See the stars in Fort Davis
Distance from SA: 400 miles northwest
A trip to the McDonald Observatory in West Texas should be on every Texan’s bucket list. A research unit of the University of Texas at Austin, the observatory is located under some of the darkest skies in the continental United States and you don’t need to study astronomy to enjoy the view. Book a Star Party (available most Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights) for a quick lesson in the constellations and the chance to view celestial objects, including planets, through powerful telescopes set up outside the center. ‘welcome. Even if you can’t get there at night, a daytime excursion is a worthwhile experience for anyone with even a little interest in the stars.
Do: Reservations at the McDonald Observatory are a must but it’s not the only diversion in Fort Davis. Davis Mountains State Park offers 11 miles of trails, many of which are open to cyclists, hikers, and horseback riders. Take the Skyline Drive trail to the Keesey Canyon Overlook for scenic views of the park, or head to the Emory Oak Wildlife Viewing Area to enjoy “Texas’ fanciest little blind bird.” Birdwatching and photography tours are also available, and outside the park, cyclists have been known to cover 50 to 100 miles in a day.
Stay: Davis Mountains State Park offers sites for tent and RV camping. Not ready for the rough? It also features Indian Lodge, a 39-room full-service hotel with restaurant and swimming pool. For something different, consider booking a themed room above the Fort Davis Pharmacy. The Traveler Suite features warm decor, two queen beds, and stunning views of the Sleeping Lion Mountain rock formation.
To eat: The Drug Store also offers homemade fare all day (think a cowboy breakfast plate or fried okra and burgers at lunch) while the Harvard Hotel Bar & Grill, which opened the last year, serves craft cocktails, rib eye, chicken fried steak and more. To start the day, stop by the Double Shot Coffee Lounge for a muffin or danish and an iced coffee or Frappe.
Cultivate yourself in Fort Worth
Distance from SA: 265 miles north
If you’ve ever spent a weekend in Fort Worth, you’ve probably seen the twice-daily cattle drive that takes place at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the Stockyards National Historic District. It’s worth experiencing, but that’s just the beginning of the reasons to venture to Funkytown. Originally founded in 1892, the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art is the oldest museum in the state. It has been housed since 2002 in a magnificent concrete, glass and steel facility by famed architect Tadao Ando, and the exterior warrants a visit all on its own. On the inside, Women Painting Women is on display until September 25, and permanent pieces, like Andy Warhol’s “Ladder for Booker T. Washington” and “Self Portrait,” are must-sees. Elsewhere in the walkable Cultural District are the Kimbell Museum of Art, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary and offers free admission daily, and the Amon Carter Museum, which is a mecca for American art. When traveling with children, don’t miss the Fort Worth Science and History Museum.
Do: In addition to at least one day in the Cultural District, spend a few hours exploring Sundance Square and downtown Fort Worth. If you’re there at night, book tickets for an improv show at Four Day Weekend followed by a cocktail at Reata. During the day, hop on a rental bike and cruise through Sundance Square before heading to the Trinity Trails, which stretch over 100 miles through the city. There’s an Art in the Garden tour on Saturday, September 3 at the Fort Worth Botanical Garden and the Fort Worth Zoo never disappoints.
Stay: The Kimpton Harper Hotel, which opened just over a year ago, brought modern flair to a 1921 downtown building. Its 24th-floor penthouse offers 360-degree views of the city. In the Cultural Quarter, consider Hotel Dryce, a boutique hotel near the city’s museums in what was once a dry ice factory. It’s locally operated, so the staff can suggest restaurants and things to do.
To eat: Walk around the TCU campus before the burgers and fries at Dutch’s. Dining at Joe T. Garcia is a Fort Worth tradition. Order fajitas and a margarita and bring cash. For barbecue, stop by Heim Barbecue in the trendy enclave of Magnolia Avenue, which is also home to shopping, dessert stops and happy hours. Like San Antonio, Fort Worth’s craft beer scene continues to grow. Wild Acre Brewing, Martin House Brewing Co. (the folks behind this Best Maid Sour Pickle beer at HEB), and HopFusion Ale Works are good places to start.
Taste the spirits in Hye
Distance from SA: 75 miles north
Fredericksburg is the go-to spot when booking wine tours, which draws crowds on a holiday weekend. Instead, head to Hye in nearby Blanco County, where you can visit William Chris Winery, Calais Winery, Hye Meadow Winery and Kuhlman Cellars in a weekend. For whiskey lovers, the Garrison Brothers Distillery hosts tours throughout Labor Day weekend, or its Whiskey Shack offers classic Old Fashioneds, bourbon peach iced tea and more, as well only Texas-inspired bites (think tri-tip tacos, avocado deviled eggs, and fried rabbit strips). Nearby, Hye Cider Co. produces alcoholic apple cider fermented with honey (they call it cyser), and it can often be enjoyed with live music.
Do: The Cave Tasting experience at Calais Winery is intimate and unlike any other in the Hill Country. You’ll head to the long-leafed plank “cellar” with just three other guests for a wine tasting session that includes plenty of time for questions and education on how wine is made. At Kuhlman Cellars, sit-down wine flights are accompanied by a sampler or chef-prepared charcuterie platter, while behind-the-scenes tours offer insight into the science of winemaking as well as a sample of a tank or barrel where the wine ages. Labor Day weekend is packed with live music at William Chris Vineyards, which also hosts wine tastings, picnics and more. Need a wine break? Drive to nearby Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site for a short walk and a visit to the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm.
Stay: Private rentals through sites such as Airbnb are your best bet in the small town of Hye (or its neighbors Johnson City and Stonewall). Several container homes have been transformed into weekend retreats with well-appointed patios, kitchenettes, and sleeping quarters. Cabins are more fashionable in Johnson City for those who need a little more space. Campsites and screenhouses are also available at nearby Blanco State Park.
To eat: Several of the wineries have kitchens with well-designed menus. If you venture out, consider the short drive to Pecan Street Brewing in Johnson City for its delicious brunches and creative pizzas, like the Peach Jamboree topped with house-cured buckboard bacon, bourbon-braised peaches , spinach, mozz and a little bit of mint. Just 10 minutes from Hye is Albert Ice House & Dancehall. Its Cowboy Cantina Food Truck is open Wednesday through Sunday and serves the expected fries and onion rings, as well as upscale truck food, including specialties like a rib eye steak salad and carnitas from pork.
Relax on the coast at Port Aransas
Distance from SA: 175 miles southeast
Birdwatching, fishing, and parasailing abound on this island, but no one will blame you for just relaxing with your toes in the sand during this three-day weekend. The five-mile stretch that is Mustang Island State Park is a great option for day-trippers from San Antonio, as it’s pet-friendly and has showers where you can clean up before heading home. Further out in town, there are plenty of beach access points (as long as you have a parking permit), whether you want to relax, boogie board or fish from the shore.
Do: Port A is known as “The Fishing Capital of Texas”, so cast a line from a bay or canal, or book a deep sea fishing trip with one of the many local operators. As well as knowing where to go, they can also give you tips for catching trevally, marlin, sailfish and Spanish mackerel. Island Surf Rentals offers kayaks, boogie boards and other gear for solo fun in the ocean, while GlowRow offers guided nighttime kayak tours from North Padre Island and Port Aransas. Each kayak is illuminated with LED lights and guides point out fun facts about the area as you bask in the starlight.
Stay: Palmilla Beach Resort & Golf Community offers upscale rentals that provide access to amenities such as a private beach, on-site pool, and its True-Links-style 12-hole golf course. Cinnamon Shores also offers beach house rentals with pool access, and there are dozens and dozens of private Airbnbs. Campgrounds are also available at Mustang Island State Park.
To eat: Coffee Waves will have a queue if you’re sleeping, but it’s worth the wait for a Honey Badger, cortado or matcha latte. For a more enjoyable evening, make reservations at Roosevelt’s at the Tarpon Inn and enjoy giant crab cakes, grilled oysters or tenderloin. When something more casual calls your name, consider Port A Pizzeria, Virginia’s on the Bay, or Coach’s Island Grill, which is BYOB and offers the friendliest service even when busy.