Written by Texas Highways
When nature enthusiasts think of the Rio Grande Valley, they most often picture the glimmering resacas and moss-hung forests of destinations like the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. But venturing farther upriver, away from the large cities and the tropical influence of the Gulf Coast, one finds a strikingly different landscape of rolling ranchland, sheer bluffs, and Old West frontier towns. Not long ago, my wife, Laura, and I headed west from our home in McAllen to explore the natural offerings of Starr County. We hoped to find not only scenic vistas of starkly beautiful country but also bird and plant species that can’t be found anywhere else in the United States.
Just steps from San Antonio’s Main Plaza, established in the 18th Century and considered by many to be the heart of San Antonio, you’ll find the San Antonio River Walk, a dynamic pathway that leads you from the city’s heart into its soul. The River Walk weaves among the city’s icons and attractions via paved, cypress-lined embankments, across arched stone bridges, and through lively, multicultural neighborhoods.
In the Texas Hill Country, the flat Gulf Coastal plains to the east and the Texas brush country to the south collide with the Balcones Escarpment—a conspicuous topographic demarcation that nearly bisects the state from Del Rio northwest past Waco. West of the escarpment, which roughly parallels Interstate 35 in Central Texas, a land of contrasts presents itself as soaring limestone bluffs, rugged hills, and steep canyons.
Every fall the streets around the Texas State Capitol sprout huge white event tents, and crowds of booklovers—some 40,000 visitors of all ages—come from miles around to hear hundreds of popular authors discuss their works, snag signed copies, and enjoy food, fun, and live music. The Texas Book Festival, now in its 21st year, is one of the few such events in the nation to invite readers inside a capitol building—and it definitely puts Austin at the top of Texas “bookish destinations” for literary travelers.
When in need of sustenance on my frequent travels around Texas, I seek out local places—establishments where I know the food will be fresh and I can count on a few locals hanging around to make me feel welcome. For example: Bevers Kitchen in Chappell Hill.
Just when it seemed like coffee couldn’t get any hotter, a green alternative started to emerge in cafés all over the country—matcha, a type of green tea that has been popular in Asia for centuries. The American coffee community has begun to embrace this time-tested caffeinated beverage for its vibrant earthiness, health benefits, and ability to calmly energize.
My friend Callie and I had been hearing about Gorman Falls—the 70-foot waterfall that’s the centerpiece of Colorado Bend State Park—for the past few years. So when we wrapped up a weekend getaway to San Saba this past spring, we followed our whims and detoured to the park before the 100-mile drive back to our homes in Austin. Our goal: to hike to the bottom of the waterfall.
Within a few minutes’ walk of downtown Austin’s bustling Sixth Street entertainment district and historic Congress Avenue, a trio of museums at the city’s Brush Square offer distinctive windows into the Texas capital’s past. Visiting all three in one day, perhaps with a lunch break nearby at the Chez Nous French bistro or Carmelo’s Italian Restaurant—the latter housed in the historic Old Depot Hotel—makes for a well-rounded history lesson that touches on the Texas Revolution, American literature, and the story of Austin firefighting.
Once a rural suburb 30 miles north of Dallas, Frisco is now a burgeoning mini-city of its own. As the home of the Double-A Frisco Roughriders baseball team, FC Dallas of Major League Soccer, the NBA D-League Texas Legends, and the Dallas Cowboys’ new headquarters and practice facility, Frisco always has a game going on, it seems.
November 5-6, the Texas Book Festival takes over the Texas State Capitol and surrounding grounds for two days of insightful and inspiring book talk. Even the most casual of readers is sure to find engagement in the lineup of more than 280 authors, which ranges across every genre imaginable. Along with author presentations, the free event features book sales and signings, children’s activities, live bands, and food vendors. While devoted fans appreciate the chance to see their favorite writers, the festival also presents a rare opportunity to bop around and explore fascinating new topics with expert wordsmiths.