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Written by Texas Highways

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A guitar-brandishing fiberglass jalapeño beckons from the sidewalk in downtown Irving. Walk a few paces more and you’ll find a keyboard painted on the walkway, and beyond that, a glass door etched with the names of famous songs, from “Tumblin’ Tumbleweed” to “Wooly Bully” and “I Want to Take You Higher.”

hippodrome

There’s a new sense of energy and possibility on the streets of downtown Waco—not a boom, exactly, but a steady drumbeat led by some determined entrepreneurs whose vision of the future is infused with an affectionate regard for the city’s past.

route66How can one explain the neon magnetism of Route 66? Before this summer, I could quote a few lines of the famous 1946 Bobby Troup lyric, but if pressed, I had trouble pinpointing on a map precisely where you could “get your kicks.”

stylle1Stylle Read took an interest in re-creating old-time Texas with colorful artwork while growing up in Lufkin in the 1950s. “It was the decade of Davy Crockett on TV’s wild frontier and the John Wayne Alamo movie,” he explains. “I was hooked on history from a very young age.”

Pan Dulce Finish620Not all road trips are equal. That is especially true from a child’s perspective. A day’s drive to an amusement park is delightful in theory, but the reality involves hours and hours of confinement before the pay-off.

Schmekenfest

Join the 30 teams vying to make the tastiest wassail and win the coveted title of “Schmecken--meister” at La Grange’s Schmeckenfest. This eighth-annual kickoff to the Christmas season starts at 5 p.m. December 3 with a parade around the downtown square followed by a Christmas-tree lighting, children’s activities, food vendors, and after-hours shopping at downtown stores. The main draw is the wassail competition, in which visitors vote on their favorite version of the hot cider or spiced-ale drink in the categories of leaded (alcoholic) and unleaded.

“Rio Grande,” oil on canvas by Tom Lea, 1954, courtesy El Paso Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. Decherd

Looking to impress holiday visitors or beef up your Texas bona fides? Consider a trip to one of four special exhibitions on Tom Lea (1907-2001), the artist, author, and historian from El Paso known for his insightful chronicling of 20th-Century Texas and the world. Get a variety of perspectives on Lea at the El Paso Museum of Art’s Tom Lea as Draftsman and Illustrator; the Bullock Museum in Austin’s Tom Lea: Chronicler of 20th Century America; the Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine’s Tom Lea Retrospective; and the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg’s Tom Lea, LIFE Magazine and World War II.

Bioluminescence

The days grow short and the nights long during the Texas winter, but we’ve got nothing on the ocean depths and hidden caverns so sunless that creatures produce their own light to survive. At the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence explores the earth’s darkest ecosystems and the bioluminescent organisms that chemically generate their own light. See replica examples ranging from a vampire squid with glowing arm tips to glowworms in New Zealand caves and backyard fireflies, as well as live flashlight fish. Through February 21.

National Ranching Heritage Center

Step into a “living Christmas card” in Lubbock, where the National Ranching Heritage Center’s annual Candlelight at the Ranch re-creates a frontier prairie holiday scene. The center’s trails glow with more than 3,000 luminarias during the event (6-9 p.m. December 11-12) while reenactors depict Christmas festivities in about 15 of the center’s 19th-Century structures. There’s also an old-time fiddle dance in the 6666 barn and carolers strolling the grounds. In the center’s main gallery, Santa Claus visits with children and Brazos West plays cowboy Christmas music.

stitching alamoThe recent bestowing of World Heritage Site status to San Antonio’s five missions—the first attractions in Texas to receive this honor—has ensured an increase in the city’s already steady pilgrimage of visitors. And while touring the missions calls for a certain reverence, selecting a souvenir in the gift shop afterwards need not require such gravitas.

Diner FinishTravel is the gift we give ourselves.

galv

On a chilly December evening, the streets of Galveston’s historic Strand District are eerily still as a slow-moving fog rolls in off the harbor. Many of downtown’s touristy storefronts and busy-by-day eateries are closed at this hour. Yet, where we’re headed, the evening is just getting started.

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