Summer is here, and, if you are like me, the heat makes me want to escape more so than usual. However, limited vacation days and mucho commitments make taking a weeklong vacation seem next to impossible. Yet – I WANT TO ESCAPE!
So, what’s a Dallas girl with a car, 48 hours and a tank of gas to do? Check out these 3 day-tripper escapes you can embrace without killing your pocket book or burning yet another precious day of paid time off. Oh, and all of these are great for the travelling solo gals out there. So, what are you waiting for?
Texas Country Music and Clear, Cold Water (with a cold one)
Home of the world’s oldest music hall and host to Texas music legends, Gruene Hall is one place you don’t want to miss this summer. Located in the small town of Gruene, Texas, just north of New Braunsfels, this day trip is about a 4-hour drive from Dallas on I-35. You don’t even have to leave work early on Friday to catch a great show (gruenehall.com/calendar/). Be sure to hydrate on your trip down 35 – the legendary Hall boasts cold beer but no A/C.
After dancing in your weekend, head on over to one of the B&Bs nearby or check out the listings on VRBO or Air BnB to find a nostalgic hide-a-way for as little as $83 a night.
Be sure to get some rest so you can float the river on Saturday. Several outfitters offer toobs/tubes as well as shuttles to get you to and from the river. Expect to pay about $25-$35 for a day of toobing. You will be sure to meet lots of friendly folks.
After the river, (and maybe a nap), save some time for a wine tasting at one of the wineries/tasting rooms downtown before enjoying dinner at the Gruene River Grill or the Gristmill Restaurant.
Wrap up your day at Tavern on the Gruene. This watering hole is where you are sure to meet a few locals while you flex your shuffle board or ping pong muscles.
Grab Sunday brunch at a historic downtown restaurant, then be sure to sample some tasty treats at the Gruene General Store, one of the top 40 places to visit in Texas, before you take the road back home.
Embrace the Cabin Life
In just 3 ½ hours you can put the city life behind, taste wine made by 3 awesome women, and enjoy the cabin life in Hochatown, Oklahoma, on Broken Bow Lake.
Hochatown is host to hundreds of great cabins with nightly rates for a simple 1-bedroon starting under $100. Thinking of making a girls’ weekend? No worries. You can easily find a great cabin sleeping 12 or more, including a hot tub, for less than a Dallas hotel stay. The best options are found by visiting the cabin owner’s websites themselves. A simple Google search for Broken Bow cabins brings up some of the best.
While in Hochatown, you will be amazed with all you can do to fill your weekend. My “go to” stop is Girls Gone Wine (http://www.thegirlsgonewine.com/). The gift shop is AWESOME and filled with lots of sassy items for you and your sisters. Wine tastings are available by walk-in or appointment. If you are really into wine, reach out to the ladies at Girls Gone Wine early, and book an appointment to mix up a special blend of your own.
Hochatown is right by the lake, so rent a canoe, kayak, boat or jet ski and be one with your water sign (http://www.beaversbendmarina.com/).
For those who prefer their nature experiences on dry land, the area has dozens of great hiking trails for all abilities. Map here: http://www.forestry.ok.gov/hiking-trails-in-beavers-bend-state-park
As for where to eat, my personal fave is Grateful Head Pizza. You will find it right across the road from Girls Gone Wine. They feature a good selection of beers on tap, custom gourmet pizzas, and an awesome outdoor area. Oftentimes, you can take in the local music scene while enjoying your dinner on a busy Saturday night.
Regardless of if you choose to go out or cook at home in your cabin, your weekend will be full in Hochatown.
30 Minutes of Wonderful (Way Better Than a Lifetime of Nothing Special)
This funny-named town that birthed our beloved Steel Magnolias, can be reached by car in a few hours from Dallas. You should budget in a little extra time on your drive to stop for a slice of pie with a side of southern hospitality at the legendary Strawn’s Eat Shop in Shreveport.
(P.S. Lay off the gas pedal after your belly is full of pie, going through DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, though. You are sure to see a few local police along I-49 on your way South.)
When you do arrive in Natchitoches (pronounced Nack-uh-dish by the locals) you will see that not everything in the movie was fictional. Natchitoches life is filled with laughter, festivals, nostalgia, and all the things you loved about the Steel Magnolias. As such the 33-block National Historic Landmark District is perfect for your weekend oasis!
Unless you are arriving on a festival weekend, you should have no problem finding a centrally located B&B. You can even choose to stay in the home where they filmed Shelby’s wedding. However, you won’t find most of these historic places listed on Air BNB. For links to the best, check out http://www.bedandbreakfast.com/natchitoches-louisiana.html.
Antique lover? Well let’s just say – So. Many. Antiques. You can spend an entire day between 3 blocks in downtown Natchitoches! Especially, if you stop by Mamma’s Oyster House for a shopping break. The staff is friendly, the drinks are stout and the food – well – mmmmm mmmmm good!!!
Another great bit of local color for your gastric enjoyment – Pioneer Pub. You can spot it easily on your stroll. It is the rugged, green-trimmed building between the ultra-modern Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and a bank building. Don’t judge a book by its cover, though. Let the food speak for itself. You will not be disappointed.
As you make your way through this riverfront area, you probably will start hearing the water call out to you. It is hard to resist exploring such a phenomenon as the Cane River Lake. Yes, river lake. Take the tour and learn why – for info: Cane River Lake Tours on Facebook.
While on your river, um lake, um river, whatever – while you are on the cruise, you may notice The Marina. Now, it’s not what you see at Rockwall, filled with sailboats and the like. In Natchitoches, The Marina is THE spot for local music, and it is where you will find at least 25% of the town’s population on a summer night. Don’t miss this great dive.
Wrap your Louisiana weekend up by taking in a performance by the local symphony orchestra at the nearby Northwestern State University, or take a short trip South to Melrose Plantation. Most weekends you will find the front grounds of the plantation filled with local artisans selling their wares. The plantation once was a haven for artists, including the famed Clementine Hunter. Nearby, take a peek inside the St Augustine Catholic Church, founded in 1856. You won’t regret the sojourn.
As for what else to do in here? Dear traveler, this is only a sample. Natchitoches will provide the lagniappe.