Hello, Texas! Happy New Year! I’m not much of a resolution maker, but there is one commitment I heartily endorse year-round: to get out and explore as much of this great state of ours as I can.
I recently joined fellow Texas travel enthusiasts Chet Garner and Todd White—the host and producer, respectively, of “The Daytripper”—to talk about the places across the state that we most want to visit (or revisit) this year. You’ll have to listen to our gabfest—er, podcast—for all the details, but here’s a cheat sheet of some of the spots we’re itching to go to, as well as the classic Texas destinations we think you must resolve to see for yourself as soon as possible.
- Hike to the top of Enchanted Rock. (Have you heard the rocks “groan” at night?)
- Try to see the Marfa Lights. (Maybe it’s just Chamber of Commerce members out there with flashlights?! That’s just one of the many theories.)
- Walk amid Donald Judd’s one hundred aluminum boxes at the Chinati Foundation. (“It messes with your mind.”)
- Watch sea turtle hatchlings make their way to the Gulf in South Padre Island.
- Stay overnight at Presidio La Bahia in Goliad. (Where you’ll learn more about Texas history than you ever did in a classroom.)
- Spray-paint your name on one of the half-buried cars at Cadillac Ranch, in Amarillo. (Or visit the VW Slug Bug Ranch, a cheeky homage, in nearby Conway.)
- Drive the Willow City Loop, near Fredericksburg, when the wildflowers are in bloom. (And yes, you may as well stop and take the quintessential bluebonnet picture.)
- Visit one of our two national parks—Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains—in honor of the National Park Service’s hundredth anniversary this year.
- Two-step in a Texas dance hall, many of which are struggling to stay alive. (You can dosey-do under a hundred-year-old oak tree at Garner State Park during the nightly summer dances.)
- Eat at all three historic barbecue joints in Lockhart. (You’ll want to consult TMBBQ.com and read Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn’s reviews before you go.)
- Attempt to eat the entire 72-ounce steak at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, in Amarillo. (“And then you will never like steak again.”)
- See a movie at a Texas drive-in.
- Go to the top of the San Jacinto Monument, the world’s tallest war memorial. (Oh, and while you’re up there sing “Happy Birthday” to Texas, which turns 180 this year.)
- A first visit to Marfa. (A re-watching of Giant, filmed in the area, is in order too.)
- A return visit to Alpine for a romantic getaway at the Holland Hotel. (Tip: Splurge on the penthouse, which has a rooftop hot tub.)
- A relaxing weekend at La Paz Bed and Breakfast (lapazbnb.com) on the Angelina River, in East Texas (“As long as they have wifi, I’m good.”)
- A winter trip to Rockport to see the whooping cranes. (Know who else winters here? George Strait, who’s even more reclusive than the cranes!)
- Buy Chick-O-Sticks straight off the line at the Atkinson Candy Company factory in Lufkin. (The classic Texas candy has been described by the Texanist as “Butterfinger innards with a hint of the tropics.”)
- Make a maiden voyage to Galveston. (Tip: Book a Gulf-view room at the grand Hotel Galvez.)
- Walk or bike or kayak (or drive) along the Mission Trail in San Antonio, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (In other words, remember the Alamo but don’t forget its four sister missions!)
- Hike to the Aldridge Sawmill Historic Site from Boykin Spring Recreational Area. (Before you go, check out our Angelina National Forest trip guide.)
- Stop and smell the flowers during the Texas Dogwood Trails Celebration (texasdogwoodtrails.com), in Palestine. (Or the azaleas in Nacogdoches or the roses in Tyler.)
- Take an overnight paddling trip along the Colorado River, in Bastrop. (Although I’m vowing to be more outdoorsy, I’m not quite ready for the Devil’s River yet!)
- Rent an Airstream in El Paso for a week-long tour of Far West Texas. (This also made my Texas gift guide because a gal can dream.)
- Celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Lonesome Dove by attending the commemorative events in Fort Worth this March. (Oh, and I also intend to re-read the book!)
Chet and I are also resolving to go to a border town that neither of us have been to: Laredo. So, Laredo, you’ve been warned!
Oh, and the New York Times included one Texas destination on its list of “52 Places to Go in 2016.” Any guesses? (Hint: It’s a small town likely named for the heroine of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and you can find our detailed trip guide here.)
Would love to hear what’s on your list for the year ahead. Happy travels, y’all.