Buc-ee’s Ultimate Guide (Locations & Facts) [2023]

If you’ve ever been on a road trip in Texas chances are you or someone in your car has wanted to stop at Buc-ee’s. Over the years, Buc-ee’s has established itself as a distinctly Texan establishment.

But what exactly does Buc-ee’s have to offer that makes it so special?

In this article, I’ll give you the ultimate guide to Buc-ee’s.

You’ll see what exactly is so special about this oversized convenient store and what you can expect when you visit different locations.

What is Buc-ee’s?

Buc-ee’s is a chain of travel centers (convenience stores) that can be found throughout Texas and the South.

The stores are known for their enormous gas station facilities, wide range of food and snack offerings, and most of all: ultra-clean bathrooms.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Things to know about Buc-ee’s

The store that never sleeps (open 24 hours)

All Buc-ee’s locations are open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. So even on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas you can still experience a good ole Buc-ee’s visit.

What’s more, the stores are often well lit and with all of the security cameras (see below), they generally feel like pretty safe places to stop at.

Related: How Long Does It Take to Drive Across Texas?

Crowds can be an issue

Even though some Buc-ee’s locations are absolutely huge and can cater to throngs of customers, crowds and traffic can still be an issue.

If traveling on a weekend, especially around the holidays, you might have to wait or get aggressive to find an open gas pump.

And when venturing inside, you could run into a madhouse as soon as you pass that little buck-tooth beaver statue outside.

These stores are designed to cater to massive amounts of people so big crowds are not always a problem. Hordes of people seem to move in and out without a lot of issues.

But if you’re expecting a quiet and peaceful visit to a gas station bathroom, you won’t always get that at Buc-ee’s.

For some, the chaos just isn’t worth it.

40+ locations (not only in TX)

To the dismay of many Texans, Buc-ee’s is no longer an exclusively Texan establishment.

In 2019, Buc-ee’s opened their first convenience store/gas station outside of Texas in Alabama.

And now you can now find 40+ locations in states all over the south including Georgia.

More states are being added to the Buc-ee’s roster and you’ll soon be able to find locations in states like Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Related: How Many Miles Do You Cover When Driving Across the US?

The eyes of Buc-ee’s are upon you

Some Buc-ee’s locations are known to have high levels of surveillance. For example, the Bastrop location has about 200 high-tech cameras.

These are those movie-like cameras that can zoom in and reveal fine details like the type of bill you used to pay for your purchase.

You could be tracked from the time you enter the parking lot to the time that you leave so you don’t want to test the beaver.

Hopefully you don’t ever have to worry about this but if something ever goes down you will need to file a police report and then request for the police to request the surveillance footage from the store.

There’s a Buc-ee’s credit card

The Buc-ee’s credit card, issued by TDECU (Texas Dow Employees Credit Union), will get you $.10 off every gallon and comes with no annual fee.

In terms of rewards, this is not the most rewarding travel credit card but for a true Buc-ee’s fan, it might be worth picking up. You can find out more details about the credit card here.

Not every one wants Buc-ee’s

Believe it or not, not every place on the globe is eager to add a Buc-ee’s.

 Efland, North Carolina did not want one.

Why not?

They worried it would “would worsen traffic congestion, pollute a protected watershed, and offend aesthetic sensitivities.” 

Those seem like some pretty legit concerns so you can’t knock the town but it all probably just comes down to the fact that not everyone outside of Texas will “get” Buc-ee’s.

Where the name came from

Buc-ee’s was founded in 1982 which means that it will turn 40 years old in 2022.

The owner and co-founder, a Texas A&M graduate (whoop!), went by the name of Arch “Beaver” Aplin III and he apparently always had a liking for the Ipana toothpaste mascot known as “Bucky the Beaver.”

One look at that logo and you can see where the inspiration came from for Buc-ee’s.

Not every Buc-ee’s is bigger in Texas

To give you a sense of how big the Buc-ee’s stores can be, consider that the New Braunfels, TX, location boasts:

  • 120 fueling positions
  • 1,000 parking spots
  • 64 ice freezers
  • 83 toilets
  • 31 cash registers
  • four Icee machines
  • and 80 fountain dispensers

The entire New Braunfels store is 66,335 square feet, which is more square feet than a football field.

Seriously, a gas station bigger than a football field.

Only in Texas.

But this may come as a surprise: not every Buc-ee’s location is the size of a small airport or shopping mall.

Several locations are actually quite compact and closer to the size of your regular convenience store.

Many of these smaller locations are in Texas so if you see an out-of-state Buc-ee’s, there’s a good chance that will be on the bigger side.

Bathrooms are NOT overrated

You’ve probably heard about the award-winning bathrooms at Buc-ee’s.

While some gas stations look like a scene from the movie Saw, Buc-ee’s stores are famous for being the cleanest bathrooms you’ll find on the road and in my experience it’s always true.

In fact, the pristine bathrooms found at Buc-ee’s are probably the number one reason why people stop at Buc-ee’s.

But they aren’t just spotless — the bathrooms also are usually huge and spacious.

I’ve never seen a wait for a urinal and only on a couple of occasions have I seen a real line for the stalls.

In the men’s room, you can find walls of urinals with deep floor to ceiling partitions that actually give you real privacy.

For people traveling with families, the consistently clean and private bathrooms are even more attractive.

Bottom line: if you ever need to go on the road, Buc-ee’s is definitely where you want to be.

And just in case you were wondering, you don’t actually have to buy anything to use the bathroom there.

Inside Buc-ee's

You’ll have plenty of food and drink options at Buc-ee’s

Buc-ee’s will have just about every type of snack item you could possibly be craving, including their famous “Beaver Nuggets” which are a sweet combination of caramel, sugar, and butter coated corn puffs.

Prices sometimes feel a little high but some popular items to pick up at the store include:

  • Jerky
  • Fudge
  • Kolaches
  • Dippin dots
  • Sandwiches
  • Tacos
  • Icees (lots of flavors)

If you’re looking for specific suggestions consider these:

  • Hill Country turkey jerky
  • Bohemian garlic jerky
  • Salted caramel covered pretzels
  • Rhino breakfast taco
  • Texas BLT
  • Mediterranean salad wrap

Some locations have a barbecue stand called the Texas Round Up where you can buy pre-made chopped brisket sandwiches, pulled pork, turkey, sausage, etc.

In my experience, the food is not always phenomenal but a solid notch or two above your standard gas station food.

It’s perfect when you’re looking for something quick and hearty on the road.

In terms of barbecue quality, you could certainly do better in Texas by hunting out a BBQ joint.

But the beauty of Buc-ee’s is that it’s highly convenient to pick up a hot BBQ sandwich while also filling up your tank and not having to gamble on the bathroom situation.

The shopping at Buc-ee’s goes well beyond food and drink, though.

You can find all kinds of apparel, souvenirs, and random items.

If your location is near a tourist hotspot with a particular type of attraction then you’ll find gear for your visit such as fishing rods, beach supplies, river tubes/shoes, hunting gear, etc.

Buc-ee's bbq

Buc-ee’s is NOT a truck stop

Buc-ee’s are not truck stops and so you are not going to find any showers or a lot of 18 wheelers hanging around.

In fact, you can often find “no 18 wheelers” signs posted at the entrances.

The reason for this is to keep Buc-ee’s like it is, a family friendly environment without some of the “hassles” that come with truckstops.

Many truckers are unhappy with being denied access to Buc-ee’s — after all, without massive shipments coming in from truckers how else could Buc-ee’s exist?

But one thing is clear, Buc-ee’s is serious about keeping out 18 wheelers and will even escort drivers out of the store who try to make their way in.

They pay great

Working at Buc-ee’s can be a lucrative job opportunity because their employees are well paid.

According to GlassDoor, “The average Bucee’s hourly pay ranges from approximately $16 per hour for a Cashier to $18 per hour for a Team Lead.”

That’s some really good money.

Meanwhile, the typical Circle K Cashier salary is earning $10 per hour and many convenient stores will be closer to $9 per hour.

These mega-convenience stores can get incredibly busy so it helps tremendously to have employees getting sufficiently compensated so that they can help keep things moving at a quick pace.

You may not have windshield cleaners

If there is one major weakness of some Buc-ee’s locations, it’s that they don’t have windshield cleaners or squeegees located at the pumps.

This means that your bug splattered windshield will have to remain dirty on your long journey to you next destination, unless you have some way to clean it yourself.

They have car washes

While you may not find windshield cleaners, some locations have car washes.

As you would expect some of these car washes are going to be quite large just like the one in Katy, Texas, which is the largest car wash in the world.

Gas may or may not be cheaper

I’ve seen gas at Bucee’s priced both a little bit lower and a little bit higher when compared to nearby gas stations.

Buc-ee’s locations



  • 2328 Lindsay Lane South, Athens, AL 35613


  • 2500 Buc-ee’s Blvd., Auburn, AL 36832


  • 6900 Buc-ee’s Blvd., Leeds, AL 35094


  • 20403 County Rd. 68, Robertsdale, AL 36567



  • Expected to be the largest convenience store (and largest Buc-ee’s) in America


Daytona Beach

  • 2330 Gateway North Drive, Daytona Beach, FL 32117

Saint Augustine

  • 200 World Commerce Pkwy, Saint Augustine, FL 32092



  • 601 Union Grove Rd. SE, Adairsville, GA 30103

Warner Robins

  • 7001 Russell Parkway, Fort Valley, GA 31030



  • 1013 Buc-ee’s Boulevard, Richmond, KY 40475

South Carolina


  • 3390 North Williston Road, Florence, SC 29506



  • 2045 Genesis Road, Crossville, TN 38555


  • 170 Buc-ee’s Blvd, Kodak, TN 37764



  • 780 Hwy-35 N Byp, Alvin, TX 77511


  • 2299 E Mulberry St, Angleton, TX 77515
  • 931 Loop 274, Angleton, TX 77515
  • 2304 W Mulberry St, Angleton, TX 77515


  • 1700 Highway 71 East, Bastrop, TX 78602


  • 4080 East Freeway, Baytown, TX 77521


  • 801 N Brooks, Brazoria, TX 77422
  • 1101 S Brooks St, Brazoria, TX 77422 (Closed)


  • 27106 US-290, Cypress, TX 77433


  • 2800 S Interstate 35 E, Denton, TX 76210

Eagle Lake

  • 505 E Main St, Eagle Lake, TX 77434


  • 1402 South IH- 45, Ennis, TX 75119

Fort Worth

  • 15901 N Freeway, Fort Worth, TX 76177


  • 4231 E. Hwy 332, Freeport, TX 77541
  • 1002 N Brazosport Blvd., Freeport, TX 77541


  • 2375 E Austin St, Giddings, TX 78942


  • 27700 Katy Fwy, Katy, TX 77494

Lake Jackson

  • 899 Oyster Creek Drive, Lake Jackson, TX 77566
  • 101 N Hwy 2004, Lake Jackson, TX 77566
  • 598 Hwy 332, Lake Jackson, TX 77566

League City

  • 1702 League City Pkwy, League City, TX 77573


  • 10070 West IH 10, Luling, TX 78658


  • 205 IH-45 South, Madisonville, TX 77864


  • 1550 Central Texas Expressway, Melissa, TX 75454

New Braunfels

  • 2760 IH 35 North, New Braunfels, TX 78130


  • 2541 S Main St, Pearland, TX 77584
  • 11151 Shadow Creek Pky, Pearland, TX 77584

Port Lavaca

  • 2318 W Main, Port Lavaca, TX 77979


  • 1243 Crabb River Rd, Richmond, TX 77469

Royse City

  • 5005 E Interstate 30, Royse City, TX 75189


  • 4155 N General Bruce Dr., Temple, TX 76501


  • 506 W. IH 20, Terrell, TX 75160

Texas City

  • 6201 Gulf Fwy (IH 45), Texas City, TX 77591


  • 40900 US Hwy 290 Bypass, Waller, TX 77484


  • 10484 US 59 Road, Wharton, TX 77488

Find locations here.

Final word

Buc-ee’s is a must stop for millions of people every year when traveling through Texas and now through the South.

Beyond the broad food selection, spotless bathrooms, and absurd number of gas pumps, there’s just something special about the store that gets a lot of people excited.

The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park Review: Historic, Unique & Wonderful

When I review hotels, even hotels I really love, it’s extremely rare that I have an experience where I can’t find at least a couple of things that could be improved or that fell just a little short.

But that’s what recently blew me away when I stayed at The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park in El Paso, Texas. It was only a one night stay but everything about the hotel was on point and I left this property really wanting to spend more time there.

In this review article, I will walk you through this memorable stay and give you some insight into this historic gem of a hotel. As with the vast majority of hotel stays we review here, this was not a sponsored stay.

Hotel overview

The history of The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park dates back to 1899 when the Sheldon Hotel was opened here.

It served as an unofficial headquarters during the Mexican Revolution and it’s where President William Howard Taft stayed during his historic meeting with Mexico’s President Porfirio Díaz.

Unfortunately, the hotel burned down in 1929 but entrepreneur Conrad Hilton had plans to build an even bigger hotel.

Things got off to a rocky start as the stock market crashed just days after construction but Conrad pushed on and opened the new high-rise hotel in 1930 with its famous art deco design.

It was actually the first high-rise Hilton hotel and you can still find signs of that like the original Hilton logos found on the elevator doors.

High profile guests were drawn to this El Paso beacon over the decades including Elizabeth Taylor, who lived in the hotel during the filming of the 1956 blockbuster, Giant. 

After some ownership changes, El Paso businessman Paul Foster purchased the property in 2008 as part of a greater effort to revitalize Downtown El Paso.

A lot of work was done to restore the hotel to its original art deco glory and it was re-opened in 2020 after major renovations.

The independent hotel now houses 130 rooms and suites and you’ll find traces of its past along with inspiring local artwork as you explore its wonderfully restored corridors.


The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park is located right in the heart of Downtown El Paso. It’s just across the street from another historic hotel, Hotel Paso Del Norte (full review).

You’ll find San Jacinto Plaza adjacent to the hotel which during the holidays is beautifully lit and a good spot for grabbing some hot cocoa.

Other nearby sites include: the El Paso Museum of Art, the Plaza Theatre, the Judson F. Williams Convention Center, the Abraham Chavez Theatre and Southwest University Park.

And Mexico? It’s only eight blocks away.

Parking and Check-in

The hotel offers valet parking for a modest $25 + tax and comes with unlimited in and out access. If you want to use self parking, that’s available at 100 East San Antonio Avenue for $20 + tax with unlimited in and out access.

Our check-in experience was top notch.

We arrived around 2:30 PM and were greeted by the friendly valet staff and then taken care of by the front desk. Without any hiccups, we were given a room key and then on our way to the 16th floor!

I was first struck by the beautiful historic elevators and hanging art installation meant to mimic the night stars.

You’ll notice there’s an old post office mailbox between the elevators. During renovations, they opened the chute and found old letters from the 1930s. You can find those letters on display in the lobby and see what some travelers were writing about almost 100 years ago!

The hotel uses a modern touchscreen app to operate the elevators which is an interesting juxtaposition to such historic elevator doors. But this trend of seamlessly merging the historic with the modern is something that they do very well at this hotel.

The Landmark Suite

This stay capped off a long road trip from Arizona to Southeast Texas and back so we were really looking forward to being able to enjoy one night at a nice luxury property.

So we decided to book The Landmark Suite.

The hotel has six of these and they are very well done and spacious with 755 square ft.

Your first enter the entryway where you will find an impressive half bath with plenty of space and even a nice view.

Just by the decor, lighting, and countertops of the half bath, I really could tell the room was going to live up to expectations.

Next, in the entryway you’ll have your selection of snacks and alcohol from the minibar if that is your thing. From Grey Goose to Don Julio, you have a pretty good selection of liquor and tequila.

They also offer a Nespresso machine when many hotels simply go for a basic coffee maker.

Below that, you can find juices and soda in a mini fridge along with wine and champagne.

You’ll then enter the corner-room living area of the suite which offers a luxurious feel with burgundy and champagne and cream furnishings. A large 55 inch TV hangs on the wall surrounded by comfortable seating for a handful of guests.

Although it was just Brad and I and Elroy (our corgi) on this stay, I really got the sense that the suites would be great for larger groups congregating for things like weddings and other special events. It’s just a really nice place to hang out.

Speaking of our pup, the hotel went out of their way to provide accommodations for him including a dog bed and food and water bowl. We got the sense that the hotel was truly “pet friendly” and not just an “accepts pets” hotel.

You’ll then make your way into the work area, which sort of forms a junior suite with the bedroom.

There’s a workstation with a comfortable chair and a couple of nice touches.

Connect your phone to the Bluetooth speaker (easy to do) and you’ll be surprised how loud and quality this sound will be from this small Tivoli speaker box.

I liked the custom stationary found on the workstation as you rarely see both pens and pencils furnished and I’m always a fan of a well-branded property.

Across from the desk is another couch with some interesting wall decor placed above it.

You’ll find that the suite combines a West Texas feel with historic 1930s patterns and local artwork in a very complementary way. You’ll also have no shortage of outlets wherever you go.

Then there is the king bedroom.

Once again, well done with an elegant color scheme of champagne, cream, and burgundy accents.

It’s home to an ultra comfy mattress with high quality sheets and bedding.

I usually struggle to get good sleep on a one night stay because it takes me a couple of nights to get acclimated to a new bed and surroundings. But this was one of those rare occasions where I got some great rest.

One side of the bed has the Arne Jacobsen-designed alarm clock and on the other side you’ll find the phone along with two interesting water bottles.

If you’re looking for the outlets, they are inside of the end tables. Just pull out the top drawer and you’ll see them.

It was nice having the 55 inch TV with Chromecast.

The bedroom also has a spacious powder room with good lighting, mirrors, and plenty of counter space.

This is also where you will find the slippers and Matouk robes for those headed to pamper town.

One thing I haven’t even mentioned yet are the smart features in the room.

Motion sensors will turn on the lights as you make your way through the room, which made us feel right at home since that is how we have set up our living space.

Powered blinds and shades, operated from controls on the wall, easily reveal sweeping views from your room or quickly shut off the light if you need to.

Then there is the bathroom. Like everything in the suite, it’s spacious.

You’ll find a double sink counter with beautiful mirrors, light fixtures, and marble-clad counters.

I loved the Brizo fixtures found in the bathroom and the H20Kinetic massage and handheld shower heads. And of course, quality (and plush) Matouk towels could be found along with Le Labo bath products.

Dining at Ámbar Restaurante

In order to make the most of our one night stay, we opted to have dinner at Ámbar Restaurante and I’m very glad that we did for a couple of reasons.

First, if you are into the history of the hotel it’s a great place to check out because you’ll once again get a great sense of that history as you get seated at a table located on the original flooring of the property.

Second, the service and dining were top-notch at this unique wood-fired Mexican restaurant.

We kicked off the dining experience with a virgin Mojito and Brad went with the Divorcee, the signature cocktail with cilantro.

And then we were faced with a major culinary decision. Our server insisted that we should try out the bone marrow the hotel is known for.

I’d seen the bone marrow pop-up before in my research on the property but I didn’t necessarily think I’d be trying it when we stayed because it just seemed a little bit “primitive” for my liking.

But we are always trying to not back down from new experiences so it didn’t take much for us to agree to give it a shot.

Scooping out goopy marrow from the core of a large bone may make you feel like a caveman and have you second guessing your life choices.

But when you pair it with the grilled bolillo and spice it up with some salsa macha, it’s not hard to down the marrow at all — you might be surprised about the flavor it packs. (Bone marrow is also a super food in case you were wondering.)

As for the main dishes, I went with what was essentially a beef fajita dish and Brad went with a tenderloin steak. We left extremely satisfied with our meals and just enjoyed the overall dining experience. In fact, we returned for breakfast the next morning and had another satisfying meal.

If you are a drinker then you will obviously want to check out the beautiful bar area.

It’s home to one of the largest tequila selections on the continent where bartenders have to harness in to retrieve some of the bottles. Housed in a large historic atrium, you almost feel like you’re visiting some sort of agave cathedral and perhaps you are.

The hotel also puts on special tequila tastings where you can learn how to sip tequila and pair it with food items.

The rooftop terrace

While the hotel does not have a pool, they have a beautiful rooftop terrace area where you can grab drinks and select food items. It’s located on the 17th floor and it is where you will find the bar, La Perla.

Beautiful archways showcase the hotel’s renown Pueblo Revival Art Deco architectural style and it’s a great vantage point being the highest outdoor viewpoint in El Paso.

One of the cool facts about the rooftop terrace is that it is the former area that made up the hotel’s old penthouse. It’s where Elizabeth Taylor stayed during the filming of one of her movies that took place in Marfa, Texas.

We ventured up there around sunset and enjoyed a beautiful desert sunset with memorable views of the Franklin Mountains, surrounding El Paso area, and even out to Mexico. The plaza lit up beautifully below us.

The fitness center

The hotel has a state of the art fitness center. (You may need to ask around to find the stairs down to it because it was a little bit difficult for us to find but you’ll be pointed in the right direction.)

Inside you’ll find free weights, treadmills, machines, elliptical, and some floor space to get things done.

One thing that stood out is they had one of those mirror work out apps that I don’t think I have seen in many hotels yet.

Final word

I may be a little bit biased because of how much I enjoy staying in historic properties but this hotel is truly a gem.

It’s hard not to compare it to the Paso Del Norte because they are so close to each other and are both iconic historic hotels that were recently renovated.

I don’t know if I can choose between the two because I loved both but I do think that the Plaza Hotel stood out to me in that I could really feel the history when staying here. I think this is a tremendous venue for groups who want a place to congregate and of course tequila fans could not do any better.

I would not hesitate to recommend the hotel.

Review: The Laura Hotel Downtown Houston

The Laura Hotel in Downtown Houston is one of the newest luxury properties to open in Houston.

It’s part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection and so it is sure to draw a lot of Marriott loyalists.

But who is Laura and what is she all about?

We stayed at the property about eight months after its opening date and in this article, I’ll break down the experience and tell you everything you need to know about the hotel.

The Laura Hotel Overview

The Laura Hotel is a new luxury property in Downtown Houston that opened in early 2022.

The property is home to 223 guest rooms, a Southern restaurant, rooftop terrace pool, gym, and spa. They also put on pool parties, monthly wine tastings, cigar events, and more.

Formerly the Hotel Alessandra, it’s named after the Laura, which was the first steamboat to arrive in Houston on January 22, 1837.

Built in 1835, they used the Laura to prove that the once impassable Buffalo Bayou was a navigable river. This helped validate Houston’s commercial potential and thus played a major role in its history.

It’s not surprising then that throughout the property you’ll find nautical-inspired branding and even design.

Booking The Laura Hotel

We used a combination of Bonvoy points and a Marriott free night certificate to complete our booking.

Rooms were going for 30,000 points per night and about $400 per night with all the taxes and fees factored in. So I thought this was pretty good value for both the points and the free night certificate.

I applied two suite night awards which both were confirmed as we were bumped up to a corner room.

Unfortunately, I would end up declining the upgrade as I did not feel like the corner rooms were an upgrade to what we already had (more on that later).

Entrance of The Laura Hotel.

Location: Downtown Houston

The Laura Hotel is located in the middle of Downtown Houston. It’s directly off Dallas and Main Street where the METRORail light rail runs through the heart of downtown.

It’s safe to walk around this area during the daytime but just a heads up walking around Downtown will expose you to a fair share of homeless people.

I used to live only a few blocks down from here and you get used to it but some visitors get uncomfortable when approached by people on the streets, especially if they appear drugged up.

The building is connected to the Downtown Greenstreet, a mixed-use area near a lot of restaurants and bars, including the House of Blues.

It’s within walking distance (5 to 15 min) to the big Houston venues like Minute Maid Park, the Toyota Center, and George R Brown Convention Center but you can find many hotels closer.

There are parking garages nearby but you can also valet.

Valet is $46 per night though which I thought was on the higher side for Houston.


View from guest room at The Laura Hotel.

Check-in: Great service with a minor hiccup

You’ll enter the hotel on the first level and you’ll need to either take the elevator or the gold-accented grand staircase to get to where check-in is located on the second floor.

It’s kind of an odd set up but visually I thought it was a beautiful entryway lobby. The marble really does it for me.

Stairs leading to the lobby of The Laura Hotel.

While many will opt for the elevator, it was nice getting a little bit of work out when utilizing these fancy stairs.

Stairs to the lobby of The Laura Hotel.

Up on the second floor is where you can find the check in desk, restaurant, bar/café, and different types of lounge seating areas.

Seating area in lobby of The Laura Hotel.

The bar area is pretty cool with some open lounge seating and floor to ceiling windows that wrap around the building.

It functions as the espresso bar from 6:30 AM to 1:30 PM on most days of the week. Then it transitions to the Laura Bar which is open from 3PM to midnight on most days and 1AM on the weekends.

They also serve food here starting at 4 PM.

The espresso bar and Laura Bar at The Laura Hotel.
The espresso bar and Laura Bar at The Laura Hotel.
The espresso bar and Laura Bar at The Laura Hotel.

The check-in desk is in a pretty beautiful area of the lobby.

Front desk at The Laura Hotel.

Initially, we were able to get early check in but there was a little problem.

The agent checked us into a different type of room than what we were upgraded to via our suite certificates.

Basically, they upgraded us to a deluxe room instead of utilizing the suite night upgrade that would have placed us in a corner room.

They did this because a high-floor corner room was not available since we were arriving a little early.

Normally, I think in this situation the staff should first confirm that you want to give up your upgrade for early check-in.

But they didn’t do that so we unknowingly ended up in a Deluxe Room that was not a corner room and I phoned down to see what was going on.

They explained that they had just put us in a Deluxe Room because of our early check in and I voiced that I would prefer the corner room instead.

So we made our way down to the elevator into the corner room only to be disappointed by that room (for reasons I go into below).

Because of that, they ended up moving us back to the Deluxe Room and I was able to get my suite night awards refunded (after calling in).

Throughout all of the back-and-forth the staff was very gracious so I appreciated them working with us so that we could truly be happy with our stay.

The room on the 16th floor

Our room was on the 16th floor and we had a pretty great view, although it did not face any of the iconic skyscrapers in the city.

Guest room at The Laura Hotel.

As for the bed, it was very comfortable.

Bed in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

The nightstands by the bed had both power outlets and USB ports.

Night stand in guest room at The Laura Hotel.
Outlets in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

They also provided branded stationary.

I love hotels with their own identity and branding and so it was cool to see that done very nicely here.

However, they still need to work on the finishing touches.

For example, look at the pen that was in our room when we arrived. It’s all smeared with ink and that’s not the attention to detail that you expect to find at an expensive luxury hotel.

TV remote in guest room at The Laura Hotel.
Opened night stand in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

Next to the bed is a little curved couch and a table so you can enjoy room service while admiring your view. I love easy to access window views and so I really appreciated the layout of this room.

Couch in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

In the middle of the room you have a large flatscreen TV with your workstation directly under it.

I’ve never been a huge fan of desks under TVs like that because if one person wants to watch TV and the other person wants to get work done, it’s not a very practical set up.

TV in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

They have two closets on other side of the TV and workstation.

One side is the true closet where you’ll find hangers.

Closet in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

The other side is made for your luggage and has the iron board.

Ironing board in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

There’s a coffee maker station and they provide you with a couple of coffee cups and a free bottle of water.

Coffee bar in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

I did notice that the drawers and the mini fridge were completely empty and they had no teas available.

Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I stayed at a quality hotel that didn’t have tea available in the room.

I would’ve expected these to be filled eight months after opening but I guess they are still in somewhat of a soft launch stage.

View of downtown Houston from guest room at The Laura Hotel.
Mini fridge in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

The hotel really knows what they’re doing when it comes to the bathrooms.

We had a nice and open bathroom with a soaking tub, large mirror, plenty of counter space, and a private toilet space.

Doors swing open if you’d like to soak in the tub with a view.

Bath tub with Downtown Houston view in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

Or, if you’d like some privacy you can close things up.

Bth tub in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

The other side of the partition is made up gold-framed mirrored walls.

Bathroom in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

Here’s a closer look at the sink.

Bathroom in guest room at The Laura Hotel.
Bathroom in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

The shower is pretty spacious and complete with a waterfall showerhead as well as a detachable showerhead. Be prepared for a heavy showerhead, though.

Using this thing is like trying to bathe with Thor’s Hammer.

Shower in guest room at The Laura Hotel.
Toiletries in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

I liked that they had a private toilet area, since I’m never a big fan of the bathrooms that have everything opened up.

Toilet in guest room at The Laura Hotel.

As I mentioned above we were initially upgraded to a corner room and the only one available was one on a lower floor.

So we checked out that room but just did not really care for it to be honest.

Although technically it has more square feet, it actually felt more confining due to the L-shaped layout.

It also did not have a soaking tub.

Plus our view on the 16th floor was way better so we ended up asking to get moved back to our original room.

I have to give the staff a lot of credit because they put up with us being very high maintenance for a little while and did so without any complaints.

Here’s a look at the corner room that we refused:

Guest room at The Laura Hotel.

Dining: Hull and Oak Southern cookin’

The hotel is home to a restaurant called Hull and Oak that puts “innovative twists” on classic Southern dishes and regularly mixes up their menu.

I love the idea of a Southern-themed restaurant and I thought the nautical aesthetics of the venue were very original.

Framed archways resemble a ship’s hull and circular mirrors line the restaurant like ship portholes.

It was just a cool place to dine and meet up with an old friend.

Servers were a little understaffed but they were extremely friendly and professional.

Hull and Oak in The Laura Hotel.

We arrived around 6:30 PM for dinner and were the only ones in the restaurant.

It stayed slow for a while and then started to pick up around 7:30 PM but never got very busy.

Perhaps this restaurant is still not on the radar a many?

For dinner we tried the macaroni and cheese, steak, and deviled eggs.

The deviled eggs offered a slightly sweet take on deviled eggs balanced out with bacon and mouth-tingling chili peppers that were not playing around. I ate ’em up.

Deviled Eggs at Hull and Oak in The Laura Hotel.

Brad went with the prime Manhattan filet.

It came pre-cut and cooked to perfection. Lightly salted wedge potatoes made a nice complement. As did the cooked carrots.

Prime Manhattan filet at Hull and Oak in The Laura Hotel.

The crawfish macaroni and cheese was pretty good but a little light on flavor.

Crawfish Macaroni and cheese at Hull and Oak in The Laura Hotel.

Brad tried out one of their signature drinks: a Oaxaca Old Fashioned. Both smoky and woody, it offered a bold flavor with a little bit of sweetness.

Next we’ll have to try Smokin’ in the 713, which is a southern take on the Old Fashioned.

Oaxaca Old Fashioned at Hull and Oak in The Laura Hotel.

For dessert, we tried the banana foster.

This was not usually something I would ever order, but I was really glad we tried this spongy and powdery delicacy because this platter was crazy delicious.

Banana Foster at Hull and Oak in The Laura Hotel.

Each day, we decided to utilize our free breakfast benefit (which gave us each $24 of credit every morning) and I have to say that the breakfast here was solid.

One morning, I went with the biscuits and gravy which was a little different because I’m not used to chicken broth-based gravy on biscuits.

(I’m much more of a sausage gravy person.)

However, the gravy biscuit was delicious and their bacon was a thing of beauty. Just the right amount of crispiness.

Gravy biscuit at Hull and Oak in The Laura Hotel.

The next morning I went with the peaches and cream waffles. Wasn’t quite in love with the peaches but I enjoyed trying something different for a change.

Peaches and Cream waffles at Hull and Oak in The Laura Hotel.


The hotel houses a nice rooftop terrace pool on the 5th floor. It’s a bit small but for a downtown hotel in the central business district I wouldn’t exactly expect a lagoon-sized pool.

On some evenings, they have parties up here so it could be a cool vibe.

Pool at The Laura Hotel.

The pool seems to be pretty popular as every time I look down from my room I could see quite a few people lounging around. (I took all my pictures right at 8 AM before the crowds hit.)

It opens up at 8 AM and closes down at 8 PM.

There’s also a bar out here that opens up at 11 AM and closes at 7:30 PM.

Pool at The Laura Hotel.

They have quite a few pool chairs set out and some of them are shaded which is great because that Houston summer sun can be serious.

Pool at The Laura Hotel.


In the gym, you’ll find modern cardio equipment like a few treadmills, ellipticals, and other machines. They also have several machines like a leg press, rowing station, etc.

Overall, the hotel gym is a bit small given the size of the property.

You might want to get down there a little bit early if you’re planning on getting in an uninterrupted morning workout.

Gym at The Laura Hotel.
Gym at The Laura Hotel.

They have a small pyramid of free-weight dumbbells but the weights do not go up very high.

Gym at The Laura Hotel.
Gym at The Laura Hotel.
Gym at The Laura Hotel.

The property also is home to a spa on the 5th floor but we did not get a chance to review it.

Final word

Overall, I enjoyed my stay at the Laura Hotel.

I thought the room was well done with some pretty good views and an awesome bathroom. The dining did not disappoint and other facilities like the pool and gym looked pretty good.

I think they could do some of the little things better but I’ll give them a bit more time since they are still a relatively new property.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio Review

If you’re planning a trip to the San Antonio Riverwalk you have tons of different hotel options and it can be an overwhelming process to narrow them down.

But if you’re looking for a four-star luxury property that won’t require you to break the bank, the Westin Riverwalk San Antonio is a super solid choice.

In this review article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Westin Riverwalk San Antonio.


We had a family meet up in San Antonio around Christmas time and decided that staying at the Westin Riverwalk San Antonio would be a perfect two night stay.

We paid cash for the booking but utilized suite night awards which ended up getting us a nice corner suite.

In addition to that, Titanium Elite status gave us free breakfast at the property which added even more value to this stay and made it a great option.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio lobby Christmas

Location overview: San Antonio Riverwalk

The Westin Riverwalk San Antonio is located right in the heart of the San Antonio Riverwalk aka tourist central.

It’s only about a seven minute walk to the Alamo and very close to all of the other major Riverwalk tourist attractions.

The property is also located directly on the Riverwalk, although you need to take some stairs or an elevator down to that level to exit out that way.


Check-in was a very smooth process and I was immediately impressed with the beautiful hotel lobby.

I heard that NBA players sometimes stay at this hotel when they play the Spurs which I think says a lot about the level of luxury offered by the property.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio lobby Christmas
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio lobby Christmas
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio lobby Christmas

If you have a little bit of extra time, you may want to check out the second level which is where a lot of the conference rooms are located. On your way up, you’ll pass through a beautiful staircase with a 19th century rod-iron chandelier.

At one point, I thought I heard one of the tour boats on the river mention that the Westin has items on display from an old castle or palace which wouldn’t surprise me given how elaborate some of the fixtures are.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio staircase

The room

The corner suite we were upgraded to was a very beautiful and spacious suite. I loved the oversized double doors separating the living room from the bedroom.

The workstation fits right between these two doors and the living room TV is actually embedded in the wall.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio corner suite

The sitting area is pretty spacious and we were able to request a rollaway bed for my nephew without much hassle which was great. (The sofa does not convert to a bed.)

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio corner suite
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio corner suite

Both the sitting area and the bedroom have their own balcony.

We were positioned a few floors above the pool which gave us a nice view of the pool but a mostly obstructed view of the river.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio corner suite river view balcony
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio corner suite river view

Inside the room, you have a nice and soft king bed. As expected at the Westin, the bedding was extremely comfortable.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio corner suite

On each side of the bed you can find outlets and USB ports for easy charging.

Related: Should You Use USB Ports In Hotel Rooms? (Stay Away!?)

In front of the bed, there’s a dresser with a large TV monitor hanging above it.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio corner suite

Overall, I had little complaints about the bedroom other than the temperature and the view.

While the living room stayed nice and cool, the bedroom was a bit too warm and there really was nothing we could do about that unfortunately.

The only other thing that was slightly disappointing about the room was the lack of a river view.

It looks like the river views are much better for rooms that are not above the pool since the terrace for the pool cuts into the river view.

So if you really want a great view of the river you might want to ask to not be put in one of those rooms.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio corner suite river view

Near the bathroom was a large counter with the coffee maker, a mini-fridge, hotel safe, and a couple of bottles of water.

Related: Are Hotel Coffee Makers Safe & Clean? (YIKES!)

As for the bathroom, it was huge (and glorious).

The sink area had two sinks, two large mirrors, and a beauty mirror.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio corner suite bathroom

There’s a large tub perfect for relaxing in and complete with a roll of soft Westin Heavenly towels.

There is an enclosed area for the toilet which is great for privacy.

The shower is also pretty spacious and comes with a dual shower head and pre-filled, wall dispensary soaps.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio corner suite bathroom

And of course there is the Westin double needle stitching spa robe.

Westin spa robe


The hotel has a nice pool area but the somewhat Alamo-shaped pool is pretty small for such a big hotel, in my opinion. I guess if the pool wasn’t deep enough for you you could always take a dip in the river? Just kidding — don’t do that.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio pool

Despite its small size, it’s still a pretty terrace area with greenery, fountains, and a lot of seats to lounge in.

There’s even a bar on the deck but it wasn’t open while we were there, probably because it was so dang cold.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio pool

I would try to avoid the rooms that are right next to the pool. Not only would you have no view of the river but you would also have to deal with the noise from the pool, which was even kind of loud where we were.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio pool

I’m almost positive the pool is heated as it was pretty cold during our stay and people were still hanging out in the pool.

Fitness center

The Westin Riverwalk San Antonio also has a pretty solid fitness center. You’ll find plenty of treadmills and other cardio equipment like ellipticals. You’ll have a view out to the pool area on some of the cardio machines which is nice.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio gym
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio gym
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio gym


You’ll find breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant were they will have a buffet set up.

As mentioned, with Titanium Elite status, we were offered two free breakfasts every morning for a total of four free breakfasts.

They issued us individual certificates which was nice because it allowed us to use three of them one morning so that my nephew could get a taste of the Westin breakfast life.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the breakfast. It wasn’t quite the best Westin breakfast I ever had. Some things like the pastries could’ve been a little bit better in my opinion.

But the buffet still had a great selection of foods with fresh fruits, berries, and even biscuits and gravy. So overall, I would still say it was a quality breakfast.

The servers at breakfast were also on point, just like they were everywhere else.

if you’re wondering what the breakfast spread looked like, check out the photos below.

Westin Riverwalk San Antonio breakfast
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio breakfast
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio breakfast
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio breakfast
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio breakfast
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio breakfast
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio breakfast
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio breakfast
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio breakfast
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio breakfast
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio breakfast
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio breakfast
Westin Riverwalk San Antonio breakfast

Restaurant: Zocca Cuisine D’Italia

We were looking for a good place to grab dinner on the Riverwalk but this was a weekend just a week before Christmas and it was absolutely packed everywhere.

It seemed like every restaurant had at least an hour wait and we were just too hungry (and cold) to sit around for that.

So we thought it would be a good idea to try out the hotel’s restaurant, Zocca Cuisine D’Italia, for dinner.

I’m really glad that we decided to give it a shot because the restaurant at the hotel was absolutely amazing.

We tried a few different dishes like their pizza, fried ravioli, and some other dishes and they were all on point. While we chose to eat inside, I do believe you can eat out on the river if you would like.

Zocca Cuisine D'Italia
Zocca Cuisine D'Italia

The hotel also has a grab and go café called Cafecito but we were not able to try it out.

Final word

Overall, this was a fantastic stay in San Antonio!

I loved the room that we were upgraded to and while we did not have a great view of the river, it was still a beautiful and spacious suite.

The service was tremendous throughout the stay including when we grabbed breakfast which just made the hotel stay that much more special.

I would absolutely recommend this hotel for anyone looking for a luxurious stay without breaking the bank.

AC Hotel by Marriott Austin Review

If you’re interested in staying in the Austin area but you want to experience something a little bit more remote (but not too remote) then the AC Hotel by Marriott Austin may be a great choice for you.

It’s a modern hotel, reasonably priced, and a property that comes with some unique amenities like a beautiful rooftop terrace and outdoor patio area.

In this review article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the AC Hotel by Marriott Austin.

Booking the AC Hotel by Marriott Austin

We booked two nights at the AC Hotel by Marriott Austin with 45,000 points total, which in my opinion was a pretty good redemption considering prices were around $200 per night.

Other AC Hotel reviews:

Location overview: Southwest Austin

The property is located in Southwest Austin, about 20 minutes from downtown.

For us, it was the perfect choice because we were still close enough to downtown to get there relatively quickly but the hotel was still secluded enough to offer a more relaxed feel to our stay.

After staying in cities the past several days on a two-week long road trip across Texas, it was nice to experience something a little slower.

Since the hotel is so remote you don’t have a lot around you but there are some things nearby.

There is a movieplex (Moviehouse & Eatery by Cinépolis SW Austin) and a couple of restaurants in the neighboring area (CARVE American Grille) but not a whole lot going on other than some corporate offices.

Behind the property, there is a sidewalk that looks like it will eventually lead to some sort of connected pathway, perhaps to other business centers but I’m honestly not very sure.


After making the short drive from the Westin in San Antonio and stopping at Buc-ees for a little while, we arrived at the hotel around 3:20pm so early check-in was not needed.

Since this was mid-December, the hotel was decorated for the holidays and the lobby area along with surrounding areas were pretty beautiful.

AC Hotels have a distinct scent (which I really love) and I’ll say that the scent here was really pumping in the vents — it was the strongest I’d ever encountered at an AC and maybe just a tad too strong.

The property has just opened up so this type of thing is honestly expected and I’m sure they will level out the scent at some point.

AC Hotel Austin Hill Country lobby
AC Hotel Austin Hill Country lobby
AC Hotel Austin Hill Country lobby

One thing I did want to point out is that all of the staff members were extremely personable. Out of all of the AC hotels I’ve recently stayed at, this property had the best service by far.

The room

We had a pretty basic king room that had all of the standard AC features.

If you’ve never stayed at an AC property before, you’ll find that these properties are very consistent in what they have to offer, especially with the rooms.

The bed was very comfortable and I did not have any issues getting some good sleep.

One side of the bed had the phone along with power outlets and USB ports while the other side had more power outlets and USB ports. It’s never difficult to keep your devices charged in these hotels which is something I really like.

Related: Should You Use USB Ports In Hotel Rooms? (Stay Away!?)

We had a good-sized TV screen in our room with a cushioned bench below that I always just assume is for luggage or random needs like getting dressed?

Next to that was the classic AC minimalist workstation.

The room also had a little seating area that had a view towards the Hill Country which was nice. I usually avoid hotel furniture but because this was a new hotel I didn’t feel bad about taking a rest on it.

Near the room’s entrance you’ll find all of the standard AC in-room amenities like the iron and iron board, safe, coffee maker, and smart fridge (with two free bottles of water in the fridge).

The hotel also has a hydration station upstairs at the rooftop terrace so you can fill up jugs of water which is something I really liked.

Like most of the AC hotels I’ve stayed at, the bathrooms were on point. They were very clean and I always like the dual showerhead found at the AC.

The bars and tapas

The hotel has two separate bar areas.

One is on the main lobby floor and is a more compact bar with around six chairs. Here you will find some of the more “standard” on-brand drinks and cocktails. In case you did not know, AC Hotels have a signature gin and tonic, which is a pretty refreshing drink.

AC Hotel Austin Hill Country lobby bar

They have some additional seating nearby so you can also relax and enjoy your drinks/tapas or get work done because there are some outlets in the floor.

The second bar is a rooftop bar called Salt + Stone.

AC Hotel Austin Hill Country rooftop bar

This is a much bigger space with lots of seating and some pretty sweet views looking out to the Texas Hill Country and city of Austin. It’s a great spot to catch a sunset. If it’s cold up there, there are heat lamps and even blankets on standby.

AC Hotel Austin Hill Country rooftop bar view
AC Hotel Austin Hill Country rooftop bar view

The bar upstairs will have a more extensive selection and you’ll likely find drinks of a local variety up there. Apparently, the bartenders have more of a creative license up there so if you are really into cocktails and mixed drinks that’s a spot to be.

Although I don’t drink, I still enjoyed lounging up there. It’s also just a really cool looking terrace area, especially when you see it from afar.

One of my favorite features of the AC Hotel brand is that they serve tapas. As a Titanium Elite member, we were able to receive $40 in dining credits which we decided to use exclusively on the tapas bar.

This was the first time we were issued the credits in the form of cards that could be used all at once which was really cool. Typically, I’ve been limited to $10 per day per person but here we could spend all $40 in one setting.

Just note that the credits do not carry over so if you use $20 in credits to cover a $16 bill, you lose out on $4.

In my experience, every AC hotel offer something a little bit different in their tapas which keeps things interesting. On our stay, we tried the roasted cauliflower, prosciutto and cheese, meatball, and crispy potatoes.

Nothing really blew me away but it was nice to try some different light bites that helped carry us over to the next meal. Plus, the bartender was a lot of fun to talk to.


AC Hotels serve up a European inspired breakfast. This means that you’ll find things like croissants, cheeses, and deli meats for your breakfast selection.

The selection here was a little bit limited compared to some of the other AC Hotels so we just decided to do breakfast on our own but I still did get some good pictures of the breakfast.

So here’s what you can expect:

Gym & Pool

The hotel has a beautiful outdoor patio area with plenty of seating and some massive randomly placed geodes.

We visited on a pretty cool day but they had a fire pit going and it was actually quite nice to relax out there. This is another great spot to catch the sunset and perhaps enjoy some tapas.

Next to the patio area is the pool, complete with a dozen or so lounge chairs. It’s small but well-kept and it looks like a great place to relax in.

The fitness center looked out to the pool area and had a lot of natural light which is always energizing.

It’s a smaller gym but still pretty well equipped with an elliptical, Peloton, and a few treadmills. They also had a little station for free weights and some other equipment. Everything looked very modern so you should be able to get a great workout at the hotel.

Final word

Overall, I really enjoyed my hotel stay here.

This felt like one of the smaller AC Hotels I’ve stayed at but it ended up being one of the most beautiful.

The breakfast and tapas menu was not quite as loaded as other ACs but this hotel had also just opened like one month prior to the stay so I’m not even sure I was able to experience everything that it had to offer.

If you’re looking for more of a quiet stay within the Austin area but want a hotel that still has some nice amenities, I think this is a great selection.

Sixth Floor Museum Review (JFK Site)

Dallas has been forced to grapple with its association to the JFK assassination for decades. And nowhere in the city is this association stronger than the location of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

Today, the building, despite its dark history, is one of the most notable tourist attractions in Dallas.

In this article, I’ll break down everything you’d want to know before visiting the Sixth Floor Museum, including giving you a taste of some of the major highlights in the museum.

What is the Sixth Floor Museum?

The Sixth Floor Museum is a museum located in the former Texas School Book Depository building where Lee Oswald was employed and allegedly shot former President John F Kennedy. The museum provides an overview of JFK’s legacy and thoroughly chronicles all of the events related to the assassination.

It is one of the top attractions in Dallas and takes about 1.5 hours to properly visit.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Sixth Floor Museum
The Sixth Floor Museum, located in the former Texas School Book Depository building.

Where is the Sixth Floor Museum?

The museum is located at: 411 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75202.

When you visit the museum you’ll surely want to check out other sites like the grassy knoll, the “X,” and the JFK Memorial, which are all located right next to the museum or within a block or two.

Personally, I would recommend arriving about 45 minutes to an hour before the museum opens and checking out all of those sites so that you can see them before it gets too crowded.

If you’re interested in a full JFK itinerary that follows the footsteps of JFK during his visit to Fort Worth and Dallas as well as the places where Lee Oswald lived in Dallas, be sure to check out the ultimate guide to JFK assassination sites.

Did you know? The gun used in the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt was purchased on Elm Street only a mile down the road from the Sixth Floor Museum.

This “X” marks the spot where the fatal shot took place.

How do you access the Sixth Floor Museum?

Normal hours for the Sixth Floor Museum are 10am to 5pm.

The Sixth Floor Museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Here are what the prices were as of January 2022:

  • Adults $18
  • 65 and older: $16
  • Youth (6-18): $14
  • Under five: Free

I highly recommend that you purchase your tickets online well ahead of your visit because there is limited space and they do fill up.

In terms of how much time you need, give yourself about an hour and a half.

If you need to pay for parking there is a pretty good sized parking lot adjacent to the museum. Parking prices may vary but it cost us $12.

Currently, whenever you enter you will have your tickets scanned and then you’ll have to wait to go up an elevator. The line for the elevator can be a little slow because of social distancing.

Therefore, I would recommend that you start lining up at 9:45am if you can get there before it opens.

That way, you could be one of the first people in and explore the museum with little to no crowds.

Related: Hilton Fort Worth Review (Where JFK Spent His Last Night)

The entrance to the Sixth Floor Museum.

Sixth Floor Museum sites to see

There’s a lot to see in this unique museum but it’s not so big that it’s impossible to see everything in one visit. In many ways, I’d say it’s the perfect size for a museum of its kind.

But to help narrow things down and to avoid spoiling any surprises, I’ll just focus on eight key sites you want to check out in the museum.

Overview of JFK’s time and legacy

The beginning of the museum will outline the major social events and political climate of the 1960s and will give you an overview of the issues faced by JFK during his presidency.

Through interpretive panels, many photographs, and even original artifacts, you’ll get an overview of his campaign, what the Kennedy White House was like, and what some of his accomplishments were while in office.

Hopefully, you already have of a grasp on JFK as a president (since it helps to understand a lot of the conspiracy theories) but just in case you don’t the first section of the museum should help get you somewhat up to speed.

The sniper’s corner

The museum preserved the eerie window corner where Lee Oswald allegedly shot at the president three times from a half-open window.

They’ve arranged a barricade of cardboard boxes in such a way that the corner looks like it did on November 22, 1963, when law officers first searched the floor and discovered three shells and a rifle.

Although the corner is preserved on the other side of a glass partition, it’s a pretty powerful sight to behold, knowing that someone was perched here decades ago just waiting to take the life of the leader of the free world.

The window corner where Lee Oswald allegedly shot at the president.

Oswald’s wedding ring

The night before JFK was shot, Lee Oswald was staying the night at Ruth Paine’s house — a house museum you can still visit today.

Before leaving that day he left his wife his wedding ring along with some cash and then headed out with his rifle on the way to the Texas School Book Depository, where he had been employed since October 15, 1963.

Nobody knows exactly why he left the wedding ring as there are a few different explanations. But you can actually see the wedding ring on display at the museum.

The wedding ring is displayed in the clear column in the middle of the photo.

The place set

When JFK was shot he was on his way to the Dallas Trade Mart where he was supposed to attend a luncheon.

The place set that was waiting for him at the luncheon is on display, along with some other artifacts like an original luncheon invitation.

It’s one of those rare instances where boring, every day objects like salt and pepper shakers and saucer plates can evoke strong emotions as they transport you back in time and connect you to a tragic event.

It reminded me of seeing a piece of an airline seatbelt in the 9/11 exhibit at the New York State Museum. It was unexpectedly moving.

Assassination related exhibits

As you would probably expect coming to this museum, the entire assassination is well documented in various exhibits.

You’ll see complete timeline breakdowns of the events and really get a full understanding of how everything took place.

They present evidence and analysis of eyewitness testimony, forensic and ballistics, photographic and acoustical evidence, and even touch on some of the conspiracies.

It’s a very comprehensive experience worth taking your time to get through.

As someone who had read a lot of articles and watched plenty of documentaries on this, I was surprised at how many new things I learned.

I think it definitely helps to do a lot of research before you visit, though.

With all of the theories that circulate around this assassination, I’d suggest watching some documentaries and even videos from the Sixth Floor Museum YouTube channel.

It seems like every time I get a grasp on the events I learn something new that turns everything upside down but the museum does provide a solid framework for understanding the events of that day.

FBI model

One of the interesting exhibits is the FBI model of the shooting.

Initially, I thought this was just a model that the museum put together but then I looked into it and it actually has some really interesting history.

According to the museum:

The model was built by the FBI in 1964 to help investigate the Kennedy assassination and was also later used by the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations when they conducted their investigations.

Apparently, there are some very strict conditions for displaying this model with respect to the lighting and presentation and the museum has to work diligently to honor those.

The model is encased in special UV-filtered glass to help preserve it and I think they were doing an excellent job because the model looks pretty well preserved considering it is almost 60 years old.

FBI model JFK shooting
The model of the shooting built by the FBI in the 1960s.

7th floor

You’ll also want to take a moment to visit the seventh floor.

One of the interesting things to do is to check out the corner on the seventh floor that is directly above where Lee made his shots.

This will give you a nearly identical view of what he would’ve seen from the sniper’s perch.

In this wide open space, there’s also some artifacts from the building as it existed in the 60s and some interesting visuals that give you a sense of the growth that the Dealey Plaza area has experienced.

You’ll also want to check out the giant photomosaics of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Initially, they look like large photographs but they are actually made up of tiny portraits of the opposite person.

So when you look at John F Kennedy, you’re actually looking at 50,000 tiny photos of Jacqueline Kennedy and vice versa. It’s a beautiful tribute.

The sniper’s vantage point as seen from the seventh floor.

Gift shop

You’ll eventually exit through the gift shop where you can find a lot of JFK memorabilia.

It seems like one of the popular souvenirs is the collection of replica old newspapers from the day after the assassination but you can find all sorts of JFK related items, including many different books.

Sixth Floor Museum FAQ

How long does the Sixth Floor Museum take to visit?

To avoid rushing, it’s recommended to give yourself 1.5 hours at the museum. However, you can experience most of what the museum has to offer in 45 minutes to an hour without having to rush too bad.

How far is the Sixth Floor Museum from DFW?

The Sixth Floor Museum is about a 25 minute car ride from DFW.

When did the Sixth Floor Museum open?

The Sixth Floor Museum opened on President’s Day 1989.

Final word

The Sixth Floor Museum is truly a well done venue.

It’s an extremely difficult task to tastefully preserve a building tied to such a tragic event.

But the museum has clearly gone to great lengths to make that happen and tell the story of these events in a way that is comprehensive and still respectful.

I would consider this a must visit attraction when in Dallas especially if you have any interest in the history of the assassination and JFK’s legacy.

Rothko Chapel Review (Worth the Visit?) | Houston, TX

Unbeknownst to many, Houston has a great museum and art scene.

You could easily spend a couple of days checking out marquee museums like the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Museum of Fine Arts, and the Space Center to only name a few options.

One museum-like attraction is the recently restored Rothko Chapel.

Part chapel, part museum, visiting this place is not like anything you’ve probably experienced.

Everyone seems to take something different with them after experiencing the chapel — spiritual awakenings, mindfulness, renewal, boredom, confusion….

There truly is no “wrong” way to experience the Rothko Chapel.

But what exactly can you expect when you give this place a visit?

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Rothko Chapel.

What is the Rothko Chapel?

The Rothko Chapel is a small, octagonal chapel located in Houston, Texas, where a permanent collection of 14 works of art by Mark Rothko hang on the walls.

Opened in 1971, it is designed to be a place where art lovers and people of all faiths and religions can come to experience a sanctuary for contemplation. Rothko intended for the chapel to be his single most important artistic statement.

The Rothko Chapel recently finished a $30 million restoration project just before its 50th anniversary in 2021 and now also has a visitor center and other new facilities in the works.

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Where is the Rothko Chapel?

The Rothko Chapel is located at 3900 Yupon St, Houston, TX 77006.

It’s adjacent to the Menil Collection and The University of St. Thomas and found along a beautiful tree covered street.

There is also a visitor center located directly across the street and new facilities planned in the surrounding area as well. Adjacent to the chapel is a reflection pool with a memorial sculpture known as the Broken Obelisk, which is a tribute to Martin Luther King.

How do you access the Rothko Chapel?

The Rothko Chapel is free to visit and is open from 10am to 6pm (although signs now say from dusk to dawn).

The venue may be closed on Mondays.

No photography is allowed inside and you will be asked to turn off your cell phones as well.

Rothko Chapel history and background

In the 1960s, Houstonians John and Dominique de Menil presented Mark Rothko with the opportunity to design a Catholic chapel for the University of St. Thomas.

Rothko’s take on the chapel would be to design something that would “speak to a contemporary mind and a contemporary spirit.”

Rothko started to work on the concept in 1964.

Difficulties emerged during the construction of the project as the initial architect Philip Johnson was not able to align his grander vision of the chapel with Rothko’s.

Johnson dropped from project which allowed Rothko to take the reins as he partnered with new architects.

While conceptualizing the project, Rothko utilized a large carriage house in New York City so that he could experiment with the scale of the room in the chapel.

One major feature of the room was a big skylight, something that Rothko wanted to be a defining feature in the chapel.

The idea was that this would emit a soft ambient light that would cast light on the paintings in a perfect way.

Rothko finished the 14 paintings (and four alternates) in 1967 but before the construction of the chapel began (and before ever visiting Houston), he sadly committed suicide in 1970.

Around that time, John and Dominique de Menil had parted ways with the University of St. Thomas and decided to move the chapel off campus.

This altered the nature of the chapel and is why it is now a non-denominational, interfaith destination.

Unfortunately, the whole lighting concept never really worked out as planned, either.

Many attempts were made over the years to try out different lighting solutions but none of them were sufficient to deal with the “gloominess problem” of the chapel.

They also caused problems with deterioration of the paintings.

Finally, with the most recent renovations a new skylight was installed consisting of multiple layers of UV-resistant glass screened by louvers.

In total, there are 280 reflective aluminum blades individually angled and spaced to evenly distribute light onto the paintings.

In addition to that, new landscape features were added like rows of birch trees and tall Savannah holly. And there are even more plans to add additional buildings and features in the area as more phases of the project take place.

You can learn about all the different phases of development by stopping by the visitor center.

The Rothko Chapel experience

It’s a unique space worth visiting

Regardless of how you feel about the Rothko Chapel, one thing that you can’t deny is that it’s a unique attraction.

For that reason alone, I think it’s worth visiting at least once.

Simply put, there’s a reason why the chapel has been visited by some of the most notable world leaders including arcbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and even President Jimmy Carter.

There’s just something different about this place and what it stands for.

Rothko, a main attraction

For me personally, I was firstly just excited to see Rothko paintings.

I’m definitely not a real art aficionado.

And while I do love (or at least appreciate) a lot of modern abstract art, I still feel like I don’t “get” the vast majority of it.

Nevertheless, I constantly find myself in art museums trying to decipher and absorb whatever I can from modern art.

It’s interesting to find pieces that resonate with me and to ponder works that evoke different feelings and emotions that are often indecipherable.

But in a lot of ways, if I’m being completely honest, I’m also just there to witness the so-called greatness of artists who achieved remarkable levels of notoriety.

Over the years I had done a fair amount of research on Mark Rothko and considered him to be one of the most well-known modern abstract artists.

I’ve seen some of his work in museums before but not much so I was really excited to see what he had created for this space.

Unfortunately, his works in the chapel don’t really resemble the work he is most known for which are contrasting blocks of color.

What you’ll find inside are a total of 14 paintings, likely inspired by the number of the Stations of the Cross.

The paintings are mostly black but incorporate other dark hues and texture effects, which is just enough to make you ponder what is going on in the painting.

Three of the walls display triptychs, and the other five walls display only single paintings.

To me, the achievement of his work in the chapel is found in the overall assembly of all of the pieces rather than the individual paintings themselves.

In fact, I think the consensus is that the individual paintings are pretty underwhelming. I believe Rothko himself even went for something “you don’t want to look at.”

inside the Rothko Chapel
A look at the pre-restored interior. Image via Wikipedia. Photo by Alan Islas.

Our experience in the chapel

We had the privilege to visit the Rothko Chapel with no other visitors in the building.

While I initially was excited about the privacy we’d have for such an intimate and possibly almost spiritual-like experience, I quickly realized that there is no privacy in the Rothko Chapel.

As we entered the chapel, two staff members stood in shadowy doorways, faces partially covered with masks, watching our every movement.

There was a faint trace of an acknowledgment — bust mostly just silence and stillness in a very dimly lit octagon.

To be honest, it initially was an almost disturbing scene that made me feel like we had stepped in to some sort of cult-like séance.

But I told myself to just get over it and focus on trying to make the most of the experience.

So I methodically inspected the large artworks similar to how I would on a typical museum visit.

After taking some time to appreciate four or five of these massive paintings, I could feel myself getting drawn into the space.

It was an odd sensation and difficult to describe but the best way to put it is that it felt like something was stirring from within.

Unfortunately, the feeling just never quite fully developed, though.

There was just something about the quietness and stillness of the room and knowing that I was being watched that I couldn’t quite get over.

If this experience could somehow be a truly private one, I could see how it could help me tap in to something truly subliminal.

Indeed, I think I did get a small taste of that.

I realize there are security concerns with an exhibit-like feature such as this that probably require staff to be observing visitors at all times.

But that is just unfortunate given the nature of this attraction.

It’s not like a normal museum where the docents almost blend in with the surroundings.

This feels more like stepping into a deprivation chamber of sorts but having a couple of strangers there along with you for the ride (and to monitor your experience).

It just doesn’t quite jibe well for me.

After exploring the interior, we checked out the Broken Obelisk, which is a tribute to Martin Luther King.

Initially, it was supposed to be placed in front of City Hall in Houston but after a little bit of disagreements, it was placed by the Rothko Chapel.

In addition to paying tribute to Martin Luther King, it also represents the struggle for human rights, which ties into a broader mission of the chapel.

Every two years the chapel recognizes remarkable people who have denounced violations of human rights while facing enormous economic and political pressures and often personal peril.

The award is named after Óscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who was murdered on March 24, 1980.

Final word

For anybody remotely interested in art or unique experiences, I would consider the Rothko Chapel a must visit in Houston.

The reason is that it’s a unique attraction that could offer you a memorable experience while conjuring up feelings that you may not even be able to process.

It could also just feel like a weird way to spend a few minutes of your day.

But that is kind of the beauty of it to me — you really don’t know how the chapel is going to hit you until you give it a shot.

LBJ Ranch Review (What to See) [2022]

It’s always fascinating tracing the history of former US presidents.

One US president that definitely did things his own way was LBJ. He was the first president to ever truly “work remotely” from the White House and did so in a major way at the LBJ Ranch.

And luckily, this ranch has been preserved by the National Park Service and offers a lot of interesting sites to check out today.

In this article, I’ll show you everything you need to know before visiting the LBJ Ranch.

What is the LBJ Ranch?

The LBJ Ranch is part of Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park and the former home of the 36th president of the United States of America, Lyndon B. Johnson.

It’s where the president grew up and also where he resided on a part-time basis during his presidency. The ranch became a hotspot for world leaders and notable figures as well as extravagant barbecues.

Today, you can take a self-guided driving tour around the ranch and check out various sites located throughout the property like the Texas White House and the gravesite of LBJ.

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Where is the LBJ Ranch?

The LBJ Ranch is located at: 1048 Park Road #49, Stonewall, TX 78671.

This is approximately 60 miles outside of Austin, Texas, and about a 1 hour and 15 minute drive from Austin.

It’s easy to get confused with all of the LBJ sites in this area so let me break it down for you below.

First, there is the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.

The National Historical Park consists of two districts: the Johnson City District and the LBJ Ranch District. (The districts are about 20 minutes away from each other.)

The Johnson City District is where you can tour Johnson’s boyhood home and check out the Johnson Settlement where you’ll find restored structures from the 1800s among other things.

The LBJ Ranch District is where you’ll find the Texas White House, Air Force 1/2, the old school house, and quite a few other sites.

This article is specifically about the LBJ Ranch District and I’ll go into great detail about it below.

In addition to the National Park site, there is also a state park site called: Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site.

The state park site is located on the south side of the Pedernales River, which is just a couple of minutes away from the LBJ Ranch District.

It’s at the state park where you can find sites like the Official Texas Longhorn Herd, American Bison Herd, and the Sauer-Beckmann Farm, a living history farm that preserves rural Texas life as it existed in 1918.

Technically, a visit to the LBJ Ranch District should begin at the state park, as that is where you can be issued your driving permit and map.

Other LBJ related sites in the (roughly 1-hour) vicinity include:

  • LBJ Presidential Library (Austin, TX)
  • LBJ Museum (San Marcos)
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (Austin, TX)

How do you access the LBJ Ranch?

It is free to visit the LBJ Ranch and hours are typically from 9 AM to 5 PM.

The NPS website says that you will be issued a driving permit and map from the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, which is where I think you are supposed to begin your tour.

However, we did not know that and simply arrived at the entrance of the ranch and were never issued a driving permit.

What is there to see at the LBJ Ranch?

There’s a lot to check out at the LBJ Ranch but here are eight sites that you will definitely want to see on your visit.

If you give yourself two hours you should have enough time to thoroughly enjoy these sites but if you want to visit any of the related sites, you’ll probably need more time.

Tip: If you are into guided audio tours, you can download the NPS app and rely on that to get you through the tour.

LBJ’s old school house

Just before the entrance of the LBJ Ranch, you’ll come across the Junction School.

LBJ only attended the school for a few months as a four year old but it’s still an iconic old school house building.

There’s an interactive exhibit you can listen to while visiting but it’s still just cool to step in and think about what school would’ve been like for the 30 kids (spanning seven grades) attending the small school house.

The school was open to visit before the actual ranch opened so it’s a nice way to kill some time if you arrive early. (You’ll find the entrance to the school in the back.)

Junction School

Johnson Family Cemetery (LBJ’s grave)

Shortly after you enter the ranch, you’ll come across the LBJ birthplace on your right and then you’ll see the Johnson Family Cemetery on your left.

The cemetery is private property so you’re not allowed to enter but you can view the gravesite of Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson from the exterior.

They have the two most prominent gravestones so they are very hard to miss.

The wall enclosing the cemetery was built in 1946 by Frank Seaward, a rock mason from Stonewall. It was meant to give identity to the cemetery but also to counteract effects of flooding from the Pedernales River.

Interestingly, if it weren’t for the flooding river, this cemetery might not exist.

The first person to be buried here was LBJ’s great grandmother, Priscilla Buntonin in 1905. And the reason why they chose the spot was because they could not cross the flooded river and get to a different cemetery.

The visit to the cemetery was particularly interesting to us because it had only been a couple of months since we visited JFK’s grave in Washington DC and the two gravesites are vastly different.

Related: 16 JFK Assassination Related Sites in Dallas/Fort Worth

LBJ's grave

After stopping by the cemetery, you will continue on Park Road until you take a right on Bailey Road which takes you around the airstrip located in the middle of the ranch.

Along this road, you’ll find a lot of different interpretive panels that you can stop at to learn about LBJ’s legacy and how certain features on the ranch like the river may have influenced some of his policies.

There are a couple of stops along the way like the Showbarn but we did not stop and linger at any of the spots until we got near the JetStar.

Tip: At some point, be sure to play “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” by B. J. Thomas, a song Johnson was known to listen to as he drove around his ranch in his Lincoln.

JetStar (Air Force “One-Half”)

After making your way around the airstrip you’ll then get into the area where all of the interesting things can be found.

One of the most interesting attractions here is “Air Force 1/2.”

This plane is one of several JetStars that LBJ flew in during his presidency.

This particular plane was acquired by the NPS in 2010 after it was found at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base boneyard in Tucson, Arizona. After it was retired, it had been sitting in the desert for over two decades.

"Air Force 1/2."
“Air Force 1/2.”

These jets were small enough to land on the airstrip and could be used to go directly from Washington to the ranch.

The “real” Air Force One was a 707 that was just too big for the ranch’s landing strip.

So when the 707 was used they would typically land in San Antonio’s Randolph Air Force Base or Austin’s Bergstrom Air Force Base and then make their way to the ranch via helicopter on Marine One or use the JetStar.

What’s interesting is that you can actually step inside and view the JetStar’s interior (from behind a panel of plexiglass).

One can only imagine the type of discussions and decisions that took place in this tight cabin. Oh, to be a fly on the fuselage….

Airplane Hangar Visitor Center

This is one of those national park sites where you really want to take a little bit of time to check out the Visitor Center which is located next to the JetStar.

In the Airplane Hangar Visitor Center, you can find out more about the ranch and visit with some friendly Park Rangers who are very informed about the history of the venue.

You can also check out some interesting artifacts like LBJ’s get up and the pen he used to sign some big education bills. There are also a few rooms that tell more of the LBJ story.

The visitor center opens about an hour after the ranch so you can always start exploring the facilities nearby before it opens.

I would recommend picking up a map at the visitor center though because it will help you navigate through all the different buildings in this section of the park.

Tip: There is an additional visitor center at the intersection of Ladybird Lane and Avenue G in Johnson City, TX.

The “Texas White House”

The LBJ Ranch House or the “Texas White House” is the focal point of the entire ranch.

The initial structure, which comprises the limestone wall you’ll see on one side of the house, was built by a German immigrant, William “Polecat” Meier in 1894.

Then in 1909 LBJ’s aunt and uncle, Frank and Clarence Martin, bought the property and added the central portion of the house.

About 30 years later, Johnson purchased it from his aunt along with 240 acres.

As Johnson climbed the political ladder, more features were added to the house including office facilities and the pool out in front.

Today, it has a total of 8 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms.

During his presidency, LBJ spent a lot of time at the ranch house and often had leaders from around the globe come through as well.

In fact, it was at this very ranch where in 1963 JFK was supposed to stay the night after his visit to Dallas. The plan was for him to leave Dallas, go to Austin for a fundraising event, and then head over to the ranch.

You can see what the room JFK would’ve stayed in probably looked like in the photo below.

The Texas White House wasn’t just a funny name given to the building it was actually a functioning remote White House — a first of its kind.

LBJ felt more comfortable in his home state and utilized that comfort to his advantage when making deals and negotiating with other leaders from lawn chairs.

It’s estimated that during Johnson’s administration, the President spent approximately 25% of his time in office at the Texas White House (74 visits totaling 490 days).

Unfortunately, you can’t go inside for a tour right now because the building is undergoing a lot of work.

Sadly, it looks like it will be a couple of years before that work is completed so you’ll have to wait some time before getting inside.

In 1972 the Johnsons donated the Texas White House to the National Park Service, just a year before the death of LBJ. After that, Lady Bird Johnson would continue to live at the Ranch part time until her death in 2007.

Did you know? The oak trees found throughout the ranch are evergreen and some may be around 200 years old.

The Klein Shop

The Klein Shop was the maintenance shop for the ranch but now it’s where you can find several of LBJ’s favorite shiny cars from the 1960s.

You’ll find a few different cars but one of the most interesting is the 1962 “Amphicar” which is an amphibious automobile LBJ used to play some tricks on new visitors.

Be sure to hit the interactive exhibit to hear about how those tricks played out.

If you need to use the restroom, you can find a restroom in the back of the interior of the building.

The Friendship Stones

When notable guests came through the ranch, LBJ would sometimes have them leave a lasting impression by drawing their name into wet concrete.

These became known as the Friendship Stones.

For preservation, the original stones were kept in curatorial storage but the NPS has put some of the replicas on display in an area near the back of the ranch.

It’s in this little corner where you can find big names like John F Kennedy, J Edgar Hoover, John Glenn, and dozens of others.

The barbecue grove

LBJ was known for throwing down some huge barbecue bashes by the river.

These were lively events where hundreds of guests dined on barbecued ribs or brisket smoked over pits, as live music filled the air under the oak trees.

Johnson found this to be one of the best ways to get people together and allow them to enjoy themselves. In fact, JFK was supposed to attend one of these major barbecue bashes after his visit to Dallas.

Apparently, every now and again they actually do have a barbecue on site which I think is super cool. I would certainly pay a pretty penny for that experience.

Other places to check out include:

Final word

We visited the ranch on a long drive from Austin to El Paso where we ended up at a hotel that LBJ stayed at.

To be honest I was not expecting much.

But once we entered the ranch and started to gain a better understanding of LBJ and his history, the ranch started to get interesting.

Then, after checking out the presidential jet and other sites like the Texas White House, the car collection, etc., I really got a sense of the history of this place and realized that this is actually quite a hidden gem.

For those reasons, I think the LBJ Ranch is definitely a worthy stop if you are ever in the Austin or San Antonio area.

Hotel Paso Del Norte, Autograph Collection Review (El Paso)

The Autograph Collection by Marriott is a “soft brand” with a number of iconic historical properties and one of these is the ornate Hotel Paso Del Norte located in El Paso, Texas.

On a recent road trip across the vast state of Texas, we decided to give this property a shot. In this review, I’ll cover everything you need to know about the property.

Booking Hotel Paso Del Norte

This hotel stay came at the very end of a two week long road trip across the state of Texas where we were visiting family and also documenting sites related to the JFK assassination.

Interestingly, El Paso actually had a key site that I did not know about until we stumbled upon it: the Hotel Cortez.

Located just a block away from the Hotel Paso Del Norte, it was in this building that JFK met with others in the summer of 1963 and made the decision to come back to visit in November which would be when the assassination took place in Dallas.

The Hotel Cortez.

We paid cash for this booking and earned 5,278 points for the stay. The nightly rate was $175 and valet parking was only $25 per night.

The Hotel Paso Del Norte is currently a category four which in my opinion is a steal because staying here for 25,000 points per night is definitely a bargain.

Location overview: Downtown El Paso

Hotel Paso Del Norte is located in the center of Downtown El Paso.

It’s located right by a number of big attractions including:

  • Abraham Chavez Theatre
  • El Paso Convention And Performing Art Center
  • El Paso Museum of Art
  • San Jacinto Plaza
  • Southwest University Park
  • El Paso Museum of History

We were only here for one night and limited our dining options to those inside the hotel so we didn’t get a chance to really explore nearby restaurants. However, it did look like there were quite a few options.

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Opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1912, the Hotel Paso Del Norte is an extremely historic hotel.

The original vision of the property came from a prominent local businessman, Zack White, and he intended to create a “first-class hotel that would attract people to the Southwest.”

It was super expensive to build back in the day ($1.5 million) in part because it was so ornate but also because it was designed to be structurally sound enough to endure earthquakes.

It’s a hotel that through the decades many US presidents have stayed at (FDR, George Bush, Hoover, etc.) along with countless influential figures and celebrities.

Interestingly, LBJ also stayed at this hotel and we were visiting his ranch in the Texas Hill Country earlier in the morning the day we checked in. Pretty cool.

Given all the notable people that stayed at this property, it’s no surprise that the property, once called the “Showplace of the Southwest,” was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 5, 1979.

Hotel Paso Del Norte El Paso

In 1986, a 17-story tower was aded on the north side of the hotel, giving the hotel a much more prominent appearance.

The property recently underwent a major renovation when it joined the Autograph Collection in October of 2020.

We had only stayed at one Autograph Collection property (the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas) so it was exciting to try another location and see what it had to offer.

Hotel Paso Del Norte El Paso


Check in was truly a delightful experience.

Very friendly staff greeted us at the entrance to assist us with unloading our luggage and putting it on a luggage cart.

As we entered the hotel, I was thoroughly impressed with the beautiful birdcage light fixtures and grand staircase.

At the check-in desk, we were offered waters and champagne which we decided to partake in.

According to some, this is a “4 1/2 star hotel” which I don’t think I had ever seen before.

Although I will say with that frame of reference, the designation did makes sense to me by the end of the stay.

The staff confirmed that we would have a complimentary breakfast due to Marriott Titanium status and they also issued us a $10 food and beverage credit which we would end up using at the restaurant.

We were then shown to the elevator which at the time was getting work done.

This would mean that we would end up using the service elevator half the time which honestly I thought was cool because it gave us a bit of a behind the scenes look at the hotel.

After doing so much research on the 13th floor at hotels, I thought it was pretty funny that we were finally given a room on the 13th floor and at that it was room number 13.

The room 

Our room was a spacious king room with a great view.

Hotel Paso Del Norte El Paso king room

The views especially came alive at sunrise.

The bed and bedding were very comfortable and I had a great night’s sleep on our last night in Texas.

You’ll definitely feel the Southwest-El Paso vibes when you stay at this hotel, as it is hard to ignore the floor to ceiling map of El Paso behind your headboard and Southwest accents found throughout the room.

Personally, I love when hotels exude some type of distinct personality and that was the case with the Hotel Paso Del Norte. Everything down to the robes had a bit of Southwest flair to it.

On each side of the bed you could find a nightstand with a lamp. Each nightstand had two outlets and two USB ports although only one outlet worked on my side of the bed. That was all I needed those since now I use a multi port charger for scenarios just like this.

One thing that I really liked about this hotel is that it really knows how to brand itself. You’ll see the name all over the place including on the custom stationary, the phone, room key, water bottles, etc.

On the other side of the bed you’ll find the alarm clock and remote control.

When I wasn’t using my multi-port charger, I simply utilized a USB condom to charge my device without worry.

There is a decent sized desk facing the TV for you to get some work done. You’ll also find outlets and USB ports on the desk, along with one of those old-school lamps.

In the corner of the room you’ll find a nice chair along with a small table and lamp. I took a couple of conference calls here and was able to relax and enjoy the view while taking care of some business.

Next to the entrance of the room, there was a cabinet with a mini fridge, coffee maker, and a couple of bottles of hotel-branded water. This property is one of the few that I’ve ever seen offer chamomile tea in the room which was a nice surprise as a big tea drinker.

Once again, more solid branding.

At one point, we requested four more water bottles and they brought them up properly without any questions which was just another instance of great service during our stay.

Next to the mini fridge cabinet you will find the wardrobe with an iron, iron board, safe, and a very interesting Southwest style robe.

Related: Are Hotel Coffee Makers Safe & Clean? (YIKES!)

Overall, the room, while offering a unique type of Southwest Texan charm, did not have that five star feel to it which is why I think the 4.5 star hotel rating is probably pretty accurate.

The bathroom was spacious and modern. There were no issues with water temperature, water pressure, toiletries, etc.


The hotel has a few different dining options.

  • Sabor Cocina / Tequileria / Panaderia
  • 1700° (steakhouse)
  • El Mirador
  • The Dome Bar
  • Dulce

Although we did not order one of the pre-prohibition style cocktails, we did check out The Dome Bar which was truly a gorgeous setting with a Tiffany-style, stained glass dome over twenty-five feet in diameter.

It’s truly a sight to behold and they also serve up lite American bites so even if you don’t drink you can enjoy a light meal down there.

We were not able to try out 1700° which is the highly rated steakhouse but we did enjoy a meal at Sabor Cocina.

We tried out two appetizers: guacamole and the tuna tartare. We were not feeling the tuna tartare (the restaurant happily took it off our bill) but the guacamole was fantastic and had a nice little kick to it.

We also ordered a pizza which was extra cheesy and delicious, especially at the end of such a long road trip.

There’s also the coffee shop: Dulce. It’s a bakery café and gelateria offering barista-quality coffees and fresh baked goods. You can also grab pre-made salads, sandwiches, and house-made Gelato.


The breakfast at this hotel is definitely a highlight. If you are Marriott Platinum or above you can enjoy a complimentary breakfast buffet.

(Apparently, the hotel offers a pretty amazing Sunday brunch every week and for $39 you can enjoy the buffet plus unlimited mimosas and Bloody Mary’s.)

The buffet had a lot of options including things I rarely ever see at a hotel buffet like fried chicken and waffles.

Gym & Pool

The gym is located up on the 10th floor and is a very nice looking gym with plenty of cardio equipment and free weights.

Hotel Paso Del Norte El Paso gym

I really love hotel gyms with great views and this gym does not disappoint, especially from the treadmills. You should have a great view of the sunrise (if you are okay with hitting the gym that early).

The gym has plenty of towels in it as well as lots of water bottles.

Hotel Paso Del Norte El Paso gym

The rooftop terrace pool is another highlight of the hotel. It’s not huge but the downtown views (with mountain backdrops) are amazing and I’m pretty sure it’s a heated pool.

Hotel Paso Del Norte El Paso pool

The pool is connected to the terrace that also is part of the rooftop bar, El Mirador. So you can relax out here in the evenings and take in a pretty awesome view of downtown El Paso. There’s a spa and cigar shop up there as well.

Something that is kind of crazy about this property is that in 1914, it was popular for people to watch firefights between the revolutionaries and the Mexican Army from this terrace.

You can only imagine the type of sights and sounds spectators witnessed from up here.

The rooftop bar El Mirador, which serves tapas, was not open during the morning when we visited the terrace so I was only able to snap a photo from the outside. But it has this really cool speakeasy type of feel to it from what I can tell.

Final word

Overall, I was a major fan of this property. It’s a great addition to the esteemed Autograph Collection and the fact that it is a category four is also fantastic. The service never let me down and the views and facilities were definitely on point so I would recommend this hotel to anyone going through El Paso.

The Coffee Mugg (Harry Potter Cafe in Corpus Christi) Review [2022]

We’ve had the chance to visit some pretty cool Harry Potter destinations like the Warner Bros. Studios in London and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, Florida.

Those are must see destinations for Harry Potter fans but there is also something uniquely special about those hole in the wall Harry Potter spots like The Coffee Mugg in Corpus Christi.

Below, I’ll give you an idea of what it’s like visiting The Coffee Mugg, a must-stop destination in Corpus Christi for all Harry Potter fans.

What is The Coffee Mugg?

The Coffee Mugg is a Harry Potter inspired coffee shop located in Corpus Christi. It’s full of memorabilia and references to the Harry Potter movies and books and serves up aptly named drinks and tasty treats.

Opened in 2018, it’s a fun destination for Harry Potter fans of all ages (including those of the non-coffee drinking variety).

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Where is the Coffee Mugg located?

The Coffee Mugg is located at 1112 Morgan Ave, Corpus Christi, TX 78404 near Downtown Corpus Christi. Look for the Platform 1112 and you’ll know you’re there.

During the week they are open from 6 AM to 2 PM but on the weekends they open from 8 AM to 5 PM. Hours may be subject to change.

Tip: Be sure to go around the side of the building and get a photo below the “I <3 Coffee” sign.

Inside The Coffee Mugg

The Coffee Mugg is a relatively small coffee shop but it is filled to the brim with Harry Potter vibes and energy.

Right off the bat, I could tell this coffee shop meant business with its love for all things Harry Potter based solely on the attention to detail.

Outside, there is a “Platform 1112” address marker and when visiting during Christmas we saw a “Happy Christmas” sign outside, a subtle nod to the English lingo.

It truly is all of the little things that set businesses like this apart from others.

As soon as you walk in you may notice four different seating areas all coordinated to the colors of the four Harry Potter houses: Gryffindor, Raven Claw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin.

If you haven’t been sorted by the Sorting Hat yet make sure you take care of that before you visit.

Related: Hocus Pocus Filming Sites in Salem, MA Guide 

Coffee Mugg Harry Potter Cafe in Corpus Christi

Throughout the coffee shop, you’ll find tons of random Harry Potter memorabilia and much of it has been donated by community members.

In fact, the coffee shop fell on hard times during the outbreak of the pandemic and it had to shut down temporarily.

When the owner returned, the espresso machine was failing until someone stepped up and practically donated an espresso machine to keep things running.

That tells you a lot about the café and what it means to the people in the area.

And all the support comes as no surprise.

In the past, the coffee shop has advertised itself as “a safe place for area children and teens who might be considered homeless or runaways.”

They also partnered with the Children’s Center, a non-profit organization that operates as a Runaway and Homeless Youth Program.

So they’ve been busy doing all they can to offer locals and visitors a slice of Hogwarts but also doing some real good in the community.

Coffee Mugg Harry Potter Cafe in Corpus Christi

As you take a look around the shop, you constantly discover cool new items like this small wand collection on the wall.

Coffee Mugg Harry Potter Cafe in Corpus Christi

One of my favorite items in the coffee shop had to be the Wizard’s Chess board which has chess pieces modeled after the actual pieces in the movie when Ron gets knocked the f*** out on his Knight.

Coffee Mugg Harry Potter chess board

Another really cool piece on the wall is the framed “Always” spectrogram of Snape’s voice – taken from a pivotal moment that defined the entire Harry Potter series.

They also have a collection of random board games that you can pass time with including a trivia set of the Harry Potter movies.

You can find some merchandise like stickers, clothing items, and of course it wouldn’t be the Coffee Mugg without some actual mugs for sale.

Related: Salem Witch Trials Historical Sites To Visit (Guide)

Coffee Mugg Menu

You’ve got a lot of options at the Coffee Mugg.

They put a lot of attention to detail in the menu item names like the “No-Maj” for the Americano which references the term for Muggles used in the US according to Fantastic Beasts.

It also looks like they often introduce new items around different seasons so you can probably always expect to find something new. For a closer look as to how many Galleons you’ll be dropping check out the menu here.

If you’re like me and you don’t drink coffee you might want to take a look at the non-coffee items.

As of December 2021, they don’t serve up any teas but you can choose from items like the Basic Witch, Goblin Juice, and Gin Weasley.

I went with the Basic Witch that was basically a non-alcoholic rendition of “butter beer” with cream soda and butterscotch. It tasted like an ultra creamy version of cream soda and if you like butter scotch you will probably love it.

The Basic Witch.

If you’re in the mood for some food, they have cookies, brownies, and muffins, many of which pay tribute to Harry Potter in some way. The cookies and brownies looked pretty big and tasty so make sure you have plans to work those calories off… perhaps with some afternoon quidditch?

The woman working the coffee shop was extremely friendly and helped to create a nice atmosphere inside the cafe. It’s pretty evident that the venue places high value on creating good vibes which I really appreciated.

Final word

The Coffee Mugg is a very well done Harry Potter inspired coffee shop. Not only is it a great idea in theory but it’s actually well executed.

It’s obvious that The Coffee Mugg has a lot of support from the local community and that does not surprise me with the attention to detail that the place offers to guests and everything they’ve helped the community with in the past.

For anyone remotely interested in Harry Potter I would say this is a must stop in Corpus Christi!

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