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Written by Texas Highways

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The National Park Service operates more than 400 sites around the country as part of its mission to preserve natural and cultural resources for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. Established in 1916, the NPS celebrates its 100th birthday this year, and everyone is invited to the party.

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Every corner of the state—from the Big Bend to the Big Thicket, and Padre Island to the Panhandle’s Lake Meredith—is home to spectacular getaways and historic places worthy of national notice. If you haven’t visited some of the Lone Star State’s national parks and historic sites before, or haven’t been in a while, the National Park Service Centennial celebration adds special events to the many reasons to explore these places in 2016.

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Some 65,000 years ago, a small herd of female Columbian mammoths and their babies wandered through a grassland in what is now north Waco during an intense rainstorm.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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