Roses and Tigers inTyler


This weekend, Tyler celebrates its 83rd Rose Festival with a parade, rose show, arts and crafts fair, and guided rose garden tours. If you visit Tyler, be sure to stop by the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge and support this nonprofit that provides a home to rescued big cats.

Tyler and roses

Nicknamed the Rose Capital, Tyler’s agricultural industry shifted from growing peaches to roses in the 1920s. By World War II, Tyler grew over half of the rosebushes sold in the United States. Tyler’s market share has decreased to about 15 percent, however, roses remain a major, area industry. Each October, Tyler celebrates its rose history with the Texas Rose Festival. The Tyler Rose Museum, open year round, tells the region’s story with rose festival memorabilia, video, and a computerized catalog of 250 rose varieties.

Tyler Municipal Rose Garden

The garden is at its height during the month of October. You’ll find 500 different rose varieties with fanciful names like Cinderella’s Song, Summer Wind, and Freckles. The rose garden contains over 38,000 rose bushes. I also recommend visiting in early spring when the garden is ablaze with blooming azalea displays in pink, salmon, magenta and red.

Tiger Creek

Located just outside Tyler, Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge’s stated purpose is “to provide rescue and rehabilitation to big cats that have been abused, neglected, or displaced.” The tiger-creek-800x800refuge spans 150 acres and houses over 40 big cats from tiger to bobcat. Several of the cats were victims of the exotic pet trade of the 1990s. Some cats were relocated when other refuges closed. And many of the cats have physical problems, like Babs. A bobcat, Babs is blind, most probably due to poor nutrition when he was kept as a pet.

Each big cat has its own story. There is a tiger rescued from a man who abused her and had her fight dogs when she was a cub. The tiger, Sierra, was once owned by Michael Jackson. Then there is Tin Cup, a mountain lion. A farmer’s dog brought the cub (the size of a tin cup) to a farmhouse porch in New Mexico. Efforts to locate Tin Cup’s mother failed, so the farmer contacted Tiger Creek. Tin Cup, a handsome, playful, and photogenic cat, is my family’s favorite.

When you go

The Texas Rose Festival is October 13 through 16. Most events are free. Both the Tyler Rose Museum (420 Rose Park Drive) and the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden (624 North Broadway) are open year round.

Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge (17552 FM 14) is open most days. While more expensive, I strongly recommend the guided tour, or the combo tour. The docents are extremely knowledgeable about the cats and their stories.

State Fair of Texas

big-texBig Tex is back! Yes, it’s time for the Great State Fair of Texas.

Fair Park in Dallas is alive with midway games, amusement rides, fair food, livestock shows, and exhibits. Old favorites return and new exhibits have been added.

Old favorites

I love the animals at the fair. Tucked in the back corner of Fair Park by Gate 12, you’ll find the cattle, swine, and horse barns. It’s all about traditional fair events with young people showing off their prize livestock. Want to see more farm animals? Check out the Lone Star stampede and pig races in the Pan Am building.state-fair-3-800x800

Fried food is everywhere. Personally, I’m quite content to give a pass to fried jello. However, I wholeheartedly recommend a Fletcher’s corn dog…even if you need to stand in line. Fletcher’s is located next to Big Tex, so be sure to get your photo of the iconic Texan while there.

New exhibits

Who would associate Michelangelo with the State Fair of Texas? This year, the Women’s Museum building is the site for an exhibit featuring full-sized reproductions of the Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings. These panels give an up-close view of the famous ceiling. There is an $8 admission fee.

Hard to please pre-teens may enjoy the Taylor Swift Experience, a collection of Taylor Swift memorabilia on display in the Hall of State building. All ages will enjoy the pogo stunts of Xpogo.

Insider tips

  • Tickets, rides, and food….it all adds up to big bucks when you visit the fair. You can save on tickets by purchasing them online or in advance at Walgreens or Kroger. Better yet, visit the State Fair on a discount day. Bring four cans of food for the North Texas Food Bank on Wednesdays and purchase your ticket for just $4. Even better, if you are 60 years old or more, visit the fair for free on Thursday.
  • Thursdays are not only free to seniors, but many concession vendors offer discounted food for Thrifty Thursdays.state-fair-2-800x800
  • To avoid crowds, consider a weekday visit to the State Fair. You’ll get the same great fair experience with less hassle.
  • Need to cool off on a hot day, the Hall of State, Automobile building, and many other buildings are blissfully air conditioned and wonderful ways to escape the heat.
  • Limit your time at the midway. Rides and games can be an expensive. Instead, take advantage of free entertainment. Special activities for kids are set up around the Pan Am Arena.

The Great State Fair of Texas continues until October 23.



Allen’s Community Theater

Allen’s Community Theater (ACT) is a gem tucked away in a nondescript strip mall. Located in far west Allen, ACT’s outside façade hides a delightful little theater. It’s ACT (800x494)community theater at its best with reasonably priced tickets and well-done performances.

Blithe Spirit

ACT’s current production, Blithe Spirit, is a good old-fashioned English drawing room farce. The Noel Coward play pokes fun at death and marriage. Set in 1940’s England, the play centers around an author, his first wife (a ghost), and his current wife. It’s a night of laughs when the bungling medium, Madame Arcati, is thrown into the mix of characters. My entire family, including my teenage son, thoroughly enjoyed the play. However, go forewarned, Blithe Spirit is a three-hour play, with two intermissions. Blithe Spirit runs through May 15.

ACT has two more plays scheduled for its 2015 – 2016 season. The Superhero Ultraferno runs July 8 – 17; and The Magical Land of Oz runs August 12 – 28. My family is looking forward to both plays.

When you go.

You can order tickets to ACT’s performances online at their website. They accept payment by credit card and PayPal. This is community theater, so don’t expect a fancy venue. That said, I was impressed by the quality of the acting and stage craft of the production. You can buy refreshments (including a glass of wine) to take into the theater. Refreshments are by donation (so be generous). Allen’s Community Theater is located at 1210 E Main Street, Suite 300 in Allen.

It’s Bluebonnet Time

You don’t have to travel to Texas Hill Country to find bluebonnets. Roadways and Zion Cemetery (800x599)parks near Dallas offer plenty of springtime blooms including fields of bluebonnets! The Facebook page, Bluebonnet Love, is a great resource for finding bluebonnets in your area. My go-to places for local bluebonnets couldn’t be more different: one is a park on the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus and the other is an old pioneer cemetery.

In the Heart of the City

The best Dallas wildflower viewing may just be at SMU and the George W. Bush Presidential Center. A 15-acre urban park planted with native prairie grasses and wildflowers forms a semi-circle around the back of the Presidential Center. Not only will you find bluebonnets, but also dusty pink carpets of evening primrose, brilliant reds and yellows of firewheel, and magenta wine cup. Benches scattered around the garden make for an ideal spot to stop and enjoy the magnificent spring display.

The park is open sunrise to sunset. There is a fee for touring the Presidential Center, but entry to the attached park is free. The George W. Bush Presidential Center is at 2943 SMU Blvd, Dallas. For more information, contact the center at (214) 200-4300 or visit their website.

Half Forgotten Zion Cemetery

A hillside covered in bluebonnets is stunning. And that’s what you’ll see at Zion Cemetery – a hillside awash in blue. At the height of the season, this sleepy little cemetery becomes a parking lot with hundreds vying for that perfect snapshot of the kids in the flowers. I’ve even seen an industrious photographer lug a Victorian chaise lounge onto the hillside to capture just the right photo!

Alas, the pastures that once surrounded the cemetery are gone, making way for new housing developments. Still, this is a safe, off-the-road location to take a family photo in the flowers. Zion Cemetery is located on Farm to Market (FM) 423 between Eldorado Parkway and State Highway 380i in Little Elm.

Kimbell Art Museum — European Collection

Matisse L'Asie at the Kimbell Art Museum

Matisse L’Asie at the Kimbell Art Museum

Now is a wonderful time to visit the Kimbell Art Museum. There are no traveling exhibits to distract you from the Kimbell’s permanent collection.

European who’s who

My family and I spent a rainy afternoon touring Europe, or at least its art history. What the Kimbell lacks in quantity, it makes up for in the breadth of its European collection. From the birth of the Italian Renaissance with Fra Angelico’s painting of Saint James to the modernistic L’Asie of Henri Matisse, the Kimbell collection samples four hundred years of European art. Having recently completed an art history class, I have a new found appreciation of the museum. Name a key European artist, and you’re likely to find their work represented. There are Renaissance works by Donatello, Bellini, a young Michelangelo, and Titian. There is even a painting by the prolific Rembrandt (Bust of a Young Jew).

Rembrandt's Bust of a Young Jew at the Kimbell Art Museum

Rembrandt’s Bust of a Young Jew at the Kimbell Art Museum

It’s great fun to roam the three galleries in the Louis Kahn building and see such a wide range of works. There are portraits by Reynolds and Raeburn; Baroque paintings from Rubens; an amazing Turner (Glaucus and Scylla); and an entire range of pre- and post-Impressionists.

The gallery arrangement allows you to view the evolution of European artistic styles.

Guided tours

Guided tours of the museum’s permanent collection are offered Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Like many museums, you can download an app for your smart phone for your own audio guide of the museum’s works. Look at the placard for each piece of art for its ‘tour stop’ on the app.

Kimbell audio tours for adults and families

Kimbell audio tours for adults and families

You’ll find a three-digit number for the adult guide, and a two-digit number for the family description. Even if you are an adult, try the family tour – it gives you a more dynamic description of the artwork.

It’s all free.

Aside from visiting exhibitions, admission to the Kimbell is free. The museum provides programs for families such as its Pictures and Pages (storybooks with simple art projects for children ages 4 – 6); Kids Drop-in Studio (art project for children under 12); and Studio Five 90 (art for teens and adults). The programs are offered throughout the year – check the Kimbell Art Museum calendar for specific times and dates.

Dining at the Kimbell

My family always combines a trip to the Kimbell with a stop at the Buffet Restaurant. It is a wonderful place for lunch, uniquely offering a selection of soups, sandwiches, salads, quiche and dessert. You don’t have to pick just one item. Lunch is priced by plate size — small plates are $10 and large are $12. You can have soup, sandwich, quiche, and salad – all of it – the quantity is determined by your selected plate size.

When you go. The Kimbell is at 3333 Camp Bowie Blouvard, Fort Worth. The museum is closed Mondays. Onsite parking is free.

Tip. Download the Kimbell app before you go and don’t forget to bring your earphones.