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Last month my friend Ali and I went on a Girls Getaway to Austin.  Here’s a recap of our trip.

Where We Stayed
Our first stop was the 405-acre Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa (www.LostPines.Hyatt.com), which is just 20 miles away from downtown Austin.  With 492 guest rooms, most with private balcony or patio, the resort brings jeans and business suits together in a comfortable ranch-style setting.  Activities here are endless, from Spa Django to the Renegade Equestrian Center to the Wolfdancer Golf Club, as well as hiking in McKinney Roughs Nature Park, white water rafting on the Colorado River, and fun-in-the-sun at the Crooked River Water Park.

Dining options are also endless at Stories Fine Dining Establishment, the more casual and colorful Firewheel Café, Old Buck's Poolside Grill, Shellers Barrelhouse Bar and Grill (with live entertainment), Major Neighbor's Grill, and McDade’s Emporium and Ice Cream Saloon (a throwback to an earlier era and coffee all day long).

The resort is located near Bastrop, TX, which was named “Most Historic Small Town in Texas” for the number of buildings listed on the historical register.  Bastrop is rich with history and folklore, and self-guided tours feature 130 historic homes and buildings, including the Bastrop County Museum and the Opera House, which first opened in 1898 and is today a thriving center for the performing arts. Wander down Main Street, filled with interesting stores, restaurants, art galleries, antique shops and more. For the outdoor enthusiast, nearby Bastrop State Park offers an endless array of activities the entire family can enjoy. Rent a canoe, go swimming, hike, bike along trails, go fishing, or just enjoy a quiet picnic and watch the wildlife.  

Our second hotel for two nights was The Driskill.  Built in 1886 as a cattle barron's showplace, The Driskill Hotel (www.DriskillHotel.com) is located in downtown Austin with 189 guestrooms and suites distributed between the Historic Wing, with its high ceilings, detailed woodwork and balconies, and the Traditional Wing, built in 1929 and showcasing classic styling and the colors of the Texas Hill Country.  No detail is forgotten inside or out as the hotel features a very ornate exterior complete with flags out front, a beautiful columned lobby; original art, oil paintings, and precious antiques; ornate beds designed exclusively for the hotel; marble floors and stained-glass dome.  The hotel is branded throughout the room with the building depicted on the valances and TV cabinet, as well as the "D" on the floor of the room entrance and in the sink.  They allow pets with a $50 fee.   The Driskill has hosted celebs such as Dennis Quaid and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Singer Jewel shot her latest video here and both Lance Armstrong and President George W. Bush held press conferences here.

Not be overlooked, The Driskill's dining options are first class as well.  Located just off the popular bar area, The Driskill Grill is listed as one of the top 100 hotel restaurants per USA Today. The restaurant's Chef’s Table seats up to six and offers a close-up view of the culinary action and a custom tasting menu. The Driskill also offers “Chef for a Day” and “Chef for an Afternoon” packages, which include a kitchen tour, hands-on cooking with the chefs, and dinner.  The hotel's 1886 Café & Bakery features contemporary, Southern dining for breakfast, lunch, dinner, late-night meals and full-bar service. The 1886 also offers a complete line of homemade pastries and desserts with service until midnight Friday and Saturday.  A fitness studio and massage services are also available at the hotel.  

Where We Ate
Our first stop in town was lunch at Guero's Taco Bar (www.GuerosTacoBar.com) on South Congress.  This popular taqueria is housed in a renovated feed store and provides an eclectic atmosphere for patrons to enjoy some of Austin's finest Tex Mex.  I loved the combo Tacos Platos I ordered (Chicken Especial & Carne Guisada).  Dinner Friday night was at Eddie V's (www.EddieV.com) where we sat in the lounge area and enjoyed the live, four-piece jazz band.  We all agreed that while all the food was delicious, my Steamed "Hong Kong Style" Chilean Seabass was the best.  This was a great pick for fine dining!  On Saturday, Ali and I took several recommendations and ate lunch (and saw a movie) at the Original Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (www.OriginalAlamo.com), which was just blocks from The Driskill.  I enjoyed a pizza and Ali ordered a salad.  We watched their feature movie The Wrestler, but heard they also have Sing Along and Quote Along Nights too.  We heard more recommendations for Uchi (Japanese word for "home") Restaurant (www.UchiAustin.com), so we had to try this sushi hotspot despite the almost two-hour wait (which actually turned out to be part of the Uchi experience).  Just a 5-minute cab ride from our hotel, we enjoyed lounging in the outdoor seating area while we waited.  They really do make you feel at home here, from the comfortable outdoor seating clusters to the soothing decor inside.  Executive chef and Florida native Tyson Cole does an outstanding job of pairing traditional sushi with unusual flavors to create mouthwatering dishes.  We loved it!   Our Sunday morning at South Congress Café (www.SouthCongressCafe.com) served up another amazing meal.  I had to try the Carrot Cake French Toast (which was delish) with their original cream cheese-pecan syrup.  Yum!  

Where We Shopped
Our first shopping stop: SoCo.  On South Congress Avenue, two to three blocks are filled with a diverse selection of funky stores.  Here you'll find boot shops, vintage clothing, galleries, trendy outfitters, antiques, and more, including the costume store Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds (www.LucyInDisguise.com) where Bob Dylan is rumored to have shopped for retro outfits. We spent some time in the vintage store Feathers (512- 912-9779), trendy boutique By George (www.ByGeorgeAustin.com), folk art gallery Yard Dog (www.YardDog.com), local fashion house Parts & Labour (http://PartsAndLabour.BlogSpot.com), jewelry and gifts at Maya (www.MayaStar.com), and the all black boutique Blackmail (www.BlackMailBoutique.com).

We also indulged in some shopping on Second Street, which housed great store and trendy boutiques.  We visited several, including Girl Next Door (www.GirlNextDoorAustin.com) which showcased some amazing jewelry and fashions, Estilo (512-236-0488) with a great selection of men and women's clothing, Mercury Design Studio (www.MercuryDesignStudio.com) with cool home furnishings and gifts, Shiki (www.ShopShiki.com) that had several items I wanted to take home, and Peyton's Place (www.PeytonPlaceAustin.com) for some fashion deals.

Other Austin Adventures
Nightlife: Sixth Street (formerly known as Pecan Street) is Austin's (probably even Texas') best known street and the city's entertainment center.  It is lined with many historical houses and commercial buildings dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The storied old buildings now house numerous bars, a host of live entertainment venues, tattoo parlors, art galleries, casual cafes, upscale restaurants, and our fabulous host hotel – the Driskill. Live music from the bars is heard on the streets, and music lovers of all kinds (jazz, blues, country, dance, rock, hip-hop, progressive, metal, punk and more) will be able to find whatever musical style suits their taste.  Our first stop on 6th Street was The Blind Pig Pub (512-472-0809) and we bar hopped the rest of the evening.  We ended up in the Warehouse District, which is a little less touristy that 6th and where many of the locals go.  Ali and I were in awe of the live shark tank underneath the clear dance floor at Qua (www.QuaAustin.com).  We also checked out Cuba Libre (www.CubaLibre.com ) where Ali played the bongos, J. Blacks Feel Good Lounge (www.JBlacks.com), as well as several others.  In the South Congress area, we checked out the live music at The Continental Club (www.ContinentalClub.com), which is a great hangout for music lovers.  

Where We Went Sightseeing
We were so thankful that Trenton from The Driskill drove us around to see some of Austin's sights.  Although the bats were not flying this time of year (Austin has the largest urban bat population; at dusk in warmer months, 1.5 million bats fly from their home under the Congress Avenue Bridge).  We at least stopped at the Bat Sculpture for a photo.  He also took us to Lake Austin where we saw the infamous Chuy's Hula Hut (www.HulaHut.com) and Mozart's Coffee Roasters (www.MozartsCoffee.com).  Trenton drove us by Austin's City Hall that was designed to look like an armadillo; it even has a tail!  We also stopped by the brand new (and super cool) Hotel Saint Cecilia (www.HotelSaintCecilia.com), which is owned by Liz Lambert who also owns trendy and popular the Hotel San Jose (www.HotelSanJose.com).   Hotel Saint Cecilia is housed in a renovated 1880s Victorian estate with 14 bungalow-style rooms.  We also joined Dani who took us to Mount Bonnell (Austin's highest point at 775 feet).  We hiked to the top and enjoyed the amazing views of downtown and Lake Austin.  

As they say in Austin, we hope they “Keep Austin Weird.”



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