After retiring from his upholstering job at the Southern Pacific Railroad, John Milkovisch spent his free time building structures around his house and drinking beers with his wife Mary. But when he ran out of space for building, he decided to use up his extra beer cans to create a shiny siding for his structures and his house. He began in 1968, and within 20 years he had completely covered his property with an estimated 50,000 aluminum and glass cans. The result was both fashionable and functional, with swaying garlands tinkling in the breeze, strings of cans adding a luster to all surfaces of the house, and the protective weight of the cans even helping cut the house’s energy costs. But you can’t have a house this striking and not get noticed. So pretty soon people began making trips to see this can-covered house, and in 2007, it was moved into the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. Now guests can peer inside the house and examine the structures without getting chased by the owner's beer can-covered dog. The house’s guided tours also feature a documentary that covers the history of the project since its inception forty years ago.
A crackling fire warms guests perched at white-draped tables in the candlelit wine cellar. Upstairs, diners marvel at the picturesque views of the vineyard and rose garden filling the glass-enclosed patio's windows or deeply inhale the aroma of wildflowers drifting onto the vine-covered porch. It's against these intimate backdrops that servers at The Vineyards Restaurant deliver steak, seafood, and other upscale dishes to tables, which come aglow with candlelight as dusk falls.
The chefs work hard to make each bite as special as the surroundings. They age beef-tenderloin fillets for 45 days before plating them atop garlic-and-mushroom sauce and slowly marinate chicken in a spicy chipotle-garlic oil before nestling it in a bed of pasta covered in cilantro cream sauce.
With such food in such a setting, a regular night out at The Vineyards is one to remember, but a special occasion there is truly magical. For marriage proposals, anniversaries, and the reunions of long-lost pairs of socks, staffers lead guests down a candle-strewn path to a private table set for dessert among the vineyard's rows of grapevines. The Vineyards has held more than 500 weddings in its open-air pavilion, and its on-staff wedding coordinator and floral designer help plan picture-perfect ceremonies.
Each night, about a half-hour before sunset, one of Capital Cruises' double-decker boats launches out onto Lady Bird Lake. Austin's skyline peeks its head over the tree-lined banks as the vessel floats toward the Congress Avenue Bridge. Once there, passengers watch the sun drop below the horizon and paint a streak of burnt orange across the sky in an action that seems to bring the bridge to life. Here, at one of the largest urban bat colonies on the continent, thousands of bats take flight and soar into the sky.
These bat tours are just one way Capital Cruises explores Lady Bird Lake. The crown jewel of its fleet, a 75-foot yacht, sets the stage for floating wedding parties and specialty cruises such as the Riverboat Gambler. During these trips, passengers play roulette and nibble fajitas, pasta, and barbecue catered by the Hyatt Regency hotel. Additionally, Capital Cruises' staff lets customers chart their own adventures with rentals of standup paddleboards, swan-shaped pedal boats, and 21-foot electric Duffy boats.
Founded in 1961, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art boasts a wide-ranging permanent collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures that break from Hollywood tradition by staying dead at night. Exhibitions are displayed on a rotating basis and include the upcoming The First 50 Years, which will commemorate the museum's first half century as an authoritative art stockpiler, and the Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision, which rolls into town on February 26 to celebrate the iconic landscape paintings of such visionaries as Frederic Church, Thomas Cole, and Asher B. Durand.
Author and radio host Ken Hudnall leads groups on an informative trek through El Paso's famed, and oftentimes spooky, past during the Downtown History and Mystery Tour. Each traipse through time begins at the Camino Real Hotel, where ominous tales of a distressed bride and the lingering presence of Pancho Villa cast a spectral tone upon the outing's onset. Winding through city streets, Ken and crew stop at the Cortez Building, the Plaza Hotel, and the very first Hilton Hotel, which has hosted several celebrity weddings. As night falls and shadows begin to dance and pants unsuspecting patrons, a stop at the Mills Building—constructed on the site of a hotel that burned to the ground—rounds out the tour's itinerary.
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