SITES UNSEEN

Hill Country river cruises explore a vanishing Texas, from ghost towns to bald eagles

Set sail on Lake Buchanan and uncover sites previously unseen. Courtesy photo

This article originally appeared on CultureMap and was written by Cindy Brzostowski.

Eagle season is in full swing, and a trip around Lake Buchanan in the Hill Country with Vanishing Texas River Cruises offers an opportunity to catch sight of one of these majestic birds in their natural habitat.

Situated a little less than an hour-and-a-half drive west of Austin, the 22,000-acre lake, and surrounding Highland Lakes region, serves as a feeding and breeding ground for migrating bald eagles from mid-November through the end of February. VTRC runs three- and four-hour cruises for eager eagle-spotting adventurers, with the last of the season being offered on February 23.

While it may not necessarily have been the norm, Shawn Devaney, owner and captain of VTRC, fondly recalls a spectacular eagle sighting. "We cruised by Burrows Bluff, and at one time we had 37 eagles flying over the boat," he says. "It was unbelievable."

Don't worry if you can't make one of their eagle trips. The varied wildlife and the beautiful scenic vistas of the area make their other cruises just as worthwhile. Herons, egrets, cormorants, hawks, vultures, kestrels, ospreys, and owls all frequent the area, a picturesque landscape of waterfalls and cliffs.

Continue reading on CultureMap to find out about VTRC's most popular trip.

Stagecoach Inn. Photo courtesy of Stagecoach Inn

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Texans may prefer a pickup to a one-horse open sleigh, but that won't stop any of us from dashing around the state this season. But instead of going to grandmother's house, consider checking into a fabulous hotel to make spirits bright. Not just any hotel, though. Here are places that stage Texas-worthy celebrations perfect for a holiday getaway.

Boardwalk Inn — Kemah

The Kemah Boardwalk provides a great spot to catch the area's Christmas Boat Parade, held Saturday, December 14, starting at 6:30 pm. Hundreds of brightly decorated power and sailboats float down the Clear Lake channel from South Shore Harbour Marina and Nassau Bay Lagoon to Galveston Bay. Stay at the Boardwalk Inn and also take in Jingle on the Boardwalk, December 7, 8, 14, 15, and 22. It includes shopping, a variety of live entertainment, activities, pictures with Santa, and more.

JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa — San Antonio

At the ritzy JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, new activities for this year's holidays include Santa's Workshop with children's activities such as writing letters to Santa, making snow globes, and painting clay ornaments. Kids also can search for toy elves on the Elfie Selfie Scavenger Hunt. Other festivities include JW Elf tuck-ins, JW Elf Express train car making, certified JW Elf classes, a polar bear plunge challenge, a Sandy Snowman Building Contest every Saturday morning, and Sunday Brunch with Santa and Mrs. Claus at 18 Oaks restaurant.

Hilton Americas — Houston

The Hilton Americas lobby transforms into a lighted wonderland, complete with gingerbread walls spanning the lobby and a holiday chocolate display made from more than 2.5 tons and 6.5 million calories of chocolate. Have Breakfast with Santa on Saturday and Sunday mornings December 7 through 22 — photos and cookie decorating included. Just steps away, Discovery Green offers ice skating every day through February 2, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On Saturdays now through Christmas, Santa Claus hits the ice from 5 to 6 pm. Also nearby in Hermann Square is the setting for a Gingerbread Build-Off competition on Saturday, December 7, from 10 am to 5 pm.


Continue on CultureMap to see the rest of the list.

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