Downtown Midland is the financial and trade center for the vast West Texas Permian Basin, the second-largest oil and gas shale producer globally, known for oil, natural gas, salt, and potassium. Outside of Houston, no other area in the United States plays as important a role in the nation’s energy industry as the Permian Basin.
Midland is nicknamed “Tall City,” known for its downtown skyline that stands out for miles. The construction of most of the office buildings happened during significant oil and gas discoveries. In Midland, the economy is growing, and the residents enjoy the benefits of having the second-highest personal income In the United States.
The town of Midland developed where the railroad tracks met, halfway between Fort Worth and El Paso. Known as Midway, the name later changed to Midland. The ranching region in the area is best known for Hereford cattle.
The West Texas city is proud to be the hometown of former First Lady Laura Bush and the former home of two U.S. Presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. This flat, semi-arid, mesquite-mixed grassland offers many hidden gems besides the oil pump jacks. Let’s explore Midland.
1. Permian Basin Petroleum Museum
The 40,000 square feet of interactive environments tell the energy and petroleum story of the Permian Basin, recently concluding an $18 million renovation. The museum hopes to promote careers for young people in the industry. See the introductory film, the 250-million-year-old Permian Reef re-creation, and a 1930s boomtown. You’ll see interactive touch screens, dramatic lighting, and special effects guiding the “petrotrekker” through risk and reward oil drilling adventures. The Chevron Energy City teaches about solar, hydro, and nuclear energies.
2. Marion Blakemore Planetarium
The Blakemore Planetarium houses a state-of-the-art Spitz SciDome projector with custom fish-eye projection lenses, one of the few in the world. See a permanent exhibition area and a classroom. Dome shows are presented Tuesday through Saturday, followed by star talks. Star Parties hosted by the West Texas Astronomers are scheduled once monthly, except during the summer. Construction of the Blakemore Planetarium in 1972 finished on the grounds of the Museum of the Southwest.
3. Museum Of The Southwest
The Turner Mansion, the former home of Fred and Juliette Turner, has been home to the Museum of the Southwest since 1968. The Turner Memorial Art Museum, a sculpture garden, the Fredda Turner Durham Children’s Museum, and the Marian West and William B. Blakemore Planetarium comprise The Museum of the Southwest. Explore the Permanent Collection, plus “Fertile Valley: Taos Society of Artists,” “Five Centuries of Mexican Maps,” and coming soon, “Sand Paintings.”
4. Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center
The Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, named for the significant donor families Lissa Noel Wagner, is located on the satellite campus of the University of Texas at the Permian Basin, between Midland and Odessa.
Pro Tip: You’ll see performances in August like Knockout de Risas, a Spanish comedy show. Also, see Blippi the Musical and An Evening with the Gatlin Brothers. Coming in 2022, see Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles.
5. George W. Bush Childhood Home Museum
The childhood home of George W. Bush was home to two former presidents, George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush, between 1951 and 1955. The house was built in 1940 and purchased by the Bush family for $9,000.
Pro Tip: Every child who donates a book can tour the Bush home for free during the current fundraiser. The Laura Bush Literacy Program promotes reading, including the Third Thursday Reading Program event.
6. Brown-Dorsey Medallion Home
The Victorian-style residence constructed in 1899 is reportedly the oldest house in Midland and is owned by the Midland Historical Society. The home, decorated with furnishings from the 1800s, features a magnificent Gothic art glass window. Tours are available by appointment.
7. Scarborough-Linebery House
Constructed in 1907 for Kara and W.F. Scarborough, the Scarborough-Linebery House is a ranch-style home characteristic of early West Texas cattlemen. The historic home is available for guided tours, receptions, luncheons, dinner parties, and weddings.
8. Pliska Airplane
John V. Pliska built his airplane after he saw a Wright Brothers Model B plane land in Midland in 1911 on a flight across the country. He flew his aircraft in 1912, the first plane built and flown in Texas.
Pro Tip: See the display hanging above the baggage claim area at Midland International Air & Space Port.
9. Midland International Air & Space Port
Located between Midland and Odessa, Midland International Air & Space Port boasts American, Southwest, and United Airlines daily service. The airport is the first primary commercial service airport in the country to receive an FAA Spaceport Designation.
Midland Development Corporation is studying the concept of a “highway in the sky,” a corridor licensed by the FAA for high-speed supersonic testing between Midland and Spaceport America in New Mexico. When approved, the infrastructure would allow the Department of Defense and private companies to conduct experiments. This project would incentivize dozens of space companies to move to the Permian Basin.
10. I-20 Wildlife Preserve & Jenna Bush Welch Nature Study Center
Positioned on an 86-acre urban playa lake wetland nestled just north of Interstate 20, you’ll find the 100-acre riparian forest Wildlife Preserve. Explore a 3.4-mile trail system with an ADA-accessible 1.45-mile loop trail. See a 2,105-foot boardwalk with learning facilities like seven bird blinds, a hawk observation tower, four teaching platforms, two butterfly gardens, and four feeding stations. The habitat provides butterfly, birding, and wildlife viewings of bobcats, rabbits, badgers, porcupines, raccoons, reptiles, and amphibians. Admission is free.
11. Midland Downtown Fire Museum
The Midland Downtown Lions Club Fire Station holds historic firefighting artifacts with photos of early equipment lining the walls. See a World War II fire alarm used at Midland Army Air Base and the city’s first two fully restored fire trucks, a 1916 unit with a 40-gallon tank and a 1928 American La France T-91 engine.
12. Midland County Historical Museum
The Midland County Historical Museum houses exhibits of Native American artifacts, pioneer relics, photos, and history of the Civil War and World Wars I and II. See the “Midland Man,” a reproduction of the fossil remains of a skull, rib, and hand bones, discovered south of Midland on the Scharbauer Ranch in 1953, proving human life existed in the Midland area 9000-9500 B.C.
13. Haley Library & History Center
Haley Library & History Center hosts a vast collection of books, papers, art, artifacts, photos, Western sculpture, and correspondence of Midland area historical figures, ranchers, oil and gas investors. You’ll find Southwestern Texas history, ranch and cattle associations, Civil War records, genealogical materials, Quanah Parker, and Charles Goodnight papers. The library houses the first bell that hung in the Alamo. I love to shop the gallery and store for books, Western art, and photographs.
14. Jim Hall’s Chaparral Race Car Gallery, Permian Basin Petroleum Museum
Jim Hall and Hap Sharp started a small racing team in Midland named Chapparal Cars, the Spanish word for the roadrunner. See the Chaparral Cars on display, revered by the racing community as an innovator of an aerodynamic wing and lightweight construction materials. Join the world-famous Chaparral Pit Crew Fan Club.
15. Midland RockHounds, Double-A Team For The Oakland Athletics
Midland’s Minor League Baseball team, the Midland Rockhounds, plays in the Double-A Central, affiliated with the Oakland Athletics major league club. The team is about as close as Midlanders get to pro baseball. Check the website for tickets to season suites, club seats, box, and reserve seats. Play ball!
16. Golf In Midland
You’ll find 13 golf courses in the Midland area: eight in Midland and five in Odessa. Of the eight, five are private, two are municipal courses, and one is public. The public golf course, Nueva Vista Golf Club, has 18 holes over 6,900 yards with a par 72. The two municipal courses are the Hogan Park Roadrunner Golf Course with 18 holes over 6,925 yards with a par 72, and the Hogan Park Quail Course, a par 71, with 18 holes over 6,593 yards.
17. Susie’s South Forty Confections Candy Factory
Susie’s South Forty Confections, featured on Food Network’s Unwrapped for its “Texas Trash,” boasts a custom blend of cereal, pretzels, and pecans drenched with white chocolate. Try the Fudge Richey Chocolate Perfection, decadent chocolate pecan fudge hand-dipped in Belgian chocolate. She also creates customized Texas gift baskets.
18. Midland Farmers Market
Shop the Midland Farmers Market on Saturday mornings (rain or shine, April through October) for fresh farm-to-table vegetables, artisan bread, free-range eggs, watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkins, local honey, and goat cheese. You’ll find strawberry/cranberry jam, chili mix, hatch chili cheese bread, pecan sandies, and jalapeno salsa. Vendors must grow or make their products, meaning you are buying locally and supporting the community.
19. Midland Restaurants
Clear Springs Restaurant is the go-to place for seafood and steaks in Midland. They are top-rated for fried catfish, and the grilled bacon-wrapped shrimp is a classic. Don’t miss the appetizer plate stacked tall with deep-fried onion rings.
Pro Tip: Save room for homemade peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream or double chocolate cake with ice cream.
Italian-born Carmine Scarcelli founded Venezia Restaurant. Experience Northern Italian cuisine paired with an extensive wine list featuring more than 500 labels. You’ll find nothing but the best seafood here, flown in regularly. Savor grilled tenderloin or baby rack of lamb. Enjoy veal cooked every way, chicken, or duck alla cacciatore.
Pro Tip: Save room for Italian cream cake or classic tiramisu, by the slice or a whole cake.
You can eat your way through 30 Mexican Food Restaurants in Midland, all claiming to be the best, and our family who lives there agrees.