5 Delighful Places to Visit In…..Texas with Diane Gottsman

If your only mental image of Texas involves western boots and longhorns, you may be surprised to learn that there is much more to Texas, three of the top ten biggest cities in the United States are here in Texas. Texas offers cosmopolitan adventures, culinary delights, historic treasures, inviting public spaces and even wonderful beaches. We’re also a warm (hot!) getaway when it gets chilly up north.

Here are five delightful places you may visit if you ever come to Texas!

1. Hey Cupcake, Austin
Austin has so much to recommend: a vibrant, non-stop live music scene; a plethora of ways to enjoy the outdoors, from kayaking just south of downtown on Lady Bird Johnson Lake (formerly Town Lake) to taking a dip in the natural spring-fed, always cool Barton Springs Pool, to hiking one of the city’s many nature trails. You’ll also find excellent food and shopping finds that range from the funky to the fabulous. But for me, the icing on the cake is a visit to this airstream trailer bakery that creates cupcakes that are out of this world.

2. Pearl Brewery and the Museum Reach, San Antonio
This former brewery on the banks of the San Antonio River has been repurposed, remade and reborn as one of San Antonio’s most appealing and progressive destinations. The Culinary Institute of America is located here, along with a year-round Saturday farmers market and amazing restaurants. Head down to the river and go for a walk along this rejuvenated stretch of the San Antonio River; known as the Museum Reach, it’s actually an extension of the famed San Antonio River Walk. Enjoy the beautiful landscaping, creative public art installations and river taxis that take visitors between the Pearl and downtown.
3. South Padre Island
South Padre is not a city that happens to have a beach, it’s a beach with enough city around it to cater to your every whim. The island boasts the best beaches in Texas — natural, white, fine-sand beaches that meet the balmy blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re motivated to venture beyond the beach, you’ll find a lot to do whether you’re on a romantic weekend, a girlfriend getaway or a family vacation. Get up close and personal with sea turtles, dolphins and migrating birds; go surfing or kite boarding; take a romantic sunset dinner cruise; or take the kids for a ride on a replica of a pirate ship.

4. Highland Park Village, Dallas
This upscale Mediterranean Spanish-style shopping center is actually a National Historic Landmark; its groundbreaking design is the prototype for shopping centers all around the country. But I love it for the amazing shopping (shops include Carolina Herrera, Tory Burch, Stella McCartney) and dining (my favorite is the Mexican restaurant, Mi Cocina, which hits all the right notes with its margaritas, classic Tex-Mex cuisine and a great atmosphere).

5. The Missions National Park, San Antonio
This is where San Antonio began about 300 years ago with the creation of these missions, or church-centered towns to colonize what was then a wild frontier. The four mission churches are still active Catholic parishes, with regularly scheduled services; no matter what your religious beliefs, you’ll be moved during a mass in one of these historic churches. Stroll through the grounds of each mission (free guided tours are offered at each) or see all four by way of the paved hike and bike trail that follows the San Antonio River.

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