Photo courtesy of Natural Bridge Caverns

Spelunkers now have a new cave to explore at the state’s largest cavern: Natural Bridge Cavernsnewest tour, Hidden Wonders, opened to visitors on Friday, May 12.

The new tour allows guests to access an area that was previously accessible only by cavers. Development of this second cavern has been in the works since 2017. It was previously sealed under the Earth’s surface, perfectly preserving the natural environment and its beautiful, unique formations.

“In developing this area of the cavern system, we have both pursued and established best-case practices for working in this delicate environment,” said Natural Bridge Caverns president Brad Wuest in a statement. “Our goal is to give visitors a stunning view of the cavern like never before, without impacting its beauty.”

The multimillion-dollar expansion into never-before-seen areas of the cave features state-of-the-art lighting and a unique sound and light show. Public passageways have expanded by 1,100 feet with a new stainless steel bridge that crosses the cavern’s deepest area.

Additionally, a new 5,700-square-foot dome chamber, dubbed the Ballroom, has been constructed to serve as an event space. For the light show, a viewing area called the Box Canyon serves as a natural theater.

Wuest explained that certain aspects of developing the cavern had been a challenge, such as the depth of the new touring area. Fortunately, they were able to construct a new exit tunnel "with minimal impact on the cavern."

"We used best-in-class techniques and developed new ones to make it work," he said. "We took the time to do it right. The result speaks for itself.”

To exit the Hidden Wonders tour, visitors take a glorious ride on a pioneering conveyor system ride, the Belt Assisted Transport, to the surface through the newly constructed tunnel.

“We plan to showcase the science behind the beauty of this once hidden cavern on our tour,” said Wuest. “With Hidden Wonders’ many enhancements, we have an opportunity to both educate and entertain.”

More information about the new tour can be found on naturalbridgecaverns.com. The visitor's center at the caverns is located at 26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd., San Antonio.

Photo courtesy of Merlin Entertainments

Popular Peppa Pig prepares new theme park in North Richland Hills

Family Attraction

The Dallas-Fort Worth area will soon get even more Peppa Pig with the addition of the Peppa Pig Theme Park, scheduled to open in North Richland Hills in 2024.

When it debuts, it will become the second-ever Peppa Pig Theme Park in the world, following one that opened in Lakeland, Florida in early 2022. It will also be an expansion of the Peppa Pig brand in Dallas-Fort Worth, as Peppa Pig World of Play opened at Grapevine Mills in 2019.

The theme park, which is aimed at younger children, will be a standalone attraction featuring multiple rides, interactive attractions, themed playscapes, and shows.

Peppa Pig Theme Park is the second major amusement park to be announced for the Dallas-Fort Worth area in recent months, following the notice in January 2023 about a Universal Studios theme park coming to Frisco.

The park comes from Merlin Entertainments, which also owns brands like LEGOLAND, Madame Tussauds, and SEA LIFE Aquariums. Their licensing agreement with Hasbro allows them to build and operate Peppa Pig attractions targeted at the preschool market.

"Given the incredible success of our LEGOLAND Discovery Center and SEA LIFE Aquarium in Grapevine, TX, the North Richland Hills community was a natural next step in our expansion and rollout,” said Chief Executive Officer of Merlin Entertainments Scott O’Neil in a statement.

According to a statement from North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino, the new theme park will be located next to the pre-existing NRH2O Family Water Park, making the area even more of a draw.

"North Richland Hills is known for its family-friendly amenities and activities and we could not be more thrilled to add Peppa Pig Theme Park to the mix," said Trevino in a statement. "This will be a great addition to our community.”

The exact opening date for the park has not yet been determined. Fans can sign up for Peppa Pig Theme Park emails at peppapigthemepark.com/dallas-ft-worth to be among the first to hear new details and get a sneak peek at all the new park will have to offer.

Wheel of Fortune Live spins into Dallas-Fort Worth with puzzles, prizes, and celebrity host

Give It A Spin

We’re all subject to the wheel of fortune, but not all get to watch it turn onstage. North Texans are the lucky ones on January 24 January 24, 2023, when “Wheel of Fortune Live” comes to the Texas Trust CU Theatre at Grand Prairie.

The “theatrical experience” is not exactly the same as the long-running game show — since it’s not broadcast — but there are still opportunities to win big prizes.

The Sony Pictures Television-backed stage show is the only official experience outside of the filmed show, and it’s traveling across the country to make sure everyone gets a chance to see it. Apart from the stop in Dallas-Fort Worth, the tour will also stop in Cedar Park near Austin on January 25, and San Antonio on January 26-27.

Although iconic hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White are sitting this one out, there will be new celebrities carrying the torch.

Antiques Roadshow host Mark L. Walberg and singer Clay Aiken will split hosting duties depending on the date, and it is yet undecided who will host at any of the four Texas shows. The wheel, of course, will be there — or at least a replica. Audience members will be invited to compete for prizes including $10,000 in cash and trips abroad.

Wheel of Fortune (referring to a metaphor hundreds of years old, which compares fate to a wheel that ensures someone will not always be up or down) has been on air since 1975, now encompassing a catalog of several thousands of episodes. Amazingly, the show changes very little from episode to episode, but has kept viewers entertained with endless puzzles. Some younger viewers may vaguely recognize the show or newly engage with it, especially thanks to a new celebrity variation, which has cultural icons like Snoop Dogg making questionable guesses like “baking onions.”

Three contestants face a series of crossword-like word puzzles, which they need to solve by guessing letters as allowed by a buying system. For each turn, they spin the wheel of fortune, which randomly lands on a dollar amount, prize, or penalty.

The touring show is appropriate for all ages, organizers say.

Presale for “Wheel of Fortune Live” ($34.50) in Grand Prairie is open now. General sales open on November 18 at 10 am. Visit wheeloffortunelive.com to see all dates and link to tickets.

Courtesy of Susan Hilferty

Texas museum displays Broadway's 'Wicked' best costumes in new exhibition

Costume Party

As Glinda the Good Witch says in the iconic Wicked opening, let us "rejoiceify" with a San Antonio museum's newest exhibit — Something Wicked/Susan Hilferty Costumes.

Hilferty is the costume design mastermind behind the Tony Award-winning costumes in the hit Broadway musical, from Glinda's resplendent blue ballgown to Elphaba's magical finale dress. They're just two of the incredible array of Hilferty costumes currently on display at the McNay Art Museum. Other costumes spotted were vibrant Ozian outfits, Glinda's pink 'Popular' dress, the Wizard's green suit, and more.

McNay guests can also immerse themselves in the worlds of other musicals Hilferty has designed costumes for, including Annie, Wonderland, and Lestat. There are thirty of Hilferty's brilliant costumes to view in total.

Hilferty has also been confirmed as a guest at the McNay Art Museum's annual Tobin Distinguished Lecture, which will take place on Thursday, March 23, 2023. (Guests can purchase tickets for the lecture on the McNay website closer to the event date).

The Tony Award-winning costume and set designer collaborated with R. Scott Blackshire, Ph.D., curator of the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts to create a truly enchanting experience that will officially be housed at the McNay until Sunday, March 26th, 2023.

Dr. Blackshire had nothing but praise for the exciting collaboration, noting in an official statement that, "Helping [Hilferty] honor the makers, artisans, knitters, fabric painters, and others who bring her designs to the stage was a privilege. Susan relies on creative collaboration for every production she designs."

The importance of the exhibition for San Antonio's prosperous theater community was not lost on Dr. Blackshire, who also stated, "The community of San Antonio theater makers who visit the exhibition will find many of their art forms represented and reflected in the costumes."

Something Wicked/Susan Hilferty Costumes is now open to the public in the Tobin Theatre Arts and Brown Galleries at the McNay Art Museum until March 23, 2023.

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'Yellowstone' stars to greet fans at Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo

Yellowstone news

Yellowstone fans, get your comfy shoes ready - there'll be a long line for this one. Cole Hauser a.k.a. "Rip Wheeler" on Yellowstone, and Taylor Sheridan, the show's co-creator, executive producer, and director of the series, will meet fans and sign autographs at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

The event will take place from 4:30-6:30 pm only on Friday, February 3. Location is the 6666 Ranch booth near the south end of Aisle 700 in the Amon G. Carter, Jr. Exhibits Hall.

According to a February 2 announcement from FWSSR, "fans will have the opportunity to snag an autograph as well as purchase some distinctive Yellowstone and 6666 Ranch merchandise while also enjoying all the features the Stock Show offers."

The event is free to attend (with paid Stock Show admission) and open to the public.

It's the second year in a row for Hauser to appear at FWSSR; in 2022, he and fellow cast mates drew huge crowds.

Sheridan, a Paschal High School graduate, is no stranger to Fort Worth; he lives in a ranch near Weatherford and filmed 1883, the prequel to Yellowstone, in and around Fort Worth. Currently, another spinoff, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story, is filming in North Texas.

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is winding up its 2023 run on Saturday, February 4.

New Charlie Brown Christmas exhibit fills Fort Worth with holiday spirit this summer

Christmas in June & July

June and July are going to get jolly when a beloved children's holiday film comes to life: "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" will open at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History on June 17.

The very merry exhibition is traveling to Fort Worth for the first time from its home at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, California.

It goes behind the scenes of the 1965 animated film in which a Christmas play, good friends, and a "sad" little tree help a dejected Charlie Brown find the true meaning of the season.

"For millions of Americans, it really isn’t Christmas until they have watched A Charlie Brown Christmas at least once," says a release. "The latest traveling exhibition from the Charles M. Schulz Museum examines the making of the animated classic and celebrates the anticipation, joy, and pitfalls of the holiday season."

Highlights include:

  • A video featuring Charles Schulz, producer Lee Mendelson, and animator/director Bill Melendez that "details the sometimes magical and often madcap making of A Charlie Brown Christmas," organizers say.
  • 50 "Peanuts" daily and Sunday comic strips
  • More than 50 vintage "Peanuts"-themed seasonal novelties
  • A Santa letter writing station and photo opportunity for visitors

Detailed information about the exhibition can be found on the Schulz Museum's website.

The FWMSH will host the exhibition June 17-August 20, before it moves on to the Sand Springs Cultural & Historical Museum in Sand Springs, Oklahoma.

"Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" is included with FWMSH museum admission: $16 for adults, $14 for ages 65+, $11 for kids 3-11, and free for 0-2 years old. Members get in free.

The museum also is participating in the Blue Star Museums initiative, which allows military families to get in free through Labor Day.

Summer hours are 10 am-5 pm Tuesday-Saturday and 12-5 pm Sunday; closed Monday.

Acclaimed tapas restaurant from Dallas expands to Fort Worth's Crockett Row

Tapas News

A Dallas tapas concept is expanding to Fort Worth: Si Tapas, a restaurant that's been doing authentic Spanish-style tapas for 14 years, will open a location in Fort Worth's Crockett Row, in the former Fireside Pies space at 2949 Crockett St.

According to a release, it'll open in the fall.

Si Tapas is from Ildefonso Jimenez, a tapas pioneer who opened his first location in Uptown Dallas in 2009. Jimenez had previously operated Cafe Madrid, Dallas' original tapas restaurant with his wife Donica; she took over the restaurant after the couple split.

He opened Si Tapas in a cute white cottage at 2207 Allen St. in the State Thomas neighborhood, which he infused with an Old World atmosphere, soccer memorabilia, decorative bottles of wine, and a sweet oasis of a patio.

Their menu includes tapas classics such as cold cuts, cheeses, olives, garlic shrimp, patatas bravas, calamari, Spanish potato omelet, serrano ham croquettes, whipped garbanzos & spinach with toasted bread, marinated red bell peppers, and more - kind of like a charcuterie board, disassembled.

They're also known for their big and highly affordable wine list, with bottles ranging from $30 to $200. It's a place to share a bottle and snack on snacks, which has really become the contemporary way to eat out for a lot of people.

Their house drinks and wine list offer a unique collection of Spanish wines hand selected by region, and their food reflects the rich regional diversity of classical and modern Spain.

Ildefonso will be adding menu items exclusive to Fort Worth such as Cochinillo, a Spanish dish consisting of a roasted pig; and Lechazo, a Spanish dish consisting of roasted lamb.

"We are excited and grateful for the opportunity to expand our second location of Si Tapas into Fort Worth’s growing culinary scene," Jimenez says in a statement.

This is not the first time Jimenez has expanded the Si Tapas empire: He previously opened a location in Austin in 2014, and he once had a spinoff on McKinney Avenue called Hola!

Kathy Permenter, co-managing partner of Younger Partners, says in a statement that they're thrilled to bring Si Tapas to Fort Worth.

“They have many Fort Worth patrons and this new location will give them a chance to enjoy a tapas in a casual elegant setting," Permenter says.

Younger Partners purchased Crockett Row in August of 2022 and has a plan to revitalize the development that includes adding gathering spaces, parking technology to help locate their 1500 complimentary parking spaces, improved wayfinding for all five garages, updated signage, and additional elevators that will improve accessibility throughout the property, Permenter says.