Courtesy of Camp Margaritaville

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 Gulf views and over 200 RV parking spots. The facility also features a concert venue, "Texas-sized" pool with swim-up bar and 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.

Photo courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge breaks ground on massive indoor water park resort in new Texas city

bring the pack

Fans of Grapevine's Great Wolf Lodge will now be able to hit their favorite water park in another Texas city. The popular nationwide family resort and indoor park will break ground in Webster, near Houston, on Thursday, September 22.

It will be Great Wolf Lodge's second Texas location.

Great Wolf Lodge Gulf Coast Texas will boast 532 rooms and — importantly for kids and families — a 95,000-square-foot indoor water park and a 58,000-square-foot family entertainment center known as the Great Wolf Adventure Park. The 27-acre destination, located east of the Gulf Freeway near the Flyway at Clear Creek development, is slated to open in mid-to-late 2024, according to Great Wolf Resorts announcement.

“With millions of families visiting our resort in Grapevine, we know Texas families love the Great Wolf Lodge experience and we’re excited to introduce our second resort to the Lone Star State,” said Murray Hennessy, CEO of Great Wolf Resorts. “A hallmark of Great Wolf Lodge is that we help families strengthen their pack by offering a fun-filled getaway that is close, convenient and carefree, and with this new resort, we will be able to better serve families in the Houston area and southeastern portions of the state.”

Accommodating year-round visitors, Great Wolf Lodge Gulf Coast Texas will feature myriad attractions and amenities for all ages, including:

Great Wolf Lodge The resort features a massive indoor entertainment hub.Photo courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge

● An expansive, 95,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, heated to a comfortable 84 degrees, featuring a variety of body slides, tube slides, raft rides, activity pools and splash areas for every member of the family – from toddlers and teens to parents and grandparents.

● A 58,000-square-foot family entertainment center known as the Great Wolf Adventure Park. This center will offer a variety of family-friendly attractions, including MagiQuest – Great Wolf Lodge’s exclusive live action-adventure game where players use interactive magic wands to battle goblins and dragons.

● A collection of complimentary family events and activities including Yoga Tails, a morning exercise program that combines tales from the creatures found in the Spirit Water Forest with yoga poses, and evening events such as Great Wolf Lodge’s signature Hustle & Howl dance party and Story Time event.

● Several dining options that will appeal to a variety of culinary styles ranging from pizza and burgers to upscale dining and premium ice cream treats at Wood’s End Creamery.

● Family-friendly suites in a variety of categories and styles including Great Wolf-themed suites with separate sleeping quarters for kids designed as either a log cabin or wolf den and outfitted with bunk beds and Great Wolf character theming. The resort will also feature suites with multiple bedrooms for large families or multi-generational groups.

Area businesses can make use of the destination’s more than 11,000 square feet of flexible conference space with breakout rooms, built-in A/V technology, customizable catering options, and a team of dedicated industry professionals to serve visiting conferences and events.

Great Wolf Lodge slide Families can slide into the fun in 2024.Photo courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge

Aside from a major tourist attraction, Great Wolf Lodge’s new outpost will be a boon for area employment. An estimated 600 construction and trade workers will be on-site each day during the peak of construction. And the resort will fill approximately 500 full and part-time jobs to prepare for the grand opening, with positions including senior management, engineering, IT professionals, lifeguards, guest service agents, housekeepers, and more.

In an effort to seamlessly integrate with the community, the new resort will operate with environmentally friendly practices, including energy usage and water consumption.

The resort’s location in Webster makes the perfect addition to a weekend jaunt to nearby NASA/Johnson Space Center/Space Center Houston — as well as Galveston.

“Tourism is one of Webster’s top economic drivers,” said Donna Rogers, mayor of the City of Webster, in a statement, “and Great Wolf Lodge is a force multiplier that will attract visitors from a super regional and global market.”

Great Wolf Resorts currently operate across the U.S. and in Canada. The company plans more growth: a Great Wolf Lodge in Perryville, Maryland is scheduled to open summer of 2023 and a location in Naples, Florida just broke ground.

Fans of the howlingly fun resort can stay up to date on developments on the company’s social media channels and on www.greatwolf.com.

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 a few extra days off for a long weekend, then head to 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 five Airstream campers, two cabins, or six 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 include 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, barbecue 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).

Hyatt Ziva Cancun/Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/hyattzivacancun/photos/a.621214268015006/1427872504015841/?type=3&theater]

DFW Airport lands at No. 1 on new list of U.S. airports with most nonstop destinations

Ready for takeoff

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport flies to the top spot on a new list of the U.S. airports with the most nonstop destinations.

The Simply Flying website reports that DFW now offers 239 nonstop destinations, seven more than second-ranked Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, DFW was the United States airport that offered the most nonstop destinations in the country for a brief period. Now, the Dallas airport is back on top,” Simply Flying says.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines accounts for the bulk of the nonstop destinations from DFW — 220.

According to Simply Flying, the most popular destinations for American flights from DFW are Los Angeles International Airport and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, each with 14 flights per day. Next in line is New York City’s LaGuardia Airport (13 daily flights).

The most popular international destination is Cancun, with seven flights per day.

While DFW offers the most nonstop destinations of any U.S. airport, it’s not even close to the leader for international destinations. That honor goes to New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, with nonstop flights to 108 international destinations. DFW offers nonstop flights to 51 destinations.

DFW ranks as the world’s second busiest airport based on passenger volume, welcoming more than 62.5 million travelers in 2021. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is No. 1.

“At DFW, we continue on a path forward that prioritizes the customer’s journey, operational excellence, and a culture that welcomes all to North Texas,” airport CEO Sean Donohue says.

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.
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa/Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/jwmarriottsanantonio/photos/a.10150662365610854.422473.55807470853/10154264899865854/?type=1&theater]

3 choose-your-own-adventure San Antonio vacations to book this fall

Vacation's All I Ever Wanted

And just like that, summer is over. Kidding, kidding — we have months of 90-degree temperatures left. Still, school is back in session and with September's arrival, it’s time to start booking those fall vacations.

This year, with airlines flailing and the economy doing whatever it is the economy does, perhaps it’s time to consider a getaway to San Antonio. A change of scenery can boost mental health while taking a sustained break from work has proven to increase physical health. Plus, there's zero percent chance of lost baggage or flight delays.

This fall, as the heat begins to break, but before the holidays hit, consider these choose-your-own-adventure vacations.

Take the whole family to the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa
The magic of the JW Marriott is its combination of water park and resort, making it an ideal destination for families. Situated in the foothills of the Texas Hill Country, this sprawling retreat offers nearly every amenity possible: golf courses, pickle ball and tennis courts, winding trails, luxury spa, onsite restaurants, Top Golf, and the list goes on. Adding to the fun, family-oriented atmosphere are special events like nightly s’mores by the fire and petting zoos.

Where the JW Marriott really shines is the water park, a massive complex of pools, sand beaches, towering water slides, and 1,100-foot lazy river encircling the entire thing. The slides range from kiddie-size flumes to the Canyon Oak Twister and Hill Country Plunge body slides, both of which start 60 feet in the air and hit speeds of up to 20 mph. (Just remember to keep your arms and legs crossed, something this author learned from experience is not just a suggestion.)

If you need a place to shake off the adrenaline high, consider renting one of the resort’s poolside cabanas. Though it’s an added expense, the attentive staff makes sure everyone has fresh towels, snacks, and cocktails while a personal fridge comes loaded with bottled water and non-alcoholic drinks. Cabanas also offer a personal mini-deck inside the larger pool with lounge chairs so the kids can splash while you relax.

Book a romantic downtown getaway
San Antonio has no shortage of fabulous downtown hotels, but there’s something magical about the Hotel Havana. The 113-year-old building has almost always been a hotel, beginning at the turn of the century when it was used to house out-of-town merchants who traveled into San Antonio to sell their wares. Today, the boutique hotel offers an industrial-meets-gothic vibe complete with creaky floorboards and crimson carpet leading up the grand staircase.

Though there’s no pool at this Bunkhouse Hotel (if a pool is a must, The Thompson is another favorite situated just a few blocks away), it does offer Ocho, an onsite restaurant with a gorgeous floor-to-ceiling wall of windows, and a subterranean bar.

Make the Havana home base as you explore the River Walk, Southtown, and King William. If you find yourself forced to take an e-scooter by your significant other, as I was during a stay at the Havana last fall, use it to play tourist. Take it for a drive by the Alamo (do note that scooters are programmed to automatically slow to a crawl around the famed attraction) and on through Hemisfair on your way to appetizers and early evening cocktails at Little Em’s Oyster Bar or the new-ish Up Scale, two Southtown hot spots owned by Houston and Emily Carpenter.

For dinner, book a late table at Shiro and take a Lyft (or a scooter if someone forces you to) to the north end of the River Walk for sushi and other Japanese fare. After dinner, take a leisurely stroll back along the river to the hotel for a night cap. (Pro tip: Use the restroom before leaving Shiro or you may end up speed walking the last half of the River Walk and your romantic walk will be ruined.)

Live out your Eloise fantasies at the Hotel Emma
Looking for a solo staycation? San Antonio has the perfect spot for that, too: Hotel Emma. At this point, the Emma needs no introduction; the hotel has won countless awards and topped best-of lists for the past seven years. And the August 25 news that chef Jorge Hernandez is taking over the culinary program will only heighten its acclaim. All of this is to say is the Hotel Emma is nice. Very, very nice. And there is no better place to spend a little time (and a lot of money) than soaking in a giant tub in a four-star hotel with a professionally made cocktail delivered directly to your room.

Hotel Emma is located in the heart of the Pearl, a tourist destination in its own right, but when we’re traveling alone, we want to explore as much as possible. Head to Alamo Heights to fuel up with an early morning nosh at Bird Bakery before heading to the McNay Art Museum. On your way back to the Pearl, take a detour down the St. Mary’s Strip for lunch at Singh’s (shrimp bún with a side of chili oil and a Topo) and poke around the nearby vintage shops.

Recharge that afternoon with an in-room massage at Hotel Emma by Hiatus Spa + Retreat and the aforementioned soak ‘n’ cocktail. For dinner, take yourself on a date to Scorpion, an impeccably designed cafe and natural wine bar on the East Side. Once back at the Emma, cozy up in a plush robe and an episode of reality TV. You deserve it.

The otherwordly sunsets atop the JW Marriott willl have guests forgetting they're still in San Antonio.

JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa/Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/jwmarriottsanantonio/photos/a.10150662365610854.422473.55807470853/10154264899865854/?type=1&theater]
The otherwordly sunsets atop the JW Marriott willl have guests forgetting they're still in San Antonio.
Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Top-ranked high schools make the grade in this week's 5 hottest Dallas headlines

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. 2 distinguished Dallas high schools sit at head of the class as Texas' best in 2022. Two campuses in Dallas have earned extra credit as the best high schools in Texas. In the latest rankings from education review website Niche, Dallas ISD’s School for the Talented & Gifted tops the list of the state’s best public high schools, and St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas leads the list of the state’s best private high schools.

2. NFL legend Terry Bradshaw's ranch north of Dallas listed for $22.5 million. An Oklahoma ranch around 70 miles north of Dallas-Fort Worth that’s owned by NFL Hall of Famer and Fox Sports analyst Terry Bradshaw is back on the market for $22.5 million. The 744-acre ranch was relisted after a deal with a would-be buyer fell through.

3. Dallas grilled cheese restaurant abruptly closes location in Oak Cliff. A Bishop Arts restaurant dedicated to making grilled cheese sandwiches has closed: The aptly named Dallas Grilled Cheese Co. closed its original location at 310 W. 7th St., after nearly eight years. According to co-owner Diana Ezzell, the closure was prompted by problems with the location.

4. Best vegan grocer in Denton relocates to market-deli space. An acclaimed market in Denton specializing in all things vegan is making a move: Mashup Market, the plant-based specialty grocer that debuted at 316 Oak St. in 2020, is closing that original location and making its new headquarters at 1302 W. Hickory St., its second location that opened in 2021.

5. Dallas man allegedly scammed $26M from Chinese real estate investors. A Dallas-area man has been charged for allegedly scamming Chinese investors out of more than $26 million in a real estate scheme. Timothy Lynch Barton, the 59-year-old president of real estate development firm JMJ and CEO of real estate investment firm Carnegie Development, has been indicted on seven counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of securities fraud.

Beto to visit Dallas college campuses following debate on TV with Abbott

Campaign News

On November 8, Texas will vote for its next governor — choosing from either incumbent Republican Greg Abbott or Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.

In anticipation, the two will participate in a debate on September 30, which takes place at 7 pm at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg. It's hosted by KXAN news anchor Britt Moreno and will feature questions from a panel of journalists.

The debate will air on Nexstar television stations which in Dallas is KDAF Channel 33; the Texas Tribune will also livestream.

It's their only scheduled debate and according to the Associated Press, Abbott conditioned his participation on the debate taking place without an audience.

"Sources tell me Abbott would only agree to face Beto with no audience in the room," said journalist Scott Braddock, in a tweet which is right here:

This will be first time Abbott and O'Rourke meet since the May 25 press conference where O’Rourke confronted Abbott after the shooting in Uvalde.

O'Rourke, who previously undertook a summer tour across Texas, holding 70 public events in more than 65 counties, is now launching a College Tour focused on young voters. It includes visits to two Dallas-area campuses, with only one open to the public, as follows:

  • Monday October 3, 10 am: Town Hall at University of North Texas, at the University of North Texas - Gateway Center Ballroom, 801 N. Texas Blvd., Denton. Open to UNT students only.
  • Monday October 3, 12:30 pm: College Tour Town Hall at Dallas College El Centro Campus, 801 Main St., Dallas. Open to the public.

During the College Tour, he'll hold more than a dozen public events at colleges and universities around the state, affording an opportunity not only for him to share his platform — reproductive freedom, reducing gun violence, raising minimum wage, legalizing marijuana — but also an opportunity to get students and young people registered before the October 11 deadline.

'Wide-awake' Dallas neighbor is 2nd best U.S city for families, says Fortune

No place like home

Fortune advises readers to not let Wylie’s “picturesque, historic downtown fool you.” And for good reason. The magazine hails the North Texas city as “a fast-growing, modern community that doesn’t skimp on the amenities.”

Thanks in large part to those amenities, Fortune puts Wylie at No. 2 on its list of the 25 best places in the U.S. for families to live. Ann Arbor, Michigan, takes the top spot.

In recognizing Wylie, the magazine cites the city’s well-above-average public schools, numerous facilities for older residents, and events such as the Bluegrass on Ballard festival and Wylie 500 Pedal Car Race.

"With its start as a stop on the Santa Fe Railway in the 1880s, Wylie has always been a gathering place," the magazine writes. "In fact, because shops stayed open late to accommodate the railway visitors and business, one of the town’s nicknames became 'Wide-Awake Wylie.' The historic downtown continues that tradition of community today..."

Fortune lists the median home price in Wylie as $399,838 and the median household income as $96,845. The booming suburb is home to nearly 60,000 residents. It now stretches across Dallas, Collin, and Rockwall counties.

To come up with its ranking, Fortune combed through mounds of data for almost 2,000 communities in the U.S.

The only other Texas city in the top 25 is the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, ranked 17th.

“Residents have a sweet spot for this Houston suburb that brings the community together through its lively downtown hub, local events, and even a ball game or two,” Fortune says.

Among other highlights, Fortune notes Sugar Land’s “outstanding schools,” the Sugar Land Space Cowboys minor-league baseball team, Sugar Land Town Square, and high-quality health care at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital.

In Sugar Land, the median home price is $399,250 and the median household income is $121,665, according to Fortune. The suburb is home to around 110,000 people.