By now it's become obvious the Mayan prediction did not come true and we will be able to see the year 2013 after all. So, as we enter 2013, now is the time to start making vacation plans for the new year. While Texas offers visitors plenty of things to see and do throughout the year, here are a few "can't miss" events, activities and celebrations for visitors heading to the Lone Star State during 2013.
Most folks probably could never guess where the largest celebration of George Washington’s birthday is held. Believe it or not, it is staged each year in the border city of Laredo, Texas. True enough, Laredo is hardly the first thing that comes to mind when Americans think of their first president. However, it is Laredo that throws the largest and oldest Washington Birthday Celebration. Founded in 1898, this month-long celebration attracts over 400,000 visitors each year. Over the years, the event has grown to include a variety of entertainment and activities. This year’s celebration is scheduled to include parades, concerts, fireworks displays, a carnival, fun run, BBQ cookoff and more. In short, there really is something for everyone at this “international celebration of a traditionally American holiday.”
Galveston’s Mardi Gras is a 12 day, 11 night party prior to lent. Not as famous as Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans or Mobile, the Galveston event is nonetheless packed with tradition and, more importantly, packed with fun. Of course, Mardi Gras revelers will be dressed in costume as they wander the streets, listening to the more than 30 bands which will perform on the two stages set up in the Entertainment District. Mardi Gras goers will also be treated to several parades and processions.
Since it first began in 1958, the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup has attracted a wide variety of visitors, from serious snake hunters to curious onlookers. While the snakes are the main attraction, the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup entails a number of events beyond the actual snake hunt. There is the Rattlesnake Parade, Miss Snake Charmer Pageant, Rattlesnake Dance, guided bus tours, guided rattlesnake hunts, a barbecue cookoff and more.
The bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas. This particular flower was selected in large part due to the vast fields of bluebonnets that bloom each spring throughout the central portion of Texas. Over the years, the wild population has been supplemented with planted parcels of bluebonnets. During spring, fields of bluebonnets can be spotted throughout central, southeast and east Texas. Many of the state's major highways are lined with bluebonnets and other wildflowers during this time of year, making for memorably scenic drives.
Because Texas was once part of Mexico, the state has a long-standing Mexican heritage and follows many Mexican traditions, including celebrating the popular Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo. Although many people believe this is strictly a border-region phenomenon, towns across the state hold festivals to celebrate Mexico's most famous military victory.
Founded in 1972 by Rob Kennedy and held every year since, the Kerrville Folk Festival is the longest running event of its kind in North America. Over the years, it has also grown to be one of the largest, with recent events featuring more than 100 artists. In fact, since its inception, more than 1,500 singer-songwriters have performed at the Kerrville Folk Festival. More than 30,000 people attend the Kerrville Folk Festival each year, many of whom choose to camp onsite and enjoy the Festival 24 hours a day. In addition to the concerts, the KFF features an arts & crafts show, kid concerts and activities, and more. The Kerrville Folk Festival begins at the end of May, but runs through the first weeks of June as well.
Spending a day at the beach is the quintessential summer vacation activity. Can you really ever get enough of the beach? During the summer season, it is worth spending as many days as possible soaking up sun, swimming, body boarding, surfing, shell collecting, wind surfing or playing at the beach. Texas has hundreds of miles of shorelines, so there is no shortage of beachfront for vacationers in the Lone Star State.
Floating down the Guadalupe River in an inner tube is definitely a "Texas thing." If you happen to be visiting the Hill Country, you won't want to miss out on this unique experience. Through the years, this uniquely Texan water sport has become a ritualistic tradition among residents and visitors alike. Perhaps the most simplistic of all water sports, tubing involves relaxing in an inflated inner tube while drifting downstream. The cold, crystal clear waters of the Guadalupe (and other Hill Country Rivers) only add to the enjoyment on a hot summer day.
Held each year in Dallas, the State Fair of Texas features the nation's largest midway and carnival, top shelf musicians performing live concerts nightly, and tons of other family friendly fun. But, the State Fair of Texas is best known for two things - fried food and the annual Red River Rivalry college football game between the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma. As the "fried food capital of the world," the State Fair of Texas gave birth to the corn dog and numerous other deep fried treats. The Red River Rivalry is a "must-see" event unto itself. With half the stadium blanketed in red and half in burnt orange, this is one of the nation's most intense rivalries and one of the year's most anticipated college football games.
A six-week trip back to the 16th century, the Texas Renaissance Festival features over 200 daily performances, 300 arts and crafts shops, 60 food and beverage shops, nightly fireworks and more than 3,000 costumed characters strolling the grounds. Although it is not technically an "Oktoberfest," the opening weekend of the Renaissance festival is themed as Oktoberfest and the event covers the entire month.
Most people relate fall foliage and the “changing of the leaves” to the eastern portion of the United States. However, portions of Texas actually see dramatic changes in foliage coloration. Lost Maples State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country has the most vivid fall leaf coloration in the state. Although the "peak" season is from mid-October through mid-November, area accommodations fill up fast so those hoping to tour the area this fall are advised to make plans early.
In a town known for its history, it only makes sense to ring in the holiday season with characters from Christmases past. Such is the case with Galveston, where the annual Dickens on the Strand event helps usher in the month of December and kicks off the holiday season.