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Written by Lois Rodriguez

The main entrance roads to Big Bend National Park offer about 50 meandering miles of glorious scenery.

Texas, how does your garden grow? Our Texas Wildflower Guide shares a behind-the-scenes look at wildflowers along Texas’ highways, prime times and places to typically see wildflowers, a regional breakdown of what to expect and a spotlight on 30 of the most common blooms.

Texas Highways has chosen 30 of Texas’ most common wildflowers to identify and celebrate. It is a brief introduction to the splendor of a Lone Star spring – just a sampling of the more than 5,000 blooming plants in our lush state, so forgive us if we’ve omitted your particular favorite.

The log cabin law office at the Sam Houston Memorial Museum in Huntsville offers a glimpse into Houston's 19th-Century work environment.

After crossing the Red River into Texas in December of 1832, Sam Houston’s first stop was the city of Nacogdoches, the gateway to Mexican territory and home to some of the region’s most influential residents.

A window of the newly renovated Granbury Opera House reflects the facade of the 1891 Hood County Courthouse in Granbury.

On a stormy night last May, a tornado packing winds of up to 200 mph cut through the North Texas city of Granbury, destroying dozens of homes and killing six people. When that tragic news reached me the next day, I had no doubt that Granbury would recover and come back even stronger. I had traveled to Granbury for the first time the month before the tornado, and it had taken only one visit to grow fond of the place, its people, and its spirit.

Bartender Luis Martinez places the ingredients for the Akita Bloody Mary on the black marble bar of The Patio on Guerra in McAllen, setting the stage for his version of edible art. His palette includes cherry-size balls of wasabi; tiny white bowls of shaved ginger, garlic–chili paste, soy and teriyaki sauce, and a mix of garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper; plus large basil leaves, limes, and a pitcher of cold tomato juice. Here in McAllen, land of the margarita and the tequila-pink lemonade cocktail known as “border buttermilk,” Luis developed the drink decreed by Absolut Vodka in 2011 to be the “Best Bloody Mary” in America. Lucky for me, Luis divulges his secrets when my friends Jay and Elena Meade join me for lunch at the restaurant.

It seems that most of the recent food trends in America—the reimagining of ramen, the curious appeal of Brussels sprouts, the surge of gluten-free products, and the widespread adoption of such ingredients as quinoa and coconut water—have centered around buzzwords such as “farm-to-table,” “unprocessed and natural,” “low-glycemic index,” and “organic and locally sourced.”

Inspired by small farmhouse breweries in France and Belgium, Jester King's brewers produce artisan ales with a true sense of place.

It is a sunny and crisp Austin day, perfect for showing our visiting family some of our area’s attractions. We wanted to venture off the beaten path, and since both of my brothers-in-law are craft-beer enthusiasts, my husband and I chose to showcase the city’s growing craft brewing industry by heading to Jester King Brewery. Approximately 18 miles southwest of downtown Austin on a 200-acre ranch, Jester King produces beers unlike any others in the area.

She was my last purchase of the day, though to say I bought her makes the whole thing sound tawdry and cheap. But this was a cash transaction. Money changed hands. She was mine for the average price of a movie ticket.

Illustraton by Jonathan Carlson

Who doesn’t love a free weekend? By that I mean a weekend free of chores, meetings, errands, and to-do-list drudgery. If one could take all that leisure time and invest it in a weekend full of low-cost fun, the payoff would be the ultimate budget traveler’s dream. And when it comes to memorable travel, the unexpected freebie or surprisingly inexpensive indulgence often makes for the best experience. I decided to take a look around my hometown for diversions that are priceless without being pricey. The result is this roundup of 10 Fort Worth activities that don’t require deep pockets—each can be had for no more than $10 per person.

After exploring the outside attractions at the Heard, spend some time with the indoor exhibits, which include fossils and rocks.

My kids and I are near the end of the 1½-mile Wood Duck Trail at the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney. The route meanders in and out of the woods; skirts wetlands where ducks, geese, and egrets commune; and wends past stretches of prairie with gracefully waving grasses. My daughter Susanna stops suddenly to watch a giant swallowtail butterfly flutter down, back up, and out of sight. I smile when a gasp of awe escapes the mouth that had, moments before, complained of being hot, tired, and in need of something—anything—from the gift shop. Meanwhile, Samuel is ahead of us as usual, just around the path’s next curve, the back of his head barely visible through the tall grasses. He’s been reading the warning signs posted along the trails excitedly, reminding us to “Watch out for copperheads!”—and in the process, likely scaring away this or other examples of native wildlife.

In the Plants are Alive gallery, large models demonstrate the inner working of plants and the functions of their different parts.

My husband and I fell in love with the Dallas Arboretum through years of snapping photos of our four kids tucked among tulips and propped on pumpkins. Soon they were old enough to frolic in the Toad Corners Fountain, peek into garden cottages, and run barefoot across velvety lawns amid concert music and fireflies. So when I learned about the Dallas Arboretum’s plan to open a world-class children’s garden, we scheduled a family visit to explore its new wonders first-hand.

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