Traveling fills my soul. I would travel every single week if I could. Exploring, living, laughing, and memories. Who doesn’t want that?! I learn more and more about who I am when I travel and I am the traveler who wants to see the city like a local, to find the best local spots, see the local places, and be in a city.

SOOO I obviously hopped on the opportunity to travel to Texas. & Traveling to Texas was a whirlwind, exactly like I planned and filled with so much more.

My mom, aunt, and I planned this trip just before that two-week bubble when everything blows up on the pricy-ness. Texas was someplace I’d never been to, in terms of actually being. I’ve flown through the Houston International Airport more times than I can list off and I’ve flown through Dallas a few times. I’ve gotten stuck in Houston once before and had to stay in a hotel, but I still never counted that as being in the state. I believe you have to experience it to say you’ve been there.

My momma wanted to travel to Waco, TX specifically because once I got her hooked on Chip & Joanna Gaines, she dreamed about traveling to their little slice of heaven at the Silos. We’ve tried to book their bed and breakfast every single time it opens up, and we are always waiting at the computer for the moment they release it, and EVERY TIME we miss out. Like our reflexes aren’t fast enough to click a date and input our credit card information. It is crazy how popular Chip & Jo have gotten, and I love it! So missing out on their little house fueled our desires to go explore even more!!

Texas is a huge state, and I live in a huge state, but Texas is even bigger. There are so many different parts and multiple cities drew my attention so I decided we would make the most of our extended weekend. This meant flying into Houston, driving to Austin, staying in Austin, driving to Waco, staying in Waco, driving to Dallas, staying in Dallas, and flying home from there. I think that the most time we spent in a single city was just about 24 hours, so we literally got just a taste of Texas! I ate up every second of the journey and know where I would want to go back now and where I wouldn’t! Here are some photos, highlights and memories of the trip!

AUSTIN.

stay:

Hotel Van Zandt, a Kimpton property. TEN OUT OF TEN. I am now obsessed with Kimpton properties. So much character. I get to travel to both Boston and Chicago this fall, and I’m making us stay at Kimpton’s. Each one is different, each one looks magical, and each has its own little twist on the city it represents. Austin is the live music capital of the world so you walk into chandeliers made of trombones, super indie music posters in your rooms, and beautiful mixes of wood and metal. They have free bikes for you to take as you explore the city & I wish we were staying there longer because they would be so handy!!

highlights:

  • Texas is hot, and humid, and not what I’m used to. Sooo you sweat and you sweat a lot, and it is just apart of that experience: clothes sticking to you, laughing at pitting out, damp hair that doesn’t ever quite dry.
  • rough night. The three of us went to see this movie at a Texas-born movie chain; Alamo Drafthouse. We have luxury cinemas in CA where you pick your seats and someone serves you, it is the best. Alamo Drafthouse is sorta like that. We picked our seats ahead of time, had menus at our seats, and a waiter, but the feel was nothing like home and it was exciting! More like a bar and movie theater combined instead of a movie theater and wanna be 5-star restaurant.
  • 10 pm jumps. There is a place called Barton Springs in Austin. It is in a very large park and it is a man-made pool naturally fed by spring water. Because it’s being naturally maintained by the springs, it stays at 68 degrees year round. Going into it, I thought 68 was nothing, super normal and warm. I’ve swum in some cold places and thought this would be like a nice dip. It was freezing though. I wasn’t expecting it, and it was so fun! We went at 10 pm because that is when it’s free, so why not?! I was also the only one to jump. And we didn’t have towels so I dried off with a blanket; which does not absorb anything. It’s all-apart of the memory though! Just going for it.

food:

  1. Mattie’s. My favorite restaurant of the whole trip!! The restaurant is in a historical home and I adored this aspect of it. From the outdoor seating on their porch, to the outdoor seating in their patio surrounded by twinkly lights, to each little room being different in theme and feel, it created a dream. We sat upstairs by a window overlooking the property. Upstairs in the room next to us, was a bar and out in the main area of the second floor were sofas and club chairs to sip drinks and relax. The meal was spectacular. Any restaurant that has a virgin drink menu automatically gets bonus points and I fell in love with their ‘Saratoga Buck’; a drink made of ginger, guava, Chinese five spice, and lime! We could have sat and had a meal just off their biscuits they were that good. They outdo all the biscuits I ate in Nashville last fall and that is sayin’ something. Theirs were accompanied by guava butter, adding a perfect sweet but also salty flavor to the biscuits, which are brushed with raw honey after being taken out of the oven. Another showstopper was their ‘Crispy Cauliflower’. My mom is not a fan of cauliflower where I will eat it all the time and love trying new and innovative ways to make it taste incredible. She loved their cauliflower though. Honestly could substitute it for orange chicken and you wouldn’t even know. They lightly fry it and then coat it in an incredible ‘Tamarind BBQ Sauce’ and I do not know all the flavors going into it but it created something addicting. Each entrée was delicious in its own way and I do not recall one standout above the rest!! We tried their ‘Tender Belly Smoked Pork Chop’, ‘Pan Seared Idaho Ruby Red Trout’, and ‘Mattie’s Fried Chicken’. I cannot wait to come back here!!
  2. Gourdough’s. I’m also a doughnut gal, but the fancy kind. If you’ve ever been to Sidecar Doughnuts in Costa Mesa or Santa Monica then you know one of my happy places. I try to make it once a month so I can try the new flavors they come out with! Here in Austin, Gourdough’s Big Fat Doughnuts takes center stage. They have a few locations and are open until 3 AM. How amazing is that?! So of course I made us go at midnight, post swims, post movie hahaha. The location I picked is in an airstream trailer, something Jessie would have LOVED. We just selected two doughnuts, a very hard task if you ask me. I loved all the names and they have so many different flavor combos! We went with the ‘Flying Pig’ (maple icing topped with bacon) and ‘Miss Shortcake’ (cream cheese icing topped with fresh strawberries). First, these doughnuts really are BIG like the name implies. Probably 4-5 inches wide. And they were light!! Freshly made as well so the frosting was warm and made for extra finger licking!! We picked two perfect compliments between savory and salty to sweet and fresh!
  3. Picnik. We stopped here on our way out of Austin! It is a fun, hip, healthy spot that is completely gluten, corn, soy, and peanut free and serves all other allergy and diet types as well. They were very busy and we had to wait a while but I didn’t care because I purchased the yummiest drink, their iced House Chai. It’s made with cashew milk as the base and has all sorts of yummy & healthy herbs along with MCT oil to help your brain function! For lunch, we snacked on their incredible guac with their version of homemade tortilla chips and I picked the House Salad with grilled chicken, which I loved and definitely filled me for our drive to Waco.

shops/places:

  • murals – they have them everywhere!!! My fav’s were the ‘smile!’ and ‘Greetings from Austin’. I didn’t have the opportunity to see every mural in Austin so now I have more to find when I come back!
  • Hemline – This is a super cute boutique and I’m pretty sure they have an online store as well as multiple locations in Texas. The girls were THE SWEETEST, and I could have purchased everything inside. They carried all my favorite brands like Paige denim, AG denim, Show Me Your Mumu, Soludos, etc.!
  • South Congress neighborhood – I loved getting to walk around this hip neighborhood! When we walked around it was right when stores were closing so I didn’t have the opportunity to go into very many but this is where I saw lots of murals and also there was a fun area with food trucks set up.
  • Texas State Capitol – It is absolutely beautiful to see!! The property is huge and right in the middle of downtown. The building has a ton of detail, making it beautiful against a backdrop of normal office and government buildings.


WACO.

stay:

Hotel Indigo Baylor. This hotel was so nice! Like a normal hotel, but the rooms were sooooo spacious. Very tell ceilings and very open layout in the rooms. It didn’t make me want to spend all my time there by any means, but it was perfect for our time there and we felt very taken care of. Also, centrally located! We walked to the Silos and all throughout downtown Waco.

highlights:

  • driving through downtown Waco. It is tiny!! There also is not much. Some cute places are working on getting the business flowing to the city again. Baylor was already finished with school because we were there in the summer, so the city felt very empty. Downtown has so much character and history though, you can sense it!
  • buying umbrellas at CVS. The morning we woke up to go see the silos, it was pitch black outside at 9 am. We drove to get coffee and a pastry before being first in line at the Silos (which, we weren’t. for how empty the city felt, Magnolia Silo’s were poppin’ right at 9!!). When we got into the coffee shop, it started pouring, down pouring with thunder and lightening. I was in this super cute dress and sandals and I was not changing hhahaha. So we drive to CVS and purchased umbrellas. This will forever be a memory of mine! The three of us trying to walk in the wind and rain, trying to hold my dress down so I don’t flash the world, while also drinking coffee. It was a scene for sure and hysterical. You couldn’t help but laugh! The reason we came was for the Magnolia Market and the rain was not going to stop us at all.
  • cupcakes for breakfast. Whenever I take a girls trip with my mom, aunt, or grandma, I want to make it feel like Jessie is there with us still. Jessie loved sugary sweets, cupcakes in particular! Jess and I went through this phase where we both wanted to become pastry chefs. We stocked up on every possible cupcake cookbook and would spend our weekends trying new recipes. The Silos has a new bakery! The Silos Baking Co. also has lots of homemade cupcakes and Joanna creates the flavors! I knew we had to have them. Jessie would have made us get them! So at 10 am, after basically skipping breakfast because I was waiting for the food trucks at the silos to open (which is another story because the ones I was waiting for didn’t due to the rain, a big bummer…), we ate cupcakes instead! They were divine. So light and so moist!! Loads of frosting, which some people love and others don’t, but they were incredible. I loved each flavor too!! We got their peaches and cream (seasonal), shiplap (vanilla + vanilla), lemon lavender, and the silobration (chocolate + vanilla).

food:

  1. Silo’s Baking Co. had the best cupcakes! They had other options like cinnamon rolls, biscuits, and cookies.
  2. Barebucha + Chuck’s popcorn. We got this combination for the drive to Dallas! I am a huge kettlecorn addict. Only the fresh-made stuff though & none of that store-bought! I can easily down a large without even thinking and then I feel really guilty after hahaha. We picked Chuck’s original kettle corn and then their salted caramel as well. I loved the original better and mom and Kimmy liked the salted caramel more I think!
  3. Co-Town Crepes. Because the BBQ and biscuit trucks decided not to open in the rain, we got crepes for lunch! Savory ones and not sweet. We loved the veggie one (I don’t remember the name exactly) & their turkey was delicious as well!

shops/places:

  • Magnolia Market – You have to go! The store is huge inside and they are working on turning the actual silos into more stores I believe! The store is perfectly curated and speaks to who Joanna is as a designer and person! So much thought goes into it all and everything is well styled. She makes you want it all as well and when you are traveling, it is so hard to pick and choose!! I love that you can shop her stuff online though.
  • Fox & Gray – This was an adorable new little boutique that just opened when we were there! It is in a new center that will be filled with a cute Mexican restaurant and a few other boutiques all offering different things. The owners were there when we were and are from LA actually! It was filled with yummy smelling candles & very cute, well-priced clothing!!

DALLAS.

stay:

Magnolia Hotel Downtown. This hotel is right downtown in the financial district! I really wanted to stay at the Joule hotel but they were booked during our date. This hotel was an older building that they have redone on the inside, keeping the older details and character. The rooms were nice, clean, and felt fancier than the typical base Marriott or Hilton. A bonus – the hotel gives out warm cookies at night!

highlights:

  • Reunion Tower. This was a fun experience but I don’t know if I’d make myself do it every time I come to Dallas! It is a touristy thing for sure and the price reflects that. It is like Dallas’ version of the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock. You take an elevator up lots of floors to see beautiful views of the entire city! You can walk all the way around and we went at sunset, the perfect time to go!! It doesn’t feel super big when you’re up there because we walked around it a couple times very quickly and it looks so much bigger from the ground. I’m happy we were able to squeeze in time and see it though!
  • Top Golf. If you’ve never been, you NEED to. I can’t golf to save my life but I always wanted to go and try this. There were some people who work for the foundation, my dad included, who went to Las Vegas for a corporate joy stuffing and they all went to play. I was so jealous that I didn’t get to go and my dad came home raving about it! So I took Kimmy and momma at 10 pm and we tried our best! I pretty much ended up hitting for them both and I made the biggest fool out of myself. It was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time though!! We laughed so hard our tummies were sore the next day. I also do not understand how people can be good at it, I just can’t get it down and 80% of the time completely missed the ball. I was Googling YouTube videos of how to hit a golf ball and they helped a little hahha. I did score some points – the most out of us three!
  • walking around highland park’s shopping. Hyland Park Village is home to some of the most beautiful stores, all the ones I cannot afford to shop in at all but make for the best window-shopping! They also have our favorite, Draper James. The three of us fell in love last fall in Nashville at her store and I have some very cute and completely southern pieces now! My favorite part is the sweet tea you get complimentary while you shop.

food:

  1. Sassetta. If you love fancy, foodie Italian then this is your place!!! Incredible pastas and wood fired pizzas. That really good pizza where the crust isn’t too thick, isn’t too thin, and just melts in your mouth. I am now obsessed with octopus and could have eaten plates of their octopus appetizer; it was char-grilled with zucchini, cauliflower, and a salsa. Very light and extremely refreshing! We also adored the meatballs, especially when you loaded up the pieces of fresh-made bread with sauce and meat! We tried the roasted mushroom salad as well as their caramelized onion pizza and their carbonara pasta dish! Next time I am in Dallas, I will be eating here again. Alsooooo loved that it was tucked away and hidden in a design center for interior designers – I mean, they clearly know the way to my heart!
  2. Toasted. Momma and I hit up this fun spot before our flight out! Kimmy had a super duper early flight to get to work and so the two of us went for toast and coffee 🙂 Now I just have to share their slogan because it makes me smile and totally laugh, this is also what sold me on having to go: “TOASTED Coffee + Kitchen is an eatery and bar featuring fancy-a** TOASTS…” How do you not want to come here?! Avocado toast is now a staple in California so I was down to see a restaurant that specializes in toasts that aren’t just avocado! plus, they had really yummy coffee. Mom got their ‘Honey I’m Home’, honey wheat bread topped with peanut butter, honey, and sea salt. I went for ‘Don’t get salty’, their house bread topped with…wait for it…AVOCADO, plus pepper and then black sea salt and normal sea salt, and also an added poached egg!

shops/places:

  • anything in Highland Park!
  • Reunion Tower.

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Looking back over the photos we have brings back that overflow of memories!! Pictures mean the world to me & I always am working on the best balance between being present in the moment to experience where I am and also capturing it to remember years down the road. I would love to travel back to Austin and spend more time there! Chip and Joanna are going to open up a breakfast restaurant at the end of 2018 and so looks like I’ll have to go back there too!! I enjoyed Dallas, but it was a lot like other big cities, like LA.

Go out and travel, go with plans or go without. Do whatever sets your soul on fire and don’t look back!! Experience this life we have to live and share the stories!

X & O,

Shaya