Incredible BBQ, breathtaking natural parks, cities packed with trendy urban art and music scenes, small town charm in big downtown — but that’s not all.
With seven different regions, Texas is the second-largest state in the U.S, and it serves as the perfect platform for an incredible number of diverse and exciting vacation options. Yesterday (March 6), Tourism Texas and several regional partners, including Houston, San Antonio, Lubbock and Fredericksburg stopped by in Toronto to share the most recent updates from the Lone Star State.
Rosalyn Hunter, director of communications, Texas Tourism, was quick to share that although you can’t go wrong with Texas BBQ, there’s so much more to the state than slow-cooked meats and Cajun cornbread. “We really have something for everyone with all of our different landscapes,” Hunter said. “If you’re into beaches, outdoor adventures, birding and nature tourism, wineries, culinary, and even golfing or spa vacations, we truly have it all.”
Last August, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, directly impacting some of Texas’ smaller communities on the Gulf Coast. “We’re happy to report that those communities have come back from it [Harvey] and we still have some rebuilding to do, mainly in the Rockport area, but we’re open for business and welcoming visitors back,” Hunter said.
Celebrations in Store
Texas is celebrating a series of milestones in 2018. “We have two big anniversaries this year, which include the tri-centennial in San Antonio, its 300th year anniversary, which is very exciting for the state, and it’s also the 40th anniversary of the iconic tv series Dallas, and Visit Dallas is reuniting the cast, so you can actually celebrate with them March 30 and March 31 at Fort Ranch,” Hunter said.
Canadians looking to visit Texas will have no trouble at all, with easy and convenient air service straight out of Toronto. “Air Canada is our largest provider in terms of the number of flights from Texas, and from Toronto, we go non-stop to San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and DFW [Dallas Fort-Worth Airport], so you just get on in Toronto, and right off in Texas,” Hunter said.
Rosalyn Hunter, director of communications, Texas Tourism
Besides the convenient access to Texas, Canadians can enjoy solid value for their vacations, as the value exchange rate in Texas is competitively priced against its competitor destinations. “We have incredible accommodations and hotels that are priced competitively, and we also have many cities offering discount programs, like in Houston and Dallas, where they offer the city pass and visitors can enjoy attractions for up to 50 per cent off,” Hunter said. “We also have tax-free shopping, so Canadians can get their taxes back when they shop, so there are many deals to take advantage of.”
Canada remains the second largest source of the highest international visitor arrivals into the state, and the 2016 year saw 498,500 Canadians going to Texas.
Lots to do in Lubbock
Lubbock is in west Texas, and it’s a quick 45-minute flight to Dallas, and a two-and-a-half flight from Dallas to Toronto so it’s really not a long travel time,” said Katherine White, media relations and communications manager, Visit Lubbock. “It’s known for its authentic west Texas nature, so it’s very much about ranching and cowboy background.”
Historically, Lubbock is a farming and ranching community, and today, it grows three per cent of the world’s cotton, and supplies much of Texas’ wine-making grapes. Texas has been making wine for 140 years longer than California, and is home to 90 per cent of Texas’ wine-making grapes in the high plains. “We have seven area wineries and about five annual wine festivals,” White said.
Katherine White, Visit Lubbock
Besides wine tours and tastings, Lubbock is well-known for its local arts and scene, especially where the music scene is concerned. Rock icon Buddy Holly was born in Lubbock, and the Buddy Holly Center, a $150M USD state-of-the-art performing arts centre, is scheduled to open in 2020. There will be 2,200 seats in the main auditorium, and a noise criteria rating of 15, which is the highest rating of all, where world-class performers can come to Lubbock and play on an incredible stage. The Buddy Holly Center will be dedicated in celebration of the life and influence of Buddy Holly to the rock n’ roll genre.
Lubbock is big on family travel, given the variety of outdoor and group activities to do in the city. There are more live music venues per capita than there are in any other Texan city.
Houston is the fourth-largest city in Texas, but the most populated in the entire state, with 6.6 million residing in the Greater Houston Area. Noted for its extremely vibrant and diverse culture, Houston is famous for its 18 -Museum District, which sees on average seven million visitors a year.
Besides the museums, one of Houston’s most famous tourist attractions is the NASA Space Center, where visitors can see objects used in NASA missions, and is the gateway to NASA’s mission control centre.
One of Houston’s most famous events is now on until March 18, 2018. Home of the world’s largest rodeo, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo drew a record-breaking 2.6 million visitors in 2017, and it’s been going on since Feb. 27, featuring 20-days of livestock exhibits and carnival rides, plus lots of food trucks and shopping.
Inside the 71,500-seat NRG Stadium each Rodeo night ends with a concert by famous artists. “Garth Brooks performed the opening night, and he is set to close the event as well, and other artists performing this year include One Republic and Blake Shelton, to name a few,” said Celia Morales, senior manager of international media relations, Visit Houston.
Celia Morales, Visit Houston
Visit Houston is encouraging visitors to access Houston Marketplace, an online app that lets them select their preferred guest experiences in Houston, be it a guided tour or shopping. “A couple of experiences that have been very popular are the museum pass, which allows visitors to choose from eight different museums, and it’s valid for one, three, or even thirty days, you can visit them all,” Morales said. “There are more than 10,000 restaurants in the entire city, offering BBQ, Tex-Mex, and creations from chefs that provide more meaning, like Xochi, which serves up authentic flavours from Oaxaca, Mexico, and this is the one restaurant that you should try if you come to Houston.”
High-end luxury is also coming to Houston in 2018, with the opening of the River Oaks.
As far as getting to Houston is concerned, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) offers nonstop flights to more than 180 destinations within the U.S. and worldwide. Houston is connected to Canada with nonstop flights to Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton.
Fredericksburg: Texas Heart with German Soul
With a population of less than 12,000, Fredericksburg, Texas is quite different from the sprawling international cities of Houston and San Antonio. Here, you’ll find southern hospitality mixed with things that are authentically old-school European, like German bakeries and chocolate shops.
Fredericksburg is quickly becoming well-known for award-winning wine, and although Lubbock harvests 90 per cent of Texas’ grapes, with more than 40 wineries and tasting rooms in the Fredericksburg area, numerous wine tour companies, and special wine events like the Fredericksburg Food & Wine Festival, Fredericksburg is the heart of Texan wine country.
Sean Dory, Visit Fredericksburg
Outdoor adventurers who are looking for hiking or rock climbing opportunities have also shown a growing interest in Fredericksburg given the abundance of nature and parks.
Enchanted Rock, the second largest granite dome in the United States and a designated International Dark Sky Park, is located just outside of Fredericksburg and offers miles of hiking trails, rock climbing and a 360° view of the Texas Hill Country from the top of the Summit Trail, and in the spring, the wildflowers are all in bloom.
Main Street in Fredericksburg is home to more than 150 boutique and specialty shops, making it a great shopping destination, and a year-round destination.
300 Years of San Antonio
According to Sana Keller, representative for Visit San Antonio in Toronto, Canada, when you think of San Antonio, three words come to mind: affordable, authentic, and incredible, with over 300 days of sunshine a year.
“This year is a very iconic year for us, as we celebrate the 300th anniversary of San Antonio,” Keller said. To mark a year of celebrations, there are several major events taking place in San Antonio, including a big focus on Commemorative Week which is to be held the first week of May 2018.
Fifty years since the grand opening of the 1968 World’s Fair, San Antonio will celebrate with ¡Viva Hemisfair, which is a three-day event at Hemisfair Park, currently undergoing a modern transformation, and will be filled with cultural zones, musical performances, public art, historical exhibits and throwbacks to the 1968 Fair.
San Antonio’s River Walk continues to be a popular tourist attraction, stretching 15 miles, and spanning a history that dates back to 1536.
Several new hotels are opening up shop along the San Antonio River Walk, including this year, the the Canopy by Hilton, which will be located along the famous River Walk, the Thompson San Antonio Hotel and The Arts Residences, a $116 million mixed-use hotel-condominium tower on the San Antonio River Walk, and for 2019, The Saint Hotel, which will include a seven-story San Antonio River Walk hotel.
For more information on tourism to Texas, visit www.traveltexas.com.