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Two of the best courses in Texas state are in Las Colinas, only a short drive from Dallas’ DFW Airport. Look for two superb but very different courses at the Four Seasons Resort and Club at Las Colinas . First, the Tournament Players Course is a challenging green that is the site of the annual Verizon Byron Nelson Classic each spring. Recent million dollar renovations have made the course even more ambitious and attractive. If the tournament level TPC course proves too arduous, look just across the street to the resort’s second course, Cottonwood Valley, for a true Texas experience. Designed by Robert Trent Jones II, the first hole features a huge green shaped like the Lone Star State. The approach shot is over a large lake resembling the Gulf of Mexico and the monstrous sand trap behind the green is the shape of our neighbor north of the Red River, Oklahoma.
The Four Seasons also is host to the Byron Nelson Golf School, a program that boasts a $1 million practice facility and caters to business groups around the world. Not just for golfers, the Four Seasons Resort offers a lavish spa and an extensive sports club.
After the links, you can partake of trendy restaurants and lively entertainment venues, many of which cater to the Dallas Cowboys who practice nearby at Texas Stadium in Irving. The Las Colinas complex, an ultramodern, multi-use complex on 12,000 acres features an Equestrian Center, farmer’s market, movie studio, business facilities, hotel, restaurants and shops. Mandalay Canal Walk, one level below street is an European style canal walk featuring Venetian-built water taxis. Don’t miss the striking Mustangs of Las Colinas, located in the center of Williams Square. The striking sculpture showcases nine mustangs that appear to be splashing through a stream of water. Lastly, visit the spectacular Las Colinas Flower Clock at Texas 114 and O’Connor Road. Flowers are planted at least eight times a year for eye-popping displays and great photos year round.
A three and half hour drive from the Texas Metroplex, Austin’s Barton Creek Country Club and Resort offers a dramatically different setting. Located on 4,000 acres admist the spectacular hills and canyons west of Austin, Barton Creek is a four-star resort with four exceptional courses. Each one is rated among the state’s best. A favorite of former UT Austin football coaching legend, Darrell Royal, Barton Creek keeps its greens in impeccable playing condition. Its Fazio Foothills course is considered by many to be the best course in Texas. You’ll long remember the large cave in the middle of one fairway and its canyon waterfall protecting the green. Beautiful and dramatic, the Crenshaw Course was designed to minimize detrimental effects on its environmentally sensitive location near Austin’s Barton Creek.
Designer Ben Crenshaw takes full advantage of the natural terrain requiring golfers to shape their shots to the land, rather than the other way around. Perfectly executed approach shots are a must on this challenging course. A half hour from the main resort, the Palmer Lakeside Course provides lake views and wide-open fairways. The newest of the four, the Fazio Canyons Course is routed through deep, spring-fed canyons and crisscrossed with bubbling creeks, rare madrone trees and limestone bluffs.
In the evening, you can discover why Austin is known as the “Live Music Capital of the World” with abundant live acts playing nightly in venues across town. From blues, country, reggae, jazz, Tejano, swing and rock, Austin has it all. The capitol also features fabulous dining from world class cuisine to Texas barbeque served on butcher paper.
Austin and Llano (Cooper's)
There aren’t enough meals in the day to sample all the excellent barbecue around Austin. You can start early, however, with barbecue breakfast tacos from Rudy’s Country Store and Barbecue, a local chain that also sells gasoline and convenience store necessities. Rudy’s peppery sauce is guaranteed to wake up your tastebuds, whatever the time of day. Regulars order chopped or sliced beef brisket by the pound, purchase a couple of hamburger buns, then make their own sandwiches at the long indoor or outdoor picnic tables. Austin is also home to the nationally popular County Line restaurants. Choose County Line on the Hill or County Line on the Lake, depending on your taste in scenery, and soak in the roadhouse décor while you feast on delicious family-style barbecue and fixings. Be sure to order a loaf or two of homemade bread to soak up the sauce.
A trip to Austin isn’t complete without a pilgrimage to the Iron Works, so named because the building once housed the historic Weigl Iron Works. Since 1978, Iron Works has been dishing up brisket, chicken and ribs in the heart of downtown. With a clientele that ranges from politicians and visiting celebrities to local families and students, Iron Works is a perfect spot to take the pulse of Austin while dining on great barbecue. Another downtown favorite, Stubb’s Barbecue, combines barbecue and live music. Housed in a historic building with hardwood floors, Stubb’s serves heaping portions of barbecue (the ribs are especially popular) while maintaining a reputation as one of the Austin’s best venues for live music. And that’s quite a distinction in the Live Music Capital of the World. Check out the Sunday Gospel Brunch and Barbecue Buffet, which brings together gospel music, breakfast favorites and a full barbecue menu. Fans can also pick up Stubb’s brand of barbecue sauce in local groceries.
Far from downtown – but near the heart of Austinites – is the Salt Lick. Located southwest of town in the scenic settlement of Driftwood, Salt Lick is the place Austin families take their out-of-town guests to introduce them to real Texas barbecue. Salt Lick features one of the few open pits in this part of Texas, so you can watch the meat cooking as you enter the native cedar and stone building. You can order by the sandwich or plate, but why bother – all-you-can-eat family style is the way to go at this relaxed and friendly Texas original.
Amarillo, Hereford, & Canyon
Wide-open spaces, deep canyons, amazing sunsets and cattle. Amarillo is the quintessential backdrop for any Western adventure. In fact, you’ll find Texas’ largest individually owned livestock auction here -- the Amarillo Livestock Auction. More than 100,000 head of cattle are auctioned off here every year. Cattlemen come from all over to bid here. You can’t move cattle without a good cattle horse, so you might want to swing by the American Quarter Horse Heritage Center and Museum. The entire family will enjoy learning about this beautiful All-American breed. Take a detour on Interstate 40 just west of Amarillo to experience the Cadillac Ranch. This roadside attraction along the old Route 66 features 10 graffiti-covered, finned Cadillacs buried nose down at the same angle as the Cheops Pyramid.
History buffs will enjoy a stop at the Deaf Smith County Historical Museum in Hereford. You can get a glimpse of Pioneer life and see Indian and western artifacts. After the museum, you’ll want to take time to picnic and take in the scenery at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon.
You’ll want to carve out the entire afternoon to enjoy the trails of the stunning Palo Duro Canyon. The "Grand Canyon of Texas" stretches 120 miles through the vast Texas landscape; at one point, the canyon is 20 miles wide. Climb down to the bottom of the canyon and revel among the geologic formations that are more than 90 million years old. Also in the park, you can enjoy an internationally acclaimed performance of the musical drama Texas. During the summer, you can catch a performance that traces the history of the region and its people in the Pioneer Theater.
San Antonio and Leakey (Frio River)
From San Antonio , head west on Highway 90. At the town of Sabinal, take a right, heading north on Highway 127 to Concan. In Concan, Highway 127 intersects Highway 83 which follows the Frio River Canyon north to Leakey . Between Concan and Leakey, the options are endless for water fun on the Rio Frio (Cold River), from tubing and fishing to soaking and sun bathing. The Frio River’s popularity is understood given the beauty of the drooping cypress trees and limestone cliffs lining the banks of the cool, clear, jade-colored water.
Between Concan and Leakey, accommodations range from high-end bed and breakfast inns, dude ranches and resorts to the ever-popular Garner State Park that offers cabins and camping sites. Garner State Park covers 1,420 acres along the Frio River and is one of the most popular summer family destinations in the state. Even if you stay at a cabin or inn outside of the park, Garner is a great place to spend the day with multiple activities to choose from. In the afternoon when you’ve had enough water fun, you may want to venture into Leakey and check out the Real County Historical Museum which houses historic displays and artifacts in period rooms. The nearby Wildlife Art Museum features art of taxidermy, sculpture, paintings and carvings.
El Paso and Hueco Tanks (Rockclimbing)
Just 32 miles northeast of El Paso is Hueco Tanks State Historical Site , a 860-acre park and rockclimber’s paradise. Whether you are a novice at scaling rock faces or a seasoned veteran, Hueco Tanks offers some 120 popular routes for climbs at varied levels. It is mostly known for its bouldering. The park is especially popular during winter as it is one of the only high-rated climbing spots in the southwest that is accessible during colder months.
When you want to take a rest from the bouldering, take the opportunity to study the many pictographs that can be found on the rocks in the park. The images were drawn by archaic hunters and foragers as well as more recent Native Americans, such as the Apache and Kiowas. The pictures depict tales of hardships, wars, mystical beliefs and special ceremonies.
While winter is an optimal time to go to Hueco Tanks, access to the park is more restricted. It’s a good idea to call the park and inquire about guides for climbing trips and to see the best pictographs. Campsites are available at the park, or it makes for a good day trip from El Paso. Guidebooks to rockclimbing routes at Hueco Tanks are available by doing a search on the Internet. With a guidebook, you can do some advance planning for your rockclimbing adventure.