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Corpus Christi Marina photo credit Rita Cook

You have a weekend to get out of town and you just aren’t sure where to go. It really all depends on what you want to do so read on and find out how you can have an epic few days just hours from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. 

Corpus Christi

The longest of the drives out of the metroplex, if you are a beach lover take the six-hour drive south to Corpus Christi.  While there you can enjoy not only quality beach time, but also a number of indoor things to do while exploring the Texas Gulf Coast.

1. South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center

If you love the great outdoors, the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center will entice. With 182 acres to discover there are 11 floral exhibits and gardens including a 2,600 square-foot screened Butterfly House. Other standouts are the Samuel Jones Orchid Conservatory, Hummingbird Garden, Anderson Bromeliad Conservatory, seasonal Plumeria Garden, a Rose Garden and an “artscaped” Sensory Garden.   You will also find reptiles calling the Nature Center home and an impressive parrot collection as well as a lake, nature trail and a birding tower – appropriate for a city coined the “Birdiest City” in the United States.

2. USS Lexington Museum on the Bay

Check out this World War II-aircraft carrier commissioned in 1943. The USS LEXINGTON, CV-16 served longer with more outstanding records set than any other carrier in the history of naval aviation. She retiredin the early 90s and is now open year-round for tours.   

3. The Beaches of Corpus Christi

There are a number of beaches to visit in Corpus Christi, but my favorite is Mustang Island State Park.  This barrier island has an abundance of wildlife including a wild group of waterfowl. There is camping on the beach and visitors are still allowed to have beach front campfires.  Some weekends offer Junior Ranger Exploration activities and children and adults alike will enjoy walking the beach to collect shells.  Mustang Island is also still an important breeding grounds for a special breed of sea turtle, the Kemp’s Ridley and for birders there are over 400 different species to identify.

4. Corpus Christi Museum of Science & History

From Spanish shipwreck artifacts dating back to the 1500s to a colorful local history, the Corpus Christi Museum of Science & History allows guests to discover 500 years of the area’s history from old guns to dinosaurs. Check out the H-E-B Science Center and learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and be sure and take a look at the three-story DNA Climber while there too.

5. Ocean Drive and the Corpus Christi Marina

Ocean Drive is a splendid look at seven miles of magnificent homes and condos dotting the coastline in Corpus. There is all manner of architecture on Ocean Drive from a European feel to a very modern Americana vibe. Heading north Ocean Drive turns into Shoreline Drive and this is where the marina awaits with restaurants and boats the latter ready to take visitors out for some time on the water.  Overall, the Marina Arts District is home to delicious restaurants and what is called the SEA District meaning plenty of sports, entertainment and artsy things to get into while visiting.

Abilene

Settlers began arriving in what is now the area in and around Abilene in 1875.  Of course, it was the railroad that really spurred the growth and as soon as it was completed in just one day in 1881 317 lots were sold making the city of Abilene a reality. There is still much history in Abilene and the locals are proud to show it off.

1. Downtown Walking Tour

Since 1991 the Abilene Commercial Historic District has been working to preserve the historical architecture and culture that is Abilene.  With stops on the walking tour as diverse as the T & P Depot on North 1st Street, which is one of the city’s most outstanding buildings from 1910, to the Grace on Cypress St built in 1909 and for years the city’s most important hotel and listed on the National Register of Historic Places or you will also see the Abilene Reporter News, Abilene's oldest business and the Paramount Theatre opened in 1930 and still open today after a renovation in the 1980s.

2. The Center for Contemporary Arts

With 70 artist members and 10 working studios, visitors will have the chance to visit five galleries and get to know local as well as nationally-renowned artists.  If you visit during the week the Center hosts “ArtWalk” the second Thursday of each month.

3. Fort Phantom Hill

Many have described this old Army post from the 1850s as “ghostly ruins.”  Visitors can walk through the many chimneys and the three remaining buildings and perhaps get a chill up their spine even in the summer while imagining the sound of soldiers who lived here over 150 years ago.

4.  1910 Swenson House

The Swenson House has now been converted into a museum offering escorted tours.  Docentslead the tours in period costumes from the late 19th and early 20th century as guests are led among the many rooms admiring the home’s furnished décor, which is the authentic Swenson family pieces.

5.  Taylor County History Center

For history buffs the Taylor County History Center will give you the chance to explore the West Texas frontier from 1875 to 1925.  There are a number of collections at the Center including Indian artifacts and frontier firearms, a gallery with historic maps and more than 20 historic frontier buildings.


San Antonio

Who can pass up a trip to San Antonio since the history is as stunning as the modern turns the city is constantly taking.  The name of the game in San Antonio is not only about Texas history though since it is also a good place to eat, drink and have a good time.

1. Main Plaza: The Saga

I will mention the Alamo because no visitor can go home without visiting there, but these days folks are also flocking to the San Fernando Cathedral in the Main Plaza to check out the 24-minute show projected onto the cathedral on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  Created by the French artist Xavier De Richemont, The Saga tells the story of San Antonio from beginning, middle to modern day. 

2. Pearl

North of downtown San Antonio, Pearl is more than just a by-gone brewery and doubles as a pretty impressive cultural stop.  With retail, dining, picturesque green spaces, paseos riverside amphitheater and the San Antonio campus of The Culinary Institute of America, the former brewery from 1883 to 2001 still reflects a strong past while embracing the future.  With LEED-certified buildings mixed with historic architecture, the 22 acres is home to the year-round Pearl Farmers Market and the newly opened Hotel Emma.  

3. San Antonio Museum of Art

The San Antonio Museum of Art boasts over 5,000 years of history with a look at many cultures from all over the world. The location for the museum is what was once the Lone Star Brewery on the Museum Reach of the River Walk and you will want to check out the impressive collections featuring Latin American, Ancient Mediterranean and Asian art. There is also a collection at the museum featuring Oceanic Art and many traveling exhibitions come through the doors of the museum regularly.

4. Mission San Jose

This mission is known as the “Queen of the Missions” and is the largest of the missions to be visited.  It was renovated in the 1930s and as most Spanish Missions were, it was a destination and home for the local communities not just a church.  Founded in 1720 and named after Saint Joseph and the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo, the governor of the Province of Coahuila and Texas, it sits on the banks of the San Antonio river and is quite near San Antonio de Valero mission better known as the Alamo.

5. The San Antonio River Walk

Near the heart of the city, the San Antonio River Walk is often considered the main attraction in the city.  You can walk down the paved paths lined with Cypress trees and dotted with stone bridges while getting a feel for the gently landscape.  There is also a boat ride to enjoy down the river offering stops and stories about San Antonio with hotels, cultural stops, a look at the city’s history and some great bars to grab a margarita at the end of the day.

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