As I continue thinking forward to our move to Arkansas, I feel the need to share some of my favorite things about the great state of Texas — in no particular order (because that would just be too hard!). So here goes:
- Blue Bell ice cream. With so many varieties, Blue Bell is a favorite of many folks in the Lone Star state. With their home in Brenham, TX, the Blue Bell company pride themselves on still providing a full half gallon. And just so you know, my favorite flavors are Dutch Chocolate, Banana Pudding, Key Lime Pie, and Strawberries & Homemade Vanilla. (OK, I’ll stop now.)
- Downtown Fort Worth. Having lived in Fort Worth two different times, I have always loved the laid-back feel of this urban ‘cow town.’ There’s just something magical though about the downtown area at night — and particularly at Christmastime. Sundance Square offers lots of fun. Whether your pleasure is catching a movie, fine dining, enjoying a performance at Bass Hall — or just strolling along the Trinity River, Fort Worth is definitely worth a visit.
- Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort. Nestled in New Braunfels, Schlitterbahn is the country’s largest water park. A great Schlitterbahn experience definitely requires two full days. And whatever you do, don’t forget the sunscreen!
- Mexican Food. I absolutely LOVE good Mexican food. And nobody does it like Texas! If it weren’t so bad for me, I’d eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A dinner party at my house often consists of home-grilled chicken and steak fajitas, charro beans, Mexican rice, fluffy flour tortillas, and fresh homemade salsa. But if you’re passing through Texas and want to check out some good restaurants, I suggest Pappasito’s Mexican Cantina, Uncle Julio’s, and J.T. Garcias. If you like a southwestern-style twist, check out Blue Mesa Grill. They have the best sweet potato chips!
- Wildflowers. Texas is known for its spectacular array of wildflowers that canvass the countryside each spring. Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady, was a driving force behind the preservation and proliferation of the Texas wildflower population. (Click here to visit the center that bears her name.) Of course, the state weed flower is the bluebonnet — and it, along with the indian paintbrush, can create quite a tango of color, particularly in south Texas and the hill country. Best time to catch ’em is mid-April to early May.
- Texas Rangers’ Baseball. Now I wouldn’t classify myself as a sports nut, by any stretch. But I thoroughly enjoy taking in a Rangers’ ballgame. The Arlington stadium is such a great place. And the smell of hotdogs and fresh-roasted peanuts gets me every time! If you’re ever in the area on the Fourth of July, make sure you have tickets to the home game. The Rangers’ July Fourth fireworks show is an incredible family-friendly experience. And every seat is a great seat!
- Taste of Kilgore. I spent a couple years in this quaint little east Texas town, which features the World’s Richest Acre (aptly named for the onset of the oil boom). Like so many other cities, Kilgore hosts a sampling of its restaurants and caterers each spring. There’s just something about sitting along the railroad tracks, underneath the towering oil derricks, that seems to draw the community together. This event for me was not so much about the food (although clearly I enjoy that too); it’s about the relationships.
- Austin. While the political climate in Austin is way too liberal for my liking, I must admit that it is a great place to visit. The area is known for its incredible biking terrain, lake venues, and country music. Of course, with my in-laws living there, Austin is just a great place to relax and get away from it all. Oh, and head downtown for a good dessert, if time allows! Michelle and I were married in Austin, so that city will always hold a special attachment for us.
- The Texas Flag. Let’s face it: No state — and I do mean no state — has a cooler flag than that of the Lone Star State. The single white star demands attention. It personifies boldness, independence, and confidence. I will always feel a tinge of pride any time I see the Texas flag, knowing that for 14 years Texas was my home.
- Winter Weather. Now I know what you’re probably thinking. “There’s not much winter weather in Texas.” And for the most part, that’s true (unless you’re talking about the panhandle — but that’s kinda like a whole other country out there.) It’s not the amount of winter weather that’s so fascinating to me. Rather, it’s the news coverage and forecasting that absolutely cracks me up every year. Now granted, winter weather is difficult to forecast, especially in areas where the layers of atmosphere can vary so widely temperature-wise. But, still, it’s the all-day media marathons, complete with slipping, sliding reporters and beyond-babbling anchors that I’m going to miss most. Of course, maybe they’re like that in Arkansas too. . .guess time will tell.
So there you have it, 10 of my very favorite things about Texas. If you’re from Texas, I’d love to hear your favorite things.