By Carrie Dunlea
Whether you are a romantic at heart or someone who is game for holiday specific travel opportunities, February in Texas can be a fun time. Take the time and plan a day trip or take off for a long weekend and celebrate Valentine’s Day with a much-needed break from hectic weekly schedules.
Symbolic town, big skies
If you really want to make a statement head out to Valentine, Texas for the annual Valentine’s in Valentine party. Listen to live music and drink local craft beer at the Alpine-based Big Bend Brewing Company housed in the old mercantile building in town. While you might find it a bit strange, people travel from near and far for the event in this town of 134 people. But before you’ve over-indulged in the special beer released
just for the event, mail someone a love letter or special postcard postmarked Feb. 14 from Valentine, Texas. You’ll score points for being unique! Bigbendbrewing.com
Don’t leave the area without planning to spend some time in Big Bend National Park. Nothing beats nature! Aside from the usual hiking and camping, how cool would it be to look at the stars with the one you love? The park is known throughout the state as one of the best places in North America to go stargazing. Most would agree that there’s nothing better than looking up in the wide-open Texas sky. The website states that Big Bend has the least light pollution of any other National Park unit in the lower 48 states.
Visitors can see approximately 2,000 stars on a clear night in Big Bend whereas in a medium sized city it may only be a few hundred. Plan a trip today. Check out nps.gov for more information.
Romancing the vine
Some couples might agree that a great way to relax is to sip some really good wine with the one you love. With the vast number of wineries popping up in Texas why not make a weekend excursion and visit a winery? Hill Country is a top vacation destination for many reasons with acres of vineyards and cute shops. One particularly intriguing getaway is Flat Creek Estate. Located halfway between Cedar Park and Marble Falls, this 80-acre estate features 20 acres of vineyards. If you book early enough, it is one of the few wineries with an onsite cabin for overnight guests with scenic Texas Hill Country views.
Vintner’s Quarters is a separate building roomy enough to sleep a large group if you want to bring some close
friends or family along for the excursion. The first floor features a kitchen, living area, master bedroom with queen size bed, bathroom and a patio overlooking the vineyard. Walk up the spiral staircase to the loft where two additional queen size beds are located. While visiting, guests can book a Texas culinary experience, a round of disc golf (on the estate’s private course), a wine tasting or a private group (8-24 guests) winery experience. The on-site tasting room is open Tuesday – Sunday for you to sip Texas wines and The Bistro at Flat Creek Estate offers lunch Thursday through Sunday plus dinner on Friday and Saturday night. Learn more at flatcreekestate.com.
Ditch the car, go loco
Are you looking for a unique way to share Valentine’s Day with your special someone? Try a romantic train ride aboard a historic steam train. The February 16 Valentine’s Day Flyer, offered by the Austin Steam Train Association takes you from Cedar Park to Burnet through some of the finest landscapes of the Hill Country. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into the past as you climb aboard and settle into an antique train car. Sit back and feel the gentle sway as you watch the scenery glide by. Beer and wine are available for purchase in the Cedar Park Car for the special event. The train journeys through the Texas Hill Country, crossing a wooden trestle bridge over the South San Gabriel River and Short Creek Canyon. There is a two-hour layover in Burnet so you and your date can enjoy lunch and shopping on your own. Check out the historic town square and the Wild West Gunfight (weather permitting). Adult-only cars and family friendly cars are available for this special trip. All cars are pulled by a diesel locomotive. The ride is a 6 hour round trip with a 2- hour layover. Austinsteamtrain.org
Set sail for love
If the sound of waves makes your heart pound (in a good way) and you’ve got the time, take a cruise. Not in your car, but on an actual cruise ship. Not a whole lot of advance planning is necessary provided you have a passport, time, and a bathing suit or two. The great thing about Texas is we have our own port! No airfare is necessary, and if you think this Valentine’s gift might bust your budget, you could be wrong. Check out cruisecheap.com and you’ll find numerous options cruising out of Galveston in February. A four-day cruise leaves February 14 to Cozumel aboard the Carnival Valor for under $500 per person. If that trip doesn’t give you enough time to pack your bag and the thought of being surprised and unprepared totally makes you crazy, there’s time and options. If you want to cruise longer, there are eight other ships leaving Galveston that month cruising for five to nine days to the Western Caribbean and one to Panama. Want to wait until March? There are 24 cruises departing. Pick one – or two.
When all else fails, head for the trees
If you’re at a loss and want to wow your beloved, what better way to impress them than a stay at a treehouse? While there are numerous opportunities tucked away in trees in this grand state, we’ve highlighted just two. For the get-out-of-towners, there’s a unique tree house on a private ranch in central Texas. Located in Waelder, the rental accommodates two guests. There is a full-size bed along with a private bathroom in this charming tree house plus a porch area where you can truly relax. Guests have full access to the outdoor swimming pool and the porch filled with plenty of seating, perfect for relaxing with a morning coffee or a glass of wine in the evening. There are ponds and animals to see on this glamping site, as well as 40 private acres to explore with longhorns and buffalo grazing in the nearby fields.
Treehouse guests can enjoy a fire at the shared fire pit on the property and toast s’mores while stargazing before retreating to the trees to your comfy nest. Sound dreamy?
If you and your significant other are city slickers, treehouse accommodations are in urban areas as well. If you choose to stay in Dallas but want the experience to feel like a true escape, there are amazing treehouse accommodations not far away. Book the Extraordinary Treehouse located in the heart of Little Forest Hills and you’ll be glad you did. It has glowing reviews and the pictures alone are stunning. The unique custom-built home is secluded among Japanese maples. Walk down winding gravel paths and cross a foot bridge over a running stream to the treehouse entrance. It’s quirky and comforting. Find this one and more at Airbnb.com.
A February getaway can be everything you would expect and more with a little pre-planning. It doesn’t have to break the bank, and the memories you create with your special Valentine will outlast any flowers or fancy dinner. What are you waiting for?