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Texas Semester

Texas Stars


Day 1, May 16


The day begins from the campus of McMurry University at 9 a.m., with a leisurely two-hour drive along the prairies and mesquite thickets of the rolling plains, passing the famous Double Mountains and the Salt Fork of the Brazos en route to Spur, Texas, made famous in frontier days for its role in the development of ranching in West Texas.

Our host for lunch will be Eric Swenson, Owner and President of the Spur National Bank.  Here our guests will delight in a ranch-style cookout and view the private collection of Texas maps and art.

Our adventure continues with a jaunt along the Texas Caprock, a cut across the famous Palo Duro Canyon near the site of the famous 1874 battle between the forces of Colonel Ranald McKenzie and Chief Quanah Parker.  Emerging on top of the Llano Estacado, our mission continues on to Amarillo.

The world-famous National Quarter Horse Museum will introduce our crew to the role that horses played in settling the vast stretches of West Texas and the American West, as well as the part they played in the creation of the western mystique.

That evening we will venture to the renowned Big Texan Steakhouse, made famous by its 72 oz. steak that’s free if you can eat it in an hour.  There is also a full menu for those of a less ambitious appetite.

Day 2, May 17


On the second day of the Grand Tour of Texas, our adventure continues with a visit to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, and then on to the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum for a comprehensive view of the exciting history of this part of Texas.

After lunch, we are off on a two-hour drive to Lubbock to explore one of the most important cities in West Texas and, surprisingly, to the history of Rock n’ Roll music.  Our journey takes us to the Buddy Holly Center and to the Lubbock music Walk of Fame before we end up at a Buddy Holly musical tribute dinner show.  Then we are off across the plains to Midland where we will spend the night.

Day 3, May 18


For nearly every day of the 20th Century, Texas meant oil.  More for than half of those years, it meant West Texas oil from the Permian Basin.  We’ll go learn about Texas Tea at the Petroleum Museum.  From there, we will make a visit to the Commemorative Air Force to learn about World War II Warbirds and the role Texas played in America’s efforts to make the world safe for democracy.

After lunch From Midland, we plunge even deeper into West Texas with a drive over to Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains.  Bring your swim trunks!  Along the way we will stop off at Balmorhea and take a dip in the largest spring-fed swimming pool in Texas.  It promises to be cold, and we hope you don’t mind the turtles and fish sharing the water!

Our hardy band will now get a chance to step back into Texas’s frontier past with a visit to Fort Davis National Historic Site where we will wander among the buildings and ruins of one of the most famous military posts in the state.  Then we head off to our bunks at the Indian Lodge Hotel.

We’ll grab a bite to eat then head up to the McDonald Observatory to a late night star party.  The Stars at Night, are Big and Bright, Deep in the Heart of Texas!  Now you’ll know just HOW bright!

Day 4, May 19


We leave the scenic Davis Mountains, and head for the Caverns of Sonora.  After a picnic lunch, we begin our journey under Texas with a walking tour of this famous cave.  From there we head to Fredericksburg in the heart of the hill country.  After we check in to our hotel, we are off to Grape Creek Winery for a vineyard tour, wine tasting, and dinner.

Day 5, May 19


The town of Fredericksburg has come to epitomize the Hill Country of Texas.  Take the day to explore this town and its German heritage.  Besides great food and excellent shopping, take the opportunity to explore the local museums like the Nimitz Museum of the Pacific War and sites of interest, perhaps even a jaunt over to Enchanted Rock.

Day 6, May 20


We start again, this time heading for Austin, the Capital of Texas.  Our first stop is the world-famous Bob Bullock Texas History Museum, the preeminent showcase of Texas history and culture.  We’ll grab lunch at the museum before strolling up Congress Avenue to the state capitol.  We’ll walk the halls where the lions (and lionesses) of Texas made their mark on the state and the nation.

Later, we are back on the bus for the quick trip over to the Texas State Cemetery where we will take a brief walk among the monuments and memorials of great Texans who went before.

We leave Austin and head for Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas.  We’ll grab a bite, scoot a boot, and then make the short drive to San Antonio to bed down for the night.

Day 7, May 21


Well start at 9:00 a.m. to head over to Mission San José and learn about the role of Spanish settlers in the creation of Texas.  After lunch, we’ll head over to downtown to begin a walking tour of San Antonio and learn about the Spanish municipality and its rendezvous with history.

We’ll wander back to the IMAX Theater and catch a showing of “Alamo: The Price of Freedom.”  Then its across the street to the Alamo for an insider’s tour of this most famous of Texas historic sites.

That evening, there will be some tasty Mexican food to be had on the San Antonio Riverwalk.

Day 8, May 22


Pushing east out of San Antonio, our adventure continues to Gonzales, one of the most important towns in colonial Texas and scene of the first shots of the Texas Revolution.  From here we head to Shiner, Texas, home of the oldest and most renowned brewery in the state.  We’ll get right with God afterwards, viewing some of the “painted” churches in the area — a legacy of European immigration to the region.  We’ll get back to San Antonio in time for dinner among its numerous tasty eateries.

Day 9, May 23


Today we start early, 8 a.m., and travel along the roads and byways of one of the most fascinating, and tragic, episodes of the Texas Revolution.  We’ll start our trip at the Mission Espiritu Santo de La Bahia, and see a Spanish Mission in its original rural context.  We’ll grab a bite to eat on the town square in Goliad, then head over to Colonel James Fannin’s battlefield, where he surrendered his Texian army to the forces of General José Urrea.

We will fall back to the Presidio early that afternoon, and walk along the ramparts of one of the most strategic points in colonial Texas.  We will also visit the site of one of the funeral pyres that consumed the remains of Fannin’s executed soldiers.

By the end of the day, we arrive in Kingsville, Texas, for a two-night stay in the vicinity of the famous King Ranch.  How about a chuck wagon dinner to start our next adventure?

Day 10, May 24


Interested in Texas ranching?  You’ve got it!  We will take the day to roam and explore the most famous ranch in Texas. 

Day 11, May 25


We’ll leave Kingsville around 8 a.m. and push north for an hour to Corpus Christi, Texas, and take a look at the sea life of the Lone Star State at the Texas State Aquarium.  After getting our feet wet there, we’ll head over to the original location of Whataburger, arguably the national burger of Texas, for a bite of lunch.

That afternoon, we ramble up the coast, stopping in to see local sites before ending the day in Clear Lake, south of Houston.  We will head over to the hoppin’ Kemah Boardwalk for dinner.  The Hilton NASA Clear Lake will be our home for the next three nights. 

Day 12, May 26


We make a leisurely start in order to arrive at 10 a.m. for a tour of NASA and the Johnson Space Center.  After a lunch on site, we travel south to Galveston to learn about the Island City and its important role in the history of the state.  Get ready for some amazing seafood — it’s what’s for dinner!

Day 13, May 27


We start out at 9 for a tour of the battlefield at San Jacinto, along with a visit to the USS Texas.  We’ll savor another round of seafood at the Monument Inn before returning to the hotel to a leisurely afternoon.  We’ll head into Houston for dinner,  opera, and a nightcap at Kennedy’s Tavern, the oldest building in the city.

Day 14, May 28


We mount up early and head to Beaumont, take a look around at Gladys City and Spindletop to learn about black gold and the oil boom that defined twentieth-century Texas.  We’ll grab lunch at a Cajun, hot links, and barbecue emporium before heading up into The Big Thicket.  Afternoon will be spent exploring the swamps and woods of this amazing ecosystem.  Then, its back to Beaumont and a taste of Southeast Texas for dinner.

Day 15, May 29


We’ll cut across country heading for one of the most interesting regions of the state.  We’ll visit the oldest operating cotton gin in Texas, learn about agricultural white gold and its influence on shaping the state.  Lunch in Brenham is followed by a tour of the Blue Bell Ice Cream plant.  Afterwards its off to the cradle of Texas Independence:  Washington-on-the-Brazos.  Dinner and overnight is in Huntsville, the last hometown of Texas hero Sam Houston.

Day 16, May 30


We’ll learn about the Sword of San Jacinto (Sam Houston) at museums dedicated to his life and history, and visit his last home.  After a bite of lunch, we’ll head through the piney woods to Tyler, visit Camp Ford, a Civil War prison camp where Federal soldiers and sailors captured on the coast were held for months.  From there we head to the northeast corner of the state, settling in for nice mean and quaint accommodations in historic Jefferson.

Day 17, May 31


The town of Jefferson, once a busy steamboat port, will host a leisurely day for travelers to take in the various shops and sites of this village that remains a popular throwback to the nineteenth century.  Guests might choose to take a paddle wheeler tour of Caddo Lake, one of the natural gems of Texas.

Day 18, June 1


No Grand Tour of Texas is complete without a trip to Dallas.  We’ll grab lunch downtown, then visit the Old Red courthouse museum to see highlights of north Texas history, Dallas Heritage Village and its collection of early Dallas buildings, and the Sixth Floor Museum and learn about the infamous day in November when President John F. Kennedy fatefully passed beneath this building’s windows.  After a full day, your going to love where we go for dinner.  We’ll lay up for the night at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine.

Day 19, June 2


Texas is a land of contrasts.  This morning we will spend touring the temples of Texas sport — Texas Ranger Stadium and Cowboys Stadium.  A tasty lunch equips us for a dash over to Cowtown —Fort Worth — where you will be amazed at the collections of art and cultural icons that grace this town.  That evening, grab your boots, we are heading to the world-famous Fort Worth stockyards.

Day 20, June 3


The drive back to Abilene will take us to the Texas Civil War Museum, a truly amazing collection of artifacts from this time period.  Then, we pass through the small Texas towns of Granbury and Stephenville en route to Dublin, home to one of the most famous expressions of Texas’s own original elixir — the original Dr. Pepper bottling plant.

Then, back to where it all began, Abilene!  We will be road weary and bone tired, but we will have done something few people have ever managed — visited every corner of the Lone Star State and learned a heck of a lot about Texas.

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