Texas Tourism, the City of Austin, Fredericksburg and the Four Seasons Austin invited me down to Texas but as always with sponsored travel, all opinions are entirely my own.
I was looking forward to visiting Texas for the weekend during Spring wildflower season, but I was really happy to say yes when I found out that also on the trip would be my friend Christine of the fantastic blog, C’est Christine. I visited Texas a number of times during college in Arkansas, when a friend’s parents were so welcoming as to give us an open invitation down to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. But I’d never done more than drive by Austin. Yet every year, living in NYC, I hear about how amazing it is from all the people returning from SXSW. Another great resource for me before visiting, was the show Best Bars in America on Esquire Network. When they visited Austin, the episode was filled with fun, great stories, interesting locals and above all: great craft beer and artisan cocktails. I couldn’t wait to discover Austin for myself.It turns out, now that I’ve been, everything I heard was 100% right and then some.
Luckily for me, the trip included another stay with one of my favorite hotel brands: Four Seasons. It also included time outside of Austin, in the small-but-charming town of Fredericksburg as well as a visit to Hill Country and the burgeoning wine country.
I loved the whole itinerary so much, I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to experience the city, the country and some incredible wine all in one Spring weekend.
After check in to our rooms on Friday afternoon, each that had a stunning view of Ladybird Lake, we started with cocktails and bites by TRIO on the lawn at Four Seasons. I took just a short stroll around the grounds before we all met, they’re extraordinary. So much green space right in the middle of the city!
We then enjoyed a walk around Austin, looking at the interesting mix of modern and old buildings, and the great street art that makes downtown so colorful before going to dinner at La Condesa.
I don’t drink Tequila because it makes me sick but my gin cocktail was delightful and still paired well with all the guac and tacos we enjoyed! La Condesa was a wonderful place for dinner and a great spot to sit and people watch, on their outdoor patio. Inside, the decor is as lovely as the menu.
Saturday morning we drove away from Austin early, headed toward Four Point Wine in the Hill Country. It was quickly apparent from our drive just how lush and rolling the land is in that part of Texas and it was a nice change from city life. Poppies, and the last of the bluebells, dotted the highway during our entire drive and we arrived at Four Point ready for wine and cheese tasting. It is a collaboration of three separate wineries (Brennan Vineyards, Lost Oak and McPherson Cellars) that came together to form a fourth winery; hence the name Four Point.
From there we went to downtown Fredericksburg where we enjoyed a healthy lunch and a sampling of Texas craft beer at Vaudeville. The wonderful cafe and artisan food shop is downstairs, upstairs is a design and home store. A old and lovingly restored staircase decorated with art and a sweet little spot to sit for a while leads the way from street level to basement.
Before leaving town, we walked around a little looking at the old architecture, the churches and the local life. We then entered Chocolát where we tasted (and bought a few boxes) of their European-style, liquid-centered chocolates. Owner Lecia Duke was the first in the USA to begin using a centuries-old method of inserting liquor into the center of chocolates.From Fredericksburg, it’s natural to head out to Wine Road 290. This is an association of 15 Texas Wineries along US Hwy 290 rated by Wine Enthusiast as a “Ten Best Wine Travel Destination,” in 2014. Wildflowers dotted the highway again and we even made a stop, on the way, at a wildflower farm for a photo op. I was grinning like a kid in a candy shop.
We chose to focus on two of the 15 wineries once we were back on the road: Becker and Pedernales.
Becker was in the midst of their Lavender festival when we visited and they had a few poppies left in the fields as well. They have a wonderful cellar which is often used for special events and dinners. Their tasting rooms are large and a small one-room cottage in the middle of the main lawn shows where the family all lived at one time under one roof, long before the vineyard saw its current days of prosperity. There is a lot to take in, enough that any visitor could actually spend a whole day just at Becker.
Pedernales is a family owned and operated boutique winery specializing in fine, handcrafted Teas and wines such as Tempranillos and Voigniers. They’re up on a hill that overlooks the wine region and Hill Country and I recommend taking a glass, sitting on one of the chairs on top of the hill, and just sitting and savoring the magic and mystery that is life on this crazy planet for a while. But if sitting still for a while isn’t your thing, there’s an expansive patio under ancient trees where live music is often featured. It too is a great place to enjoy a glass of wine. Of course, there’s also the tasting room inside.
After driving back to Austin for our last night at Four Seasons, we decided to have dinner at Fixe, which is currently one of Austin’s most talked about restaurants. Chef James Robert and c0-owner Keith House, veterans of Eddie V’s, are serving up modern Southern cuisine in a setting that invites you to stay all night. The restaurant has a creative design that uses “sections” (for lack of a better word) to make diners feel like they’re in their own private dining room. Somehow chicken wire is equally at home next to antique side boards and vintage serving platters. Old photographs pair well with Restoration Hardware-esque light fixtures and even though the flavors themselves are traditional there’s no boring element to any dish on the menu. Every time a plate is set down, it’s an exciting adventure waiting to be discovered. Plates are easy to share and I recommend visiting with friends. I did! In fact, my friend from elementary school and her husband who live in Austin, dined with us and it made the entire visit 5x sweeter.
The next morning, pretty much still full from the night before, we decided we had to see what brunch at TRIO was all about. Four Seasons restaurant has been repeatedly rated as having the very best brunch in Austin and it’s easy to see why. We four ladies very much enjoyed sitting on the lawn, with the sound of birds and kayakers in the distance, dining and talking about our all-too-short but very sweet Texas weekend.
A short stop by the Austin postcard mural and then it was time to fly home. I had a great flight with Delta in their new Comfort Plus seating, and Christine flew JetBlue. Both offer great options to and from NYC, direct to Austin.
For more information or to plan your own visit, start with the Texas Tourism site.
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