There can be a thin line between historical attractions and kitsch. But in Texas, where everything from the hair to the horses can be bigger and more over the top than you expect, Western-themed meeting destinations remain remarkably authentic.
Many of the Western-style event spaces throughout Texas are the raw, real deal, from ranches that are still working today to historic settlements that retain the same charm they had 200 or more years ago. Here are a few such destinations to consider for Lone Star meetings.
In Texas, if you’re looking for leather, Victoria is the place to go. The city has made a name for itself in recent years with its annual Bootfest, which brings together top country and Tejano musicians onstage while artisan cowboy boot-makers display their crafts during the two-day festival in October.
Victoria’s cowboy culture is unique, however, because due to its location on the Guadalupe River, Victoria has always been a bit more Mexican than Texan. Founded as a mission community on the Guadalupe River, the city has changed hands time and time again in its short history, which includes a short stint as the capital of a breakaway Mexican territory called the Republic of the Rio Grande.
Although Victoria has 26 hotels, groups looking for an Old West element to their stay can split up and stay at the small inns that dot the Victorian downtown, such as the 1875 Inn on Main. Groups staying elsewhere can get a taste of historic Victoria by holding a meeting or reception at the 1852 Hiller House or taking one of the historic-home tours offered by Victoria Preservation Inc., which selects five historic homes each year to open up for tours.
From the days when it was founded by the Franciscan friars to facilitate trade from Mexico to the current oil-economy era, El Paso has always been a bridge between Texas and other cultures.
But despite the modern, high-tech city that has sprung up in the past 50 years, in many ways it was the early days of Native American settlement and Colonial rule that shaped the personality of El Paso, so named for its position guarding a key mountain pass to Mexico.
At the El Paso Botanical Gardens in the Keystone Heritage Park, where remains of a more-than-4,000-year-old village have been unearthed, groups can step back into the lives of the earliest, rugged Western settlers with events on the covered patio or in amphitheater spaces among the gardens.
Right in the heart of downtown, the Magoffin Historic District provides a glimpse at life in Territorial Texas and one of the city’s top event venues. The 1875 home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, remained in the same pioneer family for more than 100 years before it passed to the city and historical commission, which now opens the house to groups of less than 200 for events. Groups can also experience the Alamo nearby at the re-created Alamo Ballroom, with 12,000 square feet of meeting space.
El Paso also has a 133,100-square-foot convention center, the Judson F. Williams Convention Center, which completed a renovation and expansion in 2012 and is located just five minutes from the city’s airport.