In this high-desert hub just north of Big Bend National Park, you’ll find Western artwork, Mexican handicrafts, and the unexpected snow cone.
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1. Railroad Blues
A popular whistle-stop for musicians of every genre—country, rock, reggae, blues, R&B—this homey club is the type of place where strangers will buy you a beer (choose from more than 130) and friendly cowboys will spin you around the wooden dance floor. When the velvet portrait of George W. Bush to the right of the stage starts talking to you, it’s time to put down that pitcher of homemade “Shangri-La” sangria, even if the fruity concoction is the best you’ve ever tasted. 504 W. Holland Ave., 432-837-3103, railroadblues.com
2. Quetzal Art and Imports
Like the iridescent green plumage of the quetzal (the national bird of Guatemala), the items in this gift shop’s window will catch your eye. Go on in and indulge your magpie impulses by hauling a stash of global loot—a patterned basket woven in Africa, whimsical animal figurines carved in Oaxaca, milky-blue Talavera dinnerware painted in Guanajuato, and vibrant molas appliquéd by the Kuna tribe in Panama—to the cash register. Expect a few last-minute items, like coiled caña flecha bracelets from Colombia, to end up on your receipt as well. 302 W. Holland Ave., 432-837-1051
3. Bronco Betties
West Texas women wanting to add some kick to their wardrobes visit this fashionable boutique next to the historic Holland Hotel. The desired look—“desert bohemian,” as the owner dubs it—can be achieved with a teal puebla blouse by Theme, flap-pocket Big Star jeans, and tan Not Rated T-strap wedges with bronze studs. Save on inexpensive accessories (bedazzled belt buckles, gold necklaces dripping with thin slices of hot-pink agate) so you can splurge on one of the supple Leaders in Leather bags, like the black-and-white hand-tooled overnighter. 207 W. Holland Ave., 432-837-3500
4. Ivey’s Emporium/Mi Tesoro
Bill Ivey insists he’s anti-big box, but you’ll waste just as many hours trawling his sizable bazaar as you would at Costco. The merchandise caters to nomadic RVers searching for souvenirs (Hot-N-Spicy pecans from Fort Davis, glazed pottery from Terra Peters) and local ranch wives looking to beautify their houses (with ceramic serving platters shaped like Texas) and their babies (with tiny beaded moccasins). Nestled inside Ivey’s is Mi Tesoro, a gem of a jewelry store where you can try on handmade silver pieces created with semiprecious stones. 109 W. Holland Ave. Ivey’s Emporium: 432-837-7474. Mi Tesoro: 432-837-1882
At Talgar McCarty’s homespun Mexican restaurant, the star dish may be the fish tacos (generous lumps of grilled tilapia made even more satisfying with a dollop of chipotle sauce), but the supporting cast is just as strong: a chopped-beef torta on a crusty roll, a nopalito salad strewn with avocados, and yummy Kahlúa flan. Sit on the shaded patio and concoct your own michelada as the train rumbles by a few yards away. 102 W. Murphy, 432-837-5101, talgarsrestaurant.com
6. Murphy St. Raspa Co.
Smooth as snow and infused with daring flavors, raspas are shaved-ice treats that are as unexpected as an oasis in this arid region. If you’re brave, try the Picadilly, a sweet-and-sour mix of diced pickles and Fun Dip. Even basic choices (pear, wild cherry) can be punched up with chamoy, a tangy pickled-apricot-and-plum pulp. While the raspa machine whirs, browse colorful piñatas, lucha libre greeting cards, and oilcloth purses, or just break out the dominoes and stay awhile. 100 W. Murphy, 432-837-5556, raspaland.com
7. Kiowa gallery
What was once a frame shop has expanded into a creative showcase for a rotating mix of artists inspired by the splendor of Big Bend. Among the one-of-a-kind wares are Caroline Korbell Carrington’s tinted photographs of cacti and religious iconography, Chase Almond’s plein air oil paintings of the Chisos Mountains, and Nancy Anderson’s silver cuffs accented with skulls and angel wings. There are even tortilla warmers made from gourds and malachite-inlaid chopsticks. Who says art is only something to stare at? 105 E. Holland Ave., 432-837-3067
8. Front Street Books
A sign declares this bookstore to be a no-cell-phone zone. You won’t find any Kindles here either, just shelves of gently used paperbacks, hot-off-the-press best-sellers, and fragile first editions. A robust collection of Trans-Pecos titles is kept in stock, as well as staples like Wildflowers of the Big Bend Country, Texas. There are so many volumes—organized into notably specific sections (outlaws, Comanche, frontier women, disaster)—that they spill over into a building across Fourth Street. 121 & 201 E. Holland Ave., 432-837-3360, fsbooks.com