Author Topic: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?  (Read 7541 times)

FarmerAl

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What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« on: August 16, 2017, 04:43:28 PM »
My wife and I are going to Texas in two weeks for a week long vacation.
We will be spending 3 days in Austin and 4 days in San Antonio.

What suggestions do people have on what we should do while in Texas?

We are small town people that like going to small restaurants and shops to meet the locals, rather than seeing all the tourist type stuff.
So far we are planning spending one day in Waco to see Chip & Joanna's homestead. Going to the Safari near San Antonio, checking out some of the watering holes, and going to a high school football game.

Any help is appreciated!

GizmoTX

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2017, 08:31:50 PM »
Austin: sSee the bats emerging from Congress St. bridge at sunset. Tour the Capitol. Tour the Texas Museum. Walk or ride bikes along the Ladybird Lake riverwalk.

San Antonio: Tour the Alamo. Tour the Riverwalk, & eat Tex-Mex.

katsiki

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2017, 08:52:55 PM »
I didn't realize how close Waco was to Austin.  Have fun!  I just saw that the texas ranger museum is in Waco.  That might be fun.

Austin is awesome but I can't think of a particular recommendation.  However, if you don't mind a short drive from Austin, there are some nice wineries in Fredericksburg.

Duke03

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2017, 09:13:01 PM »
I live in the area.... and can give you all the ins and outs.  I take it the safari you mentioned was natural bridges caverns.  By all means pay to go in the cave system.  It's amazing and one of the best in the world.  Crazy thing is it wasn't discovered until 1960 and parts of the cavern are still being discovered as we speak.  While you are in Austin go eat at Trudy's.  It's a chain of restaurants that my wife's uncle owns.  It's really good and if you like to drink a bit you must try the Mexican Martini.  It's world famous.  Also if you like BBQ you are in the hot spot as far as the best in Texas.  PM me and I'll tell you what restaurant my FIL owns.  It's been voted best in Texas several times and even best in the country.  New Braunfels is a great place to spend some time between Austin and San Antonio.  They have crystal clear rivers, plenty of river floating opportunities plus they have the number one water park in the country if that is something that interest you.  San Antonio also has Sea World and Fiesta Texas if you wanted to go to an Amusement Park.  A really cool town about an hour drive from San Antonio or Austin is Fredericksburg.  It's an old German Settlement full of great shops, restaurants, wineries, micro brews, and has a great WWII museum where you can see a miniature Japanese sub that was used in WWII.   PM me any specific questions you have and I'll give you all the ins and outs of where to go and what to see.

letired

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2017, 09:53:05 AM »
If you are into botanical gardens, the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center is pretty great, and showcases a lot of species native to the US that you don't usually find in botanical gardens! It's one of my favs, and not just for visitors to the area. I've heard the Waco Zoo is pretty cool, but never been myself.

Austin is very much an eats-and-drinks-and-show sort of town. Classic venues include Stubbs, Antones, and the Continental Club. You can also check out Austin City Limits. Some stuff is pretty easy to get tickets. Also, lots of places downtown will have good live music with your drinks or meal. Most restaurants are pretty great, I'm sure someone can make specific recommendations if you mention what you're looking for. If you do your research and go for happy hours, stuff is much more affordable.

While its blazing hot out, take your swimsuit and go for a dip at Barton Springs or Deep Eddy, both very near to downtown. Cold water is just the ticket! There are also great swimming holes farther out if you're willing to take a drive. If you want to do some hiking, there are a ton of trails in the Barton Springs/greenbelt area. Ps it's gonna be Very Hot, if you aren't used to it maybe skip the hike you will have a bad time.

If you're interested in browsing/shopping, south congress is the most walkable (and most touristy) area to take a stroll and browse. Uncommon objects is always fun! South first also has fun stuff (vintage stores, great record store) but it's more spread out. I think it's west 3rd or 4th that they're trying to make into another shop district, check out Toy Joy. The Burnet area has a fair number of furniture/antique shops that are fun to browse.

lbmustache

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2017, 05:35:16 PM »
The Capitol is nice to checkout, especially walking around inside, and I loved the Lyndon B Johnson museum/library. Very cool.

NeonPegasus

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2017, 10:30:02 AM »
PTF.

We're going to San An in October. Would Fredericksburg and the hill country be considered an easy day trip from San An? I'm wanting to rent a house there for a week rather than hotel hop and want to avoid too much driving with 3 kids.


JoJo

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2017, 12:28:38 PM »
Austin:  State capitol, tours & museum is free.  Walk around town.  Walk around the spring.  Lots of BBQ joints around and live music.

For the bats, I got a boat ticket for $10 that takes you on the river for a nice sunset and then down to park under the bridge for the bats.  Really nice view of the skyline.  Although the mosquitoes were terrible.

libertarian4321

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2017, 05:38:06 PM »
PTF.

We're going to San An in October. Would Fredericksburg and the hill country be considered an easy day trip from San An? I'm wanting to rent a house there for a week rather than hotel hop and want to avoid too much driving with 3 kids.

Yup.  It's only a little over an hour drive from downtown San Antonio to Fredericksburg.

GoConfidently

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2017, 10:54:46 AM »
If you like small towns, spend some time outside the Austin and San Antonio city limits. Quaint little towns are the best part of the Hill Country. I recommend Gruene (must go dancing at Gruene Hall after dark) and Georgetown. Wimberley used to be one of our favorites - I haven't been in a while and hear it's gotten quite touristy lately but it might be worth looking into. Tastings at Dripping Springs Distilleries or one of the vineyards might be fun if y'all drink. Skip the safari and do the caverns instead in San Antonio.

Unless you have some special connection to Fixer Upper (other than being a fan), I would encourage you to skip it. It's always very crowded, Austin has better food trucks, and you won't find anything in the shop that can't be purchased at World Market, Anthropologie, or West Elm. Seriously overrated and completely missing the local vibe you seem to be seeking. And there's nothing else worth seeing in Waco.   

Bicycle_B

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2017, 10:08:49 PM »
Austinite here with some San Antonio experience. 

Local in Austin could have any of several meanings... real people here include artists, techies, social workers, entrepreneurs, comedians, waitstaff, musicians, students, political activists.  Natives are rare and include all of the above.  The normal Austinite is from somewhere else, we don't breed that fast.

One experience that pulls the comedy-creativity-and-politics threads into a fun package is Esther's Follies.  Originally a sketch comedy show that dipped into politics along with various local cultural stereotypes, it is now an institution that mixes current events jokes with popular gags that have lasted in some cases decades.  A fun entry point, though costly ($15-20/person).  Cheaper option: the Velveeta Room next door for free to $5 depending on what night.  If comedy is your thing, maybe Coldtowne Theater - real working comedy club, good quality.

For my money, a show at a local innovative theater space such as Salvage Vanguard Theater is worth visiting because you don't find that in a small town.  Thursday shows sometimes have a pay-what-you-choose option.

A friend of mine invites me occasionally to a little bar that plays live music and has real live plain old neighborhood people (often black) as clientele, with a fire pit out back.  Skylark Lounge.  Last month Yelp somehow rated it #1 local bar in America based on reviews.  No idea if it's been overrun with Inauthentic Hipsters as a result.

One place to get affordable eats is the local dominant grocery store, HEB.  Some of them have prepared food as well as groceries, and an air conditioned space with wifi where there are tables to sit at, relax, plan your next move.  If you're stuck downtown in the hurly-burly, you can do the same thing at the actual national flagship store of Whole Foods (obviously the food is more expensive).  People watching at HEB is more regular people, Whole Foods more of All the Downtown People in their daily glory.  In summer on I think Wednesdays you can join free yoga on the roof of Whole Foods at 8:00 pm.  I know truck drivers who do yoga, maybe that counts as real people here??  :)    By the way, the same rooftop space sometimes has free theater by local troupes who like to put on a community show.  People bring their own chairs and blankets, you could strike up a conversation.

Hmm... if you want to meet up one night or day, I could join/host some events for the day.  I'm a local!  PM me if interested.

Re San Antonio, I have friends there whose opinion is that local means dining at one of the many "Mexican" (Tex Mex) restaurants there.  Tons of authentic ones.  Cheap, delicious.  Austin has been getting nose-in-the-air about its great trendy food, but get tacos and enchiladas and such as several local restaurants in San Antonio!  Have "puffy tacos" at least once.  :)

I second the motion re Natural Bridge Caverns.  Very cool!

In between the cities near a town called San Marcos is a river wildlife research area.  You can tour the exhibits in the main building for free, and take a fairly inexpensive tour in a glass bottomed boat.  Very calming and worthwhile.

http://www.meadowscenter.txstate.edu/

Heroes821

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2017, 08:13:56 AM »
Some of these will sound anti-mustacian, but it's Texas you need to eat Texas food.

In both Austin and San Antonio there is a chain of Tex-mex restaurants called Chuy's they are the original place where the term "Tex-Mex" comes from.  They are good, but if you are in SA  Paloma Blanca is easily my top tex-mex place there. 

Aside from Mexican food, Texas is known for it's BBQ, lots of good places in Austin, Rudy's is usually the out of towner's go to BBQ in San Antonio.

Downtown SA has the Riverwalk and the Alamo. If you like history the Alamo is worth a visit.  The Bullock Texas State History Museum is in downtown Austin and I really enjoyed it when I was there.

Natural Bridge Caverns is awesome too.

As other's have mentioned Gruene (pronounced Green) is pretty cool too.

schmerna

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2017, 09:31:05 AM »
I enjoyed an Improv Show at the Hideout Theater. http://www.hideouttheatre.com/

ooeei

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2017, 09:53:26 AM »
As letired pointed out, Barton Springs is great when it's hot out (so always). You can also rent stand up paddleboards or kayaks for Ladybird Lake downtown, although it's pretty crowded a lot of the time.

Chuy's is great Tex Mex, but really any place will probably be great, just check google or yelp. Chuy's is a safe bet though. Rudy's is good chain BBQ, and there's nothing wrong with just going there. It'll be fast and damn good.  If you're more of a foodie, there are plenty of nationally renowned BBQ joints around the Austin area that have more character, but may have crazy wait times depending on whatever magazine ranking came out recently.

I waited 4 hours for Franklin's BBQ on my birthday one year with a friend, it's been ranked #1 in various publications over the years, although the rankings seem to shuffle among the top 5-10 every few years. It was a cool experience to do once, but I wouldn't do it again. The BBQ was crazy good, but idk how much of that was the fact that I had to smell it for 4 hours while hungry before eating it. If I had to do it again I'd just go to Rudy's or somewhere similar and be eating within 10 minutes. If Franklin's is ranked at 10, and a tiny brisket you cook in the stove at home with liquid smoke is a 1, Rudy's is an 8-9.

GoConfidently

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2017, 06:13:14 PM »
Chuy's is fine but Matt's El Rancho in Austin is not to be missed. Texans have many opinions on Tex-Mex so everyone will have a different opinion on the subject.

FarmerAl

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2017, 08:57:55 PM »
Thank you all very much for the recommendations. My wife and I are working on planning out our week and this was very helpful! We are very excited for a mustachian vacation. Due to travel hacking, we got the flight and 7 nights in a hotel for a total of $100.

Thanks again!

Bicycle_B

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #16 on: August 22, 2017, 12:45:34 AM »
Chuy's is fine but Matt's El Rancho in Austin is not to be missed. Texans have many opinions on Tex-Mex so everyone will have a different opinion on the subject.

This is so true!  Especially the opinion part.

Fwiw, 2 more local chains (Chuy's is a small chain, Matt's El Rancho a single restaurant) worth visiting for the experience are:

Taco Cabana
http://www.chron.com/business/slideshow/10-fun-facts-about-Taco-Cabana-98729/photo-5213304.php
(I looked for the 1995 Forbes article I read once about this company but couldn't find it.  Started out by explaining the restaurants were usually painted pink, leading the author to assert "Texans are strange people.")

Optional - Torchy's Tacos in Austin.  Recently described as one of the top 15 new restaurant chains in America. 

In your shoes, I'd look for local places, include Matt's El Rancho, and visit Taco Cabana once.  Taco Cabana is open 24 hours in many locations, so you can use it as a backup to other options for the day.

ooeei

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #17 on: August 22, 2017, 06:26:46 AM »
Chuy's is fine but Matt's El Rancho in Austin is not to be missed. Texans have many opinions on Tex-Mex so everyone will have a different opinion on the subject.

This is so true!  Especially the opinion part.

Fwiw, 2 more local chains (Chuy's is a small chain, Matt's El Rancho a single restaurant) worth visiting for the experience are:

Taco Cabana
http://www.chron.com/business/slideshow/10-fun-facts-about-Taco-Cabana-98729/photo-5213304.php
(I looked for the 1995 Forbes article I read once about this company but couldn't find it.  Started out by explaining the restaurants were usually painted pink, leading the author to assert "Texans are strange people.")

Optional - Torchy's Tacos in Austin.  Recently described as one of the top 15 new restaurant chains in America. 

In your shoes, I'd look for local places, include Matt's El Rancho, and visit Taco Cabana once.  Taco Cabana is open 24 hours in many locations, so you can use it as a backup to other options for the day.

I'm gonna vote against Taco Cabana, it's basically a local version of Taco Bell if I remember right. Great for drunk people at 3am, disappointing for someone traveling from another area looking for good food while sober, especially with all of the other Texmex options.

Torchies is good, lots of options on their secret menu which you can find online. I personally like Taco Deli better, but either one is good. The Torchies philosophy seems to be to pack as much super flavorful stuff as possible into a taco (fried chicken strips in a taco for example), while TacoDeli is more about balance and clean flavors. I know a lot of people who prefer Torchies, it just depends what you're into.

If you're down around South Congress, Hopdoddy is a really good burger place. It's in a few cities now, but it is damn good. The line is always crazy long, but it goes fast.

Heroes821

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #18 on: August 22, 2017, 07:42:10 AM »
Taco Cabana is good for breakfast tacos though.

Chuy's is now a national chain, we have 1 in North Carolina and Virginia and it's starting to show up a lot of places.

katsiki

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #19 on: August 22, 2017, 10:58:28 AM »
In Austin, I like Pok-e-Jo's BBQ.

ooeei

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #20 on: August 22, 2017, 01:42:01 PM »
Taco Cabana is good for breakfast tacos though.

Chuy's is now a national chain, we have 1 in North Carolina and Virginia and it's starting to show up a lot of places.

Breakfast tacos at TacoDeli are some of the best food I've ever eaten.

Taco Cabana is definitely good for cheap/good though, they're just not what I'd recommend to someone from out of town as an experience. I think of them more as what I'd get if friends were coming to help me move. Everyone will love them and they won't break the bank.

mjb

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #21 on: August 22, 2017, 04:00:55 PM »
Extremely opinionated Texan here!

BBQ: The only worthwhile BBQ in the city limits is Franklin (brisket only, the sausage is not good). If you don't want to wait in that hellish line (and I do think it's worth the wait, at least once), drive out to Lockhart and hit up Smitty's, Kreutz's, or Black's, or head out a little further to Luling and hit Luling City Market. You can also go to Louis Mueller's up in Taylor. If you have a serious interest in BBQ they are all worth the diversion.

Tex-Mex and Mexican: Tex-Mex is not Austin's strong suit (you'll have better luck in San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas), but I like Curra's, Tamale House, El Chile (restaurant) and El Chilito (taco stand version, fantastic migas tacos), Mi Madre's (next to El Chilito), and Matt's as already mentioned. If you eat eggs, get migas for breakfast one day, it's Austin's great contribution to Tex-Mex. And Torchy's does have fantastic queso.

Other food worth checking out: Bouldin Creek Cafe, Porter Ale House & Gastropub, Easy Tiger, any East Side King location.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #22 on: August 23, 2017, 10:03:39 AM »
Do you like to hike?  Lots of outdoor activities to do in that area, and you'll see a lot of the locals out.   Enchanted Rock is near Fredericksburg - it is definitely worth your time.  Within Austin, I'm partial to Walnut Creek, but there are other great parks in the area too.

In San Antonio, I'd also recommend you visit some of the old Spanish missions (including but not limited to the Alamo).  It's a lot of really neat history - some of the oldest European settlements in Texas. 

etselec

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #23 on: August 23, 2017, 06:26:48 PM »
Barton Springs tip: it's free for the last hour they are open (9-10pm). When I visit my sister in Austin, we often end our days with a free evening swim.

jeromedawg

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #24 on: August 23, 2017, 06:55:29 PM »
Walking around the UT Austin campus is nice given it's not too super-hot outside (unless you don't mind or like the heat). Micklethwait, Blacks and Le BBQ are [not as great] alternatives to Franklin (but pretty darned close from what I've heard/read) if you're not privy to waiting in line or have the time in your schedule to do so. I haven't waited in the line but would be willing to do so given the chance. Patsy's is sort of a cool place to checkout for a meal and music if you like country/bluegrass/etc.

In San Antonio, there isn't a ton of stuff to do other than Riverwalk, the Alamo, Mercado, downtown, etc... I'm a bit biased though because I have extended family out there and we never did a whole lot every time I visited LOL. For BBQ in SA, check out The Smokehouse for brisket (https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-smokehouse-san-antonio) and sausage - I wouldn't recommend anything besides those two.


Joeko

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #25 on: August 23, 2017, 08:05:06 PM »
Favorite restaurant in SA is Paloma Blanca.  They have a gluten free menu with Paleo options.

The MacNay Art Musuem is pretty good.


In Austin, I'm a big fan of Townlake and Standup Paddleboarding or Kayaking

skiddieleet

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #26 on: August 27, 2017, 12:53:41 PM »
If your trip is this coming week sorry about the weather.  Austin and San Antonio will be getting a lot of rain this week from Harvey.

In SA we haven't gotten a ton of rain yet, but supposedly it will be raining all week and we can still see up to 9 inches.

FarmerAl

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #27 on: August 28, 2017, 06:57:54 AM »
We were able to cancel our trip and will hopefully be rescheduling for about 3 weeks from now.
The airline and hotels agreed that the travel into San Antonio would have been very difficult.
Our flight in on Saturday actually did make it, but we would have been stuck in rain for 3-4 days.

Heroes821

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #28 on: August 28, 2017, 08:17:56 AM »
We were able to cancel our trip and will hopefully be rescheduling for about 3 weeks from now.
The airline and hotels agreed that the travel into San Antonio would have been very difficult.
Our flight in on Saturday actually did make it, but we would have been stuck in rain for 3-4 days.

Honestly, End of Sept or mid Oct are probably much better times to visit. The heat is bearable then instead instant death of August.

FarmerAl

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #29 on: August 29, 2017, 08:24:32 AM »
We are thinking about trying to reschedule for September 17th - 23rd.
Do you think the Austin/San Antonio area will be okay by then?

If not, what other areas could we travel too around that same time with the same atmosphere?


Heroes821

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #30 on: August 29, 2017, 11:10:48 AM »
I'm not currently living in SA, but my brother and his wife and my wife's entire family are there and they all said SA was pretty much untouched by the hurricane and flooding.

Bicycle_B

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #31 on: August 29, 2017, 11:46:58 AM »
Agree with above.  Austin is fine now.

Fwiw, September 17 is Austin Museum Day, so museums will be free.  Blanton Museum usually has some great stuff.  Harry Ransom Center has an original Gutenberg Bible that can be viewed, if that interests you.  Both of those are at the university and one or two blocks from the Bob Bullock Museum, the official museum of Texas.  Might be worth a visit.

Noodle

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Re: What to do in San Antonio & Austin?
« Reply #32 on: August 29, 2017, 04:55:07 PM »
The main issue may be that a lot of Harvey refugees are occupying the hotels in both Austin and San Antonio, so you may have difficulty rebooking your rooms. I would also check to see when the UT football team is playing at home--that will mean even more congestion!