The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
Dallas homeless recovery center, The Bridge, is a home
Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
Instagram

Spring Break 2008: Texas style

Don’t have the money to run wild in Puerto Vallarta with a half-naked coed in one hand and a half-empty pina colada in the other? It’s tough knowing you’ll be the one driving your friends to the airport as they head to the beaches and ski slopes for spring break. Maybe next year you can find out what James Taylor was talking about when he sang “Mexico.”

Just because you don’t have the cash to be a Bahaman beach bum or Vail snowboarder, it doesn’t mean spring break is ruined. Despite what many SMU students think, there is a world beyond Preston Road and Greenville Avenue. In fact, there is a whole state full of entertaining sights and sounds for an affordable price. So put your Pluckers down, grab some of your other unfortunate friends, hop in a car and road trip across the Lone Star State.

1st Stop: Texarkana

The journey begins by heading east on Interstate Highway 30E. First stop: Texarkana. The trip is approximately 185 miles, which will take about two hours and 45 minutes. It won’t take a whole tank of gas to get there. Thirty dollars should get you close enough.

After arriving in Texarkana, head down to 420 Pine Street. Here, you’ll find the Ace of Clubs house (texarkanamuseums.org). The house-turned-museum has been in the city since 1885, and is known for having 22 sides. But there is more to this place than its shape.

Texarkana local James H. Draughon built the house in 1885 with money he won in a poker game. Draughon won the game when an ace of clubs flopped onto the table. Considering it his lucky card, Draughon decided to build his house to resemble the card.

The first-floor blueprint has one rectangle room connected to three octagon rooms. From an aerial view, it looks identical to the shape of a club on a playing card.

A tour of the house will set you back only $4 and take an hour and 15 minutes out of your day.

After being on your feet for that long, you will probably need a good meal. Texarkana has just the place. Get yourself to 2021 Mall Drive for some old-fashioned country cooking. Here you’ll find Bryce’s Cafeteria (brycescafeteria.com), a Texarkana tradition for 37 years.

Bryce Lawrence took $300 and started the restaurant in 1931 inside an old YMCA. After operating the restaurant for more than 40 years and turning it into one of the most successful businesses in Texarkana history, Lawrence turned it over to his sons Bryce Jr. and Richard, who still own the place.

Bryce Jr. describes the restaurant as family style with home cooking. The restaurant is cafeteria style, but they offer southern favorites such as cornbread, fried okra and peach cobbler. Listening to Bryce Jr. describe the menu is like a scene from “Forrest Gump.”

“We got chicken dumplings, chicken spaghetti, fried chicken and chicken pie,” Bryce Jr. said in a deep country accent.

If you’re on a health kick, don’t worry. They also offer chicken salad. A meal here averages between $9 and $12.

The tour and the food might wear you out, so if you want to bunk up before heading to the next destination, get over to the La Quinta Inn at 5201 N. State Line Avenue. The average room here is only $60 a night.

2nd Stop: Orange

While Bryce’s offers up a southern atmosphere, the next stop will give you a Cajun perspective. Down the road is a small town named Orange in the southeast corner of the state. The trip there will take about four hours and 45 minutes via U.S. Highway 96S. Gas will probably put a $40 dent in your pocket.

Your first stop is at 813 Lutcher Drive. When you get there, look for Eli Tate, the tour guide at Adventures 200 Swamp and River Tours (swampanddrivetours.com). Tate, who grew up around the swamps of Louisiana, is an experienced guide who is dedicated to showing you life in this region. The tour will take you through the swamp on a fast but quiet boat that will give you the opportunity to see wild gators, eagles and more. Tate will also take you by an old ship graveyard and a cannibalistic Indian site. The fun doesn’t stop there, though. You will also be able to mosey through a swamp tunnel.

Tours cost $25 dollars a person and last about 90 minutes. Reservations are recommended but walk-ins are possible. Adventures 2000 offers tours Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. On Sundays, tours are offered at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

After seeing a gator, why not eat one? There are plenty of good Cajun restaurants in the area where you can feast on seafood, jambalaya and gator. Try out the Cajun Eatery located just down the road from the swamp tours, at 2308 Lutcher Drive, or Crazy Jose’s at 280 Strickland Drive to fulfill your Cajun hankering.

If you’re looking to get some shut eye, check into the Super 8 Motel located at 2710 off Interstate Highway 10W. This hotel is on the way to your next destination and will cost only $75 a night.

After being in Cajun country for a day, you might start getting an itch to be back in a big city. Lucky for you, Houston is only two hours away. Travel approximately 100 miles on I-10W; it’ll cost roughly $25 for gas.

3rd Stop: Houston

In Houston you have the opportunity to get caught up on your American history. Learning on spring break sounds lame, but Johnson Space Center is worth the visit. Its official visitor center, Space Center Houston (spacecenter.org) is at 1601 NASA Parkway.

Here you can watch a movie on a five-story screen that shows what it takes to become an astronaut, from the application process to the first visit to the ultimate frontier.

Blast Off Theatre gives visitors the chance to experience a simulated blast off. Audiences have claimed that it is many times better than an Imax movie. Also, check out the world’s best collection of astronaut suits at the Astronaut Gallery, see a demonstration of how astronauts function in space at the Feel of Space exhibit, and, last but not least, head over to the Starship Gallery to see artifacts and capsules that were used in space. Admission is $20 and the center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends.

If you are looking for a little more excitement, it would be smart to make your way over to the Gulf Greyhound Park (gulfgreyhound.com). This place is about 30 miles south of Houston on Interstate Highway 45, but is worth the drive. General admission is just $2. You can throw down an extra dollar if you want to get clubhouse access. The park is the biggest greyhound racing operation in the world. But don’t think you just have to watch the races they offer. Gulf Greyhound Park is a simulcast park. This means they have televisions that show anywhere from 10-20 different tracks at once.

Don’t worry if you aren’t a big bettor. Bets start as low as $1. The track will even provide you with betting strategies. However, teaming up with your friends might be a better idea.

“Pool your money together and bet. It’s more fun that way,” General Manager Sally Briggs said.

And don’t think you will go hungry or thirsty. The park, which has been operating for 15 years, offers a wide variety of food and beverages for both children and adults.

“We have everything from concession food to shrimp and steak,” Briggs said.

If the food at the tracks doesn’t fill you up, cruise over to Azteca’s Margarita Bar and Grill (aztecasbarandgrill.com) at 2207 Richmond Avenue. Here you might feel as if you are in Mexico with your friends. Azteca’s offers the best happy hour in Houston, lasting from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Margaritas are $3 and domestic beers are only a buck.

It wouldn’t be smart to try and attempt to reach your next destination after pounding a few of Azteca’s margaritas. Stay the night in Houston at the Best Western Fountainview Inn and Suites. This place is located about a mile from Azteca’s on the same street and has a low rate of $75 a night.

More to Discover