They say Texas is a State of Mind and after a recent jaunt to Austin (the State capital) and San Antonio, I now know why! Situated in the Texas ‘Hill Country’, you’ll find lots of great, Texas-sized things to do! You might think of Texas as flat ranches and oil rigs on barren prairies, but you’ll be surprised at the area’s topography. This area is reminiscent of spots I’ve been to in Tuscany, with rolling hills, lots of greenery and a warm, dry climate. To learn about the area, a visit to the State Capital building is a must. Tours are free and very informative. It’s made of beautiful Texas pink granite and is very impressive. True to the “everything’s bigger” reputation Texas has, the building is actually taller than the U.S. capital building in Washington D.C.! The tour will give you a crash course in the roots of this great republic. The paintings and memorabilia are impressive – a history buff’s dream!
The place to stay is the Driskill Hotel, an absolute gem in Austin. Built in 1886 by cattleman, Jesse Driskill, who wanted to build the finest hotel south of St. Louis, the entrance and lobby are impressive and the rooms beautifully furnished. It’s in the heart of the live music capital of the world – be sure to take time to enjoy an evening at the piano lounge inside the hotel. It’s got a great vibe, live performers every night and some of the best people watching in town!
While you’re in downtown Austin, take time to enjoy a stroll along Lake Austin, which is actually a reservoir on the Colorado River. There’s a 7mile trail to walk, bike, or rollerblade. Downtown Austin is clean, friendly and energetic! There are great restaurants and bars to check out and the nightlife is infamous. If it’s music you’re into, 6th Street is the place to be, with dozens of bars & restaurants. You’ll find nearly every kind of live music.
Austin’s official slogan is ‘Keep Austin Weird,’ and virtually anything goes. Be creative, get out your tie-dyed t-shirt and relive your youth!
When you think of Texas, you probably think of Honky Tonks, and BBQ. If those are two things you’d enjoy, then Austin is the perfect place! Be sure to visit one of the most famous dance halls – The Broken Spoke. It’s a true, old fashioned honky tonk that’s been around for decades, as evidenced by the photos of country stars and Hollywood elite alike displayed on the walls. Enjoy the live music every night and don’t be afraid to get out on the dance floor – you’ll find both beginners and experts alike. As for the food in Texas, it’s all about the BBQ. If you’re the king of the ‘q’ at home, you need to visit Salt Lick, in nearby Driftwood, TX. ‘All you can eat’ is $19.95 per person, but includes everything. It’s family style, at long tables and you’ll meet some of the most friendly serving staff I’ve ever experienced. They use their famous ‘mop sauce’ on the large wood fired grill, to cook chicken, ribs, sausage, and my favorite, the brisket, to absolute perfection. Knives aren’t necessary as everything is ‘fork tender’. They’re not licensed, but you can buy beer & wine (they even have an on-site winery) at their liquor store, and bring it over to enjoy with your dinner. Surprisingly, this area of Texas now has quite a bustling wine industry and many of the wines are very good.
For a great daytrip from Austin (although you’ll have plenty to do in this fabulous city for a week or more), be sure to head south to San Antonio, famous for its ‘Riverwalk’ and The Alamo. The Riverwalk was envisioned by two members of the city’s parks board in the 1920’s, and after a lot of perseverance, it was built. Some have called San Antonio a cross between New Orleans and Venice, due to its colourful cafes and walkways, and the ever-present canals that meander through the downtown. Small boats will take you on a 30 minute cruise, allowing you a great vantage point from which to see the city. Next stop: The Alamo–part of the very fabric of Texas. The battle on this site is infamous, and is, in fact, where Davy Crockett and many of his compadres met their fate. Over 2.5 million folks visit each year, most coming to see the old mission where a small band of Texans held out for thirteen days against General Santa Anna’s army. When you learn about Texas history, you’ll soon understand why these are such a proud people. The Alamo represents nearly 300 years of history, and is a must when in San Antonio.
We topped off our visit with an evening at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, one of the largest rodeos in the world. For 65 years, it’s been showcasing the best in rodeo and is guaranteed to have you cheering ‘Yee Haw’!
Texas might not be a destination you’d think of as a top tourist area, but San Antonio, Austin and the Texas hill country should definitely be on your list. The climate is great, there’s lots to see and the people are as friendly as can be! Texas truly IS a State of Mind.