The Lone Star State hosts more conferences and events than any other state in my opinion. It makes sense, generally central location, big cities with big convention centers and big hotels and temperatures spanning from warm to oppressive 365 days a year. I really don’t know how I feel about Texas. Hoping to discover my concrete opinion by the end of this blog post. San Antonio hosted most of my trips, primarily because of the Culinary Institute campus. Houston & Dallas both hosted the bigger conferences while we visited Austin for smaller food events and meetings. I definitely preferred Austin among the four but visited San Antonio most often so if you are looking to plan some lengthy business dinners or escape the conference for a few hours here are highlights:
Dallas: Leave Dallas, take a car and drive to Fort Worth. A few of my favorite produce girls and I had an evening off so took an Uber out to the stockyards. Kitschy bars, Western Ware shops and one of my top five favorite restaurants ever Lonesome Dove mixed with just enough Margaritas resulted in one of my favorite work trip nights. I always stay at the huge, TV’s in the bathroom mirror, very Texas-y Omni Dallas when in Dallas. Always comfortable but nothing terribly special. Dallas doesn’t have the most unique feel to which is probably why I preferred it’s neighbor Fort Worth. However, I am not opposed to more visits to learn a little bit more about the Big D.
Houston: I actually don’t remember too much about Houston. More green space and a beautiful farmers market are all I remember. My trips to Houston are usually spent from 7-7 in the George R Brown Convention center and late dinners at the regular steak houses and Tex Mex joints.
San Antonio: Stay farther away from the Convention Center along the RiverWalk to force outdoor walking before being held hostage in a convention center for all day light hours. This habit is always adjusted for any non ideal weather conditions or un-walk able cities (because I am very weak). I usually end up at the Courtyard Marriott but once stayed at the Hotel Contessa and absolutely loved it. The hotel fits the Spanish, old world feeling of the entire Riverwalk.
I have had some bad experiences walking the RiverWalk and the streets alone at night so taking an Uber at night is your best bet. During the day I have had no problems running along the Riverwalk from the hotel out to the lock and dam or the Pearl building. Plenty to look at and plenty of joggers joining you. After 8 hours in the exhibit floor I am not moving much in the evening so morning runs are my best bet. San Antonio is home to one of my other Top Five favorite restaurants Esquire Tavern. The meatloaf sandwich and Chile Relleno are absolutely perfect. If I am ever in town a night early or late I enjoy a solitary dinner at the crowded bar. Not recommended for hosting larger business dinners. I did host some great customer dinners at Bliss , Biga on the Banks (both formal) and Rosarios (casual). The Pearl district and brewery are an Uber or 30 minute daytime walk away but well worth the visit if you have time to kill for a nice lunch, shopping or drinks.
Austin: I visited Austin once for about 24 hours and the second time last year for a week long board meeting which generally include long meetings and longer nights of drinking. All of the food trucks are worth going to visit. We spent one night on a food truck tour down Rainey Street eating pizza, tacos, thai and donuts for hours. We stumbled upon Bangers Sausage House an large beer hall and beer garden with live country music and dogs everywhere. I ate dozens of tacos over the week but can not remember exactly where. I really don’t think you can go to wrong on any tacos in Austin.
Visit the Congress Avenue Bridge to view the Bats. I used to think I liked bats until someone brought me to an actual bat cave in Six days in Cuba. No, I do not like bats at all. The trail in Ziller Park around Lady Bird Lake is great to run and enjoy the sunshine. I have heard people rent paddle boards or kayaks in the lake which is definitely on my list to do if I ever have an extra day or travel for fun.
So consensus is yes to Austin, maybe to San Antonio and need some convincing for Dallas and Houston. Until next time Texas!