We arrived safely in Dallas after a brief fog delay in Vancouver.
We took a cab to our hotel and later walked to the nearest restaurant, ‘Salt Grass’. It wasn’t really near and the walking path was dark and sketchy. Joe assured me it was fine and that he would protect me of necessary, so I sucked it up. Our first TexMex dinner was great and when there are margaritas, there are smiles.
We stopped at Walmart on the way back and picked up a few supplies. When we got in the hotel elevator, a nice woman told us we were brave to walk the area at night and that the last time she stayed here, the Super 6 across from us was raided and surrounded by many, many police with rifles. Needless to say there was a glare exchanged and we drove back to that area the next day.
We didn’t really see much of Dallas in that day and a half as we were outside of the downtown core, but knew we were coming back. We decided to leave a day early and head to Waco.
Dallas to Waco
Joe found it easy to navigate the way to Waco.
Google maps showed lots of restaurants nearby my chosen hotel when I booked it, but they were not walkable. So off we drove to a famous Texas landmark that Joe has always talked about, “In and Out Burger!” It was a treat for this first timer and we got special attention when I told the woman talking our order, that we were from Canada and that this was my first experience in this restaurant. ‘Y’all came all the way from Canada?” Lol I told everyone in our Texas travels that we were on a Texas Tour for six weeks. They all loved that we were exploring their state and gave us suggestions where to go.
After lunch we went to Magnolia and the Magnolia Bakery. Now, my siblings told me about these places, said we had to go and to look out for Chip and Joanna. ‘Who are they?’ I asked in our group text. The responses were surprising; “Were you born under a rock?” “Are you kidding me?” “You can’t mean that!” Such bullies my siblings are lol. So after their further explanation, Joe and I agreed to check out Magnolia and the Bakery. We were very surprised! The Bakery had a line up and there were tour buses of people arriving and departing down the street. We were able to enter Magnolia easily and it was a beautiful store! Several books by the infamous Joanna were for sale throughout the store and lots of lovely home items. People were buying things by the bagful. I looked at one shopping bag and is was $78 USD. That’s about $200 for us Canadians! Kidding, but no, we did not buy anything. We took some pictures and shared them with my siblings and they were in awe.
They were also surprised at how busy the place was which we are sure was quiet compared to what’s ahead in good weather. I must confess, I figured out how to watch free episodes of Fixer Upper and I am a total convert! I want ship lap and beams and white walls and French doors! Lol
Since Fixer Upper first aired, the number of tourists to Waco has more than tripled. Other businesses have flourished as a result. One local, whose home was featured on the show, started a small tour company; ‘Waco Tours’. The tour includes downtown Waco, Baylor University campus, eight stops at renovated Fixer Upper homes and locations featured on the show; for $79 USD. In the first 2 years alone, 37,000 fans took the tour. I did the math for you: $2.9 million for this man alone. New restaurants continue to pop up, including one of our favs, PF Chang’s!
That morning we stopped by the Spice Village downtown, a very cool collection of 60 stores and something for everyone. Would be a great stop as part of a girl’s weekend – who’s in? We had a quick bite at a local pub and then headed just outside of Waco to the home of Jeff and Danna Stubbs, whom so graciously invited us to stay with them.
Jeff was Joe’s boss during the Movie Gallery days and he and Danna were the most hospitable hosts! Their beautiful home is on several acres and we learned first hand, it is very near the SpaceX rocket-testing plant in McGregor. This is where Elon Musks’ engineers test new rocket engines and thrusters. We had only been in the Stubb’s home a few hours when we could feel the earth rumble and so we were fascinated by the experience. They also have an incredible theatre room that, on our last day, Jeff set us up with coffees and a Texas themed movie. It was fantastic!
We went for a lovely Italian dinner in the nearby town of Temple and on the way back we stopped at another Texas landmark – Buc-ees! This 60,000-square-foot travel center had 84 pumps which is a lot considering semi trucks are not allowed. This convenience store carries pretty much anything and everything. Make sure you pick up some beave nuggets!
Our Saturday in Waco was jam packed. After a great breakfast spread, we headed back into town for a day of sightseeing with our tourguides Jeff and Danna. First stop was the Mammoth Museum where fossils of 24 (Columbian) mammoths and some other mammals have been uncovered. The Waco site is the largest known concentration of mammoths that died from a dying from a reoccurring event, most likely a flash flood.
Next we visited the Texas Ranger Museum. The goal of the museum is ‘to inspire appreciation of the history, public service and ideals of the Texas Rangers, a legendary symbol of Texas and America’. It was very interesting and Joe enjoyed the display of his favourite childhood Ranger, the Lone Ranger. There were several displays for Frank Hamer; the Texas Ranger that came out of retirement to track down and then kill, Bonnie & Clyde. Did you know there are still active Texas Rangers today?
We were thrilled when Jeff swung by Baylor University where he teaches / lecturers to undergrads to help them find their career passion and also prepare them for their careers in business. What a beautiful facility!
We took a drive through a very cool park and some wonder residential areas. Waco is situated on a huge lake and river too! Waco’s got it going on!
Time for an adult beverage at Balcones Distilling. Although they offer Masterclasses in whiskey appreciation, we headed straight for the Tasting Room and thoroughly enjoyed the tasting flight of some pretty smooth whiskey. Cheers!
The Baylor Club was next, it overlooks the university athletic fields. And while we enjoyed a drink, a few more of the former Movie Gallery Gang surprised us for the evening! Joe’s buddy Chris Olson, Amy Tullis Rylander amd her husband Stephen – it was great to see this gang! Thanks again Jeff, for orchestrating this get together!
We were sad to leave Waco after that great weekend but it was time to move on to Austin.
Austin is a quick two hours from Waco and has a very cool vibe. Austin is the capital of Texas and has emerged as a technology and business centre. Austin is well known for its food, art and of course, music scenes. It has been called ‘The Live Music Capital of the World”.
All the grocery stores appeared to be giant health food stores which was fantastic. We filled our Airbnb with goodies and walked to a great Mexican restaurant for dinner. We try to walk as much as possible (calorie burn!) when we are exploring. So in the morning we headed for the Capitol Building, which was straight up the biggest mother of all mother hills. It was brutal but we were rewarded with some spectacular scenery. We found a shortcut the next day, and although it was still an hours walk into town, it was relatively flat.
Later we strolled the popular 6th Street, a historic street in a nine block area entertainment district. We visited this district several times and enjoyed some great live music, meals and bevies.
Stevie Ray Vaughn statue and park – great views back across the river of downtown.
We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Austin City Limits. This PBS show first aired in 1976 and continues today! We loved standing on the stage and seeing backstage and the recording studio. Cool!
The Continental Club and Blues Club are away from the busy 6th Street venues. We heard some great music!
The Hop On Hop Off Tour was great for the University tour and a very cool area of Austin on the other side of the river. The tour guides jokes were too corny but we gave us some great pointers. The famous Boot store was really fun and we could not believe the selection in there.
Austin Lake was an enjoyable walk and we ventured over to the island. Nearby we had a great lunch at the Hula Hut.
Dang we had some great food in Austin!
We treated ourselves to an incredible 10 course dinner at Japanese Ushiko. Unbelievable!
The Galaxy Dinner was an amazing neighbourhood concept with home cooked meals and Southern hospitality. Z Tejas was a TexMex fav. Eddy V’s was fantastic for a Happy Hour and later in the week we were thrilled when Jeff and Danna accepted our invitation for them to join us for dinner here! How lucky they are to live half way to both Dallas and Austin.
On our way out of Austin and on the recommendation from the Stubb’s, we stopped at the Salt Lick – a massive BBQ style restaurant with another unique style.
Fredricksberg was a fun stop; it’s a cool little German town that features wineries, and lots of shopping!
Texas part 2 to be continued because everything really is big in Texas!