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Written by Jane Kellogg Murray

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The ephemeral art of sand sculpting will rise from the sandy beaches of South Padre Island Oct. 4–8 when an expected 30,000 visitors will head to the city’s sun-soaked shores for Sandcastle Days. Thirty years ago, island residents Walter McDonald and Lucinda Wierenga (aka “Amazin’ Walter and Sandy Feet, respectively) founded this annual beach dweller favorite as a way to demonstrate the magical sculpting qualities of South Padre Island sand in addition to educating attendees about the destructive impact trash can have on Texas’ beaches, coastline, and ocean wildlife—including an informal “fashion show” where “models” wear clothing made from trash found on the beach.

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Villainy may be afoot—though so should plenty of champions—as the Texas Renaissance Festival celebrates heroes and villains of history and literature in this year’s newest themed weekend. Beginning Sept. 30 with Oktoberfest and ending Nov. 26 with Celtic Christmas, the 43rd annual festival offers nine themed weekends to gallivant about the 16th-century European village’s 60 acres in Todd Mission. See new acts like The Dublin Harpers and Cirque Mythos, or enjoy favorites like Pride O’ Bedlam and Iris and Rose. Other changes include a medieval torture museum, an expanded Polish Pub and Greek Agora, and a new coffee bar and hookah lounge. With plenty of food to try, performers to watch, and more than 500 shops to explore, time may be the greatest villain. 

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Opening Sept. 11 at the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin, “Mexico Modern: Art, Commerce, and Cultural Exchange, 1920–1945” will showcase two decades of modern Mexican art and design and the ways in which it propelled a dialogue between Mexico and its neighbors across the Rio Grande. The Austin exhibit will boast more than 200 items from artists including Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, graphic designer Miguel Covarrubias, and jewelry designer William Spratling through Jan. 1 before traveling to the Museum of the City of New York. 

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Not every community can fondly recall the good ol’ days when mermaids would swim and play in the local waters, but San Marcos can. Between the 1950s and the 1990s, San Marcos was home to Aquarena Springs, one of Texas’ most popular theme parks featuring a submerged theater where the “Aquamaids” performed graceful underwater dances and other playful antics. Though the theme park is long gone, memories of the city’s thriving mermaid culture live through a new festival Sept. 2–17, SMTX Mermaid Splash. With a series of family activities, social events, and educational forums on a variety of San Marcos topics, this second annual fete is as much a party for the beautiful San Marcos River as it is an affirmation of the local community and the mermaids who work to protect it. The 16-day festival wraps up with its three biggest events—the Mermaid Society Ball on Sept. 15 and the Mermaid Parade and Aqua Faire on Sept. 16.

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From fields of rubbish to exceptionally curated tents of antique décor, vintage shopping has never been better than it will be this fall in Round Top. More than 100,000 antique hunters from across the country are expected to make their biannual trek to this tiny town as a slew of vendors open up shop, including the Arbor International Antiques & Interior Design Show, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary Sept. 20–30; Zapp Hall, which celebrates 30 years Sept. 29–October 7; the Marburger Farm Antique Show, which commemorated its 20th anniversary this past spring and returns Sept. 26–30; and the one that started it all—the Original Round Top Antiques Fair—which celebrates a milestone 50-year anniversary Sept. 25–30

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Summer vacation may be ending for many as school starts back, but finding fun things to do in Texas never ends, especially this weekend. Find sandcastle building lessons in Galveston, salsa dancing lessons in Addison, or canoers and kayakers racing through the river in downtown San Antonio.

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It's going to be a hot one this weekend. So, what can you do to get your mind off the sizzling temps? Stare at the stars in Boerne, celebrate the National Day of the American Cowboy in Bandera or Amarillo, or cool off at Cool River Ranch near San Marcos for one of the most unique music festivals in the state: Float Fest.

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Daylight stretches late into the evening these days, giving families more time to celebrate summer's buzziest nuisance in style at the Great Texas Mosquito Festival, wonder in awe at Longview's Great Texas Balloon Race, and enjoy a four-day celebration of the music and spirit of far west Texas during Viva Big Bend.

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It's here: The summer heat that causes Texans to head into the air-conditioned indoors. Take advantage of indoor opportunities like the Round Top Festival Institute's final concert weekend, or brave the sweat-inducing temps with events like the Paris Balloon and Music Festival.

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Here's to the weekend—especially this one, filled with barrels of ripe peaches, deep-sea fishing, and building sandcastles with the pros.

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This holiday weekend—aside from the usual fireworks and parades and barbecues (though don't worry, there's plenty of that too)—you have the freedom to enjoy summer with bluegrass music, floating a river, and a fishin' fiesta.

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View the updated list for 2018.

Everything's bigger in Texas, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to celebrating our nation’s independence. We've compiled the ultimate guide—more than 100 events!—to help you plan the perfect red, white, and blue holiday weekend.

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