By Audrey Spencer
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - Where U.S. Highway 190 and Interstate 35 meet lies a small town with big entertainment, shopping and history opportunities for a weekend excursion.
"I think Belton definitely has a small-town feel because it is a small town," said Lindsay Landrum, marketing and public relations coordinator for the Belton Chamber of Commerce. "But it has lots of things to do that make it feel like a big city."
The city's newest attraction, Grand Avenue Theater, opened at 2809 Oakmark Drive on May 4 and offers a movie-watching experience beyond the norm of general, upholstered seating and popcorn and soda.
Besides offering first-run movies on all-digital projection, according to its website, www.grandavenuetheater.com, Grand Avenue Theater also has leather seats, reserved seating options and a menu of food not commonly associated with movie theater snacking, including pizza, pasta alfredo, fried shrimp and Starbucks beverages.
"It's definitely been popular," said Landrum. "It's a hangout spot for high schoolers, date night for middle-aged couples, and senior citizens love to go as well. It's made an impact with all ages."
To help get residents through the hot summer, Belton features two lakes and the Summer Fun Waterpark.
Belton Lake features six parks, and Stillhouse Hollow Lake features three. Each lake is currently full and offers camping, picnicking and boating opportunities for different fees. A day-use pass is $4 per vehicle or pedestrian entering the area, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers websites for each lake.
Summer Fun Waterpark became locally owned in 2004. The facility's seven acres include three water slides, a volleyball court and concession stands. Admission is $15 for adults and $12 for children, with discounts for military, non-swimmers and late-day patrons.
The water park is at 1401 Waco Road and will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. beginning Saturday, except for special events, such as Adult Nights, which include live music and are aimed at visitors age 21 and older. Adult Nights are on selected Saturdays through the summer from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. For more information on park events and rates, go to summerfunwaterpark.com.
Music and more
For those who prefer to stay dry while listening to music, Belton has several choices.
Schoepf's BBQ, 702 E. Central Ave., offers the Texas Music Series. On Thursday nights at 7 throughout the summer, bands will take the restaurant's stage for free three-hour performances, including such names as Ray Wylie Hubbard on June 14 and Whiskey Myers on July 12. For a full listing of concerts, or more information about Schoepf's, go to www.schoepfsbbq.com.
Overlooking Belton Lake, the Dead Fish Grill is another free concert venue. Rounding out May, the restaurant is hosting concerts at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with more information to be posted on their website, www.deadfishgrill.com, later.
The Gin at Nolan Creek in Belton also hosts free family concert nights on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays from 7 to 10 p.m. in the courtyard and pavilion areas. Located at 219 S. East St., The Gin is a popular meet-up place. With stores, restaurants and spa businesses, The Gin is a landmark to locals.
Another shopping option is Market Days, held the third Saturday of each month. From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., local vendors set up shop in downtown Belton to sell food, home decor, antiques and arts and crafts to shoppers.
Those into more historical pursuits can explore Belton's two museums.
The Bell County Museum at 201 N. Main St. focuses on presenting stories about the past in an interactive way in order to keep children engaged, said museum director Stephanie Turnham.
"We have a water pump in one area with real water, so children can find out what it was like to be a pioneer child," she said. "We also have an exhibit that tells the story of the county. Children can go on a scavenger hunt through the museum."
Open from 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, the museum presents a range of exhibits that relate to Bell County history at no cost.
At the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, visitors can wander the Musick Alumni Center and Museum at the Parker House to learn about the university's past.
"We have one room right now that is given over to the college of our Scott & White nursing program," said Betty Beebe, museum curator. "We also have the campus master plan. It makes for good discussion."
The university museum is located above the alumni center at the corner of Ninth Avenue and King Street. It is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the curator arriving at 10 a.m. for assistance or tours.
Belton also hosts events for the Fourth of July every year, including a barbecue at Yettie Polk Park, a parade through downtown and a PRCA rodeo at the Bell County Expo Center beginning at 7 p.m. July 5-7.
Contact Audrey Spencer at email@example.com or (254) 501-7476.