Home of Live Oaks and Live Folks
Situated just 15-minutes south of Wild Wing Preserve is the charming town of Columbus, Texas, known as the “Home of Live Oaks and Live Folks.” Set on the banks of the Colorado River, Columbus is the seat of Colorado County and was establish in 1837 by European Americans after Texas achieved independence from Mexico.
There are several fantastic museums and cultural attractions in Columbus including the War Memorial Museum, Santa Claus Museum that showcases the vast Santa Claus collection of Mary Elizabeth Hopkins, a former resident of Columbus, and the Alley Log Cabin and Antique Tool Museum, preserved since the Texas Revolution. The 1886 Stafford Opera House hosts a monthly dinner theater as well as weddings and galas. The Colorado County Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a must see. The Live Oak Arts Center is a beautiful art gallery tucked inside a 19th-century era saloon that contains stunning exhibits and juried art shows. Young artists can learn about photography, sculpture, painting, drawing, and more.
Outdoor recreation is popular on the 6.5 mile Texas Paddling Trail that runs through Columbus on the Colorado River and makes a fun day trip for paddlers. The unique horseshoe shaped trail is perfect for fishing, birding, kayaking or drifting along on a riverboat ride. For more outdoor fun, head to the Sanctuary Serengeti, a drive-through safari where you can see a wide variety of animals from all over the world.
Columbus is home to several beautiful city parks where you can play basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, four square, horseshoes or relax in a quiet area surrounded by the beauty of nature. Be sure to stop for a photo op with one of the largest Live Oak trees in Texas, listed on the Registry of Big Trees as the second largest in the state of Texas. If golf is your passion, book a tee time at the 9-hole, Columbus Municipal Golf Course.
There is no shortage of wonderful boutiques, antique shops and eateries in and around Columbus. Find unique gifts and offerings from clothing to handmade candy, to leather goods and one-of-a-kind jewelry. If you enjoy fine wines and finding new wines, Columbus is central to many great vineyards in the area like Rosemary's Vineyard and Winery, Whistling Duck Vineyards & Winery and the Tasting Room at The Vine. Columbus has a wide range of restaurants from a filling trip to Schobels' Restaurant buffet, to a favorite burrito from the Los Cabos Mexican Grill, to a nice steak at Nancy's Steak House, a cold brew at Hound Song Brewing Company or a quick bite at All Thai'd Up. You’re sure to find the perfect place for that quick snack or night out on the town.
Columbus has some great community events throughout the year not to be missed. The annual Colorado County Fair features nationally known musical entertainers, a carnival and rodeo, BBQ cook-off, antique show, tractor and engine show, art and photography display, needlework, handicrafts, baked goods and more. Or take the family to the Columbus Country Market that supports local farmers, gardeners, cooks, bakers, craftspeople, and artisans. Families enjoy live music, great food and more at this fun community event.
Situated an easy 75-minute drive from Wild Wing Preserve, the style-savvy residents of the fourth largest city in the USA, know there's no place quite like Houston, Texas. With more than 2.2 million residents, the city attracts visitors and transplants with a wonderful mix of world-class arts, booming businesses, professional sports and award-winning cuisine. And, the world is discovering what locals have known all along - Houston landed on several “best of” lists, including the Travel + Leisure round-up of America's Favorite Cities and the Hotwire.com index of most affordable U.S. vacation destinations. In Houston, much of daily life happens outdoors, thanks to mild, year-round temperatures. Take time to explore eclectic, culture-filled neighborhoods, galleries and attractions, which offer diverse activities and vibes that can only be found here. Houston even has its own version of Central Park with more than 600 hectares of green space in the heart of the city. Just inside "the loop," an interstate highway around the city, Memorial Park is home to a public golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts, trails and more. Downtown, Discovery Green is a park with Wi-Fi, a farmers' market, dog runs, fine dining and ice skating during the winter, just one more of the 650-plus urban green spaces filling the city.
Travel 90-minutes from Wild Wing Preserve to have your toes in the sand and the surf on the horizon at some of the most beloved Gulf Coast Beaches in Texas! With the surf on the horizon, you’re sure to fall in love with the spectacular setting, crisp ocean breezes, and endless activities, which could include a visit to The Texas State Aquarium. For an ambitious and absolutely worth-the-drive coastal tour that hits all the high notes, take a trip to enjoy a variety of experiences in all the major seaside towns scattered along the Texas Coast. Plan on stopping in places like Beaumont, Galveston, Victoria, Corpus Christi, Harlingen and Brownsville for a well-rounded taste of everything the region has to offer.
Beaumont got its start as an oil town over a century ago when the Spindletop oilfield erupted with a colossal gusher. Get a deeper look into the town’s history, including a watery re-enactment of that massive gush, at the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum and the Texas Energy Museum. While you’re in town, retreat into nature at Tyrrell Park, where there are ample opportunities for birding and wildlife watching at the High Island Nature Sanctuaries and the Cattail Marsh . Then, get an eyeful of live gators at one of the state’s alligator theme park—Gator Country Adventure Park—where you can learn about their species and habitat.
Southwest of Beaumont, you can walk the beaches of Galveston, traversing territory originally settled by one of the most famous pirates in American history - Jean Lafitte. As the island’s popularity grew, it eventually became one of the busiest ports west of New Orleans, but its claim to fame didn’t last long. In 1900, the island was devastated by a hurricane. Its fighting Texas spirit couldn’t be stopped though, so naturally the locals rebuilt. By the time Galveston’s port reopened, Houston had already built its own ship channel and taken over many of the incoming routes. Today, you can disembark on any number of luxurious cruises from the Port of Galveston – or you can stick around to enjoy local attractions, including everything from ghost tours and The Strand to Moody Gardens’ theme park and the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.
Victoria Keep moving right on down the coast and a little inland from the beach to find the humble city of Victoria. Thanks to the Victoria Trail Through Time driving tour, you can discover its history without leaving the car. Then, spend a little time at the Five Points Museum of Contemporary Art and the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Golden Crescent for some afternoon enrichment. And before you skip town, take your taste buds for a joyride on the Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail and to Fossati’s Delicatessen, the oldest deli in Texas.
Then, cruise down to Corpus Christi to learn about life along the Gulf. There, you can explore the unexpected history and culture of Texas surfing at the Texas Surf Museum. To bring a layer of enchantment to your coastal experience, visit the Texas State Aquarium. Its Caribbean Journey exhibit features vibrant coral reefs, majestic sandbar sharks and many other awe-inspiring elements of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. You can also ignite your sense of wonder by exploring native flora and fauna at the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center, where you can break out the binoculars on a snippet of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.
The Rio Grande River Valley
If you don’t have time to stop at the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail in Corpus, don’t fret – there are plenty of trail stops scattered along the coast, even as far south as Harlingen and Brownsville. Birders may even find a few avian friends for their life lists, with some birds traveling no further into the United States than the Rio Grande Valley. In the Brownsville area, you’ll find two birding trail destinations – the Sabal Palm Sanctuary and Resaca de la Palma State Park (which is part of the World Birding Center). Then, at the Gladys Porter Zoo, you can slow down a bit and delight in special interactions with the aquatic animals of South Texas, including touchable stingrays. Other unique ways to experience the zoo include a ride on the Safari Express and participating in the Giraffe Landing Feeding Experience, where visitors can see the reticulated giraffes up close and feed them treats.
From top to bottom, the beachy curve of Texas’ coastal region is filled with unique experiences to enjoy and treasure. So, if you were able to wander all 600 miles of Texas’ Gulf Coast, you’d run into some pretty spectacular gems—and we’re not just talking about the popular South Padre Island or Port Aransas, beautiful as those may be. Up and down the coast, lesser-known Texas beaches like the ones below offer space to spread out and relax in the sand.
Less than two hours from Houston, Matagorda Beach has more surf and sand than you’ll know what to do with—20+ miles of it (and even more are accessible by watercraft). With a 4x4 vehicle and a permit, you can drive right on the sand, and anyone can hike along the dune trails or even camp. For free! It’s easy to commune with nature here, but this is an especially great spot for the family. The sand is soft and the beach is clean, quiet and great for swimming and shelling. Surfers can try their luck, too.
Mustang Island State Park
A quick drive over the JFK Memorial Causeway from Corpus Christi—and sitting just north of Padre Island National Seashore—Mustang Island State Park holds five miles of sand that leave the door open for any and every itinerary. Think swimming, surfing, camping, picnicking, fishing, hiking, mountain biking (yep!), kayaking, birdwatching and sandcastle building, to get you started.
Ranger programs are offered in birding, stargazing and fishing, too. Speaking of fishing—the 20-mile Mustang Island State Park Paddling Trail isn’t just for kayakers and canoers. It travels through shallow waters many anglers consider to be some of Texas’ best.
Galveston Island State Park
Travel Channel has ranked Galveston Island State Park as one of the Gulf’s best beaches, bar none. Its 2,000 acres of beautiful barrier island scenery—lagoons, bays, dunes, salt marshes, sand, you name it—contain a vibrant mosaic of ecosystems with endless things to do. And with beach and bay sides, you get to decide: sunrise or sunset?
Besides combing the sand, make sure to explore the four miles of trails that crisscross the various coastal ecosystems, the paddling trails ribboning through the water and the ample opportunities for swimming, fishing, birding (catch a glimpse of some 300 species!) and camping.
Tip: Visit the onsite nature center first thing when you arrive. It’ll help you identify the flora and fauna of the park, from sargassum seaweed to roseate spoonbills. You’ll find info on upcoming art programs, star parties and paddling tours as well.
Rockport Beach is Texas’ first Blue Wave Beach: litter-free, managed responsibly, and handicap-accessible. Stretching for a mile along a small peninsula into Aransas Bay, there are views from every angle and the shallow waters make for worry-free beach fun for families with young children. Palapas (thatched shade structures), grills and picnic tables invite you to pack that cooler and take your lunchtime picnic beachside. Bring the fishing pole, too—an excellent 800-foot pier sits at the sand’s eastern end.
San Jose Island
A quick ferry ride from Port Aransas (it’s just on the other side of Aransas Pass), San Jose Island is only seen by a fraction of those who visit the mainland. This is a real retreat spot—21 miles of undeveloped coastline provide some of the state’s best shelling, swimming, fishing and beachcombing. On San Jose, you’ll probably encounter more birds than humans. Since it’s so pristine, don’t arrive expecting waterfront restaurants and sprawling boardwalks. Here, it’s just you, Mother Nature and the adventures you’ll discover together.