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Austin / Texas recommendedations + lounges

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  • Ash

    Have 2 weeks in Texas and surrounding states. Flying into Austin, any highlights i should search out most welcome?

    Cant see Austin airport having any lounges , neither priority pass nor Centurion. Are there other options? Flying Virgin Premium economy.

    StaggerLee

    Austin has an American Airlines Admirals Club lounge. We used it in April. Not massive but decent for a couple of hours before a flight if you can get access. Pretty sure there were at least a couple of other lounges

    We had a road trip for three weeks and had some good times, although not as good as on some other road trips. Highlights for us were

    JFK Walking tour in Dallas
    Nasa in Houston
    Staying a night in Gruene and seeing a gig in Gruene Hall – https://gruenetexas.com/
    Staying a night at The Cell Block in Clifton. It’s bit out of the way but a really unusual place to spend a night. It has a really great little cafe just around the corner – https://www.stayatthecellblock.com/
    http://cornerdrugcafe.com/

    elguiri

    We’ve got a few days in Houston next spring and were wondering what to do – NASA was top of my list to look into – any advice on that (especially for 5yo) and where to stay?

    StaggerLee

    We’ve got a few days in Houston next spring and were wondering what to do – NASA was top of my list to look into – any advice on that (especially for 5yo) and where to stay?

    I’d check their site for full info as the exhibitions change around – https://spacecenter.org/

    We don’t have children so can’t really help but it did look like there was plenty for them to see and do.

    We booked tickets in advance and some of the more private tours were fully booked when we got to it.

    There are loads of hotels nearby but we stayed in Galveston, which was about an hours drive away.

    tiriavpo

    Dealey Plaza, the grassy knoll and museum in Dallas are interesting if thats your thing. Johnson Space Center in Houston was good with the Apollo mission control room. San Antonio is nice, there are some decent hotels down on the riverwalk and the Alamo is within walking distance.

    masaccio

    AA lounge is OK if you are flying CW or have status. There’s not much point though as you may as well just go to the Salt Lick which is a great airport bar, or get some final taste of Texas BBQ.

    In Austin, food and 6th St are the big draws – try a couple of BBQ places. I’d personally choose Terry Blacks and Iron Works, though Lamberts is great for higher end. The music vibe on 6th St is “not what it was” according to some locals, but I was last there 2 weeks ago and couldn’t tell what had changed. State Capitol has nice free tours.

    Dallas is a bit of a hole, though the book depository is an excellent tour. I spent 2 weeks there on business once and everyone I asked basically said there was nothing to see.

    The coast around Port Aransas is excellent and lots of decent towns there. Houston as others have said is good for Nasa (woah Saturn V!) if that’s your bag.

    The hill country has some pretty and quaint towns and Fredericksburg is probably the most popular. There are wineries to visit and I think October might have some festivals.

    San Antonio is a lovely city and plenty to see and do. The Alamo was OK but lost on me; I think you need to be a Texan to grok it’s significance.

    If you don’t mind a long drive, Big Bend on the Mexican border is by locals’ accounts the best place in the state to visit. It’s about a 7 hour drive from Austin and you will need to ensure you have booked somewhere to stay. I can’t say how much I’d personally rate it as we’ve not been yet, but going for a week next spring.

    MattB

    Dallas is a bit of a hole, though the book depository is an excellent tour. I spent 2 weeks there on business once and everyone I asked basically said there was nothing to see.

    That’s being generous. We stayed in the downtown area a few months back and and never felt safe the entire time. And the smell of urine was horrendous everywhere.

    The JFK stuff is good to pass a few hours, and Deep Ellum was was lively enough to spend an evening but with the massive problem of aggressive homeless people we could not wait to get out of there.

    dougzz99

    I haven’t been to Dallas in a good few years, so not specific. But I wanted to comment on @MattB post above, having this year been to LA, San Diego, Seattle and Vancouver. It’s clear that the vibe of all of these cities has changed somewhat post pandemic. Increased homelessness is everywhere, drug use and unpleasant smells much more widespread, as are central areas given over to near shanty towns of tents and cardboard box beds.

    If you’re of the more nervous persuasion then a good number of North American cities may not be for you as things stand.

    I believe Austin has very similar problems to San Francisco and surrounding areas, being awash with tech money creates its own issues particularly in regard housing costs.

    StaggerLee

    The JFK stuff is good to pass a few hours, and Deep Ellum was was lively enough to spend an evening but with the massive problem of aggressive homeless people we could not wait to get out of there.

    We stayed at the the Kimpton Pittman in Deep Ellum, which was great. Deep Ellum has some great restaurants and bars and we really enjoyed the 3 nights we were there but I would find to very hard to recommend to anyone exactly because of what you said. It is is very very sketchy and you really need to keep your wits about you at all times.

    davefl

    If you don’t mind a long drive, Big Bend on the Mexican border is by locals’ accounts the best place in the state to visit. It’s about a 7 hour drive from Austin and you will need to ensure you have booked somewhere to stay. I can’t say how much I’d personally rate it as we’ve not been yet, but going for a week next spring.

    Big Bend is exceptional but it’s a long way from anywhere. I went in Feb, broke my journey at Fort Stockon (LBJ’s home and ranch on the way to Fort Stockton was the only significant stop although you pass through wine country on the way so can be some interest there)

    Pretty much anything significant in BB is 45-90 mins from the entrance gate because it’s so vast. Parking at hot spots like the lost mine trail needs a pre sunrise wake up to be there by 7am for the 14 parking spots. Even though it’s so remote the park has doubled its attendance over the last few years.

    Accomodation is sparse in the local area if you don’t have a camper. I stayed at one of the Nuevo Terlingua properties, stone built casa which was lovely apart from a mouse scampering around the room all night. (Glad it wasn’t a scorpion)

    Also be aware that BB virtually closes down in the summer months due to the intense heat. Visitor Centres and trails closed. Peak season is Nov-April

    Rhys
    HfP Staff

    There’s a nice Delta lounge in Austin!

    Austin is great fun. Not huge in terms of tourist attractions but great food, bars etc etc. Definitely head to the creek for a swim if it’s nice weather!

    masaccio

    There’s a nice Delta lounge in Austin!

    Austin is great fun. Not huge in terms of tourist attractions but great food, bars etc etc. Definitely head to the creek for a swim if it’s nice weather!

    Just don’t do what I did and dive into the deep 14°C water. Turns out I don’t have the kind of gasp reflex that makes you inhale water.

    Ash

    Thank you everyone for the tips…HFP forum is great!

    Will do a day in dallas….have to use my amex £150 dining credit, only restaurant in SW america on the list is in dallas!

    Nasa for sure.

    And somewhere along gulf coast.

    Austin will be our base.

    And big bend…any further big bend tips appreciated.

    Or other texas tips.

    davefl

    Thank you everyone for the tips…HFP forum is great!

    Will do a day in dallas….have to use my amex £150 dining credit, only restaurant in SW america on the list is in dallas!

    Nasa for sure.

    And somewhere along gulf coast.

    Austin will be our base.

    And big bend…any further big bend tips appreciated.

    Or other texas tips.

    What do you want to do in BB, do you hike properly or just drive/wander a bit. How much time will you have there, and what month are you going to go?

    I was there 2.5 days and it was only just about enough to scratch the surface but I can give you more info if you let me know the above.

    Ash

    Thanks. in texas two weeks, end of november beginning december.

    Will have 4×4 and possibly a dog! Dog might stay with sitter as heard you cant take them in.

    Like to hike , we do climb and boulder , up for kayaking, overnighting as well. But also just driving around and taking in the scenery…less into historical sites.

    Would you recommend lodgings inside the park?

    davefl

    Thanks. in texas two weeks, end of november beginning december.

    Will have 4×4 and possibly a dog! Dog might stay with sitter as heard you cant take them in.

    Like to hike , we do climb and boulder , up for kayaking, overnighting as well. But also just driving around and taking in the scenery…less into historical sites.

    Would you recommend lodgings inside the park?

    Firstly for kayaking, look at the options in Austin on the river, sunset under the bridge. I had one lined up but the weather turned from 70F to 15F overnight and torrential rain so was cancelled..

    Ok assuming you’re going direct from Austin there’s only one practical route and that’s I10 via Fort Stockton and then on via Alpine to the entrance near Terlingua.

    If you want to break your journey there are multiple chains in Fort Stockton but if you fancy getting closer before stopping for the night there are a few options in both Alpine and Marfa which isn’t too far away. It’s 5 hours to FS and then a further 2 hours on to the gate so if you can make it to Alpine or Marfa then you’ll be an hour closer than FS if want an early start in the park. (In hindsight I wish I’d done that instead of leaving FS at 5am)

    I’ll warn you now that there’s almost no cell service once you get past Alpine, and there’s none at all in the park, so take something that will do offline navigation. Talking hundreds of square miles of being off the grid. (certainly was the case on T-mobile anyway)

    There is basic lodging in the Chisos mountain area but it typically books up a year in advance, check it to see if you’re lucky. It’s the holy grail if you can get it Pets are allowed but really limited, so I wouldnt take one https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/pets.htm). Always check conditions as well https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

    Nearest other lodging to the entrance is 30-45 mins away and are variable quality. Your dates aren’t peak season so I checked and Basecamp Terlingua and its other associated Nuevo Terlingua etc properties (they all have different websites) do still have some places vacant for most dates. There’s other places in Terlingua ghost town itself but I can’t comment on those. The Starlight Inn is the main draw. (a lots of food places around espcially the BBQ ones seem to close monday, so be aware food is also limited with the only choices being Pizza and Mexican).

    There are 3 main areas – Ross Maxwell scenic drive is typically the 1st one, all the way to Santa Elena Canyon (takes around 75 mins (from the entrance gate) plus stops for overlooks and hikes. If the entrance was unmanned when you went through stop at the Castolon Visitor Centre half way down Ross Maxwell to pay your entrance fee)
    At the end there’s a big parking lot where you wade across the river to a sandbank, then wade back across the river to a different point to walk a trail along the canyon for 15 mins or so. This is only passable at certain times so you need to check at the visitor centre or the website.

    There’s kayaking opportunites there through the canyon but I’m not sure where they go from.

    The second day, Lost Mine trail is the highlight but as I said above you’ll need to be at the trail head for 7am so get a parking space as there are only 14. Watch out for lions/bears etc hiking that early, but I only came across mule deer. It’ll take about 90 mins to go up and back the lost mine if you’re reasonably fit but the views at the top are well worth it. Some or a lot of rock scrambling can be done here. Then explore some of the other Chisos area trails such as Grapevine Hills, or one of the ones from the Chisos trailhead like the Windows trail especially if you can do sunset there.

    If you have more time you can go further to the east and an hour+ past Pather Junction is Boquillas Canyon Trail, where if you time it right you can get a boat across the river to visit a mexican village.

    Couple more tips – As you drive down 118 towards the park the Terlungua turn off via 170 is on the right, if you go a little way past that junction there an amazing place to stock up on supplies/groceries/snacks etc called Cottonwood Store. Gas is expensive down there as well as it’s so remote, there’s a couple of stations on the left before cottonwood, and there’s also a gas station in the park at the Panther Junction visitor centre which isn’t any more expensive. Keep your tank topped especially in a 4×4 would be my advice.

    Last note, speeding – Lots of police around with radar on the 118 and in the park itself so don’t go to crazy on the wide open empty roads. speeding in the park is a real no no. You don’t want some poor animal plastered over your front bumper. – I nearly hit a cow on the west texas border as they were freely roaming on the roads and it decided to stop eating and cross.

    BB is beautiful, enjoy it.

    Ash

    Thanks Davefl, top advice!

    vetjames

    A few suggestions:

    Houstonian Hotel in Houston if you want to avoid the chains, has a massive pool/gym
    Cavalry Court Hotel if you need to stay in College Station for any reason
    Lockhart for BBQ — there are three top options in this small town
    Chris Madrid’s for Burgers in San Antonio
    Rainey Street in Austin — not at all like it used to be, but still worth a detour

    masaccio

    Thanks @davefl from me too. Will remember to make sure the AllTrails subscription is topped up and maps downloaded. I’m not going to repeat our Yellowstone total absence of internet experience.

    davefl

    Thanks @davefl from me too. Will remember to make sure the AllTrails subscription is topped up and maps downloaded. I’m not going to repeat our Yellowstone total absence of internet experience.

    You’re welcome.

    Alltrails works well in BB, and also the National Park App has improved a lot and allows you to download all the park info in advance.

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