All in Good Beer: A “Not Your Average Date” at a Local Brewery

As I try to get better at keeping up with my posts in a timely manner, I am spending a lot of time at work again. It’s our peak season, so there may be some gaps here and there. However, this date was how my husband and I closed out our “Staycation” this year, and it happened at a perfect time.

A couple of weeks ago, Jeremy and I had our first “Staycation” this year, during which we were able to get a lot of rest and finally get to go on some pretty fun dates. I have already posted about our Rock Climbing/book buying adventure in Dallas, but the other great date we were able to go on was in our own town, Tyler, TX. We went to True Vine Brewing Company’s Open Taps event the day after Jeremy’s birthday and it was pretty darn fun! For those who don’t know, True Vine is the first craft brewery in Tyler that sort of popped up, officially, just a couple of years ago. They brew some outstanding beers and have been serving them out of their back yard during their Open Taps events. Open Taps is generally held every last Saturday of the month and it is definitely worth the wait, if you’re already a fan or if you’re dying to try it out. You can actually buy tickets to it in advance via Eventbrite for about $10/person (which gets you a glass and 2 beer tokens to try whatever brew you want). At the door, tickets go up to $15/person and the glasses can’t be guaranteed.

Moving on to what happens when you’re in. Picture it: a gravel yard, covered with huge shade trees, picnic tables and what can be described as a quaint “ice house” to grab your beer from. This small brewery in Northern Tyler plays host to an Open Taps event that attracts hundreds of people from the area. They always have some great music going from local bands and they host booths for a couple of local vendors with stuff to sell. They also invite a food truck to come out and feed their patrons and sop up the delicious beer. While we’re talking about the beer, let me tell you that I try a lot of different craft beers…and these guys are good. You can tell that they know what they are doing and that they have put their blood, sweat, and tears into every batch. I tried their #1 brew called “Mermaids and Unicorns”, which was magical. I also tried one of their beers that was seasonal (I’m struggling to remember the name), that equated to that of a Blue Moon (an orange wedge would have been the only thing I would have added to that one). Jeremy enjoyed a couple of pints of their Sanctamonium (a little hoppy/bitey for my taste, but the other notes in this brew were pretty good). We had also brought my brother and my sister-in-law out with us from Oklahoma and they were just as pleased with their selections. My brother commented on being impressed that a once dry-county like Tyler could have such a good local brewery now. I agree, whole-heartedly. This is definitely an event that I will go to again. The owners of this brewery are amazing people, who love what they do and they love the community that they are in. I sincerely hope they are around for a very long time, indeed.

If you’d like to know a bit more about True Vine Brewing Company, definitely look them up on Facebook! Keep an eye out for Open Taps and other events at their charming brewery, and also at Brookshire’s Fresh for their cans!

I only have one, really great picture to share from Open Taps, and that’s of my husband, the birthday boy, enjoying the brewery tour.

Thanks for stopping by everyone!

With Love, From ETX,

Casey.

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Not Your Average Dates: Dyno-Rock Climbing Gym

Hello again! As promised, I am posting another venue visit under our “Not Your Average Dates” category. This one is from when we visited Dyno-Rock Climbing Gym in Arlington, TX this past week on our “Stay-cation”.

My husband and I have been trying to go out on more active or educational dates. The big one before this, was the Dallas World Aquarium followed by a Dallas Stars game that I posted about previously. This month, so far, we decided to go rock climbing together for the first time. It’s something I had always wanted to try, as a way to build strength, try something different for once and to help get over my fear of heights. We also wanted to do something that was truly something that we had to work together on, so we thought this was a great option for team building/bonding.

Some notes about this place: It is a little difficult to find on your first try. Generally, if you end up close to the enormous AT&T Stadium (where the Dallas Cowboys play football), you’re on the right track, but the little nook-and-cranny streets around there can be a bit confusing. Once you do find it, you may be questioning if you’re in the right place, because it looks like an old office space or warehouse. But, if you look for the sign, you will find that you are, indeed, in the right place. Once you find some parking, the door to get in does kind of look like some back door exit, but it’s definitely the right one. Once you get in, the pictures from the website start to look familiar, and you are greeted by one of the friendly guys that run the gym.

We were greeted by a really cool guy named Michael, who helped us not only with paying for our visit, but he also gave us a crash course in climbing 101. He was extremely knowledgeable about climbing and took plenty of time, and patience, to answer all of my very beginner questions. He also made himself available to us for any further questions or if we needed help with any of the courses in the gym. So, big points to this place for customer service. There is also something to be said about the particular community of climbers that were in there as well. At one point, I needed to take a rest while my husband wanted to try and climb a particular wall that was not the “self-assisted” ropes, and another young man who was just visiting on a day pass like us, just stepped in and belayed (fancy climbing word for the person who holds the ropes at the bottom) for him. I thought that was pretty cool.

Now, let’s talk prices, because you might have guessed that this isn’t a free activity. This place was also quite affordable. If you have your own gear, you spend $12 to be able to climb all day long. But, if you are complete newbies like us and you need to rent shoes, a chalk bag and your harness, it comes to about $21 per person so, about $42 if you’re on a date. Seriously not bad considering this is available to you all day long…and they mean all day. You can literally leave, go have lunch or dinner, and then come back and climb for the rest of the day, if you wanted. Now, if you come in and try it and decide that you really like indoor rock climbing, they also offer memberships and punch cards so you don’t have to pay for the day pass every time you come in. That information and pricing can actually be found on their website at: http://www.dynorock.com .

To recap: This is a fantastic date if you want to do something that is active and fun. Rock Climbing also requires a lot of team work, both physically and mentally. We spent a lot of time mapping out how we were going to make it up the walls, and while we were climbing, the belayer was always calling out different rocks to grab or step on and the climber trusted the advice and ultimately made progress up the wall. Rock Climbing is a very affective trust activity, and I would recommend this to couples of any kind, but especially engaged couples who are about to be married. We absolutely loved the physicality this took as well…we were both sweating and had some very sore arms afterward, but because we climbed and reached the top on several of our attempts, it made it worth the work. I would definitely recommend this gym in particular, for the price and for the community and employees who are there to help.

As usual, at the end of these posts, I have some pictures from our day. So, please forgive odd angles and exasperated, sweaty husband and wife.

As always, Thanks for stopping by!

 

With Love, From ETX,

Casey.

Review:The Dallas World Aquarium

So, back in April, my husband and I visited the Dallas World Aquarium, followed by an amazing Dallas Stars game. Despite the rain that we’ve been having all over Texas, I can honestly say that this, more or less, indoor zoo and aquarium is certainly a treat!

Now, this is a very popular attraction in Dallas, so, getting in to actually get your tickets and start the tour is a bit of a wait. If you are not someone who does well in the elements, you may not like this part. I would say to definitely dress accordingly for outdoor weather AND a lot of walking. That being said, once you finally do get in the door, the place is spectacular! You start at the top of a 3-story building in what they have called “The Canopy”, where there are large amount of beautiful bird species and some monkeys here and there in these higher up areas. After that you go down to level 2 and see an array of land animals, including a gorgeous black panther, flamingos, and penguins! Finally, after you have finished with the 2nd floor, you get to the Water level, where you can see fish, rays, alligators and the aquarium’s famous shark tunnel!

I will take the time to say that this place is huge. It is filled with so many different animal and plant species that it can be a bit overwhelming. The animals in there do seem to be well kept, look healthy and like they are happy. Like I said earlier in the post, this place is very popular…so if you’re not big on crowds or having to share your space with A LOT of people, I would recommend going during the week when there is less foot traffic inside. They do also offer food and drink stations on every floor (they even have concessions for those who are waiting outside to come into the aquarium), as well as relatively clean restroom facilities. There is so much to look at in this place, and they have feeding exhibits periodically throughout the day, which makes it more fun. For example, we happened to be there as they were feeding the penguins. Now, my favorite part was the Shark tunnel…and it is equal parts fascinating and eerie. The sharks swim over and around the tunnel as they please, so you don’t always know when they are swimming up right behind you. This is also kind of a tight space because it is their main attraction, so anyone with claustrophobia may be uncomfortable, but I still recommend seeing it. All and all, I would certainly recommend this for a date or to take your kids. Even though there is not always a keeper around, they do have monitors and placards with some great information about the animals you are looking at. For more information, like events and ticket prices, I encourage you to check out their website at: http://www.dwazoo.com .

Here are some photos of our visit! Credit goes to my husband for taking pictures.

 

As always, thanks for stopping by! I will have a couple more dates that we have gone on posted within the next couple of days, but this one has been pending forever!

 

With Love, From ETX,

Casey.

Review: Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge

If anyone remembers, I said I was going to visit this place at the beginning of the year. However, due to illness, I had to postpone my trip. Yesterday it was an unseasonably warm day for January (because Texas has refused to believe that we are still in winter…) so my husband and I were up for an adventure. We had been talking about Tiger Creek for a while and decided to head that way.

Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge is located, technically, in Red Springs, TX about 4 miles outside of Tyler, TX on FM 14. It’s just past Tyler State Park (which I have never been to but would love to visit and do a write-up soon!) located on a sizable piece of land in our East Texas Piney Woods. It’s honestly not too hard to find and has a big sign on the road that you’re meant to turn down. Now, once you get there, the road is gravel so if you’re going on a wetter day, you may want to keep that in mind if you don’t have a car that sits higher off the ground. Once you arrive, you are directed by signs to park in a gravel area and once you’re ready, head into the visitor’s center to pay for your guided tour. They do offer some special tours during the week that give a little more information and closer looks at the cats (safely), but they are not given on weekends as to not overwhelm the cats. You can find out information for VIP tours, etc at their website, which I’ll include at the end of my review. So, we were given the general tour of the grounds and cats. Now, the price can seem a bit daunting at $20 per person, but you have to keep in mind that this place is a non-profit and is completely run off of donations. Our tour guide that afternoon was named Zack and he had been working at the facility for a few years and he certainly knew his stuff! He had a great knowledge of all 37 of the big cats at the sanctuary, including their weights, how much they ate and their own individual personalities. He was also quick to answer the guests’ questions and handled our youngest tourists (around 3 and 5 years old) like a boss. Very professional, very knowledgeable and patient with kids and less-informed guests. Overall, I feel like I did learn a lot about the different cats in the sanctuary and really enjoyed the experience. If you really enjoy the cats, you can also sponsor or adopt them, for a fee, and your name will be placed on their enclosure. I’m considering sponsoring one of the bobcats, myself, as they are the mascot for my alma mater. Again, this is information that you can find on their website and also if you go to visit them.

Some things to be aware of if you’re not exactly “outdoorsy” include no plumbed restrooms (porta-potties) and a strong kitty musk. They are working to build a larger and more accessible visitor center that will include indoor restrooms and an education center for Big Cat presentations when schools come to visit. Again, this is a donation based organization, so if you love this place like we did, there are ways to help them achieve their goals. The “kitty” musk is always going to be there, despite how clean the workers keep the enclosures, due to the spraying done by large male cats. So if you’re sensitive to smell, just keep that in mind. Other than that, you have a generally good view of the cats and good bit of exercise and, from our experience, and excellent tour guide with a wealth of information to get to know these endangered species. Zack did tell us that there are roughly 400 or so wild tigers left in the world and that their organization is a part of a big cat alliance to help save those species of cats. I highly recommend going if you have nothing to do on a beautiful day or planning a visit in general.

If you’d like some more information on these cats or times to visit this wonderful facility, check out their website at: http://www.tigercreek.org .

I have a couple of pictures from our visit below. Now, they do have a good protective barrier between visitors and the cats, so please excuse the chainlink fence in the pictures.