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Written by Texas Highways

 Photo by Will van Overbeek

The holiday season includes a multitude of traditional activities, but one that some people may not be familiar with is the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count.

Sauer-Beckmann Living History Park

One of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit can be to experience Christmas past. Several of the state historic sites in the Texas State Parks system have holiday events that show visitors how Christmas was celebrated historically. The annual tree lighting ceremony at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park on Dec. 18 marks a 47-year tradition started by the Johnsons. People are invited to listen to the carolers, see a live nativity, meet Santa Claus, enjoy refreshments and watch the tree lighting in the courtyard. As part of this event, visitors wander the trail to the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Park, where park staff and volunteers dress in period clothing and welcome visitors to explore the decorated 1900s German family farmstead, see the holiday tree and enjoy traditionally baked goodies. It also presents a rare opportunity to see the farm at night.

Dinosaur Skull

Big Bend National Park contains a fascinating collection of fossils. For a long time, the park had no specialized display to provide information to visitors. That will change with the Jan. 14, 2017 grand-opening celebration of the park’s new Fossil Discovery Exhibit.

Candlelight at the Ranch

Texas Tech University’s National Ranching Heritage Center extends its interpretation of bygone Texas ranch life to the holiday season with Candlelight at the Ranch. On the nights of December 9-10, 2016, about 4,000 glowing luminarias will light the center’s historical park, where 15 vintage structures (including the 1909 Barton House, pictured above) will offer visitors a glimpse of holidays past with period decora­tions and hosts dressed in period clothing. In the 6666 Barn, which was originally built in 1908, sip hot chocolate and apple cider as the band Brazos West plays cowboy Christmas songs. Santa Claus and a Christmas choir will also be on hand.

canton1Each November, my credit card starts trembling as I begin to contemplate the blank canvas that is my holiday shopping list. I, long ago, put away all notions of camping outside of big box stores in search of deep, deep discounts on tube socks, DVDs, and flat-screen TVs. Gift cards are fine as stocking stuffers, but they don’t acknowledge the recipient’s individuality. Since part of the joy of gift-giving is choosing something that speaks specifically to the recipient, I wanted to find a place where I could find unique gifts for the loved ones on my list. That place is Canton’s First Monday, Texas’ largest and oldest flea market, which is held Thursday through Sunday before the first Monday of each month.

AdickesOptions 4Houston-based artist David Adickes estimates he’s created about 5,000 paintings, drawings, and three-dimensional artworks over the course of his 70-year career. But he is best known for the largest of those creations, which cover two disparate themes—monumental concrete statues of heroic figures and monumental concrete statues of whimsical phrases.

cheatham street

It’s Wednesday evening at Cheatham Street Warehouse. Open guitar cases are scattered throughout the neon-lit barroom, the sign-up sheet for the weekly Songwriters’ Circle has just been posted, and Guy Clark’s voice plays on the overhead speakers.

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When nature enthusiasts think of the Rio Grande Valley, they most often picture the glimmering resacas and moss-hung forests of destinations like the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. But venturing farther upriver, away from the large cities and the tropical influence of the Gulf Coast, one finds a strikingly different landscape of rolling ranchland, sheer bluffs, and Old West frontier towns. Not long ago, my wife, Laura, and I headed west from our home in McAllen to explore the natural offerings of Starr County. We hoped to find not only scenic vistas of starkly beautiful country but also bird and plant species that can’t be found anywhere else in the United States.

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07 KLEPPER SAN ANTONIO RIVER WALK mission reach 05Just steps from San Antonio’s Main Plaza, established in the 18th Century and considered by many to be the heart of San Antonio, you’ll find the San Antonio River Walk, a dynamic pathway that leads you from the city’s heart into its soul. The River Walk weaves among the city’s icons and attractions via paved, cypress-lined embankments, across arched stone bridges, and through lively, multicultural neighborhoods.

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In the Texas Hill Country, the flat Gulf Coastal plains to the east and the Texas brush country to the south collide with the Balcones Escarpment—a conspicuous topographic demarcation that nearly bisects the state from Del Rio northwest past Waco. West of the escarpment, which roughly parallels Interstate 35 in Central Texas, a land of contrasts presents itself as soaring limestone bluffs, rugged hills, and steep canyons.

Denton Books 054Every fall the streets around the Texas State Capitol sprout huge white event tents, and crowds of booklovers—some 40,000 visitors of all ages—come from miles around to hear hundreds of popular authors discuss their works, snag signed copies, and enjoy food, fun, and live music. The Texas Book Festival, now in its 21st year, is one of the few such events in the nation to invite readers inside a capitol building—and it definitely puts Austin at the top of Texas “bookish destinations” for literary travelers.

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When in need of sustenance on my frequent travels around Texas, I seek out local places—establishments where I know the food will be fresh and I can count on a few locals hanging around to make me feel welcome. For example: Bevers Kitchen in Chappell Hill.

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