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Rita Cook – Guest Contributor
Oct 4 @ 14:00
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If you are off work and have an extra day for the upcoming Columbus Day holiday, or even if you are looking for an easy weekend jaunt here are four diverse destinations just a few hours from Dallas, but with an entirely different vibe.

Waco

Just a short jaunt south on I35, the City of Waco has been making a name for itself for a number of years now. While many folks head shopping in the downtown area, there is also a real find at Waco’s Mammoth Site. 

It was back in 2015 that the Mammoth Site in Waco became a National Monument. What was discovered there changed the landscape of the area and made the City of Waco, Baylor University, and the Waco Mammoth Foundation proud.   

The site is five acres located on over 100 acres of wooded land on the Bosque River. It is here that you will find the nation's first and only recorded discovery of a nursery herd of Pleistocene mammoths. Visitors get a good look at the fossil remains of 24 Columbian mammoths and other Ice Age animals. The Columbian Mammoths known as Mammuthus columbi lived during the Pleistocene Epoch age about 2.5 million years to 10,000 years ago and were not only one of the largest mammals to have lived during this time, but they were as big as 14 feet in height and weighed up to 20,000 pounds. 

Change gears after your history lesson and try some shopping at Magnolia Market at the Silos. It’s an old Cottonseed Mill and yes, it is the place that is so well-known now thanks to Chip and Joanna Gaines and their HGTV show Fixer Upper. There are all kinds of shopping opportunities, games, a garden with a wooden teepee for children and diverse food trucks.

Austin

Austin’s Hotel Van Zandt opened in November of last year and is definitely worth a weekend trip. Located in the city’s hip Historic Rainey Street District, Hotel Van Zandt is the perfect “home sweet home” for visitors wanting a weekend away from home.

Hotel Van Zandt’s name is loosely drawn from its historic Texas muse, Isaac Van Zandt, The Republic of Texas Ambassador to the U.S. The name also pays homage to the Ambassador’s third great-grandson, Townes Van Zandt, who left his mark on Texas music history with emotionally-charged songs that have inspired generations of musicians.

Hotel Van Zandt is designed to deliver a refined riff on Austin’s world-famous music, entertainment and arts scene. From the décor to the musical playlists to the food you will know you are in Austin. The music changes depending on the mood of the day and you don’t want to miss Geraldine’s, the hotel’s restaurant. This restaurant was named after Rainey Street’s famous former resident, Geraldine the guinea fowl. The menu is contemporary Austin with a cocktail program, daily live music and breathtaking views of Lady Bird Lake.

Mineral Wells

West of Dallas/Fort Worth you will find a little town about an hour and a half’s drive that boasts the states only crazy water supply and a haunted hotel.

You will definitely want to check out the Crazy Water Bath House and try a 20-minute soak in the magic water. It’s the same thing folks used to do a hundred years ago when visiting and today it’s still a big draw. In fact, the healing waters were discovered in the mid-1800s and as news spread about the “healing” people began to flock to Mineral Wells for all sorts of ailments.

Also in Mineral Wells you will find the 14-story, now defunct, Baker Hotel. The hotel is a reminder that Mineral Wells reigned as Texas’ go-to health resort back in the day.  The hotel is undergoing a major renovation with no opening date, but it’s worth a visit. Be sure to ask about the ghost’s stories, of which there are a few.

Round Rock

If you are interested in an old town feel and are into antiques then the little town of Round Rock might be just up your alley. The town is also known for its leather goods and locally made accessories. If you are interested in buying local you will want to visit a shop called Stash where local products are sold.

About three hours south of Dallas, Round Rock is also known for a strong art scene and excellent collection of art sculptures. There are over 20 art sculptures in Round Rock all on loan from regional artists and located in the Downtown area as well as Prete and Centennial Plazas.