Farm to Table Brunch

Mike and I spent a beautiful, sunny – Sunday morning experiencing a new restaurant  in Historic Downtown Bryan, Texas.  Housed inside the rustic and recently restored Ice House on Main, Ronin Restaurant brings new life to the 1912 building.

For many years, Chef Brian Light and his wife Amanda have connected our community through local food production and provided a venue where guests can enjoy the traditions of a simpler life at Ronin Farms. The outdoor event venue under the Texas sky will make you fall in love with the Farm to Table concept.  Ronin has now created a second space where our community can experience this same concept in their new location in Historic Downtown Bryan.

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Guests at the Ronin Restaurant can choose from a variety of seating, including outdoor tables with a view of  Historic Downtown Bryan, a indoor community style table or simply a seat at the bar.

The menu selection was carefully crafted, providing us with the feeling that we were out on the farm and even included recommendations of drink pairings for each menu item.

Mike selected the Texas Wagyu Chicken Fried Steak and Farm Egg with Cream Gravy and Roasted Sweet Potato.  Although I helped Mike finish most of his delicious Wagyu Chicken Fried Steak, I went with a sweeter selection for my entree- the Cinnamon Pecan French Toast with Spiced Apple Compote and Spiced Caramel – and it was as delightful as the name.

Although the food and venue were amazing, please note that the pricing for us would be for special occasions only and not a weekly stop.  Based on your budget, I would recommend reviewing the menu pricing before dining.  I definitely see this venue as the perfect spot to host a bridal brunch, baby shower or even a birthday celebration with your closest girlfriends.

The Ronin Restaurant also has seasonal hours, so be sure to check their website for the most up to date hours.  If you are dining this Winter, the hours for Ronin Restaurant are:

Dinner 5pm-10pm
Thursday, Friday & Saturday

Brunch 11am-2pm
Every Sunday

Happy Brunching xx Jennifer

Evergreen Christmas Tree Farm

Getting into the holiday spirit when it’s ninety degrees outside can be a challenge here in Texas.  As a child I spent my Christmases in Kansas where snow was inevitable and roaring fireplaces were the norm.  Bundled up, the cold that cuts through you and the smell of fresh snow – that’s just what reminds me of the holiday season.

This year, despite that fact that we wont be seeing snow, I really wanted to create new holiday traditions with my boyfriend Mike and find joy in the holiday activities that Texas has to offer.  Not far from College Station, we spent a Saturday exploring the Evergreen Christmas Tree Farm in Elgin, Texas.

As we turned down a narrow dirt road into the tree farm, cars were lined up with freshly cut Christmas trees that topped the roofs.  We parked and walked up to where all the action was taking place – in the background you could see children running around and playing, tree farm workers shaking trees and putting them into the netting to prepare for transport to be decorated.  Not long after arriving a cheerful young lady approached us and gave us the entire run down of the tree farm.  From selecting the perfect wreath to jumping on the tractor trailer to take a ride to the tree farm it was the whole holiday package.

This experience was much more organized than I had anticipated despite my only reference to cutting fresh Christmas trees, which is Clark Griswold’s famous Christmas tree scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  Although we did not purchase a tree because we will be traveling to the tropical Florida coast line over the holidays, we enjoy just being out doors and smelling the beautiful pine trees.

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There is an age old debate of buying a Christmas tree – do you buy a live tree or a fake one?  My family has always had an artificial tree, while beautiful it’s missing that fresh pine smell that fills the home and signifies the beginning of the season.  What kind of tree did you have growing up?

Tis the season – xx Jennifer

Photo Credit: Mike Satterfield

 

The Crafty Pig Food Truck

The food truck craze continues to make it’s way to the Brazos Valley.  I found a Southern comfort dream at The Crafty Pig Food Truck this week at the Lake Walk Town Center in Bryan, Texas.  Local chefs, Brad Dees and Cody John recently opened The Crafty Pig Food Truck and they are busy tearing up the roads in the Brazos Valley bringing locals their delicious southern style food creations.

Brad Dees and Cody John (KBTX)

Photo Source: KBTX Media

Once I made my way to the window, it was tough to even choose because the menu was so awesome, everything just sounded delicious.  After changing my order at few times, I ended up trying the Southern Porkadilla filled with oak smoked pork, grilled onions, cheese and BBQ sauce.  I’m glad I had my friend Lauren with me because I would have consumed the whole thing!  The Southern Porkadilla just wasn’t complete until I added an order of shoe string sweet potato fries garnished with sea salt.  Honestly I didn’t even need the ketchup I grabbed at the window because the flavor of the fries stood alone.

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If you want to find The Crafty Pig Food Truck’s next stop you can follow the truck on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for all of their local stops.  They do a great job of releasing the menu ahead of time and giving you a look at the southern food they will be cooking up that week.

If you want to learn more about Chef Brad and Chef Cody, check out KBTX Media’s interview with the duo.

State Fair of Texas

As a Texas native, it’s hard to even fathom that I’ve never been to the State Fair of Texas.  I know, my official Texas badge should be taken away.  But I made up for it this year by attending the State Fair of Texas and I’m recapping my experience and sharing it with y’all!

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The State Fair of Texas spans twenty-four days and was established in 1886.  This makes the State Fair of Texas the largest running fair in the nation and one of the largest in size. Each year they pick a theme that encompasses their mission of celebrating the history of Agriculture, Education and Community.  This year’s theme, “Celebrating Texas Innovation”, was woven into many of the exhibits and throughout the fair park.

Before you plan your trip to the State Fair of Texas here are a few basics that you need to know and a few tips after our first trip to the fair.

1.   Arrive early.  We noticed as the day went on and especially around 5pm the park really got crowded.  By arriving in the morning, it allowed us to explore most of the park with little to no lines or crowds.

2.  Park only in the State Fair of Texas official parking lots.  There will be official banners and signs directing you to all available lots.  As you drive in you will see people wearing vests and using flags to motion you into other parking lots.  Most of these lots appeared to be open fields, people’s homes or in front of businesses.  By parking in the official State Fair of Texas lots you lower the risks of car break-ins or even worse being towed.  The official parking lots also provide a free tram that takes you directly to the entrance gate.  We paid $15 to park.

3.  Swing by the ATM on your way to the Fair.  You will need cash to park and it also makes purchasing Coupons easier when you arrive in the park.

4.  Coupons are the Fairs “currency”.  The food vendors only accept coupons.  If your kids want to play any of the carnival games, you will need entirely different form of currency.  You will find coupon kiosks throughout the park that will gladly exchange your cash for coupons.

As the largest state fair, you can imagine navigating the park can be a little taxing.  At the end of the day we had walked close to 8 miles throughout the day.  Plan to wear comfortable shoes and take breaks in the shade when you can.

We did not attend the State Fair with children, so our takeaways may be different had we maybe attended with small children.  But here are my favorite highlights of the State Fair of Texas as a couples trip.

  1.  Food.  This has to be the number one item on the list.  Things I never thought could be hand battered and dipped in the frying pan were indeed a possibility at the fair.  From Chicken Fried Bacon to deep fried Oreos the food vendors had your wildest fried dreams covered.  Big Tex Choice Award winner, the Cotton Candy Taco was the first thing on my list we had to try.  With a waffle cone shaped like a taco shell, a fluffy pillow of cotton candy filled the inside and was garnished with your choice of marshmallow flavored fluff and cookie crumbles.  It was a sticky delicious mess and of course an Instagram photo dream come true.

2.  Agriculture.  If you have grown up in the city or maybe you’re just fairly removed from rural society, the farm to table concept may be new to you.  I felt like the fair did a wonderful job of providing multiple displays and exhibits throughout the fairgrounds that illustrated where your food comes from and the importance of agriculture.  The Agriculture education was presented in many different forms that appealed to all ages.

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3.  Art Exhibit.  This was one of our favorite stops and maybe the exhibit we stayed at the longest.  It was so wonderful to see all ages, from youth to adults, competing in a variety of art mediums.  We viewed photography, needlepoint, paintings, antiques and quilts, just to name a few.  Every entry was beautifully displayed and told a story.

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4.  Auto Show.  The State Fair of Texas is the only fair to include a full auto show.  Just think of any auto manufacturer name and they were there.   Auto displays that spanned from indoor displays to outdoor mega displays.  If you are in the market for a new vehicle this was a fun, hassle free, way to view all of the new cars coming out.

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There are a few must “see” and photo ops you don’t want to miss out on.

  1.  Big Tex.  At the main entrance you will find a 55-foot-tall statue named Big Tex.  He has become the cultural icon of the Fair since 1952 and he even talks!  This is the perfect spot for a group photo or the infamous selfie.
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Don’t miss your chance to get a picture with the “Neon” Big Tex too!

2.  Pig Races.  If you want to see the cutest thing on this planet go to the pig races.  Step back in time as you enter into a coliseum decorated like a scene from Wilbur the Pig in Charlotte’s Web.  And announcers who wore overalls and talked with the southern drawl most outsiders would think all Texans sound like.  It was a fun activity to watch and the crowds went wild over the pigs as they made their way around the track.

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3.  Butter Sculptures.  Have you ever seen a 1000 pounds of butter sculpted into the shape of a cowboy’s head?  I’m guessing the answer is mostly no.  But the state fair has you covered.  To put that size in perspective, it takes 21,200 gallons of milk to make 1000 pounds of butter.  Wow.

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4.  Wine tasting.  By now most of you probably know that this is one of my favorite subjects.  The fair offers a beautiful wine garden surrounded by tasting stations of some of Texas’s best wines.  They also have outdoor seating along with a stage for live music throughout the day.  We found this to be an excellent spot to take a break and relax from the passing crowds.

We have already marked our calendars for next years fair, and you should too.  Opening day has been set for September 27th, 2019.  See you at the State Fair of Texas, y’all.

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XX Jennifer

Home Sweet Home

I’m officially moved in, semi-unpacked and getting back into my “normal routine.”  I will admit I have driven the wrong way home from work a few times just out of habit but quickly realized…oops I don’t live here anymore.

One of the feelings I hadn’t expected was the huge since of pride that comes along with owning my first home.  A year ago, I didn’t even think this was a possibility but now that I’m in it, living it, I am so happy I took the leap.  I may have a few extra grey hairs but that’s nothing my hairdresser can’t fix.

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I also feel like more of an adult, that seems silly to say out loud, but right or wrong, I do.  Spending my Saturdays wandering the aisles of Home Depot or sketching out my elaborate backyard Spring DIY projects, it’s been a fun and exciting experience.

In meeting my neighbors, so far I have received rose bush pruning tips by the retiree on the next block over, and I’ve even met several of the neighborhood dogs – Jack has approved and is looking forward to his next playdate with his new furry friends.

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Here are a few lessons I learned after move in…

Ask friends for help. One of the best moving decisions I made was to invite friends over to help unpack.  Now they may not see it that way, but it was a huge time saver when it came to my kitchen.  We had the entire kitchen unpacked out of boxes and in cabinets in an hour.  I always think organizing a new kitchen is hard because you’re not sure how to set it up.  But having five women help organize the kitchen was a life saver.  It was also just a lot of fun having friends come over and hangout.  We played music in the background, ate sandwiches and unpacked – I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

I should have taken notes. This is a little bit like taking your first college exam and flunking it.  When you are in a high stress situation or receiving a lot of information for the first time it’s easy to forget half of everything.  From the final walk through on my house all the way to closing I received a lot of information… most of it started out something like this “Don’t lose this paper, it’s very important.” Or “You will want to fill this out and mail this to ______(fill in the blank).”  So don’t be afraid to take a pen and paper and ask clarifying questions every step of the way.  Here’s your second chance to be the straight A student you never were in college.

Make lists. After moving in I had created a mental list of all of the items in the house of what needed to be fixed or still needed to be done.  This list swam around in my head for days and even kept me up at night.  It’s just good to write it down or create a digital list on your phone or computer.

It doesn’t have to ALL be done today. I really like to knock things out… give me a list and it will be done before noon. I’ve always been that way, I like to just get stuff done even if it kills me or I have to spend the next week catching up on sleep.  After I finally stepped back and made my list of “to dos”, and prioritized them, it really helped me feel more relaxed and I could enjoy my house more.

Change of address. Someone needs to create a button or magic wand for this. I recommend making a list of all of the places you need to change your address starting with the most obvious mail forwarding with USPS.  Others would be your employer, bank accounts and credit cards, updating your driver’s license and most important your Amazon Prime account.

 

Hopefully a few of the lessons I learned will help you with your home purchase.  With home ownership comes new responsibilities, new challenges and new adventures.  I’m excited to see where it takes me.  I’m excited to be home.  – xx Jennifer

Lavender and Wine Festival

On the second Saturday in August, each year, you can enjoy the Lavender and Wine Festival hosted by Chappell Hill Lavender Farm and Windy Winery in Brenham, Texas.   A short drive from the Brazos Valley, we enjoyed a beautiful and scenic drive through Independence, Texas to the Lavender farms of Brenham.   There are several routes you could take, but we chose to drive past the Antique Rose Emporium on Farm to Market 50 and onto the farm.

This was my first year to attend the festival with my girlfriends and we had a wonderful time.  Although it was a little warm, we toughed it out and enjoyed the live music, refreshing lavender lemonade and a stroll through the lavender field where we clipped fresh lavender to take home.

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The Lavender Festival was kid friendly with a miniature horses, a petting zoo, and crafts the whole family would enjoy.  The best part about the festival is that it’s free to attend and park.  But watch your wallet when you browse through the vendor fair or step inside the Lavender Patch boutique where you will find oils, soaps, lotions, jams and really anything you can think of infused with fresh lavender from the farm.

A few takeaways that I’ll be sure to remember for next year…

1. Arrive early, if nothing else it will help with the heat.  As the day went on the crowds got larger and by the time we made it to Windy Winery it was so packed.

2.  Pack a cooler with ice water and Gatorade, like I said… it was hot and the lines were long.  It would have been nice to just run out to the car and grab a bottle of water.

3. Pack some snacks.  Although they advertised food, it was limited.  I’m hoping next year that they will have a few food truck options or expand on their food selections.

It was a wonderful day spent with my beautiful friends, we definitely will go back next year and bring a few more friends to join in on the fun.  Hope to see you there next year! xx-Jennifer

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A new take on hanging out with your Girlfriends

Finding new reasons to hangout with my best gal pals has never been an issue for me.  I’m constantly looking for new ideas on ways to strengthen my existing relationships and start new ones.  Last weekend my friend Cait and I went on a little adventure and came up with some fun activities to go do this Fall, besides the traditional dinner or happy hour.  (But just to be clear, this is in addition to wine drinking and our big Italian family style dinners – we wont be giving that up anytime in the near future.)

All of these ideas will spark your inner creative at heart and hopefully you’ll learn a few new skills with your besties by your side.  Among the ideas were Succulent Planting Party, Watercolor Party, and a Cake Decorating Party…. I’m starting to see a theme here – so let’s get this party started!  Here are the ideas:

1. Succulent Planting Party – this is really just a gateway to shopping in Downtown Bryan, but I’m good with that, and kudos to Market 1023 for their clever traffic drivers.  Stop by Market 1023 to pick your succulent, find a planter and then check out.  They will help you plant your succulent and give you directions on how to care for it.  I think you could easily make this into a stop during your First Friday adventures, tacking on a drink at the LaSalle Hotel or a classic movie at The Queen Theatre and your in “girls night out” business.

 

2.  Watercolor Party – With the trend of brush script and beautiful watercolor paintings continue to flood everyone’s Instagram feeds it only seems natural to jump on the band wagon and try your hand at the craft.  A wonderful friends of mine and local artist Beth Symons, owner of Bethany Joy Design, is now booking private parties.  You can contact her directly through her Facebook page to setup your next Watercolor Party!

 

3.  Cake Decorating Party – I’m generally more interested in the consumption of cake and cookies, but I’m willing to put my sweet tooth aside and learn a few new baking skills. The Chocolate Gallery in Downtown Bryan will offer a fresh take on their adult classes this fall and they’re also upgrading their classroom!  For more details about scheduling a class reach out to Christina Patterson via email: cpatterson@bcscocoapantry.com

Also as a side note, The Chocolate Gallery has licensed Texas A&M chocolates and gelato hand dipped into a waffle cone that will take you back to your childhood.  If you are an aspiring chef like myself, you will enjoy browsing through their very nice selection of kitchen gadgets from Le Creuset bakeware to high-end appliances that you would find at a retailer similar to Williams-Sonoma.

Now, go call all all of your gal pals and plan a creative party! Cheers!  xx-Jennifer

Wayside Food Park

The Brazos Valley is quickly becoming a foodie’s paradise.  With new restaurants opening up, what seems like daily, there just aren’t enough days in the week to enjoy everything Bryan/College Station now has to offer… but I’m going to give it my best try!

It’s exciting to see new concepts come to the area and one that I’m really excited about is the new Wayside Food Park, located at 203 First Street in College Station’s historic Northgate district.  Northgate is most notably known for it’s vibrant nightlife scene inclusive of bars, pubs, food, live music and now home to Aggieland’s first food park.  Purchased in 1912, Texas A&M originally dedicated this land for the future development of shopping and businesses.  Although  Northgate was not established until 1972, the area is now a thriving spot for college students, visitors and families.

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What do you need to know before you go to the food park?

Adjacent to the Northside of campus, parking can be limited at Northgate.  Wayside has done an excellent job of educating customers on where they can and can not park.  When we visited, we found a great spot directly across the street in the Coyote Parking lot, but remember to bring cash for this lot, credit cards are not an option.  Further down the street there is paid parking with numbered spaces and of course the Northgate parking garage, but be prepared to walk a few blocks.

The food park is dog friendly.  So plan to bring your furry friend along, but make sure they are on a leash.  With this Texas heat you will also want to bring a dog bowl and Wayside will be happy to fill it up with water for your four legged friend.

Plan to stay awhile.  From giant Jenga and Connect 4, yard games and live music, Wayside Food Park is a great place to grab a beer, gourmet food and hangout with friends.   The covered pavilion and large seating area makes it inviting for guests to sit back, relax and stay awhile.

Probably the biggest problem we had once we toured the Food Park was actually deciding what to eat… every food truck smelled amazing and the menus left us drooling.  After hearing wonderful things about a new food truck in town that is dedicated to “Sweet and Savory Southern Snacks”, I was sold.  Our first stop was The Deaux Company food truck.  Husband and wife duo – Texas A&M grad, Garrett, and LSU grad, Sarah – cook up late night snacks all day long.

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Featuring three menu options, I just couldn’t say no to Fried Chicken and Waffles.  If they would have sold me a bucket of the chicken, I would have done it, it was that good.  Finding myself limited on belly space, I will be back to try out their other two menu items that I know will be equally satisfying to my curated southern pallet.

  1. Cajun Boudin hand-rolled in panko bread crumbs, deep fried and served with remoulade sauce. (Can we pause and just take that in for a moment? Yum.)
  2. Beignet Fritters, made-to-order and lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Y’all they are served in a waffle cone coated with your choice of chocolate sprinkles or white-chocolate cinnamon and sugar (Psst… tell them you want the Nutella topping… you’re welcome.)

Luckily I had brought along my friend Cait, who puts up with my blogger craziness, and generously agreed to share her grilled cheese from the BaconGate food truck.  I will say this went along nicely with my chicken and waffles, just in case you were wondering, it was a nice pairing.

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We tried the gourmet bacon grilled cheese and my little Texas soul was so happy when our lunch arrived in true Texas fashion – garnished with a Texas flag.  Beyond the Texas flag, the grilled cheese was exactly what I expected, delicious.  I will say that I would like to try “The Elvis” next time… Hawaiian bread, creamy peanut butter, sliced bananas and finished with candy bacon.

We were only able to try out food from two trucks during our visit, but we can’t wait to go back and try out the many other equally amazing food trucks that Wayside Food Park has to offer.  You can follow Wayside Food Park on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Both The Deaux Company and BaconGate food trucks have Facebook and Instagram accounts, so give them follow and more importantly stop by and try out their food!

xx -Jennifer

Wayside Food Park Hours of Operation

Monday – Thursday 11 am – 8 pm

Friday 11 am – 9 pm

Saturday 11 am – 8 pm

Sunday 11 am – 3 pm

Southern Brunch

The Brazos Valley is quickly becoming the Southern Brunch capital of the World, y’all… I am seriously convinced of this!  With the continued growth of our community we have attracted a few new eateries that are making my gym membership quiver.

Sundays are for Jesus and brunch with my girls, (pause I’m making a T-shirt now with this quote).  This summer we have had a few new spots pop up that you need to add to your weekend brunch plans asap.  First on the list is Stella Southern Cafe.

A fun fact about the name of the restaurant, it was actually named after the owner Michael Lair’s 1995 Dodge Dakota club cab with a 5.2 liter V8 engine, Stella.  A part of every road trip adventure he took, Stella now lives on through the name of his southern cafe.

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Photo Credit: Clare Rowe

Walking into the restaurant you are immediately greeted by hosts who provide you with a menu while waiting in line to order your food.  Don’t worry it’s not a long wait, but you will be tempted by all of the great gift items and homemade jams as you make your way to the register.

I had a tough decision to make because everything on the menu just looked amazing.  I decided to go with a more traditional breakfast which included eggs, bacon, grits (with cheese of course) and I would be crazy not to try their homemade biscuits with mimosa jam.  I didn’t know that my favorite breakfast drink could be made into a jam, but they found a way!

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The overall dining experience was excellent.  The staff was warm and friends, much like the south.  My friends and I will definitely put the Stella Southern Cafe into our brunch rotation! xx-Jennifer

The Lake Walk Town Center: a hidden gem in Bryan

Joining our community in 2017, the Lake Walk Town Center in Bryan has created a wonderful retreat and gathering place for local residents and visitors.

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View from the 75 foot “Lookout” over the Lake Walk Town Center

Saturday mornings I enjoy my short walk to this newly created venue for sunrise yoga with SolYoga.  Feeling relaxed and fully renewed, I meet up with my girlfriends for a cup of Joe across the street at P.O.V. Coffee.  Sitting outside on the patio, I take in take in all the beauty the lake walk offers while catching up with friends.

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Photo Credit:  Lake Walk Town Center, SolYoga.

Tucked away before you enter into the Traditions Club & Community, the Lake Walk Town Center creates a family friendly environment offering you 10 different visitor experiences, 4 of which are completely free!

The Lake Walk is complete with a event lawn, water feature, a 75 foot tower perfect for overlooking the city or gazing at the stars.  Beyond the lake, The Stella Hotel adds another element unlike anything in the Bryan-College Station community.  The boutique hotel is perfect for a staycation, romantic getaway, or even a fun girls night out.  One of my favorite features of the hotel is the speakeasy inspired cocktail lounge, Hershel’s.  When I started my blog this was actually the location of our first onsite photo shoot.  Some of the best shots Shelby took were in the bathroom – yes I’m serious.

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Photo Credit:  Shelby Tiska Photography

From cocktail hour to poolside, The Stella Hotel pool cabanas and day passes are available, if you’re looking for a retreat like atmosphere to cool off this summer.

The Campfire Grill also featured inside The Stella Hotel provides guests with gourmet “farm to fork” meals and another outdoor seating area perfect for cozy conversations next to a campfire inspired fire pits.   I have not yet had the opportunity to stay at the hotel, but it is definitely on my staycation list of places to stay!

The Lake Walk not only provides special events, a beautiful hotel, coffee for days, but they have recently added a shopping experience with a local boutique, The Coterie.  The friendly staff and owner are always there to greet you and help you find your best style.  Full disclosure my wallet cringes a little every time I walk through the door because it’s impossible to walk out empty handed.

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Photo Credit:  Shelby Tiska Photography

This summer, on Friday nights, you can find me at the Lake Walk enjoying their summer concert series and food trucks with friends.  And if you’re looking for something to do during the week stop by The Local on Tuesday’s to explore the popup market featuring local vendors, food trucks and live music.

Here are a complete list of everything the Lake Walk Town Center has to offer, including links of all of the wonderful things to do around the Lake Walk and Stella Hotel!  I have enjoyed the Lake Walk and I hope you can plan your next staycation or visit to Bryan-College Station!  xx-Jennifer

  1. Paddle Boarding on the Lake – visit the Stella Hotel for rentals
  2. The Lookout, 75 ft tower overlooking the city
  3. Poolside Cabanas @ The Stella Hotel
  4. P.O.V Coffee on the Patio
  5. Saturday FREE Yoga by the Lake, 8 AM
  6. Hershel’s Bar @ The Stella Hotel
  7. The Local – popup market featuring local vendors, food trucks and live music
  8. Coterie Boutique
  9. Eats & Beats Summer Concert Series
  10. Campfire Grill