You know I love Texas. Everything is bigger and better.
But sometimes you don’t just want bigger. Sometimes you want better.
Here are 3 of my favourite Texas cities close enough to Dallas to make a short family road trip, but far enough away to make you feel like you are in another world.
We went through Grapevine back in March. It’s a gorgeous family friendly city with plenty of big attractions for the kids.
Best Places To Stay
Gaylord Texan Resort - Holy cow! Check out the size of this place! It’s big enough to spend your whole vacation in. Generous-sized rooms, multiple on-site restaurants, several pools. I got lost several times. But the most rewarding part of all? Service. These people treat you like royalty. One of my dear friends managed to convince the staff I was a rock star and one evening I received a knock on my suite door. A staff member delivered a bowl of blue M&Ms and an adorable card. I was giddy, elated and knew it wouldn’t be the last time I stayed.
Great Wolf Lodge - If you have young kids who want to spend their days fighting dragons and splashing in a waterpark, this is the place to go. Be prepared for an oversized ration of crazed kids and non-stop entertainment.
Best Places To Eat
Brisket, sausage, turkey, pulled pork, any type of meat you want, you got it. You’ll find every form of classic Texas BBQ here – it’s a “must visit” on your list of places to eat in Grapevine. You can even take their special seasoning home with you!
Mouthwatering food with an elegant modern twist. My favourite dishes were prepared on a wood fire grill. Try the tenderloin bruschetta, smoked gouda mac n’ cheese, seared ahi tuna and spinach dip.
How can anyone say no to tableside guacamole? It wasn’t quite as good as the one we had in Bali, but it was a solid effort. With a range of flavours inspired by Tex Mex and Santa Fe, make sure you pair any dish with one of their margaritas.
Of course there is chocolate. And really good chocolate. With plenty of free samples, so don’t just stop at one. Try any of Dr Sue’s dark chocolate including blueberry, chilli or an infinite number of nuts.
Jazz Wine Train on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad - The Vintage Railroad is a fun day out, but it’s even more fun when you head for an evening of live jazz and fine wine.
Grapevine Glockenspiel Clock Tower - Watch two train robbers describe the perfect heist on a 127-foot-high clock tower in the centre of town.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center - Where kids can play all day using their imagination or trying cute rides.
SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium - Spread over 45,000 square feet, and conveniently located opposite LEGOLAND, enjoy your walk under the sea.
In 2009 Frisco was the fastest-growing city in the United States. Conveniently located only 25 miles (40km) from Dallas airport, this sweet little city is filled with museums, history and big, bold Texas flavours.
Best Places To Stay
Embassy Suites Dallas-Frisco - This is one gorgeous Embassy Suites, with a glass roof and views across the Dr Pepper Ballpark. Which means if the kids don’t make it through the whole baseball game, you can still watch from your bedroom window. Plus, you can also easily walk home after the game!
Best Places To Eat
I loved this place. It’s like an elevated pub. And they have a very cute Justin Timberlake lookalike waiter. Say hi if you see him. We enjoyed appetizers and cocktails perched atop high tables. And if you really want to get dirty, try a moonshine sampler.
This restaurant promised the soul of Texas in every bite and they didn’t fail. Enjoy traditional Texas food in a modern restaurant. We shared everything in our travel group, since each diner wanted a bite of everyone else’s.
National Videogame Museum – This is reason enough to visit Frisco since this is the only museum in America dedicated to the history of the videogame. Geek out and be proud! You can wander through the earliest game consoles (yes, I saw my Commodore 64) up until today’s hardware, and then you can roll up your sleeves and play a few games. Plus there’s a decked-out arcade as well. Don’t be surprised if the kids (and the hubby) want to stay all day.
Dr Pepper Ballpark - Do not miss a Frisco RoughRiders game while in town. Want to know something really cool? This baseball park is one of the best in the industry, complete with a lazy river to watch the game or perhaps the box suite is more your style?
Museum of the American Railroad – If you love trains, you will love this place. Explore 42 beautifully restored historic locomotives and rail cars.
Frisco Heritage Museum - An educational living village. Make sure you bump into one of the lovely period dressed guides and take the kids inside to watch old movies.
The Ford Center - The Dallas Cowboys have a new home! Lucky me, I got to see it even before the Cowboys did! A 12,000 seat indoor multi-use event centre with a 50-yard turf field. They spent a ridiculous amount on this place, but high school kids get to play here too. So I guess that’s a consolation, right?
Who would have thought the 13th most populous city in Texas would be home to a world-class Four Seasons? Yet, it is. I love the use of canals in this Texas city and seeing it from above was a real highlight.
Best Places To Stay
Four Seasons Dallas - You rarely need to leave a Four Seasons and this one, just outside of Dallas, is no different. From the outstanding room service, to the diversity of delicious dishes for Sunday brunch, to the heavenly spa – this is heaven. I enjoyed a fabulous Thai massage and soaked in the relaxing spa bath for some much-needed unwinding. Bonus: I loved the kids tent and colouring table set up beside reception so youngsters are amused during the check-in/checkout process. Very clever.
Best Places To Eat
Who doesn’t love an old fashion diner with greasy food and thick, sweet delicious milkshakes. Plus, this one has its own completely free jukebox. What tune would you choose? Try the chili – yum!
Exactly how it sounds. The Ranch is definitive Texas in every way. From its wide seating area, to its generous meal portions. And while in Texas you must, of course, wrap your laughing gear around a juicy steak. Do not leave The Ranch without at least trying the 12 oz TX Akaushi Strip Steak… mmmm, melt in your mouth delicious.
Yearning for an authentic dose of Tex Mex? This is your place. Beautifully decorated and ever-so inviting, Via Real offers delicious Mexican and Southwestern cuisine in this Santa Fe-style restaurant. But make sure you save room for dessert!
Texas Musicians Museum - Perhaps this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, however music lovers will adore it. The museum features unique displays of Texas music memorabilia from music legends like Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, Selena, Beyoncé and ZZ Top.
Helicopter Tour - While you are hanging out at The Ranch enjoying some of the finest Texas food around, you might as well squeeze something a little extra before dessert. Something like a sunset helicopter ride! Once you’re back on solid earth you’re bound to have more room for sweets. Plus nothing beats an aerial view of a city. Double win!
SUP - Weather you’re a newbie or expert, the best place to enjoy Stand Up Paddleboarding can be found right on the Mandalay Canals. But be careful, once you try you may get hooked.
The Bottom Line
Wowsers! There’s so many choices! Next time you fly into Dallas for either business or pleasure, consider going beyond the city limits and discovering these 3 fascinating vacation destinations waiting for you. And thanks to Travel Media Showcase for giving me the opportunity to experience it.
Whether it’s pampering and luxury, sport, digital entertainment or history, you don’t have to go very far. And remember to bring along an extra-large appetite to enjoy all the mouth-watering cuisine.
Now, where did those blue M&Ms go?