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.

WEEKEND GETAWAYS

The best places to visit in San Antonio

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

One of the great mysteries of Houston life is that so many locals don't take better advantage of San Antonio. Not only is the Alamo City a cultural jewel with more than 300 years of history proudly on display, it is also a strikingly modern city with chic boutique hotels, innovative restaurants, and some of the best shopping in Texas.

In a time when cities across the world are starting to feel numbingly the same, San Antonio has kept its identity. What's travel if not a chance to experience some place unique?

Where to eat and drink

Eastside Kitchenette

After a long period spent renovating its 1906 building, this project from owner chefs Jenn and Jeff White debuted in January with a comforting menu melding the best of Southern and Hill Country cuisine. The dishes — catfish, meatloaf, and even spinach artichoke dip — certainly appeal to traditionalists, but Eastside doesn't exactly deliver home cooking. That catfish is stuffed with sweet blue crab, the meatloaf comes with a side of black garlic broccoli, and the bacon Parmesan streusel topping the dip was never in a Junior League cookbook.

Jet-Setter

The newest player in the downtown bar scene is literally underground, giving it an exclusive speakeasy vibe. Still, once revelers descend the steps, it's clear that its head is in the clouds. Taking style cues from midcentury airports, the lounge has vintage vibes without looking like a Mad Men set. The cocktails are fully contemporary, using ingredients from destinations all over the world.

Lala's Gorditas
The owner of this Southside restaurant, Steve Pizzini, is San Antonio restaurant royalty. His aunt Ernestine Pizzini Chapa founded Teka Molino in 1938 before father Herman Pizzini launched Taco Hut in 1958, and both quickly rose to become some of the Alamo City's most beloved concepts. That's a lot to live up to, but Pizzini rises to the occasion with extravagantly overstuffed gorditas, shatteringly crisp puffy tacos, and deep caramel flan baked every day.

Swine House Bodega
This downtown sandwich shop is serious about its sourcing, using only ethically raised breeds from area farms. For owner Joe Saenz, it's not just a matter of being a responsible global citizen. Pasture-raised meats also taste better, a fact readily apparent in the Swine House's New York-style subs and biscuit sandwiches. Be warned that the shop is only open weekdays for breakfast and lunch. What better excuse to extend a weekend day trip?

Continue reading on CultureMap to find out the best places to shop.

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