See the Stars in Fort Davis
Distance from SA: 400 miles northwest
A trip to the McDonald Observatory in West Texas should be on every Texan’s bucket list. A research unit of the University of Texas at Austin, the observatory is located under some of the darkest skies in the continental US and you don’t have to be studying astronomy to take advantage of the views. Book a Star Party (available now Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings) for a quick lesson in constellations plus the chance to view celestial objects, including planets, through high-powered telescopes set up outside the Visitor’s Center. Even if you can’t make it at night, a daytime tour is a worthwhile experience for anyone with even a faint interest in the stars.
Thu: Reservations at the McDonald Observatory are a must but that’s not the only diversion in Fort Davis. Davis Mountains State Park offers 11 miles of trails, many of which are open to cyclists, hikers and horseback riders. Take the Skyline Drive Trail to the Keesey Canyon Overlook for picturesque views of the park, or head to the Emory Oak Wildlife Viewing Area to take advantage of the “fancyest little bird blind in Texas.” Birding and photography tours are also available, and outside the park, cyclists have been known to ride 50 to 100 miles in one day.
Stay: Davis Mountains State Park offers sites for tent and RV camping. Not up for roughing it? It also boasts Indian Lodge, a 39-room, full-service hotel with a restaurant and pool. For something different, consider booking a themed room above the Fort Davis Drug Store. The Traveler suite features cozy décor, two queen beds and unmatched views of the Sleeping Lion Mountain rock formation.
Eat: The Drug Store also features homecooked favorites all day (think a cowboy breakfast plate or fried okra and burgers at lunch) while the Harvard Hotel Bar & Grill, which opened last year, serves craft cocktails, ribeye, chicken fried steak and more. To start the day, stop in at Double Shot Coffee Lounge for a muffin or Danish and an iced coffee or frappe.
Get Cultured in Fort Worth
Distance from SA: 265 miles north
If you’ve spent a weekend in Fort Worth before, you’ve likely seen the twice-daily cattle drive that occurs at 11:30 am and 4 pm in the Stockyards National Historic District. That’s worth experiencing, but it’s just the beginning of reasons to venture to Funkytown. Initially founded in 1892, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is the state’s oldest museum. It’s been housed since 2002 in a gorgeous concrete, glass and steel facility by renowned architect Tadao Ando, and the exterior necessitates a visit on its own. Inside, Women Painting Women is on display through Sept. 25 and permanent pieces, like “Ladder for Booker T. Washington,” and “Self Portrait” by Andy Warhol, are must-sees. Elsewhere in the walkable Cultural District is the Kimbell Art Museum, which just celebrated 50 years and offers free admission daily, and the Amon Carter Museum, which is a mecca for American art. When traveling with kids, don’t miss the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
Thu: Along with at least a day in the Cultural District, spend a few hours exploring Sundance Square and downtown Fort Worth. If you’re there at night, book tickets for an improv show at Four Day Weekend followed by a cocktail at the Reata. During the day, hop on a bicycle rental and ride through Sundance Square before heading to the Trinity Trails, which span more than 100 miles throughout the city. There’s an Art in the Garden tour on Saturday, Sept. 3, at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden and the Fort Worth Zoo never disappoints.
Stay: The Kimpton Harper Hotel that opened just over a year ago brought modern style to a 1921 building downtown. Its 24th floor penthouse offers 360-degree views of the city. In the cultural district, consider Hotel Dryce, a boutique hotel located near the city’s museums in what was once a dry ice factory. It’s locally operated, so the staff can suggest off-the-radar restaurants and things to do.
Eat: Walk through TCU’s campus before burgers and fries at Dutch’s. Dinner at Joe T. Garcia’s is also a Fort Worth tradition. Order fajitas and a margarita and bring cash. For barbecue, stop at Heim Barbecue in the trendy Magnolia Avenue enclave, which also boasts boutiques, dessert stops and happy hour spots. Like San Antonio, Fort Worth’s craft beer scene continues to grow. Wild Acre Brewing, Martin House Brewing Co. (the folks behind that Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer at HEB) and HopFusion Ale Works are good places to start.
Taste the Spirits in Hye
Distance from SA: 75 miles north
Fredericksburg is the go-to when booking wine tours, which spells crowds on a holiday weekend. Head instead to nearby Hye in Blanco County, where you can visit William Chris Vineyards, Calais Winery, Hye Meadow Winery and Kuhlman Cellars all in one weekend. For whiskey lovers, Garrison Brothers Distillery is hosting tours throughout Labor Day Weekend, or its Whiskey Shack offers classic Old Fashioneds, frozen bourbon peach tea and more alongside Texas-inspired bites (think tri-tip tacos, avocado deviled eggs and fried rabbit strips) . Nearby, Hye Cider Co. produces alcoholic apple cider that’s fermented with honey (they call it cyser), and it can often be enjoyed alongside live music.
Do: The Cave Tasting experience at Calais Winery is intimate and unlike any other in the Hill Country. You’ll head into the long-leaf plank “cave” with just three other guests for a wine sampling session that includes plenty of time for questions and education about how the wine is made. At Kuhlman Cellars, tableside wine flights are accompanied by a chef-prepared sampler or charcuterie board while behind-the-scenes tours offer a look at the science of winemaking plus a sample from a tank or barrel where wine is aged. Labor Day Weekend is full of live music at William Chris Vineyards, which also hosts wine tastings, picnic lunches and more. Need a break from wine? Drive to nearby Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site for a short trail walk and a tour of Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm.
Stay: Private rentals through sites such as Airbnb are your best bet in the small town of Hye (or its neighboring Johnson City and Stonewall). Several container homes have been turned into weekend retreats with patios, kitchenettes and well-appointed sleeping quarters. Cabins are more the style in Johnson City for those who need a little more space. Campsites and screened shelters are also available in nearby Blanco State Park.
Eat: Several of the wineries have kitchens with well-crafted menus. If you’re venturing out, consider the short drive to Pecan Street Brewing in Johnson City for its indulgent brunch dishes and creative pizzas, like the Peach Jamboree topped with house-cured buckboard bacon, bourbon-braised peaches, spinach, mozz and a little bit of mint. Just 10 minutes from Hye is Albert Ice House & Dancehall. Its Cowboy Cantina Food Truck is open Wednesdays through Sundays and serves the expected fries and onion rings plus upscale truck fare, including specials like a ribeye steak salad and pork carnitas.
Relax on the Coast in Port Aransas
Distance from SA: 175 miles southeast
Birding, fishing and parasailing abound on this island, but no one will blame you for simply chilling with your toes in the sand on this three-day weekend. The five-mile stretch that is Mustang Island State Park is a great option for San Antonio day trippers, since it’s pet-friendly and has showers where you can clean up before heading home. Further into town, beach access points are plentiful (as long as you have a parking permit), whether you want to lounge, boogie board or fish from the shore.
Thu: Port A is known as “the fishing capital of Texas,” so cast a line from a bay or channel, or reserve a deep sea fishing trip with one of several local operators. Along with knowing where to go, they can also give you tips on catching kingfish, marlin, sailfish and Spanish mackerel. Island Surf Rentals offers kayaks, boogie boards and other gear for solo ocean fun while GlowRow offers guided nighttime kayak tours from North Padre Island and Port Aransas. Each kayak is lit with LED lights and guides point out fun facts about the area while you’re basking in the glow of the stars.
Stay: Palmilla Beach Resort & Golf Community offers higher-end rentals that provide access to amenities like private beachfront, an on-site pool and its 12-hole True-Links-style golf course. Cinnamon Shores also has beach house rentals with pool access, and there are dozens and dozens of private Airbnbs. Campsites are also available at Mustang Island State Park.
Eat: Coffee Waves will have a line if you sleep in, but it’s worth the wait for a Honey Badger, cortado or matcha latte. For a nicer evening out, make reservations at Roosevelt’s at the Tarpon Inn and enjoy jumbo lump crab cakes, grilled oysters or tenderloin. When something more casual calls, consider Port A Pizzeria, Virginia’s on the Bay or Coach’s Island Grill, which is BYOB and offers the friendliest of service even when busy.