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Written by Lois Rodriguez

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.

Part of the state's official herd, 90 bison roam the range at Caprock Canyons State Park.

Bison graze just beyond the main road as we enter Caprock Canyons State Park northeast of Lubbock. They loom large, dark, and shaggy against the tawny open range on a late-September afternoon. It looks like a scene out of the Old West.

Grant Giles herds goats through a gate on Hillingdon Ranch.

We both grew up on ranches, separated by time and distance, but bound by common experience. Life on the land teaches you many lessons, including that behind every ranch gate, there’s a story to be told. In Hillingdon Ranch: Four Seasons, Six Generations, we tell the story of the Giles family. It’s a story of history, family, adversity, and triumph; of perseverance, ingenuity, and the ability to change with the times.

In Fort Worth, savvy planners, designers, engineers, and others have stitched together new development, reinvented neighborhoods, and a refurbished city core into an architectural fabric that stretches back more than a century.

The craft-beer craze has officially taken Texas by storm, with more than 70 breweries and brewpubs now adding variety to the landscape. In June 2013, Governor Perry signed legislation that enabled craft breweries to sell their beers on premises, fostering both economic growth and competition in an industry estimated by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild to have contributed more than $600 million to the state’s economy. That’s a lot of barley pop, folks!

Visitors to McAllen have a wide array of activities to choose from—including birding at Quinta Mazatlan, a 1930s adobe home where more than 150 species of birds have been documented; checking out the art scene developing on Main Street; and exploring the city’s 17th Street Entertainment District, where restaurants, nightclubs, and even a restored 1940s theater generate excitement.

Mardi Gras—“Fat Tuesday” in French, celebrates the final day of indulgence before Lent. In the United States, the most famous Mardi Gras fetes occur in New Orleans, but many Texas towns and cities get into the Mardi Gras spirit, as well–especially in Southeast Texas, where influences from Louisiana abound.

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