When you head to West Texas you expect to find cowboys—and you do. But on a recent trip to Lubbock, Texas, I was surprised at how much the city has to offer beyond cowboy boots and hats. From an extensive variety of museums, to a fascinating art scene, to a burgeoning foodie scene, Lubbock has a little bit of everything. Here are some of the highlights I discovered in this intriguing little city.
A Tribute to the City’s Favorite Son
There must be something special in the water in this West Texas town because there’s quite a list of entertainers that once called Lubbock home. Mac Davis, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks and Waylon Jennings are just a few of the city’s famed musicians. But the most well-known is the city’s favorite son, Buddy Holly and his band, The Crickets. On Crickets Avenue, an 8.5-foot-tall bronze statue of Buddy playing his Fender Stratocaster guitar stands at the center of a Walk of Fame honoring other West Texas musicians.
Across the street, the Buddy Holly Center houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to his life and music. The center showcases a collection of memorabilia donated by family, friends and fans. The center includes the boyhood home of J.I. Allison, The Crickets’ drummer. The Allison House was the place where J.I. and Buddy Holly wrote many of their famous hits including “That’ll Be the Day.” If you go, be sure you pick up the telephone receiver in the kitchen and listen in on an authentic tape of a conversation between Buddy Holly and a record producer. And, of course, there’s a giant pair of Buddy’s iconic glasses outside the center.
A Collection of Unique Museums
You can find art and cultural museums in almost every city, but have you ever been to a windmill museum? Neither had I until I went to Lubbock. Spread across 28 acres of rolling hills, the American Wind Power Center is home to more than 170 restored windmills making it the largest windmill museum in the world. The center recently opened the Wind Energy Experience featuring an additional 33,000-square-feet of exhibit space. You’ll walk away knowing everything you never knew you needed to know about these energy generating machines.
The Silent Wings Museum serves as a tribute to the legacy and bravery of the American Glider Pilots from World War II who voluntarily flew behind enemy lines. From 1942 to 1944, Lubbock was the home base for flight training for the majority of American Glider Pilots. The museum includes three exhibit galleries displaying a wealth of artifacts preserved from the war, a C-47 airplane, a research library, multimedia theater and one of the few fully restored World War II gliders in existence.
Of course no visit to Lubbock is complete without exploring the iconic cowboy history that shaped this part of the country. A visit to the National Ranching Heritage provides a real West experience and a glimpse into frontier life with 48 authentic structures dating back to the 1700s situated through the 16-acre site.
Digging Up Bones at Lubbock Lake National Historic Landmark
Even though science isn’t my best subject, I was amazed by the wealth of discoveries at Lubbock National Historic Landmark. This internationally recognized archaeological and natural history preserve was named by Smithsonian Magazine as one of the top five destinations to see evidence of Native American history. Evidence of human life dating back 12,000 years has been uncovered here. Throughout the year special events like Archaeology in Action allow visitors to interact with the excavators for a behind-the-scenes look at their work. We took a leisurely 3-mile evening hike to learn about the fascinating findings in this area while enjoying the surrounding nature and a spectacular Texas sunset.
Art in Many Forms
While I do appreciate a good art museum or gallery, I’m even more appreciative of outdoor public art and Lubbock delivers. On the campus of Texas Tech University you’ll discover the Texas Tech Public Art Collection displaying works by some of the world’s leading present day artists. Named one of the top 10 university public art collections in the U.S. by Public Art Review, the Texas Tech Public Art Collection includes such works as Tornado of Ideas by Tom Otterness appropriately positioned in the free speech courtyard and Headwaters by Larry Kirkland in the philosophy and education courtyard.
On display outside the architecture building stands the Robert Bruno sculpture, Steel House. Originally created in 1974, the piece sat in a cotton field for more than 35 years prior to its arrival on campus. It was Bruno’s inspiration for creating his famous Bruno House.
After touring the campus you’ll definitely want to make a drive out to the Bruno House. This unique steel house overlooks Buffalo Springs Lake and is one of Lubbock’s most famous landmarks. Its unusual design attracts visitors from around the world and was recently the center of a Vogue photo shoot.
You Won’t Go Hungry
This is Texas and Texans will make sure you get plenty to eat. But, it doesn’t all have to be steaks, burgers and Southwestern cuisine. Lubbock is home to an ever-expanding foodie scene with a variety of restaurants to satisfy all types of appetites.
At West Table Kitchen & Bar, husband and wife team Cameron and Rachel West are bringing fresh, local ingredients to the table in seasonally changing menus. You’ll find mouthwatering choices like Fancy Fried Chicken and Waffles alongside NOLA Shrimp and Grits and New England Scallops. It’s simply delicious.
Orlando’s Italian Restaurant has been serving up Italian classics since 1965. You’ll find all your favorites along with Italian entrees infused with Southwestern flavors like the Green Chile Chicken Linguini.
For a dose of down-home personality, be sure to stop by the Cast Iron Grill where the motto is, “It’s all about the boots, pie and chicken-fry!” The kitschy and somewhat chaotic décor includes all types of inspirational sayings alongside boots donated by loyal patrons. The food is good, the pies are ridiculously good and the staff is warm and welcoming. Owned by the Stephens family, this is a place with a heart for the community that regularly donates food to those in need in the community.
And who wouldn’t love a place named Funky Door Bistro & Wine Room? Known for its fondue and ample varietals of wines and pairings of food, this fine-dining restaurant is one of Lubbock’s newest American bistros. One of its most unique experiences is the option to use self-serve Enomatics. These “tasting machines” dispense wine in 1.5oz, 3oz, or 6oz pours from a choice of 48 varietals. And, in case you were wondering, yes, the door really is funky.
Have you discovered this West Texas city?
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