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Written by Texas Highways

Texas Shaped Pool

It’s hard to beat the Dallas-Fort Worth area when it comes to July Fourth fireworks: The cities and surrounding towns stage about 20 glorious pyrotechnic shows. But there’s also plenty to do before the sun goes down, including the Texas Pool Independence Day Party in Plano ($5 entry). The 168,000-gallon, Texas-shaped saltwater pool hosts the annual event from noon to 6 p.m. with music, games, water volleyball, a cannonball contest, and snack bar. Nearby, Plano will host its All-American Fourth fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. at Oak Point Park & Nature Preserve.

Great Texas Balloon Race

The congregation of about 85 hot-air balloons in Longview means it’s time for the U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship and Great Texas Balloon Race. Held July 21-23, the championship features the nation’s 50 top pilots competing in flying accuracy contests over Longview and Kilgore. On the weekend of July 24-26, the championship pilots join competitors in the Great Texas Balloon Race for more contests, which spectators can view at the East Texas Regional Airport. Also at the airport, a festival boasts balloon glows, shaped balloons demos, bounce houses, and concerts by the Oak Ridge Boys and Cooder Graw.

CMOM Summer of Epic Adventure

Empower your children to fight the dreaded “Dr. Boredom” of summer with the Children’s Museum of Houston, which is hosting its season-long Summer of Epic Adventure: Forces Unite. Daily activities include making superhero capes and masks; experiments like making slime or catapults; and the live musical production of Forces Unite. Check the museum’s schedule for other events, including a showcase of dogs dancing and Frisbee-catching on July 9 and 11, and a Silly String Showdown and an appearance by Spiderman on August 1.

alto-caddo-mounds--0082The Caddo Indians were among the first Texans, moving into the Neches Valley about 1,200 years ago. For nearly a millennium, until the arrival of Europeans, they dominated life in East Texas; for the first half of that time, they occupied a terrace above the Neches River. And when the Caddo vacated the village, they left behind three ceremonial mounds that tell us much of what we know about prehistoric times in East Texas. They also inspired the name of our state.

Silo22I’d bet anything that the Silo House in San Angelo would be the state’s best restaurant located in an abandoned chicken farm even if it weren’t the state’s only restaurant located in an abandoned chicken farm. The Silo House is that good.

Midland13The first thing I notice when I walk in the door at Susie’s South 40 Confections is the unmistakably sweet scent of candy—the rich, buttery aroma of caramel; the sharp, earthy scent of chocolate.

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This is the most delicious thing I’ve had to drink at breakfast, or maybe ever,” says my friend Leslie, pointing to her tall glass filled with ice, fresh mint, a pineapple drinking vinegar, and seltzer water. It’s one of the specials on the blackboard at Righteous Foods, where I’m joining her for Friday-morning breakfast.

FIRST CHOICE GPV Chet ChiliIf you’ve ever visited Grapevine in December, then you know why it’s called the Christmas Capital of Texas.” However, year-round this North Texas town keeps a jolly spirit, even without the tinsel and tiny elves. I set off for a summertime adventure to see what happens when Santa leaves town.

In Farley Boat Works guided  boat-building workshops, novice boat builders craft wooden boats with custom flourishes.

Inside a historic boat barn in Port Aransas, a small group gathered around a newly built wooden skiff to sign their names on the underside of the boat’s last unfastened floorboard.

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The waiter gave me a puzzled look when I asked that my chalupas be made with whole beans instead of refried beans, but he dutifully carried out my request. And not with just plain pinto beans. I knew my special order of chalupas at El Chaparral Mexican Restaurant in the town of Helotes—situated northwest of San Antonio and often referred to as the “Gateway to the Hill Country”—would be crafted from the borracho beans that the restaurant serves in small bowls as a complimentary opening treat.

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