Day Trips & Beyond: Daytripping in the Age of a Pandemic

Stay home, stay safe, and still scratch that travel itch

Bluebonnet season is in full swing, and while a scenic drive might improve your mental health, it goes against the statewide ban on nonessential travel. A little daytripping may not seem like much to ask, but it's better to stay home at this time. For now, here's some COVID-19 state updates and ways to take a trip without leaving the house.

Around the State

The San Jacinto Museum and Monument are among the Texas Historical Commission properties that are closed until further notice. All THC sites are closed to the public as of April 7. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on March 31 implementing Essential Services and Activities Protocols for the entire state of Texas. This executive order allows physical activity like going on walks, jogging, or bicycling, so long as the necessary precautions are maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and to minimize person-to-person contact. On April 7, Gov. Abbott directed the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Historical Commission to close all parks and historic sites until further notice. Go to for park information and for updates on historic site availability and other resources as the situation continues to develop.

The Spring Wine and Wildflower Journey sponsored by Texas Hill Country Wineries has been canceled. The participating wineries are looking forward to the Summer Wine Journey from July 31 to August 16 with their fingers crossed. The 17-day self-guided tour of 52 Hill Country wineries provides complimentary tastings and discounts at $65 for couples and $45 for individuals. Until further notice all of the Hill Country wineries have closed their tasting rooms, but many are offering curbside to-go service and free delivery.

Scarborough Renaissance Festival has entertained folks annually on the outskirts of Waxahachie since 1981. In response to the coronavirus they first delayed the opening of the six-week renaissance fair until May 2. Now they have canceled the 2020 season completely.

The Bunkhouse Group announced the temporary closure of Hotel San José and the Austin Motel in Austin, Hotel Havana in San Antonio, El Cosmico in Marfa, and Hotel San Cristóbal in Baja. Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin and the Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco remain open for essential travelers and those in need of a space to distance. “We’re here, and we’ll leave the light on for you,” the April 2 announcement said.

On April 3, the National Park Service announced that Big Bend National Park and Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River will be closed to all visitors until further notice. No entry will be allowed into the park, except to employees, residents, and other authorized persons. Through traffic will be prohibited, as will travel on Terlingua Ranch Road within park boundaries.

Take a (Virtual) Day Trip

The second season of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s podcast, Under the Texas Sky, has begun just in time to help relieve your-shelter-in-place-order blues. The podcast brings the great outdoors to listeners through the experiences of everyday people, as well as experts inside and outside of the agency. Episodes this season feature a tutorial on turkey calling, women in conservation (including a game warden and U.S. park ranger), and an update on horned lizard restoration efforts. Season 1 is still available at the website, or find it on popular podcast platforms.

Visit the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s online exhibitions or take a virtual tour of Renzi, Bayou Bend, or the museum.

Take a day trip without leaving the farm (or your living room) with new videos from Marble Falls. Take a 14-minute sunset ride on a paddleboard on Lake Marble Falls or admire the bluebonnets.

Sit back and relax to the sounds of the Rio Frio. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Close your eyes and listen to the sound of the Frio River at Garner State Park.

Located in downtown Shreveport, the Robinson Film Center is temporarily closed, but has created a virtual program that educates, enriches, and entertains viewers through the power of film. These virtual programs include recommended films that can be streamed through a subscription or rental service, as well as interactive activities, such as open discussion forums, simple recipes, and more. The programs are updated weekly.

Step inside the Gerald R. Ford Museum and take a virtual tour with museum curator Don Holloway. Walk through the Core Exhibits, and learn about Gerald R. Ford’s childhood and early years in Grand Rapids. Continue the tour as the curator explains how Ford’s time as a student at the University of Michigan helped shape the man who becomes a congressman, vice president, and, eventually, president. The tour concludes with the final gallery honoring the funeral services of both President and Mrs. Ford.

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 over 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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