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15 Highlights From My 2015 Texas Wanderings

The best sights, bites, and experiences from my travels around the state this year.

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Photos by Jordan Breal

As another year comes to a close, I’ve been taking a look in my rearview mirror at all the places I’ve wandered to in 2015. Here are a few of the (many) superlative stops and sights that made my year–and that I hope may inspire your own wanderings in the not-too-distant future (i.e., 2016).

Down Unda Trading Post

Photo by Jordan Breal

  1. Most charming roadside stop: the Down Unda Trading Post, along U.S. 281 in Adamsville, about 17 miles north of Lampasas, where you may find the Aussie owner, Emma, taking fresh-baked Anzacs (Australian for “biscuits”) or meat pies out of the oven. The gas pumps are for emergencies only, but there’s also a mini antiques/junk shop inside to peruse as you stretch your legs (or digest your meat pies).

 

Shamrock U-Dropp Inn Tesla

Photo by Jordan Breal

  1. Most unexpected discovery: six Tesla Superchargers behind the U-Drop Inn on historic Route 66, in tiny Shamrock (pop. 2,028).

 

Sayles Landmark B&B Abilene

Photo by Jordan Breal

  1. Most comfortable lodging: my cozy nook upstairs at the sumptuous six-room Sayles Landmark, in Abilene. It didn’t hurt that I had the B&B to myself during my three-night stay, but between the “welcome” pound cake in the kitchen and all the little details that owner Terry Browder hasn’t overlooked (soft sheets, interesting reading material, Instagram-worthy décor, good old-fashioned hospitality), I felt more than right at home.

 

The Trishas Kessler Theater Oak Cliff Dallas

Photo by Jordan Breal

  1. Best show: the Trishas, that harmonious quartet of Texas singer-songwriters, at the Kessler Theater, one of my favorite venues in the state, in Dallas’s historic Oak Cliff neighborhood.

 

Pax Americana Houston Museum District

Photo via Pax Americana

  1. Best meal: dinner at Pax Americana, near Houston’s Museum District, where all of the small plates (creamy goat ricotta on sunflower rye, lamb meatballs with golden beets, rock shrimp in a chilled celery root broth) were outsized in creativity and flavor. (Runner up: the raw vegan zucchini “noodles” I ate at Deer Lake Lodge, in Montgomery, after four days without solid food.)

 

Quihi Gun Club Dance Hall Hondo

Photo by Jordan Breal

  1. Best Saturday night: dancing at the Quihi Gun Club and Dance Hall in Hondo that’s been hosting dances (never “concerts”) on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month since 1890. (The “tin-barn hall in the middle of nowhere,” as my colleague John Spong described it, is so picturesque that it made the cover of our December 2009 issue.)

 

Canadian Texas Panhandle

Photo by Jordan Breal

  1. Farthest drive: the approximately 475 miles that it took me to get from Austin to Canadian, way up in the Panhandle. My eight-plus hours behind the wheel were made more interesting by a long line of tornado-spawning storms, but it was more than worth it to spend a slow but inspiring weekend in this blissfully unhurried town.

 

Abilene antiques shop back scratcher

Photo by Nicki Longoria

  1. Favorite souvenir: the pink back scratcher with a map of Texas that I procured for $2.50 at the Antique Station, in Abilene.

 

Hotel Havana San Antonio

Photo by Jordan Breal

  1. Best breakfast in bed: the feast of griddled flour tortillas with blackberry butter, a queso blanco omelette with an arugula and herb salad, and a carafe of coffee that I order every time I stay at the Hotel Havana, in San Antonio.

 

Perot Museum Nature and Science Dallas

Photo by Jordan Breal

  1. Best family outing: a trip to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, in Dallas, where our party of seven (none of whom was under the age of 24) spent a highly educating, and often hysterical, afternoon stomping up and down the musical staircase, attempting to outrun cheetahs (and superstar athletes), wobbling through a simulated earthquake, and gazing deep into the (3D animated) cosmos.

 

Coleman Texas

Photo by Jordan Breal

  1. The place I’m most eager to revisit in 2016: Coleman, that small West Texas town an hour south of Abilene where big things—namely, the incredibly tasty Rancho Pizzeria, a new coffee shop, a new festival, and more—seem to be sprouting up every month.

 

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge Los Fresnos

Photo by Jordan Breal

  1. Best communing with nature: kayaking the super-salty Laguna Madre, birding along the lush resacas, and keeping an eye out for the elusive ocelots in Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, one of the state’s last great unspoiled habitats.

 

White Elephant Antiques Warehouse Dallas Design District

Photo by Jordan Breal

  1. Best conspicuous consumption (i.e., shopping): making my way through the dozens of fancy showrooms, eclectic shops, and antiques emporiums in the Dallas Design District, the subject of my first Wanderer column of 2016.

 

Marvin Taylor Hermann Park Houston

Photo by Jordan Breal

  1. Favorite interview subject: Marvin Taylor, the ninety-year-old former postal worker and running enthusiast who helped raise thousands of dollars to restore his favorite jogging trail, which runs through the revitalized Hermann Park and now bears his name.

 

Jay B Sauceda aerial shot

Photo by Jordan Breal

  1. Most memorable experience: flying over Texas—from San Marcos to Victoria to Galveston to Houston and back to San Marcos—in a four-seater Cessna with pilot/photographer Jay B. Sauceda, for a special cover story in 2016. Stay tuned!

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  • Walt Longmire

    Wow, what a refreshing look at Texas! Now I want to go to a number of these sites.