Charlie and I Hit the Lone Star State.

September 18, 2016 |  by  |  Branded Content, Travel

School has fired up here in Coastal Virginia and between drop-offs, pick-ups, tennis and soccer practice, well visits at the doctor and continuing to unpack after our move further South, life is hitting as a category 5 with sustained winds in excess of 125 mph. So it makes perfect sense to sit down for a minute and wax nostalgia, thinking about how great the summer was.

A lot of you checked out my journey with Ava to the windy city of Chicago (thank you!) and now I’m back to dissect the adventure that was Charlie and I goin’ BIG and flying to San Antonio, Texas for the weekend!


The world is your oyster, son. I’m not certain what that means, but it felt appropriate.

We took this trip a few weeks ago just before Charlie turned 5 years old and I do have to say, that there were marked differences in the way Ava and Charlie travel. What a difference a little over a year difference in age makes.

This was the first time that I’ve ever traveled alone with the young lad and as we hopped on the ICC headed towards Baltimore International Airport, the burning question on his mind was whether or not the airplane had a bathroom in case he needed to poop. Of course, I lied and told him that the pilot would just open the side door and allow him to evacuate himself over a less-densely populated area – which had him concerned.


Waiting for the shuttle in the cowboy boots gifted from Memaw & Pop.

As we boarded the plane, I finally came clean and extinguished his fears of having to hang his butt out of a plane at 37,000 feet.


Unlike the flight Ava and I took to Chicago, the ride from Maryland to San Antonio was a bit longer.

However, it didn’t change the fact that we accomplished the impossible, by stuffing both of our bodies into the bathroom at the rear of the plane (I had to make him stand on top of the toilet so that I could get in to close the door) so that I could help him hold his balance mid-flight.

The flight to San Antonio was a little longer than Charlie is normally used to sitting, but the duffel bag full of goodies that mom put together (along with the iPad I charged) kept him from firing spitballs at the flight attendants as they made their way throughout the cabin. When we landed we hopped in a taxi on our way to the H2 Suites by Hilton and I couldn’t help but chuckle, as he went on and on about how cool it was for us to be in the backseat together while someone else drove us around.

I decided to give Charlie the reigns as we entered the lobby, allowing him to turn over our ID’s and credit card to the front desk and in return, get our room keys.


He barely had his shoes off and was already wondering if we could turn on the Cartoon Network.

After a brief stand-off, I informed him that we didn’t fly four hours to Texas to watch re-runs! So we took a walk just a block or two from H2, had a Tex-Mex lunch and decided to take the official Riverwalk Boat Tour.


The heat hadn’t gotten to him yet.

Being that he nor I had ever been to San Antonio, we were pretty fascinated to learn more about the ‘Paseo Del Rio’ (aka Riverwalk). With a length of over 5 miles (If I’m not mistaken), the walk is network of paths and waterways one-story below the surface streets, careening along the banks of the San Antonio River. It connects you with immediate access to bars, restaurants, shops and tourist sites like the famous Alamo.


Charz was intrigued by the root systems of the trees that have set along these banks for decades–I told him they were snakes.

After struggling in the heat for a few hours, I decided it might be a good move to get us inside for a bit so I called a friend at the Witte Museum, which was about a ten-minute ride from the hotel. She arranged to meet us at the front gate and give us a little intro before turning us loose inside.


Orange you glad I took this picture?

The Witte was founded in 1926 and focuses on natural history, science and South Texas heritage. Since we came on a weekday morning, we had the entire place to ourselves!


A local food preparation and tasting session – who knew the resident chef could get him to sit still for so long!

And after we came up from the basement…


This year he’s hit that crucial height that allows him access to most carnival and amusement park rides, along with these rooftop binos.

We hit the top floor, to check out an herb garden, a series of musical wind chimes made from different materials and Charlie spent a few minutes looking at the distant canopy for birds… but one of the coolest things was the way that we got back down outside – a multi-level treehouse connected with canopy bridges and stairs…


Using the turning mechanisms to push, pull and displace water at different stations.

But by mid-afternoon, this 5-year old had had enough. We decided to walk to a local grocery store, pick up a few things and make dinner in our H2 Suite – but first…


A dip in the H2 pool with another dad and his two kids who were passing through SA.


After some snacks (please ignore that brown end of a banana on the nightstand) and a few cartoons – this kids was OUT.

The day before at the Witte, as we pulled away, we noticed a line out the door of a lunch spot at the end of the street and felt like we needed to see what Texas BBQ really had to offer.


The Smoke Shack is the REAL DEAL.

There’s no question that I had to try the local ‘Frito Pie’… Fritos topped with brisket and pinto beans and Charlie went old school with smoked sausage and the house MAC.


Thumbs up – even on the okra!

I figured that I needed to gas the kid up for the next stop – a little place that boasts the largest Stetson collection in the country – Paris Hatters, open since 1917. How could we come to Texas and not go big with a couple cowboy hats and pairs of boots (and a massive Texas belt buckle for dad).


This guy looks like me going shopping with mom as a kid – what little boy wouldn’t want his own Stetson?


Fitted up top – time to get rid of these city slicker sneakers…


A few weeks later, we saw Paris Hatters featured on The History Channels ‘American Pickers’ and the little guy was jumping up and down in the living room – finally excited that he had stood there.

With it being our last night in town – I asked Charlie if he was willing to try something new and exciting. I asked if he would go with me to a little place called Restaurant Gwendolyn. Chef Michael Sohocki leads this incredible crew, using all local sourced ingredients and get this – they cook as they did prior to the industrial revolution – they used NOTHING that requires a motor or plug.


A window seat for the boys.

So much care and effort went into this meal and it was one of the best of ever had in my life.


A huge thunderstorm (along with Charlie trying almost everything) made this a great moment.

Charlie had a taste of everything that the kitchen had put out, including my boar sausage.


Charlie and Chef Sohocki before dessert…

Chef Michael Sohocki came out to visit with Charlie and I just after we finished our main course and spent almost a half hour telling us about his journey, his love for food and restaurant and was gracious enough to answer all of my son’s questions.


Embracing our weekend trip to Texas.

Perhaps it wasn’t everything that San Antonio had to offer since we were only there for a long weekend, however, all things combined that we experienced had us charmed. As we packed up and headed for the airport, it was Charlie who had done a 180 and suggested that we wear our cowboy hats and boots home.


Just two Stetson boys at the airport.

I’ll be the first to admit, this wasn’t the easiest trip to do, given that my son is only 5-years old, but this I can tell you – we bonded that weekend like we haven’t done before. We laughed (I potentially almost cried) and talked, held hands and I think it was one of those special moments between a father and son that neither of us will ever forget. My only hope is that we continue the tradition until and build more memories like we did here in Texas.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Homewood Suites by Hilton/H2 Suites by Hilton and their #TravelMANager #DadTime campaign, however the experience and story are on us. Learn more about us on at!