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You know the saying that “everything is bigger in Texas,” right? Well, that goes for the fun and excitement a Texan vacation offers too. But this much state won’t easily fit into just one package, so for this trip we have a southern and northern route. Think of it as more Texas bang for your gas buck.
When people talk about “the coast” down south they don’t mean New York or LA. Here, the only shoreline that matters is the beaches lapped by the warm waters and gentle breezes of the Gulf of Mexico. Corpus Christi is the jewel of the Texas coast; where you can find a lot more to do than sit under a beach umbrella. Local attractions include the Texas State Aquarium, Corpus Christi Water Garden, and the Marina, called the “T” by locals. Sightseeing boats line the “T” as well as seaside restaurants and shrimpers selling their catch right off the boat.
Once you have soaked up all the sun, sand, and fun you can, head north up I-37 to San Antonio for a leisurely stroll down the famed River Walk, a terrific strip of tour boats, shopping, and dining al fresco along the “Paseo Del Rio”. Of course, who could visit San Antonio without remembering to see the Alamo, which many consider to be the birthplace of the Republic of Texas.
Head up north just a bit and you step into a region that boasts another strong cultural heritage in New Braunfels. Settled in 1845 by German pioneers, the town still celebrates a strong sense of the old country with festivals and several restaurants featuring traditional German fare. “Tubing” down the Guadalupe River is another favorite local attraction locally as is the awesome Schlitterbahn, recently named America’s number one water park by the Travel Channel.
But don't think the cultural heritage of the German pioneer in Texas is limited to New Braunfels. Heading north on Hwy 281, and then west on US 290, more of the German spirit awaits you in Fredericksburg. Established in 1846, on what at the time was Comanche territory, this charming Hill Country town still delights visitors with its closely held old world customs. Outdoor enthusiasts love Fredericksburg and the surrounding region for its abundance of plant and animal life. Just seven miles outside town, Wildseed Farms is the nation's largest wildflower farm with more than 80 acres of fields; the 3,000 sq. ft. "Butterfly Haus" and seed market features many rare varieties. And for something a little out of the ordinary, the Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area offers the nightly spectacle of three million Mexican Bats flying from an abandoned railroad tunnel.
Let’s kick our northern tour off in Austin, one of the most vibrant and energetic cities in the country, with music, water, and Hill Country all coming together in a panorama that is distinctly Texan. In addition to the many clubs and festivals that draw music-lovers, Austin is also home to PBS's longest running show, “Austin City Limits.” which in many ways helped to foster the city's music boom of recent years. Free tickets to the show can be hard to come by so if you are not one of the lucky few you can tour the studios of KLRU on the UT campus. East Sixth St., also known as Old Pecan Street, is lined with several music venues that play home to well-established acts, along with up and comers. For nightlife of a different kind, Mt. Bonnell, along Old Bull Creek Road, offers a stunning view of Austin's skyline. Come just before dusk and bring your camera.
Heading north on I-35, the once sleepy, now suddenly bustling, town of Round Rock is part of the burgeoning I-35 corridor. Named for a big round rock that marked a well-worn ford in Brushy Creek for Chisholm Trail cattle drives (still visible wagon ruts mark the spot), this is one of the fastest growing communities in America.
Corporate headquarters for Dell and Nolan Ryan's triple A Round Rock Express stand shoulder to shoulder with the historic downtown area and Old Settler's Park.
Further north lies the surprising little community of Salado, an unexpected gem in the central Texas plains. Noted craftspeople and artists have infused this small town with a kind of hip, but uniquely Texan, brand of laid back cool. Main Street and the surrounding area are dotted with more than 60 shops featuring the work of local artisans, antiques, and treasures yet undiscovered.
Situated along the Brazos River, Waco is home to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, which both documents and definitely celebrates the exploits of those distinctly Texan ball players; the Texas Rangers.
Only about an hour and a half north from Waco is the shining star of Texas style, glitz, and excess: Dallas. As much of an idea as a destination, this city began with a single log cabin in 1841 and has grown into a major population center, complete with sleek glass skyscrapers, fashionable neighborhoods, and nightlife galore. To say there is a lot to do in Dallas is like saying Texas is kind of big. Start your visit off at the Dallas Museum of Art, with its world-class collection including important works from Georgia O'Keefe. Galleria Dallas is a must see landmark for the shopaholic in your life, while the Deep Ellum District features shops, restaurants, bars, and live music all within a gentrified warehouse district. Sports more your style? Just pick your season. The Cowboys, Rangers, Stars, and Mavs fill your sports calendar with professional play. On the college level, the great Red River Rivalry, also known as the annual Texas-Oklahoma football game, is played here at the neutral site in the Cotton Bowl.