Image courtesy Basecamp Terlingua
And the Things You Can Do While You’re Awake
By Ria Nicholas
When planning a romantic escape, Texas may not be the first state to come to mind. But, while Texas doesn’t have the reputation of Paris or Venice when it comes to l’amour, the state does lay claim to everything bigger and better – and that includes its diversity of love nests. Here is a brief introduction to 10 of the Lone Star State’s dreamiest accommodations:
1. A SPACE BUBBLE IN TERLINGUA
For an experience that’s truly out of this world, you’ll want to touch down at Basecamp Terlingua. Of course you’ll have to pass through an airlock to access your transparent module. But air conditioning, a queen bed, coffee maker, mini-fridge, and indoor bathroom – no, that part isn’t see-through – propel you into a comfortable orbit. Why on Earth would you want to stay in a transparent bubble? Because the remote location of these otherworldly accommodations rewards you with some of the best stargazing in the lower 48! By day, you’ll encounter the rugged romance of the desert and survey the hardscrabble landscape of the Chisos Mountains. But by night, you’ll launch into the cosmos from the comfort of your bed to pluck a falling star from the bedazzled arc of the Milky Way.
To check availability, preview the details of your experience, and book your stay, go to Basecamp Terlingua. (Basecamp Terlingua donates a portion of revenues to Sierra Club, World Wildlife Federation, and the Wounded Warrior Project monthly.)
Things To Do Around Terlingua:
Known as ‘Ghost Town Texas’ ever since the Chisos Mines went bust, the silent ruins of the old mine town await you. Watch out for rattlers as you ramble through them, then head into the ‘new’ town for dinner and a show at the Starlight Theatre Restaurant and Saloon. You might want to order the chili. Terlingua, the universally acknowledged chili capital of the world, even holds two competing chili cook-offs the first weekend in November. And of course nearby Big Bend National Park offers up some the West’s most scenic drives and incredible day hikes. For the more adventurous traveler, take a raft trip through one of Big Bend’s spectacular canyons.
2. A BOAT AND BREAKFAST IN KEMAH
There’s something crisp and upbeat about a marina. Gleaming white boats lined up in neat rows. Cleansing breezes and snapping canvas. The expectancy of pending adventure. Even if you’re a total landlubber, you can sense it: the proverbial call of the sea.
Fortunately, you don’t need sailing experience to enjoy a night on the water aboard a sailboat. Unless you choose to combine your stay with a chartered day cruise, your vessel will remain safely moored to a dock at the marina. Below deck, prepare a dinner for two in a fully equipped galley, then relax in the cabin with a margarita, or head topside to bask in the warm salt-sea air, the cacophony of gulls, and the last sprightly rays of sunlight dancing on the water. Later, get nautical as you and your first mate retire to your berth and drift off to sleep to the gentle rocking of the waves.
Book your stay online with South Coast Sailing Adventures or call (281) 334-4606.
Things To Do In Kemah:
Founded in 1898, Kemah is located halfway between Houston and Galveston, both of which offer more dining and entertainment options than can be recounted here. You won’t need to stray far from your lodgings to stroll the Kemah Boardwalk, a year-round amusement park, dubbed “Houston’s Coney Island.” Located right on the waters of Galveston Bay, roller coasters, Ferris wheels, carousels, and other rides compete for your attention with a variety of shops and eateries. Or head to the center of town, to the Lighthouse District, to wander through boutiques and galleries or take a horse-drawn carriage ride.
3. A TRAIN CAR IN FREDERICKSBURG
Imagine the relaxed pace and genteel ambiance of a vintage 1894 Pullman Palace Train Car built to transport wealthy businessmen and heads of state in luxury and comfort. Now permanently tied down away from the main-line in Fredericksburg, it beckons you to book a romantic sojourn aboard. Lounge together in the wood-paneled drawing room, prepare a snack in the stainless steel galley, or soak in a claw-footed tub with a flute of champagne before making your way to the ‘presidential suite,’ once occupied by President Theodore Roosevelt. Isn’t it time to finally check your baggage, make that connection, and get your relationship back on the right track?
Things To Do In Fredericksburg:
Fredericksburg, founded by German settlers in 1846 and originally called Friedrichsburg, is steeped in German heritage. No trip there would be complete without dining at one of the local Biergartens. But if beer isn’t your beverage for this romantic occasion, you can pop the cork on more than a dozen tour companies that stand ready to whisk you away to the tasting rooms of some of the Hill Country’s finest wineries. Browse Fredericksburg’s many boutiques and galleries, or if nature is your muse, hike to the top of nearby Enchanted Rock. Then cap off the day – Texas style – with a steak, live music, and some boot-stompin’ fun at Crossroads Saloon & Steakhouse. Is it any wonder that CNN Travel listed Fredericksburg among “6 of America’s most romantic small towns?”
4. A CANOPY TREE HOUSE IN SPICEWOOD
Sshh! Was that an owl? Hark to the sounds of the night as you nestle into bed high up in the canopy of an old-growth cypress tree that sways above a spring-fed ravine. Let the lullaby of katydids soothe you to sleep and the chirping of birds rouse you at dawn. Sip your morning cup of joe as you survey your surroundings from the dappled shade of your wooden perch, and cross to and from your personal tree house via a suspension bridge.
Check for availability and book your stay at Cypress Valley Canopy Tours or call (512) 264-8880.
Things To Do In Spicewood:
When you are ready to hit the ground, head over to the Stone House Vineyard, a limestone winery situated on a bluff overlooking the crystalline waters of Lake Travis. You can select from several wine tasting options, accompanied, if you like, with one of their light fare platters. Feeling even more down to earth? Head to Opie’s Barbecue instead. Opie’s, once featured in Texas Monthly, is located in a big metal shed with a gravel parking lot and pit cookers out front. But the aroma will make you want to slap your momma. And, since Spicewood is home to Willie Nelson, you just might spy the ‘red-headed stranger’ out on the road again.
5. A CABIN AT A CANYON – PALO DURO, THAT IS
Clinging to the rim of the second largest canyon system in the United States, three primitive-looking stone cabins resemble druid shrines more than they do guest lodgings. Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, they stand vigil over a dramatic carved and layered landscape at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Under the seemingly random piles of rocks you’ll find simple yet comfortable furnishings – a queen size bed, microwave, coffee maker, mini-fridge and three-piece bath. Outside, fire up the grill and set the picnic table for two. Here you’ll find what you really came for: the view! As the sun sinks toward the horizon, the canyon’s colorful ribbons of rock begin to glow in vibrant shades of pink, lavender, and gold. After dark, follow the constellations across the sky or cozy up in front of the fireplace.
Check rates and availability, and book your reservation at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
Things To Do At Palo Duro Canyon:
The cabins are 90 years old. Palo Duro Canyon’s colorful striations, however, represent 230 million years of geologic history. View them from the vantage point of your saddle on a guided horseback trail ride from Old West Stables, located farther north in the canyon. If you are visiting in June to August, take in a BBQ chuck wagon dinner and a show – song, dance, humor, special effects, and fireworks – that tells the history of Panhandle settlers, at the Pioneer Amphitheater, an outdoor venue nestled at the base of the canyon.
6. A HAUNTED HOTEL IN RIO GRANDE CITY
Both guests and staff at this brooding Victorian hotel have reported paranormal activity, including footsteps, unexplained children’s laughter, and even full apparitions. This inn, built in the 1890s in accord with actual Parisian architectural plans, hides a tragic past. Its history runs heavy with stories of girls who drowned in a well on the premises, rumors of prostitution, and the apparent suicide of the owner, Francois LaBorde. Today, the hotel welcomes guests with its fully restored splendor, boasting period correct antique furnishings and intricately corbelled brickwork. A hand-carved lion gargoyle stands guard at the interior courtyard fountain. Strangely, LaBorde House also hides a dank and mysterious underground tunnel. Sweet dreams!
Book a sleepless night at LaBorde House visit their Facebook page or call (956) 487-5101.
Things To Do In The Rio Grande Valley:
Spread out over approximately 120 miles from Rio Grande City to the coast, the unique habitats of the lower Rio Grande Valley offer many ways to connect with nature and wildlife. Destinations worth mentioning include the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.
Hundreds of species of birds live in, or pass through, the area, making it a mecca for birders. If you prefer more structure, you’ll find the 26-acre Gladys Porter Zoo, with its various interactive experiences, in Brownsville.
While in the area, make a reservation to visit the historic 1852 Port Isabel Lighthouse, then cross over the causeway to South Padre Island to take a romantic stroll on the beach.
7. A SILVER EGG IN WIMBERLEY
You’ll flip your lid over these groovy digs in whimsical Wimberley. Set along the banks of Smith Creek, the adventure of camping, the charm of a bygone era, and the comfort of a real bed converge in a shiny silver ‘egg.’ In addition to glamping in a completely renovated vintage “Daisy” Airstream, you can freshen up under the elms in a private outdoor shower for two or meander down to the creek as you explore the 10 acre property. Later, throw a shrimp on the barbie and dine al fresco on the wooden deck. You’ll have it made in the shade in this natural setting, relaxing in the hot tub. Then turn on the string lights and roast marshmallows by the fire pit, knowing that a cozy bed awaits when you are ready.
Book your stay through Vacation Wimberley.
Things To Do In Wimberley:
After emerging from your ‘egg,’ wander Wimberley Square, and duck into eclectic shops, such as “Kiss the Cook,” “Shop the Treehouse,” or “Pickle Street Boutique.” Then savor contemporary dining with a Texas flair at the Leaning Pear, where fresh seasonal and local food is served in an idyllic hill country setting. Later, head to the Rocky River Ranch to catch a flick. Established in the 1940s, the Corral Theatre, Wimberley’s unique walk-in outdoor movie theater, still offers first run movies at an affordable (cash only) price. Watch the stars on the screen under the stars in the sky! Movies begin at dark on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Come early to snag a chair, or bring your own.
8. A SAFARI RANCH IN TARPLEY
Limestone blocks, rough hewn cedar, and abundant wildlife on 500 spectacular acres of Hill Country canyons – nothing could better embody the spirit of Texas. Anchored by a 4,000 square foot log cabin lodge, the 7 Canyons Ranch also offers secluded and more modest accommodations for your private couple’s retreat. Vintage Western or cowhide furniture, rough clapboard cabinetry, antler fixtures, and touches of corrugated metal provide all the comforts of home while reminding you that you’re in cowboy country. Expansive covered porches, with their inevitable rockers, invite you to relax. Bring your binoculars to see how many species of birds you can identify, or head to the High Tower in the late evening to spot elk, bison, or zebra. After your safari, ease into that porch rocker, kick off your boots, and sit back while the sun sets over the distant hills.
To peruse available amenities and book your stay, contact 7 Canyons Ranch.
Things To Do Near Tarpley:
With a population of about 30 permanent residents, you would think there isn’t anything to do in Tarpley. You’d be wrong. Begin by nurturing your inner cowboy with a trail ride at the Cross G Ranch in nearby Bandera. They will select your specially trained horse and saddle based on your level of experience, then train you as well. Happy trails! And once you have worked up a sweat, plunge into the cold and crystal clear waters of the Medina River. The Medina River Company offers tube and kayak rentals and shuttle service.
By then you will have worked up an appetite. Mac and Ernie’s Roadside Eatery caught the attention of the Food Network, where their unique cuisine was featured in the premier episode of ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ with Guy Fieri. The diner also appeared on ‘Bizarre Foods‘ with Andrew Zimmern on The Travel Channel. Go for dinner (5 pm to 9 pm) to try some of their more unusual fare: Chicken Kebab with Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce or Ancho Chili Honey Basted Quail, for example. Bon appetit!
9. THE SLAMMER IN CLIFTON
Stark white-washed cinder block walls and iron bars may not sound arresting, but for a fine you and a cell mate can stay in solitary confinement at The Cell Block, a real 1930s jail in Clifton, Texas.
Images courtesy The Cell Block
The cell is simply furnished, of course. No TV. But this isn’t cruel and unusual. You will have records – vinyl that is – to entertain you. You can listen to such classics as ‘Folsom Prison’ or ‘Back on the Chain Gang.’ With the railroad only a couple of blocks away, you can even hear the train a comin’. And, in remembrance of all those who once slept off a bender here, there are complimentary libations in the form of a private label: The Cell Block’s Tempranillo wine. Liberate a drop or two while you plot your game of dominoes using an inlaid, handcrafted wooden set. Or steal away to the ‘Prison Yard’ on the rooftop deck and do some time observing Clifton’s Art Alley, a transformational space where positive street art is encouraged and supported.
Things To Do In Clifton:
What sorts of get-away cars were the usual suspects driving in the years since The Cell Block was built? Visit the Clifton Classic Chassis Auto Museum most weekends to peruse their collection of classic cars from the 1940s through the 1980s. While in the museum mood, explore the Bosque Arts Center, housed in an unassuming brick building, the sole surviving structure of the former Clifton Lutheran College that was destroyed by fire in 1925. Or you might relish a play or musical at the Tin Building Theatre, an annex of the Arts Center. With luck, you’ll catch one of their main stage shows, complete with a dinner performance.
10. A 1700s SPANISH FORT IN GOLIAD
Presidio La Bahia is steeped in history dating from its construction at Goliad in 1747. The oldest standing fort west of the Mississippi, it played a key role in Spanish colonialism, the American Revolution, and in the first and second Texas Revolutions. Notably it was the unfortunate sight of the ignominious Goliad Massacre on the heels of Colonel Fannin’s defeat at Coleto. Here Santa Ana ordered the execution of all prisoners of war. The rich and haunting history of the Presidio envelops you when you book a stay at The Quarters, the one-time apartments of the fort’s officers. Within the impenetrable stone walls, you will have two bedrooms, a great room with fireplace, a kitchen, and a bathroom with shower at your disposal. After-hours, you may access the Presidio’s inner courtyard and wander among the ghosts of her past as you have this historic Spanish Colonial Mission all to yourself.
To enlist for a night or two at the fort, contact The Quarters here.
Things To Do In Goliad:
Presidio La Bahia was a military fort built to protect the Mission of Nuestra Señora del Espiritu Santo de Zuniga as part of Spain’s colonial expansion into Texas. Be sure to tour the chapel of the restored and whitewashed Franciscan mission, located across the river from La Bahia, in Goliad State Park and Historic Site. Then walk south on the Angel of Goliad Trail to explore the birthplace of General Ignacio Zaragoza, who defeated the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 and who is honored in the celebration of Cinco de Mayo. Just east of La Bahia, you can visit the Fannin Memorial Monument, which marks the common burial site of Colonel Fannin and his men.
Goliad is also just a 1 hour 10 minute drive from Corpus Christi, which offers miles of sun-drenched beaches, tours of the USS Lexington aircraft carrier, and the Texas State Aquarium, among other attractions.
Texas is vast and varied. It encompasses beaches and swamps, hills and prairies, deserts and mountains. Spanish, Mexican, French, German, English and Native American cultures have all left their mark on the land and have produced an incredible array of wildly different and romantic destinations to revive your spirit and your relationship. Come visit, y’all.