Texas Highways magazine celebrates 50 years with a new look

The venerable monthly travel guide started as an internal publication for the Texas Department of Transportation.

By Michael Marks & Alexandra HartJuly 5, 2024 9:45 am,

For half a century, Texas Highways magazine has criss-crossed the state, showcasing the Lone Star State’s top travel destinations and hidden gems alike. 

Launched in 1974 by the Texas Department of Transportation, the magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a whole new look and feel. Emily Roberts Stone, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, spoke to the Texas Standard about the anniversary. 

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Fifty years – that’s quite a milestone. Can you tell me a little bit about how the magazine got started? 

Emily Roberts Stone: Sure. It technically started in 1953; it was an internal engineering magazine for the Texas Highway Department. Over the years, it evolved to add more travel and history and culture, and then it became a full consumer magazine in 1974, completely devoted to travel in Texas.

So our first issue, which is the May 1974 issue, was 36 pages, didn’t have any advertisements; subscriptions at the time cost $4.50. Our current July/August issue, which is our official 50th anniversary issue, is 160 pages.

I think the magazine does a really good job of uniting readers around their shared love of Texas and Texas landscapes. Obviously, the magazine industry has changed tremendously in 50 years, from mass media to niche media. And so we really have leaned into our expertise as a legacy brand that’s trusted by our readers. We really want to be that trusted guide to Texas, rather than the kind of generic recommendations you might find on something like TripAdvisor. 

You guys, for the 50th anniversary, made some some big changes to the the magazine itself. Can you talk me through some of the new looks that you’re debuting? 

So this has been an 18-month project from start to finish. From the beginning, we knew we really wanted to invest in making the highest quality print product possible. We’re going all in on our print products, so we’re now being printed on a thicker, matte paper that should allow readers to hold onto their issues for longer.

We know our readers refer back to issues when they’re planning trips, or they take it along with them on their trips, so we wanted it to really feel like a keepsake.

» GET MORE NEWS FROM AROUND THE STATE: Sign up for Texas Standard’s weekly newsletters

You mentioned that your readers are very familiar with Texas – all the ins and outs, all the hidden little places. How do you try and come up with stories that are going to keep their attention? 

We have this new section called Book Now, which gives you more of an insider guide into what to book and when to book it, kind of the way a travel agent used to do. So things like when to book camping sites, Lost Maples if you want to see fall color – which is now, by the way.

And then we have our postcard section where we have our history stories, essays and Q&As. There’s endless news stories to tell about Texas. 

I wonder, when you talk to folks who work at travel magazines in other states, if they’re perhaps a little envious of the content you have to work with? 

Oh, sure. And Texas obviously has such a big personality and is incredibly multicultural. And the landscapes are so different depending on what part of the state you’re in. I think that it’s a blessing and a challenge. 

This issue, I understand, is going to be the magazine’s largest to date. What are some of the stories that readers can look forward to in the 50th anniversary edition? 

We decided to focus this issue around small towns. We’re sort of the unofficial magazine of small-town Texas. So with this issue, we have our annual list of small towns to visit now, which is a reader favorite.

This year, our features editor, Chris Hughes, taps Texas authors to write about some of the towns that inspired their work. So we have May Cobb writing about Longview in East Texas. We have C.S. Humble writing about Monahans.

And then we also have a feature on the Permian-Odessa high school football rivalry that inspired “Friday Night Lights.” The movie came out 20 years ago, so we thought it’d be a good time to revisit the topic. 

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on texasstandard.org and KUT.org. Thanks for donating today.