In Texas? Need a weekend break? I’ve got three favorites: beach, relaxing/romantic, and weird.
Run off to the Island
A trip to historic Galveston Island on the Texas Gulf Coast can be as laid back or energetic as you want. The island is recovering from the damage caused by hurricane Ike in 2008. Some parts of the island are still damaged, while other parts look as though nothing happened. I was there in early 2009 and the island was hoppin’ so I recommend it. Highlights of your visit might include:
1. The beach – While a bit brownish compare to a Florida beach, is still a beach where you can swim, surf, play, and beach comb.
2. The Water Park – Galveston boasts a Schlitterbahn Water Park open year round – yep – they convert part of it to an indoor water park during the winter months.
3. The Historic Strand – filled with unique shops, restaurants, and ambiance. In December, it transforms to Dickens on the Strand and you do feel transported to the Victorian era with constant entertainment, food, shopping, and London Wharf and the 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA.
4. Museums – Galveston boasts several museums – my favorite is the Flight Museum.
5. The popular Moody Gardens – wander through its pyramids, each offering a different attraction, and tour the historic steamboat.
Where to stay:
Casa del Mar is right on the beach and works for families or couples. Rates range from around $75 per night during off season up to $150 per night during summer.
Where to eat:
Fisherman’s Wharf. Texas Monthly Magazine loved it and for good reason. You’ll enjoy the scenic view and service. You can select indoor or outdoor seating. You’ll pay around $20-$30 per meal.
You will likely see Gaido’s Famous Seafood Restaurant while you are in Galveston and might be tempted to eat your seafood there. Back in the day, it was pretty good, but the food has gone downhill and I don’t recommend it. Definitely do not stay in their motel – yuck!
Get away to Utopia
Isn’t Utopia a great name for a romantic getaway? It’s also the name of a Texas town.
For once, web site hype is true. Having spent a romantic weekend in Utopia I can attest that this description it true.
“Bring your camera, easel, fishing rod, hunting gear, bicycle, and swimsuit or just get yourself out to this perfect environment. This quintessential small Texas community is aptly named. Situated along the banks of the picturesque, cypress-lined Sabinal River, it offers more than most towns its size.”
Utopia, Texas is 80 miles from San Antonio. You can stay in Utopia or head down the road for a day trip to Lost Maples State Natural Area for spectacular bird watching and amazing color changes to the leaves in the last two weeks of October and first week of November. Of course, with the brilliant foliage comes the crowd. Lost Maples terrain ranges from rugged limestone canyons to flat grasslands and clear streams. Camping is allowed.
Where to stay:
If you want to rough it – camp in Lost Maples. If you’d rather be romantic (my choice) choose Utopia on the River B&B (rates start at $112 per night). Situated right on the Sabinal river it’s a lovely quiet retreat. Nearby activities include bird watching, fishing, golfing, horseback riding, swimming, and tennis. When I stayed there I pulled a lounge chair into the river under the overhang of a tree and read my book with the water rushing underneath – it was, well, utopian.
Keep Austin Weird
Austin wants to keep the laid back college town quirkiness in spite of its population growth. Austin wants to say weird and you get a bumper sticker as proof.
There are activities and festivals to keep you busy for months. Stay in the downtown area to be in the middle of it all. Here is my list of things you should not miss while visiting Austin.
1. Eat at The Oasis on Lake Travis and enjoy a sunset that regularly gets applause – the food is great too.
2. Visit the Texas State Capitol – it is higher than the U.S. Capitol.
3. View the over 1 million bats that fly from under the Congress Avenue bridge at dusk each night from April to October. Austin boasts the largest urban bat colony.
4. Walk the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail in the middle of Austin.
5. Head down to SoCo (South Congress Avenue) for an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and music venues.
6. Visit the LBJ Museum on the University of Texas campus where you’ll see a 7/8th scale exact replica of the Oval Office as it was during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency.
If you want to visit Austin in its natural state, avoid the major busy times – SXSW (usually in March), Austin Film Festival (usually in October), and Republic of Texas Biker’s Rally (usually in June). Of course, those events may be part of the attraction of your visit to Austin. I love the film festival.
I’ve left out a lot of Austin activities. Click here to see what’s going on in Austin and to find more things to do that are in line with your interests, check out the Austin Visitors Guide.
Now just decide whether you want beach, romantic/relaxing, or weird and plan your well deserved Texas mini-break.
Personal experience augmented by http://www.utopiatexas.net/ and http://www.galveston.com/default.asp.