• Kara Cushway

Two Trips to Texas

Note: In this post I include links to several business's websites, but please be aware that this post is not sponsored or partnered with any of these businesses. These links are just there for ease of access in case you want to check out any of the places we visited!


Since we’ve come to Oklahoma, we’ve made a few day trips around our town of Lawton, and several excursions further afield, namely to Oklahoma City, Wichita Falls, and even further – we drove as far as Dallas for a long weekend on the Fourth of July, and then bypassed Dallas for Houston and Galveston on Labor Day weekend.


I thought I’d share some of the pictures and thoughts on our experiences from these two trips by compiling them into one post together because, I hate to admit it, but we didn’t exactly hit every cool spot in Dallas and Houston, even though we were in each city for three days.


Our travel philosophy is usually to visit only two to three places in a day when we’re in a new city, not only because we’re unfamiliar with the area and getting around takes a long time, but because we’re basically grandparents in that we want to be comfortably fed and in bed by like 6pm. (Okay, maybe not six… but pretty close.) Plus, parking in cities is a nightmare, and it almost always happens that if you park in one area you’re only going to be able to see a couple cool things – if you want to see other cool things in the city, you have to get in your car and drive across town to see them. Crazy, I know.


Dallas


People both ironically and unironically call Dallas “The Big D”. So I guess there’s a chance that if you hear someone say that, they’re referring to Dallas.


Needless to say, we just call it Dallas.



We arrived in the city in the mid-afternoon, and our first stop was Klyde Warren Park, which is usually – or so I understand – inundated with tons of kids, joggers, walkers, food trucks, and people in general, usually dining on the unique and beloved food-truck fare. Since we didn’t get there till around 3pm, though, we had missed prime time; the trucks were closing up and driving away as we watched. For someone who likes food, and who was beyond hungry after driving for 3 hours and then walking from the car to the park, this was a disappointing start to our visit to Dallas.


BUT by the happy accident of us being hungry when the food trucks were no longer available, we found Smash Burger, which has THE – I repeat, THE – best burgers and fries in the country. (That I’ve tried so far.) Listen, I know this is a chain restaurant, but I’m telling you, they are doing it right. It does not get fresher or more flavorful than this when it comes to fast food. I was honestly blown away by how good it was, and I’m normally not really a burger girl. And though I didn’t get a milkshake, they make their shakes with Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Nuff said.




From there we drove out to White Rock Lake, where we took a walk along the biking/walking/jogging path that follows the shore, and we even got a few pictures of the fancy houses perched above the lake. And you better believe I got some shave ice while we were in Dallas. Kyle ordered blackberry and I tried a combo of raspberry and lime.



That night, we drove to Dallas’ Fair Park, the city’s permanent fairgrounds, where we caught the 4th of July fireworks from a ride called the SkyWay. It was sort of like a sedate horizontal Ferris wheel – you get into a little windowed gondola/pod and lurch along a track above the midway, and you can look down at the fairgoers below, or enjoy the fireworks with a relatively unobstructed view. (This is getting a little too idealistic. I don’t want to lead you astray in any way, here, so I will remind you that this is Texas, and the little cart wasn’t air conditioned, so though the ride around the track was only ten minutes or so, it was hot and humid and close.)



The next morning, we brunched at Jonathon’s, a homey little diner known for its chicken and waffles, in a setting that felt like the sitting room of an old Victorian home. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: pancake syrup doesn’t go on chicken. But I really enjoyed their gravy with both the chicken and the waffle!


From Jonathon’s, we explored the not-very-busy Dallas Farmers’ Market location. They have a permanent building for their farmers’ market, similar to the Nashville farmers’ market but with more variety in the booths – they ranged from restaurants and meat counters to home décor and clothing stores, all in the main building; you had to walk outside to get to the open-air market where vendors set up stalls for their locally grown fruits and vegetables, or handmade items.


The 6th Floor Museum building. In the road pictured on the right, there is an "X" marking the spot where JFK was shot.

After the market, we drove across town to take a tour of the JFK Assassination Museum – aka the 6th Floor Museum. From the museum’s windows, you can look out onto the street and see the exact spot where JFK was shot (a little morbid, I know). There was SO MUCH information on this major historical event. It’s astonishing to me how much they know about the assassination of JFK, and yet how much they still DON’T know about it. It was definitely an exceptional museum for anyone interested in U.S. history.


Since we were feeling bougie, we grabbed to-go sushi from a classy little place in the Trinity Groves restaurant collaborative and brought it back to our hotel room to eat. Trinity Groves is a huge building with multitudes of different shops and restaurants in it, and from what I understand, it’s kind of a jumping-off point for baby businesses to find their footing before going off into the real world to find a permanent location. It felt good to me to support something like that, because it’s such a great idea.


You can never have too many pictures of foamy chai lattes.

The next day was Saturday, which meant we had to head home (Kyle had to work on Sunday or else we would’ve stayed longer!), but not before brunching at Yolk, and visiting the Dallas World Aquarium! You don’t even need me to tell you how busy it was; you can imagine. The aquarium had everything from tropical birds to monkeys to alligators and penguins. (I was going to say “Oh my!” but thought better of it. You’re welcome.)


Houston & Galveston



We had another four-day weekend for Labor Day, and this time Kyle didn’t have to work on Sunday! So we drove the 6+ hours to Houston (ahem… H-Town), driving along the outskirts of Dallas again to get there. We arrived around dinner time, so we checked into our hotel and headed straight back out again for Neapolitan-style pizza at the highly-recommended restaurant Cane Rosso. Kyle and I both agreed that it was some of the greatest pizza ever. The tomato sauce? The crust? I mean, what more is there to life? (Off-topic, but is Kyle not the cutest pizza model?)



Our first full day in Houston was spent mostly at the NASA Space Center, where we got to take a tour of NASA’s working campus, as well as trek around the Rocket Park, then go inside a rocket and its carrier jet. (Plus, look at the cute little crescent-moon shaped mushroom ring we came across at the Rocket Park!)




And I was surprised that the gift shop had actually cute and funny tee shirts? I don’t know what I was expecting, but I guess I was anticipating a much more boring selection than what they had. Maybe four-packs of electrodes or baggies of space dust or something. As you can see, I went a little crazy taking pictures of cute merch, aaand I bought the moon shirt.



After the NASA Space Center, we went out and got coffee, and drank it in the park of a waterfront neighborhood in the area. This was partially because Kyle wanted coffee and partly to kill time until our movie started – because the second big event this day was going to see Where’d You Go, Bernadette? at the theater. It was such a great book-to-movie rendition, and if you have any interest in reading the book first, you should definitely get a brief sneak-peak into the plot line in my post 7 Engrossing Reads for a Day at the Beach.


And speaking of a day at the beach: on Sunday we drove down to Galveston for a beach day!


The Bryan Museum used to be an orphanage; it was wrecked in a hurricane and then rebuilt before it became a museum.


But first, we toured an eclectic history museum called The Bryan Museum, several blocks from the Gulf. It had all sorts of strange and interesting historical artifacts, including antique maps of Galveston, hand-written Spanish letters from the town’s founding figures, tons of artwork (including a couple Andy Warhols, from his Cowboys and Indians series!) depicting life in the southwest and on the Gulf of Mexico, an entire section of quilt art, and plenty of saddles, spurs, and firearms. My favorites were the small-scale replica of a warship, and a mother-of-pearl chest “which carried a Spanish Royal Grant for California Lands.” How extra can you get.



We ate lunch at a restaurant near the beach called BLVD Seafood, where we shared some calamari, and then I ordered the seafood sampler, and Kyle ordered the blackberry pork chop, because beach food. We spent a couple hours on the beach, sunning, swimming, and getting covered in powdery sand. This was our first time swimming in ocean water. Yes, we walked in the ocean when we were in Ireland, but we haven’t ever swum (swam?) in the ocean before this trip! Do you know how salty that water was? It was like pasta water, but with more bacteria and microbes.



On our way back to the hotel for the night, we made sure to stop at La King’s Confectionery for some ice cream. La King’s is an old-school candy store with TONS of treats, including truffles, chocolate-covered candied citrus peels and pretzels, crystallized gummy candies, lollipops, fudge, turtles, taffy, and more. We bypassed the crowded candy counter for the even-more-crowded ice cream counter, where they pile half a gallon of the ice cream of your choice on the smallest ice cream cone in America. I got mint chip and Kyle got cookie dough, and if you’re ever out with us getting ice cream, that’s pretty standard.


Our drive back to Oklahoma was uneventful EXCEPT for our detour to the outskirts of Dallas for – yet again – a stop at the blessed Smash Burger. #ameneth And you know what? It was BETTER than I remembered it.


Have you ever been to Dallas? Houston or Galveston? What are some of your favorite places in these cities?

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