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A national magazine is proclaiming what Fort Worth-area residents already know — that the city is a pretty great place to be this month. A new report by Travel + Leisure has named Fort Worth one of the 11 best places to travel in the United States and around the world in January 2023.

"If the post-holiday blahs typically set in after the busy end-of-the-year season, planning a vacation, even a weekend getaway, can be just what the doctor ordered," writes Patricia Doherty in the article. "Whether you stay close to home for a local staycation or head to a far-off locale, experiencing a new destination or returning to a familiar favorite is a great way to start the year."

The magazine rounded up suggestions for winter sports, sunny beaches, and fun places to explore, they said. The unranked list of 11 places ranges from chilly Park City, Utah and Minneapolis-St. Paul to warm-and-sunny Jamaica and The Bahamas.

Why was Fort Worth included? The Stockyards were a major draw.

Here's what they said:

"The Stockyards area in Fort Worth offers restaurants, bars, clubs, shops, a rodeo, and the history of the state’s famous livestock industry. Family entertainment includes the twice-daily longhorn cattle drive with drovers available for photo ops and questions. Walking tours, a petting zoo, horseback riding, and weekend rodeos at the Cowtown Coliseum are great fun. Shops offer western gear, art, and gifts, and at Flea Style, shoppers can design their own Stetsons. There’s nightlife at Billy Bob’s and the new Tannahill’s Tavern Music Venue, and through February 5, the 'Rodeo Rink' ice skating venue takes over the lawn of the Livestock Exchange Building with live music and a lights display. Stay steps away at Hotel Drover for great food and Texas hospitality."

In a head-scratching omission, the magazine did NOT cite the biggest event of the month in Fort Worth: The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, taking place January 13-February 4 at Dickies Arena and across the Will Rogers Memorial complex.

It's a curious thing to leave out — not only because FWSSR is "legendary" — but because specific January festivals and events appear on a few other places in the list (i.e. the Lowcountry Oyster Festival on January 29 in Charleston, South Carolina; and the 10-day Great Northern Festival from January 25-February 5 in Minneapolis-St. Paul).

Nevertheless, Fort Worth was the only Texas city to make the list. The 10 other cities included are:

  • Park City, Utah
  • The Bahamas
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Jamaica
  • Mazatlán, Mexico
  • Queensland, Australia
  • Costa Rica
  • Vienna, Austria
Photo by Adam Graser

Legendary Texas battleship casts off for much-needed repair

Anchors Aweigh!

The most iconic water-borne symbol of World War I and World War II in Texas moved on August 31 from its home at the San Jacinto Battleground Site for much-needed restoration.

Battleship Texas left its current home to Galveston’s Gulf Copper & Manufacturing Corporation facilities for repairs to its hull. Fans and history buffs assembled as early as 5:30 am to watch the ship disconnect, swing, and attach to its tug craft.

Anticipating national curiosity, the Battleship Texas Foundation had set up livestreaming via the official Facebook page or YouTube channel. Those interested can review hourly status and updates here.

For years, the legendary dreadnought, which was built in 1910, has been carefully addressed. Tackling the massive amount of water leaking into the ship, companies BTF, Resolve, and Valkor worked for six months to drastically reduce the leak rate from 2,000 gallons per minute to under 20 gallons per minute, making the ship significantly safer to tow.

Notably, the Battleship Texas Foundation hand-picked the Gulf Copper shipyard in Galveston specifically due to the company’s recent acquisition of a floating drydock that is capable of lifting the juggernaut battleship out of the water, according to foundation press materials.

Currently, the oldest battleship in existence that witnessed both WWI and WWII is owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. In 2019, the state legislature appropriated $35 million to fund the ship’s hull repair.

A symbol of America's military might, Battleship Texas was commissioned in 1914 and at the time, was (somewhat fittingly, given the name) considered the most powerful weapon in the world. The warship is credited with introducing and innovating gunnery, aviation, and radar.

In 1948, Battleship Texas was decommissioned and made a permanent museum, appropriately on April 21, Texas Independence Day.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia

7 spectacular surprises inside Chip and Joanna Gaines' new Fixer Upper castle in Waco

Royal revelation

“Are you ready to see your fixer upper?” the enthusiastic tour guide asked, channeling Chip and Joanna Gaines and their famous “big reveal” line from TV’s Fixer Upper. This time, it wasn't the home owners waiting outside a first glimpse at their home makeover; it was a small group of tourists gathered on the porch, ready to step inside the Gaineses’ most ambitious renovation project yet — a century-old castle in Waco.

For the first time ever, Texas’ king and queen of renovation have unlocked the doors and let the public into one of their famed fixer-uppers before it’s featured on their Magnolia Network show.

Known as the historic Cottonland Castle, this three-story, 6,700-square-foot residence was started in 1890 and finished in 1913. The Gaineses purchased the dilapidated structure in 2019 and designed and executed a regal flip that will be featured on an eight-episode special called Fixer Upper: Welcome Home – The Castle, beginning October 14.

They plan to sell it in the fall. But before a home sale comes an open house, and for three months only — through October 29 — the castle is open six days a week for guided tours.

Hour-long castle expeditions take visitors through every room, nook, and cranny — from turret to toilettes. Knowledgeable guides dispense history, impart design information, and reveal behind-the-scenes stories from Chip and Jo that may or may not make it on TV.

For Fixer Upper fans, Magnolia maniacs, and Gaines gangs, it's worth a drive to Waco to experience the castle transformation in real life before it hits the small screen. A tour offers the very rare chance to walk through the door (in this case, a 10-foot-tall, 400-pound, solid-oak door) into the world of a Chip-and-Jo reno.

Without revealing too much, here are seven fun surprises you’ll find behind the castle walls.

1. History meets homey. A castle museum, this is not.

“Chip and Joanna’s vision was that they really wanted to honor it with historical pieces but also make it more practical for the modern family that’s going to live here in the future,” guide Megan Shuler said at the beginning of the tour.

While many original features — including seven fireplaces — were restored, the castle has been fixed up as a home for the future, not a shrine to the past. One-of-a-kind and collected antiques (such as the kingly dining room table from Round Top, Texas) blend with pieces from the Gaineses’ own Magnolia Home collection. A 17-page “Castle Sourcebook” lists design elements and products and where to buy them. And in the ultimate modern touch — a branding tie-in — a forthcoming “Colors of the Castle” paint collection will be available through Magnolia this fall.

2. Sweet nods to the castle’s past. Posted on the wall in the foyer is a poem written by Alfred Abeel, the owner who completed construction in 1913. It talks of making the castle “‘home sweet home’ all seasons of the year.”

On the center of the dining room fireplace mantel is Abeel’s family crest, along with the phrase (in Latin), “God’s providence saves me.” Next to it, children’s heights are recorded from the 1930s to the early 2000s, the last time a family lived here.

3. A cozy nook in the turret. The original design was modeled after a small castle on the Rhine River in Germany, and there is one tower turret. A space historically used (in “real” castles) for military defense has, here, been turned into one of the coziest corners of the house. Tucked into a corner next to the winding staircase, two comfy chairs sit under an antique-y light fixture from Austria. It's the perfect place to curl up with a book from the library upstairs.

4. Rooms with storylines. “One of the challenges Chip and Joanna had when they bought the castle was, there was no one, really, they were designing it for,” Shuler explained. “So they would create storylines for each room to help tell their story.”

Two of the four bedrooms, for example, are the “boy’s bedroom,” and “girl’s bedroom.” The storylines are that the future homeowner’s son would come back from college and stay in his childhood bedroom, and that the future homeowner’s granddaughters would stay in the room while hanging out at the grandparents’ house.

The boy’s room contains more masculine furnishings and decor, including a watercolor portrait of Roy Lane, the famous architect who helped complete the castle. The girl’s room is painted in “Rose Pink,” a color named after Joanna’s grandmother.

5. Bodacious bathrooms. There are three-and-a-half “throne rooms” in the castle, and they’re some of the prettiest spaces, mixing metals, woods, and tiles; even original radiators look like works of art. One of the most spectacular rooms in the house, in fact, is a grand, gleaming bathroom — which (tease!) will be fully revealed on the show.

6. Party in the basement. “Gathering spaces” are a hallmark of Chip and Jo’s homes, and in the castle, they take place in the dungeon — er, basement. A “card room” for poker games or family game nights sits next to the family room, which houses the only TV in the castle. The guest bedroom’s also in the basement, along with a laundry room and a former wine cellar now left “blank” for the new owners to reimagine.

7. Behind-the-scenes tales and tidbits. Fixer Upper devotees will devour the charming and quirky tidbits about the Gaineses shared throughout the tour. There are a few design elements and furnishings originally meant for their own home, including an item banished to the castle by their daughters. There’s a fun story about what Chip did when they found bones — yes, bones — in the basement. And, the prime selfie spot for Fixer Upper fans is a large mirror that, the tour guides say, Joanna used to touch up her makeup during the filming of the show.

Castle tour tickets, $50, are available through the website, with 20 percent of proceeds benefiting The Cove nonprofit organization. (Note that the home does not have an elevator and requires guests’ ability to access three staircases.)

Tips for a Magnolia pilgrimage in Waco:
Shop: No castle jaunt would be complete without a stop at the Magnolia Silos complex. A new 8:15 am tour, offered Monday through Saturday, takes visitors behind the scenes and on the roof before the crowds (and the heat) arrive. Hint: August is a “slower” month at the Silos, and Tuesday through Thursday are less crowded. Tour tickets are $25 and come with a free coffee from Magnolia Press.

Eat: Chip and Joanna’s Magnolia Table cafe stays busy all day, every day. If you don’t have time to wait for a table, visit the takeaway market next door. Grab to-go items like pimiento cheese and crackers, a butter flight, banana pudding, and chicken salad sandwiches, and enjoy them on a table outside (if it's not too hot).

Stay: Availability at Magnolia’s four vacation rentals can be hard to come by, but watch the website for nights to pop open. Make it a girls’ getaway with a stay at the grand Hillcrest Estate (which sleeps 12), or go solo and book the darling Hillcrest Cottage, the Gaineses’ newest and smallest lodging, which opened in fall 2021. A forthcoming Magnolia boutique hotel, in the historic Grand Karem Shrine building downtown, is slated to open in 2024.

The castle will be on tour only through the end of October, before it's featured on a special season of Fixer Upper - Wecome Home.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia
The castle will be on tour only through the end of October, before it's featured on a special season of Fixer Upper - Wecome Home.
Photo by Koby Brown Photography/Galveston Historical Foundation

Step back in time inside 9 grand and historic Galveston homes on popular tour

living history

Half the fun of a visit to Galveston (the other half being the beach, of course) is admiring all the grand and glorious turn-of-the-century homes in historic neighborhoods throughout the island. A popular annual tour takes architecture and design lovers inside several significant properties once a year, and it's coming up.

The Galveston Historic Homes Tour, which returns for its 48th year, kicked off May 7 and will host an encore event this weekend on May 14 and 15.

In addition to the self-guided tour of these private homes, there are a host of other events, including happy hours and walking tours, and Plein Air Southwest, a competition, show, and sale featuring more than 40 artists.

The home tour features nine historic private residences, dating between 1866 and 1931. Featuring a range of architectural styles, these homes showcase the beauty of life on the island, and offer a glimpse at their owner's approach to renovation and preservation.

Among them is the blue-shuttered Oscar and Mary Walker House, built in 1896. Its double galleries and side hall plan are typical of homes of the period. The Stubbs-Garrigan Bungalow, located on Avenue P and built in 1922 for cotton clerk Sidney Stubbs, sports a lovely inset porch. The Dr. Albert and Willie Dean Singleton House on Broadway was designed by Houston architect Cameron Fairchild, one of several he designed for Galveston's elite.

A full list of all the homes on tour is here.

Tours run 10 am to 6 pm on May 14 and 15. Tickets are $40 and are available online or day-of at any of the tour homes.

Meanwhile, tickets and reservations for special events, such as the History On Tap dinner at 1838 Menard House, or any of the walking tours, must be purchased separately.

All of the events offer experiences to walk in the footsteps of Galveston's storied past, and should prove fun for all ages.

A historic home on Broadway.

Photo by Koby Brown Photography/Galveston Historical Foundation
A historic home on Broadway.
Courtesy of H-E-B

H-E-B's new brand of green products will benefit Texas Parks & Wildlife

H-E-Being Green

In its ongoing mission to take care of Texans, H-E-B has announced a new retail initiative that will support that commitment for generations to come.

Last year, the company revealed products from Field & Future by H-E-B, a new environmentally minded line of household, personal care, and baby products designed to be clean and green. Now, the retailer is using its new brand to benefit longtime partner, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF), by supporting their efforts to help conserve and protect Texas.

“Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is excited about our new partnership with H-E-B. This Texas company will donate a portion of all sales proceeds from its Field & Future line of sustainable products to support our efforts to conserve the state’s wildlife, habitat and natural resources,” TPWF Chairman Mike Greene tells CultureMap.

The retailer and the wildlife foundation are longtime partners, and this new initiative will aid coastal conservation efforts, as well as Black Bear restoration in West Texas and the establishment of the state’s newest park, Palo Pinto Mountains, which opens in North Texas next year.

“H-E-B is an iconic Texas company, and this new partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, our official non-profit partner, is incredibly exciting,” said TPWF Executive Director Carter Smith in an April 5 release. “It’s fitting that the Field & Future line of products will benefit conservation projects across Texas, and we’re deeply grateful for this new partnership.”

There are nearly 100 Field & Future by H-E-B items on shelves across Texas already. Products range from dish soap to bath tissue; baby diapers; and trash bags, which are made from 65 percent post-consumer recycled plastic from H-E-B facilities.

The line features the How2Recycle label, which is found on more than 1,700 other H-E-B branded items. The grocery chain joined the How2Recycle program last year, placing clear and easy-to-read labels on products so customers can know if and how to recycle product packaging.

“We know H-E-B and our customers have a shared commitment in protecting the land, water, and air of Texas for generations to come,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B Group Vice President of Public Affairs, Diversity and Environmental Affairs in the release.

Since 2012, H-E-B has contributed more than $20 million to over 500 environmental organizations in land and water conservation, habitat and coastal preservation, and community cleanups. This includes giving more than $2 million in grants to organizations such as Keep Texas Beautiful, Texas Conservation Fund, and the Nature Conservancy in Texas.

UTSA professors tune up project to preserve San Antonio’s signature West Side Sound

Taking note

Two professors at the University of Texas San Antonio are harmonizing on a project designed to preserve a genre of music born in Alamo City.

Sylvia Mendoza and Gloria Vásquez Gonzáles, both from UTSA’s Department of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, have received $5,000 from the school’s Westside Community Partnerships Initiative to document what’s known as the West Side Sound. UTSA describes the West Side Sound, which is said to have originated here in the 1950s, as a fusion of jazz, R&B, and Tejano music.

The West Side Sound Oral History Project will feature elements such as interviews, photos, and recordings.

Mendoza, whose father was a musician, grew up listening to her mother describe the West Side Sound.

“They didn’t know it as the West Side Sound then, as they were living it,” Mendoza says in a UTSA news release. “She just knew it was the dudes from the neighborhood, musicians from the area who were getting together and playing Motown songs.”

The Keyhole Club was one of the West Side venues where visitors could regularly hear this special sound.

Mendoza and Gonzáles have teamed up with Jaime Macias and Norberto “Geremy” Landin to carry out the project. Macias owns Jaime’s Place, a West Side bar and community gathering place, while Landin is director of equity and social advocacy for Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores and a member of the Bexar County Historical Commission.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

San Antonio suburb among the richest places in Texas for 2023, plus more top stories

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. San Antonio suburb cashes in among the richest places in Texas for 2023. Alamo Heights has been renamed the third richest place in Texas for 2023 in a recent study.

2. San Antonio home sales slowed in December 2022, report finds. San Antonio sold 36,477 homes all year, a 10 percent decrease from 2021.

3. Here are the top 5 things to do in San Antonio this weekend. Nina Simone, Pink Floyd, the Beatles and more music-centered events made our roundup of the best things to do in Alamo City this weekend.

4. San Antonio Home & Garden Show returns with HGTV star. Ati Williams will headline the San Antonio Spring Home & Garden Show, which takes place February 24-26.

5. H-E-B opens first location in growing San Antonio suburb. The state-of-the-art facility offers 110,000 square feet of floor space, providing everything from cat food to charcuterie.


Popular Pearl brunch spot remixes with new weekend DJ nights

OONCE OONCE OONCE

Though Full Goods Diner has barely been open for half a year, it has already become a San Antonio staple for working weekday lunches and lingering Sunday Fundays. Now the Pearl eatery is looking to be a hot spot after dark.

Via release, the popular local haunt just announced a new limited-time music series, Full Goods at Night. Starting on February 2, Full Goods Diner will open select evenings throughout the month.

The Full Goods at Night series will feature popular local San Antonio DJs, including El West Side Sound, Hector Gallego, DJ Plata, Steven Lee Moya, and Cami Gee. Guests can enjoy live sets while indulging in a specially curated food and drink offerings.

The menu will include some of Full Goods Diner's best—selling items, such as French toast sticks, barbacoa waffle fries, and jumbo cheesy tots. Libations like the Attaboy Negroni, Royal Bermuda Daiquiri, Pink G&T, and more will fuel the festivities.

In addition to enjoying moonlight brunch, guests can relish some prime people-watching. And, of course, the restaurant is just a hop from other nightlife destinations like Pink Hill, 3 Star Bar, and Summer Camp Bar, making it the perfect party starter.

The series runs every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from February 2-25, 6-10 pm. The complete DJ schedule is listed below.

February 2 — El West Side Sound·
February 3 — Hector Gallego
February 4— DJ Plata
February 9 — El West Side Sound
February 10 — Steven Lee Moya
February 11 — Cami Gee
February 16 — El West Side Sound
February 17 — Steven Lee Moya
February 18 — Hector Gallego
February 23 — El West Side Sound
February 24— Steven Lee Moya
February 25 — DJ Plata

4 San Antonio culinary pioneers win $21K from the Texas Food & Wine Alliance

CULINARY INNOVATION

Texas’ skyrocketing culinary scene is about to get a huge boost. The Texas Food & Wine Alliance’s grant program has awarded $107,500 to 19 culinary innovators around the state. This marks the Alliance’s 11th year providing funding to support culinary projects contributing to local communities.

The award winners were announced in a ceremony at Austin's Holdsworth Center on January 21. A private panel of distinguished culinary experts chose the winners out of 40 grant applications this year. Nine winners hail from Austin, three from Dallas-Fort Worth, three from Houston, and four from San Antonio. The awards range from $1,500 to $10,000, with a special $25,000 grant investment from Austin favorite Tito’s Handmade Vodka in honor of the company’s 25th anniversary. Grant funding will support chefs, farms, and culinary education groups, among others.

Out of the four San Antonio area winners, Talking Tree Farm received the most from the grant program, $6,250 to purchase shipping containers for storage and to buy a solar-powered cold room for their harvests. John Marshall High School’s culinary arts program will use their $5,000 grant to establish a morning café. Agricultural project Habitable Spaces and pasture-raised chicken farm Cielito Lindo Farm also won $5,000 each to purchase equipment or build infrastructure to further their endeavors in the culinary space.

Austin-area winners received the most funding from the grant program, totalling $53,750, while San Antonio winners received $21,250 in total. Dallas/Fort Worth winners were awarded $19,750, and the three Houston recipients won $12,750. All of the 2022 winners reflect just how diverse the state's trailblazing culinary scene continues to expand.

“All of this year’s funded projects will further enrich the state through innovation and giveback,” said Erika White, executive director of the Alliance. “We’re extremely grateful to each of the Texas communities, our sponsors and their support in allowing us to reward these mold-breaking projects.”

In Austin, organic farm Trosi Farms was awarded the most funding ($10,000), which will help construct a germination shed for more stable plant start production. Locavore pioneer Boggy Creek Farm won $7,500 in grants to provide ADA-compliant accessibility to their new climate-controlled Tomato House, while Texas’ first organic feed mill, Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill & Farm, received $6,250 to help purchase a building to be used as a store for the local community.

The six other Austin area grant recipients, each winning $5,000, include Vista Farms at Vista Brewing, Jamaican family business Tierra Todun ATX, coffee roasters Rising Tide Roast Collaborative, culinary educator Chef Pascal Simon from Bake Austin, East Austin food truck Community Vegan, and Latinx pastry project Comadre Panaderia (who also just earned a James Beard nomination). All winners will be able to use their grants to improve efficiency and expand their businesses, or in Chef Pascal's case, further research and development for her upcoming cookbook for Gen-Z young adults.

After starting the program in Austin, grant co-chair and TFWA past president Cathy Cochran-Lewis says it was the Alliance’s dream to expand the grant statewide.

“We’re so humbled and thrilled to now not only support worthwhile projects across Texas but also to give more than a half million dollars in funding over the last decade to help dreams come true,” she says. “This is a tribute to the culinary talent and the community mindset we are lucky to have in our state.”

The winners in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas include:

For this year's Honorable Mention, the Alliance chose San Antonio eatery Tacos Cucuy, who will soon open a brick-and-mortar space with an expanded menu. Tacos Cucuy are currently looking for support to develop a Tex-Mex charcuterie program called La Cura Carnes Especiales.

More information about the 2022 grants and its recipients can be found on texasfoodandwinealliance.org.