West Texas Field Guide
Texas is an extremely beautiful and diverse state. Throughout this monstrous state (over 750 miles across! That's about 11 hours of driving.) you will find so many different types of landscapes, things to do, and people to meet! Some of the friendliest people we have ever met are in "Top of the Hill Country" which is one of the prettiest places ever (especially in the spring.) If you have never been to Texas, I would highly recommend you plan a trip. There is something for everyone in the Lonestar state, and I personally have fallen in love with it.
In total, we have spent a little over a year in West Texas. In 2014 Joel accepted his first travel therapy assignment and we lived in Odessa for about 7 months, and our 6 month stint here in Midland is coming to a close next week. Luckily for Joel, I am pretty good at finding new and interesting things to do wherever we end up, because without a little digging it would seem like there's not much to do out here!! I'm here to tell you that there are some absolutely wonderful things to do out in this desert, totally road trip worthy. (Which is the only way you would end up traveling out here because traveling here by plane is crazy expensive.)
For those of you who are not familiar with Texas geography, check out the map below. It's from "texasoutside.com" which actually ended up being a pretty handy and informative website for all areas of Texas. The map is just of what is considered "West Texas" (which is VERY different from all other parts of Texas!) *Right now, we are living in Midland which you'll find in red near the top/middle of the map*
I'm definitely not a "Texas expert" but we have spent a decent amount of time adventuring around, so I want to share with you our favorite places in West Texas that you will not want to miss if you're in the area!
WHERE TO STAY
If you're staying near Big Bend, you NEED to stay at Jamie's Earth Bag home outside of Terlingua, TX. It is one of the coolest places we've ever stayed at, and Jamie is so nice. He built the home himself (you can find it on Airbnb HERE ) and you can just tell the love and heart that he put into making it a beautiful home to share. It is an experience we will never forget! (read more about our stay at the Earth Bag home HERE )
This town is extremely small, and in the middle of nowhere, so there are not many places to stay. When Joel's parents came to visit we stayed at the Eleven Inn which is extremely affordable. This inn definitely isn't the Ritz, but it's cozy and clean enough. I only wish I had brought my own blankets, because the ones on the bed looked like they had been sitting on a shelf for a little while before being put on our bed... But if I were in the area again, I would definitely stay here! There is a small bar directly across the street (that I tried to get Joel to check out with me but he wouldn't...) that seemed like a good place to grab a drink. The night we stayed at the inn the bar at live music and was hoppin!
You can also stay at Balmorhea State Park where they have a lodge or camp sites. (*We have never stayed at this state park*)
If you are in Fort Davis and the weather is nice, you need to camp at the Davis Mountains State Park. We have tent camped here several times, and even did the "primitive camping" after hiking 4 miles up one of the mountains (that's another story for another day...) We enjoyed every time we camped here. Honestly, all of the Texas State Parks we have been too have seemed really nice and well kept, and have always had really clean bathrooms! The Davis Mountains State Park also has a lodge, but since the lodge is not dog-friendly we have never stayed there. From the outside it looks really nice though!
WHAT TO DO
-sand surf, roast marshmallows, and catch a sunset at Monahans Sandhills State Park *If you follow me on Instagram, you know that this is one of my favorite places. I just really can't even explain to you how beautiful and peaceful it is here!
-see a movie at the Big Sky Theater *This drive in movie theater is DOG FRIENDLY!!!!!!!
South-West Texas area:
-check out Davis Mountains State Park *even if you aren't camping here, this park is just beautiful to walk around! Drive up the "skyline drive trail" and take a gander at the surrounding area.
-attend a star party at the McDonald Observatory just outside of Fort Davis. *This is one of the coolest things Joel and I have ever done on our travels. We have gone to three star parties, and all of them have been downright magical. The view of that night sky will literally take your breath away. If you are only in the area during the day, the observatory also offers daylight tours/programs that you can take advantage of.
-stroll through the Terlingua Ghost Town *There are shops here with kitschy souvenirs as well as a few restaurants. On some Saturdays you can attend the local farmers market!
-take a dip in the world's largest spring fed swimming pool at Balmorhea State Park. The pool stays between 72 and 76 degrees year round, and if you're lucky you'll even see scuba divers taking advantage of the crystal clear waters.
WHERE TO EAT
-THE BEER GARDEN! *I don't typically love bars, but I would go here every weekend if I could. The Beer Garden is a plant nursery during the day, so it's easily one of the prettiest bars I've ever been to with all of the changing plant life around. Their on-tap selection is ever changing and HUGE (I always get the ACE Pear cider!) and they currently have a full kitchen serving delicious food and the best corndogs I've ever eaten. And being in between two of the most unfriendly cities I've ever been in, it's a breath of fresh air when everyone there is SO NICE! It seems like there is always something fun going on here, from "Yappy Hour" (bring your dog!), karaoke, live music, to holiday-themed events! YOU NEED TO GO TO THE BEER GARDEN!
-Southern Maid Donuts *When we lived in Odessa, we went to the Southern Maid on North Hancock EVERY WEEKEND. Make sure you go early (the lines can get really long!) and bring cash!!
-Oscar's Super Burrito *This is in Midland and we have been going here almost every Saturday for breakfast burritos. They're always delicious!
-Cork and Pig Tavern *Cork and Pig is a great place for lunch/dinner if you're looking for something a little fancier. Order the corn bread appetizer! It's not on the menu, but just trust me, order it!
-Sunday brunch at Twist Restaurant and Bar *get the pancakes and bottomless mimosas. And plan on taking a nap afterwards (:
-Baker's Dozen Donuts *These are some of the best donuts I've ever had! Blueberry cake donut mmmm
If you are there on a Sunday and are in need of breakfast before 11 AM, you will need to go to the local grocery, located on S. Main, where they serve breakfast burritos to go and have other grocery store items for purchase. If you can wait till 11 (which I couldn't...) you can eat at the Saddleback Steak House or Curasco's.