Q: A lifelong dream of mine was to go ranching and horseback riding in the U.S., and finally last year my best friend, Maxinne, and I visited Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans and had the time of our lives, so in February we’re doing it again. This time, Texas: horses, country music, and, of course, cowboys (only kidding; I’m married). We’re staying at a ranch in Bandera and then on to the rodeo in San Antonio. What advice can you offer to ensure that we have the safest and best time ever? We are both 56, look 46, and feel 26.
Jenny Calverley, Corscombe, England
A: Welcome to Texas! By all accounts y’all seem to be a pair of fun-loving lasses, unafraid to cast off the prim-and-proper stereotype of British folk that too many Yanks subscribe to. This will serve you well on your inaugural sojourn to the Lone Star State, a place that is, you will soon see, neither prim nor proper.
Bandera is an excellent choice. Did you know that it’s called the Cowboy Capital of the World? Does your husband?! Whatever the case, the Texanist assumes you have a good dude ranch lined up but also urges you to hit the town, such as it is, with a population of about 850. Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar saloon is a must. Old, subterranean, cast in a neon glow, and possessed of a sawdust-covered dance floor, it’s one of the state’s great honky-tonks. And beforehand be sure to visit the Old Spanish Trail Restaurant, just across the street. The Texanist recommends saddling up at the bar (the stools are topped with real-deal saddles), tucking into a juicy pepper steak, and saving room for the blueberry buttermilk pie. (Fear not—you can dance it all off at Arkey’s postprandially.)
As for San Antonio, the Texanist will just say hang on to your hats. (Which presumably you will have bought a couple of days prior, in Bandera.) The dusty doings at the rodeo will feature dirty, snorting, snot-slinging beasts the size of a Mini Cooper doing battle with gangly cowboys. It is, as you’ll see, far from the high-toned races at Royal Ascot.
Outside of the rodeo grounds, San Antonio brims with Texas history. Don’t forget to remember to not forget the Alamo, but also don’t forget to visit the other Spanish missions, which constitute Texas’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. There’s also great Western art at the Briscoe museum; some of the best victuals the state has to offer, such as the pork-chop taco at Garcia’s Mexican Food and the Original Puffy Taco at Ray’s Drive Inn; and more first-class honky-tonking at the Lonesome Rose.
Lastly, while the Texanist is unable to guarantee your safety—as horses, pepper steak, Arkey’s, bucking bulls, tequila, and cowboys can be unpredictable—he can say that Texas’s official motto is “Friendship,” and folks here will look out for you as they would their own, despite your funny accents and fondness for blood pudding. (Again with the stereotypes!) If during your stay you do find yourselves in need of any help, feel free to reach out to the Texanist again. He’s 57, looks 56, and feels 26—except when he rolls out of bed in the morning and feels as old as Stonehenge.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.
This article originally appeared in the February 2024 issue of Texas Monthly. Subscribe today.