Best place for lunch with your sweetie -- The Guenther House at Pioneer Flour Mill in San Antonio has great food, beautiful grounds along the San Antonio River, a museum, and a gift shop. This isn't your ordinary River Walk experience. 205 E. Guenther St., 210/227-1061.
Best billboard for God -- Cross of the Plains is the largest cross in the western hemisphere according to its builder, Steve Thomas. The 19-story cross is located on I-40 in Groom, 40 miles east of Amarillo.
Best stuffed jalapeños -- Snoopy's, on the JFK Causeway going to Padre Island from Corpus Christi, stuffs the peppers with crab meat and can't be beat (but I'm still looking). 512/949-8815.
Best gift shop -- McDonald Observatory gift shop helps to support the educational activities at the West Texas observatory as well as providing souvenirs that are beyond the ordinary. 915/426-3640.
Best highbrow bargain -- Shakespeare at Winedale, for $5, presents the ancient bard's scenes with a new twist in an old barn outside of Round Top. The new fans help lower the summer temperature to a tolerable level, making this an enjoyable way to spend a weekend night between mid-July and mid-August. 409/278-3530.
Best visitor center -- The Langtry information center off US90 operated by the highway department is an oasis on the long drive across the desert of West Texas. Not only do they hand out free information (and litter bags), they also have a desert garden display and Judge Roy Bean's saloon. 800/452-9292.
Best use of a Dairy Queen -- Prima Pasta in Fort Worth turned an empty Dairy Queen into a family-run, neighborhood Italian restaurant that serves great pasta at great prices. On weekends the pasteria at 6108 S. Hulen St. is packed with families and couples on first dates. 817/263-7711.
Best novelty T-shirts -- Jimmie Dean fans round out their wardrobes with T-shirts from Marfa picturing Dean sitting in front of the house that once stood outside of town on the front and a smiling Dean on the back. $20 from El Pasiano Hotel, 915/729-3145.
Coming up this weekend...
Kolache Festival in downtown Caldwell celebrates the Czech heritage of the area with treats and music, Sept. 14. 409/567-3218.
Diez y Seis de Septiembre, Mexico's Independence Day, is honored at La Villita in San Antonio, Sept. 13-15. 210/270-8700.
Shrimporee is a crustacean lover's paradise in Aransas Pass with lots of fun and food, Sept. 13-15. 800/633-3028.
Bob Marley Festival in Lubbock presents a lineup of reggae, blues, zydeco, and hip-hop music for a donation to the local food bank, Sept. 14 & 15. 806/747-4734.
Texas Coastal Cleanup invites volunteers to scour the beaches from Orange to Cameron counties, Sept. 21. 800-85-BEACH.
Louisiana Native & Contemporary Crafts Festival in Lafayette shows a side of Bayou State culture you might not see during Mardi Gras, Sept. 21-22. 318/268-5544.