As visitors this summer to the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas will discover, presidents seize opportunities to depart Washington, D.C. The Center’s exhibit on presidential retreats, which runs through Oct. 6, highlights Camp David and three Texas-related venues: LBJ Ranch in the Hill Country, George and Laura Bush’s Prairie Chapel Ranch near Crawford and the Bush family compound, Walker’s Point, in Kennebunkport, Maine, as well as identifying other getaways, including Harry Truman’s Florida White House in Key West, Herbert Hoover’s rugged Rapidan Camp in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains or a succession of presidential yachts.
Downtown is situated between the railroad and what used to be the Bankhead Highway. There’s no need to use a map or app to find my hotel because the historic brick building rises far above the rest of the city, its sign the defining feature of the skyline: Hotel Settles in red neon lights. Walking into the lobby, coated in rich carpets and mahogany paneling and polished brass, is like walking into a different era, one where I wouldn’t be surprised to find Will Rogers reading a newspaper beneath the chandelier. I slink to the front desk, feeling fantastically out of place in a wrinkled sweatshirt, carrying my suitcase, which is actually a laundry basket (don’t judge).
Newsman Walter Cronkite would, in his later years, recall it as one of the worst stories he ever covered. Morning dawned over New London on March 18, 1937, with clear skies and mild temperatures. Along Main Street, students made their way to school. Despite the pall of the Great Depression hanging over the nation, the future looked bright for the schoolchildren of Rusk County, thanks to a sea of oil and gas quivering below their feet.
Located at the intersection of Interstate 10 and US 77, Schulenburg may be best known as a reliable stop for a kolache fix. But with its roots in German and Czech settlement, this little town offers outsized cultural attractions, including spectacular painted churches, the Texas Polka Music Museum, and the Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum. Schulenburg was incorporated as a railroad town in 1875, and the arrival of a Carnation Milk condensing plant put the town on the map in 1929.
Sedrick Huckaby is a Big Momma’s boy. The Fort Worth contemporary artist is devoted to the spirit of his late grandmother, Hallie Beatrice Carpenter, or “Big Momma,” and finds inspiration in her century-old home. Located in Fort Worth’s Polytechnic Heights neighborhood, or Poly to locals, the house’s raw shiplap walls are adorned with Huckaby’s paintings of family and neighbors. Huckaby creates works here, but next
year the space will take on new life when Huckaby opens it as a project space for artists, tentatively called Big Momma’s House.
Growing up in Wichita Falls, I noticed my hometown didn’t attract many visitors. Downtown was full of empty aging buildings. Restaurants opened and closed every other year, and stores in the mall changed constantly—none offering the fashionable choices found in bigger cities like Dallas. Locals were content with driving more than two hours to Dallas for entertainment or one hour north to Oklahoma to
While the glamour of overnight train travel hasn’t quite been the same since its heyday in the early 20th century, you can still get a taste of the experience. A handful of hosts across the state offer vintage rail-car lodgings outfitted with modern amenities that range from quiet countryside retreats to quirky city digs—but all offer a window into the history of the state’s railways.
There was a time when most Texans lived over yonder. But over the past century, the percentage of Texans living in rural areas versus urban areas flipped: Today, 85 percent of us live in cities, while only 15 percent live in the country, according to the Texas Demographic Center.
Calling on All Manner of Higher Powers, This San Antonio Shop Has Just the Thing for Your Earthly Problems
In the spirit room of Botanica La Caridad, a retail store in San Antonio, wooden statues of West African deities are crammed up against a bucket of sticks and machetes, garlanded with chicken’s feet and anchored by a cross. In the opposite corner stands a masked mannequin with rolled-up cash tucked discreetly beneath its long red dress and unopened bottles of wine.
Texas is perhaps the most self-contained state in the union, with the mindset of an island continent: Anything you need, you can get right here. That includes the itinerary of a world traveler. To visit Paris, London, Palestine, Athens, and Dublin, your gas card is the only passport needed. Borders crossed: zero.
Our aim was not to present a definitive ranking of best small towns (that would take us years to agree on) but a collection of under-the-radar places that are forging new identities through revitalization, reinvention, or recovery from big setbacks. We wanted our list to inspire discovery, so we skipped the small towns that already have well-established claims to fame—Lockhart for barbecue, Round Top for antiques, Fredericksburg for wine and peaches, Bandera for cowboy culture.