Friday, July 7, 2000
photo: lifestyles

  Gorman Falls creates a lush tropical setting amid the rugged Texas Hill Country setting at Colorado Bend State Park near Lampasas.

One hundred things to see in Texas, that 'whole other country'


Several years ago, the state tourism board began a series of print and broadcast advertisements boasting Texas as ''a whole other country.''

The point was to spread the message to Texas residents that vacation opportunities, no matter what your particular tastes are, are rampant in this massive state. And furthermore, the underlying message said, there's no need to go any farther than the Lone Star State to see it all.

Travel guides bring this point home, detailing city by city everything there is to do. And while this list doesn't begin to cover it all, here are 100 places considered don't-mis spots in Texas --in no particular order. Listings come courtesy ''The Texas Guide'' by Gary James, the state tourism department's Web site -- and my wanderings in the state:

1. State capitol building, Austin. Beautiful architecture always and fairly thorough tours available daily.

photo: lifestyles

  The Tyler Rose Museum and Rose Garden displays 30,000 rose bushes with more than 500 rose varieties.

2. Schlitterbahn Waterpark, New Braunfels. The 65-acre park has water slides, rides and lazy rivers for cool fun.

3. Blue Bell Creameries, Brenham. Tours and free tasting. Need I say more?

4. State Fair of Texas, Dallas. In October, this fair boasts biggest and best midway, tons of other activities.

5. The Bluebonnet Cafe, Marble Falls. Best pot roast and chicken fry we've had; good home cooking for a great price.

photo: lifestyles

  Six Flags of Texas in Arlington draws both locals and tourists brave enough to ride its roller coasters.

6. Enron Field, Houston. Newest ballpark in Texas, features steam engine train and interesting architecture. Tours available, even if it isn't baseball season.

7. Cap*Rock Winery, Lubbock. Tours and tastings at this beautiful facility just outside town.

8. Medieval Times, Dallas. Dine with your hands in medieval style while watching a jousting match. Lots of fun.

9. Historical Driving Tour, Weatherford. Stops by beautiful old homes, the historical Parker County courthouse and other neat spots. A must for architecture lovers.

photo: lifestyles

  Monohans Sandhills State Park allows the only public access to a dune field that extends from Texas' Permian Basin into southeastern New Mexico.

10. Concho River Walk, San Angelo. A beautiful park with walking trail and ducks to feed. A perfect Sunday afternoon spot.

11. George Bush Presidential Library, College Station. Features memorabilia galore from years in office and before. Save time for this.

12. Kidsville, Plainview. Sprawling park features wooden super-playground built as a community project. Lots of fun for adults too.

13. University of Texas-Texas A&M football game, College Station or Austin. Held Friday after Thanksgiving each year, the rivalry makes for great action and great fun.

14. TEXAS: The Musical, Palo Duro Canyon. Held in summer months, the outdoor amphitheater production tells history of farming and ranching in the panhandle.

15. Big Bend State Park, Big Bend Region. Hiking, swimming, river rafting and camping for outdoor lovers.

16. Monahans Sandhills State Park, Monahans. Features museum and info center; camping and sand surfing available.

17. Chuy's Mexican Food, Dallas, Houston and Austin. Muy bueno mexican food for not much dinero. Great eating.

18. Fredericksburg. Great antique shops, arts and crafts and German restaurants.

19. Garza Hotel and Theater, Post. Enjoy a night of community theater and a comfortable bed in this popular spot.

20. Texas State Aquarium, Corpus Christi. Marine exhibits and shows. Lots of fun for kids and adults.

21. Monastery of St. Clare, Navasota. These nuns raise miniature horses. I'm not kidding.

22. River Walk, San Antonio. Neat shopping and restaurant offerings. River boat rides available too.

23. The Sixth Floor, Dallas. Museum in old Texas Schoolbook Depository Building details the life and death of President John F. Kennedy.

24. Grapevine Mills Outlet Mall, Grapevine. The country's largest outlet mall; a shopping woman's dream come true.

25. Big Texan Steakhouse, Amarillo. Great food, and if you can eat a 72-ounce steak (with side dishes, mind you) in one hour, it's free. If not, it's $30.

26. Moody Gardens, Galveston. Complex includes a white-sand beach, seaside safari, rain forest and an IMAX theater. A full day's entertainment.

27. The Ballpark at Arlington, Arlington. Home of the Texas Rangers, this stadium has a great tour, a baseball museum and interactive children's center.

28. Texas Prison Museum, Huntsville. Weird, I know, but this is a neat tour of the prison system and how it has changed.

29. Dr Pepper Museum, Waco. Traces history of this and other Texas soft drinks, such as Big Red.

30. Enchanted Rock Natural Area, Fredericksburg. Premier rappelling and hiking trails in this beautiful park. Pack a picnic.

31. Zilker Park, Austin. Includes the Barton Springs Swimming Pool (spring-fed, of course), botanical gardens, Japanese garden and garden center. A full day's visit.

32. San Jacinto Monument/Battleship Texas, Houston. See the tallest masonry monument in the world, the museum and the battleship, a veteran of both world wars.

33. Alamo Village, Bracketville. Replica was first created to be a set for the John Wayne movie. Now is a popular movie production site.

34. Stockyards Historic District, Fort Worth. Features restaurants, saloons, art galleries and the famous Billy Bob's Texas dance hall.

35. Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose. Features preserved dino tracks, exhibits and acres for camping, picnicking and nature trails.

36. Buddy Holly Center and Fine Arts Gallery, Lubbock. Features museum exhibits about native son rock 'n' roller, along with revolving art exhibits.

37. Natural Bridge Caverns and Wildlife Ranch, San Marcos. Neat place to tour; safari drive through wildlife park is a must-do, too.

38. McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis. The University of Texas astronomy research center is rated one of the best in the world. Public viewing nights available.

39. Gruene Hall, Gruene. Oldest continuously running dance hall in Texas is alive with music nightly and dancing. Restaurants and arts and crafts shops surround.

40. Sierra del Cristo Rey, El Paso. Scale replica of the statue of Christ overlooking Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Located at mountain point where Texas, New Mexico and Mexico intersect.

41. Mission Trail, San Antonio. Driving tour covers four of the five missions in town; outstanding architecture and history here.

42. Palace of Wax/Ripley's Believe It or Not, Grand Prairie. Large display of wax recreations and the more bizarre. Save time for this.

43. Space Center Houston, Houston. The visitor center for NASA; features exhibits, movies, tram tours and more.

44. Royer's Cafe, Round Top. Nominated by a friend who visits regularly, the cafe also features homemade pies the Royers send out by mail order.

45. Sixth Street, Austin. Hot spot features music stores, eateries, clubs with live music and the historic Driskill Hotel.

46. Texas State Railroad, Rusk and Palestine. Antique steam engine powers a passenger train through 25-mile scenic tour of East Texas. A must.

47. SeaWorld, San Antonio. Theme park has plenty of marine animal exhibits, plus a water park and entertaining shows.

48. Painted Churches, La Grange. Self-guided tours of four rural churches painted by European settler-artists; beautiful steeples, altars and ceilings.

49. Seawall, Galveston. For beach bums, this is the high life. Enjoy a quiet walk along the water's edge, or take in the restaurants and souvenir shops along the beach.

50. Excelsior House, Jefferson. Second oldest hotel in Texas; tours available.

51. Colorado Bend State Park, Lampasas. Camping facilities as usual, but Gorman Falls is beautiful setting, with access only by guided tours.

52. Tyler Rose Museum & Rose Garden, Tyler. Definitely a sweet-smelling and beautiful visit, with roses of all breeds featured.

53. Alamo Classic Car Museum, New Braunfels. Large collection of classic cars, representing more than eight decades of automotive history.

54. Kendrick Religious Museum, Eastland. Features 30 dioramas of Bible scenes, with special lighting and sound effects.

55. Rio Grande Valley Historical Museum Complex, Harlingen. Four museums in one, featuring medical museum, two historical homes and the main museum.

56. Vanishing Texas River Cruise, Burnet. Two-and-a-half-hour boat trip seeks out bald eagles between November and March. Lots of beautiful scenery and wildlife along the way.

57. Sundance Square, Fort Worth. Encompasses eight city blocks and includes the 1895 Tarrant County Courthouse, the 1881 Knights of Pythias Hall, the 1908 Plaza Hotel and the Sid Richardson Collection of Western Art, among others.

58. Science Spectrum, Lubbock. Features an IMAX theater and tons of hands-on exhibits displaying scientific principles that is as much fun for grown-ups as for kids.

59. Puddin' Hill Bakery and Store, Greenville. Famous fruitcakes and chocolate delicacies, along with a yummy menu.

60. Mustang Island State Park, Port Aransas. Camping, fishing, surfing, swimming and shell collecting galore on this 3,400-acre park along the shore.

61. YO Ranch, Kerrville. A working ranch where you can see true cowboys in action and take a photo safari through its exotic wildlife park.

62. Tigua Indian Reservation, El Paso. Tours available at the reservation, a haven for lovers of handmade arts and crafts; the bakery features adobe-oven goodies.

63. Paint Rock Pictographs, Paint Rock. Walking tour highlights colorful ancient Native American art on walls of limestone cliffs.

64. Las Carabelas de Columbus, Corpus Christi. Replicas of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria available for touring.

65. Fulton Mansion, Fulton. Built in 1875, boasted such ''new-fangled'' things as running water, flush toilets and central heat and air. Tours available.

66. Gladys Porter Zoo, Brownsville. Ranked one of ten best zoos in country; features 31 acres of animal life.

67. Grand Opera House, Uvalde. Former Vice President John Nance Garner used the upstairs as an office, the bottom was a theater facility.

68. Admiral Nimitz Hotel and Museum, Fredericksburg. Hotel serves as museum of native son Chester Nimitz and the Pacific War and includes the Garden of Peace, History Walk and Plaza of the Presidents.

69. Bishop's Palace, Galveston. Grandiose home is a study in architecture of native artist Nicholas Clayton.

70. Railroad Heritage Museum, Baird. Features array of memorabilia from once booming transportation industry.

71. Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington. Roller coasters are my personal favorites, and this park has the best, in my opinion. If you miss Batman the Ride, you'll miss a treat.

72. New Zion Barbecue House, Huntsville. James says this BBQ place, located in the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church, is the best in the state.

73. First Monday Trade Days, Canton. Biggest flea market is held Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each month. Great antique and other finds.

74. Lady Bird Johnson National Wildflower Research Center, Austin. This 60-acre facility features exhibits, lush gardens, an info center, store and cafe.

75. Big Thicket Smokehouse, Kountze. Serves up great barbecue, as well as arts and crafts.

76. Tour 18, Houston. A golfer's heaven, this course features replicas of 18 holes from famous golf courses across the country, including Pebble Beach and Augusta.

77. East Texas Oil Museum, Kilgore. Entertaining and educational, the facility is a living recollection of the oil boom years.

78. Lake Sam Rayburn, Lufkin. Located in the heart of the Angelina National Forest, this is a popular and beautiful recreational spot.

79. Witness Park and Prayer Tower, Pittsburg. Fountain and religious shrine was a gift from chicken man Bo Pilgrim. Tower features four Paccard bells from France and an always-open chapel.

80. Heritage Village, Woodville. Replica of early Texas village with regional history exhibits.

81. Trail Dust Steakhouse, Arlington. Don't wear a tie to this steakhouse; they'll cut it off. Features a two-story slide for kids and adults, too.

82. Deep Ellum Historic District, Dallas. Once the center for African-American entertainment, the district now is home to shops, restaurants and clubs featuring an array of music.

83. Texas Air Aces, Spring. This offers wannabe pilots a chance to take to the air for real with professional supervision. Costs a bit, but what a memory.

84. 50-Yard Line Steakhouse, Lubbock. Ummm, good steaks and famous blueberry muffins. Menu based on football theme is fun, too.

85. Colonel Paddle Wheeler, Galveston. Offers day, dinner and moonlight cruises on authentic reproduction of 1860s stern-wheeler.

86. Confederate Reunion Grounds State Park, Mexia. Features 1872 Heritage House, 1893 dance pavilion, two-story log cabin as well as nature trails, picnic and fishing opportunities.

87. The Blue Hole, Wimberly. One of top ten swimming holes in Texas, it requires a (reasonably-priced) weekly or monthly membership to take a dip.

88. Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historical Park, Washington. Includes reconstruction of Independence Hall, a pecan grove and the Star of the Republic Museum tracing Texas Republic history.

89. Antique Rose Emporium, Independence. Commercial rose gardens and exhibit gardens of roses collected from all over the state.

90. Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary, McKinney. Natural history exhibits and live animals featured, with nature trails aplenty.

91. Hueco Tanks State Park, El Paso. Best rock climbing spot, plus pictographs, hiking and camping places.

92. Buffalo Gap Historic Village, Buffalo Gap. Collection of 100-year-old buildings, includes the courthouse and jail built of sandstone blocks.

93. Fair Park, Dallas. Home to the state fair in October, it also features the Age of Steam Museum, the Aquarium, Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas Horticulture Center, the Science Place and more.

94. Texas Stadium, Irving. Game day or no, you gotta tour this home of the Dallas Cowboys.

95. Governor's Mansion, Austin. Public tours available for this beautiful building, located near the Capitol.

96. Rattlesnake Roundup, Sweetwater. You won't find me there (not a snake fan), but fans say this is a scaly extravaganza not to be missed. Held in March.

97. Fantasyland, Iraan. A park inspired by cartoon character Alley Oop, with statues and more. Archaeological museum also on site.

98. Carlos Restaurant and Bar, Big Spring. James calls this the place for the best Mexican food in West Texas.

99. The Alamo, San Antonio. Home of true Texas history features exhibits and such.

100. Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, Austin. Features exhibits from the presidency and Johnson's life, as well as special hall on Lady Bird.