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

Statewide updates since Gov. Abbott's "Open Texas" order

Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen Texas allows the state stay-at-home order issued on March 31 to expire and permits some businesses — like retail stores, restaurants, movie theatres, and malls — to open as early as May 1 under new guidelines.

Beaches from Galveston to South Padre Island were packed on the first weekend after the state stay-at-home order was relaxed. Parks were likewise inundated with Texans anxious for a little sunshine and fresh air. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Public museums and libraries must have permission from their local government to reopen. Once up and running, museums, and libraries can only allow 25% capacity and must close interactive areas, like exhibits and play areas. Capacity jumps to 50% in rural counties with five or less confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. A second wave of openings and looser restrictions that will include barbershops, hair salons, bars, and gyms could go into effect as early as May 18, as long as the state sees “two weeks of data to confirm no flare-up of COVID-19.” The executive order eliminates the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for individuals traveling from Louisiana.

All Cameron County parks and boat ramps around Brownsville are open from 7am to 7pm. For Cameron County coastal parks, Andy Bowie Park, E.K. Atwood Park and Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island, people must be at least 6 feet away from each other, or 10 feet away if they are under an umbrella or canopy. Face coverings are required for everyone on the beach, unless they are in the water.

Galveston’s 32 miles of beach parks and several tourist attractions have reopened to the public following the lifting of stay-at-home orders. The parks – including East Beach, Stewart Beach, Dellanera RV Park, and Seawall beaches have reopened. Galveston Island Beach Patrol and the Galveston Police Department will actively enforce social-distancing mandates at the beach. Parking fees will apply at Stewart and East beaches and along the Seawall beaches. Parking is $15 per car at the beach parks and $1 per hour along the Seawall. Amenities will be open to the public at these locations. Larger attractions including Moody Gardens, Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, and Schlitterbahn Galveston Waterpark remain closed until further notice. For updated information on hotels, shops, and restaurants, visit

The Galveston Historical Foundation has reopened the 1892 Bishop’s Palace, 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA, and Historic Harbor Tours & Dolphin Watch from 10am to 6pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tours will be at 25% capacity of standard tours with room for visitors to socially distance. The Foundation still offers virtual visits to the island online.

According to the Houston Chronicle, there’s no more free ride on local toll roads as the Harris County Toll Road Authority resumed charging tolls on April 29. Tolls were suspended on March 24 to make travel easier for essential workers.

There is no problem with social distancing with a virtual visit to Texas State Parks. Caddo Lake State Park is one of the 270 videos available free on the parks department website. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Can't get out to a state park? There’s good news – your parks will come to you. Visit an array of parks by video for a virtual tour of the Texas outdoors. The stories from parks from around the state follow a short introductory video. Or you can go to a list of 270 videos created by the state park videographers. Most parks are open for day visits, but you will need to pay entrance fees online before you arrive. Camping and group gatherings are still not allowed.

New Braunfels’ river parks and its river outfitters will remain closed, according to the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung. Comal County officials let its Stay Home/Work Safely order, issued April 3 and mandating COVID-19 social distancing in unincorporated county areas, expire on April 30.

San Antonio and Bexar County stay-at-home orders were extended through May 19, with officials saying the updated provisions are necessary as the area eases into Gov. Greg Abbott’s “Open Texas” plan.

Take a trip to San Antonio without leaving the ranch. As the Alamo City slowly reopens, Visit San Antonio continues to expand its video postcards. Use the information to map future trips or just to admire the beauty of the culturally diverse city.

The Abilene Zoo announced that they will reopen on May 19. Gates will open daily from 9am to 5pm. Shuttered since March 13, the zoo tentatively plans to resume recreation classes and events later this fall.

In a fun announcement from Shreveport-Bossier City, the tourism folks sent out a list of binge-worthy movies while you’re sheltering in place that were filmed in northwestern Louisiana:

  • Olympus Has Fallen (2013), starring Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman
  • Mad Money (2008), starring Katie Holmes, Diane Keaton, and Queen Latifah
  • The Guardian (2006), starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher
  • Snitch (2013), starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
  • Straw Dogs (2011), starring James Marsden and Kate Bosworth
  • Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (2008), starring Martin Lawrence
  • Texas Chain Saw Massacre (2013), starring Alexandra Daddario
  • Soul Men (2008), starring Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac
  • Premonition (2007), starring Sandra Bullock
  • The Longshots (2008), starring Ice Cube and Keke Palmer.

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.

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