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I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve made the drive from Houston to Austin. It’s one of those trips I make so frequently I’m always trying to beat my previous time, so I just skip right past one of the most majestic spots off State Highway 71 on the way in to the Live Music Capital of the World. But this time I decided to stop at a few hidden jewels along the way.

Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa

I’ve always been tempted by the small sign pointed just off the highway towards Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa. From the highway it doesn’t look like much, but that’s probably why this AAA Four Diamond resort — and the region as a whole — has been one of Texas’ best-kept secrets since it opened back in 2006. Whether you’re just adding a night on your way to or from Austin or you’re looking for an entirely new Texas destination all its own that feels worlds away, Lost Pines is worth every second of it.

The 405-acre picturesque resort, located just 13 miles from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, has a lot to offer. From golf, horseback riding, kayaking, rafting, an onsite waterpark (complete with a two-story water slide), adult pool, spa, movies under the stars, s’mores at the fire pit, and much more, you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied at the luxurious resort. If sitting in a rocking chair at sunset away from it all is more you thing, you’ve got that option too.

Pet-Friendly Accommodations

Don’t let your four-legged furry bestie be your excuse for missing out on this weekend road trip. At Lost Pines, they are welcomed with open arms, complete with dog bowls, doggy bags and other dog-friendly amenities awaiting your arrival, plus ample walking and hiking trails to get your workout on together.

Explore and Eat

While you could easily stay at the resort your entire weekend without a need to leave, there are definitely some fun and noteworthy things to check out just a little ways down the road in Bastrop, just 35 miles east of Austin.

It may not be rodeo season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be on the hunt for another set of cowboy boots. Shopping or not, The Texas Boot Company has every bit of Western wear you could imagine, hat steaming services and even serves margaritas and beers while shopping, if you time it right. Talk about some good ole Texas hospitality.

If all the shopping makes you hungry, try some Central Texas BBQ at Southside Market Barbeque, which has been serving some of the best since 1882, making it the oldest BBQ joint in Texas, and has even been featured on the Travel Channel. It’s no wonder since owner/CEO Bryan Bracewell went to school and studied to be a “meat scientist” at Texas A&M.

Downtown Bastrop

Probably the most unexpected part of this getaway is downtown Bastrop, which has been revitalized with a thriving art scene, plenty of locally sourced food options and even a brand new distillery that serves apple pie moonshine (you can ask for a sample before committing). Downtown Bastrop almost gives off that old Austin vibe, before Austin got entirely too overcrowded. No traffic (unless you get stuck at the lone light at Main Street), no valet, no dress code, no one overly worried what others think — just everyone enjoying a night out on the town. If you’re lucky, you may find yourself sitting on a patio with some of the local old-timers just strumming away on their guitars, and yes, they do take requests.

In the heart of historic Bastrop, be sure to check out Lost Pines Art Bazaar, which has an eclectic collection of Persian rugs (home of the nation’s largest collection of hand-knotted Persian rugs, to be exact), home goods, décor and fun little knickknacks that you don’t need but will purchase anyway, because that’s called supporting the local economy.

If you’re looking for a laid-back Texas weekend with or without the kids, check out the Lost Pines Region and Bastrop County. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how the region easily and authentically exudes Texas roots from A to Z.

This article originally ran in the travel section of CultureMap Houston.

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