Written by Elizabeth Hutchison Hicklin
Fun fact: You can drive from sunrise to sunset and not leave the great state of Texas. It’s the second largest state in the Union — only Alaska’s untamed wilderness covers more land. Despite the Lone Star State’s Wild West vastness, the five biggest and brightest cities — Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth — make for a manageable road trip. With the right itinerary, you’re never behind the wheel for longer than three and a half hours. And with properties in each of the big five, Omni Hotels & Resorts makes the perfect home base for your big-city Texas road trip, providing easy access to some of the state’s most popular activities and attractions as well as on-site amenities that’ll tempt you to carve out time for a spa treatment, a round of golf or cocktails by the pool.
Anyone who’s schlepped a toddler or two around a theme park can tell you, not all trips are vacations. To ensure your Texas road trip is both, begin by touching down in Austin for a few nights and booking a room at the recently reopened Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa. The 493-room resort is designed to help you unwind, allowing the tranquil Hill Country landscape to inform the revamped property’s new look and feel. Start your stay with a tee time. Barton Creek’s four award-winning courses are the work of game greats, including Austin-native Ben Crenshaw, Tom Fazio, and Arnold Palmer. And the quartet of hillside pools, including the adults-only Mokara Spa pool, are Instagram-ready. All you need is a tajin-spiced margarita from Nopales, the resort’s poolside Tex-Mex cantina, to complete the picture. If you need to get your blood pumping (or just another photo-op), pack a picnic and hit the trail at nearby Mount Bonnell, the highest point in Austin.
On your way to San Antonio, break for a pit-stop in picturesque Gruene. The mid-nineteenth-century farm town, founded by German immigrants, is located just off Interstate 35 a little more than halfway between Austin and San Antonio, and while there are plenty of shops and restaurants worthy of your time, including the revamped general store, Gruene Hall (Texas’ most famous dance hall) is the real draw. George Strait and Lyle Lovett both got their starts on its illustrious stage.
In San Antonio, the past might be why you visit, but the present is why you’ll want to stay. Perched on the banks of the city’s famed River Walk, the ninety-room Omni La Mansión del Rio — originally built in 1852 as a Catholic boys’ school — makes it easy to explore the city’s historic heart on foot. The Alamo, physically smaller but no less moving than the bullet-ridden mission’s outsized legend, is a short five-minute walk from the hotel. The Majestic Theater, an architectural showpiece that achieved National Historic Landmark status in 1993, sits just across College Street. And the photo-ready stone bridge arching over the San Antonio River at La Mansión’s River Walk exit will deposit guests at the entrance of the boutique hotel’s sister property, the Mokara Hotel & Spa for a little R&R after your River Walk boat cruise. (Yes, the colorful barges are geared toward tourists, but they’re also well-worth the price of a seat for a first-time visitor.) Before you hit the road again, indulge in Sunday brunch at La Mansión’s fine-dining destination Las Canarias.
Travel time from La Mansión to Houston is just over three hours. To refuel like a Texan, pull off at a Buc-ee’s, a statewide institution that’s more pilgrimage than pit-stop. Part country store, part deli, part big-box department store — if said department stores stocked cherry kolaches, homemade fudge, fifteen kinds of beef jerky, and local hot sauces alongside a whole host of home goods, outdoor gear, and practical on-the-road necessities.
The leafy park-like setting of the Omni Houston Hotel, which recently reopened following a $30 million renovation, fools you into forgetting you’re just ten minutes from Houston’s central business district and a quick complimentary town car ride from the city’s renowned Galleria Mall, Texas’ largest and most exclusive shopping destination, where it’s almost as fun to window shop as it is to buy — almost. The hotel’s new lobby-common area — filled with deep tufted sofas, inviting community tables, and a living garden wall — serves as the central hub of activity. The adjacent Birdies Café & Bar dishes out an excellent breakfast but also mixes a standout craft cocktail if you’re in need of a nightcap.
In Dallas, get your arts and culture fix starting in your hotel room, where all of the original local art decorating the walls is for sale. The thousand-room Omni Dallas Hotel, centrally located downtown, showcases the work of 145 area artists. Fall in love with a piece? Simply talk to the folks in the gift shop or browse the hotel’s virtual database for additional one-of-a-kind works by the artist. On the hotel’s front-lawn the 42-foot-tall “Flying Red Horse,” a neon-lit sculpture and Dallas icon built in 1934 for the Petroleum Institute’s first annual meeting, rides again after a lengthy restoration process. A mile from the hotel, lose hours in one of the country’s foremost art districts. Don’t miss the Dallas Museum of Art or the Nasher Sculpture Center.
Thirty minutes west, cowboy culture meets contemporary city living in Fort Worth, the country’s fourth fastest growing city. Omni Fort Worth Hotel — with its combination of warm native stone-and-wood interiors and a sleek ultra-modern glass exterior — reflects the appealing contrasts of the city that surrounds it. After a lunch at Cast Iron, where the menu’s lighter items such as the house-made mezze platter and the seasonal salad really shine — despite Cowtown’s reputation for steak head to the historic Stockyards, where the Old West lives on during twice-daily cattle drives.
Eventually, you’ll drive on, too — in a seat instead of a saddle — back home or to your next destination, but Texas (old and new) has a way of bewitching. You’ll be back.