Lubbock Comes Alive with Art, Wine, and Fine Cuisine

·5 min read
Hotel courtyard
Hotel courtyard

Courtesy Market Lubbock Cotton Court Hotel, Lubbock

Lubbock, a college town located in Texas's Panhandle region, has long been associated with its blank slate landscape—an occasionally dusty expanse of farmland giving rise to crops like cotton and grapes, offering up stunning glowing sunsets that are visible for miles.

Texas Tech University is located here, along with a good portion of the state's wine-growing industry (more than 90 percent of the state's wine crop is cultivated in this region), but you can also trace a lineage of artists back to Georgia O'Keeffe (who lived for three years in Canyon, north of Lubbock) and sculptor Robert Bruno or Lubbock-born musician Buddy Holly. Artists continue to follow in their footsteps, drawn to the canvas of the High Plains.

Downtown Lubbock, with a new $155 million Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences, reflects this new, rising artistic class, along with a complement of new restaurants and shops welcoming people to rediscover this Texas destination.

Buddy Holly statue
Buddy Holly statue

Cynthia J. Drake Buddy Holly Center

Around Town

Start by exploring some of these new arts-forward spaces by heading to Avenue J, where you'll find a collection of galleries from the Charles Adams Studio Project, as well as the LHUCA (the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts), showcasing local artists.

Francis Bacon quote art
Francis Bacon quote art

Cynthia J. Drake Artwork at LHUCA.

If you're lucky enough to be visiting on the first Friday of the month, head to the free First Friday Art Trail, where galleries and museum spaces across the city are open for you to enjoy, along with free musical performances and a free visitor trolley to help shuttle you around town.

Artist drawing
Artist drawing

Cynthia J. Drake Drawing demonstration during First Friday in Lubbock

Downtown Lubbock's red brick streets and old buildings are being transformed into trendy spaces with the influx of new wineries, breweries, and restaurants. Depot Alley is Lubbock's official entertainment district. Here you'll find the Cactus Theater, the Blue Light bar and live music venue, and boutiques such as Bentley Arrow, a quirky and eclectic shop.Music fans should stop at Buddy Holly Center, a small but robust collection of memorabilia from the rock pioneer who died at age 22. The J.I. Allison House just next door was the childhood home of the drummer of Holly's band The Crickets and is a fascinating glimpse into everyday life in Lubbock (for a future rock star) in the 1950s. You can also visit Holly's grave (with the original spelling of his name, before it was famously misspelled) just three miles outside of town.

performers in the store
performers in the store

Cynthia J. Drake In-store musical performance at Bentley Arrow

Back near the galleries is the glass-fronted Buddy Holly Hall. Opened in 2021, it offers Broadway performances as well as major musical acts throughout the year in its nearly acoustically perfect auditorium, so check the schedule of upcoming events and snag your tickets in advance.

Buddy Holly Hall
Buddy Holly Hall

Courtesy Market Lubbock Buddy Holly Hall

Wineries and tasting rooms abound throughout the surrounding area, with McPherson Cellars, Llano Estacado, Burklee Hill, and English Newsom Cellars, among others—arrange a shuttle or take a self-guided tour and sample signature Texas varietals such as Albariño or Viognier (white) or Tempranillo, Tannat, and Mourvedre to get a lovely taste of the High Plains.

White wine
White wine

Cynthia J. Drake Wine tasting at Llano Estacado

Where to Eat

To complement your Panhandle wine tour, head to some well loved and newcomer restaurants in Lubbock. It's a little nontraditional, but I highly recommend starting your day with a slice of pie from Cast Iron Grill, a mom-and-pop restaurant with a pie selection that would make Meemaw proud. And no, no one will bat an eyelash if you order buttermilk chess pie for breakfast.

Smiles and pies at Cast Iron Grill
Smiles and pies at Cast Iron Grill

Cynthia J. Drake Cast Iron Grill owner Teresa Stephens and a selection of the day's pies

Make your way to Evie Mae's BBQ for lunch, where "free beer yesterday" is true for today, too—you'll find chilled cans of Lone Star available for the taking, along with delicious smoked meats like brisket and ribs.

A selection of meats at Evie Mae's BBQ in Wolfforth near Lubbock.
A selection of meats at Evie Mae's BBQ in Wolfforth near Lubbock.

Cynthia J. Drake Evie Mae's BBQ

For dinner, tough choices abound: Cocina de la Sirena is Latin American cuisine like empanadas with grilled pineapple dipping sauce, gazpacho, and seasonal items like pan seared wild stripe sea bass, Peruvian spice chicken. Try the watermelon jalapeño margarita or a Mermaid water (tequila, Topo Chico, and lime juice) for a pre-dinner cocktail.

Cheese board and drink
Cheese board and drink

Cynthia J. Drake A fruit and cheese board with sangria at La Sirena.

The West Table inside the historic Pioneer Building downtown serves upscale contemporary American cuisine that changes daily, but selections might include oysters on the half shell and Cast Iron Seared Duck Breast with a wine menu featuring a few High Plains selections.

Restaurant bar
Restaurant bar

Cynthia J. Drake La Diosa, Lubbock

The newest addition to Lubbock's dining scene, The Nicolett, is open for dinner and Sunday brunch with cuisine from chef Finn Walter, who was nominated as a semifinalist James Beard Best Chef: Texas in 2022. The restaurant features thoughtfully composed selections such as wildflower salad, a variety of house-made pastas in a chic dining room, patio or outside in a restored greenhouse where you can dine under the stars.

The Nicolett Private Dining Greenhouse Long Table
The Nicolett Private Dining Greenhouse Long Table

Melinda Harvey, Courtesy Market Lubbock

Where to Stay

Enjoy the confluence of retro mid-century aesthetic (with Buddy Holly vibes) and contemporary chic environs at the Cotton Court Hotel. Open corridors with rocking chairs, retro Smeg refrigerators and a courtyard with pool and lawn games harken back to a time before towering chain hotels.

Cotton Court Hotel
Cotton Court Hotel

Cynthia J. Drake

Aloft Lubbock opened in 2021 and offers an indoor pool, a spacious outdoor deck, and an on-site bar.

Hotel lobby
Hotel lobby

Courtesy Market Lubbock Aloft Hotel Lubbock

The Pioneer Pocket Hotel is a contactless boutique option situated at the historic Pioneer Building in downtown Lubbock, a 1926-era high rise, or at the Millsap suites across the street. Tastefully decorated with historic photos of downtown Lubbock, many of these suites have comfortable sofas and allow guests to check in and out digitally in a convenient location.

Hotel chairs and couch with retro art
Hotel chairs and couch with retro art

Courtesy Market Lubbock Pioneer Pocket Hotel