Photo courtesy of Ismael Quintanilla

Museum of Illusions will celebrate its grand opening. The museum features 60 interactive exhibits that combine entertainment and education into an “edutainment” amalgamation.

Photo by Patricia Moore

Embrace cowboy culture in Bandera, the Wild West of Texas

Hit the Road

Ever wonder how Bandera came to be known as the Cowboy Capital of the World? The title originated when the Texas Hill Country town became a staging area for the last great cattle drives of the late 1800s.

Today, a bronze monument honoring the many National Rodeo Champions who call Bandera home stands on the courthouse lawn, and it's not uncommon to see horseback riders tipping their hats to each other as they pass in the surrounding rolling green hills. There are also regular gunfight re-enactments during Cowboys on Main, courtesy of the Bandera Cattle Company, and several dude ranches where you can hang your hat for the night.

Early days
Locals like to say that "nothing in Bandera changes except for the date," and an eye toward history is evident in the town's two museums.

The Frontier Times Museum is stocked with over 40,000 items and art that tell the story of Bandera County's earliest days. The Bandera Natural History Museum, meanwhile, displays an extensive wildlife exhibit and a collection of Spanish art from 1521-early 1800s.

Several spots in town are historical in their own right, too. Arkey Blues Silver Dollar Saloon recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, and St. Stanislaus Catholic Church is the second-oldest Polish Catholic church in the U.S. In fact, there are over 50 historic markers throughout the county, and 18 of them are in Bandera.

Mark your calendar
September rolls in with the Celebrate Bandera Roundup, complete with a parade and courthouse festivities as well as two ranch rodeos. September 23 is Cajun Festival in Lakehills at the Lakehills Civic Center (11225 Park Rd.), and at the end of September get ready for the Rumble on the River motorcycle rally.

The solar eclipse will be front and center on October 14, with many events throughout the area to celebrate and offer optimum viewing. On October 19-22, Bandera Brewery hosts its Beerfest, which is thankfully several weeks removed from Bandera Buckfest/Hunters Weekend on November 3-5.

February kicks off with the Annual Cowboy Mardi Gras, and you should be well recovered in time for the total solar eclipse in April 2024. Notable festivals during this time are Eclipse Utopia April 7-8 and Ground Zero Musicfest at Mansfield Park, April 5-9.

The Bandera ProRodeo Association welcomes Memorial Day weekend with three nights of professional (PRCA) rodeos and a Saturday morning parade. June is the beginning of the Summer Series Rodeos happening every Friday night through the first week of August, put on by Riding on Faith Rodeo.

Keep up to date and see a full calendar of events here.

It's natural
Two of the most breathtaking natural areas in Texas are within easy driving distance. Surround yourself with limestone bluffs and hills covered in blooming wildflowers at the Hill Country State Natural Area, which is home to more than 40 miles of trails.

Meanwhile, Lost Maples State Natural Area — named for the park’s abundance of bigtooth maple trees that provide vibrant fall colors — is 2,100 acres of statement-making scenery, including limestone canyons, grasslands and wooded hills, and clear-water streams. It's simply breathtaking in the fall.

The area is also known as one of the best birding destinations, with the spotting of species like the black-capped vireo, golden-cheeked warbler, and green kingfisher.

Chow time
Here you'll find an abundance of local eateries, including the Old Spanish Trail, which has been continuously open for over 100 years.

Elsewhere around town, take your pick from Mexican, Italian, Chinese, barbecue, pizza, and traditional steakhouses, while multiple bars offer adult drinks and dancing to live music almost every night.

For dessert or a refreshing snack, the Bandera General Store is a must; it has one of the last remaining old-fashioned soda fountains in Texas (there are only 11 of them!).

See more of what Bandera has to offer here.

Courtesy of the Witte Museum

Take a tour of Texas' world-class, wondrous, and wacky museums

Don't Forget the Gift Shop

Some things you just have to see in person. From history-making locations like the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas to Claude Monet's Water Lilies at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, art and history abound across Texas.

Whether the museums are showcasing our state's prehistoric history or displaying works from contemporary Texas artists — plus chronicling a president or two — there's an exhibition for everybody.

Here's where to while away a few hours in five top Texas cities:

Stroll around the largest arts district in the country by area and you'll find the heavy-hitters: Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, Crow Museum of Asian Art, and Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the last one complete with a giant dinosaur skeleton towering over the Woodall Rodgers Freeway.

Nearby in the city's West End, you can spend a few reflective hours in the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum and then cross the street to Dealey Plaza, the site of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Sixth Floor Museum — named for the perch in the Texas School Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald camped out — chronicles the shooting, conspiracy, and legacy of the 35th U.S. president.

In Fair Park, visit the African American Museum of Dallas for one of the largest African American folk art collections in the U.S., or head north for the Museum of Biblical Art, which is also home to the National Center for Jewish Art.

On the Southern Methodist University campus you'll find the Meadows Museum, nicknamed "Prado on the Prairie" for its impressive collection of works centered on the art and culture of Spain.

The George W. Bush Presidential Center is also on the college campus, and looks at the life and career of No. 43 through 43,000 artifacts, gifts, and documents collected during his presidency.

On the southeastern corner of Love Field airport, the Frontiers of Flight Museum displays the collection of noted aviation historian George Haddaway along with more than 40 air and space vehicles. The Apollo 7 Command Module, a model of the 1903 Wright flyer, and the V-173 “Flying Pancake” are just a few examples of aerocrafts found within the hangar.

If you're looking for something a little more niche, duck into the Harwood District restaurant St. Ann and head upstairs to see nearly 1,000 examples of Japanese samurai armor at the free Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum.

Likewise, a trip to Frisco can bring out the kid in everyone with a stop at the National Videogame Museum to learn about the industry's history and play the games of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Fort Worth
The Fort Worth Cultural District is where you'll find the city's major museums, from the architecturally striking Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and Kimbell Art Museum to the towering orange building that holds the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is also a stone's throw away, as is the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, the only building in the world dedicated to honoring trailblazing women of the American West.

In Sundance Square sits the Sid Richardson Museum, which holds a comprehensive group of works by Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, and more depicting the American West.

The big one here is the Blanton Museum of Art, but you can also visit The Contemporary Austin and the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden + Museum for more incredible art.

Named after the state’s 38th Lieutenant Governor, Bob Bullock, the Bullock Texas State History Museum traces the Lone Star State's history from its first inhabitants through to the 21st century.

Located on the grounds of the University of Texas at Austin, the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum walks visitors through choices and decisions made by the 36th president. Insider tip: Anyone with “Lyndon” anywhere in their name gets free admission.

Boasting 19 museums in four walkable zones, the Houston Museum District is easy to navigate.

Zone 1 contains the Menil Collection, while Zone 2 has Asia Society Texas, the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, Czech Center Museum Houston, Holocaust Museum Houston, and the Houston Museum of African American Culture.

Head over to Zone 3 and find the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which houses Claude Monet's famous Water Lilies.

Zone 4 is home to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Children's Museum Houston, and the Health Museum, where you can get an up-close look at the human body from wild angles.

San Antonio
Browse the most comprehensive collection of ancient Roman, Greek, and Egyptian art in the southern U.S. at the San Antonio Museum of Art, or hit up the first modern art museum in Texas, the McNay Art Museum. Ruby City is another contemporary must-stop.

The San Antonio Art League & Museum is the oldest arts organization in the Alamo City and focuses exclusively on Texas artists.

Villa Finale Museum & Gardens contains a vast collection of oddities, especially an excess of 19th- and early 20th-century Napoleon Bonaparte artifacts — 843 to be exact — including a bronze death mask.

Cowboys and Western art abound at the Briscoe Western Art Museum, while a massive collection of taxidermy animals and proud Texas narratives about the Texas Rangers awaits at The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum and The Texas Ranger Museum.

At the Texas Transportation Museum, you can take a train ride and ogle retro train carts, model trains, old cars, and more.

The San Antonio Fire Museum, operated by the San Antonio Fire Museum Society, displays artifacts and photos dating back to the 1800s. Kids can even climb on a 1953 International fire truck, built by the Simms Fire Equipment Company.

The DoSeum also lets kids get hands-on with interactive exhibits.

The Witte Museum spans dinosaurs to cowboys and explores the history, culture, and natural science of South Texas, with several rotating exhibits.


No matter where your next adventure takes you, a Hilton hotel is waiting for you.

With over 550 Hilton hotels spanning across the state of Texas, the possibilities to earn more while exploring the Lone Star State are endless.

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Soldier National Museum

Buffalo Soldier National Museum presents Buffalo Soldiers Community Day

The Buffalo Soldier National Museum will commemorate 157 years since the formation of the first Army regiments comprised of African American soldiers. The community celebration will include activities like a DJ, live artist, bounce house, face painting, food trucks, artifact demonstration, and self-guided tours.

Photo courtesy of Visit San Marcos

Beat the Texas heat with a sizzling summer vacay to San Marcos

Cool Off

The summer vacay vibes right now are strong, but a great getaway doesn't have to be far-flung. Keep your cool in San Marcos this summer with these refreshing ideas:

Run to the river
Did summer in Texas even happen if you didn't float the river? Besides grabbing a tube, cooler, and your best buds for a relaxing day on the crystal-clear, spring-fed water, you can also snorkel, kayak, standup paddle board, or even just sunbathe.

Head into the earth
Escape the sun by venturing underground at Wonder World Park for a tour of the Balcones Fault Line Cave. Besides being an exquisite 72 degrees year-round, the earthquake-formed cave is dotted with prehistoric fossils and huge boulders suspended in midair.

Afterward, check out the anti-gravity house, Texas Wildlife Petting Park, or the Texas Observatory Tower for awesome Hill Country views.

Embrace the AC
True Texans know to duck indoors when the summer heat gets too intense, and if you happen to start shopping while hypnotized by that sweet, sweet air conditioning, then so be it.

Score plenty of deals at the largest outlet mall in the United States and find one-of-a-kind treasures at boutiques around town.

Pick up some knowledge
Museums also crank out the chilly air, so pay a visit to the LBJ Museum (to learn about President Johnson’s time as a student in San Marcos) and drop in on the Wittliff Collection at Texas State University (for an afternoon of art, culture, and history).

Down a cold one
Cool off with a pint at one — or all — of San Marcos' three craft breweries: Roughhouse Brewing, Middleton Brewing, and Sean Patrick's.

Learn more and plan your perfect summer itinerary in San Marcos here.

Summer in Texas means river time.

Kid jumping into the river
Photo courtesy of Visit San Marcos
Summer in Texas means river time.
Photo courtesy of the Alamo.

Awe-inspiring new exhibit debuts at the Alamo with sneak peek


Ask first-time visitors about their experience at the Alamo, and you're likely to hear a frequent refrain. Guests accustomed to hearing about the mission's heroic history are surprised that the grounds are so small. But that's slowly changing with ambitious plans to bring the site's original footprint back to life.

Now, visitors will get a sneak peek at the complex's newest structure, the Mission Gate and Lunette exhibit, before it officially opens in 2024. Funded in part by a $3 million donation from the Joan and Herb Kelleher Charitable Foundation, the exhibition gives guests a broader understanding of the Alamo's scale.

The historical recreation was crafted by lauded San Antonio artist Carlos Cortés. A third-generation concrete faux bois artisan, his work is featured throughout the city, most notably on the River Walk, where his fantastical The Grotto greets thousands of Museum Reach visitors each year.

The life-size sculpture stands in for the original main gate of the fort at the southern boundary of the complex. Cannons and placards scattered throughout give crucial context to the structure. Though early renderings show the beams and spiked fence with more verisimilitude, the forms currently stand in ghostly concrete — inviting quiet contemplation.

When the exhibit is finished next year, guests will be more fully immersed in the hallowed grounds, which extend far beyond the walls of the iconic Church and Long Barrack. Coupled with the upcoming Alamo Visitor Center and Museum and the recently debuted Ralston Family Collections Center, it will turn the grounds into one of Texas' most awe-inspiring historical sites.

"We are deeply grateful to the Joan and Herb Kelleher Charitable Foundation for their support of the Alamo and our ongoing efforts to preserve this important piece of Texas history," said Dr. Kate Rogers, Executive Director of the Alamo Trust, Inc., via a release. "Their generosity will allow us to continue to educate and inspire visitors from around the world, ensuring that the legacy of the Alamo lives on for generations to come."

Alamo Mission Gate and Lunette exhibit

Photo courtesy of the Alamo.

The Mission Gate and Lunette exhibit gives visitors an understanding of the original ground's scale.

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Rock icon Bono's daughter makes her own sweet music in Flora and Son

in bloom

The new Apple TV+ film Flora and Son centers on a single mother and her teenage son, a situation that typically calls for an uplifting story about the mother’s struggles trying to support the two of them, and the bond that develops between them as go through the troubles together. While that element exists somewhat here, it goes down a much different path that’s both saltier and equally as rewarding.

Eve Hewson and Oren Kinlan in Flora and Son

Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

Eve Hewson and Oren Kinlan in Flora and Son.

Set in Dublin, Ireland, the film follows Flora (Eve Hewson), a single mom to Max (Oren Kinlan), who gets in a fair bit of trouble. She shares custody with her ex, Ian (Jack Reynor), and their antagonistic relationship, along with Max being a teenager, likely has an effect on how Flora and Max get along. A typical interchange between mother and son has them calling each other all sorts of bad names, although there rarely seems to be any true animosity behind their arguments.

When a guitar Flora refurbishes for Max goes unappreciated, she instead starts taking online lessons herself with an American named Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). She’s no less brash with him, but her sincere interest in learning how to play and in finding out more about Jeff’s music opens a new door for Flora. Soon, a discovery that Max is making music of his own on his laptop helps them communicate better than they have in a long time.

Flora & Son is the latest music-focused film from writer/director John Carney (Once, Sing Street), and he once again finds the sweet spot in telling a personal story enhanced by song. Flora has more than a few rough edges, making her a less-than-ideal protagonist, but the heart of the character shines through precisely because she has no filter. Once music is added to the equation, it become that much easier to see the type of person she is and why you should root for her.

Both Hewson and Gordon-Levitt are charming actors, so they establish a connection through a screen well. Fortunately, though, Carney chooses not to leave it at that, adding a slight fantasy element to some of their scenes by having Flora imagine Jeff in the room with her. A romantic element naturally arises, but it’s the unexpected way in which two lonely souls find each other from across the world that makes them the most interesting.

There are a couple of decent songs that come out of the process of all of the music-making, but nothing that you could truly call an earworm. Instead, it’s the feeling you get seeing the characters interact when they’re sharing music with each other that makes the film sing. Only one character could be classified as a professional musician, with the rest of them making music for the pure joy of it, an emotion Carney translates well in his storytelling.

Hewson (the daughter of U2’s Bono, in case you were unaware) is having a moment after 15 years in the business. She has a boldness that serves her as well in this role as it did in the recent Apple TV+ limited series, Bad Sisters. This is Kinlan’s first major part, and he acquits himself well. Both Gordon-Levitt and Reynor are seasoned actors who know how to make the most of their limited scenes.

The depiction of a mother/child relationship in Flora and Son is atypical, but it still winds up in a great spot thanks to the power of music and some fine performances. Carney’s love for both songs and filmmaking has yielded some memorable movies over the years, this one included.


Flora and Son opens in select theaters and on Apple TV+ on September 29.

Spectacular SPI sandcastles, F1, ACL, and more Texas travel tidbits in October

where to travel right now

Fall is finally here, and with the (hopefully) cooler temps will come the chance to get outside and enjoy autumn activities all around Texas. Can't decide where to take a quick vacation, road trip, or staycation? Here are 11 events, special celebrations, and hotel happenings to help plan a getaway in October.

Along the Gulf Coast

What better way to celebrate the arrival of spooky season than by seeking out haunted ghost experiences in Corpus Christi? The Heritage Park Museum will showcase four reportedly haunted houses, and phantom chasers will delight in visiting the USS Lexington during the "Haunting on the Blue Ghost" event, October 6-31, to glimpse any ghostly crew members lurking about the vessel. The abandoned Nueces County Courthouse also has some ghouls of its own, with reports of voices, noises, and screams being heard following a hurricane that devastated the area more than a century ago.

Summer might be over, but a trip to the beach is always in the cards on South Padre Island. The annual Sandcastle Days falls on October 5-8, drawing the attention of sandcastle-building experts, food and craft vendors, and free family-friendly entertainment. Then, from October 19-21, classic cars and motorcycles rev up the brand new Chrome in the Sand Festival. The weekend will consist of live performances, car shows, a poker tournament, and more. Tickets for the Chrome in the Sand Festival begin at $20 for general admission, $55 for VIP, and $500 for VIP tables.

Around Austin

It's finally festival season down in the Texas Capital, beginning with the iconic Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park for two consecutive weekends from October 6-8 and 13-15. Luckily for Texas travelers, CultureMap's got the scoop on all things ACL – from can't-miss acts, to new eats, and more. One-day general admission tickets begin at $170. Weekend One tickets are waitlisted, but there are still one-day general admission tickets available for Weekend Two. Weekend passes for both weekends are waitlisted.

Following ACL, Austin will race to the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas from October 20-22. Red Bull Racing has already won the 2023 Constructors' Championship after its longstanding driver Max Verstappen won the Japanese Grand Prix, and Verstappen is well in the lead to win his third-consecutive World Drivers' Championship title. Three-day general admission wristbands are $475, two-day GA is $425, and three-day parking passes are $275.

F1 racecarRace to Austin for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. Photo courtesy of Circuit of The Americas

In the Hill Country

It's never too late for a day by the pool, and the luxurious Lantana Spa at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa has opened reservations for their renovated pool cabanas with a special VIP poolside service and deluxe amenities. The private, two-person Canyons, Preserve, and Oaks Spa Cabanas each include an unlimited mimosa service, shaded seating and chaise lounges, a dedicated server from 11 am-5 pm, and more. Cabana reservations can be made by resort guests or in addition to a spa service, and rates begin at $400.

Nonprofit trade association Texas Hill Country Wineries is bringing back its Texas Wine Month passport this month for a self-guided journey through 45 local wineries with special discounts scattered along the way. With participating estates scattered throughout popular weekend destinations like Fredericksburg, Johnson City, and New Braunfels, it’s a chance to explore the Hill Country and soak in those autumn vibes. Wine passport-holders can visit up to four wineries daily to get the most out of a weekend getaway. Individual passes are $85, and couples' passes are $120.

Speaking of wineries, one Marble Falls-based winery is hosting regular events throughout October, which is perfect for those holding a Texas Wine Month passport. Every Saturday and Sunday, folks can venture out to Flat Creek Estates & Vineyard for their effervescent Bubbles and Brunch from 11 am to 3 pm. And if the trip transforms from a brunch outing into an all-day affair, guests catch live music from local Texas bands during the winery's weekend music series from 2-6 pm. Ernie Vasquez and Evan Grubbs are scheduled the weekend of October 7-8, and Stephen Daly and Andrew Lopez will play on the weekend of October 14-15.

Throughout Texas

If searching for beautiful fall foliage around Texas is at the top of the priority list, cabin rental agency Smoky Mountains' prediction map is the perfect guide to help estimate when the leaves will begin changing throughout the state and the U.S. The map predicts most of Texas will have minimal-to-patchy changing leaves by the end of October, and most of the state's trees will be at their color-changing peak in November.

Dallas-based luxury bus operator Vonlane added 60 new weekly departures to meet anticipated high demand for the fall travel season. There are now more than 430 trips per week departing Vonlane hubs in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. Travelers can book their trips online for both one-way or round-trips, with fares beginning at $119.

Two unmistakable cutesy pink trucks are going on tour throughout Texas this month, with stops in several major cities. That's right – the cult craze Hello Kitty Cafe Truck and Barbie Truck are bringing a horde of new branded clothing and accessories to adoring fans in Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. Houstonians can head to First Colony Mall to say hi to Hello Kitty on October 7, then head to Baybrook Mall in Friendswood to catch the Barbie Truck on October 21. Barbie will stick around to visit The Woodlands Mall on October 28.

In Waco

The annual Magnolia Silobration at The Silos will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Chip and Joanna Gaines' Waco-based home design and lifestyle empire from October 19-21. Fixer Upper fans can visit the Silos to enjoy a three-day adventure of local artisan and food vendors, live music performances, shopping, and more. The festival is free, but note that certain ticketed experiences like the 20th anniversary tour, weekend rooftop passes, and Evenings with Chip and Jo are sold out.

Houston’s oldest craft brewery taps new chef for its buzzy beer garden and restaurant

Saint Arnold's new chef

Houston’s oldest craft brewery has found a new chef to lead its popular restaurant. Chase Reid is now the executive chef at Saint Arnold Brewing Company’s beer garden and restaurant.

Hired a couple of months ago, Reid replaces chef Ryan Savoie, who had been with the brewery since 2013. A French-trained chef, Reid came to Saint Arnold’s attention after well-regarded stints at Hop Scholar Ale House in Spring and the Historic Hill House and Farm in Willis.

“I’m thrilled to join the talented team at Saint Arnold and build on the legacy they’ve created in Texas,” Reid said in a statement. “I love the creativity that comes with cooking and have always been passionate about craft beer. I’m very much looking forward to combining the two.”

Recent visitors to Saint Arnold have gotten a first taste of the chef’s work with pizza specials and new additions such as a house made bratwurst burger. He’s also the culinary mind behind Saint Arnold’s recent Doughnut Sunday offerings that pair freshly fried treats with different beers from the company’s portfolio on the firs Sunday of every month. Overall, he’s focused on maintaining the quality and consistency that has been the restaurant’s hallmark since it opened in 2018.

Reid will more formally introduce himself to the brewery’s fans at the upcoming Great Pumpkin Beer Dinner. Held on Halloween night, the meal will feature a five-course menu paired with seasonal and limited release beers, including 2013 Pumpkinator, 2023 Pumpkinator, and 2020 bourbon barrel-aged Pumpkinator with cocoa nibs. See the full menu and purchase tickets ($125) on the Saint Arnold website.

“Chase’s enthusiasm for both food and beer got all of us excited to have him joining our team,” Saint Arnold founder Brock Wagner added. “Our Beer Garden & Restaurant is a welcoming place to enjoy our world class beers. We have the same standards for our food as we do for our beer and are always working to elevate and create an experience that will keep our guests coming back again and again.”