Heading Photograph taken in San Antonio by Third Rock Explorations
1 Star * - We would never go again or recommend it
2 Stars ** - It wasn't for us, but someone else may like it
3 Stars *** - It was good and we would recommend it
4 Stars **** - It was great and we would recommend it
5 Stars ***** - Definitely try it when you are visiting the area
Dallas - 2 Stars ** "A city with more than it's share of mentally ill homeless people wandering the streets, which have piles of feces throughout."
Dallas was not what we had expected. We have both been here before, once together, and we had a really good time, but never really got out to explore the city. Like most cities, there is plenty of traffic, but the roads here are a little confusing even with GPS. The downtown area has some great architecture and some interesting statues and monuments, but walking around the city is a little troubling. Every city has homeless people, and none of the ones in Dallas bothered us, but so many of them were severely ill. There were piles of feces on the sidewalks throughout the city, and though some was from lazy dog owners, the rest appeared to be more human. It was just awful. There is security walking many of the streets downtown, also making us think there must be some issues down there. We hate writing negative reviews, but we feel that this was an honest reflection of what we experienced here.
Quality Inn & Suites DFW Airport South - 4 Stars ****
The staff here was friendly upon check-in. The hotel and rooms were clean, but our room wasn't as large as other suites we have stayed in. The free hot breakfast had a variety of breakfast items to choose from. The gym had the basics needed for a good workout. There is an outdoor pool, but it was too cold outside. This hotel is convenient to the Airport and getting to Downtown and Fort Worth was fairly easy from this location.
Thanksgiving Square & Chapel - 1 Star *
Thanksgiving Square is in Downtown Dallas. Parking downtown was easy to find and cheap, as opposed to other cities we have visited. We loved the concept of the Square and we were looking forward to seeing the Chapel. Unfortunately, it was not open when we arrived and the hours were hard to find. We already knew that it was only open a few days per week so we made sure we were there on a day it was open. Well, on that day it is only open for about 2 hours from 1-3pm, which we could not find anywhere. The pictures looked interesting so we very disappointed. There were a couple of cool monuments in the Square including a mosaic of a Norman Rockwell painting, which was interesting, but the entire park smelled like urine and there was dog and possibly human feces everywhere, including the sidewalks. You would think people would be more respectful of this area.
Cattle Drive Monument - 5 Stars *****
If you are in Dallas, you have to find this monument. This was one of the highlights of Dallas. It was hard to find using GPS, but if you find the City Building and the Cemetery, the Monument is right next to the cemetery. It was so much larger than we expected and the detail of these bronze statues is excellent. On the sidewalk, you can see the different ranch brands and you can match them to the brands on the cattle. It definitely exceeded our expectations.
Magical Winter Lights - 4 Stars ****
This Christmas Spectacular is unique in that it uses Chinese Lanterns and Lights for its exhibits. The attraction is located just 10 minutes from the Dallas Airport area, and takes place in the parking lot of a local event venue. It's a little pricey considering you could walk through it in about 30-45 minutes, but if you have kids or like to take pictures, you can stretch it out a little longer. There are also some little kid rides and a mechanical bull, but it was a very cold night so we didn't see anyone on those. There is a Chinese Acrobat show that is about 30 minutes that was fantastic though. These young men and women are very talented and made it worth the price of admission. There is also a snack bar if you need hot chocolate and a funnel cake. The lights are beautiful and we really enjoyed the Texas themed lights, giving it a local touch!
Fort Worth - 4 Stars **** "Fort Worth has great architecture, beautiful fountains, and a nice downtown area!"
Fort Worth has a combination of old and new architecture, all of which is very interesting. Sundance Square is a nice outdoor shopping mall with all types of restaurants and shops. There is plenty of history to be explored here including a tribute to JFK, the stockades, and several art museums.
Fort Worth Water Garden - 5 Stars *****
Pictures do not do this park justice. The Water Garden is a series of 3 main fountains/pools in an area known as Hell's Acre. Each fountain has it's own theme, going from quiet and serene to loud and exciting. This free park is an amazing oasis in the city and a great place to just sit and read a book or reflect. This is a must do if you are in the Fort Worth area, and is even worth the drive out from Dallas if you have the time!
Taco Diner - 4 Stars ****
Far from a diner, this Mexican restaurant can be found in Sundance Square. This is a slightly upscale restaurant, which is typical in this mall area. Though a bit pricey for Mexican, they do take Mexican food up a notch. Everything was fresh, healthy, and full of flavor. The service was a bit slow, especially since it was not a busy time, but the server was very friendly. We would definitely come here again and would recommend you try it if you visit Fort Worth.
San Antonio - 5 Stars ***** "A city so rich in history and beautifully romantic at the same time"
San Antonio is celebrating 300 years of US History in 2018 so there is no better time to visit than this year! There is plenty to do here during a long weekend and it is a truly beautiful city. Add this one to your bucket list!
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites - 3 Stars ***
We have had great experiences with Holiday Inns on this trip and we were excited to try out their Suites. We arrived at dark and we were a little worried about the area it was in. It's a little sketchy, though we had no issues while we stayed there. They did have an officer in the parking lot the first night, though we don't know if they had one the next night. The staff a check-in was pleasant and the room was good, but not a suite. Breakfast, as always, was good. We chose this hotel because they offer a free shuttle downtown, which is only about a mile away, but again, the area is not somewhere I would walk at night. We waited 10 minutes at the front desk while the girl finished a conversation with her mother just to find out that the shuttle was not running that day. She seemed annoyed we interrupted her conversation. She didn't give us an explanation or apologize. So, we had to drive downtown and find parking. Most was $10-$15, but we did find a lot for $5 a block from the Alamo. The standards just weren't what we have become used to with the Holiday Inn Express hotels.
San Antonio Missions National Park - 5 Stars *****
We visited all four Missions, San Jose, San Juan, Espada, and Concepcion, which are all National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage sites. We took a guided tour at San Jose and the ranger and our tour guide were very friendly and had so much valuable information about the missions. Definitely take this free tour. The rest of the missions are all self-guided. You want to visit all 4 of them since they all have different architecture and different stories. Some you can walk into the buildings and churches and some you cannot. The churches we saw were beautiful and are still active today. If you are in San Antonio, this is a MUST DO!
Alamo Diner - 5 Stars ****
This Mexican Restaurant was a great find. We both ordered the Chicken Chimichanga and it was excellent. Free chips and salsa were very good as well, and the house Margarita was pretty smooth. Our server was fast and efficient, but not really friendly. The food was also very fast. The food presentation was very nice with the salsa, sour cream, and guac draped across the meal to resemble the Mexican flag. If you are looking for some good Mexican in San Antonio, give this place a try. It is NOT near the Alamo so if you are staying downtown you will have to drive to this restaurant.
The Alamo -2 Stars **
Other than the fact that this is a historic place, we were pretty disappointed with The Alamo. Unlike the other missions which are run by the National Park Service, this is run by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and it seems more like a tourist trap than a historical site, though it doesn't cost anything to take a self tour of it. I can't imagine the paid guided tour could offer much more, since there just isn't much to see. Short of a small cannon and a couple of other items, the building is empty and only has a few rooms. Even with reading the plaques inside, it only took us a few minutes to walk through this iconic building. There is a large gift shop building and another building with a snack bar, which seem to be where people spend more time. There was an employee telling the story of the Alamo at one point, which was a nice feature. What we found the most interesting was a stone memorial to 2 different "Alamo Cats" that we spotted behind the maintenance fence. The maintenance guy noticed us looking and came right over to tell us about the cats and was very sentimental in speaking about them as well as the new Alamo Cats they have.
San Antonio Riverwalk - 5 Stars *****
The Riverwalk has it all. A nice river running right through the city, with a walkway on both sides with restaurants, shops, and hotels throughout. There are boat tours and boat taxis you can take for a fee. Christmas is a perfect time to visit as the Riverwalk area is lit with 2 million lights, making it an even more romantic area. It is the gem of the city.
Go Rio Boat Tours - 4 Stars ****
Go Rio offers 45 minute boat tours along the Riverwalk area. The tours include a guide that talks about the buildings, the shops and restaurants, and the history of the area. The price is reasonable and they do offer a small military/veteran discount. The boat ride was lovely and allowed you to see everything along the walk, but it was especially beautiful at night with the Christmas lights on. We definitely recommend planning a visit around the holidays, it was a bit chilly in the evening, but it made it feel a little more like Christmas. Our tour guide was enthusiastic and very proud of his city. Unfortunately, he was a little difficult to understand, which was the only complaint we had. This is a MUST DO on the Riverwalk.
Austin - 4.5 Stars **** "A trendy city with a laid-back vibe"
Austin is filled with food trucks, vegetarian restaurants, craft breweries, and live music throughout. This city seems to have a young vibe to it, embracing all the latest trends.
Red's Porch - 4 Stars ****
This was recommended by a local and they didn't steer us wrong. The fried pickles were a little thicker than most places and the batter was just excellent. The best fried pickle chips we've ever had. The Chicken N Dumplings were a little salty, but good, and the chicken tenders were good, but the bacon gravy was outstanding. Our server was very friendly, but the service was a little slow when it wasn't very busy. The decor is fun with a board game wall and a local sports bar atmosphere. If you are in Austin, this is definitely a place worth checking out.
Austin Lights - 4 Stars ****
Each year, Austin celebrates Christmas with a large 2.5 Million Light Display in the park. We were lucky enough to be able to go the last day of this event. Tickets are only $3 for this family-friendly event. It is a one mile walk around the park with lights everywhere and a variety of food and drink vendors along the way. There are movies in the park, fun activities for kids, and of course, Santa Claus! Parking is limited and costs about $15, but there are private lots in the area as options as well. There is also a shuttle that you can take. The line was huge to get in....thousands of people, but the line went very fast. They were very efficient with scanning tickets and checking bags. If you happen to be in Austin for the holidays, we would definitely recommend checking out this beautiful light display.
Comfort Suites Buda, Tx - 5 Stars *****
This hotel is between Austin and San Antonio and we arrived late and left early the next morning. These were clean and spacious suites in a commercial area with shops and restaurants nearby. The staff was friendly and the breakfast was good. There was a nice indoor pool and hot tub that we didn't have time to enjoy. This seems to be a fairly new hotel.
Corpus Christi - 3.5 Stars *** "A city on the Gulf with a Nationally recognized seashore."
We only had one day in Corpus Christi and the weather was grey and drab, but that didn't stop us from exploring its beautiful seashore. We cannot speak for the rest of the city, but the National Seashore alone is worth adding this stop to your list! Make sure to time it out around the time the do a baby sea turtle release.
Towneplace Suites by Marriott - 5 Stars *****
This was our first time staying at a Towneplace Suites and we were definitely impressed. With full kitchens stocked with everything you need, a large work area, a living area, a sleeping area, and a large bathroom, you feel like you have your own apartment. Unfortunately we were only here for one night, but we would definitely stay with this chain again. Full suites like these are great if you want to save money on food, or just want to eat healthier. The staff was very friendly and there were nice touches like a card left in room to welcome us.
Padre Island National Seashore - 4 Stars ****
The weather was awful when were here, but we made the most of it. The staff in the Visitor Center was very friendly and gave us so much information about the seashore. There is an area that has examples of things they have found on the beach and one of the staff came over and answered all of our questions regarding the items which included everything from a bowling ball to all types of bones and sea life. The waves were rolling, which we are told is a rare site to see there. Regardless of the weather, you can see that the miles of beach would just be beautiful on a better day. If you are looking for a relaxing day on the beach in Texas, you aren't going to find a better place that Padre Island!
Houston - 3 Stars *** "Houston, we have a problem"
We have each been to Houston in the past so we didn't have a lot to explore this time around. The weather was cold and rainy and not really conducive to doing any new exploring. Houston is a very large and nice city, but is mostly a working city with some theaters and museums throughout. The biggest attractions are NASA and Moody Gardens in Galveston, which we've experienced before. A long weekend in Houston would give you the time you need to explore this metropolis.
Residence Inn by Marriott Pasadena (4711 Sam Houston Pkwy S) - 5 *****
Suite...or should we say SWEET!!! This was our first time staying at a Residence Inn and we were impressed with this Marriott chain. Another full kitchen and a spacious work and living/sleeping area makes you feel right at home. The staff was very friendly and breakfast was very good. The location is in a suburb outside of Houston with many shops and restaurants nearby. There is a nice gym and an outdoor pool as well. (360 photo available)
Amarillo - 3.5 Stars *** "Route 66 runs right through Amarillo making it a fun an unique destination with a beautiful secret"
On your Route 66 road trip, make sure you plan to stop a day or two in Amarillo. There is plenty to explore here including the Route 66 historic district, the Palo Duro Canyon, and plenty or parks and museums throughout.
Sleep Inn & Suites West Medical Center - 5 Stars *****
Newly remodeled, this hotel was very clean and seemed almost new. An indoor pool and hot tub was a nice option after a long day at the canyon. Breakfast offered many hot and cold options and was of good quality. The rooms were clean, spacious, and comfortable. The location was right off of the Interstate, which was very convenient.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park - 5 Stars *****
A destination that we may have to return to, this is the 2nd largest canyon in the United States. The Palo Duro Canyon is made up of red rocks and scrub throughout, making you feel like you are in the middle of a Western movie. This scenic park in the Texas Panhandle is a MUST SEE. There is camping available and plenty of trails to hike and explore. Near the entrance are Official Longhorns of Texas, which are awesome creatures. You are able to drive through the park and the roads are good. Along the way we also saw roadrunners and several mule deer. The staff in the gift shop/museum was very friendly and informative. Add this one to your travel bucket list!
Pepito's Mexican Restaurant (Canyon City)- 4.0 Stars ****
When you are done exploring the canyon, swing by Pepitos for some good Mexican food. Just 10 minutes from the canyon, Pepito's is locally owned and has a friendly staff. They have a good sized-menu and our food came out fast. Pricing was a little on the higher than what we've typically found for comparable restaurants, but the food and portion size was good and they were very accommodating.
El Paso (Visiting soon)
Big Bend National Park (Visiting soon)