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Photo by Avery Nicole

Hot on the heels of last week's luxury hotel news, Fredericksburg is getting even more accommodations this summer. In a fusion of elegant Victorian-style design and Texas history, a historic Hill Country property is being transformed into a glorious getaway destination.

The Menagerie is located at 302 West Travis Street in Fredericksburg, just blocks from the historic downtown Main Street. The renovations are in its final stages, with the overhaul expected to be completed by summer 2023.

The overall property spans 9,500 square feet across 12 total units on both sides of West Travis Street: the original landmark mansion, a carriage house, a five-unit converted barn/garage, and four units in three cottage-style bungalows. The Menagerie can accommodate up to 34 guests over 14 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms.

The original mansion was built in the early 1900s as the private residence for Fredericksburg’s first mayor, and was heavily influenced by Queen Anne Victorian-style design. Property owners Nicole and Ramzi AlRashid wanted to keep those aspects in mind when choosing a design team to renovate the house, which led them to Austin-based land design studio Twistleaf and interior designer Sarah Stacey.

“We have an excellent team of all-stars working on this project and we’re incredibly thankful for the work Twistleaf and Sarah Stacey have put into making The Menagerie inviting, restful and lively for groups of many sizes,” Ramzi said in a press release.

Nicole shared that the decision to work with Twistleaf was due to her and her husband’s desire to collaborate with inspiring designers that would “elevate [their] spaces and do great work for [their] guests and the local community.”

Details of the property renovation include:

  • New fencing and gates
  • A hardscape reconfiguration
  • LED landscape lighting
  • Mutabilis rose bushes and native ornamental grasses by the pool
  • Native Hill Country plant species
  • Natural color schemes

The interior design refresh will include vivid, bold colors with theatrical elements and a few modern updates for practicality. Each room on the property will feature antique furniture, eccentric wallpaper, and vintage decor that pays homage to the site’s history.

Twistleaf founder Sarah Yant said renovating a property with a rich past like The Menagerie is an "exciting opportunity" for her team.

“Nicole, Ramzi and Sarah Stacey brought expansive vision to this project, and our landscape design mirrors their excellence," she said. "We're working to improve the land with Hill Country-friendly plants and create a design that adds to the intuitiveness, circulation and comfort of the outdoor spaces. All the changes are designed to enhance the functionality and hospitality of the property.”

The Menagerie is expected to open in summer 2023. More information can be found on themenagerieatx.com.

The Menagerie

Photo by Avery Nicole

The Menagerie is in its final renovation phase, and is set to open in summer 2023.

Courtesy of TPWD

Stunning new art exhibition celebrates 100 years of Texas State Parks

100 Years of Texas Parks

Texans love to get outdoors, and we're lucky to have 89 state parks, historic sites, and natural areas to explore across our great state. Totaling more than 640,000 acres, these public lands are reaching a major milestone in 2023 and one traveling exhibition is commemorating the event throughout the year.

The new exhibit, "The Art of Texas State Parks," features works by some of the state's most celebrated artists. It will travel to the Houston Museum of Natural Science from May 26 to October 1 after its January debut at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. It will then head to the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon from October 27 through February 18, 2024. The exhibit will also be displayed in 2024 in College Station, Albany, and Tyler.

Several years in the making, the exhibition is the result of a collaboration between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, and the Bullock Texas State History Museum. H-E-B provided additional support for the project as a presenting sponsor of the Texas State Parks Centennial Celebration.

“We are grateful for the partnership that is bringing 'The Art of Texas State Parks' to museums across Texas, spreading the message about these natural treasures that belong to us all,” said TPWD Executive Director David Yoskowitz, Ph.D., in a release.

In total, 30 Texas artists were commissioned to create works celebrating parks across Texas, all with the mission to increase public awareness of Texas parklands and heighten their popular appeal through their elegant and inspired works. Participating artists represent multiple regions across the state, including: DavidGriffin (Lubbock/ Dallas); Pat Gabriel, Billy Hassell, and Jim Malone (all of Fort Worth); Mary Baxter (Marfa); Charles Criner (Houston); Ric Dentinger (San Antonio/Santa Fe NM); Fidencio Duran (Austin); Brian Grimm (Fredericksburg); Clemente Guzman (San Antonio); and many more.

Along with the traveling exhibit, the project also includes a commemorative book published by Texas A&M Press, which is already available online through Texas A&M Press, the Bullock Museum Store, and Amazon.

Proceeds from book sales and the sale of the artwork through Foltz Fine Art in Houston will be donated to Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to benefit Texas State Parks.

“It was a real pleasure to see the passion these artists brought to this project, and we’re thrilled these works will be on display at prestigious museums across Texas,” said Andrew Sansom, co-author of the commemorative book and founder of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, in the release. “It is our fervent hope that these works of art will inspire present and future generations of Texans to forever appreciate and protect their parks.”

Those looking to participate in the Centennial Celebration all year long can visit TexasStateParks.org/100years, which includes info on the ongoing partnership between Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and TPWD, as well as details about special community events taking place at state parks throughout 2023.

Texas State Parks Centennial

Courtesy of TPWD

Pat Gabriel, Slippery Step, Balmorhea State Park, 2020, oil on canvas, 18x40 in.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Charming Houston town's top rank in nation for families leads week's hottest headlines

this week's hot headlines

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

1. Charming Houston community named No. 12 most family-friendly U.S. city. The "Family-Friendly Cities" list focuses on local communities that offer plenty of recreational outdoor activities.

2. Houston's favorite outdoor concert venue ranks No. 1 in the world in new list. The venue had more million-dollar box office grosses this year than ever.

3. Where to eat in Houston right now: 9 best new restaurants proving our pizza town cred. The new arrivals enhance Houston's dynamic pizza scene.

4.Beyoncé reigns supreme with Megan Thee Stallion cameo in jaw-dropping Houston Renaissance Tour opening night. Our review recaps Beyoncé's breathtaking homecoming celebration, from jaw-dropping visuals, to Megan's surprise appearance.

5.Countdown to Beyoncé: Parking, closures, rideshares, and more for NRG Stadium. We mapped all the ways to get to NRG Stadium for last weekend's epic shows.

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.

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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.