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Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Our road trip begins in Johnson City, Texas where the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park Visitor Center is located. Johnson City is:

  • 48 miles/1 hour west of Austin, Texas – Website link: Visit Austin
  • 64 miles/1.25 hours north of San Antonio, Texas – Website link: Visit San Antonio

The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is divided into three sections: the Johnson City section, the state park section, and the LBJ Ranch section. The state park and ranch sections are 14 miles west of Johnson City in Stonewall, Texas via U.S. Highway 290. We recommend visiting all three of the park sites to get a complete overview of Johnson’s life and legacy as the 36th president of the United States. 

Website link: Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Bridge on the path between Johnson Settlement and Lyndon Johnson’s boyhood home

Johnson City

The park’s visitor center museum in Johnson City features a timeline of the president’s life, photos, and other historical information. Artifacts from Lyndon Johnson’s presidency as well as some items that belonged to his wife, Lady Bird, are also on display. Johnson’s boyhood home sits across the street from the visitor center, and down the street is Johnson Settlement where his grandparents settled after the Civil War. Easy trails, sidewalks, and wayside information boards make an interesting and pleasant walk between the sites. 

Johnson’s Boyhood Home 
Lyndon B. Johnson’s boyhood home

Lyndon Baines Johnson was born on what is now the LBJ Ranch near Stonewall, Texas in 1908, and the family moved to Johnson City when he was five years old. The Johnsons lived in the home for 24 years while raising their five children, including three girls and two boys. In the early 1970s, the modest family home was restored to its 1920’s style by the National Park Service with help from the former president. The property also features a shed, a windmill and cistern, and a small barn surrounded by gorgeous old oak trees. Check the park’s website for tour information.

Windmill behind Lyndon Johnson’s boyhood home

Lyndon’s father, Sam Ealy Johnson, Jr., was a Texas legislator for 12 years, and his mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson, was an educator. LBJ attended Texas State Teacher’s College. For a short time, he worked as a teacher and principal to earn money to continue his college education. After graduation from college, he attended one semester of law school at Georgetown University before dropping out. 

Shed behind Lyndon Johnson’s boyhood home
LBJ the Politician

In 1937, Johnson announced his bid for the U.S. House of Representatives for the 10th District of the State of Texas from the east porch of his boyhood home. He won the election and later went on to serve in other capacities primarily as a U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader. LBJ ran for president in 1960 but lost the Democratic nomination to John F. Kennedy. Johnson was asked by Kennedy to be his running mate due to LBJ’s popularity with the southern Democrats who weren’t especially fond of JFK. The duo won the election, and the rest, they say, is history. On November 22, 1963, while standing aboard Air Force One at Dallas’s Love Field airport, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president two hours after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The east porch of LBJ’s boyhood home
Johnson Settlement

A block west of Lyndon Johnson’s boyhood home is Johnson Settlement, which is the site of his grandparents’ original home. In the mid-1800s, Sam Ealy Johnson, Sr. and his brother Tom settled on 320 acres in what is now Johnson City and began a successful cattle driving business. Sam returned to Texas after serving the Confederacy in the Civil War and married Eliza Bunton in 1867.

LBJ’s grandparents, Sam and Eliza Johnson, lived in this cabin from 1867-1872
This barn was added to the property by James Polk Johnson for whom Johnson City is named and who was a nephew of Sam Ealy Johnson, Sr.
This cooler house, windmill, and cistern were also added to the site by James Polk Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site

The next stop on our road trip is in Stonewall, Texas at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site. The park is located 14 miles/15 minutes west of Johnson City on U.S. Highway 290. 

State Park
The Lyndon B. Johnson State Park Visitor Center

The state park site is adjacent to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park/LBJ Ranch along the banks of the Pedernales River. This park features:

  • Visitor center and gift shop plus memorabilia from LBJ’s presidency 
  • Olympic-sized swimming pool – open in the summer
  • Historic cabin tours
  • Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm
  • Hiking trails
  • Tennis courts
  • Fishing (no license required if fishing in the state park) 
  • Longhorn herd
  • Bison herd

Website link: Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site

Bison at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site
Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm

Located within the state park is the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. Here rangers and park volunteers dress in period clothing and take on the chores of managing an early 20th century home and farm. Volunteers give tours of the buildings, grow gardens and cotton from heirloom seeds and take care of the animals that live on the farm. 

Barn and blacksmith shop
Sheep and other animals live at the historic farm

It’s about a 10-minute walk from the visitor center to the farm. The farmhouse, which was later added on to, was built in the late 1800s by the Sauer family. Interestingly, one of the Sauer’s older daughters was the midwife who attended Lyndon Johnson’s birth in 1908. The Beckmann family bought the farm in 1900, and they remained neighbors of the Johnsons until the property was sold to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1966.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Stop number three on our road trip is the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park/LBJ Ranch. The drive from the state park visitor center to the ranch entrance takes about ten minutes, and the auto tour through the ranch takes about 1 to 1.5 hours depending on stops.

Lyndon and Lady Bird

After his short stint at Georgetown Law, Lyndon met University of Texas graduate, Claudia Alta Taylor. As an infant, Claudia had been called Lady Bird by her nanny, and the nickname followed her throughout her life. LBJ asked Lady Bird to marry him on their first date, and she promptly declined. More proposals and refusals were made over the next ten weeks until Lady Bird finally said yes. The couple were married in November of 1934. LBJ liked being known by his initials, and he also like having them attached to everything he owned, including his ranch and cattle! Having a wife with his initials must have been quite a boost to LBJ’s reportedly huge ego. They named their children Lynda Bird Johnson and Luci Baines Johnson. Even the family’s dog, Little Beagle Johnson, had the same initials. 

LBJ Ranch 

Upon approach to the park visitors will see Trinity Lutheran Church which sits just across the river from the LBJ Ranch entrance. The church was registered as a Texas Historic Landmark in 1989.

Trinity Lutheran Church, built in 1904
The final resting places of Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson in the family cemetery on the ranch

As a kid, Lyndon spent summers on what is now the LBJ Ranch helping his aunt and uncle work cattle and doing odd jobs. After her husband died, LBJ’s aunt asked if he wanted to buy her floundering property, and he jumped at the opportunity. He quickly began purchasing registered Hereford cattle. Over the years, Lyndon and Lady Bird expanded the ranch by purchasing additional land, growing the ranch to over 2,700 acres. When the historical park was being established, the Johnsons opted to donate a portion of the ranch to the National Park Service. Their only condition was that it would continue as a working cattle operation. The park service agreed, and descendants of LBJ’s original prizewinning Herefords still thrive on the ranch today. 

Some of the descendants of LBJ’s prizewinning Hereford cattle
LBJ’s Texas White House
LBJ’s Jetstar, nicknamed Air Force One-Half. This smaller jet was used to carry the president home from a nearby airport where Air Force One had landed because the runway at the ranch couldn’t accommodate a large jet.

The buildings surrounding the airplane hangar (now a visitor center) pictured below are garages, offices, and a secret service command post. These buildings sit behind and to the side of the ranch house. The runway is now the visitor center parking lot. 

Airplane hangar, now visitor center, on the LBJ Ranch

The media began referring to his home as the Texas White House because Johnson spent so much time at the ranch during his presidency. The president held meetings on the lawn under a large live oak tree where members of the cabinet conducted government business from lawn chairs. Foreign ministers, former presidents, and other dignitaries spent time at the LBJ Ranch, and the president even held press conferences from the porch. 

The Texas White House/LBJ Ranch house
The pool and pool house sit in the side yard next to the house
Final view of the Texas White House

Nearby Points of Interest

Click the links below for information on these points of interest in the Texas Hill Country beginning from Johnson City:

Thank you for joining us on our Texas Hill Country road trip! We hope you enjoyed the visit to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.

Want to learn more? Click to see these other exciting historical sites: 

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Eisenhower National Historic Site

Antietam National Battlefield

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

 

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) Our opinions are our own.

©2022

 

Featured

Devils Tower Road Trip: Things to Do

Black Hills, South Dakota

This airport to destination road trip to Devils Tower begins in Rapid City, South Dakota. Distance between Rapid City and Devils Tower: 107 miles/1.75 hours. In this post we will be highlighting four bonus stops along the way and listing things to do at each stop. We’re even including a bonus road trip! Let’s check out Rapid City before we hit the road.

Badlands National Park

Lying just east of the Black Hills National Forest in western South Dakota, Rapid City was settled by prospectors during the Black Hills Gold Rush days of the late 1800s. From its humble beginnings on the banks of Rapid Creek, Rapid City has grown into a flourishing metropolitan area. Nicknamed the City of Presidents because bronze statues of every U.S. president can be found on downtown streets and because of the city’s proximity to Mount Rushmore. As a vacation hotspot, Rapid City has practically anything a visitor could want in the way of accommodations, dining, shopping, and entertainment.

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Things to do in Rapid City

Click the venue name for information about these family favorites:

When to go? Anytime, but we recommend May, June, July and September. Note that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes place during the first two weeks of August. Visiting during this time is not recommended unless you plan to participate in the rally.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Things to Do near Rapid City

Rapid City is also a perfect road trip “home base” due to its proximity to several state and national parks. (Click the park name for information.)

Now, let’s begin our road trip to Devils Tower…

Getting There

Take I-90 west toward Sturgis via Black Hawk. Distance between Rapid City and Sturgis: 29 miles/30 minutes.

Bonus Stop: Sturgis, South Dakota. Home of the world’s largest motorcycle rally. The city has some interesting stops whether you are interested in motorcycles or just a little history.

Things to do in Sturgis

  • Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame – 999 Main St, Sturgis
  • Saab Heritage Car Museum USA – 940 Dickson Dr, Sturgis
  • Black Hills National Cemetery – 20901 Pleasant Valley Dr (3 miles east of Sturgis)
  • Old Fort Meade Museum – 50 Sheridan St, Fort Meade, SD (1.5 miles east of Sturgis via Highways 34 and 79)

No road trip to Sturgis would be complete without a visit to the world’s largest biker bar. Full Throttle Saloon (19942 Hwy 79, Vale, SD) is the real deal. While you’re there, grab a bite to eat, an ice-cold beverage, and a souvenir or two. Most of the time the bar is open from 8:00 am to around 8:30 pm. If in doubt about the hours, give them a call – (605) 423-4584. Distance between Sturgis and Full Throttle Saloon: 20 miles/20 minutes.

Continue west on I-90 toward Spearfish. Distance between Sturgis and Spearfish: 21.7 miles/22 minutes.

Bridal Veil Falls, Spearfish Canyon

Bonus Stop: Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway via Exit 10 or Exit 14 off of I-90. US Highway 14A is the 19-mile-long Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. Without stops, the drive takes approximately 30 minutes, but we recommend allowing 1-1.5 hours for sightseeing along this beautiful byway. The canyon features three waterfalls, wildlife, and hiking trails as well as steep cliff walls and a variety of trees and other plant life. Free to visit.

Roughlock Falls, Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota

Things to do in Spearfish

  • High Plains Western Heritage Center (museum) – 825 Heritage Dr, Spearfish
  • D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery – 423 Hatchery Cir, Spearfish
  • Spearfish Rec & Aquatics Center (water park) – 122 Recreation Ln, Spearfish

Bonus Road Trip: Deadwood, South Dakota. Back during the gold rush Deadwood was a rambunctious Old West town that catered to the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Their gravesites in the Mount Moriah Cemetery are a popular stop for tourists. Today, this National Historic Landmark town features a lively Main Street with gun fight reenactments and plenty of shopping and dining.

Things to do in Deadwood

  • Gambling resorts and gaming halls
  • Museums
  • Gold mine tour
  • Tatanka, Story of the Bison – exhibit featuring bronze sculptures depicting a bison hunt
  • Northern Plains Peoples Interpretive Center

Distance between Spearfish and Deadwood: 15 miles/18 minutes – via US Highway 85 south.

Continue west from Spearfish on I-90 toward Beulah, Wyoming. Distance between Spearfish and Beulah: 15 miles/15 minutes.

Welcome to Wyoming

Wyoming’s welcome centers are definitely worth a stop. The Northeast Wyoming Welcome Center at Beulah includes museum-type exhibits, free maps and other tourist information, clean restrooms, and extremely helpful employees. Travelers can also enjoy a paved walking trail and wayside information boards that detail interesting historical facts about the area.

Bonus Stop: Vore Buffalo Jump. This active archaeological site is located approximately 3 miles west of Beulah on the US Highway 14 access road. See archaeologists at work recovering bison bones and other artifacts left by the Plains Indians in a trap/sink hole dating to 1500-1800 AD. The site is open daily June 1 through Labor Day, but tours may be able to be arranged during other times of the year by calling (888) 945-7676.

Continue west on US Highway 14 toward Sundance, Wyoming. Distance between Beulah and Sundance: 18 miles/20 minutes

Statue of the Sundance Kid in Sundance, Wyoming

Bonus Stop: Sundance, Wyoming. Sundance is the county seat of Crook County, Wyoming. Harry A. Longabaugh was an outlaw who served time in the Crook County Jail for theft. He joined Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch Gang after being released from prison around 1896 and became known as the Sundance Kid. It is widely believed that Butch and Sundance both died in Bolivia in 1908 during a shootout with the Bolivian army. Crook County Museum – 120 North 4th Street – holds an array of historic relics from the area, including some exhibits about Longabaugh, and also features an art gallery. Admission is free and the museum is well worth the stop. Allow 1-1.5 hours.

Continue west on US Highway 14, then take Highway 24 north to Devils Tower. Distance between Sundance and Devils Tower: 27 miles/31 minutes.

Destination: Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower as seen on approach to the park

What is it? The result of ancient volcanic activity, Devils Tower is a rock butte rising 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River. The National Park Service explains:

“We know that the Tower is formed of a rare igneous rock, phonolite porphyry, and is the largest example of columnar jointing in the world.”

Devils Tower is sacred to Northern Plains Indian tribes who traditionally refer to the butte as Bear Lodge. The tower has been called by other names, but Bear Lodge or Bear Lodge Butte is what appears most commonly in early explorers’ notes and maps. Somehow through explorers’ translations of Lakota Indian words, the probable misinterpretation of “bad gods tower” evolved into Devil’s Tower. The government entity that manages place names officially proclaimed the monument Devils Tower and dropped the apostrophe due to their policy against possessive names. President Theodore Roosevelt designated Devils Tower as our country’s first national monument in 1906.

View of Devils Tower from Tower Trail

  • Website link: Devils Tower National Monument
  • The park is open 24 hours every day
  • Cost: $25.00 per car for a 7-day pass – credit card only or purchase pass online

Note that parking at the visitor center is limited and can be difficult for maneuvering long RVs and travel trailers. Check the website for information regarding RV parking.

Another trail view of Devils Tower

Things to do at Devils Tower

  • Stop at Devils Tower Trading Post just before entering the park to pick up snacks or souvenirs and then take some postcard worthy shots of the tower
  • Camp – RV and tent camping available at the Belle Fourche River Campground – first come only, no reservations
  • Picnic – large picnic area with tables
  • Hike – several trails available
  • Join a ranger program or night sky program
  • Visit the park’s resident prairie dogs at Prairie Dog Town
  • Climb. Climbing is permitted with registration of climbers. Note: during the month of June when Native American rituals and religious services take place, climbers are asked not to climb due to the sanctity of the site.

One last Devils Tower shot

Thank you so much for joining us on our road trip to Devils Tower!

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road or at a national park.

Mike and Kellye

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Need more US road trip inspiration? Click on these other exciting destinations:

Abilene, Texas Road Trip: Things to Do

Albuquerque to Taos Road Trip: Things to Do

 

 

 

 

 

10 Amazing Things to See and Do at Big Bend National Park

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Ruidoso Road Trip: Things to Do

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Sierra Blanca Peak, Ruidoso, New Mexico

Looking for a road trip adventure with things to do for the whole family? Ruidoso, New Mexico is a great bet! Tucked snugly beneath towering mountain peaks and fragrant whispering pines, the quaint alpine village is a perfect getaway destination. We started going there as kids with our parents and grandparents, and we’ve been going back ever since!

Fall aspens near Ruidoso

The area offers skiing and other snow sports in the winter, along with the smoky-sweet aroma of pinion pine woodfires. Summer brings the thrill of horse racing as well as outdoor adventures such as hiking, fishing, horseback riding and golfing. While visiting Ruidoso, be on the lookout for the band of beautiful wild horses that roam around town. We love Ruidoso any time of year, but if we had to choose our favorite month to visit, we would choose October. We’re anxious to share this road trip with you, so let’s get going!

Ruidoso is approximately:

140 miles from El Paso, Texas180 miles from Albuquerque, NM250 miles from Lubbock, Texas

This airport to destination road trip is going to start in El Paso since it is the closest city with a major airport. Drive time between El Paso and Ruidoso: 2.5 hours.

City view of El Paso, Texas

Things to do in El Paso:

  • Chamizal National Memorial
  • Franklin Mountains State Park
  • Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site
  • Museum of History
  • Zoo and Botanical Gardens
  • Museum of Art
  • Mission Trail
  • Water Parks
  • Children’s Museum

Getting There

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From El Paso, take US Highway 54 north toward Tularosa via Alamogordo, then take US Highway 70 northeast to Ruidoso.

⇒Alternate (recommended) Route: from El Paso, take I-10 north to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Drive time between El Paso and Las Cruces: 49 minutes

Bonus stop: Las Cruces

Stop for an hour or two to visit Old Mesilla Village. Walk the plaza which is a National Historic Landmark. Mesilla offers shopping venues as well as dining with a serving of history on the side. If a hike sounds appealing, check out the Dripping Springs Natural Area at Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument for scenic trials. While in Las Cruces, look for the mural-painted water tanks and the giant roadrunner sculpture made from an array of recycled junk such as old sneakers and computer components.

Organ Mountains near Las Cruces – photo by Jason Pofahl

From Las Cruces take US Highway 70 north to White Sands National Park. Drive time between Las Cruces and White Sands: 52 minutes.

Bonus stop: White Sands National Park

Currently $25.00 per vehicle to enter the park. The gift shop at the visitor center sells sand discs for sledding on the dunes. Even if sledding isn’t your thing, the scenery is out of this world. There are plenty of places to park along Dunes Drive, so get out of the car and climb the gypsum dunes for spectacular views and photo ops with the mountains as the backdrop. Here’s the link: White Sands National Park

Travel tip: before you go, check the website for temporary park and highway closures due to testing at White Sands Missile Range. Closures typically last three hours or less.

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White Sands National Park

From White Sands, take US Highway 70 to Alamogordo. Drive time between White Sands and Alamogordo: 17 minutes

Bonus stop:  Alamogordo

Plan to spend a couple of hours at the New Mexico Museum of Space History/International Space Hall of Fame, as it is a fantastic museum that both kids and adults will love. Alamogordo offers many hotel and restaurant choices, as well as a state park, wineries, and a zoo. While you’re in town, be on the lookout for the world’s largest pistachio! 

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International Space Hall of Fame, Alamogordo, New Mexico

From Alamogordo, take US Highway 54 north to Tularosa (13 miles), then take US Highway 70 northeast to Ruidoso. Drive time between Alamogordo and Ruidoso: 1 hour

⇒Alternate (recommended) Route: from Alamogordo, take US Highway 82 east to Cloudcroft. (19 miles of steep two-lane road.) This route through the Lincoln National Forest is very scenic. Drive time between Alamogordo and Ruidoso via this route: 1.5 hours without stops

Travel tip: when approaching the “Tunnel Ahead” sign, slow down for a pull out. The view of White Sands from the viewpoint is pictured below.

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Continue east on US Highway 82. Right before you reach the village of Cloudcroft, there is another pull out. Stop and get out of the car, stretch your legs, and breathe in the fresh mountain air. (The elevation is about 8650 feet.) Learn about the historic Cloudcroft Railroad/Mexican Canyon Trestle pictured below. This only remaining portion of the old rail line is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Bonus stop: Cloudcroft.

Stop and have a look around the village that is home to Ski Cloudcroft. The village also has shopping, restaurants, history, and a totally laid-back atmosphere. *Recommended restaurant in Cloudcroft: Dave’s Cafe – 300 Burro Ave. Good food and good service.

Bonus Road Trip: Sunspot Solar Observatory

Head south from Cloudcroft on Highway 130 toward Sunspot via the Sunspot Highway (aka Highway 6563). It is an extremely scenic drive (a total of 19 miles in the Lincoln National Forest) that ends at the observatory.  Along the road, be sure to stop at the scenic viewpoint pull out for fabulous views of White Sands and the Tularosa Basin. At the observatory, stop in at the visitor center then take a self-guided tour of the telescopes. The elevation at Sunspot is about 9200 feet.

Travel tip: Google Maps for directions to Sunspot are not reliable.

From Cloudcroft, take Highway 244 north to US Highway 70 to Ruidoso. Highway 244 is also a scenic route through the Lincoln National Forest. Drive time from Cloudcroft to Ruidoso: 1 hour.

Travel tip: watch for deer and elk along this road.

Did we mention why we like this area in October?

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Fall colors just outside of Ruidoso in Lincoln National Forest

Destination: Ruidoso, New Mexico

As for places to stay in Ruidoso, Inn of the Mountain Gods is our first choice. The resort has everything visitors want, including a gorgeous yet challenging golf course, restaurants, a casino, and an RV campground. Here’s a link: Inn of the Mountain Gods

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We also recommend:

  • Hampton Inn – preferred chain hotel in Ruidoso
  • Casa Blanca – preferred Mexican Food – 501 Mechem Dr.
  • Ranchers Steak and Seafood Restaurant – preferred splurge restaurant- 2823 Sudderth Dr. – make a reservation for dinner
  • Wendell’s Steak and Seafood at Inn of the Mountain Gods – preferred splurge restaurant – make a reservation for dinner
  • Anaheim Jacks – preferred lunch stop – 1097 Mechem Dr.

Things to do in Ruidoso:

  • Bet! Enjoy the excitement of summer horse racing at Ruidoso Downs. The adjoining Billy the Kid Casino is open year-round.
  • Gamble! Play the slots or try your hand at one the gaming tables at Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino.
  • Shop! Ruidoso’s walkable downtown offers a variety of great shops and art galleries. There is bound to be something for every heart’s desire.
  • Play! There are public golf courses, a public swimming pool, tennis courts, public parks, a bowling alley, miniature golf, bumper boats, go-carts, Wibit Water Park, and horseback riding stables, just to name a few.IMG_4710
  • Ski! Head to Ski Apache for wintertime fun in the snow. There is also a site for sledding and tubing near the ski area.
  • Learn! Check out the Hubbard Museum of the American West, located just east of Ruidoso Downs racetrack.
  •  Hike or Bike! There are many hiking and biking trails in the area. Here’s a link for trail information: Ruidoso Trails
  • Enjoy the Water! Area lakes provide the perfect setting for canoeing, kayaking, or fishing.
  • Drive the Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway. Stop in at the Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway Visitor Center in Ruidoso Downs (next to the Hubbard Museum of the American West) before traveling to the following sites. Here’s a link: Billy the Kid Scenic Byway.

Things to do on the Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway

First stop:

For nostalgia buffs, head northeast on Highway 48 from Ruidoso to Capitan for a visit to Smokey Bear Historical Park. Spend an hour touring the museum and nature area and see Smokey’s final resting place. Tickets are $2.00 per adult and $1.00 for kids between the ages of seven and twelve. Six and under are free. Cash only.

Second stop:

Head east on US Highway 380 to Fort Stanton Historic Site. Take a tour of the grounds and learn the importance of this historic fort. Allow 1-2 hours to visit the site. Here’s a link: Fort Stanton.

Third stop:

Lincoln, New Mexico is a great stop for some Old West history. (East on US Highway 380 from Fort Stanton.) Learn about the Lincoln County War, Sheriff Pat Garrett, and Billy the Kid, while touring the historic buildings in town. Tickets for entrance into the museum and designated buildings are $7.00 per adult at the visitor center. There is also a nice hiking/nature trail along the Rio Bonito. Allow 1-2 hours to visit Lincoln.

Old Lincoln County Courthouse

Fourth Stop: 

Head southeast on 380 from Lincoln to Hondo. At Hondo turn right on to US Highway 70 to San Patricio, home of artists Peter Hurd, Henriette Wyeth-Hurd, and Michael Hurd. The family’s ranch features guest homes, a winery and tasting room, and The Hurd la Rinconada Gallery. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9:00 to 5:00 – 105 La Rinconada in San Patricio, New Mexico, 25 miles east of Ruidoso.

Sedona 2007 158

We’re going to end this post with one last road trip idea. See it all, do it all, right?

Just a one-hour drive east from Ruidoso is the city of Roswell, New Mexico. Remember the 1947 Roswell incident? Well, whether or not you believe a flying saucer crashed there, a trip to the International UFO Museum and Research Center might be a fun stop to add to your itinerary.

Hopefully we have inspired your wanderlust, and if a trip to New Mexico is on your radar, we sincerely hope that you will make plans to visit Ruidoso and surrounding areas in the future. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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(This is an updated and enhanced version of a prior post published on October 27, 2018.)

Need more inspiration? Click the links to view these other great road trip destinations:

Amarillo, Texas

Albuquerque to Taos Road Trip: Things to Do

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022

Featured

Money Saving Tips for Road Trippers

Can we afford it? That seems to be a universal question when planning a road trip or any vacation for that matter. Money definitely determines when and where we go, especially if we are flying somewhere to begin a road trip. We have found some ways to make travel more cost-effective for us, and today we are sharing our best money saving travel tips with you. We hope that our suggestions will help you become a more frugal and frequent traveler!

Save those pennies

Plan for travel as a regular part of your monthly budget by setting aside a certain amount of money earmarked specifically for vacations. Get creative about how to raise some extra money. (We once funded round-trip cross-country airfare for four with the proceeds of a garage sale.) Every dollar saved puts you one step closer to an awesome vacation but remember to budget wisely! Everything from food to gasoline to hotel rooms is more expensive nowadays, and prices don’t appear to be coming down anytime soon. 

         

Make plastic work for you

Use an airline points credit card for all of your purchases and pay it off every month. Another choice is to opt for a card that pays you cash back on every purchase. Weigh the cost of airfare as opposed to what your cash back card will earn then decide which method will work best for you. Additionally, if you visit a lot of national or state parks, make their plastic work for you too by purchasing park passes. 

Sign up

Become a member of a hotel loyalty rewards program in order to earn free hotel stays. It takes a lot of stays to earn a free one, but just one free night can save money for other things. Consider joining AARP (if you’re 50 or older) or become a AAA member. The fees for joining are nominal, and members can receive discounts on hotels and restaurants as well as other benefits. For those traveling to a specific destination to spend several days or for those who travel in larger groups, Airbnb or VRBO properties may be more cost-effective than hotel rooms.

Eat right

Stay at hotels that offer free breakfast and enjoy picnic lunches on the road. Roadside and even parking lot picnics have been some of our favorite travel experiences. Another trick is to pick up a couple of low denomination ($10.00 – $20.00) gift cards for your favorite chain restaurants on grocery shopping trips then stash them away to use when traveling. Gift card purchases won’t add much to your shopping bills, but they will come in handy for “free” meals on the road. Starbucks, McDonalds, Subway, Sonic, Dunkin’, Dairy Queen, and other chains can be found almost everywhere in the U.S., even airports.

Limit shopping

It was a hard habit to break, but we no longer buy souvenirs while traveling except for a Christmas ornament at major destinations. Ornaments are inexpensive, they pack easily for the trip home, and we get to remember the trip every year when we decorate the tree. Other options are magnets, post cards, and guidebooks. If you like to write, doodle, paint or sketch, make your own travel journal or scrapbook. 

Find money saving souvenirs such as Christmas ornaments

Dare to be different

Travel during the off season (or mid-week) when airfare and hotel stays are less expensive but be prepared for possible tourist site closures and less than optimal weather. Another big bonus for traveling in the off season is that the crowds are usually much smaller in tourist hotspots. Check websites or call ahead to ensure that the places you want to visit will be open when you arrive. Also, if a particular city is your destination, Google to see what is on that city’s events calendar during the time you’re going to be there. If a festival, major concert, rally, etc. is going on, hotel room prices will skyrocket or sell out. This happened to us recently, and we had to redo our entire itinerary in order to avoid a particular city – all because of a concert and no available hotel rooms!

Do your homework

Google for money saving coupons to amusement parks, zoos, and other entertainment venues.  Amusement parks and zoos periodically offer reduced prices, two for one, or free admission. Take note of free national park days which can be found here: National Park Free Days. Look for restaurant coupons and specials too. A little research can go a long way to saving money on dining and entertainment.

Life lessons for kids

Leading up to the vacation, let kids earn their own spending money by helping out around the house. Teach older kids how to budget their allowances to pay for special activities while on the trip. Give kids their own travel budget for souvenirs and treats. Put a set amount of money into an envelope for each child and explain that when it’s gone there will be no more – and stick to it. 

Be brave

Ask for discounts when making hotel reservations or entering tourist sites. Military, senior, government employee and other discounts may be available just for the asking. Even if you have made a hotel reservation online, ask for a discount when you check in. We asked for a discount at a hotel in Birmingham, Alabama last year, and the manager cut the cost of our stay almost in half! Alternately, if your service or accommodations are not up to par, don’t hesitate to ask for a discount or refund when you check out.

Go for the freebies

Most cities have wonderful things to do for free. Google “free things to do” in the city you’re going to visit. It’s amazing how many great parks – even some national park sites – museums, historical sites, botanical gardens, and other points of interest are free. 

Our #1 money saving tip: find something to do for free

A thought on rental cars

While most rental car loyalty programs will give you points, it takes a lot of them to earn anything tangible. Some programs may have some other money saving perks too, but we think the best reason to be a member of a loyalty program is that it could keep you from standing in line for an hour (or two) when picking up a car.

That cute sports car might be fun, but the cost-effective, fuel-efficient model is your best bet

In closing, we hope our information has given you some ways to become a money saving traveler. If you have additional money saving or road trip tips, please share them with us in the comments section! We also hope you will come by again for more tips, tricks, road trip destinations, Quick Stops and other features. Until next time…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!

Mike and Kellye

Need some road trip destination ideas? Click on these: 

Assateague Island National Seashore

Franconia Notch State Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Scotts Bluff National Monument

 

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022  

Photo Credits: maitree rimthong, Pixabay, Dominika Roseclay, Oleg Magni, Vova Krasilnikov, Printexstar, vjapratama, Andrew Neel, Karolina Grabowska, Ammy K, Pexels.com

Featured

Road Trip Planning: 5 Easy Steps

Want to hit the road? All a road trip takes is a vehicle, a sense of adventure, and a plan. Well, and some money, but will be sharing our money saving tips for road trippers in another post, so stay tuned! We can’t help you with the funding, the vehicle, or the mind set, but we do have the plan! Today, we’re sharing our 5 easy steps for planning the perfect road trip. Let’s get going…

1. Where to go

Road trips don’t necessarily need to have a destination, it’s about the journey after all, but every trip starts with an idea of what you want to see or do. Is it a particular city, visiting friends or family, simply looking at scenery, a national or state park, or something else that interests you? Making the decision can be hard, but we’re fortunate to have multiple trip idea resources at our fingertips. Here are some great places to start:

  • Travel blogs, magazines, and books
  • Online news site travel features
  • National and state park websites
  • Google, along with Google Maps and Google Images
  • Only in Your State – https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/
  • Friends – ask them for recommendations based on where they’ve been
Wildflowers on a Texas road trip

2. When to go and for how long

The nice thing about road trips is that they can happen any time of the year. Is your trip going to be for a weekend, a few days, a week, or longer? Most people have limited vacation days per year, so time can be a big consideration when planning a trip. Some of our best trips have been weekend or long weekend trips, so don’t let a shortage of time be a discouraging factor. 

Lonely road in West Texas. Taken on our road trip to Big Bend National Park.

Here are some timing guidelines:

  • Weekend: plan a trip to a destination that is less than a three-hour drive from home and consider leaving on Friday evening.
  • Long Weekend: plan a trip to a destination less than a five-hour drive from home. Leaving early in the morning is a bonus because you can get to your destination by lunchtime.
  • One Week or Longer: figure out the distance between home and the destination then decide whether to drive from home or fly to the beginning point.

Once the destination has been decided, Google the distance between point A and point B. (For example: Distance between Amarillo, Tx and St. Louis, Mo.) Then plan your itinerary from the Google map. This allows you to see what interesting cities are along the route, the travel time, and it even allows you to add up to nine additional destinations. Consider taking a different route home so you get the bonus of seeing more great places.

3. Have a plan

We make an itinerary for every trip whether it’s a weekend trip or a long trip. The reason for this is it provides structure and helps with the financial planning aspect of the journey. Nobody wants to get in the car and waste valuable time trying to decide what to do or where to go next. Writing it down makes it a commitment even if we don’t always stick strictly to our plans. Below is an example of one of our itineraries.

Itineraries can be super detailed or as simple as some notes jotted down on a piece of paper. Our theory is that it’s better to have too much of a plan than no plan at all. We don’t want to arrive at a destination without a hotel or rental car reservation or not have a clue about what a city has to offer. On the other hand, we have a lot of admiration for the free-spirited road warriors who are brave enough to just get in the car and go!

Blue Ridge Mountains. Road trip to Shenandoah National Park.

4. Do some research

Find out everything you can about your destination and the cities you will be passing through using Trip Advisor, Chamber of Commerce websites, and other online resources. Google “things to do” in every town or city on your route and add the things you want to see to your itinerary. Atlas Obscura and Roadside America are great resources for finding unusual or quirky sights in a specific city or along the road. If you’re like us, we want to see it all and do it all in every destination because we’re probably not going back.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas.

Remember all those times as a kid when you wanted to see a roadside attraction and your parents would never stop? Well, now that you’re in the driver’s seat you can stop all you want. Go ahead and check out that alligator farm! Spray paint those cars at Cadillac Ranch! Spend thirty minutes browsing around that quirky tourist trap! This is your trip, so plan it the way you want.

One more thing about our planning strategy: we try to plan where we’re going to eat so we don’t waste time driving around looking for a place to stop. We make three choices per meal via Trip Advisor, blog, or other website recommendations. Asking hotel desk clerks for recommendations is also a good way to find the best local dining hotspots. In fact, on the trip from the itinerary above we didn’t eat at any of the listed restaurants. We ate at the restaurant recommended by the hotel clerk and ended up having one of the best meals of the trip!

5. Don’t take chances

Before you hit the road, make sure you and your car are in shape to travel especially if you’re going to be driving a long distance. Here is a short checklist:

  • Make sure tires are in good shape and aired properly, including the spare, and be sure you have a jack. Check the wiper blades and oil levels too.
  • Check to make sure the vehicle’s instruction manual and insurance information is in the glove box or console.
  • Outfit your vehicle with a roadside emergency kit including jumper cables, mini air compressor, flares or reflector triangles along with a few tools and other emergency needs in case of a flat or breakdown.
  • Keep a first aid kit handy for little scrapes, bug bites, blisters, etc., and add a nail clipper and emery board because someone will probably need them.
Our snack caddy goes on every trip with us.

Do take:

  • A cooler or basket full of your favorite road snacks and drinks.
  • A great road trip playlist.
  • A paper map or road atlas in case your electronics don’t work – it happens.
  • Chargers for electronics.
  • A few plastic bags of various sizes, including zip lock types, because they have thousands of uses besides for trash: muddy shoes, wet bathing suits and towels, dirty clothes, leftover snacks, just to name a few.

Now you’re ready to buckle up, crank up the tunes, and hit the road! Have fun and travel safely.

We will see you down the road…

Mike and Kellye

 

Need some inspiration? Check out these exciting road trip destinations:
 Abilene, Texas Road Trip: Things to Do
Things to Do in San Antonio: River Walk
Things to Do in Sedona, Arizona

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022            

Featured

Albuquerque to Taos Road Trip: Things to Do

Taos Pueblo

Northern New Mexico is a breath of fresh air – literally. The air is clean, the skies are bright, and the mountains are majestic! While visiting Taos you will be able to learn about its historic past, see world class art, and enjoy great food, all in a casual, laid-back atmosphere! Taos is also a year-round hub for a multitude of outdoor sports, and opportunities for sightseeing abound.

Taos is:

  • The perfect road trip destination for a long weekend.
  • A great get away for couples.
  • Best visited: anytime. We like September and October. Snow sports enthusiasts will love Taos in the winter months.

Rio Grande and Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque -Photo by Stephanie Klepacki

This airport-to-destination road trip is going to start from the closest major airport which is in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Miles between Albuquerque and Taos: 133 via Santa Fe.

Things to do in Albuquerque:

  • Old Town
  • Sandia Peak Tramway
  • Albuquerque BioPark – zoo and aquarium
  • Petroglyph National Monument
  • New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
  • Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
  • Breaking Bad RV tour
  • Casinos

Albuquerque’s Sandia Peak Tramway – Photo by Federated Art

*Recommended hotels in Albuquerque: Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express. Both hotel chains have several locations to choose from.

*Recommended restaurant in Albuquerque: Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, 5011 Pan American Freeway NE

Travel tip: We highly recommend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta which takes place every October. Here’s a link: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Photo by Lad Fury

Getting There

From Albuquerque, there are two options for driving to Santa Fe. The I-25 route is the fastest. Highway 14 aka The Turquoise Trail is much more scenic but requires a longer drive.

From Albuquerque, take I-25 north to Santa Fe. Drive time between Albuquerque and Santa Fe: 1 hour

Recommended route: via the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway. From Albuquerque, take I-40 east to Highway 14 north toward Madrid.

Bonus stop: Madrid.  Once a mining town turned ghost town, Madrid (pronounced mad´-rid)  is now a thriving artist community. Drive time between Albuquerque and Madrid: 1 hour.

Continue on to Santa Fe via Highway 14. Drive time between Madrid and Santa Fe: 40 minutes.

Bonus Stop: Santa Fe.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, New Mexico

 Travel tip: If you can’t spend a few days in Santa Fe, try to stop for a few hours to explore the plaza. Plan a trip back when you can spend some time enjoying everything the historic city has to offer.

Things to do in Santa Fe:

  • Santa Fe Plaza
  • Palace of the Governors
  • Loretto Chapel
  • San Miguel Chapel
  • Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
  • Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
  • Santa Fe Railyard
  • Meow Woof

*Recommended hotel in Santa Fe: Inn on the Alameda. Within walking distance of the plaza and Canyon Road galleries. Free breakfast. Click this link for Inn on the Alameda

*Recommended restaurants in Santa Fe: The Shed – 113 E Palace Avenue, on the plaza, and The Pink Adobe – 406 Old Santa Fe Trail, off the plaza.

Side trip: Pecos National Historical Park. From Santa Fe, take I-25 toward Glorietta, then Highway 50 east to Pecos, and follow the signs to the park. View the ruins of a pueblo that was built around 800 AD. Allow at least two hours to see the site via a self-guided walking tour. The visitor center museum is extremely interesting. Drive time between Santa Fe and Pecos National Historical Park: 40 minutes. We highly recommend a visit to this park! Here is a link for more information:  Pecos National Historical Park

From Santa Fe there are two options for driving to Taos: the High Road to Taos Scenic Byway, which we recommend, and the Low Road to Taos, which is faster. Timing will determine which road to choose.

High Road to Taos – longer but most scenic

From Santa Fe take Highway 84/285 north toward Pojoaque, then take Highway 503 east via Highway 98 to Chimayo.

 Bonus stop: historic Santuario de Chimayo. Learn about El Posito, a hole in the floor of the church that is believed to have healing powers in its dirt.

Bonus stop:

The Church of San Jose de la Gracia

Low Road to Taos – not as scenic but faster

At Santa Fe, take US 84 West, then 285 North toward Espanola, then take Highway 68 to Taos. Drive time between Santa Fe and Taos: 1.5 hours.

Destination: Taos, New Mexico

Ruins of the San Geronimo Mission church and cemetery at Taos Pueblo

*Recommended hotel in Taos: El Pueblo Lodge, 412 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Here is a link: El Pueblo Lodge. There is also a Hampton Inn.

There are too many good restaurants in Taos to list, but our advice is to ask the front desk at the hotel for their recommendations. Locals always know the best places to eat.

Things to do in Taos:

Stroll the plaza. Walk the square, check out the unique shops and boutiques, pick up a box of chocolates at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and stop in at one of the plaza’s restaurants for drinks and a meal. We recommend The Gorge Bar & Grill. Try the tequila-lime chicken street tacos along with the fried green beans and sip a margarita while people watching from the second-story patio.

Travel tip: there are some great shops and restaurants outside of the plaza too.

Visit Taos Pueblo. Take a guided walking tour of the pueblo. Learn the history of the site and the people who have called this sacred ground home for over one thousand years. Taos Pueblo is one of only 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the U.S. A visit is very well worth the price of the tour and a tip for the tour guide. Plan to spend two hours. Check the site for Covid-19 restrictions and availability here: Taos Pueblo

Get up Early for a Hot Air Balloon Ride. For the thrill of a lifetime, take an early morning hot air balloon flight. Dip into the Rio Grande Gorge, touch down on the river, then float high above the plateaus for spectacular views of the gorge and the mountains with volcano cone vistas of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. There are a few hot air balloon companies to choose from, and we recommend booking ahead for this popular activity.

Walk across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Take US Highway 64 West from Taos. Park on the west side, and walk across the bridge, which sits 650 feet above the river! Look for desert big horn sheep on the rocks along the gorge. Located at the edge of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, the scenery is spectacular. Adjoining the national monument is Rio Grande Gorge State Park – we thought it was more of a rest area – where there are places to picnic while enjoying the scenery. There are great photo ops, and it is just a few miles east of the Earthships Biotecture Visitor Center. For anyone who has not seen the Taos Earthships, they are definitely worth a visit or an overnight stay. Some of the earthships are now Airbnb vacation rentals. Here is a link: Taos Earthships  

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Spend an afternoon fishing. Or spend the day enjoying most any other outdoor sport. Outfitters in Taos can arrange whitewater rafting or a float trip on the Rio Grande. Stop by Taos Fly Shop for some great fishing gear, a license, or tips on where the fish are biting. Head for the Taos Ski Valley for great hiking and mountain biking trails, and of course skiing and snowboarding in the winter.

Fly fishing on the Rio Pueblo

•Step into the past. There are no less than 10 museums in Taos, featuring the personal homes of past Taos residents, Native American history, Northern New Mexico history, and of course, art. As art lovers, we recommend learning about the Taos Society of Artists which made Taos the art colony it still is today. Be sure to check the museums’ websites for operating days and times as well as Covid-19 restrictions.

Browse or buy world class art. With approximately 20 galleries in town, Taos is an art lover’s paradise. From Native American art, pottery and jewelry to modern art and funky sculptures, there is a gallery collection to suit every taste.

Kick back. Grab a good book and find a cozy spot in the sun or curl up in front of a fireplace with a warm drink and that box of chocolates you bought at the plaza. Take a leisurely stroll then stop in at Parcht (on the plaza) for a glass of wine and a bite. Or get back on the road for a drive through the mountains and Carson National Forest. The possibilities for rest and relaxation in the Taos area are endless.

Looking for more ideas? Click on the links below to find out about these other exciting weekend road trip destinations:

El Paso to Ruidoso Road Trip: Things to Do

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

Abilene, Texas Road Trip: Things to Do

Thank you for joining us! Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

Featured

Things to do in Sedona, Arizona

Sedona 2007 051 Nestled in the heart of the American Southwest, Sedona, Arizona is truly one of the prettiest cities we have visited. Life in red rock country seems to move at a slower pace, and the city offers great places to relax, shop, view spectacular scenery, and eat. Sedona is a dark sky community which means there is an ordinance against light pollution. On clear summer nights, the Milky Way can be seen arching across the sky from horizon to horizon! By day, the red rock scenery is enchanting, and to make it even better the city averages 278 days of sunshine per year. Sedona is a great year-round destination, but we particularly like to visit during the early fall. Sedona is:

  • An ideal place for a couple’s getaway, girl’s trip, or bachelor/bachelorette weekends.
  • Perfect for a long weekend or extended stay.
  • A hub for several national parks and other attractions.

This 117-mile airport-to-destination road trip starts from the closest major airport located in Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix has a large selection of hotels, resorts, RV resorts and campsite options for overnight stays. Attractions in Phoenix include: a zoo, an aquarium, water parks, museums, hiking trails, and golf courses. Click here for more information about accommodations and attractions: Visit Phoenix. Sedona 2007 055

Getting to Sedona

From Phoenix, take I-17 north. Drive time: 2 hours.

Bonus stop: Montezuma Castle National Monument. See an ancient apartment complex tucked high into the side of a cliff. Then drive 5 miles north to see Montezuma Well, a sinkhole fed by natural springs and also surrounded by ancient cliff dwellings. A 7-day pass is $10.00 for adults (which also allows entry to Tuzigoot National Monument) and children 15 and under are admitted free. For additional information, here is a link to the National Park Service website: Montezuma Castle National Monument.

Montezuma´s castle in Arizona
Montezuma Castle. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Continue on I-17 north to Highway 179 north to Sedona. Note: Highway 179 is Red Rock Scenic Byway, a designated All-American Road, which takes travelers through some of the most picturesque scenery in the country.

Destination: Sedona, Arizona

Sedona 2007 129 The town of Sedona grew up from farm settlements along Oak Creek when the first homesteaders arrived during the mid-1800s. Near the turn of the century, a man by the name of T.C. Schnebly arrived and made his home where the ever-popular Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village sits today. In 1902 the industrious Mr. Schnebly applied for the first post office in the area, and it is his wife, Sedona, for whom the city is named.

Accommodations:

While we can’t list or recommend the numerous hotel options in Sedona, we can say that accommodations in Sedona will cost anywhere from $170.00 per night to over $500.00 per night. From basic rooms at Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express to championship golf resorts and luxurious spas, Sedona has an accommodation for almost everyone’s preference and budget.

Dining:

Meal options can range from inexpensive American fare such as burgers and brews at Oak Creek Brewery & Grill to high-end dining featuring prime meats and seafood at Rene. There is even a McDonalds which finally opened in Sedona after years of negotiation with the city over its famous golden arches. The city said the bright yellow sign did not meet its ordinance which keeps structures and signs from detracting from the natural beauty of the surroundings. Sedona won, and the McDonalds was constructed in a Southwestern motif with turquoise arches. We’ve been told it’s the only McDonalds in the world that doesn’t have golden arches on the building. And while we’re talking about places to eat, be sure to go to the Cowboy Club Grille & Spirits in uptown Sedona and order the cactus fries – you won’t be sorry!

Sedona has long been recognized for having mysterious cosmic forces that seem to emanate from the rocks. The forces are known as vortices. To quote Roger Naylor (RogerNaylor.com), vortices are “…swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. These are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy.” While some consider the entire area around Sedona a vortex, certain areas are said to have stronger powers than others. People often ask how many strong vortex sites there are, but the answer depends on who you ask. Some of the most popular higher energy areas are said to include Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Airport Mesa, and Courthouse Butte. Visit Sedona and decide for yourself if the vortices really do exist.

Our Top 10 favorite things to do in Sedona:

Sedona 2007 067 1 – Hop on a trolley. Want to take a tour of the city and get some helpful information about the area? Sedona Trolley has you covered with 55-minute tours starting at $23.99 for adults and $15.99 for children 12 and under. Several tour options and times are available. Do this first for the best introduction to the city. Here is a link to the website: Sedona Trolley

2 – Shop. Tlaquepaque (Tuh-lockee-pockee) Arts & Shopping Village is a can’t-miss venue featuring shops, galleries, a chapel, and restaurants. The beautiful courtyard setting has an Old Mexico vibe with plenty of shade trees, colorful flowers, and a bubbling fountain. Visitors will want to spend a few hours strolling through the shops and galleries followed by a relaxing lunch or dinner on the patio at one of Tlaquepaque’s restaurants.

A glimpse inside the Tlaquepaque Chapel. Tlaquepaque is a popular wedding venue.

We recommend spending time in uptown (aka downtown) Sedona too. There are many stores and restaurants that offer a wide range of shopping and dining options. Word of caution: the Merry Christmas Sedona shop may be hazardous to your budget. With so many beautiful things to buy, it’s hard to choose just one – or ten! And don’t forget about the cactus fries and other great food at the Cowboy Club Grill & Spirits.

3 – Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Inspired by the construction of the Empire State Building, Arizona sculptor and rancher, Marguerite Brunswig Staude, commissioned the construction of the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Initially, she sought to build the church in Budapest, Hungary in the 1930s, but with the outbreak of WWII the plans were scrapped. In the early 1950s Senator Barry Goldwater helped Staude get a special use permit to build the church on Coconino National Forest land. The gorgeous church was completed in 1956.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

4 – Enjoy the scenery at Red Rock State Park. If there really is something to that vortices thing in Sedona, then this place might just have it! We experienced peaceful calm – an almost spiritual feeling – at this park. Hike one or all of the trails or simply find solitude along the banks of Oak Creek. This park is also an excellent picnic destination.

sedona
Cathedral Rock as seen from Red Rock State Park

5 – Take a pink jeep tour.  The tour company, known for their signature pink vehicles, can arrange a variety of off-roading adventures, hiking tours, and trips to the Grand Canyon, among other exciting experiences. We highly recommend the 1-day, Grand Canyon tour to the south rim. Here is a link to their website: Pink Adventure Tours.

South Rim of the Grand Canyon

6 – Drive through Oak Creek Canyon. Embark on a scenic 14-mile drive on State Route 89A between Flagstaff and Sedona. This is a slow road because of the corkscrew twists and turns, but the scenery will take your breath away! While the northbound drive is beautiful, we recommend driving south from Flagstaff for the best views.

7 – Play at Slide Rock State Park. Visit this scenic park in Oak Creek Canyon featuring a natural rock water slide. Go to play in the water, go to hike, or go for the scenery in this historic park.

Sedona 2007 174
Slide Rock State Park

8 – Gaze at the stars. There are several astronomy tours available in Sedona, and the state parks host them periodically too. Learn about the constellations and take a peek into outer space through their telescopes. We recommend Sedona Star Gazing – Evening Sky Tours. Here’s a link: Evening Sky Tours.

9 – Watch the sun set. We love a great sunset (or sunrise), and Airport Mesa is the place to be in Sedona just before the sun goes down. Here’s one we were lucky enough to capture. Sedona 2007 044

10 – Take a side trip to a national park:

  • Grand Canyon National Park is 2 hours north of Sedona via Flagstaff.
  • Petrified Forest National Park is 2.5 hours northeast of Sedona via Flagstaff.
  • Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Page, Arizona and Lake Powell are 2.75 hours north of Sedona via US Highway 89.
  • Tuzigoot National Monument is 30 minutes southwest of Sedona.
  • Walnut Canyon National Monument is 45 minutes northeast of Sedona via Flagstaff.
  • Saguaro National Park is 3.5 hours southwest of Sedona via Phoenix and Tucson.

Now that we’ve given you our top 10, we should add that Sedona has so much more than what we’ve covered. There are numerous hiking trails for all levels of hikers, with Cathedral Rock Trail and Devil’s Bridge Trail being two of the favorites. Additionally, climbing and bouldering are popular in Sedona, and guided climbs can be arranged through several companies. ATV rentals and tours are available for those who want to have a little off-roading fun. There are several mountain biking trails as well as motorcycles to rent for wind-in-your-hair rides through the red rocks.

As you can see, Sedona has something to delight every visitor. While we can’t guarantee anything, we’re pretty sure you will love Sedona as much as we do!

*This is an update of an original post from September 22, 2018.

Sedona 2007 078

Click to see more exciting Arizona destinations:

Grand Canyon National Park

Petrified Forest National Park

Monument Valley Tribal Park

Thank you for joining us for our recap of Sedona!

Mike and Kellye

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022              

Featured

Things to do in San Antonio: River Walk

San Antonio is one of the most historic cities in the United States, having been founded in 1718 when a Spanish expedition established the Mission San Antonio de Valero, now known as the Alamo. Soon after, a presidio (Spanish fort) named San Antonio de Bexar was established nearby and became the foundation of the city of San Antonio. The settlement served as the seat of the Spanish government in Texas until Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821. Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836, and at that time San Antonio was home to about 2,500 residents. Today, San Antonio boasts a population of over 1.5 million making it the seventh largest city in the U.S. 

While San Antonio has grown by leaps and bounds, the modern city has managed to hold on to its roots. The culture, the history…it’s all still there, and San Antonio’s residents are proud to share it with their visitors. The River Walk is a great place to begin a tour of San Antonio, and what makes it even better is staying a few nights at one of the beautiful hotels right on the river. 

 A cruise on the San Antonio River is a must, especially for first time visitors who want to get an insider’s view of what the River Walk has to offer. The typical cruise will take about 35 minutes. General admission for narrated cruises cost $13.50 for adults and $7.50 for children. Shuttle boats, which are used to get up and down the 15-mile-long River Walk, cost $20.00 for a one-day pass, and multiple-day options are also available.

Museums, shopping, live entertainment, beautiful hotels, and upscale as well as funky bars can all be found on the San Antonio River Walk. Then there’s the outstanding food! Of course, everyone’s favorite in San Antonio is Mexican food, and there is plenty of that to go around.

There’s something special about sitting outside in the festive atmosphere while enjoying a cold drink and watching the other tourists cruise leisurely by on the river boats. We can’t recall ever having a bad meal on the River Walk, and we’re particularly fond of Casa Rio for Mexican food. It’s pictured at the top of the post with the pretty umbrellas. If traditional American fare is what you’re craving, try Dick’s Last Resort. Touting themselves as the shame o’ the river, Dick’s serves up some pretty good “grub and brews” by the rudest servers you’ll ever encounter. They’re a chain, rudeness is their schtick, and eating there can be a hilarious experience. 

See an interesting timeline about the development of the San Antonio River Walk here: https://www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/about/our-history/

We love San Antonio any time of the year, but spring is our favorite time to visit. (That’s probably because we went there together in the spring for the first time when we were teenagers.) Summer temperatures can get pretty high, but the mild fall weather can be very nice. We’ve also visited there in December, and even then, the weather was comfortable for sitting outside. 

Nightlife abounds on the River Walk too. From laid-back dive bars to the rowdier dance halls as well as English and Irish pubs, everyone will find a place to eat, drink, and dance the night away. People ask if it’s safe, and we say yes – with some conditions. First and foremost, travelers should always be aware of their surroundings no matter where they are. While we feel safe on the River Walk at night (we have seen police officers patrolling on bikes and boats as well as on foot – day and night), we would not venture into darkened or unpopulated parts of the walk or any parts of the downtown area at night.  

This pretty stone bridge is now known as Selena Bridge. A scene from the movie Selena, starring Jennifer Lopez was filmed on this bridge.

The pretty bridges, the peaceful green-hued water, and the lush trees and plants make this the ideal place for a stroll anytime – day or night. Pop into the shops at Rivercenter, visit an art museum, stop in at one of the bodegas, browse the street vendors’ wares, and check out the restaurants’ menus, most of which are posted on the patios or entrances. Warning: it is very difficult to choose just one place to eat or just one souvenir! 

Tower of the Americas

Did you know that San Antonio was the site of a World’s Fair? HemisFair ’68 was held from April to October 1968, and today visitors can still visit HemisFair park which is just a short walk from the River Walk. The iconic, 750-foot Tower of the Americas is still a thrill for visitors who want to ride the elevator to the rotating restaurant at the top for great food and great views. The park also has a playground and splash pad for the kids, giant chess and checker boards, as well as flowing water features, fountains, walking paths, and green spaces. The park, a designated San Antonio Historic District, is also home to several State Archaeological Landmark buildings, and the Tower of the Americas has been nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wondering what’s near the River Walk for kids to do? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered:

  • Eat a great meal (they have a kid’s menu) and play arcade games at Dave & Buster’s – on the River Walk at Rivercenter
  • Have some fun building something and riding the rides at Legoland Discovery Center – on the River Walk at Rivercenter
  • Spend an afternoon at HemisFair Park’s amazing playground, giant sandbox, and splash pad – 0.9 miles
  • See what’s in the sea at Sea Life San Antonio Aquarium which is located close to HemisFair Park – 1.2 miles
  • Check out the hands-on interactive exhibits at the DoSeum – 2.8 miles 

Other exciting San Antonio attractions for the entire family: 

  • Get up close and personal with animals at the San Antonio Zoo – 4.5 miles
  • Extend your animal adventures to Seaworld with its sea life exhibits and Aquatica water park all in one place – 20 miles
  • Enjoy the thrills at Six Flags Fiesta Texas amusement park – 23 miles

La Antorcha de la Amistad

In addition to the attractions we’ve listed, there are numerous cultural, historical, and art museums in San Antonio. Many public art installations can be found around town too, such as the La Antorcha de la Amistad (Torch of Friendship) by Mexican artist Sebastian. The 65-foot, lipstick red sculpture was a gift to the City of San Antonio by the Mexican government in 2002 and represents two cultures and languages merging together as one. The sculpture is hard to miss in the heart of downtown, and glimpses of it can be seen from the River Walk.

If outdoor sports are your thing, there are several highly rated public golf courses in San Antonio. Fishing, swimming, and boating can be found at beautiful Canyon Lake located 1 hour north of the city. The San Antonio Spurs NBA team as well and a handful of other semi-professional and college sports teams provide plenty of excitement for sports fans. San Antonio also boasts botanical gardens, historic residential districts, historic churches and other historic buildings, as well as a market district. The UNESCO World Heritage Site: San Antonio Missions Historical Park is a national park site that should not be missed.

Read our post about the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and the Alamo here: https://oneforthemoneytwofortheroad.com/2022/06/01/san-antonio-missions/

As you can see, there truly is something for everyone in San Antonio. If you’ve never been there, we hope we have inspired you to visit, and if you have been there, go again! The city has so much history and culture to offer, and besides that, it’s just so much fun. Did we mention the food?

We’re going to close the post with some interesting facts about the San Antonio Express-News building which is located a couple of blocks from the River Walk.

Home to the San Antiono Express-News newspaper for more than 90 years, this beautiful Art Deco building was opened in 1929. The newspaper’s parent company, Hearst Corp., moved the newsroom and printing operation to other sites in 2020 and put this building on the market for sale. What intrigued us about the building was not just its historic beauty, but the bas-relief panel above the door. (What can we say…we love art!) It was sculpted by none other than Pompeo Coppini, the same artist who created the stunning Alamo Cenotaph. The carved stone panel (shown below) features images representing labor, education, enlightenment, truth, and justice. It is our understanding that in March 2022, the building was sold to a property development investment group from Austin. We will be anxious to see what they do with this fabulous property.

Thank you for joining us in San Antonio! Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022

Tower of the Americas and La Antorcha de la Amistad photos courtesy of Henry Becerra. 

Featured

National Route 66 Museum

Where is it?

On Route 66, of course! Actually, it’s on a stretch of the original Route 66 in Elk City, Oklahoma. We plan to drive the entire route someday, but we’re settling for bits and pieces for the time being. This turned out to be a nice little piece of the route.

What’s it about?

It is a complex of five great museums all in one place. They include:  the National Route 66 Museum, National Transportation Museum, Farm and Ranch Museum, Blacksmith Museum, and the Old Town Museum which contains the Beutler Rodeo Hall. All sections are worth the stop. Below are some shots from the Route 66 Museum where there are different vignettes depicting what travelers would have seen in each of the eight states along the Mother Road.

We suspect there may still be some places like this one in New Mexico and Arizona, live rattlesnakes and all!

Crusin’ through the great state of Missouri. Gotta love those vintage cars!

“Are we there yet?”

Who napped in the back window on family vacations? Was the motel pool your entire reason for living? How about stopping at Stuckey’s for a pecan roll and a cheap souvenir? A&W root beers and burgers in the car anyone? Remember when motels had stationery and post cards in the rooms? And then there were those real live “trading posts” with that horrible-tasting rock candy and “authentic” turquoise jewelry. Oh, and Reptile Village, but our dads wouldn’t ever stop. Those were fun times, and this museum really brought back the memories for us, although some of it was way before our time.

Outside in the sunshine, we walked around the “old town” exhibits and looked in all the windows. Below are a couple of shots.

Wonder what the gas prices were back in this gas station’s heyday?

More of the old town. Each building is furnished with items the businesses would have had way back when, and all can be viewed through the storefront windows. There’s even a country doctor’s office complete with creepy medical instruments.

We fell in love with the sculpture (below) in front of the Old Town Museum. The museum building had once been the home of a family who owned department stores in western Oklahoma. The first floor depicts how some of the early residents would have lived. The second floor is dedicated to the the Beutler family who own a ranch north of Elk City and have raised champion rodeo stock for almost 100 years. This museum was worth the admission fee by itself.

His name was Commotion, and he was the Beutler brothers three time world champion bucking horse.

“Commotion” from a different angle. It is a beautiful bronze sculpture by T.D. Kelsey of Guthrie, Texas.

Click here for an interesting read about this multi-faceted artist: https://www.tdkelsey.com/the-artist

The museum complex admission is (currently) $5.00 for adults and $4.00 for children 6-16. Children 5 and under are admitted free. For AAA members and people over 60, it is $4.00. (We paid $4.00 each, but we’re not saying which discount we got!)

In closing, we would recommend a stop here for travelers who have a couple of hours to spend. And if you’re already traveling the Mother Road (or even I-40), a stop here is a great way to get out of the car for a time, take a relaxing stroll through the complex, and learn something new while you’re at it!

Thank you for stopping by our site, and we hope you come back again for more road trip stops, Quick Stops, Wish We Were There Wednesdays, and lots of other good stuff. We appreciate you more than you know, and we would love to hear from you so feel free to comment below. We can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter @KellyeHefner.

Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022

 

 

 

 

Featured

10 Amazing Things to See and Do at Big Bend National Park

Who doesn’t love a national park? How about a road trip? A visit to Big Bend National Park gives you the best of both worlds! Big Bend is one of two national parks in Texas, the other being Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and both are vastly different. The Guadalupe Mountains are the remains of what was once a massive underwater reef. The Big Bend area was the edge of an ocean back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Today, we are sharing our top ten things to see and do at Big Bend in random order, so let’s get going to one of our favorite national parks!

1. The Chisos Mountains

Casa Grande peak as seen from Chisos Basin is one of Big Bend’s most iconic sights

The Chisos Mountains lie entirely in Big Bend National Park. The rugged Chisos were formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, and erosion has sculpted them into the beautiful hills and peaks we see today. Emory Peak, at 7,835 feet above sea level, is the highest peak in the range. Black bears, mountain lions, a variety of smaller mammals, reptiles, bats, and birds make their homes in the Chisos Mountains.

The well-maintained Chisos Basin Road carries visitors seven miles through an interesting variety of flora and spectacular mountain scenery. The road ends at Chisos Basin where visitors will find a visitor center, campgrounds for RVs and tents, the Chisos Mountains Lodge (the only commercial lodging in the park), a restaurant and gift shop, as well as an assortment of trailheads for all levels of hikers. The Window serves as a pouroff when water needs to drain from the Chisos Basin and surrounding areas during heavy rainfalls

Park visitors flock to the Window for dramatic sunset photo ops. The 5.6-mile out and back Window Trail originates at Chisos Basin. (Note that the trail has a 900- foot elevation gain on the return.) Another trail – Window View Trail – is easy and wheelchair accessible. In our opinion, there are many places in the park that are perfect for watching the sunset and sunrise, but the Window certainly provides a unique photographic perspective.

2. Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon

The breathtaking eight-mile-long Santa Elena Canyon features 1500-foot cliff walls that frame the Rio Grande River as it meanders through the big bend of Texas. The Santa Elena Canyon Trail is a fairly easy 1.4-mile out and back hike originating at a parking lot on Santa Elena Canyon Road. The trailhead is approximately 44 miles (1+ hour drive) from the main visitor center at Panther Junction.

View of the canyon wall from the trail

Local outfitters are available to arrange a variety of river trips ranging from one to three days on the Rio Grande and through Santa Elena Canyon. (Note that a backcountry permit is required by the park for overnight trips.) The river forms the border between the U.S. and Mexico. While there is no requirement to have a guide in order to float or paddle the Rio Grande, we highly recommend using an experienced outfitter.

3. Fossil Discovery Exhibit

As we mentioned, Big Bend National Park lies in an area that was once the edge of an ocean. The Fossil Discovery Exhibit showcases some of the creatures that inhabited the area millions of years ago including sea life and dinosaurs. Kids and adults alike will enjoy exploring this open-air museum space which is located approximately eight miles north of the Panther Junction Visitor Center.

Over 90 dinosaur species have been discovered at Big Bend, some of which are unique to the park.

4. Wildlife Viewing

Javelina aka Collared Peccary

Big Bend National Park is home to a large variety of wildlife. In addition to those that live mainly in the Chisos Mountains, many other animals and birds live within the park’s other two ecosystems: river and desert. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to photograph all of the animals that we have seen at Big Bend, but we have been lucky enough to capture a few. We have spotted Barbary sheep, fox, coyote, hawks, and many other birds, just to name a few.

Doves
Rattlesnake

5. Hike, Walk, or Backpack

Big Bend offers a wide variety of hikes to choose from – 79 trails in all – and rather than try to describe them, we are listing a couple of links that should provide complete trail information:

View from Burro Mesa Pouroff Trail
  • Off trail hiking is allowed
  • Backcountry requires a permit
  • Backpackers and primitive site campers are required to have a permit

If in doubt, always check with the park before setting out on any lengthy or overnight trek. Stay conscious of the weather conditions including high temperatures in late spring, summer, and early fall.

6. Scenic Drives

There are over 100 miles of improved, well-maintained roads in Big Bend. The most popular road is the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive which is a 30-mile-long road that takes visitors through some of the most diverse and scenic parts of the park and ends at Santa Elena Canyon.

Mule Ears peaks as seen from the pull-out along Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. There are many places to pull out and view beautiful scenery from Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

But wait – there’s more! Spectacular scenery can be viewed from all of the paved roads in the park so driving any of them is a thrill. Note that the only gasoline available in the park is at Panther Junction. 

The Sierra del Carmen seen from Park Road 12 southeast of Panther Junction
View from Chisos Basin Road
South view of the Chisos Mountains from Park Road 12
River view from the Rio Grande Overlook

7. Terlingua Ghost Town

Terlingua is a gateway community to the park but does not lie within the park boundaries. The entrance to Big Bend is approximately 8 miles from Terlingua, and it’s another 22 miles (30+ minute drive) to Panther Junction Visitor Center.

The Starlight Theatre is a restaurant that serves up good food and drinks with live entertainment

And…Terlingua isn’t quite a ghost town in traditional ghost town terms. People do live there, and there are some thriving businesses including a few restaurants and area hotels. Visitors will certainly experience ghost town vibes while walking through the cemetery and when viewing the crumbling buildings in the former cinnabar mining town.

Terlingua Cemetery
Terlingua

Terlingua is a great place for a couple of hours of roaming and eating if a break from the park is on the agenda. The history of the town is interesting as is the history of the cemetery. Funky souvenirs of all kinds can be purchased at Terlingua Trading Company which is next door to the Starlight Theatre. Terlingua is also the site of the famous Terlingua International Chili Championship which has taken place there on the first weekend of November since 1967.

8. Lajitas

Lajitas is a great place to stay for visitors to Big Bend and is located approximately 12 miles west of Terlingua. While some regard Lajitas as a town, we can’t bring ourselves to call it that because it doesn’t have a post office. It used to have a post office, but it closed in 1939. Lajitas does, however, have a mayor – a mayor who is a goat, that is, and his name is Clay Henry.

We can only assume that the guy with the horns is the Honorable Clay Henry, and the other goat is Mrs. Clay Henry, the First Lady of Lajitas.

Lajitas is actually home to the fabulous 27,000-acre Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa. Touted as one of the best and most beautiful golf courses in Texas, Black Jack’s Crossing is a premier course that attracts amateur golfers and pros alike. The resort is located on FM 170 along the banks of the Rio Grande between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. Also known as the River Road or Camino del Rio, FM 170 covers 114 miles between Terlingua and the border town of Presidio and is considered one of the most scenic drives in the state. The Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa features modern, well-appointed hotel rooms with an Old West vibe, as well as a multitude of amenities and activities for the entire family. A general store and a gated RV campground are also located within the resort. Charter air services are available from Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston. For further information, here is a link to the resort’s website: https://www.lajitasgolfresort.com/

9. Stargaze

Photo by Philippe Donn

Pack your telescope! Big Bend is an international dark sky park. In fact, Big Bend has the darkest skies of any national park in the lower 48 states. The park hosts various programs such as star parties, ranger talks, and moonlight walks throughout the year. The summer months are the best time to view and photograph the Milky Way.

10. Cross the River Legally

The only port of entry in Big Bend is across the river from Boquillas del Carmen, usually referred to as Boquillas. A former mining town, Boquillas struggles today as a tourist destination for visitors to Big Bend.

Boquillas, Mexico

Visitors must have a passport and will pass through customs when returning to the U.S. River crossings are done by small rowboat or on horseback, each for a nominal fee. An additional fee ($2.00, last we checked) is required to enter the Maderas del Carmen Natural Protected Area where Boquillas is located. There are a couple of cantinas in Boquillas that serve food and drinks as well as a few places to buy souvenirs and handmade goods. Tours are available for a fee, though a guide is not required in order to explore the town. U.S. currency is accepted in Boquillas, but only in small denominations.

For further information about Big Bend, click this link to the park’s website: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/index.htm

Windmill. Historic Sam Nail Ranch, Big Bend National Park

Those are our top 10, though we barely touched on the park’s features and those of the surrounding areas. Below we have listed some additional things to know if you’re planning a trip to Big Bend.

  • Unfortunately, people have been led to believe that Big Bend is not a safe place to visit. We believe it’s very safe. We are more afraid of encountering a rattlesnake than having a border issue there. Travelers should always be aware of their surroundings no matter where they are.
  • Early spring and late fall are great times to visit Big Bend, but those times are when the park experiences the most visitors. With that said, it is an enormous park with plenty of room to spread out so crowds shouldn’t be a problem.
  • There are several campgrounds at Big Bend. RV camping with hook-ups book up fast so make reservations as far out from your visit as you can. The same goes for booking a stay at Chisos Mountains Lodge.
  • The park is remote so cell service can be very hit and miss.
  • The closest major airport is in Midland/Odessa, Texas which is approximately 242 miles (4+ hour drive) to Big Bend.
  • Alpine, Texas is 82 miles (1+ hour drive) north of Big Bend and serves as gateway city to the park. Hotels, restaurants, and the Museum of the Big Bend are all located in the pretty city.
  • Marathon, Texas is 73 miles (1 hour drive) north of Big Bend and serves as another gateway to the park. The historic Gage Hotel is the centerpiece of Marathon and delights visitors with its 27-acre Gage Garden botanical area and fine dining at the 12 Gage Restaurant, among other amenities. Shopping, art galleries, additional restaurants, a museum, and a city park can also be found in Marathon.
  • Marfa, Texas is home to the Marfa Lights, Marfa Prada as well as other art installations, and the historic Hotel Pisano. Marfa is located 30 minutes west of Alpine on US 90, and approximately 1.5 hours from Big Bend National Park.
  • Fort Davis, Texas is approximately 1.5 hours from Big Bend and features Fort Davis National Historic Site.
  • Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas’ biggest state park, is located approximately 13 miles west of Terlingua (20 minutes from Big Bend National Park) and is home to 238 miles trails for a variety of uses. Off-roading, horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, and backpacking are just a few of the activities that visitors to Big Bend Ranch State Park can enjoy. Click the link for more information: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/big-bend-ranch

We could go on, but we’re going to close the post here. Our purpose in posting is to give our readers a comprehensive overview of the places we visit. We hope that we have inspired you to visit the U.S. National Parks because they really are our country’s best idea. If we can help you with planning your trip or answer questions, please leave us a message in the comments section below.

Happy, safe travels, y’all!

Mike and Kellye

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022