Written by Texas Highways
It’s a Sunday afternoon, and the rows of picnic tables are quickly filling up outside at Houston’s West Alabama Ice House. Inside, regulars settle into prized spots on cushioned swiveling stools while a bartender in a red Houston Texans T-shirt pops open beer bottles and juggles conversations with ease and a sunny smile.
I’m raising a petite chocoholic. If I allowed it, my five-year-old would feast on chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve tried to encourage a broader palate by taking her to farms, showing her how to plant seeds, and letting her help in the kitchen—all to little avail. “I don’t like garden food,” she pronounces.
Making plans to see a friend’s art gallery show in downtown Abilene, I pounced on the opportunity to make it a weekend trip. That way, I could revel in some of the stylish new digs that make Abilene such a great over-night escape these days.
Just after sunset under a wide-open Texas sky, a colossal outdoor movie screen towers over a sea of cars. In the fading light, the glow of colored bulbs and neon tubes lights the way to the obligatory snack bar, and a light breeze carries the irresistible aroma of fresh popcorn and deep-fried delights like corn dogs and funnel cake. It’s an experience you won’t find anywhere else. Welcome to the drive-in.
Glinting pools of blue-green water. Rugged limestone bluffs, fuzzy with moss. A rope swing, knotted for better grip, looped over the branch of a towering tree.
El Paso, the state’s westernmost and perhaps most historic urban center, has served as a crossroads of the Americas for more than four centuries. The city rises from the banks of the Rio Grande borderlands in fine, venerable homes and landmark buildings while contemporary construction ascends the surrounding desert mountains.
This summer marks 50 years since a 23-year-old from Port Arthur moved to San Francisco to become a pioneering female rock star. Before she joined Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin had been a folk/blues singer, influenced by the music of Leadbelly, Odetta, and Jean Richey. But she envisioned her future as a rock and soul singer in March 1966 in Austin, when she shared a bill with the 13th Floor Elevators and their shrieking frontman Roky Erickson.
Located in Comanche County about 100 miles southwest of Fort Worth, De Leon celebrates its agricultural heritage and bountiful fruit crop with the 102nd annual Peach and Melon Festival (August 2-6). A tractor pull and competitions for peach desserts, melons, and seed-spitting reflect the farming theme, while attractions like a carnival, Watermelon Crawl 5k run, parade, and pageant round out the week. On “Golden Saturday” (August 6, 2016), the town serves a spaghetti lunch at De Leon High and free watermelon slices downtown.
Photography takes center stage at the Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine for summer 2016 with exhibits capturing the region’s distinctive beauty and the diverse imagery of shooters from around the world. Bagging Light in the Big Bend: Jim Bones features 14 images from Bones, an Alpine resident known for his intuitive portrayals of the Big Bend landscape. TPS 25: The International Competition features 60 photographs recognized in this year’s edition of the Texas Photographic Society’s international competition.
Escape the city lights with a trip to the George Observatory in Brazos Bend State Park for the Perseid meteor shower. Starting Friday night, August 12, 2016, until 6 a.m. Saturday, the observatory will provide telescopes to view the shooting stars, and astronomers will be on-hand to assist and explain the phenomenon. (Under clear, dark skies, the naked eye is all you need to observe the spectacle; you’ll likely see a few dozen meteors per hour.) Named for the constellation Perseus, the annual phenomenon occurs when debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle collides with earth’s atmosphere. Bring lawn chairs and blankets, along with the entry fee of $7 for adults and $6 for kids.
The Texas Legislature designated Navasota “The Blues Capital of Texas” in 2005 to honor the city’s rich blues history, particularly the great blues songster Mance Lipscomb. Navasota remembers Lipscomb, a lifelong resident who passed away in 1976, each year with the Navasota Blues Festival (August 12-13, 2016). The festival features 10 performers, including such Texas acts as Trudy Lynn, the Peterson Brothers, and Rob Roy Parnell. The festival also includes free workshops focusing on the blues guitar and cigar box guitar.
I’ve spent much of my adult life in search of the best places in Texas to do little or nothing — getaways, hideaways, well-appointed holes in which to hide — weekend respites from city demands. I’ve found splendid, funky, ridiculous, and sublime reasons to go away, stay away, stretch a weekend beyond all reasonable bounds. Here are a few of my favorites.