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Written by Texas Highways

Sunset

That great big park down in the yawning western expanse of our state is a gift for which every Texan should drop in to say thank you at least once in a lifetime.

highRes schulenberg141212 014In the 1800s, European settlers flocked to Texas, with many Germans and Czechs putting down roots in the vast expanse between Houston and San Antonio. They brought their families, their traditions, and their food, setting modern trippers up for a Texas-size European vacation.

cofffeecakeSince relocating to the Dallas suburb of Forney, I’ve discovered not only the charms of living in a small town, but also several surprising food finds.

Abi Haus18

The blackboards covering the walls of Abi-Haus, Abilene’s buzziest eating-drinking hotspot, serve as more than artful design elements, though they accomplish that function well.

Argus Cidery15Near the confluence of Bear and Onion creeks on a 20-acre ranch in far south Austin, I’m touring the fermentation room of Texas Keeper Cider, surrounded by stacks of tubs full of pale yellow and deep gold apple juice, which will soon become some of the state’s finest hard cider. Next door is the taproom, housed in a 19th-Century church/schoolhouse.

TXGarnerSP31817 2.jpg“But won’t it be cold?” my in-laws asked, when I first proposed the idea of a February getaway to Garner State Park. They were visiting from Wisconsin, where the idea of camping in winter is about as foreign as snow in South Texas.

Bee Creek Waterfall at Wild Basin 9852When some long-overdue rain last July relieved drought conditions in the Austin area, my thoughts turned to Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, a 227-acre expanse of woodlands west of downtown.

Colletti Casey

It’s time for the San Antonio Spurs to make way for cowboys, bulls, and bands as the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo takes over the AT&T Center and its surrounding complex of expo halls, livestock barns, and carnival and fair grounds. Taking place February 11-28, the event features 20 PRCA rodeos, a petting zoo, horse shows, all manner of livestock exhibitions, and live music ranging from Pitbull to Brad Paisley and La Maquinaria Norteña. Last year, 1.7 million turned out for the spectacle.

Crow Collection Chinese New Year 3695

February 13, 2016, the Crow Collection of Asian Art will honor the Chinese zodiac’s Year of the Monkey with its annual Chinese New Year Festival. Located in the Dallas Arts District, the event features traditional Chinese cultural activities such as fortune telling, calligraphy demos, and arts-and-crafts for kids. There will also be food trucks and an outdoor stage with performances including Asian music and dance groups, as well as traditional lion dances—harbingers of good luck for the new year. The festival closes with a 7:30 p.m. fireworks show.

Dale Watson

Veteran Austin honky-tonker Dale Watson (above) grew so disgusted with the direction of mainstream country music that he set out to define a new genre of roots music with the term “Ameripolitan.” February 16, 2016 at Austin’s Paramount Theatre, the third annual Ameripolitan Music Awards celebrates the sounds of honky-tonk, Western swing, rockabilly, and outlaw with awards and performances, including by Charley Pride (a 2016 Master Award winner), James Hand, Kim Lenz, and Wayne Hancock. February 12-15, the event will showcase Ameripolitan bands at clubs around Austin, as well as performances at the State Theater of The Doyle and Debbie Show.

Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest

With February highs in the mid-60s, lows in the mid-30s, and a good chance of sunshine, Big Bend offers a perfect winter climate for mountain biking the region’s scenic terrain. February 11-13, 2016, the annual Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest makes the most of the season—and draws several hundred riders—with organized rides at Big Bend Ranch State Park, Big Bend National Park, and Lajitas Resort. The outings range in difficulty and length from kids’ rides to a 54-mile venture into the state park. Nightly dinners and socials round out the weekend.

JohnsonCity1Romanesco broccoli, I just learned, is the ultimate fractal vegetable. On a visit with my children to the new Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City, we gaze into a supersized glowing head of broccoli. Its multicolored geometric shapes swirl down from a 40-foot silo, giving us a glimpse into the world of fractals, those repeating patterns in nature that can be found in everything from snowflakes to seashells.

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