Deep in the heart of Texas (but really, on the western tip), lies the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. Balmorhea State Park is your next Airstream destination—and it has a plethora of activities for all ages.
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, Balmorhea State Park is still a bustling tourist site that offers more activities than you can shake a pool noodle at. The biggest attraction is the spring-fed swimming pool, which is open daily. The only fee is the price of park entry ($7.00 for adults, free for children); visitors do not have to pay extra to take a dip in the pool. Keep in mind that the pool is not monitored by a lifeguard, so make sure to always use the buddy system! The pool occupies more than 1.75 acres and is up to 25 feet deep in places, making it the largest spring-fed swimming pool in the world. Everything really is bigger in Texas!
Because of the depth, it’s a perfect place for scuba diving. For an extra $5.00, certified divers even can take a night dive. If you’re not a swimmer (or a diver), you can still enjoy the park. It’s home to a rare desert wetland that features a variety of endangered wildlife species. Park-goers also can partake in geocaching and bird-watching.
Balmorhea has 34 picture-perfect campsites that all offer a beautiful view of the desert scenery, including of the abundant cacti and mountains. The campground is easy to access from the road and the sites can come with water, water and electricity, or water and electricity and cable; group sites are also available. Ranging from $11.00 to $28.00 nightly, sites can be booked through the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department website. Make sure to pack your own necessities, though, as the nearby town of Balmorhea offers very limited supplies.
Located right off I-10 in the town of Balmorhea, the Circle Bar & Saddleback Steakhouse is a great place to grab some grub after a long day’s swim. The steakhouse’s slogan is, “When you leave, you will feel like you just ate at your mama’s house.” It’s true—they serve juicy burgers, massive steaks, and handmade desserts. The steakhouse also is home to the Circle Bar Saloon, one of the last remaining traditional Texas saloons. The bar offers ladies’ night on Wednesdays and free pool on Thursdays.
Pody’s BBQ may have a façade of simple untreated wood, but it’s anything but plain… and it’s not for the faint of heart. Their sauce is notorious for being flamingly spicy! The restaurant is considered by many to have some of the best barbecue in Texas, and when you hear a declaration like that, you know it must be pretty dang good. Make sure to get there on time: The restaurant is only open from 11:30 a.m. until the food is sold out (which is usually around 2:00 p.m.)!
Situated just off U.S. Highway 90 is a permanent art installation that has become a famous sight in west Texas: Prada Marfa. The building, an exact replica of a Prada shop, but in the middle of nowhere, was originally intended to be a piece of environmental art: After it was built in 2005, the artists planned for it to remain untouched until the elements weathered it down-- that is, it was supposed to be untouched; vandals broke in and stole the designer shoes on display in the window and kind of defeated the purpose.
Either way, it's still hailed as a “pop architectural land project.” Go check it out (if only for the photo op), and make sure to pop by the town of Marfa as well—it offers a variety of hip stores and restaurants that you won’t want to miss.
A giant spring-fed pool, a real Texas barbecue, and a fake designer store… West Texas has it all, so pack your bags, and get ready for a grand ol’ time in the Lone Star State!
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