My Birthday Trip to Austin & Waco
For my 38th Birthday my hubby took me on an adventure, exploring Austin and Waco Texas! We are So Cal natives but are no strangers to Texas. All of our years traveling as professional acrobats across the US and the World took us throughout Texas many times, just never near Austin or Waco.
Why go to Austin and Waco?
Even before “Fixer Upper” became a staple in the American Household, Austin had been on our radar. We had been told by countless people what a great city it is, the food and drinks, the history the atmosphere were all reasons that drew us to make a trek. Along with the rest of America we had also fallen in love with Chip and Jo and their entertainment and shopping mecca “the Silos“.
We were sitting on the couch watching the latest episode of Fixer Upper and had been discussing my Birthday trip and I said “Let’s go to Waco”, my hubby loved the idea and brought up also visiting Austin in the same trip.
How far is it between Austin and Waco?
It’s approximately 103 miles between Austin and Waco if you don’t take Toll roads. It takes about an hour and a half to drive, not too shabby. We decided to fly into and out of Austin and just drive between the two. Having a vehicle was absolutely necessary, especially in Waco!
I’m not sure if you’ve heard but rental cars are becoming harder to get and are pricier than I’ve ever seen.
We opted to use Turo. Think of it like the Air B&B of cars. Why should you use Turo? Here are some highlights!
- They have an app and the process was seamless.
- Our host even had an option to meet you at the Airport with the car
- His car was clean, new and easy to drive
- Turo was incredibly more cost effective than renting
- You communicate completely through the app
- Our host was great at responding and answering questions
- Once we met up at the airport he even gave us tips on places to go in the city
- He was flexible when we had a sudden flight change
- It felt so nice dealing with a person who owns their car vs a car rental company
Keep in mind every host can make their own rules so make sure you read all the details like if it’s gas or electric, where the pick up and drop off is etc. You can even get luxury vehicles if you’d like to ride in style!
Our first couple days were spent in Austin
My hubby and I both enjoy craft beer. Live Oak Brewing is located near the airport and is an ideal first stop if you are planning on sampling any local brews.
They are a quaint brewery tucked in amongst some beautiful trees, plenty of seating inside and out. We absolutely loved their smoked beers and the food truck served German style food that was both tasty and pretty to look at!
We arrived on July 3rd hoping to enjoy some 4th of July celebrations Austin style! We booked the Holiday Inn Austin Town Lake which was right on the “Lady Bird Lake”, in Downtown Austin. There were many things that were walkable but we were also glad to have a vehicle. After the brewery and checking in we ventured onto Congress Avenue to try a few eats that I had read about.
I am a huge Pizza fan and read about “Home Slice Pizza” which boasts New York style pizza with glowing reviews.
There were two locations right next door to each other, one a sit down and one a walk up. We opted for the walk up which had a huge line outside, always a good sign. Moments after we walked up to the line an employee came out yelling that there was no wait to order inside, nobody budged except us. We walked right up ordered and got a seat, service was quick and I loved the feel of eating inside! The Pizza did not disappoint, definitely give them a try if you find yourself in Austin!
How was spending 4th of July in Austin?
The next day was the 4th, we assumed since it was a good sized city there would be plenty to do on the 4th despite the lack of information on any website.
We opted to walk everywhere on the 4th, we love walking cities. We find you see so much more that way and get a bonus workout! Our first stop was Brunch at Moonshine Grill. This place was oozing with Southern charm. There was a long wait but it boasted many atmospheric tiny nooks to wait in and you could grab a cocktail at the bar. They had water and cups readily available which was great considering it was a bit toasty out.
We loved the food the drinks and the service, Definitely worth the wait! After breakfast it was pouring rain and I mean pouring…remember how I said we walked? Luckily it was a warm summer rain so we just braved it until we could duck into the next coffee shop or brewery.
Later that evening the rain cleared up and we were able to watch the Austin’s Firework display from the pool which look out over the lake!
So much to see so little time
Austin is such a cool city and there were so many things we wanted to do and see but had planned to leave for Waco on the 5th. We were still able to get in some fun before we got on the Road.
First brunch at Caroline! Yep, there is a restaurant with great reviews with the same name as me! It is in the downtown more historical area and it was wonderful!
A friend recommended checking out the “Driskill Hotel“. It’s a historic hotel that is now part of the Hyatt family. It was built by Cattle Barron Jesse Driskill in 1886. I’m so surprised I didn’t see this on any other research I did about Austin. We just went in and walked around, it was too early for the lounge to be open. They allow you to walk around multiple levels which are chock full of historic artifacts and history on the hotel!
I think my favorite part was the balcony on the 3rd story, the view gave you the feels of a city steeped in history yet very modern and bustling. There were rocking chairs and a great photo op with the American and Texas flags!
What was Waco Really Like?
We stayed at the Hotel Indigo which is in Downtown Waco, walking distance from the Silos. It was recommended on several different blogs that I read as well as great reviews and star rating on Priceline.
The Hotel was beautiful and comfortable. You could see Baylor Stadium from our room and the Silos from the window in the hall.
The only negative which completely surprised me was how seedy downtown Waco was. There is a Salvation Army soup Kitchen right across the street from Hotel Indigo. While I never saw any unsavory people in the Hotel they definitely hung around on the sidewalks lining the hotel. You can walk to the Silos and I never felt unsafe in the day but we definitely got hit up multiple times every time we walked.
We have traveled extensively and this isn’t something I’m surprised to find in most big cities, I just wasn’t expecting to see it in Waco. Just something to keep in mind and be prepared for if you are planning a trip.
The Hotel has a large lobby with plenty of space to be, complimentary coffee and infused water. There is a restaurant and bar. We didn’t eat at the restaurant but we did grab a drink for spending time Poolside.
The Pool area was super cute, loungers and tables and chairs. The pool had a little wading pool with a fountain and there was a hot tub as well which we definitely took advantage of. There is also a 24 hour gym which we didn’t use.
You can find out some handy hotel room hacks here
Let’s get to the part you are here for…..
Something I didn’t know, Magnolia table is not, I repeat NOT near the Silos. Only a few miles, but not really walkable, (Yes, there is a story there). Thanks to my hubby we actually made it our Brunch reservation.
On my Birthday we set out walking towards the Silos, he had the brilliant idea of putting the directions into his phone when he quickly realized it wasn’t on site with the Silos. Thankfully we still had plenty of time to drive there!
The restaurant had been a staple in the community, Previously the “Elite Cafe”. We were told that Elvis Presley used to eat there when he was stationed near by. They even have an ode to the old namesake behind the coffee bar. We made a reservation one month ahead of time (that is the earliest they allow, I set a reminder in my phone and snagged one), and I would suggest you do the same. We heard people getting wait times of 2 plus hours which can put a damper in your day, especially if anyone in your party is hungry.
Give the people what they want! Now for the Silos
Let me just say they really are as quaint and cute as it looks on TV. The big grassy area behind us in the photo has games for families to play and just space to be and eat, there is plenty to eat!
We had just had a huge breakfast at Magnolia Table so we weren’t super hungry. A snow Cone was perfect, ours was not too sweet and the ice was fluffy and refreshing! The Wiffle Ball field had multiple families all playing together, they had music playing that made you feel like you were part of the TV show and at home all at the same time. There was a small Magnolia table food truck as well with a few of their items, so if you were itching to eat at the restaurant, but couldn’t get reservations, you could just eat there.
There is also her bakery, which consistently had an hour long line outside. I am not a huge fan of cupcakes or baked goods in general so it was not a priority for me to eat there.
What is the shopping like at the Magnolia Silos?
- The Main “Magnolia Market” has some home items as well as T shirts, key chains etc and their books
- Magnolia Home is a higher end home and furniture store that sells heirloom quality furniture and accents
- They have a garden shop
- They have the row of stores that include: a Kids clothing store, a Women’s clothing store, a Mens Clothing and accessories, a Jewlrey and purse store, a bath and body shop, as well as a stationary shop
- The Coffee shop carries their coffee as well as mugs and other coffee necessities
- The Little shop on Bosque has discount items and seconds and is also a short drive from the Silos
- They had some different stuff at the little gift shop next to Magnolia table*
Their scents were divine and different than what you can get at Target. I got a room spray in the scent “Library”, a chambray dress from the women’s store, a set of sheets from the Magnolia home store, a mug and a dishcloth that says “The good ol’ days are still to come” -Magnolia Table.
Getting a cup of joe at the Magnolia Press
One of our favorite things about Magnolia Press was the option to have French Press coffee! We also loved their Pecan coffee! Additionally they have great little breakfast and pastry options!
But wait theirs more!
Waco had some other great little things that I would recommend if you are planning a trip there.
Dr Pepper Museum Waco
Did you know Dr. Pepper started there? I didn’t either until I started planning our trip. The museum is small but is housed in the building they used to make it in when it all began, at the end of your museum adventure you get a complimentary Dr Pepper. There was so much about the history of it, including how it used to be recommended you have it 3 times a day! And the color of the bricks? Dr Pepper red!
We had read about Waco Tours and are so glad we booked it! The owner was a recipient of a “Fixer upper”, you might remember him in the episode “Most eligible Bachelor”. As a Christian I loved that the tour started out with a prayer and during the tour loved hearing his story about how the Lord changed his life!
The tour guides were knowledgeable and fun, here is what we saw and heard on the tour:
- several “Fixer uppers” including the owners
- Harp Design Co
- Cameron Park and an overlook of the Brazos River
- Baylor Campus
- Heritage Creamery and Common grounds coffee shop (one treat from either is included in the tour)
- Lots of history about Waco
- The shop on Bosque as well as the tire shop Chip and Jo met at
- Tour guides were humorous and answered questions
- They take pictures of you and text you after
- Water or other beverage is included
- They also gave a book of coupons for Waco (so book the tour for your first day)
Local Eats, Drinks and shopping not part of Magnolia
There were some fun little eateries, shopping and things to do not far from the Silos.
Remember how I said I’m not a baked goods fan? Well I am a major ice cream fan! Heritage Creamery did not disappoint, get the ice cream sampler and try multiple flavors, you won’t be sorry! They took us here on the tour but we had already been the night before, I liked it so much I chose Ice cream on the tour instead of coffee even though I had just had it! My hubby however opted for the famed “Cowboy Coffee” as featured on Fixer Upper.
This was actually one of my favorite things here. When my hubby and I worked in New York city we found loads of places like this and loved them. It”s a big fun warehouse type space with many little eateries all in one, think modern day mall food court but with quality and flare! You can get drinks or food and walk around inside consuming them anywhere you like. This works great if you have a picky eating group and everyone wants something different. Also it had great atmosphere! Here were some of our favorites:
- Sam’s Bar (had local brews, whiskey and other mixed drinks)
- Press Waffle Co (These were the closest thing to Belgian waffles I have tasted outside of Belgium)
- Kurbside coffee
- Rockin Rolls (Get the Waco!)
- Village Pizza-ria (Get the Purple Margarita, what’s in it? they won’t tell but it sure is good)
Something to note about Waco and eating. My hubby and I are generally late night eaters and most places close before 10 pm. Make sure you plan accordingly. You can still find a local place to get a drink but as far as food is concerned once you hit a certain hour you might be stuck with fast food or a chain restaurant. One night we opted for In and Out, yes they have one in Waco! Let me tell you it was the shortest line I’ve ever seen. Likely because we were in Texas and everyone else was at Whataburger.
Balcones Distillery opened in 2008 and believe it or not is the oldest distillery in Texas! We tried one of their smoked whiskey’s at Union Hall and decided to go in for a tasting. It is walking distance from both the Silos and Union Hall. It’s definitely worth it, they also have beer and you can book a tour if you like!
Photo Spots and other Waco things
If you are a fan of Fixer Upper then you have seen this towering building in the opening shots of the show. What is it? An Insurance Company, who knew! We had to snap a quick shot.
We found some fun walls to snap pictures in front of!
A few things to keep in mind, it is fun to visit Waco and all things Magnolia especially if you are a fan of the show. If you haven’t I would suggest reading their book “Magnolia Story“, before you go!
It is a city in the middle of a major growth and yet is still pretty small in terms of cities and tourist destinations. There are some very “rough” areas.
One day hubby and I decided to walk to a brewery about 2.5 miles away, this is not abnormal for us on a vacation to walk…a lot. The walk proved the city isn’t quite set up for walking like other cities might be. It actually ended up being more like 4 and a quarter miles away. We thought we would uber back but didn’t have masks so we had to hoof it back, that’s right 8.5 miles later in 89 degrees that felt like 98 degrees. Some of the neighborhoods we went through were not great to say the least. Again, not to say this isn’t how a lot of other cities are too, it’s just not what I expected from Waco after watching the show.
It’s a story we’ll always laugh about and remember, and hey, we got a great workout!
Many of the houses they remodel and you see on TV are in suburbs a ways out of town. Keep this in mind if you decide to book an Air BnB, find out what the neighborhood is like! Google Street View might be a great option.
Heading Back to Austin
We were flying home from Austin so we headed back for one additional day there before going home. Here are some more gems we found that last day!
Where should you stay in Austin texas?
We stayed at the Moxy by the University! It was a fun hotel that had a current “Mean Girls”, theme going in the lobby. Yes I mean the popular movie! It is a Marriott Property, it has a great vibe and is a boutique type hotel but is very clean and comfortable. I would absolutely stay there again!
You got a free drink token upon check in and the lobby restaurant, “Zombie Tacos”, is open 24 hours a day! The rooms were not your average room set up but it totally worked for us! The staff was friendly and helpful, and gave us great tips and recommendations!
What We ate
Seriously guys, I could probably spend everyday in Austin for a year and still not be able to sample every foodie thing that looks good!
We hadn’t had BBQ yet, surprising, I know. Micklethwait craft meats came highly recommended. We ordered the Brisket on top of Fritos with a side of the grits which we ended up pouring all over the meat and chips, so good! As for beverages, you had to bring your own since it was a weekday, (on Saturdays you get free beer, that’s right free beer). Right next door there is a great little market that carries local craft beers and ciders. You can order your meat than walk over to grab your drinks and consume them in their courtyard. We opted for the smoked beer from Live Oak Brewing that I talked about at the beginning of our trip. Smoked beer, smoked meat? No brainer.
What’s a Kolache?
The other thing we were determined to try was a Kolache. If you are from Texas you probably know. We have driven through Texas on our trips countless times and have seen signs for them but just never stopped.
You can read here about their History
We found Batch Kolaches and craft beer . Apparently if it’s not sweet it’s not technically a Kolache. If it’s filled with meat or savory it’s called a Klobasnek which is what we had.
Batch is set amongst tall beautiful green trees, and is housed in a quaint little homey place, you can walk through and eat in the back which makes it feel like a Back Yard gathering. It was the Perfect place to end our evening!
This was our favorite brewery of the whole trip, nice note to end on!
I had the “Abuelita XX”, A Mexican hot Chocolate Stout with Cocoa and Cinnamon, peppers, Abuelita hot cocoa mix and Xxtra hot cheetos. It was absolutely fantastic!!
Hubby got the “Imani’s Desire”, Turtle Cheesecake Stout! Caramel, chocolate, pecan, cheesecake and milk sugar. His was amazing as well! We opted for the savory “Klobasnek” which was Jalapeño cheddar and sausage.
To wrap up our time exploring Austin and Waco
We had such a great time! We were glad we had a car but also glad we walked a bit in both cities. Our research and planning paid off, but we also left quite a bit of room for spontaneity.
Waco was fun and I’m glad we went and saw all things Magnolia, and there are still a few things we didn’t experience like tubing down the Brazos River, seeing the Columbian Wooly Mammoths and eating at the Steak house frequented by President George W!
Austin was way cool and we didn’t even come close to doing everything that is cool in that city like seeing the bats from a kayak under congress bridge at sunset and more BBQ please!
Another great Rogers adventure is in the books and I’d just like to say “God Bless Texas”!
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All of my outfits I got from “Stitch Fix“. It’s a Styling service that I have been using and loving for years. A stylist sends you 5 items based on questions you answer and your Pintrest boards. I have loved most everything about it and it’s super personal which I love. I told my Stylist this time about my trip and what I was hoping for and I think she nailed it! If you are interested in trying it I would appreciate if you used my code when you sign up to try!