Everyone has heard that Austin, Texas is in love with music and musicians, most of all the state capital’s beloved resident funky folk hero Willie Nelson. But I didn’t know just how music-minded Austin was until I sat making notes for this story at Guero’s Taco Bar, in South Austin. After finishing a Lone Star longneck and awaiting a hand-shaken margarita with fresh-squeezed lime juice in the open air cantina, I put down my pen to scoop some queso dip onto a tortilla chip.
“How’d that song turn out?” a weathered man in a hat two stools down asked me in a drawl.
“Song?” I asked.
“Yeah. I saw you were writing, so I figured you must be writing a song.”
Guero’s is next to the famed Allen’s Boots, an authentic western-wear store where I found out Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is running for President, wears Lucchese brand – the Gucci of cowboy boots – which cost about $700 per-pair.
Across Congress Ave. I saw a series of shiny, chrome Airstream trailers converted to walk-up diners and decorated with neon signs, strings of lights, and colorful chalk board menus reading: fried chicken in a cone, foot-long corn dogs, pickles, cupcakes, and fried mac-n-cheese.
Those looking for a more upscale – yet still Texan – experience can head over yonder to Lambert’s Downtown Barbeque, on West Second Street, kitty corner from the theater where the Austin City Limits
musical television show is performed. Nightly performances score Lambert’s modern, contemporary scene where gourmet dishes, such as crispy wild boar ribs, fried green tomatoes over jumbo lump crab salad, oak smoked natural beef brisket prepared with brown sugar and coffee rub, and quail stuffed with Mexican rice alongside with fried quail eggs are served with sides such as friend okra and green chili cheese grits.
There are hotels in places…and hotels that are places. Austin’s Hyatt Lost Pines Resort and Spa, 10 miles from the airport, is a destination in itself. Low-rise, ranch-style luxury lodging puts guests in the heart of Texas…with heart. I saw a little girl and her mother, who had obviously just arrived, noticing the western themed, outdoor swimming pool, waterslide, and lazy river alongside the real Colorado River. “Mom, it looks like I am really going to like this place!” the girl pronounced. She then went even more wide-eyed, as did I, when horses pulling hotel guests on a covered wagon ride galloped by! Two hulking steers, named “T-Bone” and “Rib Eye” also offer rides during special outdoor picnics.
“We describe the resort as a ‘luxurious wilderness escape,’” said Eric Claxton, director of golf at Lost Pines’ Wolfdancer Golf Club, an adventurous and natural Arthur Hills design, visible from the balconies and verandas of their guest rooms. As such, guests enjoy a “back porch on the plains” feel to their rooms. Zip-lining, river rafting, tennis, horseshoe toss, and scenic horseback riding at the Renegade Trailhead, are always available, and daily family activities, on the day I was there, included a tug of war and tractor hay rides.
Depending on your definition of post-activity reward, a spa or a saloon are equally appealing tonic for revitalization. Sheller’s Barrelhouse Bar features live music in a Texas-style setting. Spa Django was named for a Central Texas musician whose name translates to “I awaken.” The masculine, dark facility is a spa even a cowboy can admit to loving.
Pull up one of the many rocking chairs near blazing fire pits and put your boots up at Hyatt Lost Pines Resort. For more information, visit www.LostPines.Hyatt.com
Rita saddles up guests at the Renegade Trailhead…right on property