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

Texas travel updates as of Memorial Day weekend

Don’t be bullheaded; wear a face covering.

Be like Fred: Wear your mask. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Face coverings are the fashion statement of 2020. There’s no reason to go with plain-old boring surgical masks when you can wear something exciting. Meow Wolf, the Santa Fe-based interactive art experience, is selling locally designed Meow Wolf-themed neck gaiters that convert into a face covering, headband, bandanna, wristband, and neck warmer.

Texas State Parks have resumed limited overnight camping. This gradual reopening of overnight reservations will be limited depending on individual park occupancy. Check the State Park Alert Map for status of individual parks. Some existing reservations will be honored, but no new reservations can be made for now. All visitors to state parks are required to pre-purchase and print day-use and overnight camping permits through the Texas State Parks Reservation System before traveling to a park. All reservations can be made online at or by calling 512/389-8900.

Texas State Historic Sites have begun opening with new protocols and limited capacity. Visitors are required to maintain a six-foot distance from those not in their party, face coverings are required in buildings, and only groups of five or less will be admitted into buildings. Some sites, such as Caddo Mounds, only have the grounds open; others like Casa Navarro in San Antonio require a reservation. Landmark Inn in Castroville is open for tours, but is not accepting overnight reservations.

Jacob’s Well Natural Area near Wimberley will reopen on June 1. Hays County will begin taking new reservations on May 28 for the popular swimming hole through the end of swimming season on Sept. 30. Reservations made prior to the COVID-19 outbreak for June 1 and beyond are still in the system and will be honored.

The trails at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge remain open to hikers and birdwatchers. Most of the 10 trails are short and relatively easy; the longest is 2.2 miles. If history is any guide, social distancing on the trails should be no problem. The headquarters on FM 1431 about five miles west of Lago Vista is open from 8am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday. The trails are open daily from sunup to sunset, but be forewarned, the restrooms are closed. The refuge was formed in 1992 to conserve habitat for endangered songbirds including the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo and other wildlife. For more information, call 512/339-9432.

National wildlife refuges have temporarily suspended the collection of entrance fees until further notice. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service maintains 19 refuges in Texas. Refuge lands and outdoor spaces remain open to the public, but facilities such as visitor centers are closed. Outside of Rockport, the Aransas NWR auto tour and trails are open daily from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. For information, call 361/349-1181.

Arnosky Farm (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

The Arnosky Family’s Blue Barn at the intersection of FM 165 and FM 2325 northwest of Wimberley and southwest of Dripping Springs has fresh cut flowers, some vegetable plants ready to put in the ground, and a refrigerator full of goat cheese and eggs, all at a socially self-serve distance on Monday through Wednesday from 9am to 5pm. The farm stand is open Thursday to Sunday. Pamela and Frank Arnosky started the farm in 1990 and have provided the favorite bouquets of locally grown flowers at the Central Market and H-E-B flower departments for years. It’s just more fun to take a drive out to their farm. Buy tickets now for the Farm to Vase Dinner to be held at the farm on Oct. 24.

The recently renovated Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park in El Paso reopens this summer. The art deco building in the heart of downtown was Conrad Hilton’s eighth hotel and first high-rise. Conrad and his mother lived in the penthouses for a time and Elizabeth Taylor spent a honeymoon overlooking the lights of Juarez. Hotels are offering big discounts to lure guests back into their rooms because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Spirit of Travel Gift Card Sale lets travelers purchase a $100 card and get $150 of value, and a $200 card gets $300, up to a savings of $250. Cards are available for the Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park, The Rittenhouse in Philadelphia, the Whitney Hotel in Boston, Parrot Key Hotel & Villas in Key West, and the Cadillac Hotel & Beach Club in Miami. Cards are on sale through May 26 and are good for overnight stays between Sept. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021.

The San Antonio Museum of Art reopens to the public on Thursday, May 28. Patrons will be required to wear a face covering and purchase their timed tickets online before arriving. Housed in the former Lone Star Brewery, SAMA is world-renowned for its international collection of art, the Rockefeller Latin American collection, and extensive assemblage of Asian art.

The galleries of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the house museums – Rienzi and Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens – reopen to the public Saturday, May 23, with social distancing and additional health and safety precautions in place. Virtual films, family activities, and other online programs will continue to be offered twice weekly.

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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Day Trips, COVID-19, coronavirus, travel, Texas State Parks, Meow Wolf, swimming holes, Jacob's Well Natural Area, Balcones Canyonland National Wildlife Refuge

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