Updated: March 31st, 2019
3 days in Texas. 3 cities.
I‘m ambitious–always have been. I’m also passionate, impulsive, and totally cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. So when my husband asked if I wanted to tag along on his work trip to Texas for a few days, I saw the perfect opportunity to say YES, promptly ditch him, and take off to explore the state whose official motto is “Friendship”–a pretty perplexing description for the “Lone Star” state, no?
Regardless, I do actually have friends in Texas (I guess it’s true!) so I solicited their recommendations, advice, and also a bed here and a shower there. Perhaps not such an obvious oversight after all.
HOW TO: 3 CITIES IN JUST 3 DAYS IN TEXAS
People think I’m nuts. I think people are lazy. And I’d rather be crazy than uninspired any damn day. ⇠Now if those don’t sound like lyrics to a country song, I just don’t know what does.
Seeing three cities in just three days in a state as big as Texas is absolutely possible. Mostly thanks to the fine 18th and 19th century settlers who put three of Texas’s biggest cities relatively close together… for those of us hundreds of years later who aren’t limited to covered wagons for getting around. Kudos, cowboys!
- Tune out all naysayers. Don’t let boring people lead you down boring roads to where they live alone in their boring houses. You see, misery loves company. Misery also isn’t afraid to let you know how crazy and irrational you are. Screw misery!
- Rent a car. In Europe it’s easy to travel between cities with their trains and their busses and their cheap cheap flights. But this is America. Land of the free and home of the affordable rental car (that also comes in automatic, by the way). When you land at DFW, hit up the hilarious guys at the E-Z Rent-a-Car booth for the best deals on the only reliable way to hit up three cities in 3 days in Texas.
- Download Waze. Waze is the best GPS app for getting where you need to go in the shortest amount of time. It dodges traffic jams, closed roads, tells you where the police are hidden, and comes in voices like the Terminator, Shaq, and “boy band”–almost too hilarious to handle.
THURSDAY // DALLAS
Dallas is not even the biggest city in Texas–did y’all know this? It’s Houston! I thought only astronauts lived there and Yao Ming that one time.
So in case this is your very first stop by My Wanderlusty Life, I previously wrote alll about my one day in Dallas, the place where, contrary to all responsible health notices, you don’t need pants to drink in public. And that is as literal as it gets.
I began my 3 days in Texas here where I flew into DFW, picked up my brand new Toyota Camry from E-Z, and checked in to the Hilton Anatole, the perfect just-off-the-highway, just a couple of miles from downtown hotel.
Dallas has a lot to offer and the absolute best way to do it all in one day is with the Dallas CityPASS. With this booklet you can visit four of Dallas’s top attraction with a savings of 42% (that’s almost half, y’all–and since I’m talking about Dallas, I specifically mean the bottom half).
I began my day with a trip to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden where I spent the morning photographing honeybees, chatting with William Shakespeare during which I had no idea what he was talking about, and trying to hydrate myself through osmosis.
After almost two hours at the Arboretum, I headed back downtown and swiped my husband from the curb outside his conference like two teenagers skipping school and headed off to bone. I mean Slow Bone… OK that’s not helping… If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw me story-ing my way around Texas and, more specifically, the leg, thigh, and breast I consumed for lunch. OK, THIS is why Southern food is so sinful. It’s a borderline sexual experience.
I’m talking about lunch at Slow Bone whose slogan is Eat. Pray. Bone. So there ya go.
My husband had such a great time with me at lunch that he decided to skip out on the conference he came all the way to Texas for and spend the rest of the day burnin’ through our CityPASSes with me.
Our next stop was Reunion Tower for views, breeze, and false-alarm strokes. You know how it is.
From the top of Reunion Tower we saw how close Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum were and decided to walk there to save some cash. We also decided I shouldn’t be allowed out in certain public places but that’s beside the point.
At the Sixth Floor Museum we learned all about the JFK assassination, I laughed at his all-too-familiar and mostly indecipherable Boston accent, and tried really hard to get the gory details of his murder that I’d just read in Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Kennedy out of my brain. No such luck.
We went down to Dealey Plaza, checked out the “grassy knoll,” and my husband watched out for traffic while I ran into the middle of the street to take pictures.
From here we raced to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science thinking they closed at 5:00. Well, they usually do but they knew I was coming so they stayed open late. Or… they do this every first Thursday of the month. Potato, Potato. I realize after typing that that it looks like I just wrote ‘potato’ twice. It’s times like these I regret not starting a YouTube channel instead.
By this time the sun was beginning to set and I wanted to see what Pioneer Plaza was all about. Once there, my husband and I debated as to whether or not the longhorns were actually life-size or not. It was a nice change from the who’s cleaning up the hairball debate.
If none of that made sense to you, start here.
FRIDAY // SAN ANTONIO
Dallas ⇢ Austin ⇢ San Antonio: 4 hours, 15 minutes
Friday morning I woke up in Dallas and was out the door by 8am. Three hours and a liter of Gatorade later I was at my friend Brooke’s house in Austin long enough to use her toilet, squeeze her dogs’ faces, and pluck her from her house. Off to San Antonio for a day of doing little of what we’d actually planned but a lot of day drinking! (As only the best of friendships do.)
The Alamo is an American tourist attraction I never thought I’d find myself at. Like Mount Rushmore or the Hoover Dam or that place with the Cadillacs sticking up out of the ground–it’s just too far out of the way and not worth a trip of its own. So when I saw on a map how close it was to Austin I decided “it’s now or never!” And also, “You can pretend you’re on Miss Congeniality!”
Do y’all know what the Alamo is? I didn’t. All I knew is that you are supposed to “remember it.” I also thought we’d be driving out to the desert somewhere but as we drove through downtown San Antonio Brooke says to me, “OK… the Alamo is going to be right up here on the right.” HUH? In the city? Next to these skyscrapers? Every photo I’d seen of the Alamo looks like the one above. See? Nowhere. Right in the middle of it.
Here are some quick facts on the history of the Alamo that took me no less than two hours to come up with: [Don’t underestimate the sacrifices I make for you.]
- Founded in 1744 as a Roman Catholic mission dedicated to the education of Native Americans after their conversion to Christianity. “Hello! My name is Father Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares. And I would like to share with you the most amazing book.”
- Abandoned in 1793 then turned into a fortress ten years later
- Served as San Antonio’s first hospital between 1806-1812. “More bandages! We need more bandages!” ⇠ Friends reference… anyone?
- This place didn’t even have a roof for a long time…
- In 1835, as part of Texas’s war of independence from Mexico, 200 volunteer Texan soldiers (including Davy Crockett) defended the Alamo for thirteen days until the thousands of Mexican soldiers overpowered them.
- Texas may have lost the battle at the Alamo but they ultimately won their independence later that year. But this you already knew because I didn’t mention having to use my passport to get into Texas.
- It would be another 165 years before the contestants of the Miss United States pageant would be threatened by an embittered serial killer known only as “the Citizen.”
On touring the Alamo:
- Admission is free! Don’t be like us and try to hand money to just any ol’ person on the sidewalk with brochures.
- It will take you about eight minutes to walk through the Alamo. Eight.
- No photography is allowed inside. There is a guy at the door whose only job is to repeat this over and over and over. He probably has other duties.
- Pressed for time, we parked in the lot across the street for $15 (where we stayed for a few hours).
- Hours: 9am – 5:30pm
- You can get those ‘coon skin caps you came for at the gift shop next door.
While at the Alamo I did learn something extremely interesting. I mean, just simply mind-blowing. Brooke, seemingly unaware of my love for him, told me how Phil Collins, of all people, owns the world’s largest collection of priceless Alamo artifacts. I thought surely she was mistaken, but here it is. I later read about this in his totally-worth-reading autobiography Not Dead Yet: The Memoir.
So San Antonio has these missions. They’re all really old, still operational today, and, along with the Alamo, make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Brooke and I had a mission too–to see them. However, after leaving the Alamo an out-of-nowhere torrential downpour had us running to, and subsequently stuck in, the first bar we came to on the Riverwalk. Missions? Impossible.
At about 5:00 the rain let up, the sun came out, we paid our tabs (at the german Biergarten complete with lederhosened bartenders and dirndled servers whose official slogan is “Prost, y’all!” and I swear we didn’t end up there on purpose–some things just have a way of happening… to me) and set off to see us some missions. It wasn’t until we arrived at the first one at about 5:20 that we learned the missions all close at 5. [wah-wahhhh] I wanted to climb over the wall and drop down into the church from the dome ceiling, Tom Cruise style, but THIS IS WHY I HAVE FRIENDS WHO KEEP ME GROUNDED.
Instead we just walked around the perimeter looking sketchy as can be trying to imagine what the inside looked like and if I have drop cables long enough to safely reach the floor. Despite the fact that these missions had JUST closed, we were still the only humans in sight. Maybe the rain kept everyone away? Or maybe being alone in old churches just really freaks me out…
Here’s what I could dig up on the San Antonio Missions… this message will self destruct in five sentences…
- Established in 1731… took a while to build… finally dedicated in 1755.
- It’s the oldest unrestored stone church in the United States.
- The interior is covered in beautiful, colorful frescoes… so I’ve heard.
- It closes at 5… so I’ve learned.
MISSION SAN JOSÉ
- The San Antonio Missions’ visitor center is located here with a museum, bookstore, and film on the history of the missions.
- It’s the largest of all the missions in San Antonio.
- Established in 1720
- Not visited by Ashley Smith in 2016
- Established in 1731
- The original mission also housed a blacksmith’s shop, rooms for spinning wheels and weaving, and a baking kiln.
- It was mostly destroyed by a fire in 1826. I think we solved that mystery–I’m lookin’ at you kiln.
MISSION SAN JUAN
- Also established in 1731
- Surrounded by farmlands that helped create a self-sustaining community
- There’s a self-guided nature trail behind the mission that you can follow to the river if you’re not afraid of being all alone in the woods.
- There’s a chance this mission is run by cats. Here’s a picture of them kicking back after shutting the place down for the day:
Please see: this helpful map and not the Google Maps app. There’s a chance you might end up on your way to Southern California.
San Antonio ⇢ Austin: 1 hour, 15 minutes
SATURDAY // AUSTIN
In reality I spent Friday night in Austin too but I’m going to lump it all together for the sake of simplicity. Mmmkay?
Austin – the Texas state capital whose unofficial motto is “Waiting in long lines for tacos–the new American pastime.”
THE TEXAS STATE CAPITOL… WITH AN ‘O’
The Texas Capitol building… another spot where I looked for someone to pay where there was none. Brooke must wonder what’s wrong with me–just anxiously trying to give money away everywhere we go. In other words, touring the Capitol is FUH-REEEE!
I also walked through the metal detector, straight to the officer on the other side and put my arms out. I basically begged him to frisk me even though he repeatedly waved me off. Actually, what is wrong with me?
Inside the Capitol you’ll find:
- Supreme Court courtroom
- agricultural museum
- guy protesting in the middle
- government offices [that were all closed because it was Saturday but that didn’t stop me from trying all the doorknobs anyway. And they thought they didn’t need to frisk me. Ha!]
- Pictures of all the Texas leaders of yore–including this guy fist-deep in a super-size order of fries:
- the Senate chamber
- the House of Representatives chamber
- the Treasurer’s business office
- And I’m just going to keep saying this stuff and pretend I know what it all is…
BULLOCK TEXAS STATE HISTORY MUSEUM
The Bullock Texas State History Museum showcases everything that has made Texas what it is today. Here’s what I learned: slaves, space, cotton, oil, civil war, Mexico, cowboys, westerns, giant reptiles. They have a great (but temporary) exhibit on Big Bend, some really pretty place out in Western Texas that Brooke just adores. (She hugged the sign.) When she told me they had an exhibit on Big Ben she wanted to see, I thought surely this museum was off its rocker.
But arguably the most fascinating aspect of the museum was the Capitol Goddess.
Here’s the Capitol Building again. As we approached, Brooke mentioned that the statue on top is supposed to be really ugly but she had never seen what it actually looks like. Well hang on to yer britches errbody–the Bullock has the original Goddess on display and she looks like this:
Yowza! Now, I understand a thing or two about art from traveling the world with my art teacher friend, Amanda. I know these guys made her like this so that her features would appear “normal” from far below. But I ask you… can you even see that she has a face from this far away:
uhhhnooo. Go home Detroit architect Elijah E. Myers, you’re drunk.
Also, a tip. This isn’t advertised on their website but admission on the first Sunday of every month is FUH-REEE! I visited on a Saturday so I paid the regular $13 admission. Finally! Someone who will take my money!
CONGRESS AVENUE BRIDGE BATS
If you’ve heard of this, then I don’t need to explain myself. If you haven’t, then I’m just not going to make much sense.
So there’s this bridge in downtown Austin… and under it live a million and a half Mexican free-tailed bats. It’s actually the largest urban bat colony in all of North America. They hang out under there (heh) from March until November and come out every night at sunset to feed. Read this: the Most Complete Guide to Watching the Bats in Austin
Watching a million bats flying around in an insectivorous twister is really… freaky. Trying to photograph the spectacle from the bridge in the dark is… a waste of time.
There are a million bats in this picture I swear! They’re too damn fast. Now, if you’re wondering about all those people in the boats… and whether or not they’re getting pooped on like crazy… I have an answer for you. I consulted another friend who had watched the bat feeding from a boat and she says yes, you’re getting pooped on constantly. BUT since they’re teeny bats their turds are just as tiny and she compared the feeling to sprinkling rain. So there you go. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Ew, only don’t.
Austin ⇢ back to Dallas: 2 hours, 55 minutes
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A huge, Texas-sized thanks to both E-Z Rent-a-Car and CityPASS for sponsoring this post and for helping me have one hell of a rip-roarin’ good time in the Lone Star State. As always, all opinions are my own and I will never promote something I don’t personally use and believe in, regardless of who is footing the bill.