ROCKWALL, TX (July 10, 2014) Growing up some of my favorite memories came on Sundays when we had our “family day.” My mom packed up some snacks and her handy map and we took off for the day. My brother and I would hop in the car and immediately establish our boundaries of who could not cross what imaginary line in the back seat of the car. My parents played their favorite music and thanks to these trips I had an odd appreciation and and knew all the words to the “oldies” at a young age!
My family is from New Jersey and our tiny state provided many fantastic opportunities for Sunday drives and day trips. Due to the inferior size of New Jersey compared to Texas, we would venture out of our home state quite often.
Some of my favorite trips growing up include: The Turkey Farm in Chester NJ, Mystic Seaport in CT, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Hersey Park in PA, Howe Caverns in NY and lighthouses in Cape May and Sandy Hook, NJ. My personal favorite trips were the days we would cross the George Washington Bridge and explore in Manhattan and visit museums, landmarks and eat street vendor hotdogs, grab pizza in Little Italy and some cheesecake, too. This time of the year in New Jersey meant beach time and we would spend many days heading to the Jersey Shore (and this was way before reality TV ruined the image of the Jersey Shore for most of the world).
These fond memories are what created this desire to explore the cities around Rockwall. My mom had a plan and a sense of adventure and we all looked forward to Sundays. As a mother to my five-year-old daughter Reagan I’m trying to bring that same “family day” to our family. I’m nowhere near as organized as my mom was and I had no desire to plan ahead, but we still hop in the car and have a blast…I just don’t always know where we’re headed – but on just a tank of gas from Rockwall we’ve come across several great places!
One of out first day trips was to Waco, which is just over 100 miles from Rockwall. It was easy to get to and had a children’s museum so that was my reason for this trip. Take I30 West to I35 East until you run into Waco. If you were like me you had only heard negative things about Waco from the 90’s tragedy about the Branch Davidian cult that occurred there. I was so pleasantly surprised to see what a great city was with lots of shopping, restaurants, Baylor University and tons of museums. I drove through the downtown area and many neighborhoods and found cute historic homes, a great little coffee shop near Baylor and a neat downtown district.
I had Reagan with me and she was excited to get to run free in the children’s museum so we headed off to the Mayborn Museum at Baylor University. General admission is $10 for adults and $4 for children under 12 years old. This summer there is a dinosaur exhibit called Be the Dinosaur: Life in the Cretacoeus and it runs through September 3, 2014. Children get to explore here without fear of breaking anything, being too loud and being told “don’t touch that!” After some hard playing we went to Ninfa’s Mexican Restaurant for some mouth-watering, amazing Mexican food. It’s not mandatory that you drink Dr. Pepper while in Waco, but the locals are proud that it was first invented in their city!
Spice Village at 2nd and Franklin Streets in downtown is a must before heading out of town. This shopping center is over 100 years old and used to be a former hardware store, but has been transformed and now sells some of the coolest and hippest products in the area. I purchased way too many things, but I couldn’t help myself because everything was so unique – from handmade pillows, jewelry, children’s clothing and even bedding. I highly recommend stopping in Spice Village on a trip specifically to Waco or even if you’re just passing through. Waco is full of many other museums and has a lot of history, but these were just a few of the places Reagan and I explored on our day there. With or without the children Waco is definitely worth a day trip of exploration!
Nocona has been famous for their fine leather goods for over 100 years and was the home of Nocona Boot Company, which later merged with Justin Boots. This itty bitty city is just under the 100 mile mark from Rockwall and it is full of that country flair you’d expect from a city know and made famous for western boots.
I didn’t see any chain stores, restaurants, Wal-Marts or even a movie theater in town. What I did find there were people on their front porches chatting with neighbors, friends and tourists like me. We were clearly tourists because we were not wearing cowboy hats and we were looking for a company that was no longer there. I learned that when there merger happened with Justin Boots they moved the factory to El Paso. However, just recently that building has reopened as Fenoglio Boot Company and they give tours and pump out 250 pairs of boots a day. I think I need to go back and take the tour and get me some authentic cowgirl boots!
While in Nocona I learned about the most famous family in town, the Fenoglio family. They are like royalty in this city and practically own the whole town. Fenoglio signs were all over and their history in town includes owning the grocery store, pharmacy, hotel, saloon, BBQ restaurant and now a boot company too. Currently the mayor of Nocona is a Fenoglio and he is also the owner of Fenoglio’s BBQ & Station at 510 W US 82. This restaurant was a former mechanic shop, but since 1972 it’s been a BBQ restaurant and a local hangout for town gossip and I wouldn’t be surprised if some was were passed right there at the counter too! I ordered their famous “Bowl of Crap” – yes, you read that correctly. This bowl consists of chopped beef or sausage, topped with beans and jalapeños for just $4. Be sure to stop in here Monday thru Friday because they’re closed Saturdays and Sundays…the mayor must need his weekends off!
I spent a good portion of our day talking to local residents, wandering through town and I found out that Nocona is the classic car capital of Texas and it was named one of the top 5 most fun cities in the US. Hmmm…I’m not so sure about that title since it was a little quiet, but then again fun is so relative. I can definitely see how great it could be to raise a family in Nocona with all the space to run, play and explore, the horseback riding and the country as your backyard. It was like a movie scene in a country movie and next time I go back I will bring my camera to capture some American beauty! My favorite quote from a local that day was when a woman told me, “most people come to Nocona for a day and extend because it’s the best kept secret in north Texas!”.
I’ve been on many more day trips on a tank of gas from Rockwall, but these two came to my mind when I was first thinking about this article. Next trips coming up this summer are to Dublin, Tyler and Ennis and I’ll be sure to report back. I may not be from Texas, but I love it like a native and exploring Texas is not a hobby but a way of life for my family!
By Blue Ribbon News guest columnist Stacy Lynn, Rockwall mom and Realtor with JP & Associates Realtors.
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