Photo courtesy of Midland

Things feel slower in the summer heat, but there's a whole new rodeo to look forward to this February. A real Texas treat, this annual fair ensures that the residents of a growing city don't forget its country history.

The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo returns February 8-25, 2024, at the Frost Bank Center/Freeman Coliseum fairgrounds with concerts, a fair, and of course rodeo and livestock competitions. It's announcing the concert lineup in waves, the first of which contains some big country names that invoke both nostalgia and what's next.

  • Midland kicks things off (unless the next announcement places someone earlier) on Friday, February 9. This popular neotraditional country band, actually from Dripping Springs, will be close to home in San Antonio. This is another notch on Midland's San Antonio Rodeo belt, as they've played the annual event for years.
  • Neal McCoy will work against any case of the Mondays guests have on February 12. The legendary country singer has contributed more than 30 singles to country radio over his career since the late 80s. Even though his sound is solidly country, the singer has a diverse background including singing in church and founding an R&B band.
  • Gary Allan is keeping things going on Wednesday, February 14. Another prolific singer, Allan's career is strongly tied to Nashville, where he polished up his honky tonk performance style. At the rodeo, he will surely unlock some nostalgia for folks who loved country at the turn of the century.
  • Clint Black wraps up this round on Saturday, February 24, with familiar hits. With 22 No. 1 singles, Black is a country staple. The multi-Grammy nominee has collaborated with tons of other country stars and even ventured into acting, but on this bill he appears to be appearing in all his glory, solo.

Being the 75th annual event, it is likely that some special spectacles will be planned. For now, we're just watching the events calendar, which is still in its early stages. Alongside these performances are hunter education courses (for gun safety, ethics, and wildlife conservation), a catered fundraiser, and a benefit casino night.

More information about the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, including a playlist featuring performers as they're announced, is available at sarodeo.com.

Photo courtesy of the City of Mesquite

Rodeos, racing, and a roster of fun festivals await in Mesquite

Hit the Road

Declared the Official Rodeo Capital of Texas in 1993, Mesquite is where real, authentic Texas culture thrives.

Whether you spend a day or a weekend in this city — which sits only 15 minutes east of downtown Dallas — you're bound to experience several moments of cowboy cool. But Mesquite has other surprises, including plenty of culture, nature, and other family fun.

Here's a glance at some of the most exciting things to do in Mesquite:

Of course we have to start with the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, which happens every Saturday June through August each year at Mesquite Arena. Now in its 66th season, the event attracts top-ranked cowboys and riders and provides an air-conditioned (important!) and entertaining escape for locals and visitors alike.

Equally assured to get your heart racing is a visit to Devil's Bowl Speedway, hailed as the Southwest's most famous dirt track. Take your pick from the weekly championship series or special events spaced throughout the year — either way, there's not a bad seat in the venue thanks to the track's unique D-shape.

Celebration Station offers an experience that's fun for the whole family, with go-karts, arcade games, laser tag, mini golf, and more. The local amusement park is a must for birthday parties, and is the perfect place to cool off during summer thanks to the splashy bumper boats.

Xcape Adventures is another excellent family activity, where you work together to solve clues and escape rooms with fun themes.

Rather head outside with the fam? DeBusk Park features two playgrounds, including the renovated KidsQuest play structure. It includes ADA accessibility, swings, tall slides, room to run, climbing features, and a unique environment that fosters creative play.

In addition to the updated playground, the park has a baseball field, open playing field, two large picnic pavilions with tables, and a pet-friendly trail that is over a mile long for walking, jogging, and biking. Debusk Park is also home to one of Mesquite's three disc golf courses.

If you're looking for somewhere to work on your traditional golf game, Mesquite Golf Club is the place. It is a municipal course that was built in the 1960s by Leon Howard and originally opened as a 9-hole course, but expanded to 18 holes two years later. A massive renovation project in 2013 helped it become a joy for every skill level.

You can also enjoy nature without, well, really having to do anything. Stroll the Paschall Park Butterfly Trail to admire native trees, plants, and wildflowers, plus the big Monarch butterfly migrations in April and October.

At the Mesquite Arts Center, live performance fans can get their culture fix thanks to the Mesquite Symphony Orchestra and Mesquite Community Theatre. During the summer, the free Courtyard Concert Series showcases local bands.

Travel back in time to 1874, a year after Mesquite was first established as a depot town, when Stephen Decatur Lawrence began building his Texas prairie-style home and barn. Today the property survives as the Opal Lawrence Historical Park (for the daughter who left it to Mesquite in her will) and is a glimpse into what life was like nearly 150 years ago.

No matter what time of year you choose to visit, there's bound to be a festival or fun event happening.

Start the year with the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, Daddy-Daughter Dance, Hip Hop Cowboys Spring Rodeo, and the annual Texas Fly Fishing and Brew Festival, held the last weekend in February.

Ease into spring with the Rodeo Parade, Bunny Bash, KidFish, and Downtown Farmers Market, which happens each Saturday from April through November.

Welcome summer with Movies in the Park, a free Cinco de Mayo celebration, Doggie Splash Day, the Rodeo Road Rally Bike Ride, and Dive-In Movies at City Lake Aquatic Center.

Come fall, lace up for the Guts and Gory Zombie Run, plus Heritage Fall Rodeo, Day of the Dead Festival, Veterans Day event, and Pumpkinfest, the city's annual fall festival.

Close out the year with a plethora of Christmas-themed celebrations, which include Christmas in the Park, Christmas at the Ranch, and Carols and Cocoa.

More than 1,300 hotel rooms means that you'll be relaxing in comfort during your stay in Mesquite.

Find more to do, see, and eat in Mesquite here.

Mesquite cowboy parade

Photo courtesy of the City of Mesquite

Welcome to the Official Rodeo Capital of Texas.

Photo courtesy of Bandera CVB

Spring into summer with concerts, cowboys, and more in Bandera


If you're looking for a getaway that's not too far from home, take a look at the Cowboy Capital of the World: Bandera.

Located about four hours west of Houston, just northwest of San Antonio, Bandera is loaded with Texas’ signature charm and has something for everyone in the family.

This Hill Country town is also your live music destination for spring. Here's a look at what’s coming up over the next few months to help plan your future trip.

Music for all
The can’t-miss headlining acts at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar have Charlie Robison of "My Home Town" fame performing on April 14, and a full line-up every weekend thereafter:

  • April 21 – Wade Bowen
  • April 28 – Josh Ward
  • April 29 – Neal McCoy
  • May 12 – Diamond Rio
  • May 13 – Michael Martin Murphey
  • May 19 – Joshua Ray Walker
  • May 20 – Marty Haggard
  • June 9 – Lorrie Morgan
  • June 10 – Junior Brown
On Memorial Day weekend, help Arkey celebrate the 55th anniversary of his Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar Bar.

25th Annual Riverfest
Join in on the family fun April 29 for the 25th anniversary of Bandera Riverfest, happening from 10 am-6 pm.

The International Barbecue Cookers Association (IBCA) will be there hosting its top-tier barbecue cook-off, plus there will be a “land yacht” golf cart competition, plenty of live music, arts and crafts, kids' activities, and more.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Enjoy nature's wonders
If you’re looking for a way to tire out the kids, head to the nearby Hill Country State Natural Area for 5,400 acres of camping, horseback riding, backpacking, fishing, and more.

Gaze at dreamy, starlit skies and open spaces with miles upon miles of trails for cycling and hiking. The park is the perfect place to escape from the stress of modern living and relax into the arms of Mother Nature.

Local events
Other fun events around town include the weekly Cowboys on Main on Saturdays from 10 am-2 pm. Visitors and locals can hop aboard wagon rides and take photos with Redneck the longhorn, and also watch 1800 reenactment gun shows at 11 am and 1 pm.

Fiesta Market Days at the Pipe Creek Dancehall on April 15-16 feature live music, offerings from local vendors, food, and fun for the whole family.

And don't forget about the Bandera Pro Rodeo on Memorial Day weekend, May 26-28. Stake out a good spot for the parade, which begins at 11 am on March 27.

Cowboys on Main

Photo courtesy of Bandera CVB

Cowboys on Main happens on Saturdays.

Tickets for the Rodeo are $12 for adults, $6 for children ages 6-12, and free for children aged 5 and under.

To start planning your getaway, visit banderacowboycapital.com.

Photo courtesy of San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo

San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo busts out more music for 2023 lineup

Not my first rodeo

One of Alamo City's biggest annual events just got bigger. After an initial announcement earlier this summer, the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo just released the second group of world-renowned talent set to take the stage during the 2023 event.

Taking place at the AT&T Center/Freeman Coliseum fairgrounds from February 9-26, 2023, the action-packed rodeo performances will be followed by all-star talent from a mix of genres. Names, dates, and performance times are:

  • Ryan Bingham – Thursday, February 9, 2023 at 7 pm
  • Midland – Saturday, February 11, 2023 at 7:30 pm
  • Tracy Byrd – Monday, February 13, 2023 at 7:00 pm
  • Nelly – Friday, February 24, 2023 at 7:00 pm
  • Gary Allan – Saturday, February 25, 2023 (Rodeo Finals) at 7:30 pm

Previously announced artists include:

  • Jake Owen - Friday, February 10, 2023, at 7 pm
  • Carly Pearce - Saturday, February 11, 2023, at 12 pm
  • Lee Brice – Tuesday, February 14, 2023, at 7 pm
  • Keith Urban (two performances) - Saturday, February 18, 2023, at 12 pm & 7:30 pm
  • Los Tigres Del Norte - Sunday, February 19, 2023, at 7:30 pm
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd – Thursday, February 23, 2023, at 7 pm

Attendees should also note that weekend times have changed for 2023 – Saturday and Sunday shows will now be matinee rodeo starting at 12 pm, while evening rodeo will start at 7:30 pm.

Tickets are on sale now at sarodeo.com or at ticketmaster.com.

Photo courtesy of Bandera CVB

Lasso up a great getaway to Bandera, the Cowboy Capital of the World

On the Road

It’s known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” and Bandera — in the beautiful Texas Hill Country — lives up to that title.

Once the staging area for the last great cattle drives of the late 1800s, the town also boasts many National Rodeo Champions.

When you’re here, you’ll quickly see how the respect and authenticity of “cowboy culture” permeates every square inch of the town. What you’ll also notice is how Indian, Mexican, Polish, and Western cultures give Bandera a unique ambiance not found anywhere else in Texas.

So grab your hat and boots, channel your inner cowboy, and get set to lasso up a great little getaway in Bandera.

Find your home on the range
With a number of dude ranches in Bandera, each nestled into scenic surrounds, it’s easy to fully immerse yourself in that cowboy culture.

Each of the working ranches is its own unique experience. For example, at Flying L Ranch Resort you can stay in a cedar cabin or historic villa and take wagon rides, feed deer and antelope, get in on a chuckwagon dinner (during the summer only), sidle up to the campfire for s'mores, and maybe even catch some champion trick ropers and storytellers.

Situated on 725 acres, Dixie Dude Ranch goes back five generations to 1901, showing true Texas hospitality every step along the way.

Horseback riding, catch-and-release fishing, hiking, hayrides, campfire sing-alongs, dancing, and lots of Western fun are all on the docket here.

You can also check out the century-old barn and Range War Cemetery or, for a little R&R, the ranch offers massages, too.

Willow Creek Ranch is a family-owned and operated 40-acre horse farm where they rehabilitate and retrain rescue horses, too. You'll stay in the three-bedroom house surrounded by nature, horses, oak trees, a creek, and a pond.

Hit the trail
Even if you don’t stay at a dude ranch, you can still get in on horseback riding that ventures through the rolling green hills, wide-open pastures, and picturesque creeks.

Juniper Hill Stables and Cross-G Ranch both have one-of-a-kind trail rides through these rugged-cool landscapes.

Head to the rodeo
You can see some of the best barrel racers and mutton busters in Texas vie for the top prize at one of the many rodeos in town, including the Bandera ProRodeo Association's Memorial Day PRCA rodeo.

Celebrate Bandera Round-Up, held over Labor day weekend, features a longhorn cattle drive on Saturday morning followed by a market day with entertainment around the courthouse lawn Saturday and Sunday.

Bandera ProRodeo then produces a working cowboy Ranch Rodeo (no bull riding) on Saturday evening and an All Women’s Ranch Rodeo and Mutton Bustin’ on Sunday evening.

Schedule in a shootout
A shootout that’s straight out of a classic spaghetti western is what you’ll get at Cowboys on Main, a weekly event with gripping gunfights by historical re-enactors from the Bandera Cattle Company, along with chuck wagons and period costumes. Check the weekly entertainment guide here for the most up-to-date times.

Get your nature fix
Sure, dude ranch’ing it up and horseback riding will put you in touch with nature. But there’s plenty more to explore with Bandera as your home base.

Two of the most breathtaking natural areas in Texas are within easy driving distance. Surround yourself with limestone bluffs and hills covered in blooming wildflowers at the Hill Country State Natural Area, which is home to more than 40 miles of trails.

Meanwhile, Lost Maples State Natural Area — named for the park’s abundance of bigtooth maple trees that provide vibrant fall colors — is 2,100 acres of statement-making scenery, including limestone canyons, grasslands and wooded hills, and clear-water streams.

It’s also known as one of the best birding destinations, with the spotting of species like the black-capped vireo, golden-cheeked warbler, and green kingfisher.

Check out the museums
Browse the Frontier Times Museum’s 40,000-item collection of Western art and memorabilia with historical artifacts, photographs, and art that tell the story of Bandera County’s earliest days.

There’s also a gallery of paintings displayed on a natural rock wall to reflect the rugged landscape of the surrounding Hill Country.

The Bandera Natural History Museum is a true gem, with an extensive wildlife exhibit and a collection of Spanish art from 1521-early 1800s.

And with motorcycles from all over the world, ranging from 1910 to today, the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum is a fascinating look at the bike.

Tune into some live music
In addition to its Old West vibes, Bandera has a thriving music scene with jams just about every day of the week. One of the most popular venues in town is the 11th Street Cowboy Bar, a go-to spot for live country music and good beer.

Grab an ice-cream float
The Bandera General Store is really a must; it has one of the last remaining old-fashioned soda fountains in Texas (there are only 11 of them!). There, you can also shop for cowboy boots, hats, and more.

See more of what Bandera has to offer here.

Flying L Ranch is one of the dude ranches where you can stay in Bandera.

flying l ranch outside area
Photo courtesy of Bandera CVB
Flying L Ranch is one of the dude ranches where you can stay in Bandera.
Photo courtesy of San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo

San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo reveals all-star music lineup for 2023 season

Out the Chute

One of San Antonio's favorite annual gatherings just revealed the headliners for its 2023 season — and let's just say the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo has lassoed some all-star talent for next year's event.

Held at the AT&T Center/Freeman Coliseum fairgrounds from February 9 through 26, 2023, the upcoming stock show and rodeo managed to wrangle world-class talent beyond the chute.

Announced on Thursday, August 4, these artists promise unforgettable performances after the already action-packed rodeo event on the following dates:

  • Jake Owen — Friday, February 10, 2023, at 7 pm
  • Carly Pearce — Saturday, February 11, 2023, at 12 pm
  • Lee Brice — Tuesday, February 14, 2023, at 7 pm
  • Keith Urban (two performances) — Saturday, February 18, 2023 at 12 pm and 7:30 pm
  • Los Tigres Del Norte — Sunday, February 19, 2023, at 7:30 pm
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd — Thursday, February 23, 2023, at 7 pm

Fans are advised that weekend times have changed for the 2023 seasons, meaning Saturday and Sunday shows will now have matinees at 12 pm, while the evening rodeo will start at 7:30 pm.

The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo has grown to be one of the largest and most prestigious events in San Antonio. Over 1.3 million visitors enter the grounds each year, and the organization has donated over $243 million to Texas youth programs since it was established in 1949.

Tickets for the 2023 seasons are on sale at sarodeo.com.

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Hot San Antonio hotel brings back popular live fire dinner series for fall

Straight fire

Fall is finally upon us, and while we welcome the end of 100 degree days, we're all for the heat at Ambler Texas Kitchen + Cocktails, which is bringing back its popular live fire series.

The downtown restaurant, located inside the Hotel Contessa, is reprising a summer series, this time for the fall season. Led by executive chef Michael Collins, the Ambler live fire dinners are a fun, interactive dining experience out on the hotel patio. If you're looking for a way to eat well and stay warm as temperatures (hopefully) cool, the live fire dinner is a guaranteed way to get the best of both worlds.

Chef Collins and his team are essentially hosting a hotel cookout where every item on the plate is grilled. It kicks off with a complimentary welcome cocktail, alongside buttermilk biscuits made with Shiner Bock beer and honey, plus a romaine salad for starters.

Guests will then choose between starters like mesquite-smoked and grilled Texas Akaushi ribeye, cast iron-blackened Gulf mahi-mahi, or mesquite-smoked beer can chicken. These entrees have more than a touch of Texas in the tasty mesquite smoke — and the 22-ounce ribeye and the half-chicken are seriously big portions.

Ambler invited CultureMap to a previous live fire dinner, where the sides were a surprising star. The cast iron-griddled potatoes also caught some smoke from being on the grill, and each dish is only lightly seasoned, to enhance the natural flavors rather than create a new taste.

Reservations for the fall live fire series ($79-$129 per person depending on entree, beverages at additional cost) are available on OpenTable. The fall live fire dinners kick off on September 30, and occur every Saturday all the way through November.

Stylish Barbie merch truck cruises through San Antonio on 'Dreamhouse Living Tour'

This Barbie Sells Merch

Hot on the heels — or wheels — of the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck comes another timely pink rolling shop. Actually, this truck will beat the Sanrio version here on September 30.

The Barbie Truck will stop in San Antonio on its 2023 "Dreamhouse Living Tour," which celebrates the 60th anniversary of Barbie's ever more popular property, and will give visitors a chance to spice up their own homes.

Although this is all about the house, there are only a few homewares: things like coasters, glass tumblers, a glass mug, a throw blanket, and an "accessories cup." Visiting Barbies have more opportunities to take home wearable and on-the-go items like graphic tees, hoodies, and denim; a baseball cap; embroidered patches; and keychains.

Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living TourPhoto courtesy of the Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Most people who have been awake and on social media in the past year have learned that Barbie's Dreamhouse has a more empowering history than many girls realized while orchestrating drama between the dolls.

A release announcing the arrival of the truck reminds fans (and detractors) that when the Dreamhouse came out, only a tenth of a percent of young women were independent homeowners, and states that someone buys a Dreamhouse every minute.

This is not the first time a Barbie truck has visited San Antonio, but for obvious reasons, it should be in very high demand this time around.

Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Photo courtesy of the Barbie Truck Dreamhouse Living Tour

Dreamhouse aside, this is a dream ride.

The Barbie Truck will be in San Antonio on Saturday, September 30th, from 10 am to 7 pm at North Star Mall. See it in the parking lot on the corner of the 410 access road and McCollough. Arrive early in case of long lines.

These Barbies will hit six other Texas cities on the tour:

  • October 7 — Austin
  • October 14 — Laredo
  • October 21 — Friendswood (Houston)
  • October 28 — The Woodlands (Houston)
  • November 4 — Plano (Dallas)
  • November 11 — Fort Worth

Follow along to see more stops on Instagram or Facebook.

Colors change at San Antonio Botanical Garden with new fall events and 10,000 marigolds

Follow the Marigold Road

It may not feel like the seasons are changing yet, but plants notice that kind of thing. As the days get shorter, the rhythms of life at San Antonio Botanical Garden chance, and locals are invited in to feel the shift with new programming.

Starting off with pure excess and sunny fall joy, the garden will be showing off a path of 10,000 marigolds throughout the month of October at "Marigolds en Maravilla." The Oz-like exhibit draws attention to a fall bloom very significant in Hispanic cultures, and perhaps most associated in San Antonio with Día de los Muertos. (The garden celebrates this in its own event on October 21.)

A special event will introduce visitors to the golden display on October 8 with a live performance by local singer-songwriter Azul Barrientos. Guests can take part in marigold printmaking, a community chalk mural, guided tours, marigold planting, and even tasting the flowers. A separate tea party on the same day will teach visitors to make cake and tea out of marigolds; a craft event on October 11 weaves the blooms into headpieces; and more of the flowers turn up in other events across the calendar.

Of course, a family pumpkin patch was a must-have, and there were some opportunities to taste those too, but they have since sold out. Less expectedly, orchids are also prominently featured with their own tour on October 8. According to the garden, the fall is a "fabulous time" to see orchids in bloom.

Two exhibitions will be departing the garden soon: the "Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time" topiary collection, which brought the park even more to life with fantasy creatures; and the "Frida Kahlo Oasis," which replicated some elements of the famous artist's home and displayed plants as she would have.

Other events to look out for this October include:

  • Fall Brews & Blooms: Sunday, October 15 — Guests will assemble on the lawn to enjoy local and regional craft beers and live music.
  • Bootanica: Saturday, October 21 — Halloween comes early at the garden, where families are invited to dress in costume, trick-or-treat, and try hands-on activities taught by Garden Educators. The event is free with the price of admission.
  • Sinister Soiree: Friday, October 27 — This adults-only experience meet-and-greet connects visitors with pop culture villains, teasing a heavy Disney focus in the event imagery. Guests will "sip and sing" along with live performances.
  • 5th Annual Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Fest: Saturday, October 28 — At the intersection of fantasy and Halloween, this less-spooky event focuses on the candy and dress-up with a "fairytale, superhero, and villain" twist, assisted by live characters, live music, and even live animals.

Next up after the fall programming will be the famous Lightscape holiday path, with more than one million lights and a few upgrades from past years. But let's enjoy fall before rushing forward to winter quite yet.

More information about San Antonio Botanical Garden and its extensive fall programming is available at sabot.org.