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Chicago to Dallas, San Antonio and Houston road trip
Thinking about Texas was always like, “Its like a whole new country”, a state where “size really matters”. So when we decided that it will be worth driving through the most visited attractions of Texas, it had to be big, and it had to be bold. It was December of 2011, when we took our road trip from Chicago to Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Houston. A real long road trip with too many things packed. This was also our first long road trip that we went alone, just 4 of us, and now it has become a passion.
We started on later afternoon of December 22nd , which was Thursday, and idea was to cross over Illinois and Missouri, before we do the night halt. We drove couple of hours on I55 S and later on I44 S and crossed Springfield, St Louis, and other cities, before stopping for dinner and night stay. Next day morning, we had kept close to 10 hours of driving all through the planes of Missouri and Oklahoma states. Our drive on I44 took us through little farm towns and bustling cities. Changing landscape and weather as well was not easy to miss. When we started in Chicago, we already had seen snow there, but as we drive through Oklahoma and entered into border areas of Texas, hot and humid weather along with some dusty by lanes were welcome relief. We had taken hotel in Fort Worth, and we reached there around 7 PM. It was 24th of December, and we realized by 7 PM almost all the eateries were closed. Nothing was open, not even fast food joints. We were hungry after almost 10 hours of drive, and frantically looking for some restaurants. Luckily, we found P F Chang was open, and we thanked our stars. We packed our food from there, and straight went to the hotel.
Next day we spent roaming around various attractions in Fort Worth and Dallas, and out of them Sundance Square was the most memorable. The whole area was decked up brightly with Christmas decorations that were just too good. With free parking that day, we enjoyed stopping frequently taking pictures, and enjoying the historic sites and other attractions. We did visit Gerald Ford stadium, Pegasus sign and some other landmarks before calling a day. After dinner, we drove from Dallas to Austin, and had planned to stay at the outskirts of Austin.
Next day morning we visited state capitol building. What an imposing building it is, truly Texas style, where size itself says a lot, beautiful architecture and full of history. Driving up to Mount Bonnell and watching Austin skyline was a a totally different experience. Terrific views all round, and you will find everybody taking pictures there, so did we. Driving through University campus of Texas, which is very much in the heart of Austin was another highlight of the day. We had heard about Lake Travis, and that was our next stop as we drove from downtown. It’s very scenic drive and we reached there in afternoon, but there we realized kids are not allowed to go to Hippie Hollow Park , as it is the only public park in Texas where clothing is optional. Little disappointed we had to return, and we continued moving towards San Antonio.
Best part of Road trips is you can make changes in the itinerary as you wish, and that is what we did when we saw landmarks about drive through safari, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. We spent few hours driving through it. One time fun watch and great experience for kids. Animals were all along the side of the road having their feeds. The animals come up to the car as they know you have been given a free bag of pellets to feed them. The zebras and ostrich were very friendly, sometime little too friendly.
Next whole day, we spent in San Antonio, visiting Alamo and other attractions in morning, and beautiful river walk in the night. Alamo confronts you with lot of history that helps you to understand the past and how that shaped the world we live in Texas. On the other hand, River walk in evening is a must watch. Great place with beautiful sights, places to eat and great walk.
A visit to Sea World was on our agenda for next day, and kids really enjoyed. Sea world is full of fun attractions and great shows. The shows are wonderful!! Some of them were very entertaining and informative. It’s a great place for the kids and adults alike. Lots of animals and aquatic creatures to see, and this was our first time in Sea World, so we enjoyed it well. After spending the day in Sea World, we drove to Houston in late evening and stayed there for night.
Next day was planned for visit to NASA Space Center. It was a dream come true for all of us visiting that amazing place and looking at history so close. I think this was one of the best things we have ever done, so interesting and definitely mind boggling. If you are planning to go there, do plan for at least 5 -6 hours, as there is so much to see. Check out Space Center and do take the tours they offer. Watching space shuttles so closely, and walking through the command centers is once in a life time experience. You remember those lines from Apollo 13 movie, “Houston, we have a problem”. A visit to this place will bring all those emotions and advancements right in front of your eyes. A must watch.
After our visit to Space Center, we drove towards the beach. Houston had so many things to offer, but we were running short of time. It was last day of our trip, and after watching so many places, there was not much appetite left. So we went to Galveston beach, and stayed there some time watching sun set. Our giant road trip was coming to end, and task was driving back next 17 hours. As always we started driving back by evening and drove till mid night before staying in a hotel close to Arkansas and Tennessee border area. Next day morning after having some rest, we drove past Memphis, and entered into Illinois and drove some 10 hours in the whole day before stopping at our home late in evening. After all next day was December 31st, and a new year to look forward to, after such a long drive.