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Courtesy of Whataburger

The holiday season is upon us. And you know what that means in the Lone Star State: decking the halls, visits with Santa, dashing through no snow, and — oh, yeah — the annual release of some of the cheesiest Christmas garb in all of Texas.

That’s right, it’s time to “sleigh” the season by beefing up your wardrobe with some Whataburger finery. The San Antonio-based burger chain has plenty of new and classic holiday offerings Whataburger fans will relish this year and for Yuletides to come.

If it’s an ugly holiday sweater you’re craving, the fast-food company’s new design — featuring a snowy Christmas Eve scene at Whataburger, complete with Santa and his reindeer — is sure to jingle your bells. Make it a combo by adding the matching beanie and new holiday socks to stay cozy during the most wonderful time of the year.

Also new this season: pajama sets in sizes for the whole family and bedecked with a diamond flying W design. After all, as Whataburger notes, “the jolly man on Christmas night loves families in orange and white.”

And the 2021 collectible ornament, a signature orange vintage pickup truck hauling — what else? — Whataburger fries will help make the season bright and perhaps a little salty.

The company will also gift fans with additional product drops throughout the season, including more pajama sets and beanies, though the online Whatastore, where all seasonal items can be purchased, already boasts an abundance of holiday wares, from the clever “All I want for Christmas is Whataburger” T-shirt and the classic Whataburger A-frame snow globe to 7-foot inflatable Santa and snowman yard decorations, and even Christmas-themed Whataburger table tents.

Of course, Whataburger-branded apparel and gifts are nothing new for the brand, which has long offered a meaty line for the fashion-forward fan, including a flurry of strangely appealing holiday wear.

Visit the Whatastore to get more info and to check out the full line of holiday offerings.

The new holiday sweater will have you dreaming of a Whataburger Christmas.

Courtesy of Whataburger
The new holiday sweater will have you dreaming of a Whataburger Christmas.

The Masked Singer reveals Dallas-Fort Worth show as part of epic national tour

Costume drama

Dallas-Fort Worth will soon play host to a touring version of America’s favorite song-and-dance reality show.

The Masked Singer, the Fox series guessing-game competition that features costumed celebrities belting out their best (and sometimes worst) renditions of popular songs, will take to the stage of Texas Trust CU Theatre at Grand Prairie on July 15, 2022 as part of a national tour.

Tickets for the DFW show ($39.75-$89.75) are now on sale at AXS.com. VIP packages are available now through VIPNation.com and include meet-and-greet opportunities with the cast, exclusive merch, and photo opportunities.

Fans of the TV show can expect much of the same zaniness during the live performance, which will include some recognizable characters from the TV series brought to life onstage alongside “surprise celebrity guests,” according to a release.

Celebrity guest hosts from the TV show, who will be announced closer to performance dates, will join one “local celebrity” at every show, with that VIP performing in a top-secret disguise.

The Grand Prairie audience will then try to decipher clues to guess the local celebrity’s identity until the he or she is unmasked at the end of the night’s festivities, with producers promising “an incredible production of song, dance, and craziness that only The Masked Singer could deliver.”

The tour is presented by Right Angle Entertainment — which has made a killing touring with live versions of popular TV series, including Price is Right Live — and producers Guy Phillips and Mark Swanhart, the minds behind Dancing with the Stars: Live!, The Bachelor Live on Stage, and the Simone Biles-led Gold Over America Tour, which stopped at Fort Worth's Dickies Arena last month.

With the following The Masked Singer show has amassed (it’s currently the No. 1 primetime series, averaging 7.9 million viewers across multiple platforms), it was likely only a matter of time before these producers took the show on the road.

The Masked Singer national tour kicks off in St. Louis on May 28, 2022. In addition to the DFW engagement on July 15, the tour will also make Texas stops in San Antonio on July 12, Austin on July 13, and Sugar Land on July 14.

Photo courtesy of Mardi Gras Galveston

Follow the beads to these Mardi Gras beats, bashes, and balcony parties in Galveston

Let the good times roll

It's that time of year when tourists descend upon Galveston — no, not for spring break yet — but to go crazy during the two weekends that make up Mardi Gras Galveston. While some gatherings are private, there will be plenty of events where bead-bearing folk can respectfully get their party on.

If you'd rather forego the Mardi Gras crowds in New Orleans this year but still want to take part in parties and parades, point your car toward the popular Texas beach town. In a few hours, the good times will be rolling.

The parades
Expect myriad Mardi Gras parades, mostly going down in the Strand District. The weekend of February 22-24, there will be the George P. Mitchell Mardi Gras Award Parade (7 pm February 22), the 8th Annual Zaniest Golf Cart Parade (1 pm February 23), the Krewe D'iHeartMedia Art Car Parade (3 pm February 23) and the Fiesta Gras Parade (1 pm February 24).

The following weekend, there's the Danny Weber Memorial Fire Truck Parade (7 pm March 1), the Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler Parade (3:30 pm March 2), and the Krewe d'Esprit Rosaire Parade (11 am March 2) on Seawall Boulevard.

The entertainment
This weekend's Main Stage headliners are Texas country artist Pat Green (6 pm February 23) and Baton Rouge funk band Zaemon (10 pm February 23). Coming from Roma, Texas, Norteno band Duelo (2:30 pm February 24) will handle the music for Fiesta Gras.

Next weekend, Lone Star country stars Jason Cassidy (10:30 pm March 1) and Drew Womack (8:30 pm, March 1) will headline a "Salute to Texas" show.

And, for the EDM-loving kids, there's also Electric Mardi Gras, where DJs will be keeping things loud on the Electric Stage at the intersection of 21st and Mechanic. The two big draws this year are Phoenix's Grey the Mute (9 pm February 23) and Austin's Buck Rodgers (11 pm February 23).

The balcony parties
Savvy locals know that half the fun is observing the events from the numerous balcony parties that'll also be going down. The Mardi Gras! Headquarters Balcony Party will be happening all through Mardi Gras at the Dargan & Tobyn Building. A Mardi Gras Mask-Making Party (5:30 pm February 21) will kick things off at the Galveston Arts Center.

The King's Court Balcony Party will be on both weekends at Trolley Station, while the Queen's Court Balcony Party will also be happening at the Trumpets Building. And fans of '80s junk might want to check out the 2019 Krewe of Thalasar '80s Mardi Gras Ball (5 pm February 22) at the Trumpets Building.

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For more information on Mardi Gras Galveston parties, visit the official site.

Photo courtesy of Trinity River Vision Authority

This is how fun Fort Worth is, according to one unfun national report

We're having a blast

As that bridal party on a wine crawl down Magnolia Avenue will tell you, Fort Worth sure is fun. As the dudes in inner tubes on the Trinity can attest, Fort Worth knows how to have a good time. In fact, the authors of a new national study should pay us a visit to see what a barrel of laughs we really are.

They think we're "medium fun."

Personal finance site WalletHub has released the results of its new report, an investigation to uncover the 2018 Most Fun Cities in America because, as they explain, "everyone likes to have fun." In order to quantify fun, a process which seems inherently not fun, thus negating the fun study, the researchers looked at 80 U.S. cities based on 65 relevant metrics.

Fort Worth ranked No. 56. Womp, womp.

According to WalletHub, Americans spend nearly $3,000 on entertainment each year, so this fun study is actually about money. Austin landed at No. 14 among U.S. cities — up four spots from 2017 — and took the No. 1 spot among Texas cities.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Live Music Capital of the World scored its highest marks in the "Nightlife & Parties" (13) and "Entertainment & Recreation" (19) categories. Austin didn't do as well in the "Costs" column, earning a paltry 54. (Strangely, Austin did not land among the top five cities for festivals. Instead, that honor went to Honolulu. No disrespect to Honolulu, but seriously? Austin hosted a festival entirely for cats, and they didn't even get an honorable mention? That's just ridiculous.)

How did Fort Worth score? In "Entertainment & Recreation," 83; "Nightlife & Parties," 27; and "Costs," 101. Its total average score of 35.10 sandwiches it between snowy Rochester, New York (No. 55) and wing-capital Buffalo, New York (No. 57).

Elsewhere in Texas and DFW, Houston's fun ranking is No. 18, followed by San Antonio (22), and Dallas (27). El Paso and Arlington join Fort Worth at medium levels of fun, at Nos. 73, and 86, respectively. Plano is at 121. Irving comes in at a pretty boring 148, Grand Prairie at 151, and Garland at 152. And sadly, at No. 170, Brownsville wears the tiny sad crown as the least fun place in Texas.

So where is the ultimate fun city in the U.S.? That precious honor was bestowed upon Las Vegas. Orlando, Florida, and New York City round out the top three spots.

Magic Men Live/Facebook

Magic Mike-inspired male dance revue grinds its way to North Texas stage

Do You Believe in Magic

Let us brace ourselves: An all-male dance revue called Magic Men Live is coming to Dallas at the end of the year. "Where size matters: And everything is bigger in Texas" reads the tagline.

Billed as the "first live stage production to bring the phenomenon of Magic Mike, Fifty Shades of Grey, and others to life," Magic Men Live promises to lift girls' night out to naughty new heights. Like a classy strip club.

The show is produced by (we're not making this up) Premier Gentlemen Entertainment. It's the handiwork of Myles Hass, who also performs as emcee. It's segmented into acts spotlighting different fantasies that are "sure to appeal to a variety of tastes:" Fire Men, Military Men, Trojan Men, and Rain Men are all promised in the show's teaser video, though it looks like cowboys also make a hat-tipping, chaps-wearing appearance.

There's plenty of hip hop-inspired dirty dancing too, à la Channing Tatum and crew from the movies (with which the stage show is not officially affiliated). Audience participation also seems strongly encouraged.

Eight lucky Texas cities receive these magical men at the tail end of 2016. North Texans can live out their fantasies at the Bomb Factory on December 2; tickets ($22-$77) go on sale October 14.

The full Texas lineup is as follows:

  • November 29: McAllen, McAllen Convention Center
  • November 30: Abilene, Civic Center, Abilene
  • December 2: Dallas, The Bomb Factory
  • December 3: Robstown, RMB Central Pavilion Area
  • December 4: Houston, Revention Music Center
  • December 7: Austin, The Paramount
  • December 9: San Antonio, Aztec Theatre
  • December 11: El Paso, Plaza Theatre
Photo courtesy of iStock

The 5 best makeout spots in Fort Worth to steal a kiss

Pucker Up

It's not as romantic as, say, Paris, but Fort Worth has some surprisingly amorous spots around town that are perfect for a little makeout session. Here are five spots to pucker up in Cowtown.

Around the Fort Worth Botanic Garden
With 22 specialized gardens and 110 acres of land, the possibilities are endless when it comes to picking somewhere to duck away and steal a kiss. Proposals and weddings happen here all the time, so you just know there are a few grade-A hidden pockets where previous couples have had smooch success.

Inside the planetarium at UT Arlington
Making out under the stars is romantic — if you can see them amid the city lights, that is. The planetarium at UTA has a 60-foot projector that streams shows like Texas Stargazing to a Pink Floyd concert soundtrack. The building is dark, air-conditioned, and offers comfy seating, and who can resist "Dark Side of the Moon?"

In a Brazos Carriage around Sundance Square
Say "horse-drawn carriage," and chances are your sweetie will appreciate the courtly vibe so much you'll be rewarded with some snuggling. You can also learn about the history of Fort Worth’s Sundance Square when you're not focused on each other. Reservations are $45 per couple.

At Coyote Drive-In
Does it get much more classic than making out at the drive-in movies? Coyote offers the latest blockbusters in the comfort of your own car — and we'll let your imagination take it from there.

By the Fort Worth Water Gardens
The privacy factor may not be strong here, but the surrounding cascade of water is good for masking those sweet nothings you're whispering in each other's ears. And if you feel the need to, ahem, move to somewhere a little more secluded, just hop back up to the beginning of this list.

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Don't be afraid of PDA, Fort Worth.

Photo courtesy of iStock
Don't be afraid of PDA, Fort Worth.
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Monumental new sculptures by  renowned 9/11 artist take root at Texas Botanic Garden

blooming work

Here is something new for Texas travelers who enjoy exploring art in nature. An intriguing new collection of sculptures called "Intertwined: Exploring Nature's Networks," by renowned artist Steve Tobin, opened at the Houston Botanic Garden on January 28.

Tobin's collection of pieces soar and wind and unfold against the backdrop of the gardens paths and trees, connecting the bronze, glass, ceramic, and steel sculptures to the landscape.

The connection is important for Tobin, an artist who may be most well known for his Trinity Root, a memorial that was cast from the roots of the tree that protected one of New York City's cathedrals during the 9/11 attacks. As a child, he was known as "Nature Boy," which he says was as apt then as now.

"I would find twigs or mushrooms, and they would mean something to me," he says. "I'm the guy with my nose in the sand and my butt in the air, looking deeper than most people. I think I see more. I think it's part of my DNA."

Originally from Pennsylvania, Tobin graduated from Tulane University in 1979 with a degree in math. He was always drawn to art, however, and his massive creations - from eggs in birds' nests to roots and limbs woven together to branches stretching to sky - evoke the powerful pull he feels to the natural world and a desire to help others see its beauty. The Christian Science Monitor described his works as "monuments to the meeting of science an art."

"Science is more creative that art," he explains. "Scientists have to describe the universe from nothing, and the explanation has to work. Artists can make up whole worlds. Scientists don't get credit for their vast creativity."

By focusing his works on the natural world, Tobin looks to showcase how the two subjects work in harmony, and how people can interact with them. In Eagle Nest, a huge, polished steel egg sits perched in nest.

Polished to a high gloss, the egg becomes a mirror. "You look at the egg and you see yourself," Tobin says. "It shows that you are in the egg."

For Tobin, there is magic in helping people, whether they are art novices or aficionados, find a connection with his art.

"I've done my job when someone has an expression of magic," he says. "And once you open that door, even for a second, it can never be fully closed."

He says he is looking forward to Texas audiences seeing his works in the garden, which he feels is a natural place for his sculptures — the biggest of which is 30 feet high and took 2,000 hours of welding to complete.

Showcasing his sculptures there cements the harmony with nature he feel and thinks is something others should strive to see. Tobin even has a connection to Houston: one of his great friends, a woman he met at Tulane, lives there.

Two other pieces also have roots there. Tobin says Steel Roots will resonate particularly well in Texas. "It's made from repurposed oil pipe, a lot of it from Texas," he says. "So now, it's back home in a different context."

And when Botanic Garden guest encounter the Twisties, they'll likely recall hearing the terms from gymnast Simone Biles, who famously used the word to describe the disconnect she felt between her mind and her body. Tobin's sculptures are between eight and 17 feet high and evoke Asian calligraphy. He describes them as "distorted gymnastics."

Mostly, though, Tobin wants visitors to get a window into how he imagines the world.

"I try to translate into sculpture what I see so people can see what I see."

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"Intertwined: Exploring Nature's Networks" runs Saturday, January 28 through August 13 at Houston Botanic Garden, 1 Botanic Garden Ln. Regular garden admission is $15. For tickets and more information, visit Houston Botanic Garden online.

Photo courtesy of Houston Botanic Garden

Tobin's 'Romeo & Juliet' sprouts from the grounds.

Bolstered by 'Yellowstone,' Fort Worth ranks No. 25 on new list of best cities for filmmakers

That's showbiz

Taylor Sheridan continues his magic touch for Fort Worth: For the second year in a row, the city has landed a top-25 spot among the best big cities to live and work as a moviemaker.

Fort Worth repeats at No. 25 on MovieMaker Magazine's 2023 list. It is joined by four other Texas cities in the top 25: Austin (No. 12), Dallas (No. 20), Houston (No. 21), and San Antonio (No. 22).

MovieMaker compiles its annual list based on surveys, production spending, tax incentives, additional research, and personal visits whenever possible — with the notable exclusions of Los Angeles and New York:

"We don’t believe people should have to be rich or well-connected to make movies," writes MovieMaker editor Tim Molloy. "And we know plenty of people who moved to L.A. or New York with filmmaking dreams and ended up working industry-barely-adjacent jobs just to pay the bills. We think the best place to live is one you can afford — a place where you can be happy, inspired, and financially free to pursue your art."

These criteria are themes throughout the ranking: Atlanta, Georgia, took the top spot overall, followed by Vancouver, British Columbia (No. 2), and New Orleans, Louisiana (No. 3). The five Texas cities on the list all boast more affordability than Los Angeles or New York, and each one features a deeply supportive film community and various local incentives.

Fort Worth made the list for the just second year, thanks in large part to the shooting of series in the Yellowstone franchise.

"Fort Worth is the proud home of Taylor Sheridan’s upcoming Paramount+ limited series about Bass Reeves, the once-enslaved man who became a famed federal marshal," Molloy writes. "Sheridan’s Yellowstone prequel 1883 also shoots in Fort Worth, and is based in nearby Weatherford, where Sheridan owns a ranch. Fort Worth offers clear skies, easy permitting, and a vibrant film culture that includes the Lone Star Film Festival.

"The 13th-biggest city in the country also has experienced crews and a cost of living almost exactly in line with the U.S. average. While there’s no official local incentive program, the city’s very accommodating film officials work hard to offer soft incentives like deals on hotels."

Neighboring Dallas came in at No. 20, selected for its location and architecture, among other factors.

"Why choose Dallas? The city offers an online document that addresses just that question, and points to factors including its equal access to both coasts, great weather (except for some cold nights) and striking visuals, including modern and futuristic buildings that form a strikingly camera-worthy nighttime skyline," Molloy writes.

Dallas' diversity, plethora of permitting options, and cost of living also bolster its ranking.

"It’s one of the most diverse cities in the country, with a deep, experienced crew base, easily obtainable permits, and hotel deals to be had — if you’re shooting in Dallas and staying in the city’s hotels for at least 15 nights, you could qualify for up to 10 percent back on rooms," Molloy writes. "It’s a great city to work on other people’s projects so you can save enough money to create your own, and is almost exactly in line with the U.S. average cost of living. Just drive or walk its streets and it’s impossible not to notice the new construction and businesses popping up all over town, and it’s full of rising filmmakers who pitch in to do each other favors and bring one another’s projects to life."

He adds that the Dallas International Film Festival does an admirable job of showcasing must-see films, such as last year’s documentary Juneteenth: Faith and Freedom.

Elsewhere in Texas

"Texas is booming, as you’re about to see from the five Lone Star State cities on this list — all of which would be higher in our rankings if Texas offered more generous tax incentives," Molloy writes. "Still, the state is working hard to attract film and TV projects, and the signs of growth are obvious all over the state."

Austin unsurprisingly took the highest Texas spot at No. 12, scoring points beyond the obvious benefits of SXSW. MovieMaker praised smaller fests like the Austin Film Festival, as well as the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, and Austin's impressive list of filmmaker residents (Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, and Terrence Malick — to name a few).

Houston placed right behind Dallas at No. 21, with MovieMaker touting its diversity and low cost of living.

San Antonio came in fourth among Texas cities at No. 22, selected for its plethora of permitting options, reinstatement of local film incentives, and growing educational opportunities such as the University of Texas at San Antonio’s new Bachelor of Fine Arts Film & Media Studies program.

New Fort Worth ghost tour showcases the spookier side of the Stockyards

Ghosts of Cowtown

A national travel company is showing off the scary side of the Fort Worth Stockyards with the launch of a brand new ghost tour.

US Ghost Adventures, an Orlando-based company that hosts ghost tours in some of the most haunted cities in the country, has just added Fort Worth to its list of tour locations. The one-hour tour is held nightly at 8 pm and includes eight stops within a one-mile walking distance.

Some of the haunted highlights from the tour include Miss Molly’s Hotel (109 W. Exchange Ave.), a former brothel where unexplained activity – think lights turning on and off, heavy breathing, and footsteps heard on the stairs – have long been documented.

The Stockyards Hotel (109 E. Exchange Ave.), built in 1904, is said to be home to the apparition of its developer, Colonel T.M. Thannisch, as well as rodeo cowboy C.D. “Junior” Colwell, who is said to have committed suicide to avoid jailtime for swindling people.

Tour participants will also visit the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame (2515 Rodeo Plaza), where it’s said the six-foot, four-inch ghost of famed actor John Wayne has been seen admiring the cowboy memorabilia on display – even with a museum dedicated solely to him located just steps way at John Wayne: An American Experience.

While other ghost tours exist in Fort Worth, US Ghost Adventures owner Lance Zaal says his tour specializes in storytelling.

“US Ghost Adventures offers EMF detectors and focuses on telling the history behind the hauntings,” says Zaal.

When paranormal activity takes places, theories suggest electromagnetic disturbances can be seen with electromagnetic field (EMF) detectors. Lights on the detector indicate the strength of the disturbances, with a green light meaning little to no activity, yellow meaning moderate activity, and red meaning high activity.

Fort Worth was one of 12 new cities recently added to the US Ghost Adventures roster, as well as Houston and El Paso. The company operates tours in more than 50 cities across the country, and full list of new cities include:

The tour is $25 per person and there’s a two-person minimum. There's also an option to add a 30-minute bonus tour of four additional stops for just $6 per person.

Reservations should be made in advance online, and participants should meet at the Livestock Exchange Building at 131 E. Exchange Ave.