In the Texas Monthly Recommends series, Texas Monthly writers, editors, photographers, and producers offer up their favorite recent culture discoveries from the great state of Texas.

A few years ago, my now-eight-year-old daughter started writing fiction books. She’d bring me a stack of printer paper and ask me to staple in a binding, then set off filling the pages with backward all-lowercase letters and (quite impressive, in my opinion) illustrations. The COVID-19 pandemic—resulting in remote kindergarten and an abrupt end to extracurriculars—accelerated her pace, and over the months, I noticed a trend. Her protagonists of choice tended to be mermaids: enchanted-stranger mermaids, mermaids that granted wishes, brother-sister mermaids adventuring away from home (big pandemic feels). One of her stories evolved into a series, and then a full-scale—read: backyard—production, in which she cast her two younger siblings, called “Mermaids of the Lost.”  

This weekend, my little prodigy (and yours!) may just get to meet her muse, as Sea Life San Antonio hosts diving shows and meet and greets with mermaids. Mermaids will dive into the aquarium’s 160,000-gallon “ocean tunnel,” interacting with kids by high-fiving, blowing bubbles, and giving “hugs” through the glass, according to Sea Life staff. For the next two weekends, May 6–8 and May 13–15, guests can see the mermaids swim among the sea life—sharks, rays, and sea turtles included—and then take a photo with them on dry land. Performances are 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Meet and greets run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Both are included with the cost of admission, which starts at $25.99 on these weekends.

—Sandi Villarreal, deputy editor, digital

Chow down on oh so many tacos

Whisper the word “tacos,” and Texans clamor and gather. They’ve done that in greater numbers each year at Taco Fest: Music y Más, another reason to visit San Antonio. Perhaps that is because tacos are the perfect dish for food festivals—they gained early popularity at puestos, or street stands.

Puestos will abound at this year’s Taco Fest, the biggest yet, which will showcase the best of San Antonio tacos and beyond. The grand taquiza (taco party) kicks off at noon on May 14 at Travis Park and goes until 11 p.m. That’s a lot of tacos! Local favorites, such as Chela’s Tacos and Carnitas Don Raúl, will be serving alongside newcomers and low-key operations, such as Ay Que Rico, Stixs & Stone, and Mi Frijoles Catering.

Armando “Mando” Vera of Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que in Brownsville will make a rare appearance outside of the Rio Grande Valley. Vera, the owner of the only Texas restaurant permitted to pit cook barbacoa de cabeza, will be giving a cooking demo on one of the stages set up for entertainment (both culinary and musical). Of course, no Alamo City taco festival would be complete without a contentious panel debating the merits of and the rivalry between Austin and San Antonio tacos.

Early-bird general admission is $20, while VIP access (which includes taco and drink tickets and complimentary chips and salsa) costs $70. Children ten and under enter for free. Best of all, every vendor has committed to selling at least one two-dollar taco. Tickets are available at

José R. Ralat, taco editor

Spend Mother’s Day in the lavender fields

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and Chappell Hill Lavender Farm, located about thirteen miles northeast of Brenham, is celebrating moms with a Saturday spring fling. Starting at 9 a.m., the farm will be dotted with vendors, flower pounding, plants for sale, a food truck, and even a painting class (from 10 a.m. to noon) for the entire family to enjoy. Grab a glass of lavender lemonade and spend the day exploring farm’s two dozen acres—be sure to check out the pond and gazebo—while enjoying the aromatic lavender all around you. 

If you can’t make it this weekend, don’t worry. The farm is open to the public until November. You still have months to pile your family and friends into the car, drive out to Chappell Hill, and pick your own lavender bouquets. To complete the trip, make a stop at the original Blue Bell Creameries, where, in my humble opinion, you’ll find the best ice cream in Texas. 

Jacqueline Knox, editorial intern