All aboard!! Lacey Swope and her family’s trip to Texas began with what may be the easiest way to get to Fort Worth with a toddler: The Heartland Flyer.
“It’s a fun trip. It’s beautiful scenery when you get to south Oklahoma,” said Oklahoma Department of Transportation Rail Manager Jared Schwennesen.
The 4-hour trip runs every day, Monday through Sunday, 365 days a year. Once you arrive, you are within walking distance of shops, restaurants and hotels. Or you can hop on the Dallas DART and go to anywhere else in the city.
But we were not just stopping in the Metroplex. We were hitting the road to Austin.
Once there, it's obvious everywhere you look that this place has an entirely different vibe.
“Small town within a big city,” is how Joshua Booth, the general manager at Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que explained it.
And that even included our accommodations at The Lone Star Court, which Lacey described as a retro farmhouse decor.
“It brings the experience of Austin, Texas, to our guests,” said general manager William Barba.
On the edge of the popular Domain District, we could spend our whole trip here. However, we wanted to see what else Austin has to offer.
The hip South Congress shopping area is a popular hangout for locals and is authentically Austin. The street offers an array of eclectic shops, restaurants, and music venues.
Near downtown is the 361-acre Zilker Park. With plenty of greenspace, the park hosts the yearly Austin City Limits Music festival and is home to what is called the soul of Austin: the Barton Springs pool.
And since it was spring, I wanted to make sure I checked out and got plenty of pictures with the blue bonnets, Texas’s state flower.
By this time, we were ready for some authentic Austin BBQ and Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar B Que in downtown did not disappoint.
“We call it Cowboy Style. We cook it hot and fast,” said Booth. “We believe the hotter, the faster you cook, the more searing you get on the outside of the meat, the more juice you get on the inside.”
We then got a different view and a tour of downtown from the water while we awaited the main attraction. Every night, hundreds of people gather under the South Congress Bridge to watch bats from the world’s largest urban colony come out. The 1.5 million beloved part-time residents are the official city animal of Austin and can be seen for miles as they go looking of food before returning by morning.
The next day, we wanted to make sure we fit in some culture with a trip to the Blanton Museum of Art on the University of Texas Campus. They have 19,000 objects of art rotated throughout the year in addition to major exhibitions throughout the year.
“You can see art from all different centuries, all different types of styles,” said Carlotta Stankiewicz.
The peaceful galleries can soothe and inspire, and that's especially true of the new Ellsworth Kelly Building. The stone building with colorful glass windows is considered the artist’s most monumental work.
“You don’t have to know anything about art, and there’s no reason to be afraid of it or think you’re not going to understand it. It’s kind of there just for you to experience,” said Stankiewicz.
But of course we couldn't leave Austin without taking in some live music, and the scene there is picking up again. The White Horse provided just what we have come to expect during our time here: a little off beat but hit all the right notes.