Recently, a friend and I took a road trip from Sierra Vista, AZ, to Biloxi, MS, and one thing I discovered along the way is: Texas is a huge state.
Of the six days we spent driving there and back, three of them were spent in Texas. We were playing our stops by ear and found ourselves in Alpine, TX, where my travel buddy and I agreed, this was the best stop we made on the trip.
Alpine is a small town. Alpine, TX, is a very small town and Texas is predominantly small towns and most of them are appealing and quiet. When my traveling buddy and I decided to go through this part of Texas so we might experience the Marfa Lights, we discovered the city of Marfa has only about three hotels and the prices are outrageous, to say the least. In Marfa, the average rate per night is about $150 to $200, which seems disproportionate for the size of the town, out in the middle of nowhere, but there it is. The result of the outrageous nightly rates in Marfa (and their unwillingness to offer any discounts at all for traveling media – they want to make sure they get every penny of that $200) we found ourselves looking for a place to stay for the night and we ended up with a reservation at the Best Western Classic Alpine Inn in Alpine, TX.
I’m usually not a chain hotel sort of person. I feel a tremendous responsibility to my readers and social networking followers to find those out-of-the-way places you might not know about otherwise. I also feel the chain hotels treat you rather impersonally. I like the human touch of smaller, lesser known inns, hotels and motels. However, it turns out Best Western is a fan of having their hotels meld with each location’s environment and they are personal to the owner of the hotels – none of the Best Western hotels is corporate owned. If you’re staying in a Best Western, you’re supporting the local community, 100%. The Best Western Alpine Classic Inn is part of Alpine, inside and out, and it’s a “Must Stay” if you find yourself in Alpine, TX.
First, the manager of the inn, James Bennett, is a native Texan, transplanted to California, slowly returning to Texas. He doesn’t just like the area, he LOVES it, and it shows from the moment you walk through the door. He welcomes you to his hotel as though he’s welcoming you to his home and in each room is a brief note from him telling you just how welcome you are. In addition, he shares his voicemail number and e-mail address so he can address any concerns you might have, personally.
Next, the lobby… Generally, lobbies are for breezing through on your way to something else, whether you’re coming or going. Not this lobby – oh, no, not this lobby. From the moment you walk in, it’s clear this is no ordinary chain hotel. Since we were traveling into December, the lobby, decorated for Christmas, was stunning. What catches your eye, though, is the murals, painted by a local artist, that tell the story of Alpine, TX. Texas history is rich with tales of cowboys, cattle drives, good guys, bad guys and everything in between. Make sure to ask the staff to tell the tale commemorated on their wall, “The Tale of the Murder Maverick”, which is local legend there in Alpine. Also, the furniture is heavy, well-cushioned and inviting you to plop down as though you were in your own living room.
The rooms at this hotel are comfortable and warm after a cold (COLD!) December evening of watching for the Marfa lights. As huge a fan as I am of Marriott and their pillow top mattresses, the mattresses at this hotel are better. The pillows were soft, without being too soft, the blankets were just enough for a Texas winter night and the amenities in the room are standard, with a coffee pot, free Wi-Fi, a hair dryer (and not one of those wimpy ones you see everywhere else), microwave, fridge and ironing board/iron, everything a pleasure or business traveler might need.
Finally, the “continental” breakfast they say they offer. Continental is in quotes because they really don’t offer that. Their breakfast is a full-blown, bacon and eggs, biscuits and gravy, toast and cereal kind of breakfast with the chef on hand to take special orders, greeting each diner with the offer to cook your eggs however you’d like them. This just doesn’t happen anywhere else. I’ve stayed in places that say they offer breakfast when the truth of the matter is – it was bagels, still in the bag, little packets of cream cheese and tiny Styrofoam cups for coffee and tea. Not at the Best Western Alpine Classic Inn, not by a long shot. They take their breakfast seriously there and if you walk away from the table still hungry, that’s your fault. Had my travel buddy and I not had to hit the road, I think we’d have entertained the idea of taking a nap after eating our breakfast.
There are a number of reasons Alpine, TX, is unique to travelers. One of the more surprising things to note is: they have an Amtrak station and Alpine was given special distinction from Amtrak for this. The manager of the hotel manages two hotels, one in California and this one, and he takes the train between the two twice a month.
Another reason to stop in Alpine for more than a day is their proximity to a number of tourist attractions such as the aforementioned Marfa Lights, Big Bend National Park, The McDonald Observatory and Balmorhea State Park. If you opt to take the train to Alpine, and not drive your own car, there are services available to get you where you need to go, including a local hotel offering transportation to Big Bend, picking you up at whichever hotel you happen to be staying. A getaway in Alpine is an opportunity to rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit due to its being rural and filled with nature at its finest. Making the Best Western Alpine Classic Inn only adds to the sense of peace that comes from escaping the hustle and bustle of the city.
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