“Once you are in Texas, it seems to take forever to get out, and some people never make it.” I’ve underlined that particular zinger of John Steinbeck’s in my much-dog-eared copy of Travels With Charley, the 1961 account of the writer’s road trip across America. Given that I’ve been road tripping across Texas for this magazine for nearly a dozen years now, I guess I’m one of those people who has never made it out—and I’m quite happy about that.
For as many places as I’ve been to in Texas, there’s a seemingly infinite number that I’ve yet to see and sniff out for myself. Here are a handful of the sites and destinations—some established, some new—on my ever-growing list (and long may it continue to grow).
Where: The 8th Street Market
Why: Housed in a forties-era car showroom in this small (but mighty fine) Hill Country town, this multi-dealer market, which opened this past spring and specializes in vintage finds and architectural antiques, caught my eye on Instagram (its “Peace, Love, and Comfort” mural is cleverly photogenic). This month, they’ve launched a series of Peace, Love, and Inspiration workshops (beginner’s calligraphy, floral tablescapes), but if I’m honest, what I’ve really got my eye on are the scones, pumpkin rolls, and other baked goods from the onsite Wander’n Calf Espresso Bar & Bakery.
Details: Open Tue–Sat 10–5, Sun noon–5; 523 8th Street, 830-201-0214.
Where: The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Why: I’m no stranger to the Modern, one of my favorite Texas museums, but I’m plotting a return soon to see “KAWS: Where the End Starts,” a sizable survey of the striking and often larger-than-life works by graffiti artist turned art-world favorite Brian Donnelly (aka KAWS), when it opens on October 20. Though I missed seeing the Brooklyn-based artist’s previous exhibition here, back in late 2011/early 2012, I did at least get to gawk at his sixteen-foot-tall sculpture, COMPANION (PASSING THROUGH), described as “Mickey Mouse meets the Michelin Man,” when it sat sentry outside the museum for a time. I’m looking forward to being more fully immersed in the colorful KAWS world by way of the more than one hundred works that will be on view.
Details: The exhibition runs from October 20, 2016, to January 27, 2017; the museum is closed on Mondays, free on Sundays, and half-price on Wednesdays.
Where: Hye Market Restaurant and Tasting Room
Why: For years, I’ve passed what used to be the old Hye General Store and Post Office along 290 on my way between Johnson City and Fredericksburg, and for years I’ve told myself I’ll stop the next time I’m passing through. In 2012, the historic building was refashioned into a modern-day market, and, along with the beloved post office next door (which is still in business thanks to locals who lobbied to save it) is the kind of welcoming community hangout that warrants more than a quick dash through on my way to somewhere else. Since it’s stocked with Texas’s best wines and craft beer, locally made sundries, and made-to-order sandwiches and naan pizzas, and since you can sit a spell to play a game of checkers (using beer caps as game pieces) or listen to live music, I’d say it’s “Hye” time (couldn’t resist!) I go out of my way to visit this teensy town. And did I mention that it’s in close proximity to several nearby wineries (like William Chris and Hye Meadow Winery) and the first legal whiskey distillery in Texas (Garrison Brothers)?
Details: Open Tue 11–5, Wed–Sat 11–7, Sun 11–5.
Where: Pandale Crossing
Why: The next time it’s warm and I’m en route to West Texas from Austin along I-10W, I’ll be peeling off at exit 361 and heading south for about 48 miles to the Pecos River crossing, in Pandale, to take a dip in the shallow waters and sunbathe on the large, flat slabs of rock—and to work up the nerve to finally plan a longer (and much more strenuous) trip down the remote waterway.
Details: It’s remote (the last 13 or so miles are unpaved), it’s swim at your own risk, and cell service is spotty, so be safe and be sure to fuel up beforehand.
Where: Downstairs at the Esquire Tavern
Why: I’ve bellied up to the longest wooden bar top in Texas at the famed Esquire Tavern, touted as the oldest watering hole on the River Walk, but I’ve yet to descend into its newly opened, river-level lounge downstairs (called, appropriately enough, Downstairs). The word on the street is that it’s a little cave-like, a little swankier, and a little pricier, serving fresh oysters, charcuterie boards, and custom cocktails, including one, the Batman of Mexico, made with a “bat-friendly” tequila.
Details: You can reserve a spot here.