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Out & About in Texas – April/May/June 2023

For a luxe getaway, settle into one of the plush safari-style tents at Walden Retreats in Johnson City. Photo by Will Graham Photography

Get the most out of life in Texas and beyond with this curated collection of places to go and things to see.

Johnson City

A Hill Country hideaway

Walden Retreats

Walden Retreats. Photo by Will Graham Photography

By Cynthia J. Drake

The words of naturalist Henry David Thoreau greet visitors at the entrance of Johnson City’s new luxury encampment Walden Retreats (named after his famous book), setting the tone for a stay steeped in reverence of nature: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately.”

Once inside the retreat’s 96-acre grounds, you stand a good chance of seeing wildlife (I spotted deer, hawks, snakes, lizards, armadillos, and my all-time favorite Texas bird, the painted bunting) as you cohabitate with them from within the plush confines of a safari-style canvas tent. The 15 tents are outfitted with air-conditioning, full kitchens, bathrooms with bathtubs, private outdoor showers, and comfortable bedding.

Guests can hike to the Pedernales River, purchase Texas wine and treats from the on-site store, and stargaze away from city lights. Rates start at $250.

You may also like: 9 Texas hotels and resorts with surprising amenities


Art affair

By Melissa Chessher

A new partnership with the Sarofim Foundation places 125 masterworks on long-term loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Fayez S. Sarofim, a titan of Houston finance and philanthropy who passed away last year, spent more than 6 decades acquiring the works. The collection includes a highlight reel of modern and contemporary masters like Georgia O’Keeffe and Alexander Calder.

Here are 3 pieces the museum’s curators say not to miss:

"Winding Road" by Marden Hartley

1. Winding Road by Marsden Hartley, 1924
During World War I, Hartley devoted himself to making American modernism as important as European modernism, explains curator Alison de Lima Greene. He traveled to New Mexico and later painted this “recollection” in Germany.

"Madame Ramón Subercaseaux" by John Singer Sargent

2. Madame Ramón Subercaseaux by John Singer Sargent, 1880–1881
Curator Kaylin Weber says Sargent loved showing women in white or black dresses: “It allowed him to show off his virtuosity as a technician, utilizing various tones to capture the fabric and the folds.”

"The Woodcutter" by Winslow Homer

3. The Woodcutter by Winslow Homer, 1891

Weber notes the saturated color not typically associated with watercolor, and the solitary woodcutter in the expansive wilderness at a time when industrialists were escaping urban environments for outdoor pursuits.

You may also like: 9 Texas museums with jaw-dropping outdoor art spaces


Help for Turkey

Bahadir Bastas

Bahadir Bastas, owner of Waterstone Ranch. Photo by Shannon O'Hara

By Deborah Lynn Blumberg

What does a Turkish businessman in Texas do when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastates his native country?

After the February 6 quake, Bahadir Bastas, owner of Waterstone Ranch—a Turkish restaurant and farm about 32 miles south of Houston—went into disaster-relief mode. He appealed to his many customers on Facebook and Instagram to help all those in need, and more than 500 people responded within days, donating jackets, blankets, and other necessities.

At press time, Bastas was planning a fundraiser at the ranch in March, and he said he’ll continue to collect donations after that. Perhaps his affection for his customers explains their enthusiastic response. “Customers are like family,” he says.

Waterstone Ranch Turkish breakfast

Turkish breakfast at Waterstone Ranch. Photo by Shannon O'Hara

The restaurant, which he opened in 2019, serves a full Turkish breakfast with eggs, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, and jams in an intricate copper serving set, along with tea. After 2 p.m., guests buy marinated meat by the pound to cook on the ranch’s grills themselves. Sides include hummus and rice. Reservations required. Turkish breakfast, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. daily. Adults, $25.

San Antonio

New at the Alamo

The Alamo

Photo by SeanPavonePhoto/

By Elaine Glusac

Visitors to the Alamo can now learn even more about the pivotal battle between Mexican forces and Texas volunteer soldiers that foreshadowed the independence of the Republic of Texas.

The mission’s new Alamo Collections Center fills in more details of the bloody campaign with newly exhibited artifacts, including a .50-caliber rifle owned by Davy Crockett; epaulets from the dress uniform of Colonel Juan Morales, who commanded the Mexican forces; and an original Bowie knife—with a silver-inset ebony wood handle—commissioned by the brother of Alamo commander James Bowie.

These must-sees are among nearly 400 artifacts donated by Phil Collins of the band Genesis. Collins has reportedly been fascinated by the Alamo since childhood, having been hooked by the Davy Crockett TV series and the 1955 film Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier.

The new center, which gives the compound 5 times the original space to tell the compelling battle story, also features the expansive Donald and Louise Yena Spanish Collection, with tools, weapons, and kitchen utensils from the mission era. Donald Yena, a renowned Western artist, began collecting the artifacts in the 1950s to serve as models for his paintings, which are distinguished by their historical accuracy and detail.

You may also like: Fun, fabulous San Antonio

For more places to go and things to see in Texas, check out our editor-curated list of the best fairs, festivals, events, and more.

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