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Cool Getaways for Chillin’ Out

ON THE SECTION COVER: Januari Works, ASID, RID, owner of Design Works,
created this elegant ranch home for a Houston family.
Tile by Daltile.  


Compiled by Barbara Kuntz

Pack your bags now for summer travel itineraries filled with adventures for the entire family. Whether it’s a day trip, weekend stay or an extended getaway, we have some exciting, relaxing and just plain fun options for you to consider.

Discover the charms of this “Lost Pines” town near Austin, including a wonderful mix of shopping, restaurants, galleries and the 1889 Bastrop Opera House in the Main Street Historic District. In addition to numerous hotels about town, cabins and RV sites are available in peaceful Bastrop State Park with hiking trails and wildlife. You’ll also see the healthy new growth of trees and vegetation after the fires of 2011. Book now for later, as the rustic rental cabins go fast!

This 800,000-plus-acre park sits along the Chisos Mountains surrounded by the Chihuahuan Desert and is home to hundreds of bird species, as well as more than 1,200 species of plants and bountiful wildlife. The Rio Grande carves temple-like canyons in the ancient limestone along the U.S.-Mexico border. Big Bend is a haven for hikers, bird-watchers, campers and outdoor enthusiasts of all ages — and is a true Texas gem.

If your dream escape translates to boating, skiing and fishing, look no further than Canyon Lake, nicknamed “The Water Recreation Capital of Texas” — and for good reason. Canyon Lake spans 8,230 acres and offers 80 miles of shoreline, camping and day parks, hiking trails and more. Enjoy Canyon Lake-area establishments and more shopping, dining and sightseeing in heritage-rich Hill Country towns easy drives nearby.

Proudly boasting the title of “Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas,” Georgetown’s allure begins at the majestic Williamson County Courthouse built more than 100 years ago. This architecturally stunning structure is flanked on all four sides by historic and meticulously maintained buildings filled with restaurants, shops and galleries waiting to be explored. Every first Friday of the month, merchants stay open late for evening shopping — with live music, to boot! Mark your calendar now for the city’s 2018 Red Poppy Festival, Georgetown’s annual signature event held each April.

The city of Gonzales welcomes visitors with the offer, “It’s Yours to Take, So Explore It,” a greeting inspired by the famous “Come and Take it” cannon that was shot during the first battle of the Texas Revolution in 1835. History buffs can take in the Gonzales Memorial Museum to witness that cannon, as well as see artifacts and objects commemorating the “Immortal 32” who died at the Alamo. The 1885 J.B. Wells House Museum showcases original furnishings gracing its 15 rooms. Just eight miles out of town are the plantation-style Braches House and the “Sam Houston Oak,” a magnificent tree where Gen. Sam Houston and his troops are said to have rested.

Nestled in the heart of the Piney Woods, Jefferson is steeped in history, harking back to the mid-1840s when steamboats full of people and goods made their way inland to the state’s most significant river port at that time, crowning Jefferson the “Queen of the Bayou.” With prosperity and wealth came the fashions, customs and architecture found in New Orleans. In fact, the many bed-and-breakfast inns located throughout Jefferson today are the same beautifully restored and maintained houses. Antique shops line the original brick streets and horse-drawn carriage tours are available.

Longview is loaded with festivals throughout the year, including the T-Bone Walker Blues Festival held each year in June honoring this native son and celebrating the music genre. July marks 40 years of the Great Texas Balloon Race, a world-class event attracting competitive pilots from across the United States and the world. Shoppers delight in specialty stores to national retailers in this retail hub of East Texas, and wine- and beer-lovers alike find numerous wineries, vineyards and breweries in the area.

Located in the high desert of the Trans-Pecos in far West Texas between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park, Marfa is known worldwide as an arts hub. The Chinati Foundation, established by artist Donald Judd, displays huge indoor and outdoor installations on an old army base. The Ballroom Marfa arts center hosts exhibitions, concerts and the Marfa Myths cultural festival. The Marfa Lights Viewing Area is located nine miles east of town on Highway 90 towards Alpine. And for fun, take your photo in front of the “pop architectural land art” Prada storefront designed by artists Elmgreen and Dragset in nearby Valentine.

Founded in 1845 by German settlers, New Braunfels invites all with its Old World-heritage combined with small-town charm, from beautiful historic buildings, great shops, museums, restaurants and entertainment venues. Visit Naegelin’s, the oldest Texas bakery; Henne, the state’s oldest hardware store; and the Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture, showcasing a collection of more than 70 pieces of antique Biedermeier furniture. The Comal River continues to be a main attraction for tourists to New Braunfels, passing through scenic Landa Park, downtown New Braunfels and into Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort. Nearby, Natural Bridge Caverns is filled with stalactites, stalagmites and rock formations 180 feet below ground. The Gruene Historic District is lively with antique shops and one of Texas’ most famous dance halls, Gruene Hall.

Established in 1714, Louisiana’s oldest town is known as the “Bed and Breakfast Capitol” of Louisiana, and the 33-block National Historic Landmark District is evidence to that classic Southern hospitality. The downtown area also serves as a shopping and dining paradise, from Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile, the oldest general store in Louisiana; to Lasyone’s Meat Pie Kitchen, famous for its authentic “Soulful Louisiana Creole Flavors.” Horse-drawn carriage tours provide an excellent way to see downtown, while boat tours down the Cane River offer backyard views of the grand Oaklawn and Magnolia plantations — the latter a filming site for the movie, “Steel Magnolias.” Take the history-rich Cane River National Heritage Trail to see the plantations, missions, Civil War and historic fort sites and churches dating back 200-300 years — many of them with National Register of Historic Places designations. The Cajun spirit continues with annual festivals from jazz, R&B and Zydeco concerts to arts and crafts fairs to barbecue and meat pie competitions.

Just 30 miles north of downtown Dallas, McKinney is a picturesque city with a small-town feel that is quite different from the Metroplex's urban sprawl, complete with a Main Street America square. Just two blocks south of the historic downtown, step back in time with a visit to Chestnut Square Historic Village sitting on 2.5 shaded acres. With 10 structures dating from 1854 to 1930, the village offers docent-led tours, facility rentals, a wedding venue, living history demonstrations and community events like the No. 1 Farmers Market in Texas and the Killis Melton Ice Cream Crank-Off.

Fish the docks or navigate the channels to the ocean for world-class fishing, visit the Texas Maritime Museum and the Rockport Center for the Arts and enjoy Rockport Beach Park for swimming, sunning and family activities. Whooping cranes winter here from mid-October thru mid-April, and many outfitters offer tours year-round for dolphin and whale watching and romantic rides into the sunset. In neighboring Fulton, the Fulton Mansion showcases Second Empire architecture and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It truly is shop ’til you drop in San Marcos, home to the largest outlet shopping center in the United States. Imagine: Two hundred and sixty stores in 1.2 million square feet of shopping heaven with huge discounts at San Marcos Premium and Tanger outlets. The city’s downtown square is the place to go for locally owned restaurants, bistros and nightspots. Check out The Meadows Center Glass-Bottom Boat Tours, formerly Aquarena Springs, for interpretive and self-guided tours, glass-bottom boat rides, wildlife viewing and wetlands boardwalk. The San Marcos River bubbles to life from hundreds of springs right in the center of town. Always a refreshing 72 degrees, the river is enjoyed year-round by tubers, kayakers, snorkelers and picnickers.

If you like scenic drives, head to Wimberley, located 16 miles from San Marcos and situated about 1,000 feet above sea level on the Edwards Plateau. Take the Devil's Backbone Scenic Drive for incredible views of the Hill Country. As one recent visitor writes, “Keep the speed reasonable, keep the soft top between the white lines and enjoy the view.” If more physical exhilaration
is your game, the Wimberley Zipline Adventures offers an exciting ride. For relaxation, Jacob’s Well Natural Area is a popular swimming spot with an artesian spring and underwater caves. The 126-acre Blue Hole Regional Park presents 3.5 miles of trails, picnic areas, a community pavilion, playscape, basketball court, sand volleyball court and amphitheater.

Pack a pair of cowboy boots if you’re thinking about a getaway to Kerrville. And if you’re joining the many Houstonians who have second homes or are retiring in this Hill Country town surrounded by natural scenic beauty and the sparkling, spring-fed waters of the Guadalupe River, pack a second pair, too.
It’s a Western-style destination with a history of cowboys and cattle drives.

The Museum of Western Art holds works by the nation’s top artists of that genre, and the Hill Country Arts Foundation’s Point Theater stages indoor and outdoor productions. The famous Y.O. Ranch Hotel & Convention Center takes you back to the early days of ranching in Texas, and the annual Kerrville Folk Music Festival, this year set through June 11, attracts fans of bluegrass, country music and Americana to the grounds of Quiet Valley Ranch.

Kerrville is also the home to the company headquarters and first retail showroom for James Avery Jewelry. Oh, and add a pair of hiking shoes to your bag: Lost Maples State Park, the only maple forest in Texas, is just 1½ hours southwest of town.

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