Photo courtesy of Cinnamon Shores

School might be back in session for the kids, but there's still plenty of fun to be had all across Texas in September. Can't decide where to take a quick vacation, road trip, or staycation? Here are 11 events, exhibits, special celebrations, and hotel happenings around the state to help plan a getaway for Labor Day or any September weekend excursion.

Along the Gulf Coast

Labor Day weekend getaways are still possible even now, and with that in mind, we've rounded up at all of the seaside options along the Texas coast for Labor Day weekend, from Galveston to South Padre Island. Get our full list — with still rooms available — here.

Speaking of the Gulf Coast, a luxurious Port Aransas vacation community is providing a few special discounts just in time for Labor Day and beyond. For the long holiday weekend, Cinnamon Shore is offering reduced pricing for a three-night minimum stay, with four homes left for the weekend at various price points.

Don’t forget to check their Labor Day Weekend Fun schedule highlighting special family-friendly events like movies under the stars and community cookouts, or live music and yoga classes for the adults.

From September 5-October 4, guests can also enjoy 50 percent off their third night at one of the Cinnamon Shore rental properties after booking a minimum two-night stay using their code Fall2023. Rates for a one-bedroom home range from $940 to $1,600, and five to eight-bedroom homes range from $4,050 to $7,550.

In College Station/East Texas

Cavalry Court, a retro-inspired boutique hotel in College Station, has all of the amenities for a perfect weekend mini-vacation to bring in the fall season: a resort-style pool with private cabanas, live music, its signature Canteen Bar and Grill, and an outdoor pavilion. The hotel is also situated less than 10 miles from the famed Messina Hof Estate Winery for any further exploration of the city. Rates begin at $149 per night.

If East Texas’ Piney Woods region is calling your name, this resort community is the place to be: High Hill boasts luxurious experiences with rental properties sprawling over 200 acres of land. Take your pick among a bungalow suite, private bungalow, or a multi-bedroom vacation home. Also available are on-site vineyards, a relaxing spa, and Côte, a high quality farm-to-table restaurant. Starting rates are $295 for a double queen room and $275 for a king room.

In Austin

The Pecan Street Festival, a twice-yearly arts festival, is returning to downtown Austin on September 16-17. Over 300 local artisans and vendors will be selling their handmade art, crafts, clothing, and more in booths lined along 6th Street between Brazos Street and I-35 for the weekend. Live performances by local musicians are also scheduled throughout the weekend. The festival is free.

A fascinating new exhibition of beautifully aged books on display at The Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin is a bibliophile’s dream. The Long Lives of Very Old Books shares the histories of 15th through 17th century books through their physical attributes and treatment within the hands of time. Both prominent titles and esoteric finds are put under the spotlight. The exhibition is on display until December 30. Admission is free.

In the Hill Country

San Antonio’s Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa has a special Labor Day event lineup for families looking for a weekend escape. On Saturday, September 2, the resort will host a Texas-themed barbecue and country music. On Sunday, September 3, guests can enjoy a Fiesta-themed buffet with mariachi music. Besides excellent guest service and luxurious experiences, this newly renovated, award-winning resort has also prioritized its convenient location to several San Antonio attractions, such as SeaWorld and the downtown Riverwalk. Rates begin at $394 per night.

If bringing in the fall months with a glass of wine in hand is your preference, consider visiting Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall, a winery less than half an hour from Fredericksburg. Three special events will help patrons embrace the month of September: a six-winery tasting tour, dubbed The Heroic Hye Wine Hunt, on September 2; and the release of a 2020 GSM Mélange wine on September 8. Plus, visitors can celebrate International Port Wine Day with a tasting of the Texas Ruby port-style dessert wine on September 10. Tickets for the wine hunt are $30, and reservations for tastings can be made via Tock or by emailing tastingroom@pedernalescellars.com.

For six weekends beginning September 23 until October 29, the family-friendly Dripping Springs Pumpkin Festival is returning to its home grounds at the Dr. Pound Historical Farmstead for its third and final year before moving to a new location. Each weekend has its own festive theme and special events, and costume-wearing is encouraged. Of course, no pumpkin fest is complete without its signature pumpkin patch. Tickets are $15, and admission is free for children under 3 years old and for seniors aged 65 and up.

In North Texas

The State Fair of Texas begins its run in Dallas at the end of September, with 24 days of live music, carnival games, fried food creation competitions, and more. Luckily for CultureMap readers, here's a thorough guide to getting every possible discount at the fair this year. For example, visitors can get $10 admission on opening day for bringing two jars of peanut butter for the North Texas Food Bank. The State Fair runs September 29-October 22.

In a historic U.S. debut, almost all of the known surviving artworks by the legendary Mexican artist Abraham Ángel will be put on display at the Dallas Museum of Arton September 10, honoring the young artist's brief life and three-year career. Ángel's work embodied the ever-changing culture of his country in the early 20th century. Between Wonder and Seductionwill be on display until January 28, 2024. Admission to the museum is free, but special exhibition tickets are $15.

In West Texas

One of the best steakhouses in Texas is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a new historic art installation. The award-winning Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap, a small town about half an hour southwest of Abilene, will celebrate this landmark anniversary with a new outdoor exhibit that showcase the history of the town and the restaurant through photography, while also serving as a "love letter" to the American West. The collection will include several photos of Buffalo Gap from Lisa and Tom Perini's private collection. The exhibit, on display September 28-October 28, will be open to the public, and restaurant reservations can be made on their website.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

3 booming Houston 'burbs' rank as most 'house rich' cities in U.S. 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. 3 booming Houston 'burbs dominate top 10 list of most 'house rich' cities in U.S.. With Houston's median household income, affording a starter home in the city might not be as unattainable as potential homebuyers might think.

2. Promising, star-staffed River Oaks upscale Mediterranean restaurant shutters — with plans to reopen. The restaurant sent diners a message that read in part "due to unforeseen circumstances, we will be closed until further notice."

3. Underbelly's beefy burger restaurant and new volleyball themed bar open in Spring Branch. The two establishments will soon be joined by Texas comfort food restaurant Wild Oats.

4. Heights neighbors feel 'trapped' after city construction demolishes their driveways. Barrels, heavy equipment, and construction crews are not what neighbors living in The Heights expected this week.

5. UH officially breaks ground on its game-changing new $130M football center. The facility, soon to be known as the Memorial Hermann Football Operations Center, will feature up-to-date amenities.

Houston holiday happenings for the whole family: immersive magical moments, staycations, and more

Holiday houston

The holidays have now descended upon Houston, which means a seemingly endless array of festivals, light shows, performances and other opportunities to make merry.

With that in mind, we've rounded up a list of favorites for getting into the holiday spirit, from events, activations, hotel happenings and staycations, and more.

A very Houston holiday experience

The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa aka Houston’s presidential palace (the former home of President George H.W. Bush) welcomes holiday revelers with a consummately elevated, Houston-centric experience. Head to the hotel’s Great Room to take in the towering, Texas-sized Live Oak tree adorned with more than 100,000 lights and munch on the hotel’s signature chocolate chip cookies, made with beloved Former First Lady Barbara Bush’s recipe.

Snap photos and take in the holiday decor and the “Merry Mansions” gingerbread house display sitting above the lobby’s 30-foot stone fireplace. The “Merry Mansions” exhibit boasts hundreds of pounds of actual, intricately decorated gingerbread, gumdrops and candies that rise up to six feet above the fireplace. Local design aficionados should take note that the exhibit pays homage to noted architect John Staub, who designed the elegant Bayou Bend mansion for oil heiress Ima Hogg in 1927, as well as numerous River Oaks estates and The Houstonian’s Manor House estate, built in 1941 for oilman Thomas Lawrence. Staub’s home of Ernest Bel Fay, now the Fay School, is also featured in the exhibit.

Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa Mistletoe MomentsMerry Mansions at The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa is an actual gingerbread display that nods to notable architect John Staub and his elite Houston homes.Photo via The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa Mistletoe Moments

While in the Great Room, head to the picturesque staircase for “Mistletoe Moments” with a sweetie and steal a kiss under the large mistletoe at what’s dubbed the “most kissable place in the city.”

The smooching couple who scores the most like for their IG kiss photo — be sure to use hashtag #houstoniankisses2023 — will score a free night at the hotel (canoodling couples must tag @houstonianhotel and use the hashtag to enter).

After gingerbread home tours and Christmas kisses, check out Tribute, the hotel’s restaurant for a meal or drink, and stroll the property’s woods and green space — and the majestic Grand Texas Live Oak that glows with more than 70,000 lights.

Staycation Indulgences

Staying in Houston this holiday? There are plenty of offerings to get a little bit of pampering and luxury. Stay inside a Hallmark Christmas movie with the Hilton Americas-Houston "Haul Out the Holly" Suite, an ultra-exclusive spot that comes complete with Christmas lights and a gingerbread bar. Packages are available beginning November 25.

The Perks and Presents Package at the Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa offers and array of goodies, including two complimentary holiday-themed cocktails, a hand-painted Merry Mansions ornament, holiday coloring books for children, and more. Guests can book the special package from November 25 through December 30, and enjoy the posh hotel's other holiday amenities, such as 18 Christmas trees and 30,000 ornaments throughout the property, gingerbread houses, the huge mistletoe ball that's "the most kissable place in the city," a Holiday Hideout for kids that delivers their very own teepee to guests' rooms, and a host of additional holiday cheer.

The Couples Winter Value Package at Moody Gardens gives guests two passes to the Ice Land Sculptures, the Festival of Lights Walking Trail, unlimited rides on the Arctic slide, and admission to Moody Gardens attraction. Rates start at $392. (For more Moody Gardens fun, see our Experiences listing below)

Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa Mistletoe Moments

Photo via Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa

Sneak a kiss and maybe score a night's stay with The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa's Mistletoe Moments.


There's something for every taste on stage across Houston this holiday season. At the Houston Ballet, there's The Nutcracker, the annual favorite that tells the story of Clara and her journey to the Land of Sweets. The Alley's A Christmas Carolfinds Scrooge transformed thanks to a Christmas Eve visit from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

Kick it old school in Rice Village at the cozy Ovations Night Club, where Paul Hope Cabaret's We Need A Little Christmas includes some holiday favorites and rarely performed gems. Right next door at Main Street Theater, Georgiana and Kitty - Christmas at Pemberley is a must for Jane Austen fans, centering on Mr. Darcy's younger sister and the youngest Bennet sister. Can't get enough Jane Austen? 4th Wall Theatre Company's Sense and Sensibility is a modern take on the classic story.

The Houston Chamber Choir's Feliz Navidad; Christmas at the Villa takes place in arguably the prettiest place in Houston, the chapel at the Villa de Matel. The Houston Symphony's Very Merry Pops offers favorite Christmas songs, while its annual production of Handel's Messiah traces in soaring song the greatest story ever told. Early music ensemble Ars Lyrica presents Awe and Wonder at St. Philip Presbyterian Church, two major works for chorus and orchestra, one telling the creation story and the other the incarnation of Christ. Head to Queensbury Theatre to see A Charlie Brown Christmas on stage. At the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, TUTS takes over both stages, and audiences can catch Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella or the all-new, original The Ugly Christmas Sweater Musical. Stages collaborates with TEATRX on this year's Panto show, Alicia in Wonderland.

Family fun

Green Mountain Energy Ice at Discovery Green offers plenty of fun for the young and young at heart. The popular ice skating rink returns to the downtown park, giving revelers the opportunity for winter fun against the backdrop of the Houston skyline. The ice is open daily through January 28, 2024, and admission is $17. It's $8 on Cheap Skate Mondays.

discovery green ice skating rinkHit the ice at Discovery Green. Photo courtesy of Discovery Green

On December 3, families can take part in the Holly Jolly - Santa's Workshop at the Houston Museum of Natural Science where they can make an ornament or a holiday card to take home. And, of course, there will be photos with Santa. Through December 19, The Christmas Train in Alvin is a chance for families to ride in the open-air car through a wonderland of twinkling lights.

Family performances of Main Street Theater for Youth's production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast run through December 23 at the MATCH. Children and adults will love this tale as old as time, with its enchanted candlesticks and clocks, magical mirrors and a story of seeing the good in others.

Book photos with Santa at the Galleria through December 24. Kiddos can share their Christmas wish lists with Santa, while moms and dads can ooh and aah. Everyone can enjoy ice skating at the mall before or after visiting the man in the red suit.


Moody Gardens' Holiday in the Gardensis a multi-activity extravaganza with something for everyone. There's the Ice Land and Festival of Lights, with a stroll along a mile-long trail of twinkling lights that transform the space into a fairy land. There's A Christmas Wish Holiday Spectacular, spellbinding show combines the artistry of Broadway-style song and dance with mesmerizing acrobatics, and more. There are holiday films, an ice rink, Christmas Break camps for kids, holiday buffet dinners, breakfast with Santa, hotel specials, and a wealth of other opportunities to enjoy this beloved Galveston getaway.

Dickens on the Strandmarks its 50th anniversary in Galveston (with a nod from Parliament, no less), with characters in Victoria costumes, live entertainment, parades, Tiny Tim's Play Land, roving peddlers, and other revelry. This beloved holiday tradition returns to the island December 1 through 3.

Dickens on the StrandDickens on the Strand, Galveston celebrates half a century this year. Dickens on the Strand Facebook

Enjoy The Lancaster Hotel's Holiday Tea every Saturday and Sunday now through December 31. Seating times at Noon and 2:30 p.m. Enjoy an array of tea sandwiches, cranberry scones, seasonal patisseries, and a selection of exquisite teas from around the world. Guests also receive a complimentary tea tin with their specialty holiday spiced black tea. Call 713-228 9500 to book.

Visit the Christmas Village at Bayou Bend December 8 through 30 and take part in tours of Ima Hogg's historic home, hear costumed carolers, toss snowballs, sled on a faux-snow slide, and take photos with Santa (through December 23). Check out Architecture Center Houston's 14th Annual Gingerbread Build-Off at Levy Park on Saturday, December 9. Competing teams will create 100% edible, architectural masterpieces using gingerbread, candy, and all sorts of other sweet treats. Cheer on the teams, let the kiddos play in the kids' construction zone, race throughout the park to complete a scavenger hunt, enjoy holiday music and performances, and even take a picture with Santa.

The Post Oak Hotel offers myriad holiday experiences for the young and young at heart, including Breakfast With Santa December 9 and 10, the transformation of Stella Wine Bar into a holiday chalet with wine specials and fondue through December 30, and decorating gingerbread houses on December 18.

The Mingle Holiday Market at Stomping Grounds on December 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is a chance to shop for unique items for everyone on that gift list, and take in food and drink from some of Houston's best eateries, pose for selfies, and other holiday fun.

Steven Devadanam contributed to this article.

Jealousy, intrigue, and weirdness make Saltburn an eat-the-rich hoot

Movie Review

Writer/director Emerald Fennell made her feature film debut with the provocatively great 2020 film, Promising Young Woman, which saw its protagonist single-handedly – and, perhaps, foolishly – taking on male sexual predators. Her follow-up, Saltburn, has another protagonist with a one-track mind, this time a young man obsessing about joining upper-crust English society.

Barry Keoghan in Saltburn

Photo courtesy of Prime Video

Barry Keoghan in Saltburn.

Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) is a student at Oxford University who longs to be part of the popular crowd, especially the group led by Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who has everyone he meets fawning over him. Through a few chance meetings, Oliver does manage to endear himself to Felix, who invites him to spend the summer with him and his family at their estate called Saltburn.

There, Oliver is able to participate in the seemingly carefree revelry enjoyed by Felix and his family, including mother Elspeth (Rosamund Pike), father Sir James (Richard E. Grant), and sister Venetia (Allison Oliver). With hangers-on like fellow school friend Farleigh (Archie Madekwe) and Elspeth's friend Pamela (Carey Mulligan) along for the ride, Oliver discovers exactly how the filthy rich live, slowly but surely insinuating himself into each of their lives.

Films set on ornate British estates tend to be stuffy period pieces, so Fennell’s story is initially a breath of fresh air, telling a more modern version that’s full of life. Colors pop from every shot, especially the film’s many party scenes (and their aftermath). The sequences are the definition of excess, but deliciously so, as Fennell also fills them with hilarious dialogue that highlights the privilege of rich people who’ve never known a day of need in their whole life.

The strength of Oliver’s desire to join their ranks shifts constantly in the film, at first subtly and then in huge jumps. Fennell appears to have taken inspiration from The Talented Mr. Ripley, both in the haves vs. the have-nots aspect of the story, and in the fluctuating sexuality of Oliver. If it helps him get closer to his goal, Oliver has no trouble playing both sides of the fence, as it were, and in increasingly bizarre ways.

Just as she did in Promising Young Woman, Fennell makes certain storytelling choices that may not sit well with all viewers. The third act has more than a few of these, especially the culmination of the story, and while those decisions don’t always work, the fact that she went for them at all is deserving of some credit. Too many filmmakers try to play it safe, and it's much better to have someone try and fail than not try at all.

Keoghan has an innocent look to him that belies the intensity he can bring, which makes him ideal for a role like this. He’s up for whatever Fennell throws at him, which is quite a lot, and he succeeds even if the scenes don’t always work. Elordi plays a spoiled-but-empathetic rich kid well, and Grant, Pike, Oliver, and Madekwe give equally interesting performances. Mulligan has a short but funny role in which she plays against type.

While not as good as Promising Young Woman, Saltburn demonstrates that Fennell is still a filmmaker to watch. Her ideas are off-kilter enough to give her a distinctive voice, and she deserves to be given many more opportunities to bring her perspective to the big screen.


Saltburn is now playing in theaters.