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Romance in the Highland Lakes: Date ideas from local couples

Jim and Paige Lechler spend an afternoon at the Llano River. The couple give us their date recommendations below. Photo by DeeAnna Piatek

The definition of a great date night depends on who you ask. We visited with three Highland Lakes area couples at different stages of a relationship to find out what makes the perfect date in Central Texas.

PAIGE & JIM LECHLER

Paige and Jim Lechler of Meadowlakes will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in April. The Lechlers have four adult children and a host of grandchildren. They are dating experts, and, like many long-married couples, one of them answered for both.

FIRST DATE

Paige: When I moved to San Antonio in 1979, Jim was my next-door neighbor, and we noticed each other immediately. One Friday evening, several of us from the apartment complex were gathering to go to happy hour. As I was leaving, Jim drove up after driving straight through from vacation in Arizona. I asked him to join us, so he teases me about asking him out first. We went to the Blue Bonnet Palace in Selma to hear Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88’s. We danced the night away. On our official first date, we went to Jacala Mexican Food Restaurant in San Antonio. We are rarely in San Antonio that we don’t go there for old-time’s sake.

FAVORITE DATE

Paige: Last year, we went to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Gala in Dallas. The gala was fun, but listening and dancing to Three Dog Night provided a great walk down memory lane.

DATE RECOMMENDATIONS

Pecan Street Brewery in Johnson City or Rounders Pizzeria in Jonestown for pizza and a cold draft beer after a day of hiking the trails at Pedernales Falls State Park.

JENNIFER & KEVIN VIRDELL

Kevin and Jennifer Virdell meet for a quick bite at a Marble Falls area food park. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell


Jennifer and Kevin Virdell of Marble Falls are parents of two school-age daughters. While they love family time with the kids, they plan at least two date nights a month, which sometimes includes going out with friends.

FIRST DATE

Jennifer: Our first date was to Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic in Spicewood circa 2003. Kevin had two VIP tickets. He asked, and I happily accepted. I really miss the picnic being that close!

Kevin: Willie's picnic. I had been wanting to ask Jennifer out for awhile, and I'm glad she accepted.

FAVORITE DATES

Jennifer: It's hard to pick just one, but San Antonio (2005) when Kevin proposed on a balcony over the Riverwalk. I'd say that's still at the top of my list.

Kevin: I surprised Jennifer with a date to the airport to catch a plane for a long weekend away several years ago. Her expression was unforgettable.

DATE RECOMMENDATIONS

Jennifer: A progressive date/road trip is my favorite way to see multiple parts of the beautiful Hill Country and get in some quality time together. I recommend picking a town to start in and check out some fun, local establishments, such as the local wineries. Then, meander toward another town for dinner. There are a number of places in our area with local, live music on the weekends and even a few historic dance halls, so we will sometimes top off the evening with live music before returning home.

Kevin: It depends on what you're looking for as far as activity level. We've got some great golf courses in the area, the lakes and other natural resources are good options as well. If you want a low-key date, take a short drive to a little town like Castell to hang out. Yelp and Instagram influencers are popular online resources for food/drink spots if you're deciding as you go.

MORGAN WELLINGHOFF & CHRISTIAN RICE

Morgan Wellinghoff and Christian Rice on a Fredericksburg Winery Tour. Courtesy photo


Marble Falls residents Morgan Wellinghoff and Christian Rice have been dating since the day they met at Chili’s while on a work lunch in August 2015.

FIRST DATE

Morgan: Christian was flown in by a sister company to train at the marketing firm where I was working. I was a little upset because I was supposed to have the day off, but I was told that morning I had to pick this guy up and entertain him until he could check into his lodging. We had such a good time during lunch. I couldn’t help but feel an instant connection. Even though it technically wasn’t our first date, since work brought us together, we consider it the start of our relationship.

Christian: Chili's. It was a work thing that we turned into a date. I made her laugh, so I think it went well.

FAVORITE DATE

Morgan: It’s hard to pick just one, but we recently went to Putters & Gutters in Lampasas, and it was so much fun. It felt like an arcade for adults! We’re both pretty competitive, so it was fun for both of us.

Christian: My favorite date was a day trip we took to Savannah, Georgia, two years ago. We drove three hours from Atlanta to the beach, hung out there for a few hours, and then ate at a little hole-in-the-wall barbecue place before we drove back. We spent maybe $50 on gas and food total for the whole day, but we had the best time and laughed the whole day.

DATE RECOMMENDATIONS

Morgan: f you’re looking for a casual place to sit down for a nice meal, I’d recommend Double Horn Brewing Company (in Marble Falls). They have great beers, and we like to share their appetizers. If you like to be active, I would suggest looking into seasonal activities like hiking or visiting Sweet Berry Farm to go pumpkin or strawberry picking.

Christian: I like Double Horn or the movies. Double Horn has great appetizers, and you can never go wrong at the movies.

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