Day Trips & Beyond: Out of Town Closures Due to COVID-19

Here are the latest updates

With the rapidly changing situation caused by the COVID-19/coronavirus, events around the state are canceled or postponed, and travel is not advised. Here is a partial list of travel activities affected by the pandemic announced in the last few days.

The governor has issued statewide executive orders limiting the size of gatherings and other safety measures in effect until April 3. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Statewide

In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Greg Abbott on March 19 issued executive orders limiting public gatherings to no more than 10 people, closing schools, prohibiting drinking in bars, limiting restaurants to take-out only, and banning visits to nursing homes. The executive orders do not prohibit people from visiting grocery stores, gas stations, parks, and banks. All critical infrastructure will remain operational and domestic travel remains unrestricted. The bans will be in place until April 3.

Texas State Parks is limiting park programming and closing public access to park headquarters, visitor centers, and park stores beginning March 19. Check the alert map for parks that are closed to visitors. As part of these operational changes, parks will suspend all cash transactions where feasible. Visitors are encouraged to utilize the self-pay stations, the online reservation system, and credit card transactions. Other reduced services include the suspension of equipment rentals and interpretive programs. These changes will remain in effect until further notice. The public is encouraged to follow the department’s social media accounts and monitor its website for the most up to date information.

All Texas Historical Commission visitor centers and historic buildings at its 31 State Historic Sites are closed until further notice. The grounds and open spaces at many sites will remain open for visitors free of charge and interpretive materials will be available at select sites.

Visitor centers at Lower Colorado River Authority Parks are closed and organized group activities have been canceled. On March 23 all LCRA-managed parks will be closed until further notice. All reservations through April 20 will be canceled for a full refund. These changes affect LCRA-managed parks only and do not apply to parks that are owned by LCRA and managed by third parties.

Austin area

Liz Lambert’s chain of cool hotels has announced the creation of the Bunkhouse Employee Relief Fund. This fund, seeded by the leadership team at Bunkhouse for the benefit of team members who have lost shifts or jobs due to the effect of the coronavirus. They’ve also created a special retail collection for the Bunkhouse Employee Relief Fund, including a new Don't Break Your Tenderness Tee. 100% of the profits of these items benefit the fund. The money will help those affected most and who are struggling to maintain basic human needs including health insurance, groceries, medicine, diapers, and shelter.

Wildseed Farms Market outside of Fredericksburg is closed at least to April 3. It will reopen according to future state guidelines. Online and phone sales are still being accepted.

Dallas area

EarthX in partnership with the National Geographic Society will host its Earthx2020 Conferences and Film Festival virtually from April 23-25 and into May while some events will be moved to the fall. The EarthX EXPO in Dallas has been canceled. The 50th Earth Day Celebration will be livestreamed on April 22. The virtual experience will be layered with EarthxFilm Festival programming of select 2020 films, which will then present its physical Film Festival in the fall along with the EarthxGlobalGala and the world premiere of The Way of the Rain – Hope For Earth, directed by Sibylle Szaggars Redford with narration by Robert Redford.

Houston area

The City of Galveston enacted limits on the size of planned gatherings until June 1. The city will not permit gatherings of 50 or more people through May. The announcement in effect cancels FeatherFest, a major bird-watching event planned for April 16-19, as well as more than a dozen other events. It even affects weddings and funerals. The order does not affect restaurants and bars which are under a statewide order until April 3.

The San Jacinto Museum of History in La Porte is closed indefinitely. The San Jacinto Day Festival scheduled for April 18 has been canceled.

San Antonio area

The 49th celebration of the Kerrville Folk Festival originally scheduled for May will be held at Quiet Valley Ranch Oct. 8-18. This replaces Welcome Home Fest, which will not be held in 2020.

South Texas

The City of South Padre Island has banned gatherings of more than 10 people. Events originally planned through May are postponed or canceled.

Nationwide

Tennessee distilleries announced that they are banding together to pivot operations from whiskey-making and repurposing the alcohol for hand sanitizer and surface cleaner production in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Distilleries have suspended tours, canceled large events, and ceased production in order to minimize the risk to employees and guests.

During the current public health emergency, whenever possible, outdoor recreation sites at national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries events may be canceled. More information can be found at the FWS Coronavirus Response page. Please check individual refuge or hatchery websites for the latest information.

Monarch butterflies are the only insect that migrates each year. Depending on weather, the spring migration happens between March and June. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

While you’re waiting

It’s monarch butterfly migration season. While this year’s migration has been smaller than last year, it is still significant. Monarch Watch has an informative website on the traveling butterflies. Texas is an important link on the migration route as the orange and black butterflies make their way from their winter home in Mexico to summer vacation in Canada.

The LBJ Presidential Library on the UT campus is closed until further notice, as are all presidential libraries. The library is offering virtual tours of past exhibits on its website and recorded conversations with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, sports journalist Jemele Hill, and Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The library’s YouTube channel has hours of archival video including Lady Bird Johnson’s home videos.

While you’re waiting for the pandemic to recede you can take several (virtual) day trips at earthsky.org. The award-winning, Austin-based radio program and website covers all things about earth and space. Not only can you discover something new at the website, but you can watch adorable penguin videos.

It may be dark within the walls of DallasPerot Museum of Nature and Science during its temporary closure, but its “lights on” for learning as the museum launches Amaze Your Brain at Home!, a rotating wealth of brain-pleasing fun that will be provided over the weeks to come. The museum has developed engaging ways for all ages to explore nature and science at home, in backyards, or outdoors, using common household objects and supplies.

Dallas Parks and Recreation Department has launched Rec@Home, a weekly video series that highlights fitness for families and senior adults, and children’s easy-to-make crafts and snacks. The public can view the videos on the department’s website and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using DallasParkRec.

The City of Panama Beach, Fla., has closed its 27 miles of white sand beaches for 60 days effective March 20. Still want to visit the Florida beach? Check out the 19 live webcams of the seaside town.


Gerald McLeod has been traveling around Texas and beyond for his "Day Trips" column for more than 25 years. Keep up to date with his journeys on his archive page.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Day Trips, COVID-19, coronavirus

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