May 1, 2012

Touring Texas

It's no secret that I love getting out on the weekends to explore Austin with my little family. I subscribe to Free Fun in Austin and I have a Pinterest board dedicated to things I'd like to do in Austin. I feel fairly proud of how many fun things we've done here and, still, I don't think we've even scratched the surface. I love living somewhere with so much to do, especially when so much of it is free and outdoors.
Having a child has added a whole new array of things to do in the city. A couple of weeks ago, we headed out to explore a part of Zilker Park we'd never visited before.

If you're not familiar with Austin, Zilker Park is our version of Central Park. It's 351 acres of green space downtown and there are playgrounds, lakes/rivers, kite festivals, a train, Barton Springs (a warm-water natural springs), free theater in the spring and summer, holiday light displays and just about anything else you can imagine. There's a sculpture garden and a botanical garden. Any time we go down, it's filled with families, couples and individuals having picnics, running, playing Frisbee, or swimming. It is, simply, amazing.

Our destination was the Austin Nature and Science Center, which many of my friends have raved about, but I'd never actually been to. Like any good outing, it was free.

We parked along the road, just across from the lake, and walked into the park. Despite the perfect weather (not too hot, not too cold, sandals and short sleeves for everyone), the Center was very quiet and peaceful. There is a lot of greenery when you first enter and, even though you are right downtown, it feels extremely secluded.

 

Once you go through the information/display center (where there are lots of animal furs/bones/teeth/horns to touch and play with), you can go two ways. The first side is the wild animal section. I was under the impression that there were only about five animals, but there were many, many animals. We saw a coyote, a very fat bobcat, fish, turtles, snakes, foxes, raccoons, and then continued into the bird preserve where Ella couldn't get enough of spotting the owls, vultures and roadrunner. Plus it was mainly shady and there were benches to sit on. What more can you ask?



We circled back and went to the other side, where we walked around the large pond, identified animals on metal plaques (Ella made sure we named every. single. one) and then arrived at the crowning jewel of the Center -- the Dino pit! There are three huge sections of sandboxes with native Texas fossil copies buried in each one. The pits are full of shovels, brushes and other tools that you can use to dig them out. Half of it is in the shade, which is wonderful, and Ella had the time of her life digging. We won't talk about how much sand she had in her hair by the time we left.

 

Bart and I both commented that the next time someone with small children comes to visit, we will certainly return. It's closer than the zoo and free and just the right size for kids. And when you're tired of looking at animals, you can dig for dinosaur bones. How often do you get to say THAT?

When we walked back to the car, we crossed over to the lake side, let Ella dip her hands in the water and watched all the people boating on the water. Ella was so entranced that we determined we need to take her boating sometime soon.

And then, because no outing is complete without some food, we drove a couple of miles up to Hyde Park and had lunch at Dolce Vita. The service was ridiculously slow (we waited over half an hour for our sandwiches) but our food was incredible. Bart had a pesto and roasted turkey panini and I had a fresh mozzarella and pesto baguette with balsamic cream and spinach -- and our berry split was delicious. While we waited, we popped into the cheese shop next door (where Ella got a sticker) and we petted every dog within a quarter mile radius. It was delightful to try a new place and also to see all the neighborhood people enjoying their weekend (the two blocks have several restaurants, a laundromat and some stores).

Then we all came home and took naps. Because one has to work off three scoops of gelato somehow.
Also, the first thing Ella wanted to talk about when she woke up after her nap was brushing the dinosaur teeth in the fossil pit. I guess it was a hit!

$100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway

Travel Texas and BlogHer are sponsoring a great giveaway to one lucky reader. Please leave a comment telling me where you'd like to visit in Texas. You can request a free Texas Travel Guide from the TravelTex.com website where you can get lots of great ideas!
Rules:
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older.
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.
You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 5/1/2012-6/1/2012.
Be sure to visit the Discover Texas page on BlogHer.com where you can read about other bloggers' adventures and find more chances to win!

162 comments:

  1. San Antonio. My parents lived in Amarillo and I've been to Dallas and Austin but never San Antonio and it sounds interesting.

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  2. The picture of Ella pointing is KILLING me. She is so adorable

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    1. I'm an idiot. I forgot to follow directions. I would go to Austin to visit my brother and his family. I miss them!

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  3. I've often thought that Austin sounds like a great place to visit, and now someone I know has moved there, so I'd love to see it for myself.

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  4. I've never been to Texas, so pretty much anywhere would be a lot of fun! Austin sounds great though. :-)

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  5. My BFF and I have been planning a trip to Austin forever but it keeps getting delayed. I really really want to go!

    LOVE the pics of Ella. She is a doll!

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  6. I tweeted about it. :-)
    https://twitter.com/#!/faithsweetstyle/status/197359814874107904

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  7. I visited Houston as a child, but I've always wanted to see Austin. I've heard lots of good things about Austin.

    mami2jcn at gmail dot com

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  8. I would love to come visit Austin! Whenever my brother goes on dates with anyone from Texas, I always secretly hope they are from Austin so that if things work out then the reception would be there. So far it has only been fun dates and nothing more, but he is not married yet so it might still happen.

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  9. tweet:

    https://twitter.com/#!/mami2jcn/status/197364036533362688

    mami2jcn at gmail dot com

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  10. My parents just barely moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and I was convinced that they are allowed to live in Texas based largely on how much you love the state. If you weren't so sensible, I might have had reservations, but now, we're pretty thrilled for the chance to visit with them.

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  11. I'd like to visit Austin again...for obvious reasons :) we'll definitely have to hit up this part of zilker park next time we're there!

    And i love the pictures of Ella. She is such a doll!

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  12. I love the Nature and Science Center. This reminds me that we haven't been since Kate was born. She would love it!

    I'm still mad we haven't seen any of the art museums in Austin, so that's on my to do list. We went and saw art in San Antonio, but never here at "home."

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  13. I love to visit Austin - we're Dallas natives. Love your blog!

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  14. Oh Ella is such a cutie! I had never been to Texas until last fall, when my husband and I went to Fort Worth for a wedding. I LOVED it! But we were only there for a day and a half. So I'd love to go back to Fort Worth - it seemed like it had so much to offer!

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  15. i would like to visit Austin and check out all the parks and museaums.. :) i totally spelled that wrong OOPS :)

    vanitizebaby at yahoo dot com

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  16. tweet

    https://twitter.com/#!/MeandBells/status/197381921196617728

    vanitizebaby at yahoo dot com

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  17. I've been to Texas a few times, but never made it to the Alamo. I think that's kind of a necessary place to visit. I do love going to the Space Center at Houston, though :)

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  18. I really want to visit Hamilton Pools in Austin!

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  19. I would like to get out to West Texas and see Big Bend National Park. :)

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  20. I would love to visit Austin because I have a cute cousin there that wants to take my kids to brush the dinosaurs teeth!!

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  21. Austin! I'm from Dallas but Austin is my fave

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  22. My answer is obviously Austin so we can see all the cool things that YOU have seen... and to do that hamburger tasting. That still sounds like an awesome idea!

    jj

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  23. I would like to visit YOU in Texas. Obviously.

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  24. I want to visit the Dr. Pepper museum in Waco. It's on my list for this summer!

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  25. I've been wanting to get down to Galveston!

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  26. https://twitter.com/#!/akronugurl/status/197415296712196097

    freebiel0ve@yahoo.com

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  27. my babys teeth are coming soon

    freebiel0ve@yahoo.com

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  28. I want to go to any little town in the Hill Country: Fredricksburg, Gruene, Kerrville, etc!

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  29. I'd love to go to Austin to visit my best friend, a PhD student there. Have heard great things about the food, too :)

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  30. We loved living right outside Houston. One of our favorite (recurring) dates was dinner at the original Ninfa's, getting AMAZING ice cream at The Chocolate Bar, and relaxing at the free symphony at Herman Park.

    But honestly, if I had just one day, I'd head to SCHLITTERBAHN!!!

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  31. Oooo....I would love to go to Corpus Christi!

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  32. I would love to visit San Antonio!

    elena150980@yahoo.com

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  33. https://twitter.com/#!/ElenaIstomina/status/197430461084090368

    elena150980@yahoo.com

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  34. I have several friends in the DFW area and I would love to visit that area!
    sonyadmorris@gmail.com

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  35. tweet:
    https://twitter.com/#!/catholicfanatic/status/197433364431642624
    sonyadmorris@gmail.com

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  36. I really want to go to the Alamo, so...San Antonio it is for me!

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  37. I would love to see the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in addison. amypugmire@live.com

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  38. tweet. amypugmire@live.com
    https://twitter.com/#!/1amypugmire/status/197438380009734144

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  39. I noticed no one has said Lubbock. Haha. I would love to visit Austin because it sounds like it has everything that Lubbock doesn't (ie trees).

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  40. I noticed no one has said Lubbock. Haha. I would love to visit Austin because it sounds like it has everything that Lubbock doesn't (ie trees).

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  41. I noticed no one has said Lubbock. Haha. I would love to visit Austin because it sounds like it has everything that Lubbock doesn't (ie trees).

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  42. I have a friend in Austin, but I've never been, so that's probably where I'd choose.

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  43. Ella and Nat seriously need to be friends. My child has a serious obsession with both boats (discovered on our trip) and dogs, and Ella is one of the few toddlers who isn't twice his weight. Oh, and speaking of service? We waited three HOURS to finish our dinner in Sydney, and not because we were eating slowly. Australia has many amazing things, but service is not one of them.

    And I'd visit Austin, of course.

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  44. I love the dinosaur dig! I had no idea where that was. I'd love to visit Galveston again-this time overnight in a beach house. :)

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  45. I'd like to visit Corpus Christi.

    hewella1 at gmail dot com

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  46. For a few years now I've been saying that when I move it will be to Austin...but I've never even visited, so that's where I'd go!

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  47. I've never been to Texas but I'd love to go see the Alamo. I've heard such wonderful things about so many places in Texas that it was hard to narrow it down!

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  48. I would like to visit Plano and Dallas Area. We might be moving there... so I am very interested in visiting! :)

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  49. I'd love to visit Austin because I hear it's very similar culture-wise to Portland.

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  50. Galveston! I have a friend in the area I'd love to see!

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  51. Now, I want to come to Austin, too. If everyone who commented contacts you, you are going to be very busy. lol

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  52. I'd love to visit Austin for the music scene and amazing food.

    --Brandy
    fosterbrandy(at)msn(dot)com

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  53. I'd love to go back to Austin.

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  54. How fun! I totally want to visit Austin :)
    dmarie824 at aol dot com

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  55. Tweeted!
    https://twitter.com/#!/dmarie824/status/198158040921419776
    dmarie824 at aol dot com

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  56. I would like to visit Dallas.

    rhoneygtn at yahoo dot com

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  57. Buc Days Rodeo, Festival and Carnival in Corpus Christi sounds like fun. I think my kids would love it.

    Amy [at] utry [dot] it

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  58. tweeted about this giveaway: https://twitter.com/#!/uTry_it/status/198685402561921024

    Amy [at] utry [dot] it

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  59. i want to visit san anotonio~ Thanks for a super giveaway!
    My email: anashct1 [at] yahoo [dot] com

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  60. Tweeted:
    https://twitter.com/#!/anashct3/status/198748584563314688
    Thanks for the chance to win!
    email: anashct1 [at] yahoo [dot] com

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  61. I have wanted to go to Glen Rose, Texas. Dinosaur Valley State Park is located there (they have actual dinosaur tracks embedded in the rock) and there is a safari park that has lodging on site. My son would think it was the coolest trip ever without leaving the state!

    candyland121 at hotmail dot com

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  62. I tweeted:

    https://twitter.com/#!/candyland0606/status/198764984635899905

    candyland121 at hotmail dot com

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  63. By the way, Did you see the Salamader building and Trails House? The Trail House is a nature preschool enrichment program. My daughters attended the preschool and it's amazing. The teachers are wonderful. T

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  64. Marfa!! Gotta see what everybody raves about!

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  65. I'd love to visit Austin because i hear that it has a very funky vibe...love that.

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  66. I'm dying to take the kids to Big Bend, but now that it's getting hot again Port Aransas looks like a more reasonable destination.

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  67. I really want to go to Austin
    tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

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  68. tweet
    https://twitter.com/#!/ChelleB36/status/199354229679329280
    tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

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  69. I would go to Amarillo, mostly because I'm going there in 4 weeks as apart of our cross country move to North Carolina. I've never been to Texas, so this will be my first experience in the state. Let's hope that it's a good one, even if it's only 14 hours long!

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  70. I'd like to visit Houston.
    tcarolinep at gmail dot com

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  71. https://twitter.com/#!/tcarolinep/status/199377478878380032

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  72. corpus christi to visit a friend

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  73. I'd go to the texas air and space museum. some of our relatives went last year and it looked awesome!

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  74. Austin for sure. I am weird, and would love to meet and hang out with my people! ;)

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  75. Oo off to check out your pinterest board! I'd love to win!

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  76. Would love to check out Austin! We just moved in the DFW area.

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  77. i want to visit San Antonio
    thepryfamily@gmail.com

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  78. https://twitter.com/#!/thepryfamily2/status/200270795887476736
    thepryfamily@gmail.com

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  79. id like to travel to san antonio! scg00387 at yahoo dot com

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  80. https://twitter.com/#!/DesMoinesDealin/status/200416833331937281 scg00387 at yahoo dot com

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  81. My four year old would love the dinosaur pit!

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  82. I would love to visit Austin for amazing food, great music and a great time!

    pokergrl8 at gmail.com

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  83. https://twitter.com/#!/aes529/status/201003493870419968

    pokergrl8 at gmail.com

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  84. Rio Grande Float Trips in Big Bend National Park Area! Every been water rafting???! =)

    kytah00@yahoo.com

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  85. 2nd entry tweet! https://twitter.com/#!/kytah00/status/201497266312331265

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  86. I'd like to visit Houston.
    chainmail (at)iwon (dot) com

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  87. I tweeted this
    https://twitter.com/#!/The_Sunshyn/status/201871791105388544
    chainmail (at)iwon (dot) com

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  88. I'd like to visit San Antonio.
    merleandtina@yahoo.com

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  89. https://twitter.com/#!/HappyTina0115/status/202043501712650240
    merleandtina@yahoo.com

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  90. Dallas

    karinaroselee at gmail dot com

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  91. https://twitter.com/#!/karinaroselee/status/202093549368520704

    karinaroselee at gmail dot com

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  92. i have family out there i wanna visit

    freebiel0ve@yahoo.com

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  93. https://twitter.com/#!/akronugurl/status/202107435295576064

    freebiel0ve@yahoo.com

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  94. I would love to visit Corpus Christi, where my husband spent much of his childhood. I've never been there!

    chambanachik@gmail.com

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  95. I would love to visit San Antonio! I
    Thanks for a chance to win and have a great day!
    kmassmanATgmailDOTcom

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  96. Would love to go back to Austin and San Antonio.

    wolverina401 at gmail dot com

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  97. I'd like to tour the Hill Country

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  98. Tweet
    https://twitter.com/#!/BBirdie2/status/203981013100138496

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  99. South Padre Island, i didn't even realize texas had any islands until i saw it online
    thismomwins@gmail.com

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  100. My town is the exact opposite; we have very few options for entertainment. Which is why I'd most love to visit your neck of the woods. Austin seems to be so family-friendly, while still rich in culture and foodie fun. It definitely tops my list!

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  101. i’d like visiting San Antonio

    debbiebellows (at) gmail (dot) com

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  102. tweeted here:

    https://twitter.com/bellows22/status/204750842287493121

    debbiebellows (at) gmail dot com

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  103. I would love to visit Dallas, where a couple of my cousins live! Thanks for the chance to win!

    gina.m.maddox (at) gmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  104. tweet-https://twitter.com/#!/CrazyItalian0/status/204958067727663105


    gina.m.maddox (at) gmail (dot) com

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  105. I'd like to visit fort worth to see the gardens, zoo, and shop. Ella's so adorable o_o Thanks for the giveaway.
    songyueyu at gmail

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  106. tweet: https://twitter.com/syytta/status/205541020258140160
    songyueyu at gmail

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  107. My son did his State project on Texas this year and desperately wants to go to San Antonio to visit the Alamo!

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  108. I would enjoy going to Old Town Spring!

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  109. tweet https://twitter.com/annedoggett/status/205831805721513984

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  110. I would visit Austin, because that is where you live.

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  111. I've always wanted to check out the RiverWalk in San Antonio (not very original, I know). I think it would be awesome to go to a UT football game too! (Don't tell my fellow Buckeye fans though!).

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  112. I'd love to go to the RiverWalk in San Antonio (not very original, I know) but a UT football would be awesome too! (Don't tell my fellow Buckeye fans though!).

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  113. San Antonio and the Cascade Caverns.
    But any place would do--I've never been to Texas.

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  114. Austin has always been on my list of places to visit in the U.S., I also have family in Dallas-Fort Worth which is also on my list of places to visit. The park sounds awesome!

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  115. I'd love to visit san antonio.
    feltyfun at gmail dot com

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  116. Austin seems like a great city, we'd love to visit!

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  117. San Antonio! I've been to Dallas and Austin but never any farther south.

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  118. There are so many places in Texas that I want to visit! Austin is at the top of my list... I'm a big music lover so I'd love to hit up SXSW at some point. I'm also a huge sports fan so I'd love to hit up a Rangers and a Cowboys game. And, as embarrassed as I am to admit this, after seeing Pee Wee's Big Adventure as a kid, I've always wanted to visit The Alamo! :)

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  119. I'd love to visit Austin or McKinney.

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  120. I'd love to visit Austin as we really enjoyed our 3 month stay there a few years back. I'd also love to visit some family who are living in Galveston or friends living in Dallas.

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  121. I think I had one too many crazy Texan roommates in college that sort of turned me off from the state as a whole. Reading your blog has made me not quite so anti-Texas as I used to be. So in honor of that, I would probably want to visit Austin :)

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  122. For touristy reasons I would love to visit the Alamo. My parents went a few years ago and loved it. For more practical reasons I would love to visit the small town of Vidor. I have cousins there who, evidently, have the funnest house ever. I'd love to finally see it!

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  123. Definitely Austin. Lived in San Antonio for several years and really enjoyed it. Time to get to Austin and go to SXSW.

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  124. I want to visit the Palo Duro Canyon in the panhandle. It's the largest canyon in the U.S. after the Grand Canyon.

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  125. I would go to Austin to visit you. You always come to me, so I would go to you for once. Plus, I've heard Austin is amazing!

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  126. I would love to visit the the Gulf of Mexico in Southern Texas!

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  127. I've always thought Austin looks fun!

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  128. I've never been to Texas, so I'd come to Austin and have you show me around! :)

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  129. For me it's a toss up- I would take Austin, so I could visit my friends, check on my rental house, and eat at Pok-e-jos and the Shady Grove. Or I would settle for Port Aransas, which is where we spent every Memorial Day and Labor Day while we were in Texas. We had some great times and made some great memories there. I LOVE TEXAS!

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  130. I want to go to Schlitterbahn! or however you spell it! :) Your little neck of the woods sounds fantastic too!

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  131. How did I miss this? Oh you KNOW I would come to Austin to see you. Hands down!

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  132. my tweet https://twitter.com/thismomwins2/status/206476515981017088
    thismomwins@gmail.com

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  133. I'd love to visit Austin or Dallas. I've only ever been to airports in Texas, so anywhere would be fun!

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  134. Austin! I miss it. Lived there for 9 years. Luckily, we have been back a few times since leaving 2 years ago. Hoping to get out there again this fall. Would love to go to ACL festival again. I wonder how the little girl would do there? She loves music but all the people, etc. Not to sure. Anyway, great giveaway!

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  135. I'd love to visit Austin!

    deeg131 at gmail dot com

    Thanks for the chance! :)

    ReplyDelete
  136. tweeted :) http://twitter.com/DeeGee13/status/206836902219874305

    deeg131 at gmail dot com

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  137. Austin is so much fun! I'd like to take a weekend and hang out in Fredericksburg. It looks like the perfect place for some relaxation.

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  138. I would like to visit Houston the biggest city in Texas and visit the 1940 Air Terminal Museum as well as the Bayou Bend Collection of the Fine Arts: 28-room Latin Colonial Structure.

    ctong2[at]gmail[dot]com

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  139. I tweeted about this giveaway: https://twitter.com/ctong2/status/206980912502673408

    ctong2[at]gmail[dot]com

    ReplyDelete
  140. There are so many places in Texas I'd love to visit - San Antonio, Galveston and of course Houston and Dallas.

    willitara [at] gmail [dot] com

    ReplyDelete
  141. The Alamo for sure. My husband is a history-buff and has said for years we have to visit. I'd love to see all the artifacts people have found.
    shel704 at aol dot com

    ReplyDelete
  142. https://twitter.com/auntiethesis/status/207362785313701888

    shel704 at aol dot com

    ReplyDelete
  143. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1943 to protect migratory birds! I would love love love to visit as I am an avid birder!!!
    Angie
    14earth at gmail dot com

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  144. I tweeted here: https://twitter.com/MsTofuFairy/status/207489146929950720
    Angie
    14earth at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  145. San Antonio (although I've heard wonderful things about Austin!). My husband might get moved there with the military next year so I'd love to check out a place where we might possibly live!

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  146. I'd like to go back to Austin and visit Zilker Park and the library. Or to Dallas/Ft. Worth and tour around.

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  147. I would like to visit Houston. My niece lives there and it would be a nice place to start.
    MCantu1019 at aol dot com

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  148. I've been to Dallas and San Antonio, but I think Austin would be fun to visit!

    ReplyDelete
  149. I'd like to visit Canton, TX. It has one of the largest flea markets in the United States!
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

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  150. I would love to visit the Alamo! sweepmorey at gmail dot com

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  151. tweeted https://twitter.com/mommysdizzy/status/208340993408372736

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  152. I would love to visit the San Antonio riverwalk, I've heard such great things about it.

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  153. I would love to visit the Dallas Fort Worth area and check out a Cowboys game!

    jfong1130 at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  154. I tweeted! https://twitter.com/jfong1130/status/208405341984137217

    jfong1130 at yahoo dot com

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  155. I love the beach so would love to visit Galveston.

    mybeachylife at gmail dot com

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  156. I’d like to take a trip to Galveston someday. Visiting the beach would be a cool experience.
    westiemks5@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  157. Tweeted:
    https://twitter.com/Pixel_Berry_Pie/status/208659413475672067
    westiemks5@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  158. I’d like to visit Austin, Texas to attend the SXSW festival.

    runningmatey at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  159. https://twitter.com/LuckyDuckyToo/status/208679526358728704

    runningmatey at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete

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