Thursday, May 30, 2019
Texas and steak. Steak and Texas. They are as synonymous as Boston and lobster. Or Cajun and etouffee.
The Texas Hill Country encompasses the Edwards Plateau region where South Texas, Central Texas and West Texas intersect. The region includes cities such as San Antonio, Austin, New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, and Blanco, to name a few. The region is highly diverse, with influences from Germany, Spain, Mexico, and the cattle drivers of the Old West.
Texas is the top cattle-producing state in the U.S., going back to the mid to late nineteenth and early twentieth century cattle-driving days. Those wranglers rode all day and then sat down for a plate of what had been standing right there in front of them. The tradition continues with “steak night” in Texas served up any night of the week.
Steakhouses abound in Texas Hill Country, but let’s dare to list the top nine.
And then there are the steaks: Chicago prime corn-fed USDA beef. The steaks are hand-picked and dry-aged for 14 days and then wet-aged for 28 days. This process tenderizes the beef naturally and improves the natural flavor. Smaller appetites can focus on the 8oz filet or couples can share the 24oz Chateaubriand for two. Other entrees include seafood dishes, pork chops, and chicken.
Steak choices range from the 7 or 10oz Filet Mignon to the 20oz T-Bone. Or diners can feast on a 16oz classic K.C. Strip, Bone-in or Boneless Ribeye, or Coulotte steak.
When you're in Texas Hill Country, do not miss out on these excellent steaks to experience a bit of the Old West.
Thursday, May 16, 2019
The Texas Hill Country, stretching from Austin to San Antonio, is rich in geological features, artistic, and musical culture. Wander down one of the timeless winding dirt roads through the Hill Country and you might just stumble onto one of the many unique and authentic festivals in the area. There are many, and these are just seven that you don’t want to miss.
Musically, Texas has a heritage that goes back for decades and includes some very talented native singers and musicians. Traditionally, the music has been country and Western. Nowadays, the music scene has become much more progressive, especially in the Austin area. Austin has recently been deemed the live music capital of the world, and its diverse sounds have spawned music festivals with a wide variety of styles and genres:
1. If you’re looking for a wide selection of quality American-made music, then the KNBT Americana Music Jam is the festival for you. It takes place in May at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, TX. It’s a little bit of everything - you can expect folk, rock, country, blues, and R&B. The crowd is always lively, and the featured musicians are top notch.
2. The Kerrville Folk Festival is a songwriter’s festival with a long and storied tradition. Held at the Quiet Valley Ranch in Kerrville, TX, it lasts from May 23-June 9. It’s been happening annually since 1972 and the songwriting community at this festival is open and warm as they celebrate artistic expression and talent. There is overnight camping available, and the venue is family-friendly.
The arts scene is also alive and thriving in the Texas Hill Country. Here are a couple art festivals worth checking out:
3. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Tejano Conjunto Festival takes place at Rosedale Park and surrounding areas in San Antonio, TX. There are several May dates at different locations. It primarily celebrates Latin heritage, with plenty of music, dancing, food, and art-related exhibits. There will be both national and international Conjunto performers.
4. The Texas Folklife Festival also takes place in San Antonio and it’s a fun one. It’s held at the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus. This festival brings people from different backgrounds together to celebrate and appreciate the many ethnicities and traditions that abound throughout the Hill Country. It’s a great educational opportunity to learn about other cultures and their backgrounds and heritages, as Texas is truly a melting pot.
Besides music and art, Texas has festivals that celebrate a little bit of everything and everyone. Here are a few more that you definitely want to check out if you get a chance to tour the Lonestar State:
5. Being in Texas, no festival tour would be complete without going back to the real Texas roots - ranching and rodeo. Travel to Bandera, the cowboy capital of the state, to experience the Bandera PRCA Pro Rodeo in May. It’s held at the Mansfield Park Arena and it’s always exciting. You’ll experience the traditional rodeo - bucking bulls, broncos, barrel racing, and calf roping, but that’s not all. There’s also a BBQ cook-off featuring some of the best in the business. Sink your teeth into something tangy and tasty as you enjoy the excitement and action of the rodeo.
6. If you’re health conscious and into wellness and awareness, there’s a festival for you too. The Wholistic Festival is held monthly in San Antonio and it’s a progressive event with people of many ideas and backgrounds focusing on healing, mindfulness, and mind and body alignment. Some of the areas of study that are offered are in tarot, astrology, reflexology, and various yoga exercises and principles. There are over 70 exhibitors who promote healthy living. You can even learn about the different healing powers of crystals, as well as various massage techniques. This festival is held at The Holiday Inn San Antonio International Airport. Best of all, you can attend any third Sunday of the month from May through December.
7. What festival tour would be complete without great food and adult beverages? Luckily, you can get these in abundance from the Tequila, Taco, and Cerveza Festival. This is actually a traveling festival that makes various stops throughout the country, but the Texas leg is surely a favorite. Bring your appetite, because as the name implies, the festival is loaded with all kinds of delicious tacos. You can buy from the many food trucks that will be on-site, and the recipes that are made from scratch feature beef, chicken, shrimp, veggies, and more. Wash it down with your choice of tequila, and there are indeed many to choose from. There an average of forty different brands that you can sample. Follow all of that with ice-cold cerveza and you’re sure to have a great time.
The Texas Hill Country is a lush and beautiful place, and it’s been attracting both visitors and locals for a long time. With its natural springs and inviting waterways, intriguing geography, and magnificent sunsets, this is certainly attractive and soothing country. It was first occupied by American Indians, then came German settlers in the 1800s, and as Texas continued to grow in both ethnic diversity and population, it became a gathering of artistic and hardworking people from all over. It embodies the Texas country and Western culture and fuses nicely with the more progressive styles that are growing out of places like Austin. Come and visit the Hill Country, and take in some of the many festivals to join in the life celebration of a unique and inspiring place.
Thursday, May 2, 2019
Come June, the summer temperatures become almost unbearable unless you have lined up fun activities to beat the heat. One such activity is a dip in the local swimming holes. Here are the 12 best swimming holes for you to explore in the Texas Hill Country:
1. Hamilton Pool – AustinLocated about 23 miles west of Austin, off Highway 71, the Hamilton Pool is the ideal summer swimming spot both for Austin residents and visitors. Adding to the esteemed view is a jade green pool with a 50-foot waterfall.
The pool was formed thousands of years ago when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion. So besides an ideal swimming experience, you can be sure of some pretty breathtaking views.
2. Barton Springs – Zilker Park, Austin
The actual pool measures about 3.5 miles and gets its waters from underground springs. With water temperatures averaging 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit, Barton Springs is a great spot for swimming all year round.
With a record-setting up to 800,000 visitors a year, it is not much of a surprise that it has been called the crown jewel of Austin. Admission to the pool is free from November through mid-March. However, Austin residents may be required to pay a small fee of $1-$8, from March to October for entry after 8:00 a.m.
3. Guadalupe State Park – Bulverde
Guadalupe State Park offers plenty of recreational activities, especially around the water. In addition to fishing, tubing, and canoeing, a dip into the swimming hole is what makes the experience complete.
The river is lined up with cliffs towering over 40 feet if you want to try diving. Bring your loved ones along and make some memories together.
4. Garner State Park – Garner
Besides the beautiful scenery at Garner State Park, it's also fun activities like swimming, dancing, and hiking that bring people back to the park. 2.9 miles of the Frio River wind through the 1,774 acres of Hill Country terrain, providing tons of things to see and do.
To take a break from the rigorous activities, rely on the Frio waters to keep you cool.
5. Devils Waterhole – Burnet
This is a small extension of Inks Lake, which although it's surrounded by rock, provides a serene environment to make a dip – especially in the summer. The main attraction here is cliff diving. It's common to see daredevils taking the plunge into the cool waters.
6. Landa Park at Comal Springs - New Braunfels
Comal Springs in New Braunfels feels like the largest group of aquifer-fed springs in the state. Being a kid-friendly place, it is common sighting kids zooming across the zip line and dropping into the pool.
So bring the kids along for lazy tubing, climbing, and sliding experiences in the massive lagoon!
7. Colorado Bend State Park – Bend
After a day of hiking the Gorman Falls at the Colorado Bend State Park, take the Spicewood Springs trail leading to the multiple pools along the Colorado River and immerse yourself into the cool waters.
The most notable thing is that instead of one massive lagoon, there are small pools every 30 to 40 feet making congestion less of an issue.
8. Hancock Springs – Lampasas
Since this is a free-flowing pool, Hancock Springs' waters come straight from the cold artesian spring, fills the pool, and keeps flowing out the other side – right into Sulfur Creek. This keeps the waters in the pool chilly and ideal for a hot summers day.
The cool waters combined with the slight smell (usually as a result of the naturally occurring sulfur in the water) feels amazing. It is no surprise that for centuries, the pool has been believed to possess natural healing properties which are attributed to the high mineral content waters.
After a swim, you can take a walk along the grassy riverbanks to dry off.
9. Schumacher Crossing – Hunt
Located about half an hour drive from San Antonio, Schumacher Crossing is among the most popular spots in the area mainly because of its swimming hole. On weekends, it might be a bit crowded with people trying to enjoy the popular swimming spot.
The most notable thing is how this portion of the Guadalupe River remains typically clean because there are no large cities or urban areas upstream. The availability of excellent parking space explains why Schumacher Crossing has been ranked among the top ten swimming spots in the Texas Hill Country.
10. McKinney Falls – Austin
Located at the confluence of Onion Creek and Williamson, McKinney Falls offers several fun activities including hiking and swimming. Its rushing waters pour over a limestone ridge and form a lively waterfall – a spectacular view, so don't miss it.
11. Jacob’s Well – Wimberley
Northwest of Wimberley, Jacob’s Well is known to satisfy its visitors with captivating discoveries and relaxing moments. Its most notable feature is the aquifer which is actually located 140 feet below the water’s surface. Below the well is the Hill Country’s biggest underwater cave system.
12. Hippie Hollow – Austin
The fact that it is the only clothing-optional public park in Texas explains the high number of visitors throughout the year. It goes without saying that entry to the park is restricted only to those aged 18 and above. The rocky shoreline provides a spectacular view of Lake Travis.