the deepest lakes in Texas, averaging depths of 43 feet.
Tubing down the Guadalupe River is an adventure that must be experienced. All along FM 306, river outfitters offer tours and exciting fun-filled days.
If getting wet is not an option, consider visiting the Canyon Lake Gorge to view rock strata that harbor 100 million years of fossils and dinosaur tracks. Spring-fed pools and waterfalls create an ecosystem for wildlife that is a must-see in summer.
Wimberley is another charming town just outside of Austin. It offers a more peaceful summer escape and plenty of shops to peruse. On Friday nights, they have a bluegrass jam in a vacant parking lot. For more watersport fun, try the Blue Hole, a popular swimming area surrounded by cypress trees. It even has a swinging rope.
There are several places to enjoy fall colors. One that particularly stands out is Granbury. This history-filled town is the burial ground for outlaw Jesse James, despite the rumors that he was buried in Missouri. Legend claims that James was shot and killed in 1954 by Robert Ford, a member of his gang who wanted to collect the bounty on James’ head.
Granbury is famous for its historic opera house, established shortly after the Texas Revolution. It is a fabulous place for good ol’ hometown entertainment.
For a supersized Texas family adventure, take the kids to see true-to-life dinosaur models at the 20-acre Dinosaur World. There are also ghost and legends tours and a fun place to stay called the Nutt House, which is always a hoot. If beer is of interest, check out the Revolver Brewing company, a family-owned microbrewery treasure that offers tours and tastings that will not disappoint.
Also in the Texas Hill Country is Fredericksburg, founded in 1846 by Prussian Prince Frederick. This quaint German-like town is part of the National Register of Historic Places in Texas. It offers several museums, such as the Pioneer Museum and the National Museum of the Pacific War.
Vintage music is the theme for their famous Rockbox Theater. Performances here are inspired by famous rock stars, such as Buddy Holly, Aretha Franklin, and Elvis.
After visiting the Wildseed Farms and butterfly garden, enjoy live music and the flavorful wine of 15 independent wineries along Fredericksburg’s Wine Road 290. Guided tours are also available for those intending to do more than “taste” the wine.
Just as summer gets mighty hot, Texas winters keep residents huddling in for the season, unless one knows where to go. Texas harbors close to 600 miles of Gulf Coast beaches. South Padre Island is about as far south as one can go without leaving the state. The subtropical island maintains temperatures that seldom drop below 65 degrees, even in winter. It connects to the mainland by a bridge that spans the Brazos Santiago Pass. South Padre Island is known for its endless closeout sales. The place is a ghost town in winter, but businesses continue to operate, eagerly awaiting the upcoming spring break.
While traveling the spine of the island’s main road, stores and strip motels litter the shoulders and block the view of Laguna Madre. This drive can be tedious, but the reward is worth the investment. When the development eventually dwindles, it is followed by 20-foot high dunes until the road ends with unrestricted parking. Traverse the dunes to find a paradise of Caribbean-blue water as it laps along a vast beach of white sand. Rumor has it that there are more critter tracks here than there are human footprints.
No matter the time of year, the treasures in Texas are abundant and not always limited to supersized towns and monolith cities. Some other fun places to explore include Marfa, where mysterious lights appear on the horizon at night; Terlingua, a ghost town for folks who crave the simple life; and Jefferson for a bit of haunting fun. Hunt and Shiner are also fun places to visit. Visitors should plan their trip in order to get the most of what Texas has to offer.
Opinion by Rowena Portch
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Image Courtesy of Rowena Portch