Hold the fort. ‘Remember the Alamo!’ To where it stands now, unparalleled structures rise around, not a cast of shadow gloom over this historic land. Dwarfed building pave way to the Alamo as it hold its ground. The reminder to the very foundation of this land. From the Spaniard’s settlement and their missions- the origin of the Camino Real, to the culmination of the tension that sparked a revolution between two great nations. Mexico and what once was the republic of Texas. Its own country, its own people. Its own nation. Welcome to our wild wild west of adventure.
Early morning wake up call at 3am. Groggy kids plant their heads buried in the couch after a twister of a gameplay changing them into their clothes. The plants get their water orb for the week. Alexa is set to away mode, she responds ‘be safe!’
This year we continued our family adventure to the lone star state of Texas- completing our last year’s Journey and trip to the Deep South. The airport terminals have been more efficient with an increase in Kiosk station for obtaining boarding passes and checking in luggage. Joel learns to tag the bags at the counter on this trip. Much of the pandemic restrictions this year have been lifted off. The airports continue to follow CDC guidelines in wearing facial mask all throughout the terminal and onboard the plane but public places like restaurants and shopping centers does not require wearing one. How once the influenza lingered for two decades in the early 1900s is now shortened to 2 years. Or so, I hope.
Ease of restriction means an increase in traffic and busier transit. 95 percent of the population in Texas do not wear facial mask outdoor nor in the public space. Be ready for that if you are planning to visit.
We continue to fly jet blue as the kids enjoy their own entertainment in their own private seats. It is comfortable with enough leg room for an average height traveler like myself. The kids are seated to the windows while Joycee and I are on the isle seats. We try to pre select seating closest to the bathrooms for the convenience of traveling with the kids. On this flight we tried and checked in all our luggage and have one backpacks each for carry-ons. The kids carry their own backpacks with their toys, extra dry clothes and snacks.
Texas has a lot to unpack on this trip but is easily digestible for a family with two school age children like ours. It is one of the states where younger growing families migrate to. Texas is rich in history, booming with possibilities and economic stability of its own. Low gas price compared to other states and tech startups with hotels left and right hosting conventions. One hotel we stayed at in Austin face a large silicon Lab across the river. Every breakfast down the hotel lobby is a meet and greet with employees wearing badges of a specific tech company. This is quickly gaining traction and becoming a tech hub. It seemed like its own separate country.
Cowboy boots and holstered handguns worn in public. It truly is a wild west. The men and their trucks but I have seen much order in the highways. The freeway system is efficient in managing traffic from multiple overlapping highways stacked up on each other to an ingenious U-turn freeway exits. We really should have this system in California. Traveling from three major Cities at different time of the day was surprisingly easy with very few delays- and that’s including roadway expansions and newly constructed freeways. All interconnecting three major Cities with booming suburbs.
The weather was extremely generous in welcoming us. Much like our place in California but a bit warmer during this time of the year.
We flew in to the city of Austin. Picked up our rental car at the airport and drove 2 hour to Houston. We decided to stay at the Hyatt regency Houston Galleria on our first night. A walking distance to the shopping center with an ice skating rink inside.
We visited the Lakewood church and attended the 8am service the next morning. It is an arena with easy and big lot for parking spaces. Get there 20 min early if you are a first time visitor. They will register the children for sunday school and tour you around with friendly staff. It was a wonderful inspirational morning service and worship to kickstart our busy week ahead.
First stop: The Houston Space Center
After the church service we headed to the Houston space center. An easy thirty minute sunday drive from the city. We got there at around one in the afternoon with plenty of time to explore, enjoyed a virtual space trek with a VR technology and simulated ride. Learn about the skylab, tour the boeing 747- the shuttle independence and re-kindle your fascinations with space and science interactively with the kids. A playground that will surely keep you looking up the sky. It is a must visit if you have young school age children.
Downtown Historic Galveston
A few hours to spare after the visit to the space center in Houston and we headed to the coastline. Small towns are always on our list of things to explore in between our itineraries. It brings a candid surprise and a way to balance out the more touristy attractions along the way. We found a charming old town of railroad crossing and beautiful shoreline beaches. The historic downtown strand in Galveston is a wonderful introduction to the history of the state as it paints a picture of old historic neighborhood of what was the first major city of Texas. Engraved in the downtown center are structures dating back a century with quaint streets of victorian houses, shops and antique stores.
Galveston is an easy and enjoyable stroll around the town with children. We quickly found our way down railroad tracks and followed the beach to where a few restaurant welcomed costumer with open deck facing the ocean inviting a gentle gust of wind with the setting sun in the horizon. We chose the Fisherman’s Wharf and was seated outside the patio with fresh food. And Boy, was it delicious! Every bite is a drum roll of a wonderful memory of a life by the beach thwart away from the city noise. If this was the life, Texas has a generous serving for you plenty to indulge to a coma of southern hospitality. What a treat it was as the dinner experience with the kids culminated laughters into the blue hour of the late summer stary night.
The next day we drove a two and a half hour drive to San Antonio from Houston. Don’t forget to stop at one of the buc ee’s grocery and gas station. My children adored the friendly mascot that grabs your attention as you drive the interstate freeways. I enjoyed their famous mouth watering brisket sandwich and Buc ee’s ice coffee! It is a chain of country stores and gas stations with locations in the southern states.
Natural Bridge Caverns
Our first stop was the spectacular Natural Bridge Caverns in San Antonio. It is a scheduled tour with a guide that takes you down the cavern. The descent is an almost 200 feet down with magnificent display of speleothems. This enchanting descent will surely take your breathe away!
A friendly guide will take you down worlds apart from any caverns in the world. The pathway is an easy to a moderate activity. Make sure to wear comfortable rubber sole shoes as it can get a little slippery as the slow dripping water find its way down. The temperature and humidity remain comfortable and constant throughout the year.
Hyatt Country Hill Resort | San Antonio
We stayed at the Hyatt Country hill resort and spa to soak in the gorgeous spring weather. The amenities include a lazy river, water slide, a playground area for the kids, and a bike route to enjoy the comfortable charm of the secluded southern style accomodation and resort. A wonderful steak dinner at night with a glass of malbec created a night full of wonderful laughter and memories with the family digested with a beautiful aroma of the choiced red wine. The kids were able to enjoy marsh mallows s’mores at night and woke up the next day feeding the ducks and squirrels. If you are thinking about a resort just minutes away from the city to enjoy fun family activities I highly recommend this charming and refreshing resort by Hyatt.
San Antonio Riverwalk
The next day we headed to the San Antonio riverwalk, a 20 min drive from the country hill resort and spa. We checked in at the Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk with an amazing river view from our hotel room. You can dine in on the second floor with a beautiful view of the river. The hotel is a walking distance to the Alamo and the shops at river center. There are many culinary experiences you can choose from with a romantic serenade from a few local mariachi band while enjoying the food with a picturesque river view ambient.
Lovely afternoon sun glisten the scene while the evening lights glow a different vibe. Local shops, bars and wonderful food all play along the swift and beautiful river with all year round floral display of colors. A tour around the river on a ferry ride brought a sense of gratitude and humbled me as I learned about the many different Indian tribes that used to find this fertile land and river to call their home. What a privilege it was to be able to enjoy this wonderful scenic tour and learn about its rich history.
The Alamo and the San Antonio Missions
The Alamo and the four other missions are very important places to see in San Antonio specially for its rich historical background. My son was given an award for being a scout ranger for the day on our trip to mission San Jose. What a wonderful experience to learn about the history together with the family as we all spent the whole day enjoying the history and the beautiful ruins and its remains.
India standing next to the Davy Crockett statue
restored canon displayed outside the Alamo | right: Mission San Jose
The trip to the missions can be done in one whole day. Make sure you stay hydrated and find time to learn about each one. The volunteers have a lot of knowledge about the missions from architectural designs to its rich history. It is a tour back in time and can be enjoyed on your own pace. Each missions are 2-3 miles apart. Our trip to Texas during the kids spring break surprisingly was not busy with a nice slow scenic ride between each missions. If you want to learn more about the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas check the national park service here. All park programs are free of charge and wheelchair-accessible.
Mission Espada | below: Mission San Jose inside the church
Downtown Historic Market Square
Our last few days was spent enjoying the riverwalk. We explored the last day in San Antonio and made a day trip to the historic market square. Here you find yourself stepping into what is almost a portal to Mexico as the vibrant Mexican garland banner welcomes you in. It is known to be the largest Mexican Market in the United states. It is a three block outdoor plaza that displays anything from souvenirs, clothing, food and many more. This is a place rich in history and rightfully situated in the heart of the City.
Texas state capitol in Austin | right: a walk across one of the bridge in San Antonio Riverwalk
Before our flight back to California we stayed in Austin and visited the capitol. To our surprise, while crossing the state congress bridge over the lady bird lake on our way back to the hotel, millions (yes, millions!) of bats emerge from the bridge below into the magenta sky like a thick cloud of smoke diffusing the late summer sky and into the early blue hour. There is an observatory below as these bats take flight each night. Bring a sweater and a chair to enjoy the wait. I heard the bats can come out as late as the evening hours.
We took a nice paddle boat ride the next day under that same bridge. It was incredible to hear the bats from this vantage point paddling along still waters hearing each echo travel in acoustics. It was an incredible experience with the kids as they are more cognisant and curios in this age with science and nature.
Texas surprised me in many ways. It is definitely a place worth visiting with the whole family. You can be in any of the Cities and continue to learn about the incredible history it has. This is definitely not our last visit to Texas. The Lone star state is an easy five star destination for my family. If you like our travel help me continue this journey. I appreciate the coffee!
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