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Written by Texas Highways

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Padre Island, the longest barrier island in the world, embodies some of the state’s most pleasurable assets, entertaining Texans with miles of warm Gulf waves and sun-drenched, cinnamon shores. Whether your travel time to Padre is 10 minutes or 12 hours, most Texans have made the pilgrimage at least once, if not annually, negotiating the state’s highways for the quickest route to the island’s sand and surf.

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Now that you're at the beach, where do you go to eat in Galveston, Bolivar Peninsula and South Padre Island?

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After years of visiting Texas beaches whenever I could, this spring I made the leap and moved my family to Galveston.

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On my last day of a weeklong stay in Port Aransas, I set off to find a souvenir to remind me of the island until my next visit. While I have a soft spot for kitschy beach-town souvenir shops, one can collect only so many key chains, magnets, and seashell frames.

SouthPadreIsland SandSculptureTrail 0016On a spring day, Lucinda Wierenga—better known on South Padre Island as “Sandy Feet”—puts the finishing touches on a multi-turreted sand castle in front of the Taco Factory restaurant, only to watch a storm immediately blow the top off. Back to work goes the sand artist, undertaking yet another repair effort.

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Port Lavaca lies on a stretch of the Texas coast between Galveston and Corpus Christi that often gets overlooked by travelers seeking refuge in the salty sea breezes.

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Humans have worked with gourds for thousands of years, crafting them into everything from drinking vessels to musical instruments. The bulbous shape is also a beautiful medium for artists, which is evident at the Kerr Arts and Cultural Center’s annual Southwest Gourd Fine Art Show. The juried show and sale, May 21-June 28, 2015, features about 150 pieces from 30 artists. Their artworks, which must be at least 50 percent gourd, range from sculptures to elaborately painted, engraved, and woven gourds. The show’s free awards reception at 1 p.m. May 23 will bestow honors in categories like Southwest theme, fiber works, and mixed media.

George Catlin, courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum

On five trips to the American frontier in the 1830s, artist and writer George Catlin chronicled American Indians of the Great Plains in hundreds of colorful, detailed paintings. Forty of those works make up the Smithsonian Art Museum Touring Exhibition George Catlin’s American Buffalo, which the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon hosts until August 30, 2015. Depicting bison, American Indian hunters, and tribal culture, Catlin’s paintings capture life on the Great Plains shortly before American settlement and government policy ushered in irrevocable changes.

Courtesy Star of the Republic Museum, Blinn College.

At the Star of the Republic Museum, Enduring Spirit: African Americans in 19th Century Texas focuses on three time periods: the 1820s and early ’30s, when African-Americans were among settlers seeking land grants; the slavery years of the Republic of Texas and the Confederacy; and the post-Civil War era, when blacks met mixed fortunes as sharecroppers, craftsmen, and refugees. Artifacts of the exhibit—on display through February 15, 2016—include slave records, a slave quilt, and pottery made by newly liberated entrepreneurs. The Star museum is part of the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site.

T-Bone Walker "The Talkin' Guitar." Courtesy T-Bone Walker Blues Fest

Longview will celebrate the widespread musical influence of Texas bluesman Aaron “T-Bone” Walker June 5-6, 2015 with the T-Bone Walker Blues Fest. About 30 bands will play the festival on indoor and outdoor stages at Maude Cobb Convention Center. Headliners include Los Lonely Boys, Rick Derringer, Tab Benoit, and Eric Gales. Born in 1910 in the Linden area and raised in Dallas, Walker was a dancer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist who wrote a multitude of classics, including “Stormy Monday.” He’s also credited as the first bluesman to record playing electric guitar.

Antelope Lodge, Alpine, Texas. Photo by J. Griffis Smith.

Tired from a long day of driving, we pulled up to the Antelope Lodge in Alpine and were transported into a 1940s-period postcard. White stucco cottages with covered porches and vintage metal lawn chairs framed a grassy courtyard studded with picnic tables. The foothills of the Davis Mountains loomed against a big blue sky behind the retro red-tile rooftops.

Illustration by Michael Witte

May can be the cruelest month for travel lovers. Spring break has come and gone. Summer vacation is but a dream.

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