The state of Texas had never been on my radar of places I would have wanted to visit. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are tons of things to do there, but as a Canadian, there are so many other places I would want to travel around the United States. I mean if the opportunity came up to go there I thought it would be cool, but I wasn’t planning on going out of my way to visit anytime soon.
All that changed last week. My boyfriend was doing some work stuff in Houston, Texas, so I figured, why not go with him to visit. Luckily Westjet flies there from Calgary (from one oil city to another), so the trip wasn’t that long to make it down (also, all the wine in the Plus section didn’t help either).
Prior to visiting, I did do some research into the city, and I have to be honest, I didn’t really feel like there was much to do in Houston, for me at least. I did think about checking out some of the museums in the Museum District, but to be honest, I was kinda feeling over all those touristy things so I thought I would just keep it easy. Our Airbnb was located off Westheimer, which is a major street in a good neighbourhood, so it made it easy to take the bus to the places I wanted to visit. I had always wanted to try out SoulCycle, but since it varies in price by state, Texas actually ended up being the cheapest place to try it out of all the places I was visiting (New York it was $34 and San Francisco it’s $32). I ended up doing SoulCycle both the Friday and Saturday (you get a free class with the first class you purchase) and absolutely loved it. I have done spin before locally in Winnipeg (I actually had unlimited for a few months earlier this year at Saikel), but it was a different kind of spin class as it’s to the beat of the music as opposed to RPMs and watts. There are actually two SoulCycle studios in Houston, but I went to the River Oaks location since it was about a 10-minute bus ride from our Airbnb.
Since it was so hot in Houston I made my way to the Galleria mall, which is also down Westheimer as well. The Galleria is one of the largest shopping centres in the U.S. and really did have every retailer you could possibly want in a mall. I probably spent about four hours there but didn’t really buy anything since most of the stuff you can get in Canada by this point. From there, I started walking back down Westheimer since I had seen some stores I had wanted to check out on my way there, including this ritzy shopping district in River Oaks which was an outdoor mall with luxury designers.
To be honest, I didn’t really do much in Houston since it didn’t really feel like a big tourist city compared to Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, etc. On the Saturday we were actually driving to Austin for a night before my boyfriend and I left for San Francisco, and just by looking online it did seem like Austin had way more fun things to do. After SoulCycle on the Saturday I did start to walk back down Westheimer to get back to our Airbnb and I made sure to stop in at Trader Joe’s and a few cute boutiques on the street that I was kinda disappointed I didn’t discover earlier.
Anyways, later that day we drove to Austin, Texas, which is the state capitol and much more laid back than Houston. Austin is smaller and seemed way more hip and incredibly Millennial friendly. Honestly, even as we were walking around there I kept saying that I couldn’t wait to come back. On our way down my boyfriend’s friend took us to a couple barbecue joints in this frontier town called Lockhart, which is about 30 minutes outside Austin and it was so cool seeing oil rigs in people’s backyards and old-time downtowns. It was that stereotypical Texas vibe you see in the movies (same with the barbecue joints).
Anyways, we got to Austin at about 7:30 p.m. and checked into the Fairmont Austin, which actually opened in March of this year. The Fairmont Austin is the largest Fairmont in the United States and the second-largest in the world and has all the amenities that I love so much about the luxury hotel brand. Since the Winnipeg Jets were playing the Las Vegas Golden Knights in round three of the Stanley Cup Finals, they actually had a bottle of prosecco and chocolate waiting for us in the room along with a card. I love it when hotels go above and beyond for their guests and this hotel did not disappoint. From the comfortable Fairmont beds to the spacious bathrooms, it was hard even leaving the room to begin with. Since we only had one night in Austin, we obviously ended up leaving the hotel, but first made sure to check out the property, which also boasts a food hall, a restaurant and lounge (which was playing the hockey game, might I add), a huge outdoor pool complete with palm trees and cabanas, and so much more.
When we did make it out of the hotel we went to the bar at the Driskoll Hotel, which is this historic hotel in the Austin. Afterwards we walked back towards the Fairmont but went down Sixth Street which was so cool to experience. I knew Austin had this party scene, but it was like anything I have ever seen before. The street was shut down between a few blocks and it was just bar after bar and music playing and a bunch of drunk college kids. If I was like 22 again, I would have total been into that, but since the crowds were so young, we headed to Rainey Street, which was around the corner from the Fairmont. That one wasn’t as crazy but still packed with people and had all these houses that were transformed into one bar after another. They also had tons of food trucks (there were food trucks everywhere in Austin), and by that point after a few cocktails I felt very inclined to pick up some mini donuts. Afterwards we stumbled back to the Fairmont and passed out in those ultra comfy beds.
The next day we were flying out to San Francisco at 6 p.m. so we went for brunch at this awesome place called Odd Duck, which serve small plates, and then headed to South Congress Avenue, which is this street filled with super cool shops, bars, and restaurants. Honestly, walking around South Congress was so cool since there were so many people around and cool murals and food trucks, and honestly everything was just so awesome.
After about two hours there we headed to the airport and flew to San Francisco. It was super cool visiting the Lonestar state, especially since I thought it was a place I wouldn’t ever really visit. The weather was incredibly hot, the food was amazing (and so much of it), and Austin is definitely on my bucket list of places I want to travel back to.
Have you been to Texas? Where did you go?
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