There’s something so special about the Gaylord Texan Resort that it’s hard to sum up how this one magical place makes you feel. If you’ve ever been in the Lone Star Atrium past the hotel lobby, you can attest to the awestruck wonder you feel the first time you see it. After watching fun television segments with fabulous PR Director Martha Neibling on the “Lonestar Christmas” spectacular, my husband asked to stay there for his birthday weekend. Truth be told, this was as much of a gift for me as it was for him! Visiting the Texan is one thing; staying there is another. When you hear people rave about the amazing hospitality and fun attractions, take note. They aren’t just blowing smoke.
To say that we loved our room was an understatement. The suite we were escorted to (by the friendly people at Celebrity Services…what a treat!) was one of the most beautiful hotel rooms I have ever been in. With panoramic views of the atrium and millions of twinkling lights, it was like staying at a posh hotel in the North Pole. (John Imaizumi, the brilliant General Manager of Gaylord Texan Resort has taken the hotel to “green” heights, making over eighty percent of its 1.5 million holiday lights LED. So cool!) From the jetted tub and steam shower to the lush linens, this room actually outdid our honeymoon suite.
Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to give the Relache Spa a try, we headed there for a relaxing couple’s massage. A 25,000 square foot European-inspired Spa to do nothing but be pampered in? Yes, please! An hour after our arrival, our tension-filled shoulders were relaxed, and we were reclining in the Couple’s Relaxation Area with snacks and hot coffee. The trained masseuses were as cordial and professional as they come, and so good at their jobs that I was afraid I wouldn’t have the willpower to leave. With the steam room and sauna at our fingertips, we indulged in those as well. The atmosphere is tranquil and pleasant, and doesn’t feel as if it’s smack in the middle of the most family-friendly hotel around. I’ve been to quite a few spas in my day, but Relache was certainly one of the best, hands down. (No pun intended….)
No stay at the Texan would be complete without a tour through the famous ICE! Exhibit and a shot at Kung Fu Panda Awesome Snow Tubing. This year, DreamWorks teamed up with Gaylord to bring a “Shrek the Halls” Christmas theme to the hotel. All the favorite characters from the Shrek movies are a part of the fun: Puss in Boots, Gingy, Shrek and Fiona, Donkey, and the beloved Kung Fu Panda. The ICE! Exhibit features 2 million pounds of hand-carved ice…not to mention more great photo op’s than you can shake a stick at. Our favorite was the Kung Fu Panda Awesome Snow Tubing: eight lanes of real Texas snow to sled down in giant inner-tubes! Though we were practically the only childless couple taking runs down the hill, it’s an impressive date idea if you’re looking for something creative and active. Just seeing the joy on the children’s faces around you is enough to get you in the Christmas spirit if the millions of lights and gorgeous decorations haven’t done so already.
Dinner is a must at the Gaylord Texan, and since it was a birthday celebration weekend, we chose the Old Hickory Steakhouse for some fine dining. The glowing buzz about Executive Chef Joanne Bondy is more than well-deserved. Her recipes are in many of the best cookbooks, and she has appeared on the Food Network, the CBS Early Show, and several PBS documentaries. Who doesn’t want their meal prepared by a celebrity chef? That night, her mashed potatoes were created from scratch, and the best tasting I’ve ever encountered. The Filet Mignon, the Lobster Tail, the Prime Rib….you really can’t go wrong with any of them under Bondy’s craftsmanship. Even in the smaller items, like the lobster bisque, her artistry is unmistakable. Besides the delicious food and impeccable service by our server, Al, a major highlight of the night was Bondy herself bringing out our dessert and singing “Happy Birthday”. If you have a reason to celebrate or simply want a gourmet meal like no other, the Old Hickory will charm you. (Feel free to request Al when you go. He knows how to make your evening very special.)
After a perfect night of slumber (and my foray into the bliss that is a steam shower), we awoke to our once again grumbling bellies. The Riverwalk Cantina brunch is practically famous in these parts, so we invited the whole family to join us for a delicious meal. A table for eight people on one of the busiest weekends of the year is no easy feat, but our server accommodated us all with plenty of drinks and a scenic table right by the river. Between the omelet station, waffle station, and shrimp cocktail, I didn’t know whether I could fit in the additional cuts of meat, fish, and sides galore. Oh, and did you know they have a chocolate fountain? (My grandparents found this particularly enjoyable. I’m pretty sure PawPaw ate most of the chocolate covered strawberries that day.) As far as brunch goes, this one is unsurpassed with selections. I’m still dreaming about the miniature pecan pies…
There truly isn’t a lack of choices or entertainment at the Gaylord Texan Resort. Before leaving, we were serenaded by mariachis with another “Happy Birthday”, giving us a very sweet end to a weekend that is rivaled by any we’ve spent far from home. I’ve heard of a staycation, but this was that and so much more. I highly recommend a stay at the resort for any occasion…between the friendly staff, outstanding food, and entertainment options, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped on board a high-class cruise ship that docked in your own backyard.
Hilary Kennedy is a contributing author for YouPlusDallas focusing primarily on Style, Arts and Entertainment, and Dating and Relationships. Hilary also stars in many videos for YouPlusDallas and has her own show, The Hilary Kennedy Show.
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