Vacation–that necessary activity that retains your sanity. The thing you long and wait for month after month, counting down the days until you are freed from the daily grind.
My year has been busy as yours has probably been as well. We’re all busy with the things we have to do and the things we want to do to help us unwind from a long day. This year has been particularly busy, and let’s be honest, stressful. With the job changes, major move, and new territory, i.e., Oklahoma, those are just a few of the curve balls thrown my way. So yes, I was more than ready for a week away and some time to relax. I will say that vacation is tiring in its own way. The constant go and the unfamiliarity of it all barrages your senses. Yet, it was still refreshing.
Our trip began as most do: packing. And there was no way Reuben was going to let us leave without him.
The morning of day 1 was sunny and full of promise. About halfway down the road, we stopped off at Slovacek’s. This gas station is a travel destination all on its own. This Czech shop sells meats, cheeses, and pastries with kolaches possibly being their most popular attraction. If you don’t know what a kolache is, then you have my deepest sympathies. In their traditional form, kolaches are filled with sweet jellies or jams, yet nowadays you can find the tender rolls filled with breakfast sausage and egg or even brisket. They’ve really morphed into whatever the vendor wants them to be. And they’re delicious.
Finally, after driving for several hours, we made it to Austin. I think Reuben was glad to get out of the truck.
Round Rock, TX
The next morning, there was only one place I wanted to go: Round Rock Donuts. Now at this point, this local joint has become increasingly popular. And for good reason. On a Saturday morning, the line was out the door. But these golden delicacies are well worth the wait.
The pastries are warm and deliciously satisfying. I could try to compare them to one of the more well-known donuts out there, but really there’s no comparison. You’ll just have to take the trip to Round Rock to get a taste. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can try tackling one of their giant-sized donuts. (See picture above.)
If you still need another reason to visit Round Rock, Texas, let me be the first to give it to you: Salt Lick.
As in Salt Lick BBQ.
Yes, you need to take the trip because of this barbeque. Because it’s amazing. Of course, Round Rock is not the only location–there are now a total of three Salt Lick locations in the Austin area. But the Round Rock location is a personal favorite.
Just look at that meat! I bet you can already smell and taste it, can’t you?
For one particular reason, Waco has made its way onto the map: Magnolia.
And I will admit that we took a Saturday drive from Austin to Waco for this very reason. But was it worth it?
To be honest, there wasn’t much to see. Sure the silos were cool, but inside? It was wall to wall people shopping for things that have Magnolia printed on them rather than the actual home items. And the items for sale resembled something out of Pier 1 with a price to match. Needless to say, I would be better off going to Target and checking out their line of Magnolia home goods for sale.
However, the city of Waco itself is pretty cool and is a good place to walk around.
San Antonio, TX
San Antonio, Texas: known for its history and the famous landmark, the Alamo. Located just a few hours from the Texas-Mexico border, San Antonio boasts a strong Latino heritage and culture.
If you’re looking for something to do, this city offers a lot of options, but one of the things you NEED to do is walk the Riverwalk. Stretching for 15 miles, there are plenty of shops and restaurants dotting the waterside, making for a cool experience. Of course, you don’t have to walk the entirety of the Riverwalk. And if you’re not wanting to walk it at all, there are boats you can ride to get a scenic tour of the river.
Hunting for a good place to eat lunch, we came across Rita’s. The important thing about this restaurant is that they’re dog-friendly, going so far as to offer a doggie menu if you want to give your four-legged friend a bite to eat.
While I can’t say anything about the dog menu, I can tell you that the flautas are delicious and the prices are good. And if you have some spare cash with you, pay the Mariachi band to play you a song while you eat 😉
If you’ve toured the Riverwalk and had enough of the outdoors, try heading over to the Shops at Rivercenter.
It’s a three-story mall with just about anything you could want to buy. For instance, dessert. We couldn’t resist stopping in at the Ghirardelli shop. It smelled far too heavenly to leave without buying something.
You didn’t think I would leave out Austin, did you? It was, after all, the whole reason we went to Texas 😉 I decided to save this location for last considering it is the largest and the area with the most to see and do. So take a deep breath and here we go.
Pretty much any direction you go, there is something there. Going east? You’ll find the McKinney Falls State Park.
Heading west? Check out the Balcones Canyonlands.
Head north on I-35 until you’re in Georgetown. Once there, you can find the San Gabriel River which offers a walking trail and picnic areas. If you’re there during the summer months, you’ll discover it doubles as the local swimming hole.
Keep heading north, and you can stop at the Berry Springs Park and Preserve.
Now, if you’re not really into the great outdoors thing, you’ll love the city of Austin. Because of the exploding economy and the exponential growth of the population, big companies are moving their offices to the capitol of Texas. Which means that there are a lot of shopping options. Name brands like Aldo, Bose, and Coach have their own shops set up in a nearby outlet towards Round Rock. Pretty much anything you can think of is located either in Austin or just a short drive from it. Heading over to shopping areas such as the Domain will give you a chance to burn through cash at Tiffany’s or Neiman Marcus. Of course, if you’re like me and can’t afford those prices, you’ll have your pick of Targets (yes, there are multiple in Austin alone) and other such department stores.
Oh, and speaking of the Domain, it not only houses several shopping options, it’s also the home of some fantastic restaurants like Gloria’s. If you’re in the mood for classy Latin dining, be sure to check this place out. The food is divine and the atmosphere is elegant.
If Latin food isn’t your thing, how about something a little more traditional? Like Tony C’s. This local joint is serving up delicious pastas and coal-fired pizzas.
And if you have room for dessert, I strongly recommend the tiramisu.
While there are so many other great places I could share with you and insist that you visit, I end it with this one: Mozart’s Coffee Roasters.
This place is amazing. As soon as you enter the warm cafe, the aroma of fresh coffee and scrumptious pastries assaults your senses. After you’ve picked up your heavenly order, you can either sit inside and enjoy the atmosphere or grab a seat on the deck overlooking the water and the scenic view. Your choice and neither option is a bad one.
And if you happen to be in the area during the holiday season, you’ll want to stop by in the evening for some Christmas spirit.
So that’s it. That’s my vacation guide to a Texas vacation. But even with all these suggestions, there is still plenty more to see and do in this growing part of the country.
So if you’ve never been to this great state, be sure to check it out. And if you have, share some of your must-see destinations in the comments below.