No longer your grandfather’s West Texas town, Lubbock has become a destination well worth the trip. What’s great? Restaurants and wine bars so good you’ll consider relocating. Fascinating, one-of-a-kind museums and, threaded throughout the city of 250,000, active prairie dog towns and friendly folks. The home of Texas Tech, Lubbock offers days of easy-going fun and great food.
Playing to its High Plains location, Lubbock hosts the American Windmill Museum, an entrancing assemblage of more than 150 restored windmills, from relics of the late 1800s to a working Vestas wind turbine. In West Texas 120 years ago, if you didn’t have a windmill pumping water, you were just passing through.
The museum places windmills into floor “gulches” so the working parts are at eye level, and you see how everything fits together. The windmill variety is remarkable: double-heads, a 1621 Virginia post mill replica, tiny and huge windmills, an eggbeater-style turbine. Outside, windmills spin, clack and nod to each other. Also here is a new millstone collection, which is relevant because so many grist mills used wind power to grind grain, paint pigments, minerals and Hershey’s chocolate. A 6,000-square-foot mural tells the story of Sunrise to Sunset: the Life of American Windmills.
Head to the outskirts and Evie Mae’s Pit Barbecue, rightfully listed in Texas Monthly’s Top 25 BBQ joints. Even cooking 6,000 pounds of meat weekly, Evie Mae’s, open Thursday-Saturday, sells out before 5 p.m. The Angus brisket, rubbed with only salt and pepper and cooked over white oak, melts in your mouth and makes it hard to stop eating.
To wander through homes on the range, visit the National Ranching Heritage Center where a 19-acre park displays 50 historical Texas structures. A 1700s fortified Zapata County house replica heads the lineup followed by restored dugouts and dogtrot 1830s cabins, an XIT barn and JY bunkhouse, interspersed with windmills, of course. Ten longhorn sculptures represent a herd walking through a sea of grass. The interpretive center holds a Conestoga wagon and buckboard, gun collections and displays of western artists, buckskin, bead works and woolly chaps.
Then head to downtown’s Depot Entertainment District and the Tornado Gallery with its eclectic, affordable selection of ceramics, paintings, jewelry, mixed media, leathers and glass. Nearby is McPherson Cellars, a perfected wine bar/winery in a historic Coca-Cola bottling plant where a vintner of High Plains wine works his magic and gives tours. You can taste why this label has won over 450 awards. A California wine writer who told me she never buys cases of wine made an exception for McPherson’s magnificent Piquepoul Blanc. Follow up with a leisurely dinner and live music around the corner at La Diosa, which has some of the best tapas this side of Spain.
Start your next morning with a true West Texas breakfast at the Cast Iron Grill. After your choice of hearty cowboy plates or veggie omelets, add a pie. Yes, for breakfast. The billionaire, pecan, lemon and others sell out, despite the dozens made daily.
If you’re a fan of the “Ice Age” animated movies, be sure to visit Lubbock Lake Landmark Historic Site.
Ice Age nomads who hunted mammoths and lions and giant bears here 12,000 years ago left behind tools and animal bones that archaeologists have unearthed. Life-size extinct mammal sculptures, 3-D replicas of bones and stone tools you can handle, and ongoing archaeological digs here help us understand the Stone Age peoples who hunted here.
The Museum of Texas Tech has Ice Age exhibits along with dinosaurs and pottery storytellers. The Silent Wings Museum spotlights the WWII pilots who flew engineless planes and landed those gliders behind enemy lines. The Robert Bruno House, a Stars Wars-style all steel house, Buddy Holly and the numerous prairie dog towns are uniquely Lubbock.
Start dinner at West Table with Lubbock’s own Chilton (vodka, lemon and club soda) and decide between inspired plates of BBQ glazed pork tenderloin with cheese grits, turkey pot pie and duck. Save room for the bread pudding and music.
For additional adventures, see visitlubbock.org.