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Not all vacations have to be to Cozumel or Cancún
by Sarah Taylor
Jun 12, 2010 | 763 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Goliad State Park’s Mission Espiritu Santo de Zuniga adds old world charm and history to a park that offers natural beauty and outdoor activities such as camping and hiking and biking trails. The mission houses a museum detailing area history of the American Indian, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo cultures.
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With the rising cost of gas and the economy still on the mend, vacation ideas may seem slim to none. But you don’t have to go far away or spend a fortune to have a good time and escape everyday life for a while.

As a newcomer to the area, I have compiled a list of five fun yet close-by summer getaway ideas. Even though many readers may be familiar with these destinations already, it never hurts to consider these ideas from a fresh perspective.

Goliad State Park

This park is not a typical one. Sure, it has the usual picnic tables, campsites and hiking trails. The San Antonio River runs through it.

In addition to its natural beauty, what makes the park unique is the Mission Espiritu de Zuniga, located near the park entrance.

The mission has been in this location since 1749, when it was used by Franciscan missionaries to educate the native Aranama people. It was restored by the Work Projects Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Panna Maria

Founded in 1854, this small Texas community’s claim to fame is being the “Oldest Permanent Polish Settlement” in the entire nation.

Be sure to stop by the Visitors Center for tours of the historic, restored church, which boasts a beautiful painted ceiling, and the St. Joseph School museum. This school was the first private Polish school in the U.S.

Panna Maria is located approximately 12 miles northeast of Kenedy. On your way, visit the Helena Courthouse Museum, between the two towns, for a glimpse into South Texas life in the 19th century.

Welder Wildlife Foundation

The Rob & Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation, located just northwest of Sinton, is in its 56th year.

The foundation is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes and conducts research and education on a 7,800-acre refuge and research station.

The refuge is home to 16 vegetation communities and roughly 490 species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

Free museum and natural history tours available to the public take place every Thursday at 3 p.m.

Choke Canyon State Park

This state park, located on the Choke Canyon Reservoir, has two units, one in Live Oak County, and the other in McMullen County.

Live Oak County is home to the South Shore Unit, a day use-only park which is available for picnicking, boating, fishing, and wildlife and bird watching.

McMullen County’s Calliham Unit offers all of those activities and also camping, a lake beach, and volleyball and softball areas. Day use equestrian activities are available in the North Shore Equestrian Area on weekends.

The Calliham Unit offers bird walks every Tuesday and Thursday from June through August. Old Calliham tours, which explore the history of the town of Calliham, are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays, also through August.

King Ranch

For those up for a slightly longer road trip, the Santa Gertrudis division of King Ranch, located just outside Kingsville, has been designated the birthplace of the American ranching industry.

The more than 150-year-old ranch offers guided historical and agricultural tours, nature tours and special tours designed for visitors’ individual interests. Tours include overviews of wildlife, ranch history and the workings of a modern ranch.

Be sure also to visit the King Ranch Museum and King Ranch Saddle Shop, which boasts fine leather craftsmanship in addition to other merchandise, located in the city of Kingsville.

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South Texas may not be a traditionally exotic place to vacation, but there are plenty of interesting and even exciting things to do to alleviate that familiar summer boredom. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy what our own region has to offer.

Sarah Taylor is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or sarah@mysoutex.com.
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