For our 1st Year Anniversary, Carolyn and I decided to spend a couple nights at the Gaylord Texan, the Hotel and Convention Center that she had her bridal pictures taken at. It's considered a Resort Hotel, I suppose due to the fact that it has several restaurants, shops, pools, and a full spa on the grounds.
The structure itself is truly massive. There are over 1500 rooms spread out over several buildings, with the areas in between completely covered by a glass dome. In the middle of the main atrium, there is a huge star that is visible from the sky when you fly into Dallas, and it's lit up at night. We spent a couple hours just walking around and seeing all the public parts of the hotel, and I feel like we must have missed something. Most of the time you felt like you were outside, but weren't.
An interesting feature of the Gaylord is the Riverwalk Atrium. It is not a huge area, but it tries to recreate the feel of the Riverwalk in San Antonio. I've been to the real riverwalk, and you really can't compare the two, but for tourists I suppose it gives you a taste without having to travel a couple hundred miles. It is accurate in how there is no railing, and bridges that cross the water, and restaurants that basically line the water, but the similarities stop there. I won't say it's not nice, but it doesn't beat or match the real thing. Well, the real thing isn't air conditioned 24/7, so I guess the Gaylord has that going for it.
The pools and other hotel amenities you might be expecting are top notch. The outdoor pool is quite large, but was pretty crowded whenever the weather was nice. The indoor pool was large, perhaps even olympic-sized, but we only stopped in to see it for a minute. The rooms were well maintained, and had enough features for me to feel like I was getting my money's worth. That's not a light compliment, as the rooms are pretty expensive. We decided to get a nicer room than we would have normally, partially because we were using some of our Wedding money we had saved, and also because we weren't going to be returning soon, so we wanted it to be special. Also, the difference between the best room and the worst room isn't much in comparison to the base cost of any room, probably less than 25% of the cost.
The view from the room was great. We had originally been put in a 4th floor room overlooking the relatively small Riverwalk Atrium, but after seeing it, I went back to the desk to be upgraded to a better room. Since we weren't in a hurry, and were paying for a good room, I told them we were willing to wait if it would mean a room overlooking the main atrium. They said a room in the section we wanted would be available in about an hour, so we walked the grounds while they worked on the room. When we got our new room, it was on the 7th floor (out of 9), and just had a beautiful view. It was great to be able to sit on our balcony and overlook the areas where Carolyn had had her bridal pictures taken, and see a lot of the activity going on in the hotel.
They have several restaurants at the hotel, as I've mentioned earlier, but for the most part the food was fairly overpriced. There was no free breakfast option, I think the cheapest you could get was $16, and that was for cereal, milk, juice, and a little fruit. Needless to say, we skipped breakfast. Lunch is better, but there was nothing for less than about $10. I think a cold sandwich at a shop was only $8. But a filling meal of ribs, beans, coleslaw, and lots of chips at the Texan Station (the sports bar and grill) was only $14. There was also a mexican buffet at the Riverwalk cafe, but it was $21 for lunch, or $28 for dinner. We ate at Texan Station once, and at one of the nicer places, Ama Lur, for our Anniversary dinner. The meal was pretty expensive, but the food was quite good. We were both so full from lunch, we didn't need an appetizer or extra sides with our meals, so we got off for less than what we might have otherwise.
Afterwards, we went on a little photo shoot. We were both dressed up, and enjoyed going around taking pictures of each other and of us together (self timers are great). The Gaylord has an entire different atmosphere at night, and is just beautifully lit. There are streams flowing throughout all the atriums, and many paths lined with plants and trees that make lovely backdrops. One nice thing about the night time Gaylord is the lack of tourists and vistors that aren't staying the night, but only came to visit during the day. Many of the conferences that are meeting at the convention center have activities at night, and although I'm sure they are nice, I doubt they could have as nice of scenery as what is available in the various atriums.
We also ate our wedding cake, which tasted almost as good a year later as I remember it tasting the night of our wedding (a couple big slices were packed up for us to take with us to the hotel). It was hard to believe it had been 365 days since the last time we had that cake, it had passed so fast. We would have to leave the Gaylord in the morning, but our time there would never be forgotten.