Day Trips & Beyond: February Events Roundup

News from Hueco Tanks, Black's Barbecue, and lots more

Hueco Tanks State Park has joined the prestigious list of National Historic Landmarks. From the road the park looks like just another random pile of rocks. On the inside the rock preserve is a gallery of prehistoric and historic art.

One of the great places of Texas, Hueco Tanks State Park outside of El Paso is now a National Historic Landmark. Centuries of visitors have painted the walls of the crevices between giant rocks with art with hidden meanings. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

It is estimated that the park contains between 3,000 and 6,000 pictographs. Add to that the 860-acre park is a world-class rock climbing area. About 45 minutes east of El Paso, the site was acquired by the state in 1969, and opened to the public in 1970. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1971, but becoming a national landmark opens additional resources and protections.

The park joins 47 other landmarks of national historic importance in Texas including the Alamo in San Antonio, Dealey Plaza in Dallas, and the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi.

The rocks have been a destination for humans for 10,000 years who traveled there for the hidden water basins called “tanks.” Several Native American tribes consider the outcropping surrounded by desert to be a sacred site.

Guided tours by park staff are the best way to experience the park and are given Wednesday through Sunday for groups of up to 10 people booked at least a week in advance. Permits for self-guided tours are issued to a maximum of 70 people at a time, and rock climbing is with an established guide only. Pets on a leash are allowed in the park, but not on the hiking trails.
Hueco Tanks State Park, El Paso, Oct.-April 8am-6pm, 915/857-1135,

Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart has been a destination for smoked meat fans for four generations and now a fifth generation has joined the business. The family-owned restaurant off the courthouse square continues their clan traditions. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

The fourth generation of the Black family barbecue dynasty has expanded their outposts of fine smoked meats around Central Texas, but the original Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart still rocks as the oldest barbecue joint in Texas that has continued the same family traditions.

Opened in 1932 by Edgar Black, the little barbecue joint two blocks north of the courthouse square in Lockhart maintains a small-town, family-restaurant feel. It’s authentically Texan, without being too rustic for recent immigrants.

Start your barbecue adventure in the socially distanced line, choose from an array of side dishes, order your smoked meats by the pound, and then devour the feast at picnic tables covered in red gingham oilcloth. Or get the food to go and enjoy juicy beef brisket, pork ribs, turkey breast, jalapeno-cheddar sausage, and chicken halves later.

Lockhart is blessed with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to top-notch barbecue joints – Black’s, Smitty’s, Kreuz, and Chisholm Trail. Each has its own character that is supported by legends of loyal fans. A new generation of barbecue lovers is finding a lot to love at the Black’s Barbecue outposts in Austin, San Marcos, and New Braunfels. The original is still worth the drive.
Black’s Barbecue, 215 N. Main, Lockhart, Sun.-Thur. 10am-8pm, Fri.-Sat. 10am-8:30pm, 512/398-2916,

Travel Notes:

The Buffalo Soldier Heritage Outreach Program celebrates Black History Month with a series of virtual programs highlighting the contributions of African Americans during February. Park rangers from around the state will showcase different aspects of the Black experience from the building of Huntsville State Park by companies of the Civilian Conservation Corps to Medal of Honor recipients to the Legend of Juneteenth. The monthlong online program features 15 different broadcasts free on the Buffalo Soldier Facebook page at 6pm on selected days. Saturday programs are livestreamed at 1pm from state parks.

While enjoying the Gulf Coast in Rockport/Fulton, be on the lookout for special painted rocks hidden around town in public spaces. If you find a rock you get to move it to a new hiding place or just leave it where you found it for the next rock hound to find. When you find a rock, take its picture and post it to the Painted Rock Group’s official Facebook page.

San Antonio’s Fiesta celebration has been postponed to June 17-27, 2021. One of the signature events for the Alamo City, last year’s edition of the 10-day citywide party was rescheduled from its regular date of mid-April 2020 to November. The continuing pandemic ultimately forced the canceling of the 2020 event completely. The annual celebration of parades, carnivals, and street dances began in 1890 when residents held the first Battle of Flowers to honor the heroes of the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto. Add 2020 to the five years the festival has been canceled, which were 1918 because of World War I and 1942 through 1945 during World War II.

This year the Lunar New Year is coming to you. The Asia Society Center of Texas in Houston is celebrating the Year of the Ox online Feb. 12-13, 19, and 26. The four days of programming includes a Lion Dance performance, how to make a lantern, the history of some of the traditions, and more. Families can purchase At-Home Activity Kits that contain the supplies for the featured Lunar New Year craft projects.

National Margarita Day is Feb. 22. Of course, in Texas it can be celebrated any day of the year.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s new Nancy and Rich Kinder Building will be open for after-hours visit on Feb. 12. Opened last November, the building houses the museum’s International Collection. For $25, visitors can join the Art Crowd to tour the museum’s contemporary and modern collections with a limited number of guests. Don’t feel like making the trip to Houston? You can tour much of the museum’s collection virtually. As well as viewing the art, the online tours give the backstories on some of the museum’s greatest works of art.

Other February Events:

Plant Sale
Feb. 5-7, Texas Discovery Garden, Dallas,

Bird Watching at the Battleground
Feb. 6, San Jacinto Battleground, La Porte,

Cooking at the Quarters
Feb. 6-7, Washington-on-the-Brazos,

Guided Nature Walk at the Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture
Sat., Feb. 7, 13, 20, 27, 8am, Port Aransas,

Wings of Winter Tours
Feb. 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28, Port Aransas,

San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo
Feb. 11-28, San Antonio,

Laredo Birding (Virtual) Festival
Feb. 13, Laredo,

An Evening with Heroes
Feb. 20, San Antonio,

Dallas Blooms: America the Beautiful
Feb. 20-April 11, Dallas,

Grand Opening: San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum
Feb. 25-28, San Antonio,

Texas Fest
Feb. 27, San Antonio,

In search of more virtual or IRL travel ideas and info? Visit our Out of Town listings.
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 and follow him on Facebook.

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Day Trips, Hueco Tanks State Park, Black's Barbecue, Black History Month, Buffalo Soldier Heritage Outreach Program, Gulf Coast, Painted Rock Group, Fiesta, San Antonio, National Margarita Day, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, travel

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