Day Trips & Beyond: August Events Roundup

Finish out a hot summer with a cool adventure

Stay cool in August at the Marfa Lights, a spelunking adventure in New Braunfels, or on the Main Plaza in San Antonio.

First documented in 1883, there still is no explanation for the Marfa Mystery Lights that everyone will accept. (Photo by Patty McLeod)

I saw the light. It seemed counterintuitive to go to the West Texas desert to escape the triple-digit heat in Austin, but that’s exactly what my wife and I did. It was 10 degrees cooler in late July with half the humidity in Marfa and Alpine than in the capital city.

It had been a few years since I’d toured the area southwest of Fort Stockton and north of Big Bend. I had an itinerary of favorite spots to return to and new sites to seek out. Plans called for us to visit Alpine, Marfa, Valentine, Fort Davis, and Marathon.

On our first chilly, 67-degree evening in West Texas we went to supper at Jett’s Bar and Grill in the Hotel Paisano in Marfa. The pistachio-crusted chicken-fried steak is a favorite, plus it guaranteed me leftovers for lunch later in the trip.

Elizabeth Taylor graces a billboard mural near the site where portions of the movie Giant were filmed. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

After supper, as the sky turned gorgeous shades of orange and red, we drove west on U.S. Highway 90 to see the “Giant Marfa” billboards. It has been at least four years since I had made the seven-hour drive to Marfa, because the plywood art by John Cerney was installed in 2018 and this was the first time I had seen them.

On the 30-mile drive back to our lodgings in Alpine, we stopped at the Marfa Mystery Lights Viewing Area nine miles east of Marfa on U.S. 67/90. First documented in 1883, the Marfa Lights are still unexplained to many people’s satisfaction. On multiple stops over the years we have had a 50-50 success in spotting the pinhole lights on the horizon. From my experience, the secret to seeing the lights is to go on a clear summer evening, and arrive just as the last of the blue sky becomes inky black. In just a few minutes at the viewing area we saw several of the lights blink on and off, change colors, or dart a short way and disappear.
Sept. 2-4, Marfa Lights Festival, Marfa, 432/729-4772,

Through sight and sound, The Saga covers the history of San Antonio, Texas, and the U.S. in 24 minutes. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

History in light. There’s nothing quite like it: the history of San Antonio projected on the front façade of the oldest cathedral in the United States. The Saga depicts the historical discovery, settlement, and development of San Antonio with a unique video art projection by international artist Xavier de Richemont. The 24-minute journey covers the front of San Fernando Cathedral, built between 1738 and 1750. Opened in 2014 the psychedelic light show is scheduled to end in 2024.
Tue., Fri.-Sun., 9, 9:30, 10pm, The Saga, Main Plaza, 115 N. Main Ave., San Antonio,

On the new Adventure Tours at Natural Bridge Caverns, the guests explore unique underground chambers only recently opened to the public. (Courtesy Natural Bridge Caverns)

Cool adventure. Take an underground hike to portions of Natural Bridge Caverns rarely seen by visitors to the New Braunfels cave. In recent years Brad Wuest, president of Natural Bridge Caverns, and other explorers have opened new portions of the cave that was first explored in 1960. Since then it has become one of the premier show caverns in the state.

No spelunking experience is needed to go on one of the two off-trail Adventure Tours. Guests do need to come ready to get down and get dirty in the dark. The 2.5- and 4-hour tours in small groups climb to rare formations in areas of the cave that were only recently opened to the public.
By reservation, Natural Bridge Caverns, New Braunfels, 210/651-6101,

Travel Notes:

Prague Fair in Texas. Get your cake walking boots or your dancing shoes on. It’s time for the 167th Praha Prazska Pout and St. Mary’s Catholic Church Homecoming. Held every year on August 15, this year it’s on a Monday, which is also the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Settled in the 1850s, Praha is a predominantly Czech and German unincorporated community about 3.5 miles east of Flatonia. This is a local celebration that hasn’t changed much over the years, and everyone’s welcome. They still make the famous Praha Stew and fried chicken dinners. There are homemade games for the kiddies, bingo for the infirm, and dancing for the young at heart and foot. The Ennis Czech Boys and The Czechaholics play from 11am to 10pm. Be a part of a cherished Texas tradition.

A thermometer shows temps topping 110 degrees. (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

It’s hot everywhere. During the summer months the floor of Palo Canyon State Park, south of Amarillo, can reach temperatures significantly higher than at the rim. After experiencing 47 distress calls from hikers in 48 hours, park rangers decided to close some of the trails during the heat of the day between 11am and 5pm. Trails affected by the closure include Lighthouse, Comanche, Givens Spicer Lowry (GSL), and Rock Garden. Closures will be posted in advance on the park’s Facebook page. The trails will be open during cooler portions of the day.

Unblocked artery. If you have traveled through San Marcos anytime in the last two years, there is a chance you were detoured by road work on Hopkins Street west of the Hays County Courthouse. Finally the major artery through town reopened to traffic the last week of July. The seven-block road project widened the thoroughfare, upgraded drainage, and improved sidewalks. The new roadway makes access to RR 12 heading north to Wimberley from downtown much easier. Taking Wonder World Drive/RR 12 from I-35 and avoiding downtown is still the easiest way to head to all points north and west.

Other August Events:

Plaza Classic Film Festival
Aug. 1-7, El Paso,

Immersive Monet and the Impressionists
Aug. 1-21, Houston,

Peach and Melon Festival
Aug. 3-6, De Leon,

Free Entrance to National Parks
Aug. 4, Around the Country,

XIT Rodeo and Reunion
Aug. 4-6, Dalhart,

Schulenburg Festival
Aug. 4-7, Schulenburg,

View the Moon
Aug. 5, Hill Country State Natural Area,

Aug. 5-6, Hutto,

Harvest Festival
Aug. 5-6, 12-13, 19-21, 26-27, Bryan,

Shakespeare at Winedale
Aug. 5-14, Winedale,

World’s Largest Free BBQ
Aug. 6, Dalhart,

Buddy Holly’s 85th Birthday Celebration
Aug. 6, Lubbock,

Neches Wilderness Canoe Race
Aug. 6, Palestine,

Art Fair
Aug. 6-7, Salado,

Elvis Week
Aug. 9-17, Memphis, Tenn.,

Perseids Meteor Shower
Aug. 11-12, Night Sky,

Big Bend Ranch Rodeo
Aug. 12-13, Alpine,

Brews Unleashed
Aug. 13, Dripping Springs,

Purple Martin Watch Party
Aug. 13, Houston,

Rambling Rose
Aug. 13, Stonewall,

Heritage Hike
Aug. 13, Sugar Land,

Live Pari-Mutuel Horse Racing
Aug. 13-14, 27-28, Fredericksburg,

Delcambre Shrimp Festival
Aug. 17-21, Delcambre, La.,

AIA Sandcastle Contest and Viewing
Aug. 20-21, Galveston,

Mosaic Workshop for Beginners at Smither Park
Aug. 20, Houston,

Reserve Library Tasting
Aug. 20, Stonewall,

Purple Martin Watch Party
Aug. 21, Houston,

Eastside Market
Aug. 21, Waco,

Monster Battle
Aug. 25, Santa Fe, N.M.,

Fredericksburg Trade Days
Aug. 25-28, Fredericksburg,

Gillespie County Fair
Aug. 25-28, Fredericksburg,

Hotter’N Hell Hundred
Aug. 25-28, Wichita Falls,

Speaking of the Dead
Aug. 26-28, Lockhart,

Louisiana Soulfood Fall Festival
Aug. 26-28, Shreveport, La.,

River Roadster Show
Aug. 27, Kerrville,

113th Birthday Celebration for Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson
Aug. 27, Stonewall,

Grape Stomp
Aug. 27-28, Sept. 3-4, Stonewall,

Santa Fe Music Week
Aug. 27-Sept. 3, Santa Fe, N.M.,

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, Marfa Lights, New Braunfels, Natural Bridge Caverns, San Antonio, The Saga, Alpine, Hotel Paisano, Prague Fair, Flatonia, Palo Canyon State Park, Amarillo, San Marcos

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