Photo courtesy of Visit Mesquite

Not to be overshadowed by its big sister, Dallas, Mesquite is a vibrant city with its own unique flavor. Within this Lone Star city you’ll find a wide array of hidden culinary gems just waiting to be discovered.

Step off the well-trodden path of chain restaurants to discover Mesquite’s best-kept secret: its mom-and-pop restaurants.These “hole-in-the-wall” establishments are locally owned and deliver in flavor, authenticity, and heart.

Enjoy this sampling of Mesquite’s hidden culinary treasures that are well worth the trip.

Mesquite BBQ
145 E. Davis St.

Mesquite BBQ has been a fixture in downtown Mesquite since 1959. The rich, smoky aroma and friendly customer service keep both locals and visitors coming back for more. Their meats are prepared daily in a unique smoker manufactured only a few blocks away.
Must-try dishes: brisket, meat-stuffed baked potato, Chop Chop sandwich

Yia Yia’s House of Gyros
904 E. Davis St., suite 400

At Yia Yia’s, you’ll experience the true essence of Greek cuisine. This family-owned restaurant takes pride in serving traditional Greek dishes passed down through generations. With each bite, you’ll feel the presence of the chef’s grandmother, whose photo overlooks the preparation of every dish.
Must-try dishes: gyro wrap and traditional Greek salad

Jamaica Cook Shop
2033 Military Pkwy., suite104a

Jamaica Cook Shop is a hidden gem offering fresh, made-to-order, authentic Jamaican food. Vibrantly decorated in the colors of the Jamaican flag and tucked away next to a gas station, this unpretentious kitchen serves up traditional island dishes and imported drinks.
Must-try dishes: jerk chicken, fried plantains, and stew chicken

Tasty Chicken & Wings
302 S. Galloway Ave.
Just as the name suggests, Tasty Chicken & Wings lives up to its reputation. Their birria tacos are hailed by some as the best in DFW, while their perfectly fried chicken wings are generously coated in homemade sauces. Made from scratch with care, every meal at Tasty Chicken & Wings is a flavor explosion.
Must-try dishes: birria tacos, pupusas, fried chicken wings, chicharron y yucca

Dia de Los Tacos
1927 Faithon P. Lucas Sr. Blvd., suite 115

In a city rich with Latino culture, Dia de Los Tacos stands out for its exceptional Mexican cuisine. Combining traditional flavors with innovative twists, this local favorite is known for its unbeatable breakfast tacos.
Must-try dishes: fajita burger, taco pies

Porky’s Burgers & Wings
4612 Gus Thomasson Rd.

Porky’s has become a legend in Mesquite and DFW for its half-pound burgers crafted with fresh, non-traditional ingredients to create unique flavor combinations. From the tantalizing salmon burger to the tropical Hawaiian burger, there’s something to satisfy every craving.
Must-try dishes: Double Porky Burger (a whole pound of beef!), mango-habanero wings

Vamos Pizza
2411 N. Galloway Ave., suite 110

When it comes to pizza, everyone knows that the best slices are local. Vamos Pizza offers authentic New York-style pizza by the slice or whole pies, alongside calzones, salads, and pasta dishes. With generous portion sizes and affordable prices, you’ll leave Vamos fully satisfied.
Must-try dishes: The Works pizza, chicken and shrimp carbonara, Caesar salad

Oh My Curry
909 E. Davis St., suite A

Located just outside of downtown Mesquite, Oh My Curry is about to become your new favorite spot. This cozy restaurant offers flavorful and contemporary Indian dishes at affordable prices. Don’t forget to leave room for dessert and indulge in a refreshing lassi, an Indian yogurt-based beverage with a smoothie-like consistency.
Must-try dishes: chicken tikka masala, mutton biriyani bowl

Taqueria Mi Morelia
1821 Crestridge Dr.

Taqueria Mi Morelia may not catch your eye at first, but you don’t want to miss out on this Mexican culinary gem. Whether you’re craving tacos, tortas, Mexican-style hamburgers, or the famous huarache, there’s something on the menu to satisfy all taste buds.
Must-try dishes: huarrache, camarones a la diabla

Slab's BBQ
4401 N. Galloway Ave.

Tucked off Galloway Avenue, this no-frills barbecue joint serves up classic favorites with a side of Texas hospitality. The meats are cooked fresh daily, ensuring each bite is packed with smoky goodness. Prepare to leave Slab’s with a full belly and a smile.
Must-try dishes: chopped beef sandwich, sliced beef dinner

Mesquite has a flavor all its own. Next time you’re craving a culinary adventure, visit Mesquite and treat yourself to one of these locally owned and loved restaurants.

Yia Yia's House of Gyros

Photo courtesy of Visit Mesquite

Get Greek at Yia Yia's House of Gyros.

Find more to do, see, and eat in Mesquite here.

Rockin R River Rides/Facebook

Hit the road for 4 late-summer weekend girlfriend getaways just 5 hours from Houston

Girls' trip!

And just like that…summer vacation is almost over. Which means the time is right to schedule that girls’ trip gal pals are always talking about. Luckily, there are many fun places to squeeze in a quick getaway within a few hours of Houston, even if it's just an "escape from reality" while floating on a river everyone knows and loves.

These five spots feature great pool scenes (or a river float for the more adventurous), expansive spas, delicious dining, and most importantly, sanctuaries to simply unwind. It's a mix of laid-back locales and luxurious lodgings (but hey, you're splitting the bill). Some are brand new, some are tried-and-true favorites with new reasons to visit, and all are within about a five-hour drive.

So text your besties, pack a swimsuit, and get ready to hit the road.

The Guadalupe River, Gruene
It’s a bucket-list activity for Texan, but a whole different experience when it's just the girls. Away from rowdy guys on the river, gal-groups can bond (and solve the problems of the world) during a leisurely inner-tube float down the crisp and cool Guadalupe - insulated tumblers in hand. Then end the day in the tiny town of Gruene, where groups can gather to listen to live music at Texas’ oldest dance hall, sip margaritas at a riverfront restaurant, shop boutiques, or relax in a boutique day spa. There are countless hotels, camp grounds, and short-term rentals for an overnight stay.

How to float the river:Rockin’ R doesn't get much closer, located on the banks of the Guadalupe in the heart of Gruene. For decades, they've outfitted tubers for river floats and provided shuttle service back from the end point. New is Rockin’ R’s expansive Gruene Light Bar, where live music and cocktails are available all summer long. El Arroyo (the Austin-based Tex-Mex restaurant known for its hilarious marquee signs) also has a food truck on-site for pre- or post-float grub. Don’t forget to wear water shoes, and note that cans, glass, or anything disposable is not allowed on the water.

Other Gruene must-do’s: Have sangria or a longneck bottle at the iconic Gruene Hall while listening to live music. Stroll through locally owned shops for cute clothes, décor, and souvenirs. Or schedule a spa treatment at Gruene Day Spa, but note treatments should be booked at least two to three weeks out.

Where to eat dinner: No visit to Gruene is complete without dinner at Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar. There’s typically a wait for a table, especially on the weekends. But that means you get to listen to live acoustic music on the lawn with a salt-rimmed margarita until your name is written on the chalk board, indicating your table is ready. Pro tip: chips and fresh salsa (which is also sold to-go by the mason jar) are available at the indoor-outdoor bar while you wait.

Rates: Tube rental with shuttle service at Rockin’ R starts at $25.

Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Austin
The popular Austin-area resort is worth a another look this summer, as it has launched a new signature wine, beer, and spirits tasting event. An adults-only infinity pool, 13,000-square-foot spa and sanctuary, and enchanting views of more than 4,000 countryside acres add to the allure.

If your girl group likes adult beverages: Don’t miss Hill Country Sip & Savor, the resort's new festival-style tasting event that features beverages from local breweries, distilleries, and wineries native to the Texas country along with food and live music. The festival launched on Memorial Day weekend and there are two dates left: Saturday, August 5 and Saturday, September 2. Rates start at $459 per night and include overnight accommodations, three drink sampling tickets and one food ticket per adult, two beach towels and one tote bag per room, and one bottle of sunscreen.

Other gal pal activities: Lounge at the adults-only infinity pool and order an Elderflower Spritz from the bar, or go to the spa. The latter has its own private rooftop pool with plenty of tranquil lounge chairs and plush outdoor seating away from the crowd. There are also four golf courses on-site for ladies who love a good tee time.

Where to eat dinner: Make reservations for Blind Salamander, the resort’s upscale seafood restaurant led by chef Francisco Baca. Indulge in steamed mussels with miso butter, glazed redfish with clams and cornbread, or jumbo shrimp with blood orange cocktail sauce.

Rates: Rates start at $399 per night.

girls in swimsuits women bikinis guadalupe river

Rockin R River Rides/Facebook

Grab the squad and kick back on the Guadalupe River.

The Adolphus, Dallas

Dallas has many sleek new hotels, but nothing quite like this historic luxury hotel that feels as though you're steeping back in time. Opened in 1912 by Anheuser-Busch co-founder Adolphus Busch, the high-rise draws a new generation of guests seeking an extravagant escape.

If your friends are fancy: Make reservations for afternoon tea in The French Room, an iconic experience in a sophisticated, storied space that's fit for royalty (fun fact: Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip stayed at the Adolphus in 1991). The marble floor, the gilded chairs, the glass chandeliers – all exude elegance. Tea service includes three courses with the option of adding champagne and caviar. Reservations are available Wednesday through Sunday from 11 am-2:45 pm. (Note that The French Room has still not fully reopened post-pandemic, but they do have a new executive chef in the kitchen.)

If you’re having a hot girl summer: Show off that smoking swimsuit at The Adolphus’ rooftop pool, where a live DJ plays music every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon. Rent a cabana and get a bottle of Minuty sparkling rose on ice to share. If finding zen is the goal for the getaway, make plans for Black Swan Yoga on the pool deck Saturday, August 19 at 9:30 am.

Where to eat dinner: Feeling high-end? Head to The French Room Bar, where foie gras torchon, escargot en croute, East Coast oysters on the half shell, and rack of lamb round out a very upscale French menu of culinary delights. (The absolute best savory, slightly spicy popcorn comes with cocktail service at the bar.) For something much more casual, go downstairs to the Rodeo Bar, where burgers, nachos, barbecue, and even a fully loaded foot-long chili dog combine for a completely different dining experience. Wash it all down with a frozen whiskey sour.

Rates:Rates start about $298 per night.

Omni PGA Resort, Frisco

Don’t let the “PGA” in the name fool you. Guests of the sprawling resort north of Dallas, which just opened in May, don’t have to be golf fans to enjoy the many luxe amenities offered: multiple pools with bar service, a full-service spa, shopping, live music, and 13 dine-and-drink destinations.

If your gal group likes to golf: There are two 18-hole courses and a two-acre putting green. But don’t miss The Swing, a 10-hole par three course that’s lit after dark – perfect for avoiding summer’s scorching rays. Texas country music plays on speakers overhead, and there’s a Casamigos tequila truck that serves refreshing ranch waters at the half-way mark, making this short course perhaps the most lively in town.

For the non-golfers: Book a relaxing treatment at Mokara Spa, where there are more than 20 treatment rooms, a sauna, stream room, jacuzzi, private pool, and spa café. Shop The Monument Realty PGA District then have happy hour at The Lounge by TopGolf. Or simply kick back all day at the adults-only rooftop infinity pool with a Coco Berry Mojito in-hand from the Bluestem Bar.

Where to eat dinner: Make reservations for Trick Rider, the resort’s signature fine-dining restaurant for steak and seafood dishes. Grab a pre-dinner martini at the horseshoe-shaped bar and say “hello” to Cinnamon, the restaurant’s spectacular 1,500-pound, quarter horse-shaped chandelier.

Rates: Rates start at $359 per night.

Photo courtesy of Galveston Island Visitors & Convention Bureau

2 nearby Gulf Coast cities beckon among most affordable beachfront destinations in U.S.

toes in the sand

Few things are as relaxing as waking up to the sound of waves crashing onto the beach, or watching the stunning views of the sunrise from the comfort of an oceanfront room.

If a trip down to the coast is in the air, there's good news for Texas travelers: Port Aransas and Galveston have some of the least expensive beachfront accommodations in the country, according to a new study by travel experts Upgraded Points.

The two popular coastal towns ranked No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, on a list of the 10 Beach Towns Where You'll Spend the Least on an Ocean View.

To come up with their lists of least and most expensive, researchers crunched the numbers to find the cost of beachfront vacations in 75 prominent coastal cities around the United States. They used data from Airbnb, Travel + Leisure, and Southern Living, and ranked the destinations from the most to least expensive.

For beach-goers looking for the ultimate deal on a ocean-view rental in Port Aransas, hotel prices are only $135 per night, while the average nightly rate for a beachfront Airbnb is $450, the study found. These three-digit price tags are significantly cheaper than the most expensive beach town on the list - Montauk, New York - whose average nightly beachfront Airbnb price comes out to a whopping $1,205.

In Galveston, researchers found, the average waterfront hotel rates are more expensive than Port Aransas' at $233 a night, but are still much cheaper than Montauk's average hotel rate of $639 a night. Oceanfront Airbnbs in Oleander City have an average nightly cost at about $355, which is $850 cheaper per night than Montauk.

"[W]ith the current state of inflation leaving more than half of Americans uncertain about affording a vacation this year, it’s essential to find affordable beach towns that offer an enjoyable getaway without breaking the bank," the report's author said.

The average cost of a weeklong stay in Port Aransas and Galveston are extremely similar: $2,048 and $2,058, respetively. In comparison to the national average accommodation cost, which rings up at about $3,353 for a week, vacationing in either Texas coastal town is about 40 percent more affordable.

The top 10 least expensive beach towns in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – Cedar Key, Florida
  • No. 2 – Ocean Springs, Mississippi
  • No. 3 – Ocean Shores, Washington
  • No. 4 – Port Aransas, Texas
  • No. 5 – Galveston, Texas
  • No. 6 – Ocean City, Maryland
  • No. 7 – Pawleys Island, South Carolina
  • No. 8 – San Juan Island, Washington
  • No. 9 – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • No. 10 – Bar Harbor, Maine

Joining Montauk on the other end of the affordability spectrum with the most expensive accommodations across America's most popular beach towns are New York's South Hampton (No. 2) and East Hampton (No. 3). Average weeklong stays in either city will set vacationers back by $6,391 and $6,178, respectively. Rounding out the top five most expensive beach towns are Malibu, California (No. 4) and Folly Beach, South Carolina (No. 5).

The full report can be found on upgradedpoints.com.

Photo courtesy of Fredericksburg CVB

Grape stomping, drinking, and savoring are on tap during a Fredericksburg getaway


Wine lovers, listen up: You don't have to travel to Napa or France to fill your cup with a wonderful wine-themed vacation.

Fredericksburg is the epicenter of Texas Wine Country, producing award-winning reds, whites, and rosés from more than 60 wineries and tasting rooms. Whether you choose to join a tour or explore at your own pace, the opportunities for a toast-worthy time in the Hill Country are practically endless.

Plus, if you time your visit for midweek or during the grape harvest, you're in for an even bigger treat.

Wine time
Fredericksburg's Gillespie County is home to a staggering amount of wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms, and there are dozens more only an hour or two away.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed at the array of choices, book with a wine tour company and let them plan out the itinerary.

Choose from more than 30 companies and full-day, half-day, and private tours to get exactly the experience you want.

Or hop on the 290 Wine Shuttle, which departs from downtown Fredericksburg every 10 minutes on Fridays and Saturdays, and hit a couple set wineries along the way.

Urban sips
You don't even need to leave downtown to sip and stroll. The Urban Wine Trail includes 10-plus wineries and tasting rooms owned by Fredericksburg wineries, all within walking distance of historic hot spots and maybe even your B&B or hotel.

Midweek mood
Consider visiting Fredericksburg Sunday through Thursday, when crowds are fewer, lodging has more availability, and you're likely to receive a more personalized experience at the wineries and tasting rooms.

As a bonus, the wait times at restaurants will be much less and you can browse the charming shops and boutiques downtown without bumping elbows.

Let's stomp
Grape harvest time arrives as summer draws to a close, and with comes wine-related festivals, picking parties, special release events, and — of course — grape stomping.

Yes! You can participate in this time-honored tradition by kicking off your shoes, rolling up your pant legs, and mashing the freshly picked grapes to your heart's content.

Check with individual wineries for event details, but in the meantime here are some tips to make sure you're ready.

Start planning your Fredericksburg getaway now.

Augusta Vin in Fredericksburg

Photo courtesy of Fredericksburg CVB

Grape harvest season means plenty of food and wine events.

Photo courtesy of Visit Shenandoah

How to get the most out of small-but-spectacular Shenandoah

On the Road

Looking for a destination for an overnight trip, weekend getaway, or family vacation? You might want to consider Shenandoah.

Situated in the booming North Houston area and adjacent to Conroe, Spring, and The Woodlands, Shenandoah packs a punch with nearly 60 restaurants, 12 well-reviewed and affordable hotels, five shopping centers, several family-friendly entertainment venues, and a variety of outdoor amenities such as two city parks, all in an easy-to-navigate, compact footprint of 2.2 square miles.

Here’s your short list for how to best enjoy Shenandoah:

Browse and shop
If you like to shop, Shenandoah is your mini mecca, with a multitude of options. You’ll love the Portofino Shopping Center, with its distinct Venetian-style architecture and mix of nationally recognized stores, specialty boutiques, and salons.

The Sam Moon Center is home to the eponymous Sam Moon Trading Company that has endless accessories, apparel, cosmetics, and more.

Adjacent to the Sam Moon Center is the city’s Metropark Square, known for its entertainment options, hotels, restaurants, and salons, and be sure to check out the Daiso Japanese dollar store while you're there.

Shenandoah also has a variety of locally owned specialty shops worth exploring, including Bikeland and Bike Lane, each with a vast selection of road, mountain, and ebikes.

There's also Precision Camera & Video, one of the largest camera stores in Texas, which offers a variety of classes for the public.

Pop into Picket Fences, renowned for its stylish selection of furniture, home decor, unique gifts, and accessories.

Dish and dine
Foodies, take note: There are actually two, twice-nominated James Beard semifinalists in town, each with two restaurant concepts here.

The first is chef/owner Ronnie Killen of Killen’s Steakhouse, which serves the highest-quality steak — from USDA Prime beef to Japanese wagyu — and Gulf Coast seafood. There’s also a Killen’s Barbecue across the street for smoked faves in a more casual atmosphere.

The second is Levi Goode, chef/owner of both Kitchen & Cantina and Goode Co. Fish Camp. Fish Camp is the newest concept from the Goode Co. collection of restaurants, and features an oyster bar and the freshest fish around, along with seasonal dishes in a vibrant setting — and it can currently only be found in Shenandoah.

The Shenandoah location served as an incubator for both concepts, and Kitchen & Cantina, started in Shenandoah, now boasts two other locations in Houston (one in Memorial and one in The Heights).

On the fast, casual front, be sure to check out Califa’s Tacos and Beer. This family-owned restaurant features Cali-style tacos and burritos made with the freshest ingredients.

Be sure to leave some room for dessert! Ice cream lovers are sure to find a treat at The Dolly Llama Waffle Master or Surreal Creamery, two new ice cream stores that recently opened — each are the first of their shops to open in the greater Houston area.

Finally, Shenandoah just opened an Instagram-worthy mochi donut and creme puff shop called Munch Munch Mochi Donut, Tea & Dessert that foodies won’t want to miss.

See and do
There’s no shortage of places to go to be entertained while in town. Post up with some popcorn and a movie at the state-of-the-art AMC Metropark 10 with IMAX cineplex.

It’s game on at Dave & Buster’s and Main Event, or get your adrenaline fix at Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park.

Looking for some pampering for yourself? You might want to consider booking an appointment at the Aveda Institute, one of Aveda’s largest training centers in the country. You can get a variety of hair and body treatments for less as you help support students with their education (just be sure to allow a little extra time). Master trainers work alongside students as part of their training.

Outdoor enthusiasts will want to connect with nature at the W.G. Jones State Forest, which is one of the nation’s largest working urban forests, or the George Mitchell Nature Preserve, with its miles of hike and bike trails across 1,800 acres — both are just minutes away.

For a full list of places to see, shop, stay, and savor, head over to Visit Shenandoah.

Shenandoah City Park is a lovely green space in town.

shenandoah park
Photo courtesy of Visit Shenandoah
Shenandoah City Park is a lovely green space in town.
Photo by Renee Dominguez

Your guide to grooving in Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World

Let's Rock

As the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin's music scene and live music experiences are essential to the heart of the city.

First-time visitors might be surprised to find live music everywhere, from the terminal at Austin's airport to outdoor patios at some of the city’s most reputable restaurants.

Summer is full of live music experiences, from seasonal music series to festivals. Nightly, you'll find Austin musicians at clubs, coffeehouses, bars, taquerias, sporting events, and concert halls. And with hundreds of live music venues, it can be intimidating knowing where to start.

Don't worry, we've got you:

A glimpse of history
The Live Music Capital of the World has a long and storied history, interwoven with the many diverse cultures that have resided in Central Texas for generations.

Austin’s blues and soul music history can be traced back to the early 1900s through to Janis Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and many big names can still be found on stages around the city nightly.

The Latin music community is expansive and the list of important names in its history seems endless, stretching back to the turn of the 20th century.

The city has also been home to legendary country music artists — like Willie Nelson — and monumental music venues —like the Broken Spoke — for decades, and today Austin's country music scene continues to forge a unique path.

Out of the Austin 1970s punk scene came new electronic post-punk genres, beginning an unstoppable era of synth-infused new wave.

Hip hop culture hit Austin like a tidal wave beginning in the late 1970s and early '80s, with rappers and hip hop crews forging a path that continues to push boundaries today.

Austin’s famous indie rock scene stretches back to the heyday of psychedelic rock. Today, the city abounds in rock clubs catering to indie artists and the DIY-spirited punk scene.

Even today's local pop music scene reflects the city’s love of crossing boundaries and creating a wonderful and playful fusion of sounds. Find more information on the city’s legendary music scene here.

Where to groove
You don't have to show up only during world-renowned festivals like SXSW and Austin City Limits Music Festival. Scope out these iconic Austin music venues all year long:

Broken Spoke:Do some Texas two-stepping at Broken Spoke, an old-fashioned honky-tonk that’s been around since 1964 and has hosted country legends like George Strait and Dolly Parton. Dance lessons are offered Wednesday through Saturday nights.

ACL Live at The Moody Theater: Artists of all stripes love playing ACL Live at The Moody Theater, home to live tapings of Austin City Limits, America’s longest-running television music series. Be sure to snap a selfie with the statue of hometown music hero Willie Nelson out front.

Antone's Nightclub: Legendary Antone’s Nightclub has been Austin’s home of the blues since 1975, hosting luminaries like Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton. Visit the club in downtown Austin.

Historic Scoot Inn: Opened in 1871, the Historic Scoot Inn is the oldest bar in Central Texas, with shows both indoors and out.

The White Horse:The White Horse is the place to catch live bluegrass, country-western, and Americana bands. Grab a two-step (shot of whiskey and a Lone Star beer) and get to dancing.

Mohawk:Get your rock fix at Mohawk in the Red River Cultural District. This unique indoor-outdoor multilevel space showcases emerging talent from Austin and beyond.

Stubb’s Bar-B-Q: Stubb's is a music institution that serves up lip-smacking barbecue along with some of the best live bands around. Sit down for the Sunday Gospel Brunch and enjoy live music with a buffet of Southern comfort food.

Fresh air and fresh tunes
Classical music lovers won’t want to miss Austin Symphony Concerts in the Park, held on the lawn of Hartman Concert Park at the Long Center. On Sunday evenings from June through August, bring a lawn chair or blanket and kick back under the stars, listening to classical music while soaking in city skyline views. Bring your whole crew — admission is free to all.

Pack a blanket and the family and make your way to Zilker Park for the summertime tradition of Blues on the Green. Held over two days in July, Austin’s largest free concert series welcomes performances by top local bands in Austin’s most beloved park.

Inspired by Austin's love of outdoor jams, the Drop-In Summer Concert Series brings the tunes to the Hartman Concert Lawn at the Long Center every Thursday through mid-August. Pack a picnic and bring your friends to this free outdoor concert series with a spectacular sunset view of the Austin city skyline.

Every summer, the Red River Cultural District hosts Hot Summer Nights: four days in July of free live music held at multiple venues throughout the neighborhood. Besides catching popular local acts, you’ll have the chance to sample scrumptious foods from local eateries.

Stop in the Oak Garden at Güero’s Taco Bar every Wednesday (rain or shine) for the Texas Radio Live series presented by Sun Radio. Listen to Texas singers, songwriters, and musicians while you chow down on homestyle Mexican dishes and tip a margarita or two.

More outdoor venues
Visitors will find an array of unique outdoor music experiences, from parks with amphitheaters to hidden hot spots like a car garage that doubles as a concert venue. Here are a few of the best places to catch music outdoors in Austin:

Moody Amphitheater: Catch concerts year-round at the Moody Amphitheater on the grounds of Waterloo Park, a gorgeous, green oasis in downtown Austin. Bring a chair or blanket, stretch out on the Great Lawn, and enjoy everything from local artists to internationally touring acts.

The Far Out Lounge & Stage:From tribute bands to classic rock, country, and punk, live music of all stripes is played nightly on The Far Out stage. Order anything from birria tacos to plant-based options from the food trucks parked on-site.

Empire Control Room & Garage:Touring bands and local opening acts bring their best to this former auto shop’s stage. Take a break from the concert crowd at Empire's more intimate creekside patio bar.

Cheer Up Charlies: Explore the outdoor patio hidden under a parachute at this LGBTQ+-friendly home to live music, colorful drag shows, and delicious vegan eats from Arlo’s food truck. Cheer Up Charlies will have you ready to dance the night away with upbeat tunes, kombucha on tap, and organic juice blend cocktails.

Hotel Vegas: Catch an outstanding lineup of cutting-edge bands or watch a live DJ in the backyard of this venue in Austin’s East Sixth Street neighborhood. Hotel Vegas shares its outdoor patio space with neighboring club, The Volstead.

Eats and beats
The Live Music Capital of the World has also become a robust foodie city with some of the most iconic barbecue pitmasters in the state, a surplus of fine dining establishments, and various walk-in, sit-down, no-frills watering holes. Here are some of Austin’s best restaurants with live music.

Lamberts: Located in the historic Schneider Brothers Building in the 2nd Street District, Lamberts serves up its live music with slow-smoked barbecue and modern Texas cooking. The bar is stocked with local beers, classic cocktails, and new-world wines, and the restaurant regularly features live music in its upstairs bar and lounge.

Geraldine’s:Located on Austin’s infamously lively Rainey Street within the Hotel Van Zandt, and named humbly after a wild guinea fowl adopted and later memorialized by the neighborhood, Geraldine’s hosts local songwriters in its dining room almost every night of the week. The restaurant is the true definition of hyperlocal, from the Austin-inspired cocktail program to the menu of contemporary Austin fare. You don’t want to visit Austin without experiencing one of Geraldine’s famous Saturday jazz brunches.

Meanwhile Brewing Co.: On any given day, listen to Latin, soul, dance, bluegrass, and more played live at Meanwhile Brewing Co. This South Austin destination serves a huge selection of beer and is also home to some of the city’s hottest food trucks dishing out pizza, Mexican food, and barbecue.

Radio Coffee & Beer: If you find yourself deeper in South Austin, Radio Coffee & Beer will serve you the perfect cup of coffee while you enjoy their frequent live music events and a well-curated selection of some of Austin’s best food trucks: Veracruz Tacos, Dee Dee Thai, and others. A local favorite since 2014, Radio is known for its specialty espresso, craft beer selection, cocktails, and shady live oak trees. Don’t miss the weekly bluegrass night on Mondays, regularly voted the city’s best ongoing music residency.

Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden: With live music in its sprawling beer garden, 100-plus craft beers, and more sausage varieties than you can imagine cooked in its own smokehouse, Banger’s is a must-do on Rainey Street. Don’t miss the eatery's popular big band brunch on the weekends.


Learn more about Austin's music scene here.

Band onstage

Photo by Renee Dominguez

It's the Live Music Capital of the World for a reason.

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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.


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.