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Photo courtesy of Bandera CVB

It’s known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” and Bandera — in the beautiful Texas Hill Country — lives up to that title.

Once the staging area for the last great cattle drives of the late 1800s, the town also boasts many National Rodeo Champions.

When you’re here, you’ll quickly see how the respect and authenticity of “cowboy culture” permeates every square inch of the town. What you’ll also notice is how Indian, Mexican, Polish, and Western cultures give Bandera a unique ambiance not found anywhere else in Texas.

So grab your hat and boots, channel your inner cowboy, and get set to lasso up a great little getaway in Bandera.

Find your home on the range
With a number of dude ranches in Bandera, each nestled into scenic surrounds, it’s easy to fully immerse yourself in that cowboy culture.

Each of the working ranches is its own unique experience. For example, at Flying L Ranch Resort you can stay in a cedar cabin or historic villa and take wagon rides, feed deer and antelope, get in on a chuckwagon dinner (during the summer only), sidle up to the campfire for s'mores, and maybe even catch some champion trick ropers and storytellers.

Situated on 725 acres, Dixie Dude Ranch goes back five generations to 1901, showing true Texas hospitality every step along the way.

Horseback riding, catch-and-release fishing, hiking, hayrides, campfire sing-alongs, dancing, and lots of Western fun are all on the docket here.

You can also check out the century-old barn and Range War Cemetery or, for a little R&R, the ranch offers massages, too.

Willow Creek Ranch is a family-owned and operated 40-acre horse farm where they rehabilitate and retrain rescue horses, too. You'll stay in the three-bedroom house surrounded by nature, horses, oak trees, a creek, and a pond.

Hit the trail
Even if you don’t stay at a dude ranch, you can still get in on horseback riding that ventures through the rolling green hills, wide-open pastures, and picturesque creeks.

Juniper Hill Stables and Cross-G Ranch both have one-of-a-kind trail rides through these rugged-cool landscapes.

Head to the rodeo
You can see some of the best barrel racers and mutton busters in Texas vie for the top prize at one of the many rodeos in town, including the Bandera ProRodeo Association's Memorial Day PRCA rodeo.

Celebrate Bandera Round-Up, held over Labor day weekend, features a longhorn cattle drive on Saturday morning followed by a market day with entertainment around the courthouse lawn Saturday and Sunday.

Bandera ProRodeo then produces a working cowboy Ranch Rodeo (no bull riding) on Saturday evening and an All Women’s Ranch Rodeo and Mutton Bustin’ on Sunday evening.

Schedule in a shootout
A shootout that’s straight out of a classic spaghetti western is what you’ll get at Cowboys on Main, a weekly event with gripping gunfights by historical re-enactors from the Bandera Cattle Company, along with chuck wagons and period costumes. Check the weekly entertainment guide here for the most up-to-date times.

Get your nature fix
Sure, dude ranch’ing it up and horseback riding will put you in touch with nature. But there’s plenty more to explore with Bandera as your home base.

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 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.

Check out the museums
Browse the Frontier Times Museum’s 40,000-item collection of Western art and memorabilia with historical artifacts, photographs, and art that tell the story of Bandera County’s earliest days.

There’s also a gallery of paintings displayed on a natural rock wall to reflect the rugged landscape of the surrounding Hill Country.

The Bandera Natural History Museum is a true gem, with an extensive wildlife exhibit and a collection of Spanish art from 1521-early 1800s.

And with motorcycles from all over the world, ranging from 1910 to today, the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum is a fascinating look at the bike.

Tune into some live music
In addition to its Old West vibes, Bandera has a thriving music scene with jams just about every day of the week. One of the most popular venues in town is the 11th Street Cowboy Bar, a go-to spot for live country music and good beer.

Grab an ice-cream float
The Bandera General Store is really a must; it has one of the last remaining old-fashioned soda fountains in Texas (there are only 11 of them!). There, you can also shop for cowboy boots, hats, and more.

See more of what Bandera has to offer here.

Flying L Ranch is one of the dude ranches where you can stay in Bandera.

Photo courtesy of Bandera CVB
Flying L Ranch is one of the dude ranches where you can stay in Bandera.
David Edwards

These are the 11 hottest concerts to catch in Houston this month

Live Music Now

It's getting hot in here.

The Texas summer not only brought the heat on the thermometer, it brought out the touring acts to Houston in droves. Throw in some very real inflation, the death of the album sale, seemingly endless service fees, and you get a fairly hefty price tag for concerts. Earlier this year, Live Nation reported that tickets were up 45 percent since 2019.

It isn't rocket science. Musicians, venues, and promoters are all trying to make up for their extreme losses during the pandemic. The question is: how long will fans pay those prices before they stop going to as many shows? The answer to that won't be seen for a while, but like fall cools the Lone Star heat, let's hope for some relief soon.

Speaking of heat, here are the 10 hottest shows of the month:

CultureMap Recommends: Franz Ferdinand with Vundabar
Friday, August 5
White Oak Music Hall, 2915 N Main St.

Give it up for Franz Ferdinand. One of Scotland's finest bands is celebrating nearly two decades of thrilling, sexy, and clever dance-inflected indie-rock behind their greatest hits album, aptly titled, Hits to the Head. Bursting onto the scene with their now-classic self-titled 2004 album and killer lead single, "Take Me Out," the band rode the wave to become one of the biggest acts in the U.K. and Europe.

While their spotlight doesn't shine as brightly as it once did, Franz Ferdinand has a deep catalogue of excellent singles to draw from that will get fans moving at what has always been a fantastic live show.

Tickets start at $40 plus fees. Doors open at 8 pm.

CultureMap Show of the Month: Garth Brooks
Saturday, August 6
NRG Stadium, 8825 Kirby Dr.

The highest-selling solo artist of all time with 157 millions albums sold in the U.S., Oklahoma-based Garth Brooks transcended country music long ago. There really is no need for him to tour anymore. He's solidified himself as an American icon and raked in millions.

But, the urge to perform always seems to drive the world's biggest artists and Brooks is no different, currently on a jaunt of the largest stadiums in the country. The last time he was at NRG Stadium, he broke a then attendance record with 75,577 paying fans, putting on a show that showcased his skills as a talented live performer.

Brooks' ability to reach the highest nosebleed seats and make the largest show feel like an intimate honky tonk is what makes him special. It's also why this will be one of the biggest shows of the year.

Tickets start at $89.10 plus fees. Show starts at 7 p.m.

Wiz Khalifa & Logic with 24kGoldn and Fedd the God
Saturday, August 6
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands

Two of the most popular mainstream hip-hop artists team up together for a national tour in what might be the biggest rap show of the summer. Both Wiz Khalifa and Logic achieved chart success with Khalifa reaching No. 1 with the 2010 song "Black and Yellow," and Logic reaching No. 3 with the suicide prevention anthem, 1-800-273-8255, in 2017.

They also both were signs of where radio-friendly hip-hop was headed, leaning on synth-driven beats and pop song structures to push units. Not surprisingly, both have collaborated with some the most successful artists in the world and now they'll share a stage together.

Tickets start at $27 plus fees. Gates open at 6 p.m.

Echo and the Bunnymen
Thursday, August 11
House of Blues, 1406 Caroline St.

The Liverpool, U.K. post-punk heroes Echo and the Bunnymen are still going strong after 40 years, consistently touring and releasing decent to good albums long after their chart-topping heyday. A big reason for that is the timeless sound produced by vocalist Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sargeant that influenced countless bands that came after them.

While McCulloch's soaring voice isn't what it once was, forgoing most of the high notes, Sargeant and band still unleash some of the most epic songs from the New Wave era including, "The Killing Moon," "The Cutter," "Bring on the Dancing Horses," and "Lips Like Sugar," which are all worth the price of admission.

Tickets start at $45 plus fees. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.

Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Friday, August 19
Minute Maid Park, 501 Crawford St.

Gen Xers and Boomers unite! The best in hard rock and glam metal converge on the ballpark with a who’s-who of bands that dominated rock radio in the ’80s and ’90s. Def Leppard is a multi-million album selling juggernaut, most often associated with the megahit, Hysteria and chart-topping songs like “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Photograph.”

Mötley Crüe earned the reputation as one of the craziest glam rock bands, which came across on hit singles, “Dr. Feelgood” and “Girls Girls Girls.” Poison saw major success around the same time as the Crüe with “Every Rose Has its Thorn” and “Talk Dirty to Me.”

And Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Joan Jett opened the door for the boys, making it to No. 1 with “I Love Rock and Roll” before any of the other bands did.

This show was postponed a few times due to the pandemic, so those who held onto the tickets will be more than enthusiastic for this one.

Tickets start at $49.99 plus fees. Doors open at 6 pm.

Slighty Stoopid with Pepper, Common Kings and Fortunate Youth
Friday, August 19
White Oak Music Hall Lawn, 2915 N Main St.

Another summer, another Slightly Stoopid sighting. The multi-genre band keeps on coming back to Houston and Houston keeps on going to Slightly Stoopid shows. seemingly a perfect mix of summertime ska, reggae and hip-hop vibes made to sit back on the White Oak lawn, soak up the sun, throw down a few easy-drinking beers, and maybe partake in a few puffs to pass the time away. The So. Cal. Band is touring behind 2018’s Everyday Life, Everyday People.

Tickets start at $37 plus fees. Doors open at 6 pm.

Seventeen
Saturday, August 20
Toyota Center, 1510 Polk St.

The next in the latest crop of K-Pop superstar acts, Seventeen follows BTS in the world dominating boy band sweepstakes with the strategy of more is better. While BTS features 10 members, Seventeen has 13 members – not 17 – that sing, rap, and dance in both English and Korean.

Back home, they sell millions of albums and they are quickly building their foothold on the American market with their latest album, Sector 17. Trust, your pre-teen and teenaged siblings or kids probably love them.

Tickets start at $59.50 plus fees. Doors open at 6:30 pm.

Robert Earl Keen’s Texas Uprising with Various Guests
Saturday, August 20
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands

Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen takes one last ride before heading off into the sunset after announcing his retirement earlier this year. He’s bringing a handful of friends with him to his Texas Uprising show, including Todd Snider, Hayes Carll, John R. Miller, Kevin Galloway, and Kelsey Waldon.

Fans of Texas country, folk, and Americana won’t want to miss out on what me the last chance to see one of the Lone Star State’s most prolific and hardest working musicians.

Tickets start at $49.50 plus fees. Gates open at 2:30 pm.

Jack Johnson with Ziggy Marley
Friday, August 26
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands

The epitome of surfer-hipster chic, the hunky Jack Johnson goes with summer tours like Curious George goes with the Man with the Yellow Hat. Johnson was already garnering a name for himself with his easy-going, acoustic guitar pop songs before he earned even wider acclaim for his work on the 2006 film about the titular monkey.

Since then, he’s been a platinum-selling adult alternative act, perfect for sunsets at the beach or as background music while hanging with friends on the patio. Johnson is on tour with his latest, acclaimed 2022 album, Meet the Moonlight.

Tickets start at $41.50 plus fees. Gates open at 6 pm.

The Kid Laroi
Saturday, August 27
713 Music Hall, 401 Franklin St., Suite 1600

We always worry about acts that refer to themselves in the third person. Yet, there’s no worries about the success of Australian rapper The Kid Laroi. The 18-year-old Charlton Kenneth Jeffrey Howard is now firmly implanted on radio with his No. 1 hit collaboration, “Stay,” with another singer that knows what it’s like to be a teenage star, Justin Beiber. His 2020 mix-tape, F*ck Love, also hit the top of the charts, signifying a new force in pop music.

Tickets start at $35 plus fees. Show starts at 8 pm.

Goo Goo Dolls with Blue October
Tuesday, August 30
Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land, 18111 Lexington Blvd., Sugar Land

Goo Goo Dolls shot to fame in the late-’90s, churning out prom song anthems such as “Iris,” “Name,” and “Slide.” But behind those somewhat schmaltzy tunes, there was a great pop-punk band trying to get out. As fans know, 1995’s A Boy Named Goo is a ’90s alternative rock classic with “Name” being the outlier to an otherwise hard-charging set.

It’s this mix of angsty romanticism along with the fun rock-out tunes, not to mention the good looks of front man Johnny Rzeznik, that still make Goo Goo Dolls a big draw on the touring circuit. They are on the road promoting their latest album, Chaos in Bloom.

Tickets start at $25 plus fees. Doors open at 6:30 pm.

Scottish indie heroes, Franz Ferdinand, play the hits at White Oak Music Hall on Friday, August 5.

David Edwards
Scottish indie heroes, Franz Ferdinand, play the hits at White Oak Music Hall on Friday, August 5.
David Edwards

These are the 11 hottest concerts to catch in Houston this month

Live Music Now

It's getting hot in here.

The Texas summer not only brought the heat on the thermometer, it brought out the touring acts to Houston in droves. Throw in some very real inflation, the death of the album sale, seemingly endless service fees, and you get a fairly hefty price tag for concerts. Earlier this year, Live Nation reported that tickets were up 45 percent since 2019.

It isn't rocket science. Musicians, venues, and promoters are all trying to make up for their extreme losses during the pandemic. The question is: how long will fans pay those prices before they stop going to as many shows? The answer to that won't be seen for a while, but like fall cools the Lone Star heat, let's hope for some relief soon.

Speaking of heat, here are the 10 hottest shows of the month:

CultureMap Recommends: Franz Ferdinand with Vundabar
Friday, August 5
White Oak Music Hall, 2915 N Main St.

Give it up for Franz Ferdinand. One of Scotland's finest bands is celebrating nearly two decades of thrilling, sexy, and clever dance-inflected indie-rock behind their greatest hits album, aptly titled, Hits to the Head. Bursting onto the scene with their now-classic self-titled 2004 album and killer lead single, "Take Me Out," the band rode the wave to become one of the biggest acts in the U.K. and Europe.

While their spotlight doesn't shine as brightly as it once did, Franz Ferdinand has a deep catalogue of excellent singles to draw from that will get fans moving at what has always been a fantastic live show.

Tickets start at $40 plus fees. Doors open at 8 pm.

CultureMap Show of the Month: Garth Brooks
Saturday, August 6
NRG Stadium, 8825 Kirby Dr.

The highest-selling solo artist of all time with 157 millions albums sold in the U.S., Oklahoma-based Garth Brooks transcended country music long ago. There really is no need for him to tour anymore. He's solidified himself as an American icon and raked in millions.

But, the urge to perform always seems to drive the world's biggest artists and Brooks is no different, currently on a jaunt of the largest stadiums in the country. The last time he was at NRG Stadium, he broke a then attendance record with 75,577 paying fans, putting on a show that showcased his skills as a talented live performer.

Brooks' ability to reach the highest nosebleed seats and make the largest show feel like an intimate honky tonk is what makes him special. It's also why this will be one of the biggest shows of the year.

Tickets start at $89.10 plus fees. Show starts at 7 p.m.

Wiz Khalifa & Logic with 24kGoldn and Fedd the God
Saturday, August 6
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands

Two of the most popular mainstream hip-hop artists team up together for a national tour in what might be the biggest rap show of the summer. Both Wiz Khalifa and Logic achieved chart success with Khalifa reaching No. 1 with the 2010 song "Black and Yellow," and Logic reaching No. 3 with the suicide prevention anthem, 1-800-273-8255, in 2017.

They also both were signs of where radio-friendly hip-hop was headed, leaning on synth-driven beats and pop song structures to push units. Not surprisingly, both have collaborated with some the most successful artists in the world and now they'll share a stage together.

Tickets start at $27 plus fees. Gates open at 6 p.m.

Echo and the Bunnymen
Thursday, August 11
House of Blues, 1406 Caroline St.

The Liverpool, U.K. post-punk heroes Echo and the Bunnymen are still going strong after 40 years, consistently touring and releasing decent to good albums long after their chart-topping heyday. A big reason for that is the timeless sound produced by vocalist Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sargeant that influenced countless bands that came after them.

While McCulloch's soaring voice isn't what it once was, forgoing most of the high notes, Sargeant and band still unleash some of the most epic songs from the New Wave era including, "The Killing Moon," "The Cutter," "Bring on the Dancing Horses," and "Lips Like Sugar," which are all worth the price of admission.

Tickets start at $45 plus fees. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.

Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Friday, August 19
Minute Maid Park, 501 Crawford St.

Gen Xers and Boomers unite! The best in hard rock and glam metal converge on the ballpark with a who’s-who of bands that dominated rock radio in the ’80s and ’90s. Def Leppard is a multi-million album selling juggernaut, most often associated with the megahit, Hysteria and chart-topping songs like “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Photograph.”

Mötley Crüe earned the reputation as one of the craziest glam rock bands, which came across on hit singles, “Dr. Feelgood” and “Girls Girls Girls.” Poison saw major success around the same time as the Crüe with “Every Rose Has its Thorn” and “Talk Dirty to Me.”

And Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Joan Jett opened the door for the boys, making it to No. 1 with “I Love Rock and Roll” before any of the other bands did.

This show was postponed a few times due to the pandemic, so those who held onto the tickets will be more than enthusiastic for this one.

Tickets start at $49.99 plus fees. Doors open at 6 pm.

Slighty Stoopid with Pepper, Common Kings and Fortunate Youth
Friday, August 19
White Oak Music Hall Lawn, 2915 N Main St.

Another summer, another Slightly Stoopid sighting. The multi-genre band keeps on coming back to Houston and Houston keeps on going to Slightly Stoopid shows. seemingly a perfect mix of summertime ska, reggae and hip-hop vibes made to sit back on the White Oak lawn, soak up the sun, throw down a few easy-drinking beers, and maybe partake in a few puffs to pass the time away. The So. Cal. Band is touring behind 2018’s Everyday Life, Everyday People.

Tickets start at $37 plus fees. Doors open at 6 pm.

Seventeen
Saturday, August 20
Toyota Center, 1510 Polk St.

The next in the latest crop of K-Pop superstar acts, Seventeen follows BTS in the world dominating boy band sweepstakes with the strategy of more is better. While BTS features 10 members, Seventeen has 13 members – not 17 – that sing, rap, and dance in both English and Korean.

Back home, they sell millions of albums and they are quickly building their foothold on the American market with their latest album, Sector 17. Trust, your pre-teen and teenaged siblings or kids probably love them.

Tickets start at $59.50 plus fees. Doors open at 6:30 pm.

Robert Earl Keen’s Texas Uprising with Various Guests
Saturday, August 20
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands

Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen takes one last ride before heading off into the sunset after announcing his retirement earlier this year. He’s bringing a handful of friends with him to his Texas Uprising show, including Todd Snider, Hayes Carll, John R. Miller, Kevin Galloway, and Kelsey Waldon.

Fans of Texas country, folk, and Americana won’t want to miss out on what me the last chance to see one of the Lone Star State’s most prolific and hardest working musicians.

Tickets start at $49.50 plus fees. Gates open at 2:30 pm.

Jack Johnson with Ziggy Marley
Friday, August 26
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands

The epitome of surfer-hipster chic, the hunky Jack Johnson goes with summer tours like Curious George goes with the Man with the Yellow Hat. Johnson was already garnering a name for himself with his easy-going, acoustic guitar pop songs before he earned even wider acclaim for his work on the 2006 film about the titular monkey.

Since then, he’s been a platinum-selling adult alternative act, perfect for sunsets at the beach or as background music while hanging with friends on the patio. Johnson is on tour with his latest, acclaimed 2022 album, Meet the Moonlight.

Tickets start at $41.50 plus fees. Gates open at 6 pm.

The Kid Laroi
Saturday, August 27
713 Music Hall, 401 Franklin St., Suite 1600

We always worry about acts that refer to themselves in the third person. Yet, there’s no worries about the success of Australian rapper The Kid Laroi. The 18-year-old Charlton Kenneth Jeffrey Howard is now firmly implanted on radio with his No. 1 hit collaboration, “Stay,” with another singer that knows what it’s like to be a teenage star, Justin Beiber. His 2020 mix-tape, F*ck Love, also hit the top of the charts, signifying a new force in pop music.

Tickets start at $35 plus fees. Show starts at 8 pm.

Goo Goo Dolls with Blue October
Tuesday, August 30
Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land, 18111 Lexington Blvd., Sugar Land

Goo Goo Dolls shot to fame in the late-’90s, churning out prom song anthems such as “Iris,” “Name,” and “Slide.” But behind those somewhat schmaltzy tunes, there was a great pop-punk band trying to get out. As fans know, 1995’s A Boy Named Goo is a ’90s alternative rock classic with “Name” being the outlier to an otherwise hard-charging set.

It’s this mix of angsty romanticism along with the fun rock-out tunes, not to mention the good looks of front man Johnny Rzeznik, that still make Goo Goo Dolls a big draw on the touring circuit. They are on the road promoting their latest album, Chaos in Bloom.

Tickets start at $25 plus fees. Doors open at 6:30 pm.

Scottish indie heroes, Franz Ferdinand, play the hits at White Oak Music Hall on Friday, August 5.

David Edwards
Scottish indie heroes, Franz Ferdinand, play the hits at White Oak Music Hall on Friday, August 5.
Photo courtesy of Bandera CVB

Saddle up for a summer of rodeo fun in Bandera, the Cowboy Capital

It's Rodeo Season

Sick of the hustle and bustle of modern city life? Then the “Cowboy Capital of the World” is calling your name.

Put a weekend trip to Bandera, Texas, on your calendar. There’s plenty of authentic Texas fun to be found in this little town, located just an hour northeast of San Antonio.

Saddle up
Rodeo has been the heart of this little Texas town for nearly a century, and Bandera’s biggest rodeo of the year is just a few days away: the Memorial Day Weekend Stampede Pro Rodeo.

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, cowboys and cowgirls will be showing off their finest skills at the Mansfield Park Arena. All seven pro rodeo events — bareback riding, team roping, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing, and bull riding — will be shown all three nights.

Gates to the arena open at 6 pm and the Grand Entry starts right at 8 pm, with tickets available at the gate or online.

Ready to two-step? Grab a partner, because 11th Street Cowboy Bar will be providing the dance on Friday and Saturday nights at Mansfield Park.

The weekend will be jam-packed with rodeo fun, so make sure to wander Main Street during the day.

For Memorial Day, horseback riders will parade down Main Street in honor of those lost in service on Saturday at 11 am.

Courthouse Square in downtown Bandera will be packed with vendors all weekend for the Memorial Day Arts and Crafts show. While you’re there, be sure to check out the bronze monument on the courthouse lawn that honors the many past National Rodeo Champions from Bandera.

The Bandera Cattle Company will be performing a special three-show edition of their weekly gunfights on Saturday at 11 am, 12 pm, and 1 pm

If you can’t swing the trip this weekend, Bandera’s rodeo season will be proudly roaring all summer long.

Rodeos at Mansfield Park will continue on Friday nights through August 5, and barrel racing and mini bull riding events will be held monthly on Saturdays through October.

Make it a weekend
Once the staging area for the Great Western Cattle Trail, Bandera’s authentic cowboy roots are still going strong.

For the true cowboy experience, stay at one of Bandera’s iconic dude ranches. Definitely plan for a long drive or bike ride along Highway 16 and take in the Texas Hill Country’s unique and unforgettable vistas.

Cool off by the Medina or Sabinal rivers or boat, fish, or picnic at Medina Lake. And at night, two-step or waltz the night away at a local honky-tonk with live music.

Check out all that Bandera has to offer, and start planning your getaway, here.

Memorial Day weekend marks the start of rodeo season.

Photo courtesy of Bandera CVB
Memorial Day weekend marks the start of rodeo season.
Photo courtesy of HLSR

Hungry Rodeo fans sip and savor at Roundup + Best Bites event

Bottoms Up

Last month, more than 5,000 — yes, you read that right — Rodeo fans packed into NRG Center to sip and sample from nearly 100 Houston restaurants and food trucks at the 2022 Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup & Best Bites Competition.

In addition to the amazing food, approximately 400 wines from the 2022 International Wine Competition were poured.

This annual event put on by the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo is a fan favorite, with top chefs and world-class wines coming together to duke it out (in a friendly way) for the championship titles.

Here's the full list of winners:

People's Choice Award
First place: Cotton Culinary: Figgy Piggy
Second place: Guard & Grace, A Modern Steakhouse: Oak grilled Creekstone Farms Prime New York Strip with loaded baked potato

Tasty Tradition Award
First place: Joyce's Seafood & Steaks: White chocolate bread pudding
Second place: Taste of Texas Restaurant: Certified Angus Beef tenderloin and Megan’s mac & cheese

Trailblazer Appetizer Award
First place: Omni Houston: Pork belly skewer, Moroccan BBQ, carrot puree, chicharrone
Second place: Songkran Thai Kitchen: Thai steak salad (Neu Nam Tok)
Third place: Revival Market: Cauliflower crositini – cauliflower hummus, homemade giardiniera, za’atar, chives

Lone Star Entree Award
First place: Killen’s TMX: Brisket suadero taco with black garlic salsa guacamole and queso fresco, and charro beans with jalapeno sausage
Second place: Gus’ Fried Chicken: Fried chicken wing
Third place: Russo’s Italian Kitchen: Lobster maestro – lobster essence, bianco, talegio, capelietti, maine lobster, smoked pecan

Two-Steppin' Dessert Award
First place: Egghaus Gourmet: Texas pecan croissant
Second place: Ragin Cajun: Bread pudding with rum sauce
Third place: Ashley Cakes: Carrot cake

Rookie Award
Craft Creamery: R-C Ranch wagyu brisket ice cream sandwich

Trail Boss Food Truck Award
Cruisin Sushi: Cruisin Special Roll – fried roll inside chicken, zucchini, carrots, Monterrey cheese, Tampico, cream cheese and avocado, drizzled with homemade spicy mayo and eel sauce (homemade soy and jalapeno sauce on the side)

Outstanding Showmanship Award
First place: Eculent
Second place: Texas Harvest

Killen's TMX won the Lone Star Entree Award.

Photo courtesy of HLSR
Killen's TMX won the Lone Star Entree Award.
Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Pop queen Gwen Stefani leaves no doubt about her star power in RodeoHouston debut

RodeoHouston 2022

Well, that was hella good.

Drawing songs from her 30-year career, the California-raised, girl-power heroine Gwen Stefani put on a show in front of 65,561 on Tuesday, March 15, making us wonder, why did it take so long for her to make her debut at RodeoHouston?

The pandemic is quite obviously the biggest reason for the delay — two years to be exact since her 2020 show was cancelled. But Stefani could have easily rocked out NRG Stadium much longer ago, achieving superstar status as a solo artist in 2004 with the seven-times platinum-selling, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. after selling 33 million worldwide with her ska-influenced alt-rock band, No Doubt.

Stefani has played Houston many times previously, way back to a early-years, pay-your-dues performance with her former band on the University of Houston campus in 1992, mostly ignored by students hustling to and from class.

This time around, she had a captive, much more appreciative audience there to see the pop queen fashionista who since then has topped of the charts and sold millions of albums.

It’s a remarkable success story. The bottled blonde singer, dressed in a gorgeous, bedazzled, gold, white and green cowgirl outfit finished with white boots, started with the pop radio hit "Sweet Escape," the title track of her 2006 album, igniting the first of many singalongs throughout the evening.

She was flanked by a gaggle of dancers who had choreographed moves for every song, backed by a four-piece band, including the standout trombone-keyboard player, Gabrial McNair.

"Sunday Morning," from the massive-selling 1995 No Doubt album, Tragic Kingdom, foreshadowed many songs from her time in that band and brought us back to when they ruled MTV and the radio. "It's been a two-year wait, but that’s okay!," said the 52-year-old, still stunning after decades in the game. "I can't believe it... I’m here at the rodeo in Houston!"

"Underneath It All" from 2001's Rock Steady brought some ska and reggae flavor, complete with some light ska dancing. Stefani served as her own hype woman, keeping everyone in the stadium engaged. “I really like you, Houston! I really like you!" she said. And we liked her right back.

A relative deep-cut, "Bathwater," the fourth single from No Doubt’s 2000 album Return to Saturn reached way back into the songbook while her dancers executed line dance-influenced moves. "I don’t want to disappoint you," she told us, alluding to her husband that has headlined RodeoHouston countless times.

"I’m married to Blake Shelton and I'm sorry he's not here right now, but he's at home being a good dad and babysitting!" "It's My Life" came next, the 1984 cover song by Talk Talk that No Doubt took to No. 10 when it was included on their 2003 greatest hits collection, The Singles, 1992-2003. It was one of the most rocking moments of the night and a great showcase from her extra tight band.

"Rich Girl" from the well-represented solo record, Love. Angel. Music. Baby., brought the crowd to their feet. The funkier, new wave No Doubt singles, "Ex-Girlfriend" and "Hella Good" followed, everyone jumping up and down at the singer’s command, a fun moment.

Back to Tragic Kingdom, the '90s power ballad "Don’t Speak" drew some of the loudest cheers and had cellphone flashlights in hands as Stefani ascended 20 feet into the air to serenade the crowd. Her voice never sounded better all night.

Known for mixing up genres in her solo work, Stefani brought something for everyone with "Wind It Up" from The Sweet Escape bringing yodeling to RodeoHouston next to Latin flourishes over a marching band beat. "Cool" from Love. Angel. Music. Baby. slowed things down to a couples-dance-at-prom speed, a hint of romance along with the slow-burn rock guitar licks.

"Luxurious," another single from the same album, veered into bedroom soul, a tune that wouldn’t be out of place at a Boyz II Men concert. "I'm feeling nostalgic because I’ve waited two years for this," she exclaimed. "[Back then], I had a life in Anaheim, California. Now I live in Oklahoma and I’m at a rodeo. I feel like we are family now!"

"What You Waiting For?," her timeless debut solo single kicked off and it was straight fire with rampant arse-shaking in the aisles, the most dance-music indebted song of the night with a thumping 4/4 bass drum groove. The energy now at level red, it was back to No Doubt hits, "Hey Baby" from Rock Steady, including more ska dancing and a toast by McNair.

Tragic Kingdom single, "Spiderwebs," had anyone who grew up in the '90s with a smile on their face. "We were a band for nine years before we got a song on the radio," Stefani stated before the penultimate track. "This song is bigger now than it ever was back then."

Debut Tragic Kingdom single, "Just a Girl," had all the ladies in the house up on their feet, a feminist anthem for the ages, the crowd practically drowning Stefani’s vocals.

The Neptunes-produced No. 1 song "Hollaback Girl" wrapped up the evening, making NRG Stadium practically explode. Everyone sung the earworm chorus — no clean version needed — and the applause at the end of the stone cold 2005 classic might have been among the loudest moments in NRG history.

With that, Stefani jumped on the back of a Ford truck, still hyping up the crowd until she wheeled into the tunnel. If last week's Journey show was for the Boomers, here was a performance for late Gen Xers and early Millennials, largely underrepresented at RodeoHouston.

One welcome surprise was the number of No Doubt hits included on the setlist, a dream come true to anyone that followed the Orange County band from the beginning. And while nostalgia did play a big factor in overall success of the night’s performance, this was the kind of fan service we were completely on board to see and experience.

Gwen — we’re on a first name basis after that performance — simply crushed it in what is in the running for the best concert of the RodeoHouston season, her neon-bright personality shining from start to finish, and her sing-shout vocals sounding excellent throughout.

Indeed, that s**t was bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Setlist

“Sweet Escape”

“Sunday Morning”

“Underneath It All”

“Bathwater”

“It’s My Life”

“Rich Girl”

“Ex-Girlfriend”/“Hella Good” (Vegas Version)

“Don’t Speak”

“Wind It Up”

“Cool”

“Luxurious”

“What You Waiting For”

“Hey Baby”

“Spiderwebs”

“Just a Girl”

“Hollaback Girl”

Stefani was bananas — B-A-N-A-N-A-S — in her rodeo debut.

Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Stefani was bananas — B-A-N-A-N-A-S — in her rodeo debut.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' BBQ joint's Katy outpost closure leads week's top stories

this week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' barbecue joint's Katy location quietly closes. Sadly, the local outpost couldn't replicate the magic of the original in Llano.

2. Ken Hoffman urges Houston travelers to keep calm and enjoy the trip at the new-look Bush IAH. Our columnist explains why travelers might be in "for a big, pleasant surprise at Houston’s Bush-Intercontinental Airport."

3. Houston's most spectacular winter light shows and events dazzle for the holidays. We rounded up where to see dazzling lights with family, friends, and visitors.

4. Disgraced Theranos CEO and former Houstonian Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to 11 years for fraud. Additionally, Holmes faces a fine of $400 million.

5. Houston's NASA leaders 'giddy' after historic Artemis 1 moon flyby. The spacecraft cruised just 81 miles above the lunar surface.

Disney's Strange World is a visual stunner with too many story ideas

Movie Review

For a studio whose entire reason for being seems to rely on creating and sustaining familiar characters, Walt Disney Animation takes its fair share of risks. In the last 10 years, it has released nine films, seven of which were not based on pre-existing properties (the other two were sequels for two of those seven). That’s a lot of new stuff, most of which has succeeded mightily for the perennially-popular leaders in animation.

They’re at it again with Strange World, which takes place in an unknown country/world known as Avalonia, where Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) is a famous explorer whose only desire is to find a way over, around, or through the imposing mountains surrounding the land. His son, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), doesn’t share his enthusiasm, and an early discovery by Searcher of a unique energy source leads to a rift between father and son. Jaeger continues onwards, while Searcher returns home with a plant they call Pando that creates harmony throughout the land.

Years later, when the plant shows signs of failure, Searcher is recruited by Avalonia leader Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) to help in an expedition to find the source of whatever is attacking Pando. What they and others – including Searcher’s wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) – find in their travels certainly lives up to the title.

Co-directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen and written by Nguyen, the film is a visual stunner. The quality of animation in Disney movies rarely fails to impress, and Strange World is the latest and greatest example. Whether it’s the humans, the landscape, or the innumerable weird creatures that populate the film, there is almost nothing that doesn’t deserve to be stared at and admired.

It’s odd, then, that the story does not come close to matching the graphics. There are a variety of reasons for this failure. Nguyen is the sole credited writer, and he stuffs the film full of big and small ideas, probably too many for this type of project. Searcher’s family and the world of Avalonia and beyond are diverse in multiple ways, to the point that it feels like Nguyen was trying to include everything he could think of in case he never got another shot.

The bigger sin, though, is how quickly the film advances through its plot, often bringing up new things out of nowhere. While Searcher and his family make for an interesting group, the side characters never make an impact. There are also multiple instances where the story takes a turn that makes no sense, either in the world of the film or a storytelling manner.

This includes the final act of the film, which features a significant twist that is presented and accepted in a way that doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. It adds on yet another message in a movie that contains a lot of them, but in a way that even those inclined to believe in what it’s trying to say may wonder why that part is there at all.

The science fiction element of Strange World is a bonanza for the filmmakers and animators to go as wild as they wanted in the visual department. But all that splendor is in service of a story that just doesn’t measure up, making it one of Disney’s less successful offerings in recent years.

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Strange World is now playing in theaters.

Photo courtesy of Disney

Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), Jaeger (Dennis Quaid), and Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) in Strange World

Affluent Houston suburb leads region for highest holiday spending budgets in U.S.

Santa Baby

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub lists Sugar Land as one of the top cities where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to the personal finance website, the average holiday budget in Sugar Land is $2,793 per person, the 15th highest in the nation. As CultureMap previously reported, Sugar Land residents here make an average of $123,261; the average home price is $337,600.

Fittingly, Fort Bend, home to Sugar Land, was recently named the second-richest county in Texas.

As for Greater Houston, Santa's bag could be a mixed bag, with three suburbs in the top 100, but the urban center falling far behind:

  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Houston, No. 366, $890

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

Elsewhere in Texas, 10 North Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Flower Mound, No. 3, $3,531 (The only Texas city in the top 10)
  • Allen, No. 17 , $2,670
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630
  • Fort Worth, No. 366, $890
  • Dallas, No. 401, $845

Spending in the Austin area won't be ho-hum with the Capitol City's budget of $1,705 ranked at No. 78. Two Austin suburbs, Cedar Park (budget $2,855) and League City (budget $2,541) ranked 14 and 20, respectively.

Things don't look too jolly for San Antonio, ranked at No. 431 with an average budget of $803 or Pharr, which was the lowest ranked city in Texas.

At No. 553 with a budget of $487, the Rio Grande Valley city came in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, CT with a budget of only $211.