MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND ESCAPES
Cool Getaways for Family-friendly Fun
ON THE SECTION COVER:
SAN MARCOS, TX
Come visit and tube the spring-fed San Marcos River Memorial Day-Labor Day! www.TourSanMarcos.com
Take Advantage of the Long Weekend at These Great Memorial Day Getaways By Paris Permenter & John Bigley
The calendar may still say spring, but Texas travelers know that Memorial Day weekend begins summer fun in the Lone Star State. Whether you opt for kicking back along some of the state’s 367 miles of coastline, tubing down a Hill Country river or exploring historic communities, you’ll find plenty of ways to celebrate the season of sun.
Grab your cowboy hat and head to this town known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” Memorial Day weekend starts with the Bandera Pro Rodeo, a PRCA-sanctioned event with bull riding, bareback riding and more. The action continues with weekly rodeos throughout the season at 2E Twin Elm Guest Ranch, one of the many dude ranches in the region, where you can enjoy Western fun, horseback riding and campfires.
Or you might opt to put on your boots, crease your best jeans and two-step at dance halls like the 11th Street Cowboy Bar, where the only jet-cooled dance floor and patio in Texas keep boot scooters on their toes — even on hot summer evenings.
There’s no better time than Memorial Day weekend to visit Corpus Christi, home of U.S.S. Lexington Museum on the Bay. The most decorated aircraft carrier in U.S. naval history welcomes travelers for guided or self-guided tours of the 16-deck ship, as well as a 3-D theater, a multi-media Pearl Harbor exhibit so realistic it shakes the walkway and even a flight simulator where you can experience what it’s like to be an F/18 pilot.
Near the Lexington, you’ll find the Texas State Aquarium, which last year doubled its indoor exhibit space with the opening of the “Caribbean Journey” exhibit that invites you to explore colorful coral reefs and tropical forests.
Offer a toast to summer fun at one of the dozens of wineries in Fredericksburg, a Hill Country community known not only for its rich German heritage, seen in its restaurants and biergartens, but also a booming wine industry. With wine production dating back to the region’s settlers, many of Fredericksburg’s wineries have now received international acclaim and the wines can be sampled in tasting rooms or in the town’s growing number of restaurants.
After a meal, take some time to stroll the National Historic District and explore the 150-plus shops that call Fredericksburg home or visit the National Museum of the Pacific War, a six-acre, three-museum complex known as one of the nation’s top military museums.
And after a day of exploration, head to one of the town’s stand-alone guesthouses that have made Fredericksburg the bed-and-breakfast capital of Texas or camp at nearby Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. The park features a 640-acre granite outcropping second only to Georgia’s Stone Mountain and has “Dark Sky” status, preventing artificial lights from marring your view of the summer sky.
Texas summers are synonymous with lakeside fun, and Marble Falls puts travelers in easy reach of each of the Highland Lakes. This stair-step chain of lakes is formed by the Colorado River, winding through the Hill Country and providing 150 miles of water recreation. Whether you opt for boating Lake Marble Falls, fishing Inks Lake or birding at Canyon of the Eagles on Lake Buchanan, Marble Falls makes an excellent home base.
Take a break from fun in the sun with a visit to one of the area’s numerous wineries and breweries or shop for antiques and art at one of the many community galleries.
Founded by German immigrants attracted by the Comal and Guadalupe rivers, today those waters still draw summer travelers to New Braunfels. The crystal-clear, two-mile-long Comal begins with bubbling springs in downtown Landa Park, eventually merging with the Guadalupe River. Here, River Road is home to many local outfitters who can arrange for a relaxing float down cypress-shaded waters.
If you prefer your water fun a little faster paced, New Braunfels is also home base for Schlitterbahn Water Park & Resort, the largest tubing park in the world; and Texas Ski Ranch, known not only for waterskiing but wakeboarding, skateboarding, paintballing and a 15,000-square-foot trampoline park.
Of course, you’ll also find plenty of attractions that don’t require a towel, like Natural Bridge Caverns and Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch — and Texas’ oldest dance hall, Gruene Hall, still offering plenty of live music so you can two-step your way into summer in Texas style.
It takes more than a hurricane to keep a Texas town down, and the popular summer destination of Port Aransas is quickly rebuilding to welcome a season of sun lovers with fun centered along 18 miles of sandy beaches. Best known as “Port A” to regulars and residents, the community first came to the attention of travelers in the 1930s when the late president Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived here on a presidential yacht to fish with a local guide.
Today, anglers test their skills aboard deep-sea excursions, lighted fishing piers and the South Jetty opportunities that have earned this community the title of “Fishing Capital of Texas.” Bird lovers are challenged, as well, at numerous locations on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. And don’t miss the chance to spot wild dolphins from Roberts Point Park, frequently seen “escorting” ships as they maneuver the channel.
South of Austin on I-35, this university town is home to the crystal-clear, bubbling spring waters that form the San Marcos River and Spring Lake. Used by humans for more than 13,000 years, today this setting is a nature park: The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. Hop aboard a glass-bottom boat, book a SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboard) or a kayak tour or take a self-guided stroll along the Wetlands Boardwalk.
For an entirely different kind of exercise, explore San Marcos’ 1.2 million square feet that make up the largest outlet shopping center in the United States and, when the day is done, enjoy live music at one of the town’s many nightspots.
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND
At the tropical tip of Texas, South Padre Island stretches for 34 miles, hugging the Texas coastline and, at its widest point, spans only half a mile, so you’re never far from the beach. Seaside activities tempt travelers regardless of energy and adventure level offering everything from parasailing, tandem skydiving and windsurfing to bodyboarding at Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort South Padre Island — or relaxing sunset cruises and educational dolphin excursions.
Wave a Flag this Memorial Day Weekend for Our Fallen Heroes
By Shirley Barr
Perhaps beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. I never thought of cemeteries as beautiful until
I saw the rolling hills and undulating matching gravestones at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. It encompasses 78.6 acres with more than 59,000 interments — all U.S. fallen military. It and the Civil War burial grounds in Chattanooga are both well worth the trip.
Closer to home, here are a few more ideas on where to extend your gratitude and respect.
HOUSTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
The National Cemetery Administration hosts Memorial Day ceremonies at VA national cemeteries across the country with the help of local communities. Each community adds its own special touch of patriotism and “thanks” during the events.
10410 Veterans Memorial Drive, 281-447-8686, www.cem.va.gov
Fallen Warriors Memorial
The Fallen Warriors Memorial honors Texans who gave their lives fighting terrorism. From 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Memorial Day, May 28, these heroes will be announced on a loudspeaker as visitors review names engraved on four imposing granite walls. You also can tour the Fallen Warriors Gallery.
Cutten Road, 832-868-9810, www.fallenwarriorstexas.org
One of the biggest Memorial Day events in Greater Houston kicks off 4 p.m. Sunday, May 27, with the national anthem followed by two live bands and dazzling fireworks.
ARMED FORCES RIVER PARADE
Don’t miss the Armed Forces River Parade in San Antonio, set 5-7 p.m. May 19, a free patriotic event dedicated to the men and women who serve in all branches of the Armed Forces with 25 star-spangled floats. Patriotic and American-themed rock music are played from the floats throughout the 2 1/2 mile downtown parade route on the River Walk.