Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Tag: Texas (Page 1 of 3)

Cascade Caverns

Cave from Above Ground

Cavern from Above Ground

The Texas Hill Country is known for wildflowers, wine, and natural beauty. I was surprised to learn that caves are a very common natural phenomenon in the Hill Country. Many Hill Country towns have their own caves. We decided to do some cave exploration on our drive from San Antonio to Fredericksburg. A few of the caves in the area require reservations and were all booked up because it was a holiday (New Year’s Eve). We ended up at Cascade Caverns because they operate on a first come first serve basis.

Cascade Caverns SignCascade Caverns, located in Boerne (pronounce Bur-nee), has been offering public tours since 1932. Informal tours date all the way back to 1875. The tour lasts 45 minutes to an hour and takes you through a half-mile of winding corridors to the cathedral room, 132 feet belowground. The shining star of the cave tour is the cathedral room which is home to Texas’ only natural in-cavern waterfall. The cave maintains an interior temperature of 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit all year. It was raining when we visited but water seeps through the cave allowing it to grow and change (slowly) all the time. In 1993, part of Father Hood, a Hollywood Pictures Film starring Patrick Swayze and Halle Barry was filmed in the cavern. A giant T-Rex prop from the film is still standing by the gift shop today.

Cave dwelling creatures are very unusual creatures. The rare Cascade Caverns salamander, a brown and white, translucent amphibian was first discovered in this cave and can only be found in Cascade Caverns and the nearby Cave without a Name. Many tricolored bats also make their home in the cave.

Cathedral Room Ceiling

Ceiling in the Cathedral Room

This was my first cave experience (although I have toured a few mines) and I appreciated that the ceiling was high enough that you are able to walk upright through most of the cave. It was surprising to me that you don’t have to wear a hard hat when on the tour, but I guess the ceilings are high enough in most places that it’s not needed.

The tour was very reasonable ($19.95 for adults and $12.95 for children at the time of writing) and the cave is not far out of the way if you are traveling between San Antonio and Fredericksburg. Beware that it can be wet in the cave, so appropriate clothing and shoes are important when you’re exploring a cave. In the summer, the cave does occasionally flood, so it is important that you call ahead to make sure tours are operating. If you are looking to camp nearby, there is a campground on the property. For more information about current tour offerings, visit CascadeCaverns.com.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Davy Crockett

Davy Crockett Statue

Remember the Alamo

The Alamo

When you think of San Antonio, Texas, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably the Alamo. The Alamo is one of the most famous buildings in all of Texas and everyone has heard the phrase “Remember the Alamo”. Before visiting, I had heard from numerous people that located in with all the modern buildings, the Alamo seems small and underwhelming. So, I went into the visit with very low expectations.

Known originally as Misión San Antonio de Valero, Alamo was built by the Spanish as a mission to the local native people, just like other San Antonio Missions. Construction began in 1740. By 1793, the mission was secularized, meaning the land and assets were divided up among the mission residents. By the early 1800s it became occupied by the Spanish military and was used as a political prison during Mexico’s War of Independence. Later, the Alamo was used as San Antonio’s first hospital.

In 1835, the Texas Revolution began. Following Texan victories at Mission Concepción and the Grass Fight, the Texans began to fortify both the Alamo and the town of San Antonio. For thirteen days, the Alamo was under fire. On March 6, 1836, the fighting ceased after all of the defenders of the Alamo had perished, including Davy Crockett and James Bowie (of Bowie knife fame). On April 21 at the Battle of San Jacinto, cries of “Remember the Alamo” were heard from the Texans in battle.

The Alamo is free to visit but reservations are required. Somehow, in all of my obsessive planning, I missed the reservation part and when we got there, all of the reservations to visit the inside of the church were taken (reservations are not needed to walk around the gardens and see the statues outside the church building).  We were told all that was available was an outside history talk. I was disappointed in this, but we paid a small fee for the talk and went on our day. When we came back the next day for the talk we discovered that at the end of the talk we got to go inside and see the Alamo. I don’t know why this wasn’t better explained to us when we bought our tickets, but it worked out in the end.

The history talk went into much more detail than the brief history I outlined here. If that is something you’re interested in, I highly recommend it! Photography is not allowed because of the sensitive nature of this historic site, so if you want to know what it looks like inside, I recommend you get your free tickets in advance at thealamo.org.

Thanks for stopping by! To find out more about this trip, check out the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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San Antonio Missions National Historic Park

Exterior of the Mission San Juan

Located just south of San Antonio, Texas, San Antonio Missions National Historic Park is made up of four Spanish missions built beginning in the mid 18th century to spread Christianity to the Native people of Texas. These missions are walled compounds featuring a beautiful, old, Catholic church and buildings where the priests and Native Americans lived. Altogether, the missions are the largest collection of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States and are the only UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Texas.

The missions only stretch eight miles from the city and can be accessed by River Walk’s Mission Reach, a hiking and biking trail that allows you to visit the missions without needing a vehicle. If you’re not that athletic, there are bus tours of the missions as well as a self-guided driving tour. The missions are open daily and are free to visit.

We began exploring the missions at Mission San Jose (below) which is home to the park visitor center. When we visited at the end of December, the visitor center was closed but there were rangers stations at the door with maps and to answer questions about the park. They were also stamping the National Park passport for you.

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Mission San José was founded in 1720 because Mission San Antonio de Valero (AKA The Alamo) had quickly become overcrowded with refugees when the East Texas Missions were closed. The building was built in 1768 from local limestone and still stands today. Of the four missions located within the park, this one is the biggest and most ornate. If you only have time to visit one of the missions, this is the one to see. It has the biggest grounds and you can see where the priests and the native people lived.

The second Mission on our mission tour was Mission San Juan (top). Mission San Juan Capistrano was originally built in 1716 in East Texas and was moved to San Antonio in 1731. Not to be confused with Mission San Juan Capistrano in California, the white exterior makes this mission different from the others on this tour. In 2012, a $2 million renovation project stabilized the foundation of the 300-year-old church.

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Our third mission of the day was Mission Espada. Espada was originally built in 1690 near present-day Augusta and named San Francisco de los Tejas. Just like Mission San Juan, Espada was moved to its current location on Espada road and was given its current name in 1731. Many modern churches in the area based their architecture around Espada including St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wimberley, Texas. Nearby, the Espada acequia and aqueduct are also managed by the Park Service and continue to bring water to the missions as well as nearby residents.

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Located closest to the city, Mission Concepción was our fourth stop on our Mission tour. Misión Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña was founded in 1716 in East Texas and was moved to its current location in 1731. In 1835, the Battle of Concepción was fought on the grounds and is believed to be the first battle in the Texas Revolution. In 2009-2010 the mission underwent extensive restoration projects and is now the best-preserved of the missions.

If you are planning to visit the missions, bear in mind that these churches are still in operation and hold masses on Sunday mornings. When we visited, we were not able to go inside Mission San Jose because there was a funeral. Luckily, it was on the way back to San Antonio and by the time we were on our way back to the city, the building was open again and we were able to see the beautiful interior of the sanctuary. For more information about the missions, visit VisitSanAntonio.com or the National Park Service.

Of course, there is one more mission in San Antonio, Mission San Antonio de Valero, more commonly known as The Alamo, I will share about final stop on our Mission Tour next week. To read more about this trip, visit the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Riverwalk Ducks

Ducks in Water

San Antonio Riverwalk

Riverwalk Bridge

After our drive through Gruene, we headed to an even more historic Texas city, San Antonio. San Antonio has been on my list for a while now, and if our short trip to Austin had been one day longer, we probably would’ve taken a drive to check it out.

When planning to explore San Antonio, one of the first things to come up is, of course, the Riverwalk. The San Antonio Riverwalk was designed to aid with flood control after a disastrous flood in 1921. Nowadays, the riverwalk is kind of the heart of entertainment in the tourist area of the city, with miles of shops, restaurants, musicians, and attractions all along the river. Being the most touristy part of the city, it’s hard to know which of the restaurants on the Riverwalk are good or if they’re just banking on tourists wandering in without a plan. We had lunch at Casa Rio which we learned on the boat tour is the oldest restaurant on the riverwalk and we were not disappointed!

Christmas Tree Lit Up

Taking the boat around the Rivercenter Mall Christmas Tree.

Tour boats drive up and down the river all day telling the history and pointing out the sights. Since we were in the city around Christmas time, I really wanted to see take the boat tour at night with all the Christmas lights around us. We got in line a little before six and had great light by the time we got on our boat. If you are planning on taking the boat tour when in San Antonio, I have a tip for you: buy your tickets in advance and then you can get on at any of the three stations. When we were walking around, we noticed that for whatever reason, the middle station had a ridiculously long time. The stations closest to the mall and in the Aztec theater had much shorter lines and were both covered (which makes a big difference in the Texas sun). Tickets can be purchased up to 30 days in advance at GoRioCruises.com.

We got a great deal on a hotel in San Antonio. We stayed at the TownPlace Suites, just a few blocks from the Riverwalk and the Alamo. Our room had a kitchenette so we were able to save some money and cook a little in our room. The only parking the hotel offers is valet and given the location, it is expensive. But, given how cheap the room was, paying for parking wasn’t that big of a deal. There are some beautiful hotels overlooking the riverwalk that I would love to stay at on a return trip to San Antonio!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, visit my Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

One Day in New Braunfels

Ducks in pond in Landa Park
Landa Park

After landing in Austin, we drove halfway to San Antonio and stopped for the night in New Braunfels. New Braunfels featured heavily in the inspiration for this trip, Samantha Brown’s Places to Love. One of the spots she highlighted was Naeglin’s Bakery, the oldest bakery in Texas, known for giant streudel. For a weekday, the bakery was busy and it was warm so we took our baked goods and sat outside to enjoy them.

  • Jelly Donut
  • Cheese Danish

After enjoying our pastries, we headed to Landa park (top) to enjoy the warm Texas air. Landa Park offers a lot to do with a family including a golf course, mini-golf, paddle boats, aquatic park, and even a mini train, many of which were closed either due to COVID or because of the time of the year. There is also an arboretum and nature trails to explore any time of year. It was overcast but much warmer than the frosty Michigan weather we left behind.

After burning off some calories from our pastries, we took a drive through Gruene (pronounced green). With our experience with Texas limited to Austin and New Braunfels, Gruene felt like what I always imagined Texas to be like. Greune is a small town full of businesses with green pun names such as a boutique named Gruene with Envy and the Christmas store Red and Gruene. It is also home to Texas’s oldest dance hall, Gruene Hall which was also featured in the above Samantha Brown special.

After our lunch in Gruene, we continued on the road to San Antonio. Be sure to stop back next week as I continue recapping our winter escape to the Texas Hill Country! Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Fredericksburg

Texas Hill Country Road Trip

Cow at LBJ State Park

A little over a year ago we took our last getaway before everything shut down and the world changed. February 2020, we scored cheap flights for a long weekend in Austin, Texas and even though it was unseasonably cold (although not as unseasonably cold as Texas this February) we fell in love with Austin.

While we were stuck at home social distancing, we found a new love, travel shows, and one of our favorites is Samantha Brown: Places to Love. Since we had recently took a tour of Austin and the Texas Hill Country, one of the first episodes we watched was about the Texas Hill Country and we realized that the tour we took didn’t even scratch the surface of the Hill Country. When we were looking to use up our flight credit from our canceled spring break trip, we found a deal to fly back to Austin to fully explore the area.

After what may possibly have been too much research, I came up with with following itinerary:

  • December 28: Fly into Austin
  • December 29: New Braunfels, San Antonio Riverwalk, and Boat Cruise
  • December 30: San Antonio Missions National Historic Park
  • December 31: Cascade Caverns, Hill Country Wineries
  • January 1: Fredericksburg and Wineries
  • January 2: Lyndon Johnson National Historic Site and Wineries
  • January 3: Exploring the Hill Country back to Austin
  • January 4: Flight to Orlando and then connecting back to Detroit
  • January 5: Tampa and Disney Springs
  • January 6: Flying back to Michigan for real

This ended being a great trip and we have been looking back on it a lot since it has been so cold here. You might notice in my above itinerary that our connecting flight home from Orlando got canceled and the earliest flight they were able to get us on was two days later. This cancellation resulted from flight delays due to the closure of Jacksonville air traffic control due to a COVID outbreak. Needless to say, it has made us nervous to take any other flights right now.

Be sure to check back here every week as I tell the stories of our road trip around the Hill Country! Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Performing Arts Center

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