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Best Places in TX, Period!

Written by Nola McKey.

Some of the best answers didn't make it to the winners' column. For Best Cheap Tourist Thrill, someone wrote, "Seeing antelope along US 67 northeast of Marfa." Another replied, "Driving through Texas on local roads, eating in small-town cafes." And, of course, we can't resist reporting that two readers said that the Best Place to View Wildflowers was in each April issue of Texas Highways. A few answers made us chuckle, as in the case of this response to the Best Place for a Family Reunion: "Anywhere–as long as it's not at my house." In response to our last category, Best Place to Commune with Nature, one reader said, "In the desert, listening to coyotes howl late at night." Another wrote, "Our front porch, early in the morning with a cup of coffee, watching the antics of hummingbirds and squirrels." We can't print all your responses, but we have to say we like your style.

Reporting favorites in a state as big as Texas is an ambitious undertaking. You'll notice that sometimes answers overlap–some of you were more specific than others. But we think all the responses together tell the tale–what you like best about our fair state. We thank each reader who responded to the survey. Here's hoping you find the results as much fun as we do.

Best Bed & Breakfast or Historic Inn

1. Stagecoach Inn, Salado

2. Fredericksburg (B&B/inn unspecified)

3. Excelsior House, Jefferson

4. Hotel Limpia, Fort Davis

5. Gage Hotel, Marathon

6. Jefferson (B&B/inn unspecified)

7. Gruene Mansion Inn, Gruene

8. Landmark Inn, Castroville

9. Menger Hotel, San Antonio

10. Tie: The Inn at Salado, Salado

Salado (B&B/inn unspecified)

Best Hotel or Motel

1. Menger Hotel, San Antonio

2. Driskill Hotel, Austin

3. Gage Hotel, Marathon

4. Hotel Galvez, Galveston

5. Tie: Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort, San Antonio

La Mansión del Rio, San Antonio

Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas

6. Adolphus Hotel, Dallas

7. Tie: Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park

Wyndham Anatole, Dallas

8. The Worthington, Fort Worth

9. Hotel Limpia, Fort Davis

10. Tremont House, Galveston

Best Place to Watch the Sunset

1. Big Bend (Specific locations included The Window, the Basin, El Capitan, and South Rim.)

2. Lake Travis (The Oasis, a restaurant that overlooks the lake, received more than half the votes.)

3. Padre Island

4. Galveston

5. Tie: Palo Duro Canyon

Davis Mountains

6. Panhandle

7. West Texas

8. Hill Country

9. El Paso

10. Enchanted Rock State Park

Best Cheap Tourist Thrill

1. Tubing on a Texas river (especially the Guadalupe, San Marcos, Comal, and Frio rivers)

2. Galveston Ferry

3. Six Flags (unspecified location)

4. River Walk, San Antonio

5. Gulf Coast/Beach

6. Bat-watching on Congress Ave. Bridge, Austin

7. Padre Island

8. Watching the Marfa Lights

9. Schlitterbahn, New Braunfels

10. Palo Duro Canyon

Best Restaurant

We dropped out the big chains like Landry's Seafood House and Pappadeaux, so we could present the regional favorites.

1. Gaido's, Galveston

2. Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas

3. Stagecoach Inn, Salado

4. Tie: Taste of Texas, Houston

Gristmill River Restaurant, Gruene

5. Reata, Alpine and Fort Worth

6. King's Inn, near Kingsville

7. Underwood's Cafeteria, Brownwood and Waco

8. Tie: Tony's, Houston

The County Line (unspecified location)

Big Texan Steak Ranch, Amarillo

Cattlemen's Steak House, Fort Worth

9. Tie: Brennan's of Houston

Perini Ranch Steakhouse, Buffalo Gap

Zentner's Daughter Steak House, San Angelo and Abilene

Joe T. Garcia's, Fort Worth

10. Tie: Cafe Annie, Houston

The Hilltop Cafe, Fredericksburg

The French Room (Adolphus Hotel), Dallas

Threadgill's, Austin

Blue Bonnet Cafe, Marble Falls

Best Restaurant for Breakfast

Again, we dropped out the big chains like IHOP and Jim's, so we could tell you about the regional favorites.

1. Blue Bonnet Cafe, Marble Falls

2. Mi Tierra, San Antonio

3. Kerbey Lane Cafe, Austin

4. The Guenther House, San Antonio

5. Tie: Magnolia Cafe, Austin

Colonial Room (Menger Hotel), San Antonio

6. Paris Coffee Shop, Fort Worth

7. Tie: Cisco Restaurant & Bakery, Austin

Buffalo Grille, Houston

8. Tie: Brennan's of Houston

Mama's Cafe, Houston

9. Tie: Goode Co., Houston

Barbec's, Dallas

Earl Abel's, San Antonio

Dream Cafe, Dallas

Ol' South Pancake House, Fort Worth

10. Tie: The Omelettry, Austin

Czech American, West

Frank's, Schulenburg

Oakridge Smokehouse, Schulenburg

Best Restaurant for Barbecue

1. Coopers Bar-B-Que, Llano

2. The County Line (unspecified location)

3. The Salt Lick, Driftwood

4. Goode Co., Houston

5. Rudy's Country Store & Bar-B-Q, Leon Springs and Austin

6. Kreuz Market, Lockhart

7. City Market, Luling

8. Tie: Country Tavern, Kilgore

Bodacious BBQ (unspecified location)

Joe Allen's, Abilene

Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse, Dallas

Underwood's Cafeteria, Brownwood and Waco

9. Angelo's Barbecue, Fort Worth

10. Luther's Barbecue, Houston

Best Restaurant for Hamburgers

Again, we dropped out the big chains like Whataburger, Sonic, and Dairy Queen, so we could present the regional favorites.

1. Chester's Hamburger Co., San Antonio

2. Kincaid's, Fort Worth

3. Hut's, Austin

4. Chris Madrid's, San Antonio

5. Dirty Martin's, Austin

6. Tie: Keller's Drive-in, Dallas

Otto's, Houston

7. Tie: Buns Over Texas (unspecified location)

Charlie's Bar-B-Que, Bellaire

8. Tie: Al's, Arlington

Storm's, Lampasas, Burnet, and Hamilton

9. Tie: Prince's, Houston

The Longhorn Cafe, San Antonio

Pop's Grill, Fort Davis

Porky's, Fredericksburg

10. Tie: Chicken Oil Co., Bryan

Jucy's, Longview

Tommy's, Fort Worth

Little Hipps, San Antonio

Best Restaurant for Tex-Mex Food

1. Joe T. Garcia's, Fort Worth

2. Mi Tierra, San Antonio

3. Ninfa's (unspecified location)

4. Chuy's (unspecified location)

5. El Fenix (unspecified location)

6. Mamacita's (unspecified location)

7. Matt's El Rancho, Austin

8. Tie: Alamo Cafe, San Antonio

La Fonda, San Antonio

9. Tie: Abuelo's

(unspecified location)

La Margarita, San Antonio

10. Tie: Casa Rio, San Antonio

Mercado, Tyler

Best Place to Walk or Hike

1. Big Bend National Park (Specific locations included the South Rim trail, El Capitan, and the Basin.)

2. Beach (especially Padre Island and Galveston beaches; specific locations included Galveston and Corpus Christi seawalls)

3. Tie: Enchanted Rock State Park

Lost Maples State Park

4. River Walk, San Antonio

5. Palo Duro Canyon State Park

6. Town Lake, Austin

7. Davis Mountains

8. Tie: Caprock Canyons State Park

Guadalupe River State Park

9. Hill Country

10. McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Best Swimming Spot

1. Barton Springs, Austin

2. Balmorhea State Park

3. Guadalupe River

4. Frio River

5. New Braunfels

6. Blue Hole, Wimberley

7. Tie: Hamilton Pool, Bee Cave

Landa Park, New Braunfels

Schlitterbahn, New Braunfels

8. South Padre Island

9. Garner State Park

10. Tie: Comal River, New Braunfels

Galveston beach

Best Museum

1. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

2. Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon

3. Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, Waco

4. Houston Museum of Natural Science

5. Witte Museum of History and Science, San Antonio

6. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth

7. Institute of Texan Cultures, San Antonio

8. National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredericksburg

9. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

10. George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Bryan-College Station

Best Place for a Family Reunion

1. Garner State Park

2. San Antonio

3. New Braunfels

4. Fredericksburg

5. Tie: Galveston

Tyler State Park

6. Possum Kingdom State Park

7. Tie: Hill Country


Dude ranches (especially in Bandera and the Hill Country)

8. Bastrop State Park

9. Lake Whitney

10. Tie: Lake Texoma

Any state park

Best Place to View Wildflowers

1. Hill Country

2. Brenham, Chappell Hill area, Washington County

3. Willow City Loop, Gillespie County

4. Fredericksburg area, Gillespie County

5. Burnet, Marble Falls area, Burnet County

6. Llano area, Llano County

7. Tie: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin

Lyndon B. Johnson State and National Historical Parks, Stonewall

Texas 71 (especially from Austin east through Bastrop, Smithville, La Grange, and Columbus, and west from Austin to Llano)

US 281 (especially north of San Antonio through Johnson City, Marble Falls, Burnet, and Lampasas)

Wildseed Farms, near Fredericksburg

8. Tie: Austin

Ennis area, Ellis County

Johnson City area, Blanco County

9. Cuero area, DeWitt County

10. Tie: Kerrville area, Kerr County

Mason area, Mason County

Best Place to View Fall Foliage

1. Lost Maples State Park, near Vanderpool

2. East Texas (Piney Woods)

3. Hill Country

4. Guadalupe Mountains National Park (especially McKittrick Canyon)

5. Tyler area (including Tyler State Park), Smith County

6. Garner State Park area (including Leakey, Rio Frio, Concan, and Utopia)

7. Northeast Texas (especially Tyler, Longview, Marshall, Jefferson, and Texarkana)

8. Tie: Canadian (Hemphill County) and Canadian River area

Winnsboro (especially during the Autumn Trails event), Wood County

9. Tie: Daingerfield State Park, near Daingerfield

Kerrville, Kerr County

Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches County

10. Big Thicket

Most Beautiful Building

1. Bishop's Palace, Galveston

2. San Jacinto Monument, Deer Park

3. Mission San José, San Antonio

4. Ellis County Courthouse, Waxahachie

5. UT-Austin Tower

6. Fair Park (especially the Texas Hall of State), Dallas

7. Tarrant County Courthouse, Fort Worth

8. Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth

9. Hill County Courthouse, Hillsboro

10. The Ballpark in Arlington

Best Place to Feel Like You're Not in Texas

1. Dallas (several folks commented that it "feels like New York")

2. Houston (especially downtown traffic, the tunnel system, and the International Festival)

3. Big Bend National Park

4. El Paso

5. Tie: Palo Duro Canyon

South Padre Island

6. Tie: Austin ("feels like California" to a couple of respondents)


7. Tie: Caddo Lake

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

8. Tie: Fort Davis, Davis Mountains


Lost Maples State Park and surrounding area (including Vanderpool and Leakey)

9. Tie: Galveston

Padre Island

San Antonio (half of the votes were for El Mercado)

10. Piney Woods

Best Thing to Do on the Fourth of July

(An overwhelming majority of folks said they like to stay home and have backyard barbecues with family and friends.)

1. Tie: Celebrate at Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Family Picnic (held in Austin in 2000)

Watch the fireworks show on Austin's Town Lake

2. Watch the fireworks in downtown Houston (part of Freedom Festival)

3. Go to The Ballpark in Arlington for a Texas Rangers game and fireworks show

4. Enjoy festivities in Fort Worth (especially fireworks on the banks of the Trinity River, part of the Fort Worth Fourth event, and the concert and fireworks at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden)

5. Tie: Attend Granbury's Old-Fashioned Fourth, with a fireworks show over Lake Granbury

Watch the fireworks show over Clear Lake

6. Watch South Padre Island's Fireworks Over the Bay

7. Go to Corpus Christi for symphony performance on U.S.S. Lexington and fireworks over the bay

8. Enjoy Round Top's parade and barbecue at Rifle Hall

9. Go to the beach in Galveston and watch fireworks over the bay

10. Tie: Enjoy Belton's parade and PRCA rodeo

Enjoy the outdoors and fireworks (unspecified events) at Possum Kingdom Lake

Best Thing to Do on Valentine's Day

1. Dine out with your sweetheart

2. Stay home with your sweetheart

3. Stroll on the River Walk, San Antonio

4. Kiss/snuggle your lover

5. Send a Valentine from Valentine, Texas

6. Enjoy a romantic stay at a Fredericksburg B&B

7. Go for a boat ride on the San Antonio River

8. Dine at the Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas

9. Be alone with your loved one

10. Go dancing

Best Thing to Do on Halloween

1. Stay home and greet trick-or-treaters

2. Go trick-or-treating

3. Go to Sixth Street, Austin

4. Go to a costume party

5. Turn out the lights and hide

6. Go to a haunted house

7. Go to Six Flags Fright Night, Arlington

8. See the Marfa Lights

9. Go to AstroWorld Fright Night, Houston

10. See a scary movie

Best Place to Commune with Nature

1. Big Bend (specific locations include the Basin, South Rim, The Window, Santa Elena Canyon, and Boquillas Canyon)

2. Hill Country (especially when wildflowers are in bloom)

3. Beach (especially early morning and late night)

4. Piney Woods

5. Big Thicket

6. Davis Mountains (specific locations include McDonald Observatory and the Scenic Loop)

7. Palo Duro Canyon (especially the rim)

8. Palestine area when dogwoods are in bloom

9. Tie: Caddo Lake

Enchanted Rock State Park

Any state park (more than 25 parks were also listed individually)

10. Guadalupe Mountains (specific locations included Dog Canyon and McKittrick Canyon)

From the January 2001 issue.

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