The best day trips are the ones in the planning stages. Here are a few gems to consider.
The best day trips are the ones in the planning stages. Nothing could be better than the hopes and dreams of the next trip. Nobody plans for failure. That doesn't mean that every trip has to be the trip of a lifetime, but every journey should begin with the best of intentions.
You might argue with me about what is the best in Texas, but you just might agree that these are some of the best gems in the Lone Star State.
The best lunch counter: The open-face, roast beef sandwich at the Paris Coffee Shop south of downtown Fort Worth comes smothered in brown gravy and served with mashed potatoes and sweet peas. As if that wasn't enough, this diner has meringue pies like your grandmother wished she could make. Opened in 1926 by Vic Paris, the tradition has been carried on by the Smith family since 1930. 704 W. Magnolia Ave. at Hemphill Street, 817/335-2041.
Best new old dance hall: Houstonian Dana Harper reopened the 1890s Sengelmann Hall in Schulenburg as a restaurant, saloon, bakery, and music venue. The food is a mixture of German and Czech cuisines, the drinks are cold, the baked goods are fresh, and the music is eclectic. The biggest downside is that it is only open in the evenings Thursday through Saturday (on Sundays the restaurant closes at 3pm). Sunday afternoons are a great time to check out the music in the biergarten. 531 N. Main St., 979/743-2300.
Best dance hall with a gas pump: Willie's Place at Carl's Corner on Interstate 35E is open again after a brief respite and is better than ever. With a little help from his friend Willie Nelson, Carl Cornelius has spruced up his truck stop seven miles north of Hillsboro and added a music hall, a radio studio, and BioWillie diesel at the pump. It still has a great selection of kitschy souvenirs.
Best free show: Watching 100 baby sea turtles make a dash for the waves at Padre Island National Seashore ranks up there with the greatest migrations in nature, even if it is aided by the park rangers. Mark your calendar to call the Hatchling Hotline (361/949-7163) in July and August to plan your trip to the Texas coast.
Best Sunday drive: The Willow City Loop showcases all of the features of the Texas Hill Country, from heavily wooded creek bottoms to peaks that offer scenic views of the landscape. The 22-mile route begins north of Fredericksburg on FM 1323 and loops around back to TX 16. This road isn't just for wildflower viewing anymore.
Best place to get a jump on life: Even if you don't know the difference between a half-pipe and a drainage ditch, you will enjoy watching the skateboarders do their tricks at the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark in Houston. One of the Top 10 skate parks in the country, the park is off Memorial Drive at Sabine Street. Cowabunga, dude.
948th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips" 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.