It’s not possible to hit all the highlights of the Lone Star State in a quick Texas road trip. Taking it in manageable chunks is the best way to explore. We made a city-to-city journey with small-town detours to get a real taste of the state, starting in Austin and setting our sights on Dallas, to see what Central Texas has up its sleeve.
Texas Road Trip Day One: Austin
There’s so much to love about Austin: the killer dining scene, the impossibly cool attitude, or the intense affinity for Willie Nelson. Whatever “it factor” Austin has, downtown newcomer Hotel ZaZa has distilled it into a neatly packaged city block. Situated on the corner of Lavaca and 4th streets, the comfortable lobby is decked out in brown leather and geometric-patterned textiles; mid-century brass lamps and carved wood chairs; light fixtures that double as modern art and chandeliers dripping in crystals. The carefully curated mish-mash of styles reads both homey and, somehow, inherently Texan, right down to the mosaic of worn rugs that adorn the front of the check-in desk.
Located a few short blocks from Hotel ZaZa, Royal Blue Grocery on Lavaca and 3rd is the spot to stock up on provisions for your road trip adventure, from local snacks and candies to wine, beer, bottled water, and a small selection of items you may have forgotten at home (hello, sunscreen). We snagged a bag of Austin-based Imperfekt Bites in the flavor Texas Twist—dark chocolate clusters tossed with mango, Texas pecans, and chili powder.
Day Two: College Station
Back en route to Dallas, we wanted to hit a few of the hotspots in between, and that started with a detour to College Station.
First stop: 1541 Pastries and Coffee for a quick caffeine fix on the way into town. Or if it’s a weekend, grab a table at Urban Table for a spiked mimosa (a splash of St.-Germain does wonders) and decadent bread pudding french toast.
Texas A&M University anchors College Station, and college sports fans would be remiss to not check out Kyle Field—the Aggies’ stadium is the largest in the SEC with a capacity of more than 100,000. If you’re sticking around to catch a game, consider a room at the George Hotel. It’s situated on College Station’s Century Square, home to some dozen shops and restaurants all within walking distance.
Day Three: Waco
We’re back on the road, though, headed for another college town. Waco is home to Baylor University, but perhaps better known—in some circles at least—as the hometown of Chip and Joanna Gaines and their ever-expanding Magnolia Market. Even if you aren’t a fan of Fixer Upper, the two-city-block Magnolia complex is a sight to behold with the flagship market, six curated boutiques, bakery, coffee shop, baseball diamond with concession stand, and some half-dozen food trucks. Across the Webster and 8th streets from Magnolia, the Findery is a country-chic home decor store filled to the brim with upscale farmhouse finds.
As you’re browsing, you may end up in the Boiler Room, a craft beer and wine bar that blends seamlessly with the shop. For something with a little more punch, there’s Balcones Distilling nearby. This whiskey-centric operation puts out landmark bottles like the blue corn-based Baby Blue, the first Texas whiskey to hit the market since Prohibition, and a single malt whiskey perfect for Scotch drinkers that combines Scottish and Texas-grown barley.
There’s more retail therapy in store at nearby Spice Village, a market housing more than sixty independent retailers in a 30,000-square-foot historic building. From there, it’s a short walk up Franklin Avenue to lunch at Clay Pot Restaurant, a family-run Vietnamese restaurant with authentic bowls of pho and vermicelli along with curries, fried rice, and spring rolls.
Texas Road Trip Day Four: Dallas
Pulling up to the HALL Arts Hotel in Dallas, you might mistake it for another art gallery. It is, after all, surrounded by museums and performing arts centers and the hotel itself is filled with installations from artists around the world. Suspended above the stark white, minimalist lobby are dozens of pink tambourines, an homage to the Women’s March and subsequent movement sparked in January 2017. Wander the hotel to find other striking installations in a variety of mediums, from photography and neon signage to sculptures and delicate glasswork.
Steps away from the hotel sit several museums that are well worth a visit. Among them, the Dallas Museum of Art and Crow Museum of Asian Art, both of which are free to the public, and the modernist Nasher Sculpture Center, where admission is $10.
A short drive across downtown, another artsy neighborhood beckons. The response to Dallas’ sleek high rises, the Bishop Arts District is chock full of bohemian flare, with funky boutiques set in cozy cottages. Fuel up for a day of shopping with brunch at Âme—the Indian-inflected chicken and waffles are the stuff of legends—or pick up a decadent offering from the Salty Donut, like a pastelito-inspired brioche doughnut topped with puff pastry streusel or a tropical treat filled with passionfruit mousse in a dragonfruit glaze.
There’s no shortage of cute shops around, but our favorites include Ettiene Market for kitchenware and funky linens; SOCIETY by Jackson Vaughn, a dark and artfully cluttered store filled to the brim with candles, diffusers, perfumes, and other scented goodies; We are 1976, stocked with unique giftables; and Urban Owl for jewelry, crystals, and housewares. There’s also Epiphany Boutique’s quirky clothing and gorgeous stationery (and Instagrammable vibes) from All Good Things. Shop from a host of local artisans all at once at Mosaic Makers Collective—most of whom focus on Texas in their designs, which makes for great trip souvenirs.
Wrap up your visit to the Bishop Arts District with a stop at Bishop Cider Co. Tasting Room for a flight of artisanal ciders. From the carefully crafted flavors to the knowledgeable staff, it’s easy to lose an afternoon hanging out in the tiny tasting room.
The Exchange Hall is the place to go if you’re feeling indecisive about dinner; the downstairs food hall has everything from Lebanese and Moroccan street food to Wagyu burgers and indulgent Belgian waffles. Upstairs, two restaurant concepts and a cocktail bar share one menu and sit-down dining space. You can—and should—get brisket pot stickers and an unagi roll from Ichi Ni San alongside caviar-topped potato croquettes and oysters on the half-shell from Ounce and pair it all with a cocktail from Hard Shake, like the eponymous blend of vodka, basil, blackberry reduction, and Cointreau. The Exchange Hall sits in the middle of Dallas’ AT&T Discovery District, a newly opened tech and entertainment hub at the base of AT&T’s world headquarters. It’s a vibrant place to spend an evening with dozens of tables available for out – door dining, stories-high screens reminiscent of Times Square, and musicians frequently set up in the plaza.
For our last meal in Dallas, there was no better spot than the Biscuit Bar in Deep Ellum for an over-the-top brunch. This spot is dedicated to stacked biscuit sandwiches, smothered tater tots, and all-day brunch cocktails on weekends. We’re partial to the FABB biscuit, stuffed with sweet fig preserves, arugula, bacon, and brie, along with an order of tots—fully loaded, of course.
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