Published Mar/Apr 2007

These 10 places show there’s more to Texas
than cowboys and barbecue.
Compiled by AAA

When travelers think of Texas, mental images that come to mind often include cowboys, cattle and horses, wide-open spaces, barbecue and country music. And while these can be part of a Texas vacation, there is so much more to this state to experience.

Here are our picks for 10 places in Texas that might surprise you.

1. Texas Flowers

Texas’ diverse environment nurtures some 5,000 wildflower species. Bluebonnets, buttercups and Indian paintbrush line the highways throughout the Hill Country near San Antonio and Austin each spring.
Each year, the town of Concan hosts Nature Quest, a nature festival that brings in world-class experts to discuss central Texas’ spectacular wildflowers, birds and butterflies. This year’s dates for the spring Nature Quest are April 24–29. For details, contact the Texas Hill Country River Region at (800) 591-1074 or www.thcrr.com.

Lady Bird Johnson once said, “A little beauty can help create harmony,” and at her Wildflower Center, based in Austin, everything on a 279-acre site in the heart of the Texas Hill Country seems to have its place. The center includes numerous research display gardens, landscaped areas and themed gardens. It is located at 4801 La Crosse Ave. Call (512) 292-4100 or visit www.wildflower.org.

2. Big Bend National Park

This national park in southwest Texas encompasses more than 800,000 acres. With mountain, desert and river environments, it is a vast park that invites exploring, not one that can be seen in a couple of hours. Big Bend is a hiker’s paradise with several hundred miles of trails ranging from short, easy nature walks to primitive trails for the more advanced. Tour the spectacular canyons via a rafting or kayaking trip down the Rio Grande.

One of the last remaining wild corners of the country, Big Bend certainly fits the bill for “wide open space,” but the surprise here is its popularity for spring break in mid-March. It is the park’s busiest time of year, according to the National Park Service. Lodging and camping facilities inside and outside the park often are full.

For details, call (432) 477-1183 or click on www.nps.gov.

3. Time to tee up

The Lone Star State is blessed with a variety of courses–about 800–from the lush manicured fairways of east Texas to the sunny resorts and conference centers of south Texas and the Gulf Coast. Or golfers may enjoy the lake-lined courses of central Texas or the many links in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, where the fairways–including the Four Seasons Las Colinas or the Tour 18 course in Flower Mound–are as exciting as the cities.

For NFL fans, the Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine is a football-themed course, combining the legend of Dallas Cowboys football with an 18-hole, par-72 golf course. The clubhouse features memorabilia from the storied Cowboys franchise, while markers along the course recall great plays and players in the team’s history. The 1,508-room Opryland Hotel is adjacent to the Cowboys Golf Club.

4. Art and cultural districts

The Dallas Arts District is home to more than 160 museums, galleries and performing arts institutions, including The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future.TM

Permanent exhibits look at topics such as women’s health and women in history, business and technology. Special exhibits this spring include Lauren Greenfield’s “Thin” that weaves photography, text and video into a compelling look at eating disorders in our society. It is on view through April 22.

The museum, in Fair Park, is located at 3800 Parry Ave. For details, call (214) 915-0860 or click on www.thewomensmuseum.org.

5. Find a favorite beach

Sure you can find ranches that seem to stretch to the horizon, but did you know Texas has more than 600 miles of coastline? The beaches of Texas are anchored by three main cities: Galveston, Corpus Christi and South Padre Island. The sunny skies and temperate climate along the coast allow visitors to picnic, swim and surf almost anywhere along the coast.

6. Dinner and a view

You’d expect to get a good steak in Texas, but dinner and a 360-degree view of San Antonio from 750 feet in the air–that’s a meal to remember. Newer additions at the Tower of the Americas include Eyes Over Texas, a revolving restaurant offering gourmet dining with a great view. There’s also a 4D ride, Skies Over Texas, and an observation deck with historical and educational exhibits.

Tower of the Americas is at 600 Hemisfair Plaza Way in San Antonio. Call (210) 223-3101 or visit www.toweroftheamericas.com.

7. Southwestern pueblo

The Indian Lodge in Davis Mountains State Park is the only example of Southwestern pueblo-style architecture in Texas. This jewel, owned and operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, has undergone an extensive renovation to restore it to the 1930s appearance and update its mechanical systems.

Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and opened to the public in 1939, the lodge has 18-inch adobe walls and 39 rooms. A pool and the Black Bear Restaurant also are on site. The park is four miles northwest of Fort Davis off state Highway 118. For details, call (432) 426-3254 or visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us.

8. It’s not grand, but it impresses

Palo Duro Canyon State Park celebrated 75 years last July. Known as the country’s second-largest canyon, Palo Duro is about 120 miles long, 20 miles wide and 800 feet deep. It was formed primarily by water erosion from the Red River 1 million years ago.

Called “the Grand Canyon of Texas,” Palo Duro (Spanish for “hardwood”) was named by early Spanish explorers in reference to the abundant mesquite and juniper trees, offers hiking, horseback riding, cowboy cookouts, magnificent photo opportunities and an outdoor drama about Texas that runs June to mid-August.

The park is in Canyon, Texas. Call (806) 488-2227 or visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us.

9. Music to our ears

Buddy Holly, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Roy Orbison, ZZ Top, and the Dixie Chicks are musical stars who have called Texas home. To appreciate the roots of Texas music, it’s important to first understand the cultures and history that influenced it: the lone, free-spirited country bay of the cowboy; the smooth, somber rhythm of R&B and blues of African-Americans; and the love songs, festive fandangos and polka from the meld of German and Tejano traditions.

To learn more about Texas’ rich music history, there are a variety of museums and halls of fame to visit, including the Texas Music Museum in Austin, 1009 E. 11th St. Call (512) 472-8891 for details, or visit www.texasmusicmuseum.org.

10. Texas down under

Natural Bridge Caverns is one of the world’s premiere show caves and the state’s largest natural attraction. Visitors to this cave, 13 miles north of San Antonio, can view more than 10,000 different formations in underground chambers on either a guided tour or a self-guided tour on tape.

The caverns are between San Antonio and New Braunfels off Interstate 35, exit 175. Call (210) 651-6101 or visit online at www.naturalbridgecaverns.com.

Overall, more than 1,000 caves can be found in the state’s urban areas, according to the Texas Cave Conservancy.

In title: Indian Lodge in Davis Mountains State Park in western Texas was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Texas Parks and Wildlife photo

Above: Palo Duro Canyon is the second-largest canyon in the United States. Kenny Braun, Texas Tourism photo

Before You Go
For additional information, contact the Texas Department of Economic Development and Tourism, (800) 8888-TEX (888-8839) or online at www.traveltex.com.

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.

Order free information through the Reader Service Card online. Click on Reader Resources.

^ to top | previous page

Contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part unless expressly authorized in writing by AAA Traveler Magazines.