Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from visiting the recently renovated LBJ Presidential Library to surfing along the coast and hiking in the mountains. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
Phoning the Prez
Exhibit phones placed around the newly renovated LBJ Presidential Library give visitors an unfiltered account of all the challenges President Lyndon B. Johnson faced during his time in office. Listen in on a conversation Johnson had with Martin Luther King Jr. about the importance of passing the Voting Rights Act; on another phone hear LBJ talk with J. Edgar Hoover about the three missing civil rights protesters in Mississippi. “These conversations illustrate how effective LBJ was at getting things done,” said Mark Updegrove, the director of the LBJ Library and author of the new book Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency. “It is particularly germane for these conversations to appear on exhibit today because visitors can hear how he reached across the aisle.” The LBJ Library will reopen on Saturday with a ribbon-cutting and open house, after a year of technology-based improvements to the core exhibit. (The seventies-era animatronic LBJ is still there.) Proceed through various displays informed by the work of historians, like the LBJ biographers Robert Caro and Doris Kearns Goodwin, to learn how Johnson’s Great Society shaped our nation. Be sure to visit the “impact” gallery, where you can leave your own reaction to Johnson’s signature bills. “LBJ would want to know what Americans think about his legislation today,” Updegrove said.
LBJ Presidential Library, December 22, 9 a.m., lbjlibrary.org
Give Peace a Chance
Peace on Earth requires many, but peace of mind needs only one. Strive for personal tranquility in preparation at Shantikar, the yoga-based meditation ceremony that takes its name from Shanti, which is Sanskrit for “peace.” Participants can achieve equilibrium through Kirtan, the call-and-response chanting of devotional songs honoring the winter solstice. “By repeating positive concepts and ideas, you create energy for ecstatic meditation, where the body is energized and the mind is open,” said Rick Henderson, the event’s organizer and a San Antonio musician who purveys North Indian classical music. Others might achieve harmony with the rhythms that Henderson, a classically trained sarodist, conjures with Buffalo Thunder Frank Del Toro, a “shamanistic drummer.” Most will practice while sitting or lying on a cushion or mat, but since the chanting is expected to last a couple of hours, it is fine to also sit in the pews of the Quaker Meetinghouse.
Quaker Meetinghouse, December 21, 7:30 p.m., ragavatar.com
The Texans’ lopsided loss to the New England Patriots in Week 14 crushed the hopes of many fans who now realize that their team may not be ready for the Super Bowl. Quarterback Matt Schaub made poor decisions on third down, running back Arian Foster could not break tackles, and defensive end J.J. Watt was missing in action. The Texans must relocate their momentum if they are to live up to the playoff expectations placed on them by many football analysts. Root for the Texans at their final home game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, where a win could solidify home-field advantage in the playoffs. But be prepared for some fans who may have split allegiances: Adrian Peterson, the Vikings running back who is from Palestine, is vying for the single-season rushing record only a year removed from tearing his ACL.
Reliant Stadium, December 23, 12 p.m., houstontexans.com
Bryan Adams, the Canadian musician whose hit songs include “Summer of ’69” and “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You,” has been moonlighting for the last decade as a photographer, but now his second artistic pursuit is his focus. Adams has a new book called Exposed, a comprehensive retrospective featuring many never-before-published photographs from assignments for British Vogue and other magazines. Forty-six images from the book are part of a three-city exhibition of Adams’s work that starts in Dallas and ends in Marfa. Some may think the promotional photograph of the musician Pink baring her breast portends the imagery found in Exposed, but the title is actually derived from the way Adams uses lighting to render his subjects, including Amy Winehouse, Mick Jagger, and Queen Elizabeth.
The Goss-Michael Foundation, December 21-Feb. 8, gossmichaelfoundation.org
Carolyn Wonderland, the blues singer who plays a wicked guitar, and Guy Forsyth, the folkie who can turn nearly anything into an instrument, are Austin musicians who refuse to buy into the earnest holiday spirit and will transform traditional songs and carols to suit their humor at their Holiday Roast show.
The Long Center, December 21-22, 8 p.m., thelongcenter.org
People who embrace the dysfunction that can come with the gathering of family during the holidays should attend Robert Earl Keen’s hometown Christmas show, which will likely include “Merry Christmas From the Family,” the comical sing-along song involving champagne punch, margaritas, and Bloody Marys.
House of Blues, December 27, 8 p.m., robertearlkeen.com