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Top Texas City for 1st timer?

I am considering at 4 day trip to Texas and have never been before. Money is no object, but wondering if you had to choose the best city for food and restaurant scene in Texas out of Houston, Dallas or Austin, which would you stay in and why?
Thanks in advance.

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  1. I have lived in or near all 3, and I give the nod to Austin. You can be well fed in all 3, but you can't eat all day, and Austin would be the most fun for 4 days. Also, as far as a newcomer navigating around, Austin is a nice manageable size city. Metro Dallas and Houston are each about the size of Rhode Island. Any must-have food items?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      OP said food and restaurant scene, if that's it then it's Houston. A day trip to Galveston is wonderful this time of you. Say Veggo, I know you from getting beat up on that other board. I tried to chip in but...........

      1. re: James Cristinian

        Good point, James, and I agree. While all three are interesting, Houston has a big edge.

        A couple of notes for the OP, you say money is no object - are you going to have a car or depend on taxis? Houston's (and DFW's) sprawl may be a factor and I don't have any idea what kind of taxi service is available in Austin, but public transit is not going to be much help in any of these cities. If you have a car then a day trip (or day/night trip) to SA would be an option. There isn't much reason culinarily to go to Galveston.

        Also, since the Texas board was split several of us from Houston still visit this board but few people from Dallas or Austin do. You might try posting on those boards for more viewpoints and certainly when you make your selection, post on the local board for more recommendations of venues.

        And it's off topic and I'm not trying to pick a fight but, yes, SA is the # 1 tourist destination in Texas (the Alamo and Seaworld) but not everybody thinks Austin is the place they'd want to live, certainly not me, absolutely no way.

    2. You didn't mention San Antonio but for decades the mantra has been that San Antonio is the best Texas city to visit but Austin is the best Texas city in which to live.

      We all love Austin though. And while it's very clearly not the best food town in the state (Houston wins that hands down) Austin's music/nightlife scene more than makes up for it, especially if you're young.

      1. Yes, what are some of your other interests, after food & dining, and what kinds of food do you love? I live in Austin but my first thought was Houston, especially if you like art museums/galleries. If you like twangy music, definitely come to Austin. If you like history & architecture, it's San Antonio. And Dallas ain't bad, either. Each has such a different feel. I'll look forward to following this thread and hearing about your trip.

        1 Reply
        1. re: storefronteats

          Houston also has resident companies in all four performing arts, which only a handful of cities have, plus more downtown theater seats than anywhere except NYC. Dinner and a show?

        2. Austin ..of course..it is just the best
          best food
          best music
          best people
          beautiful Hill Country
          it is the best

          4 Replies
          1. re: girloftheworld

            I wish Houston had some hills, but the food scene is more diverse and has better depth. How do you quantify better people? Remember you must factor in all the State Legislators that live there for the better part of a year, with out regard to political affiliations. This really ups the sleaze factor. Music, I've got an OLD Neil Young Austin City Limits DVD that alone gives the edge to Austin. Neil Young and the International Harvesters to be exact. Biased nod goes to Houston. Edit, this just in, we have East and West Mount Houston roads. A mountain tops (pun) a hill any day, if we can just find it.

            1. re: James Cristinian

              well,in interest of full discloser I am unabashedly biased...but I must admit with our latest influx of newbies who have not assmliated to the Austin ways "better people" might be a tie with uptight frantic less friendly atittude of some of our neighbouring cities. ACL fest, SXSW, fest, Austin Opera, austin Ballet, several semi- preof theater companies as well as independent films.. the Blanto art muesum... and the french forigne conslante( ok that last one is a joke)

              1. re: girloftheworld

                I know you're biased and some and I. I wouldn't live in a place if I wasn't proud of it.

              2. re: James Cristinian

                True, but your "this really ups the sleaze factor' comment gave me good laugh,

            2. If food is your top priority, definitely Houston. Unbeatable for diversity and breadth of options. Just about every ethnic cuisine you can think of, and everything from basic burgers and tacos to the fanciest trendy stuff. And much of it located near cultural activities. However, as others have mentioned, you'll need a car to take full advantage. Check out the Houston board for lots of discussions on specific types of food and restaurants. Enjoy your visit, and please report back to us!

              1. Been thinking about you, hungryabbey, and I think which Texas city you should visit depends to some extent upon where you are coming from. If you're a resident of, say, New York City, or Chicago, you're probably not coming to Texas in search of world-class museums, like Dallas and Houston both have. If you're coming from the San Francisco Bay area, you're probably not hoping for great Asian food, like Houston offers. If you're coming from San Diego, you probably won't care about seeing our zoos, or Sea World. If you're coming from Montana, you probably won't be interested in driving over to Bandera for a little authentic "duding."

                But, given the limited information we have about you, and advice I've given visitors to Texas in the past, this is what I think:

                Unless you are coming from some small town somewhere and would love to spend a little time in a big city, going to the theater, museums, large upscale and famous department stores, etc., I'd suggest you narrow your decision to Austin and San Antonio. For one thing, even though I live in Houston and love it here, and there's much to recommend it to a visitor, including unbeatable cuisine, Nasa, etc., it's been my experience throughout lo these many years that big cities are, for the most part anyway, well, big cities. And there're a LOT alike. You might really enjoy downtown Houston, or Dallas, but you won't get much of a "flavor" of Texas.

                As opposed to San Antonio and Austin.

                In Austin, I, personally, would recommend you stay at the Driscoll Hotel. It's Austin's historic hotel, right downtown in the heart of the action, and a fine sight to see all by itself. Do go to Esther's Follies, Zilker Botanical Garden, Barton Springs, Bob Bullock Museum, Johnson Library, and the State Capitol. There's a company that offers several tours of Austin, including "Ghost Tours," a tour of the Austin sites that are said to be haunted. I think the walking tour is the most fun, and I've been on it several times, and have taken out-of-town visitors on it as well. For food, there's plenty in Austin to intrigue you for your four days, including our legendary barbecue. There are several excellent barbecue options in Austin and surrounding areas. A quick search for "barbecue" on these boards will lead you to several informative discussions. If you decide upon Austin, there is a separate Austin board, chock full of suggestions and recommendations for tasty eats and you can further refine your search there.





                And again, I'd advise you not to discount San Antonio. If money were no problem, I'd stay at one of the luxury hotels on the Riverwalk, like the La Mansion.

                I'd stroll along the River, Remember the Alamo, shop at the Mercado and take a day trip out to the hill country.


                9 Replies
                1. re: Jaymes

                  I love the piano bar on the mezzanine with a cognac after dinner at the Driskill!

                  1. re: Jaymes

                    My husband always insists on a having a drink at the Hotel Menger bar with a silent toast to the Texas Rangers.

                    1. re: miss_belle

                      I love the Menger; my parents honeymooned there back in 1941. And historic bars don't get any better than that one, in my view.

                    2. re: Jaymes

                      Based on her profile, I think they're coming from Toronto.,

                      1. re: DoobieWah

                        So, Doobs, where do you think she should visit for her first time in Texas?

                        Clearly the "food and restaurant scene" is better in Houston than anywhere else in Texas, but she's only staying for four days. Austin has plenty of really tasty food to last for only four days.

                        And you've got to admit that it's a lot more "Texan."


                        1. re: Jaymes

                          I don't know Jaymes, Houston is the oil bidness capitol of the free world. How Texan is that? Besides, I don't know that she's coming at all, have we heard from her?

                          1. re: James Cristinian

                            and Austin is the Capitol of Texas..
                            Bob Bullock -center has a the wholllllllle history of Texas on three floors

                          2. re: Jaymes

                            Doobs loves living in Houston on two different threads.

                            1. re: James Cristinian

                              Austin. (And Jaymes is right on with the Driskill. My favorite hotel in the world.)

                              Basically, four days isn't enough for Houston.

                              Midtown maybe.

                              But not Houston.


                      2. PS - Forgot to tell you about something very important for a first-time visitor to Austin. First day, go get yourself some boots. First night, wear them to go boot-scootin' at the Broken Spoke. Here is a little more info from one of the websites that give advice to folks that attend SXSW, one of Austin's many festivals.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Jaymes

                          And so I tried to add that link from my phone late last night. Doesn't seem to have worked. Try this link to an article about, not only the best places to buy boots, but where to pick up some other cool duds:


                          In fact, you might not have heard about SXSW, but it's a pretty big deal and if you decide to visit Austin, you can look online for more information for our hippest visitors if you use that SXSW tag.

                          1. re: Jaymes

                            I dunno, Jaymes - ponying up for a pair of Lucchese's for a night of Cotton Eye Joe at the Spoke is a little steep....:)
                            BTW, my Lucchese's are 33 years old, and they just keep gettin' better. They survived the Asleep at the Wheel days at the Spoke.

                            1. re: Veggo

                              So, after 33 years, I guess you'd say you damn straight got yo' money's worth, right?

                              Are your knees holding up as well?

                              1. re: Jaymes

                                Right knee is a little squeaky from golf and skiing, but I can still slide and glide a line dance if I had to. It's all in the boots.