A City Girl In Hill Country: My Epic Texas Birthday Tour, Part II

I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.
— Mark Twain

My birthday month was full of different experiences, including a lot of first-time activities.  I planned my first girls’ trip to South Padre Island, Texas. I then spent my actual birthday in Dallas but the following weekend I had another first-time activity, a baecation! *gasp*

I knew that we would be traveling to Texas Hill Country for my birthday but I did not want to know too many of the specifics.  I just wanted to know what to pack and see what was in store when we arrived (talk about relinquishing control).  It felt like more of an adventure because there was constantly a new experience awaiting me.  Ultimately, we trekked to 7 Texas cities in 3 days which sounds like quite a feat… but with two spontaneous travelers, anything is possible. So without further ado, let’s talk about part two of my epic Texas birthday tour.


Let's take a roadtrip.

On Friday morning, we kicked off our road trip by heading to San Antonio because I insisted on spending at least one night in a city before heading to the country. I had never really visited San Antonio for leisure because the one time I previously went was for a work conference, so no exploring of my interest truly took place.  On the way there we made the obligatory stop at the Czech Stop in West, Texas.  If you have never stopped there while driving on I-35, you are truly missing out.  It’s a great pitstop on a roadtrip journey, similar to visiting Buccee’s at least one time.  

Once we arrived, we rested for a little and searched for some activities to do.  We missed out on ziplining but courtesy of my BFF Yelp, I saw that there was a Japanese botanical garden not too far from our hotel and it was FREE! Score.  When I tell you all that it was one of the most serene places I have seen to date.  Upon initial entry into the garden you would have no idea that you were just outside of the downtown area to a city.  We saw quite a bit of students taking photo shoots for their prom or graduation, but it was quiet enough to hear nature moving around you.  It was a sweltering 94 degrees outside so the shade provided by the trees were quite a relief.  There were a wealth of paths for you to take and due to my dress and shoes, I knew I would not be able to climb up too many things but I was satisfied gawking at the design, the fish, and the waterfall.  I would not mind returning to that garden at all if I ever visited San Antonio again.

Along came surprise number 1.  I was under the impression that following our visit to the botanical garden we would get ready for dinner by the Riverwalk.  After I realized we were not heading in the direction back towards the hotel, I saw that we were heading downtown and noticed quite a few women wearing flower headbands resembling the famous Snapchat filter.  After parking and walking a short distance, I was met with the infamous San Antonio festival known as FIESTA.

Fiesta was lit, y’all.  I was immediately obsessed with it and apparently, we were there on one of the best nights. Several streets were blocked off and you had your choice to which culinary cuisine you wanted to indulge in.  Live music was being played as well as Top 40 and rap hits.  It was loud, crowded, sweaty, but amazing.  I had not mentally prepared myself to be among so many people (cue in the introvert in me) but I was in my element the colors, beautiful lighting, music, and food.  Considering the fact that I have heard remarks from some of my friends that San Antonio was boring, I was glad Fiesta combated their sentiments.  I would not be surprised if I attended that festival again in the near future.

We left Fiesta after about an hour and finally returned to our hotel to get prepared for dinner.  After perusing through, you guessed it, Yelp, we found a place that would actually be open late. That restaurant was Ocho Restaurant & Lounge of Hotel Havana located in downtown San Antonio towards the quieter end of the Riverwalk.  We both have a thing for lighting and it met old world Cuban influence with an industrial theme thrown in as well.  They served a mix of tapas and entrees, but we focused on the tapas and cocktails.  Let’s also be clear that while I am not a huge sweets person, I wanted to indulge since I was on my birthday tour.  The banana bread French toast was EVERYTHING! The only thing it needed to make it perfect was a candle for me (wink wink).

The service at Ocho was great and they recommended that we visit their bar, Havana, downstairs.  It too had an old world feel.  After telling the bartender it was my birthday, he whipped up a delicious champagne cocktail for me and recommended that we visit the third-floor of the hotel to get in some great views of the city and to enjoy the breeze.  His suggestion was spot-on and it was nice to be in a quiet place while smacked downtown.  The festival had died down about an hour ago but the buildings still sported rainbow-colored lighting in honor of Fiesta.  For it to be my first true time visiting San Antonio for leisure, it was perfect and my birthday tour was living up to its “epic” name.

To Hill Country We Go!

Day 2 was jam packed with adventure and it began with about an hour’s drive to Cave Without A Name.  There were quite options when it came to exploring caverns between Austin and San Antonio but I truly believe we picked the best one.  We wanted a cave that was not too commercialized.  Due to impeccable timing (otherwise known as luck), we arrived just in time for another tour group getting ready to head down into the Cave. Our guide, Ted, was simply amazing.  He was insightful yet clever and knew his history.  He was appealing to the children and the adults visiting the cave and was patient as different parties took various pictures. My favorite part was when the group sang “Happy Birthday” to me because the acoustics in the cave were STELLAR, and even though I hate when restaurants sing, I definitely did not mind it in the cave. Another first-time activity, check!

Following the super dope tour of the Cave Without A Name, we continued exploring the town of Boerne and had a delicious lunch at The Dodging Duck Brewhaus.  The sausage there was divine and their mustard flavors were scrumptuous.  If anyone ever offers you cranberry-mustard, just say YES. Boerne also is the home of an adorable duck park and if you bring some snacks, you will be able to draw them towards you.  The turtle lover in me was also satisfied as the river was full of them from babies to adults.  If you have children, they would enjoy their time seeing the different types of ducks at the park.

The next town on our Texas birthday tour was Comfort, TX.  Comfort was the home of cute antique shops and boutiques.  We stopped by The Elephant Story, and even though I am a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, I admit that the elephant theme was cute.  Their proceeds go towards an elephant conservatory and so I picked up a few candles for myself and my coworkers.  We missed the market being open by a few minutes (story of our lives) but there was a wine tasting room directly across the street that we checked out.  The samples were delicious and somehow we ended up purchasing two bottles for a decent price and continued on our Texas Hill Country adventures.

Probably one of my favorite moments from the trip was the drive we took after visiting Comfort.  We filled up the tank of gas and randomly got lost.  I picked a vineyard on the map for us to drive to and off we went.  The elevations were rising and we were finally capturing some great views of Texas Hill Country.  I must say it was beautiful and exhilarating to have the windows down and to just drive on the winding roads.  Even though I typically save getting lost for when I am abroad, we managed to do that in Hill Country and even stumbled upon the very winery for the bottles we just made a purchase from.  Everything worked out in our favor.  After a few wrong turns from getting off the hill and seeing a goat farm, we headed to Kerrville to check into our second hotel and rest.  No fancy dinners were needed for this girl as pizza, wings, and SVU did the trick.

This Is What We Came For.

For our final day, day 3, we got to knock off the item that was on his list.  We were en route to Enchanted Rock.  From reading previous reviews, there was a risk of not having guaranteed entry because the park only allows in a certain number of cars.  There were no alerts on their Twitter page but we still knew we were taking a risk.  The drive to and through downtown Fredericksburg was picturesque and thankfully, I was able to capture a few views of the remaining bluebonnets on the side of the road.  As we got closer, the roads began to wind more and you could see Enchanted Rock from the distance.  In our favor, there was hardly any traffic and we were elated that we would be able to visit the main attraction.

If you know me, you know I am going to want to do the challenging task first.  Enchanted Rock offered various trails varying from easy to challenging.  In order to see the peak of the rock, you needed to climb the Summit Trail, and that was the very one I wanted to go on.  It reminded me of climbing the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico City, except for the fact that there were NO stairs.  It was up to you, your shoes, and your will.  We definitely stopped a few times, whether it was to breathe or snap some pictures, but the hike was beyond worth it.  The winds were going at about 20mph but the view was stunning.  We were literally at birds’ eye view, as several eagles were flying in the distance.  You had a 360-degree view of the state park and the rest of Hill Country.  I am not even sure how long we stayed on the summit but I enjoyed the hike and was proud of myself for doing an outdoorsy activity (read, city girl).

On the way down we decided to try our hand at another (less challenging) trail so we could see some more views.  Most, if not all the other visitors were on the Summit Trail, and so it was extremely relaxing.  Once again, I could hear nature around me and just fully submerge myself in the elements around me.  Life gets so busy that you hardly stop to notice the flowers around you, so witnessing the diverse colors of the cacti flowers and wildflowers blooming was a special treat.  We must have walked for almost two-hours around the park but I loved every minute of it and was grateful for the memory.

It was time to head back to Dallas but on the way we made sure to get some proper Texas Hill Country barbeque in Llano.  If you are ever in the area, you truly want to do yourself the favor and eat at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Barbeque.  Try your best to not turn into a glutton and act like you have some sense.  They serve their meats by the pound and once you get inside they have a selection of sides and cold beers to seal the deal.  Their hospitality and patience was to be commended as I know I took a few minutes just staring at the menu and the meats on the pit trying to decide what I wanted to eat. We ended up taking some of the food back to Dallas with us but everything I bit into was simply amazing.  Eating at Cooper’s was a great final stop on my epic Texas birthday tour.

Ironically enough, the last day of our trip was Sunday, April 30.  It meant that my favorite month of the year was over and it was time to put away my invisible birthday confetti.  I was completely satisfied with every celebration I had and was humbled to have spent it with so many people that were special to me.  I went to 9 different cities in Texas while having amazing new experiences and that was better than any tangible gift I could have asked for.  Considering the fact that I felt lonely on my 27th birthday, my 28th was truly the beginning of Twenty-Great.

Oh, April.

I got to experience my first girls’ trip and baecation during my birthday tour, but if you have been following me for awhile you know that I am a huge fan of solo travel.  I cannot wait to share with you all where I will be headed in the next few weeks.  It is going to be grand! But I am curious to know about your own baecation and girls’ trip experiences.  Any tips? I have a lot to learn so I am all ears.  Talk to you in the comments!

In life, it’s not where you go, it’s who you travel with.
— Charles Schulz

To the MVP (because I know you’re reading)- This trip would not have been possible without you. This was probably the third destination on the list but clearly, three time’s a charm because I really think this was the best decision. I would not have picked these places nor activities, for myself but #YouDoneGood. Even though everything didn’t go as you planned, it was still the culmination of one of the best birthdays yet and a virtual cheers to wherever our next destination shall be.