Traveling overseas these days — or anywhere else, for that matter — is a whole new ballgame compared to a year ago, but for the lucky souls living in the great state of Texas, interesting destinations for a quick getaway are easy to find.
Instead of an overnight plane ride across the Atlantic, why not pack up the car and head out on the highway for a look at cities like Geneva, Naples, Moscow; Athens, Edinburg or Stockholm. Those are just a handful of European-named Texas towns, and a great chance to get the heck out of Dodge and soak up a little culture and maybe even a history lesson or two.
How about Dublin, London, Liverpool, Italy, Paris, Belgrade, Nederland (Dutch for the Netherlands), Newcastle, Rhome, Manchester or Odessa?
About four hours due east of Killeen-Fort Hood, the tiny town of Geneva (estimated population 100) is known as “the oldest continuously occupied town in East Texas,” dating back to the 1700s. Among the local attractions are such things as Three Brothers Wineries and Estates, Seneca Lake State Park, Rose Hill Mansion, Bottomless Brewing and Smith Opera House. Stop by Sabean’s Coffee and Creamery for a nice cup o’ java, or Hemphill Bbq for some top-shelf barbecue.
Head down toward the Gulf of Mexico, go east on Interstate 10 and look for Nederland, a city of about 17,000 founded by Dutch settlers at the end of the 19th century. Be sure and visit the Dutch Windmill Museum, a tribute to the local Dutch heritage. The first floor of the museum has a western theme with artifacts that date back 100 years, along with a suit, boots and other mementos belonging to the late hometown country music star Tex Ritter.
About four hours north-northeast of Killeen-Fort Hood, near the Oklahoma border, is the historic city of Paris, a former railroad center and cotton exchange known as “The Second Largest Paris in the World.”
Along with one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants and old-style architecture in the historic Town Square, one of the must-see attractions in this city of 25,000-plus that was once named “Best Small Town in Texas” is the 65-feet-tall Eiffel Tower replica, complete with a large red metal cowboy hat perched on top.
The tower, modeled after the famed 1,063-feet-tall (81 stories) Eiffel Tower in France, was commissioned and installed by the city in 1993. Five years later, apparently in response to the construction that same year of a similar tower in Paris, Tenn., the cowboy hat was placed on top to make sure the Texas model was taller.
Paris is also home to the Red River Valley Veterans Memorial, a tribute to all past, present and future members of the U.S. military. There are more than 2,500 granite pavers installed at the facility, 48 family benches, 18 ornamental tree pavers and two monuments, with plans for static displays of military equipment.
Eight miles north of the city is Camp Maxey, a facility used as a prisoner of war camp during World War II and now a training center for the Texas Army National Guard.
Meanwhile, closer to home, Fort Hood’s Belton Lake Outdoor and Recreation Center (BLORA), at the intersection of North Nolan Road and Cottage Road, offers a number of fun-filled family activities, including such things as camping sites, picnic pavilions, hiking, sightseeing, bird watching, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, paintball, a 53-foot outdoor climbing wall and an archery range. Admission for military patrons is $3 per car; all others are $10 per vehicle.
The Recreation Equipment Checkout Center, located within the garrison 14 miles southwest of BLORA, is available to authorized Family and MWR patrons and offers such equipment rentals as kayaks, canoes, wakeboards, skis, knee boards, tubes, camping equipment, pop-ups/travel trailers, accessories and more. Visit hood.armymwr.com for more information.
Fort Hood’s Apache Arts and Crafts Center is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday for those interested in do-it-yourself projects, including picture frames, ceramics and ceramics birthday parties for kids. Also offered at the center, 761st Tank Battalion and 62nd Street, Building 2337, is screen-printing, embroidery and a wood shop.
The center has a Resiliency through Art program that offers a quiet area with art materials for soldiers to create “whatever comes to mind.” It is available free of charge to all active-duty soldiers during the week until 5 p.m. Soldiers may take their work with them or leave it at the center to be displayed for others to see. For more information, contact MWR.
For some relaxing indoor entertainment, head on over to Central Texas College’s Mayborn Science Theater in Killeen and its ongoing lineup of new weekday matinees, classic movie showings and Laser Friday presentations. Saturday matinees run all day, and weekday matinees are on Wednesdays. For complete show descriptions, directions, membership information and more, go to starsatnight.org.