Americans drink over 500 million cups of it every day. It’s a great way to start your day and stay healthy. And it helps employ thousands of American workers. It’s coffee, and one could say that it’s what our country runs on. As is the case with many segments of the dining industry, more and more people are skewing the national chains and trying to patronize locally owned and operated coffee establishments. Up until recently there really wasn’t an option for getting your joe from a local shop in Victoria, but all of a sudden we now have three! First up is Liberty Coffee Haus, located at 206 N. Liberty St. This shop serves up delicious coffees, espresso-based drinks, smoothies and more in a relaxing atmosphere. Hang out for awhile and catch up on a good book or visit with friends. Birdy’s Tweets shares space in the shop and sells delicious pastries and baked goods like banana nut bread, blueberry muffins, scones, and much more. Next up is the Box Coffee Bar, located at 202 S. Main St. What used to be an old ATM kiosk has been renovated by the fine folks at Victoria Coffee Roasters who now serve up their own blends to excited customers. Swing on by for a quick pick-me-up and try their excellent Americano. Last but not least is a coffee “shop” on the go! The Mas Cafe coffee trailer offers frappes, iced coffee, specialty tees, cappuccinos, and lattes and are regulars around town and at special events. Be sure to check out all three and get your coffee fix!
Learning how to create artistic pieces is something many aspire to, but it can be pretty hard how to figure out where to start. A growing activity in the Victoria area is guided art and crafting classes. The concept sounds pretty simple-grab a couple friends, sign up for a class, and they provide all the supplies and instruction you’ll need. Before you know it, you’ll have created a beautiful work of art that you can hang in your home of office. The Victoria Art League holds their “Painting the Town” classes every Wednesday and Friday starting at 6:30pm in the historic Victoria Art League Building located at 905 S. Bridge. The $30 canvas fee includes light appetizers, and you can bring in wine, beer or other beverages. Kids’ classes are available too on the second Saturday of every month starting at 10am. Proceeds from the classes go to benefit the non-profit Victoria Art League. Colorful Canvas, located at 712A Northgate Rd, provides guided painting every Monday-Friday at 6:30pm, Saturday at 11am,2pm, and 6:30pm, and Sunday at 2pm. Easier kid art for $20 and more challenging adult art for $25 are available, and appetizers are provided as well. Kids’ Summer Classes are held daily at 11am and 3pm. If you’re looking to create a variety of pieces, I would suggest Fashionista Studio located at 2002 Red River St. This painting, sewing and crafting studio has all the supplies you need to create beautiful wreaths, rag quilts, and much more. They are open by appointment and are a great place for a ladies’ night out or children’s parties. Check out any one of these great activities and let out your inner artist for all to see.
Do you have a Texas-sized craving for great barbecue? It seems that in the past several years that the barbecue scene, specifically Texas barbecue, has gotten bigger than ever. Most people think that great Texas barbecue doesn’t exist outside of hallowed, smoky markets of Austin and the Central Texas region, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Quite a few quality barbecue joints call the Coastal Texas region home, so the Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail has been created to help highlight those establishments serving tasty ‘cue. Seven joints make up the trail so far; Aunt Jo’s BBQ, KB’S BBQ, McMillan’s Bar-B-Q, Mumphord’s Place Bar-B-Q, QP Smokehouse, The Fire Pit, and Uncle Mutt’s Bar-B-Q. The site www.coastaltexasbarbecuetrail.com not only offers recommendations of what to get at each joint, but also features three distinct themed itineraries providing unique experiences to complement any barbecue meal. You can even get a free Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail T-shirt by dining at three or more of the joints on the trail and redeeming your receipts and the Explore Victoria Visitors Center, located at 700 N. Main Ste. 101 in Victoria. The trail is more than just about amazing brisket and ribs- it’s a true Texas experience.
Do you have a green thumb, or simply marvel at the floral artistry of others? Victoria has several lush landscapes that are perfect for a relaxing stroll. The Victoria Educational Gardens, located at 333 Bachelor Dr., is open daily and houses multiple themed gardens that feature a variety of native and exotic vegetation. Built at the former Foster Air Field Officer’s Club that was utilized during World War II and beyond, the gardens are an oasis of plant life and feature vine covered walkways, multiple ponds & fountains, flowering bushes and trees, vegetable plants, and so much more. Admission is free and guided tours are available with advanced request. Victoria was once known as the City of Roses, and nowhere is that more clear than the Memorial Rose Garden in Riverside Park. The garden features over 1,000 rose bushes in a variety of hues, along with a fountain, gazebo, and benches so you just sit for a few minutes and take in your beautiful surroundings. There are few things more Texan than the springtime bouquet of roadside wildflowers. The highways and pastures of Victoria and nearby counties like DeWitt and Fayette are a patchwork of colors as species such as bluebonnet, Indian paintbrush, pink evening primrose, Texas bluebell, Mexican hat, and so many more awe motorists throughout Spring. So if you are a true fan of flora, come Explore Victoria Texas and enjoy nature’s bounty. For information on the locations listed, see the information below.
Victoria Educational Gardens
333 Bachelor Dr. Victoria, TX 77905
Open daily, Dawn to Dusk
Click here for more information
Memorial Rose Garden
476 McCright Dr. Victoria, TX 77901
Open daily, 6AM-11PM
Click here for more information
Victoria and surrounding counties
Click here for more information
Variety is the spice of life they say. And that couldn’t be truer when it comes to food and drink. I’ll save the food for another day, because a recent experience of mine that inspired this post definitely centered on drink. The craft brew industry in Texas has exploded in the last decade, and what were once small microbreweries like St. Arnold, Real Ale, and Karbach have become household names among beer lovers. If you are a Victoria resident or visitor and enjoy sampling some high-quality brews, I very much suggest attending the Pint Jockeys Beer Tastings at the Del Papa Distribution Center, located at 3907 E. Rio Grande St. Held on the third Thursday of every month, they typically host a representative from one of the state’s notable craft breweries that the company distributes. Oh, and did I mention that the tastings are completely FREE? This past tasting in February, Matt Lorfing of Houston’s Karbach Brewing Co. stopped by to tell the crowd of about 50 tasters a bit of Karbach’s history and more details on the beers being offered that day. These weren’t your everyday light beers either, with such offerings as the Rodeo Clown Double IPA, Weekend Warrior Pale Ale, Weisse Versa Wheat Bavarian-style hefeweizen. If that gets your mouth watering a bit, then the Pint Jockeys Beer tastings are definitely for you.
Eating well can be a challenge. With more documentaries, news articles, and the like coming out advising us to eat organically-grown fruits, vegetables, and grains, sometimes a simple trip to the grocery store can feel overwhelming. However, if you are looking for a short trip and a low-stress shopping environment, check out the Victoria Farmers Market every Saturday from 9am-2pm in the Pattie Dodson Health Center parking lot located at 2805 N. Navarro St. This Saturday I was able to score some fresh cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and squash. There were also a variety of other vendors selling homemade items such as soaps, salsa, noodles, spices, local honey, and fresh herbs and plants. Needless to say I’ll be making some return trips. Also, if you get a little hungry with all that shopping swing by and order some grub from the Guerilla Gourmet food trailer by Chef James Canter usually parking by the vendors. The food always tastes amazing and James tries to utilize locally-grown fresh ingredients. You can learn a little more about Guerilla Gourmet by visiting their website at www.ggfoodtruck.com
With the Christmas and holiday season inching closer, it’s time to start thinking about buying those gifts for your family and friends. A great place to start would be to check out some of the locally-owned retail locations here in Victoria. Find unique, special gift items and support our local businesses; it’s a win-win! There are several shops near the Downtown Victoria area such as Days Gone Bye where you can snag apparel and jewelry including the sought-after ‘Pandora’ brand. Head over to Santa Rosa Pottery for one-of-a-kind handmade pieces. Find a variety of great items including books, chocolates and more at Charlene’s Gifts with A Special Touch. Cross out several names on your list by visiting the Town and Country Shopping Center at the intersection of Laurent and Airline streets. There you can find stores like Color Me Paisley, Pidder Padder, and The Market of Victoria.
There are a lot more great retail locations within the city. Check out the shopping listings on our website for a full list of retail locations!
Do you like a good scare every once in a while? Halloween always brings about cool events in Victoria. The following are some great happenings to help fill your calendar. Soak up a tad of Victoria’s vast history at the Victoria Preservation Inc. Annual Cemetery Tour. Live re-enactors in full period costume tell the stories of Victoria citizens of years past. The Texas Zoo hosts a great family-friendly and safe trick-or-treating event with their “Zoo Boo”. Victoria companies and organizations will be present offering goodies for all the kids. What would Halloween be without scary movies? This year marks the inaugural Frel’s Fright Fest, a three day showcase of independent and classic horror films, along with a special screening of the timeless 1922 Vampire Classic “Nosferatu” complete with a live orchestral accompaniment. Most people can say they’ve been to a haunted house on Halloween, but how many haunted zoos can you go to? Be sure to check out the Texas Zoo’s annual “Haunted Zoo”; for this event it is probably best to leave the little ones at home as it can generate some real scares.
Also, be sure to catch the Dia de los Muertos Festival in Downtown Victoria and at the Nave Museum. This Mexican holiday is marked by its celebration of life and for remembering loved ones who have passed. The festival features a somber March of Remembrance, children’s arts and crafts, food vendors, face painting, live music, performances by ballet folklorico and a Mercado. See below for a complete list of dates and for more information.
Annual Cemetery Tour
Catholic Cemeteries I & II
Click here for more information and to get tickets
The Texas Zoo
Click here for more information
Frel’s Fright Fest
Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts
Click here for more information and to get tickets
Oct. 29-Nov. 1
The Texas Zoo
Click here for more information
Dia de los Muertos Festival
Downtown Victoria & The Nave Museum
Click here for more information
Bootfest has sure had its share of bona fide country talents take the stage, and our Saturday night, Oct. 4 headliner for Bootfest 2014, Aaron Watson, certainly fits the bill. With seven #1 singles on the Texas Country Chart, Aaron has carved out quite a career in the Texas Country Music scene and has established himself as one the genre’s top stars. Raised in Amarillo and currently living in Abilene, Aaron hasn’t strayed from his roots as a musician and earned his success “the old-school way” by selling records out of his backpack as a student at Abilene-Christian University and playing to small crowds that continued to grow. Play any one of his singles and you’ll quickly see that Aaron is still pure country, even as the genre as a whole has displayed a lot of changes in the last several years. His most recent album release, “Real Good Time”, is loaded with full-force fun swingers (“Real Good Time”), tongue-in-cheek romps (the satirical “Hey Y’all”) and slow, heartfelt tunes (“July In Cheyenne”). Watson’s philosophy has always been to make good, wholesome, fun music that’s reflective of what he believes in. His performance at Bootfest 2014 will help make this year’s festival the best one yet.
See Aaron Watson live in concert for FREE Saturday, October 4 at Bootfest 2014 in Downtown Victoria, TX. Go to our website at VisitVictoriaTexas.com for our full schedule of entertainers and for more details on Bootfest.
Did you know that you can try your hand at an ancient weapon that predates even the bow and arrow, right here in Victoria? At the Museum of the Coastal Bend you can do just that with atlatl spear throwing. Basically, just think of it as an oversized dart that rests on a wooden holder of sorts. The form isn’t so hard to get down; if you’ve ever thrown a baseball you should be pretty much prepared. It’s incredible to think that the ancient peoples of the Coastal Bend region used to take down prey as large as mammoths with such simple a device! The museum staff is happy to set up targets for any visitor upon request, during regular business hours of course. Have some extra fun and request their mammoth targets so you can get the feel of going after the big game. Happy hunting! The Museum of the Coastal Bend is located at 2200 E. Red River (at the Victoria College), and is open Tues.-Sat. 10am-4pm and is closed major holidays. Call 361-582-2511 for more information.
Victoria is one of the oldest cities in Texas, founded by Martin De Leon in 1824. Let that date sink in for a little bit. Victoria is older than 26 of the states in the United States. With that long of a history, there are bound to be quite a few interesting stories to be told. If you were ever curious about some of the more curious of nuggets from Victoria’s past, several new installations in town are here to help. The “Victoria Trail Through Time” is a series of beautifully designed displays in Downtown Victoria and Riverside Park that tell the tales that have occurred during Victoria’s amazing history. So take some time to check out these fascinating stories from years gone by.
Downtown Victoria Locations:
-Fossati’s Delicatessen: “The Macaroni Line”
-Corner of Juan Linn St. and Main St.: “Jose Maria Jesus Carbajal”
Riverside Park Locations:
-”Round Top House and the Great Comanche Raid”
-”Steamboating and the Guadalupe”
-”Margaret Wright: The Mother of Texas”
-”Presidio la Bahia Mission Espiritu Santo”
If you’re like me, you suffer from occasional cases of electronic overload. It’s no secret we’re a little bit overly-stimulated these days. Be honest, how much time do we spend in front of a screen? Many of us use one (or several) for work. Then we go home, and likely spend some more time with one (or several). I know that I need to recharge a little from time to time, and I don’t mean my laptop. One of my favorite ways to do just that is to unplug and spend some time in nature. We are very lucky to have such a large and beautiful park here in town in Riverside Park. But did you know that there is an incredible nature area and trail in the park, the Athey Nature Area? This week I set out to explore this little piece of wilderness for myself, and let me tell you it was a much needed break from the hustle and bustle.
The trail really has two main entrance points; you can enter by the Hiller House at 3003 N. Vine St. or in Riverside Park near Riverside Stadium, which is where I started my trek from. The first part of the trail is a very well-done and smooth concrete path that’s perfect for any activity whether you are biking, jogging, or just going for a stroll like myself. It wasn’t long before I found myself enveloped in a lush green canopy and surrounded by a variety of native Texas vegetation. Now I’m no expert birder but there was an incredible variety of bird songs echoing from the trees which made this hike that much more enjoyable. I was pleasantly surprised by the large number of cardinals in the area too as flashes of red and brown darted in and out of the brush before me. About halfway through this part of the trail I saw some deer in a nearby field, and was pretty sure that was the closest I’d get to larger wildlife species. Not long after the trail turned from smooth concrete to a crush white limestone, and the vegetation changed from a pecan and oak forest into more of grassland dotted with elm and post oak and knee high grasses. As I continued onward I felt like to I could hear something moving in the brush nearby. Glad to have my camera nearby in case I’d be the first to get a not-fuzzy photograph of Bigfoot, a fully-grown doe jumped out of the brush a few feet in front of me and darted across the trail. Safe to say I wasn’t quick enough with the camera on that one. Not only that but a few minutes later I saw to my left about four or five does watching me intently. Shortly thereafter the trail surface changed again, and I was now on a basic gravel and dirt path. This part of the trail felt a little more raw and the vegetation reflected that of a hard South Texas brush with low-hanging mesquite. I really enjoyed taking a few pics of an almost surreal-looking dead tree that was stripped of its leaves and had hanging Spanish Moss in their place. As I neared the exit of the trail a hidden reward laid waiting for me when I found a dewberry wine loaded with mature fruit, which I naturally had to take a quick sampling of. I may even head back this week to pick a bag or two!
Be sure to take a little time out of your schedule and let your senses be flooded with the beautiful sights and sounds of the Athey Nature Area.
If you’re ever looking for a good cup of joe in Victoria, and want to avoid the typical chains you see in pretty much any city of decent size, a great alternative is Huvar’s Artisan Market and Catering in Downtown Victoria. Not only do they have incredible coffee from a full barista station, but a good variety of breakfast options to boot. You can choose from such delectable options as white chocolate & raspberry scones, chocolate chip muffins, banana bread, and smoothies. Unfortunately for myself I’m on a pretty strict diet these days so I couldn’t sample any of the pastries, but still had a tasty breakfast with cinnamon oatmeal and a fruit bowl. For my choice of coffee I took full advantage of the barista station offerings and elected for a latte with cinnamon. An excellent choice in hindsight as it was flavorful but easy drinking and very well-balanced. So if you ever find yourself looking for a different breakfast experience besides the hustle-and-bustle of a fast food joint and want a more authentic coffee drinking experience, you can’t go wrong with taking a little trip to Downtown Victoria and Huvar’s.
Huvar’s Artisan Market and Catering is located at 110 W. Juan Linn St. and is open Monday-Friday, 7am-3pm.
What do different kinds of drinks mean to you? Typically when I think of rum I imagine a beach, a frozen fruity drink under a little umbrella, and too much Jimmy Buffett playing in the background (ask anyone who knows me well, I can’t stand him). Gin? Martinis, James Bond- that whole image. And tequila? Really, I have to say personally I didn’t have much of an idea. So when I heard that the new restaurant on the top floor of One O’Connor Plaza in Downtown Victoria, The Sendera, would be opening a specialty tequila bar, I felt compelled to expand my knowledge base. And I have to say I’m glad I did. First thing you should know about The Sendera is it has a great atmosphere. Being on the 12th floor of One O’Connor Plaza in Downtown Victoria, it has hands-down the best views of the city available. The owners, Dennis and Louise, went for a cool upscale ranch house vibe with different art pieces of horses and cattle, ranch scenes, and dark leather furniture. But a really eye-catching feature is the “Sendera Cantina” tequila bar. And they mean tequila. As is stands there’s about 120-130 different labels of tequila there, with a goal of reaching around 150. The bar itself is literally glowing, with a quartz top lit from beneath. I began my culinary excursion with one of the bar’s signature tequilas, the Maestro Dobel. A blend of three different types of tequila, it was a perfect drink to sip on the rocks with a lime wedge. Next came an order of pork bellies from their new tequila bar appetizer menu-and they did not disappoint. According to the bartender, they are cured for 36 hours, braised in root beer, and topped with a mango salsa. And with a generous portion to boot, they were excellent. Of course The Sendera is first and foremost a steakhouse, so I had to go with a 12oz. rib eye. It was cooked to perfection and the side I ordered along with it, the creamed spinach, had a rich creamy flavor and was a perfect complement to the steak. With happy hour specials and live music on Saturday nights, The Sendera Cantina is the perfect place for some post-work libations or a night out with friends. Visit The Sendera at One O’Connor Plaza, 12th floor. Open Monday-Thursday 11 am-10 pm, Friday 11 am-midnight, and Saturday 4 pm-midnight.
I consider myself a live music fan. I also consider myself a bit of an explorer, searching every nook and cranny of the cities where I’ve lived. So the fact that after nearly two years in Victoria I hadn’t been to the revered Schroeder Hall was a bit of a travesty to say the least. After all, it is the second oldest dancehall in Texas and has hosted legendary country music entertainers over the years. Luckily, I won tickets to the Taste of Country Christmas concert last Saturday, featuring Nashville country up-and-comer Thomas Rhett.
Just a short 15-minute drive past the brush and pastures of Upper Mission Valley Rd., and left onto FM 622, brings you to the rear of the hall. As soon as you drive up, you see it’s a true Texas dancehall with cars parked all around in a large field next to the main hall. With a tin roof and simple, white exterior, Schroeder Hall could easily pass for a rustic barn – save for the neon sign. Once you’re inside however, you get transported back to a time when everyone went to local dancehalls for the weekend shindigs. Being from the Czech and German dancehall-heavy region of south-central Texas, I felt right at home at Schroeder Hall. The low-set ceiling is lined wood beams and frilly, plastic banners. The bar only serves beer to concert-goers (customers can bring their own liquor but set-ups must be purchased at the bar). Tables line two sides of the hall and the stage is set deep in the back – leaving plenty of room for dancing or for getting up close to the performers. If you love country music, Schroeder Hall is the place to go for a genuine Texas experience you won’t soon forget.
UPCOMING CONCERTS AT SCHROEDER HALL:
December 20, 2014: Josh Abbott Band
December 28, 2014: Kevin Fowler
December 31, 2014: Restless Heart
January 4, 2014: Aaron Watson
January 11, 2014: Granger Smith
February 8, 2014: Stoney LaRue