Day Trips & Beyond: Stay Trips

Daytripping in the age of stay-at-home orders

Texas is slowly beginning to reopen this weekend, but staying home when possible is still advised. Here are some travel news updates and ideas for virtual travel while we are still sheltering.

One of the most spectacular natural events in Texas, the evening bat emergences from Bracken Cave is now available online live. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Bracken Cave north of San Antonio is home to the world’s largest maternity colony of bats. When the more than 15 million Mexican free-tail bats emerge from the cave around sunset, the wave is so large it can appear on weather radar. In ordinary times you must be a member of Bat Conservation International to visit the cave when the bats come out to go hunting for a meal of bugs. Now you can watch the evening emergence live from the comfort of your home.

In the open-and-closed that has been the gates at Texas State Parks lately, the parks reopened on Monday, April 20, albeit with a few caveats. New restrictions include requiring visitors to wear face coverings, maintain a six-foot distance from individuals outside of their party, and no gathering of groups larger than five. All buildings will continue to be closed to the public. Visitors should bring their own water and sanitizer. Not all state parks are open; park visitors should check the Texas State Parks Alert Map for the latest information about the status of individual parks. The resumption of overnight camping will be announced to the public once a date has been determined. Visitors are required to pre-purchase and print day-use permits through the Texas State Parks Reservation System or by calling 512/389-8900.

The San Antonio Office of Preservation has opened a museum without walls. The website has a series of short stories about The Alamo City’s colorful heritage. So far the tales include The Donkey Lady, a recipe for a local culinary favorite, the history of cascarones, and the meaning of Living Heritage. New topics are posted regularly.

Luminaria has made the decision to cancel the 2020 Contemporary Arts Festival, originally scheduled for November 14, at Hemisfair in San Antonio. One of the coolest parties in the Alamo City, the festival mixes light, music, and art for an experience that dazzles and entertains. Luminaria and the City of San Antonio Department of Arts & Culture have created the Corona Arts Relief program, which provides technical and professional development support for individual Bexar County artists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a corner of Fair Park in Dallas, the Texas Discovery Gardens is home to beautiful plants, fountains, and a Butterfly House. Temporarily closed because of the pandemic, the gardens have gone online. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Getting out into the garden is a welcome break from the four walls of sheltering in place. Going to the Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park in Dallas is always an extra treat. While it’s closed due to the pandemic, you can visit virtually. Updated weekly, the series of short videos cover things like butterflies and camouflaged insects.

The folks at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival have announced that the 50-year-old music and food festival will not happen this year. In a statement, the organizers said: “With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to evolve unpredictably—and out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our community, including musicians, fans, participants, and staff—Jazz Fest 2020 will not occur this fall, as previously announced.” You can catch archived Jazz Fest performances on what would have been the last weekend of Jazz Fest online as New Orleans public radio station WWOZ presents “Jazz Festing in Place,” April 30 to May 3 from 11am to 7pm.

In what seems to have become a trend around the country caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Louisville TrifestaHometown Rising, Louder Than Life, and Bourbon & Beyond festivals—scheduled for Sept. 12-27 in Louisville, Ky., is canceled for this year. In just its second year, the three weekends of music brought international as well as local artists to the stage.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating effect on the world economy and the retail and leisure and hospitality industries are particularly hard-hit, according to Volusion, a company that tracks employment trends. More than one-fifth of U.S. workers were employed in either retail trade or leisure and hospitality in 2019, totaling over 32 million people. The coronavirus pandemic has led to an unprecedented economic shutdown as thousands of “nonessential” businesses have closed their doors. The crisis disproportionately affects the 21.3% of American workers in retail and leisure and hospitality who not only face lack of work, but also suffer from longstanding below-average wages. In the Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown metropolitan area, 21.9% of the workforce is in these sectors, making the area the 15th most impacted during the coronavirus pandemic among all large U.S. metro areas.

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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More by Gerald E. McLeod
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COVID-19, coronavirus, Stay Trips, travel, Texas State Parks

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