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Photo courtesy of RVshare

It’s the season of tailgates and football, parties and potlucks, changing leaves and twinkling lights — and, of course, pumpkin spice.

But these last two months of the year in Texas are also prime time for getting back in touch with nature after a long, hot summer.

Reward yourself for surviving the swelter with the ultimate Hill Country glamping getaway. And don’t you worry if that Instagrammable teepee or yurt you’ve hearted is all booked up. There’s another way to make a resy at any of mother nature’s Texas gems: via luxury RV.

This transportable luxe accommodation means you can road-trip it to any number of places, and RVshare has your fall haul handled. The RV rental company brings more than 100,000 high-end models to the table, each boasting a range of styles, amenities, and sizes.

They even have a delivery option, where they’ll drive your RV of choice to your destination and set the whole thing up. Because glamping shouldn’t involve a single ounce of elbow grease.

Need some travel inspo? Check out this short list of the Hill Country’s gifts to Texas and hit the road.

Canyon Lake
Recognized as “The Jewel” of the Texas Hill Country, Canyon Lake is located along the Guadalupe River and is known for its superior water recreation options. But there are plenty of hiking trails and parks, too, along with a golf course.

When you go, you’ll want to book some space at Mystic Quarry Resort, which is a mod Texas glamping and RV destination. In addition to super-cool surrounds, you’ll find all the little luxuries there like an onsite shuttle bus, fitness center, yard games, dog parks, special events, and more.

Lake Pointe RV Resort and Condominiums is another hidden oasis in the area, with 50-plus acres of boating, water skiing, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing within easy reach. Many of the RV sites come with lake views, too.

Lost Maples State Natural Area
Celebrated for its changing fall colors, Los Maples State Natural Area is a sight to behold. While there, you’ll also see steep canyon walls and the scenic Sabinal River along 10 miles of trails, including a loop that takes you along the top of a 2,200-foot cliff.

Thirty campsites are available in the natural area, or you can set up camp in the Utopia Oaks RV Park, which boasts inspiring scenery, mountain views, and wildlife, too.

While in Utopia, head to The Laurel Tree to savor a glorious menu every Saturday. You can also reserve their treehouse for a one-of-a-kind private dinner. Or stop in for classic diner fare at Lost Maples Café — don’t skip their sky-high meringue pies.

Texas Wine Trail
The Hill Country also lays claim to more than 50 wineries and vineyards — dubbed the Texas Wine Trail — and Fredericksburg is home base for many of them.

Leave the RV at Bending Oaks Ranch RV Resort — a 21-and-over, tree-saturated haven complete with Longhorn cattle and local music performances — and check out the town’s quaint German architecture, cuisine, and shopping before hitting the trail.

Also nearby is the Texas Wine Country Jellystone Park, a family-friendly option with mini golf, a jumping pillow, and more. And the Vineyards of Fredericksburg is a new outpost to park that RV, and it comes with a side of incredible views along with amenities like fire pits on every site, disc golf, and more.

Hill Country Craft Beer Trail
The hopheads can also get their fill on the Beer Trail. New Braunfels is your starting point — and don’t miss Texas’s oldest dance hall, Gruene Hall, while you’re in town. They have live music every night.

Park your RV at the quirky-cool resort called Camp Fimfo, where you have direct access to the Guadalupe River, which is year-round hot spot for fly fishing. Or set out on one of the river’s paddling trails. When you’re not on the water, check out Fimfo’s onsite activities, including mini golf, gem mining, retro yard games, and sports courts.

Lake Bastrop North Shore and South Shore State Park
Surrounding the 900-acre Lake Bastrop on the north shore and south shore, both of these Lake Bastrop park outposts come correct for RVs. They’re the perfect places to pull in for fishing and water recreation, and canoe, kayak, and SUP rentals are readily available. By land, there are miles of hike and bike trails where you can experience the beauty of the Lost Pines region firsthand.

At the North Shore, swing by Base Camp Deli for curated picnic bundles. And on the South Shore, you’ll find mini golf and a volleyball court, too.

If you’re looking for a few other dining and entertainment options in nearby Bastrop, you’re not far from several breweries and taprooms. Also, Neighbor's Kitchen & Yard and the Iron Bridge Icehouse (open weekends only!) are both on the banks of the Colorado River and serve great food, craft beer and cocktails, and live music.

McKinney Falls State Park
For a rural-meets-urban vibe, McKinney Falls State Park is within Austin city limits but you’ll still feel fully immersed in nature, with nearly nine miles of trails as well the background sounds of Onion Creek flowing over limestone ledges and splashing into pools.

Campsites are fully equipped and ready to go in the park. Plus, you can always head into downtown Austin for dinner and live music if you need a break from all that nature.

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Founded in 2013, RVshare is the largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace and can help you secure everything from a travel trailer to a luxury motorhome, all backed with extraordinary customer service from the RVshare team. Renters get payment and fraud protection, plus 24/7 emergency roadside service and even free delivery where available. Pets are welcome in specified vehicles. To rent an RV for your next glamping trip, click here.

Renderings courtesy of Space Center Houston

Texas Space Center blasts off with cutting-edge features for 30th anniversary

go for launch

Texas' most stellar destination has introduced some game-changing developments for its 30th anniversary: Space Center Houston has revealed a new plan to address the ever-growing need for space exploration learning and training with two massive structures centering on our moon and Mars at its fan-favorite destination (1601 E. NASA Pkwy.).

The new Lunar Mars facility will gather guests, NASA, commercial space partners, colleges, universities, and global space agencies to collaborate on new technologies for present and future human spaceflight, per press materials.

Meanwhile, a new elevated exhibit hall over the two surfaces will offer the public immersive experiences to observe astronaut training first-hand while experiencing the future of space exploration as humans return to the moon and eventually on to Mars.

Specifically, the Lunar Mars facility will boast simulated surfaces of the moon and Mars, plus modular surface labs. According to Space Center Houston, these labs will design and test instruments and techniques for surface exploration, support testing lunar and Martian rovers on a one-mile indoor track, allow engineers and astronauts to practice working in reduced gravity, and conduct important emergency procedures.

Guests can look forward to an immersive experience that allows viewing of astronaut training in-person, while also offering education on missions, challenges and benefits of the space industry.

“Imagine having a front row seat on the surface of the moon or Mars right here in Houston,” noted William T. Harris, the center’s president and CEO, in a statement. “Space Center Houston is recognized for providing meaningful, moving experiences about people and the courage, innovation and teamwork they use to expand the boundaries of what’s possible. We inspire our guests to connect with the significance of space exploration, to pursue their own path in space, or simply follow along as incredible feats of human spaceflight continue to bring joy and wonder to the world.”

Space Center Houston also revealed a new logo/brand identity that the organization says in press materials represents the evolution of Space Center Houston and its future, and its mission to educate the public.

All this comes as part of a Facilities Master Plan and more plans to expand, which will be revealed in 2023.

Sound timing, as current estimates show that the global space industry is projected to grow nearly five times its current size by 2050. With 77 government space agencies currently operating around the globe, Texas boasts a key advantage as home to 17 of the world’s top 20 aerospace manufacturers, per the center.

Since its inception 30 years ago on October 16, 1992, the beloved Space Center Houston has seen more than 24 million starry-eyed guests enter its gates. Clearly, however, it’s time to rocket forward, as Houston and the nation, to quote President John F. Kennedy, choose to go to the moon, the Red Planet, and beyond.

“Space is expanding once again and a new space age is upon us,” Harris added. “With new ambitions, new players and new challenges, we will shift our focus from being a curator of past achievements to also facilitating new feats in space.”

Courtesy of Camp Margaritaville

Camp Margaritaville RV resort revs up at Texas' Crystal Beach

Wastin' away

An RV resort near Galveston Island is getting a major upgrade. After a comprehensive series of renovations, the property currently known as Bolivar Beach Club & RV Resort will become Camp Margaritaville RV Resort Crystal Beach.

Located on Bolivar Peninsula, the 150-acre property features ocean views and over 200 RV parking spots. The facility also features a concert venue, "Texas-sized" pool with swim-up bar pool-side cabanas, and a turf playing field. Upgrades will include the addition of the Fins Bar & Grill restaurant and a bar called License to Chill.

RV drivers will find amenities such as electric, water and sewer hookups, complimentary Wi-Fi, dog parks, a gym, and facilities for showering and doing laundry. The location gives visitors close proximity to 27 miles of beaches along the peninsula.

"We’ve seen incredible success and excitement around our existing Camp Margaritaville RV Resort locations and are thrilled to expand our presence in the state of Texas,” Margaritaville COO Brad Schwaeble said in a statement. “As more and more people are finding new ways to travel and explore, Camp Margaritaville Crystal Beach will provide everything needed for a getaway for all ages.”

Camp Margaritaville joins the company's existing Margaritaville Lake Resort, Lake Conroe. Opened in the summer of 2020, it features 335 suites, an 18-hole golf course, a three-acre waterpark with a lazy river and outdoor pools, and more.

Schlitterbahn New Braunfels/Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/schlitterbahnnewbraunfels/photos/pb.241817312526141.-2207520000.1437490455./930956400278892/?type=3&src=https%3A%2F%2Fscontent.xx.fbcdn.net%2Fhphotos-xpt1%2Fv%2Ft1.0-9%2F11695476_930956400278892_4353763765682286744_n.jpg%3Foh%3D58]

Schlitterbahn slides into 24th straight year as world’s best waterpark

Making waves

Texans already knew that Schlitterbahn is one of the state's best waterparks, and the company's flagship waterpark in New Braunfels is on a bit of a hot streak.

For the 24th year in a row, Amusement Today has named Schlitterbahn New Braunfels the world’s best waterpark as part of the publication’s Golden Ticket Awards program.

“For our park to have won this award again for the 24th consecutive time is humbling,” says Darren Hill, vice president and general manager of Schlitterbahn Waterparks & Resort. “This Golden Ticket represents the greatest reward for the hard work and efforts of our associates who each day strive to provide a safe, friendly, unique, and fun environment for our guests.”

Presented each year, the Golden Ticket Awards recognize excellence in the amusement park industry. Winners are determined based on polling done by Amusement Today, an Arlington-based publication that covers news about amusement and water parks.

Sandusky, Ohio-based Cedar Fair Entertainment owns and operates Schlitterbahn New Braunfels, which opened in 1979. Sitting on the banks of the spring-fed Comal River, the park features 51 attractions on over 70 acres. The attractions include various river rides and waterslides.

“We’re all about making people happy, and it’s always a tremendous honor and a privilege when our commitment to serving our guests is recognized and celebrated,” says Richard Zimmerman, president and CEO of Cedar Fair.

Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock

3 unexpected — but delicious and fun — reasons to travel to Lubbock

1, 2, 3

Looking for a getaway that's full of music, wine, and good food? Look no further than Lubbock, a northwest Texas city that has all this and so much more.

Wine country
The Lubbock area is located within the Texas High Plains AVA, which accounts for 90 percent of all Texas wine grapes grown and produced.

With more than a dozen wineries, and six award-winning wineries in the Lubbock area, wine tastings are available for all palate preferences.

Drop in for a glass or two at Burklee Hill Vineyards and McPherson Cellars, the latter of which is owned by winemaker Kim McPherson, a two-time James Beard Award semifinalist.

Just outside of city limits, Reddy Vineyards, Llano Estacado, and English Newsom Cellars offer full tastings and tours of the vineyards on property.

Llano Estacado is the second oldest winery in the state and hosts multiple wine festivals per year, including Grape Day, an annual event in October that celebrates the end of harvest season.

High Plains cuisine
You'll find that the food here offers a distinct West Texas flare that pays tribute to the ingredients grown and raised in the area.

Not only does the locale have a large influence on the dishes served in local restaurants around town, but Lubbock’s diverse culture is also on display in each plate.

From La Diosa Cellars, a Spanish tapas restaurant, to Llano Cubano, a Cuban food truck, the offerings for dining in Lubbock are as extensive as they are rich.

Restaurants of note include The Nicolett — home to chef Finn Walter, a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Texas — Dirk’s, The West Table, Claraboya, Thai Pepper, Stella’s, Evie Mae’s BBQ, and Rave On at The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences.

Standing ovation
Music lovers and theatergoers will be thrilled with the diverse lineup of performances onstage in Lubbock nightly. From Broadway performances like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen to national headlining acts like Tim Allen and Lady A, the Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences offers shows for all preferences.

As the birthplace of Buddy Holly, Lubbock is no stranger to good music and local talent. The legacy of Lubbock legends such as Buddy Holly, Mac Davis, Waylon Jennings, and Josh Abbott take center stage at one of the many music festivals, including JABFest in October.

Fun fact: Lubbock currently boasts the most live music venues per capita in the Lone Star State.

To start planning your itinerary of Lubbock's restaurants, wineries, and attractions, head over to VisitLubbock.org.

La Diosa Cellars serves a stellar Sunday brunch.

Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock
La Diosa Cellars serves a stellar Sunday brunch.
Photo courtesy of Visit Marble Falls

6 perfect weekend getaways to plan in Texas this fall

Post-Summer Plans

With the end of this brutal summer finally (hopefully?!) in sight, it is time to start planning for fall. Call it second summer, as in still plenty warm for enjoying the outdoors but no longer hot enough to melt pavement. Here are six places perfect for a much-needed autumn getaway. Take one (or more) as your just reward for surviving another scorching Texas summer.

Lake Bastrop North Shore Park
This LCRA park in Bastrop hugs the shore of a constant temperature lake for swimming, paddling (canoe, kayak, SUP, and Corcl rentals available), or fishing (with a boat ramp and pier). The park features almost 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, including one connecting to Lake Bastrop South Shore Park, and a sand volleyball court, too. Stay in one of 5 Airstream campers, 2 cabins, or 6 safari style tents. All have grills for cooking and decks for enjoying views of the lake and the stars while sipping a cold one. Other dining and entertainment options in nearby Bastrop, including a distillery and several breweries and taprooms. Neighbor's Kitchen & Yard and Iron Bridge Icehouse, both on the banks of the Colorado River, serve food, craft beer and cocktails, and live music.

Lake Georgetown
At this Corps of Engineers reservoir, choose from four campgrounds with RV and tent camping options. Enjoy swimming, fishing, kayaking (rentals available at Russell Park), and hiking. The crown jewel is the Good Water Trail, a 26-mile loop around the entire lake through a variety of terrain, with multiple trailheads offering the opportunity for shorter hikes. Dining options, wine bars, breweries, and other lodging options are nearby in Georgetown. Check out Barking Armadillo Brewing and, on the courthouse square, three wine tasting rooms and multiple dining options.

Matagorda Bay Nature Park
Located where the Colorado River meets the Gulf of Mexico, Matagorda Bay offers miles of uncrowded beaches for combing and wetlands for paddling. Rent beach chairs, wagons, and kayaks (guided tours available), play miniature golf, fish on the beach or pier, or birdwatch. In addition to Airstream rentals and camping and RV sites, visitors now can rent one of 10 new bungalows that sleep from six to eight people, with fully equipped kitchens, outdoor decks, gas grills, and fantastic views.

Port Aransas
Miles of beach, without summer crowds: What else do you need? Well, perhaps a place to stay, and you’ll find every option from fancy condos to kitschy cottages in this seaside town. Plenty of dining and entertainment options, too. Try the local seafood at places like La Playa Mexican Grill, Fins Grill & Icehouse, and Seafood and Spaghetti Works. Have a cold one at Bernie’s Beach House, the Port A Beer Hut, or Moby Dick’s. Rent bicycles, golf carts, surfboards, and kayaks at Island Surf Rentals (check out the Lighthouse Lakes Paddling Trail). Or just sit on the beach.

Painted Sky Inn
Located on a tranquil inlet of Lake Buchanan, this waterfront property offers rooms for two to ten people with kitchens and lake views, as well as a tiny home and a vintage Airstream. Amenities include fire pits, BBQ grills, a fishing pier, and canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards. Find miles of hiking trails at Canyon of the Eagles and Inks Lake State Park (day pass reservations recommended), or tour several nearby wineries (Torr Na Lochs and Fall Creek, to name two) and breweries (Save the World Brewing and Double Horn Brewing), plus dining options in Burnet and Marble Falls.

Frio River
The aptly-named Frio River is famous for swimming and tubing in the summer. The most popular way to enjoy the river is Garner State Park, but getting weekend reservations can be tough. Another option is Neal’s Lodges, a sprawling family-owned complex that includes 81 cabins, 10 lodges, 17 condos, 45 RV hook-ups, and 16 tent sites, plus a country store and dining room. See a bat emergence at nearby Frio Cave or a bit farther away in Kickapoo Cavern State Park. Saturdays are for fine dining at The Laurel Tree and diner fare at Lost Maples Café, both in Utopia, and Concan has several eateries as well (some close after the summer season, so check websites).

Find miles of hiking trails at Canyon of the Eagles and Inks Lake State Park near Marble Falls.

Photo courtesy of Visit Marble Falls
Find miles of hiking trails at Canyon of the Eagles and Inks Lake State Park near Marble Falls.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort

tilman goes laguna

Fans of Tilman Fertitta's nationwide hospitality brands are in for a treat. The Billion Dollar Buyer has just secured an award-winning, 30-acre resort in sunny Southern California.

Fertitta has purchased the acclaimed Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel, a premier beachfront property in the sunny SoCal getaway destination. Notably, the Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel is one of only six hotels in the U.S. to score the Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel status. The Montage has also been included among Travel + Leisure’s Top Hotels in the World.

Image courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Fertitta's newest purchase overlooks the ocean in Laguna Beach.

“I am truly thrilled to acquire this world-renowned property and add one of America’s most iconic trophy resorts to our luxury hotel portfolio,” Fertitta noted in a statement. “I have been traveling to Laguna Beach for over 30 years. It is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The Montage is a stunning oceanfront property and one of the premier hotel brands in the world.”

Press materials didn't list the property purchase price, but Law360 reports that the deal is in excess of $660 million.

The Craftsman-style resort sits on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Impressive amenities are highlighted by the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movement studio, and a lap pool.

More outdoor fun includes two pools and direct beach access, a museum-quality fine art collection, and more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, per press materials.

Every resident space — the 260 guestrooms, including 60 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms, and multi-bedroom villas — boast stunning views of the Pacific.

Dining destinations offer chef-driven interpretations of coastal California flavors inspired by region. The property is designated and included in the distinctive Legend Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

“We are thrilled that Tilman is the new owner of this one-of-a-kind property and welcome him into the Montage family,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder, CEO, and chairman of Montage International. Mary Rogers, the Montage's GM added, “The staff is thrilled to be working with Tilman. Everyone here at the property is tremendously excited about his purchase and look forward to continuing to provide a world-class experience to all of our guests."

Aside from his palatial Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Fertitta also owns 14 other hotel properties around the country, including the award-winning San Luis Resort in Galveston, plus five popular Golden Nugget casino and hotel locations.

Another feather in Fertitta’s luxury portfolio cap is the iconic Huntting Inn, one of the most charming and historic locales in East Hampton, New York.

No stranger to California, Fertitta's presence there includes Catch Seafood and Catch Steak, Mastro’s Ocean Club and Mastro’s Steakhouse, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Palm, and more — all part of his 60 brands and more than 600 concepts nationwide.