Texas in December

Old Oct 3rd, 2009, 08:22 PM
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Texas in December

We are couple with 2 teenagers (girls). We will be flying from Toronto to Dallas on Dec 25th and back on Jan 2nd. We are also planning to visit San Antonio and Austin. This is our first visit and no idea at all about Texas. Appreciate if anyone could suggest us the itinerary, where to go, stay and eat or "must see". Any information is much appreciated. Thank you.
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Old Oct 4th, 2009, 04:09 AM
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We have vacationed Texas last winter - exactly within the same timeframe that you will have next winter.

To make it short: We loved Texas which was completely different from common prejudices here in Europe. Here is what we did:

- Fort Worth-Stockyards. The Stockyards is a tiny area with historic brick buildings, corrals, a train station and lots and lots of rustic BBQ restaurants, bars and Western shops where you can buy Stetson hats, snake leather boots or stuffed armadillos with beer bottles in their hands. It is fun to spend an evening there.

- Austin. Visit the stately Capitol building, the art museum, stroll along Lake Austin, and enjoy blues music in 6th street or, better, at Antone's Club. The city's motto is "Keep Austin weird!" and that says a lot.

- Texas Hill Country. We especially enjoyed the tiny historical towns Gruene (and regretted that we did not have the opportunity to spend the evening there to listen to the live music in Gruene Hall) and Luckenbach. Especially the latter will show you some typical atmosphere of Texas (weird people playing their guitars).

- San Antonio. This city is spectacularly beautiful - with the riverwalk, the Spanish Governor's Palace, the Mexican Market and the German King William District.

- We also enjoyed Big Bend Natl. Park and the Ghost town Terlingua west of the park (we stayed at a nice hotel in Lajitas) with spectacular scenery.

Temperatures were really nice. In Big Bend, temps went up to 30°C, in San Antonio it was about 25°C. The other places were a bit cooler, around 20°C.
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Old Oct 4th, 2009, 07:50 AM
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Big Bend area is a "fur piece" as we say here in Texas from the other spots on your itinerary. Not as far afield is the Hill Country. This is an area to the west of Austin that encompasses beautiful hilly terrain, big ranches, pretty streams full of ancient cyprus trees and interesting towns like Fredericksburg, Comfort, Boerne etc. I particularly like Comfort for its unspoiled architecture, tree lined streams and small town charm. If horses and cowboys are of interest, see what's happening in Bandera. Also of great interest are the "painted churches." These are strung along the roads east of Austin and San Antonio, and driving to see them takes you to some of the towns that figured in Texas history. Your teenagers may find the San Antonio Riverwalk - which is touristy to the max - the huge (and I do mean HUGE)outlet mall between Austin and San Antonio (it will be packed that week), and Austin more interesting. Teens might also like the winter activities at Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, and at Sea World in San Antonio.

In Austin, go for a stroll around the south Congress Avenue shops and restaurants - and if the weather isn't optimal, go to the Bob Bullock museum of Texas History, with its IMAX theaters. In the evening, you can take in another movie at the Alamo Drafthouse - a unique concept where you have dinner/snacks/drinks while watching the show - or go to Ester's Follies on 6th street - a comedy review that has been in operation for years. Although the University of Texas will not be in session, the basketball team may be playing - and you can get tickets pretty easily at that time of year.

Eat some chicken fried steak and mexican food. Have fun.
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Old Oct 4th, 2009, 08:08 AM
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So much great adivce here, most of what I would suggest has already been said.

In San Antonio the Riverwalk is gorgeous with the Christmas decorations. It is indeed touristy but only because it's so nice. Be sure to take a boat ride on the river. Across from the Hyatt Hotel on the Riverwalk is the Alamo, also well worth a visit. Nearby you will also find the wax museum and Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. I thought it was a bit on the cheesy side but still fun, however my teen nephew loved it.

Big Bend is quite a long drive, I wouldn't try it in the time you have.

A few other interesting towns in the Hill Country are Johnson City and Fredericksburg. Johnson City has the LBJ Ranch which is an interesting place to visit, regardless of your opinion of LBJ. Fredericksburg is a German town just a little further west of Johnson City. It has preserved it's German look and feel, and you'll find lots of great German food there. If the weather is nice you might go for a climb on nearby Enchanted Rock.

Thank you for your interest in Texas, you are very welcome here. If you have any other questions I will be happy to answer if I can.
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Old Oct 4th, 2009, 08:10 AM
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"Across from the Hyatt Hotel on the Riverwalk is the Alamo"

Let me re-state this. If you are on the Riverwalk you can go from the Riverwalk through the Hyatt Hotel and just across the street is the Alamo.
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Old Oct 4th, 2009, 01:01 PM
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Miramar just posted a great trip report for Austin. You can find lots of good Austin information by reading older posts here.

The Alamo is a famous site in Texas history that has been preserved as a museum. It is worth the visit to absorb some state history and take a break from the Riverwalk.
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Old Oct 4th, 2009, 07:46 PM
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Thank you all for your great suggestions. It is much appreciated.
For New Year's eve, where would you recommend us to stay?
Is there any food or restaurants that we should not miss out on? Are there any specific shows we should see?

Thanks again.
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Old Oct 5th, 2009, 01:36 AM
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For New Year's Eve, you have many options:

Austin's 6th Street would be cool, and also San Antonio. For a very special New Year's Eve with authentic Texas flair, you might also consider Gruene Hall.

http://www.yapclub.com/austin/new-years-eve.aspx
http://www.yapclub.com/sanantonio/new-years-eve.aspx
www.gruenehall.com

For upscale dining with live music in Austin, I recommend Eddie V's Edgewater Grille:

http://www.eddiev.com/

When you are in San Antonio, do not miss the Buckhorn Saloon & Museum. It is a very special experience. Inexpensive food.

http://www.buckhornmuseum.com/

Besides the Alamo, I recommend the other missions in San Antonio. With a car, you can easily visit them within two or three hours. http://www.nps.gov/saan/index.htm
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Old Oct 5th, 2009, 05:59 AM
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Boudro's on the River Walk in San Antonio is a fun spot to eat; we love their tableside guacamole and prickly pear margaritas. I'd stay on the River Walk. We like the Marriott Rivercenter, but there are lots of good spots. Definitely do the boat tour. We did a Segway tour that was also fun.

In Gruene, we love to eat at the Grist Mill on the river. The Gruene Apple is a cute place to stay for a night.

In Austin, we love to go out to the Oasis for dinner and drinks to enjoy the view of Lake Travis.
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Old Oct 5th, 2009, 08:43 AM
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In addition to the above excellent suggestions and comments, note that there are 5 missions in San Antonio dating from 1718. The Alamo is the most famous, but the others are quite different and interesting, and well worth a visit.

All of them can be seen in less than a day. You can see them on your own or tours are offered by some companies.

For overall info see www.nps.gov/saan
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Old Oct 5th, 2009, 09:19 AM
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You have been given great advice from above. In addition to the Stockyards in Fort Worth, if your family has an interest in art at all, or if the weather is lousy, the Modern Art Museum and, especially, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth are excellent venues. As a matter of fact, the Kimbell recently acquired Michelangelo's first painting, which is on display. The Bass Hall in downtown Fort Worth has wonderful entertainment and the building is magnificent. Downtown Fort Worth is a happening place in the evenings - area called Sundance. Eat barbeque (Angelo's or Railhead) and tex-mex food (Joe T. Garcia's) near the Stockyards. Hope this helps...
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Old Oct 5th, 2009, 09:30 AM
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>>>if your family has an interest in art at all, or if the weather is lousy
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Old Oct 5th, 2009, 09:37 AM
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We've been for just a long weekend to San Antonio and Austin (with a stop in Gruene in between), so just want to add a couple of things:

1. For downscale dining in Austin, don't miss the Salt Lick (barbecue, really really good). It's a ways outside of town. Very limited menu, but a super-fun place. It's "bring your own beer".

2. It was at volcanogirl's suggestion that we ate at Boudro's and we really enjoyed it. The Riverwalk is indeed lovely (and it wasn't Xmastime when we were there), the food is good, the margaritas are great!

3. We enjoyed poking around Gruene, because poking around unique shops is what we love to do. You can spend 2 hours or all day! Most of it is bric-a-brac, but I found a terrific jewelry store (earrings are "my thing") - the Gallerie at Gruene.

4. Lastly, the King William District in San Antonio was perhaps my favorite part of town. Old mansions, some in the throes of being renovated, from a time when German immigrants populated the area. Stop and have a rest/snack at the Mad Hatter Tea House.
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Old Oct 5th, 2009, 09:42 AM
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sf, we think alike; we loved the Salt Lick in Driftwood too - great Texas vibe!

I don't know if anyone's mentioned it above, but the Guenther House in the King William District of S.A. is a cute spot for brunch or lunch.
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Old Oct 5th, 2009, 01:40 PM
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Many thanks again for all responses, suggestions and advices. Much appreciated. Is there any cowboy show or Texas specific show that you can recommend to us? Could anyone give us advices about choosing the hotel with a moderate price in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin please?
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Old Oct 5th, 2009, 01:51 PM
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San Antonio hosts the Alamo Bowl, a large college football bowl game. I think it's held on January 2nd (but please confirm). We've been to SA in the days leading up to the Alamo Bowl and it gets crazy crowded, plus hotels will fill up. I'd advise you to do the San Antonio part of your trip first, then get out of town before the college football crowd arrives.

Be sure to check the weather forecast right before you come. It would be 25 degrees or it could be 85 degrees. You're likely to have nice weather but you never know.
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Old Oct 5th, 2009, 02:01 PM
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There are two huge outlet malls in San Marcos (between Austin and San Antonio)- quite popular for shopping. They have a lot of shoppers from Mexico and they make it very easy for them to fill out the forms to get a refund of their sales tax, so no reason why someone from Canada couldn't take advantage of that, too.

In the Dallas area, look up the Sixth Floor Museum (Kennedy stuff). If you are going to be in downtown Dallas on a non-holiday weekday, you might want to consider lunch at the Zodiac Room at Neiman Marcus.

Not really "Texan" but the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular will be in the Dallas area nightly through the 30th (except the 25th).
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Old Oct 5th, 2009, 02:26 PM
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Here are the essential food groups:

1. Tex-Mex

2. Barbeque

3. Home-cookin' (chicken fried steak; pie)

You might also venture into German food if you visit New Braunfels. Of course, there are loads of upscale restaurants, ethnic restaurants, etc. As your plans firm up, let us know what type of restaurants you're looking for in what city and we'll give recommendations.
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Old Oct 5th, 2009, 07:15 PM
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If you stay in Fort Worth, try the Ashton Hotel downtown. It can be expensive but maybe they will have specials that week. We stayed there last year and it was very clean, good linens and well decorated rooms. In Dallas, the Melrose hotel is nice, as is Hotel Zaza. Fort Worth is great for culture. World class museums (even a cowgirl museum), a zoo & botanic garden as well as great restaurants. I think that Billy Bob's might have a rodeo event many nights of the week. Dallas is more focused on shopping and eating. Lots of restaurants and shopping malls.
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Old Oct 6th, 2009, 04:06 PM
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I am sooo grateful to receive lots of great advices and suggestions from each of you. Thank you soo much.
We booked our ticket to Dallas on Dec 25th and returning on Jan 2nd. Missypie is right, the Alamo Bowl is on Jan 2nd, and yeess, we love shopping. I will go to the outlet mall in San Marcos for sure. Based on the advices that I received so far, what do you think about the below itinerary:

Dec 25 - Arrive in Dallas
Dec 26 - San Antonio
Dec 27 - San Antonio
Dec 28 - San Antonio
Dec 29 - Austin
Dec 30 - Houston
Dec 31 - Dallas
Jan 1 - Dallas
jan 2 - Returning back to Toronto

I will need to book my hotels soon, hope to get a moderate price. Thanks again ...
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