I’m not going to lie; I lose some of my traveling enthusiasm when I see Texas on my schedule. I’m not trying to ruffle the feathers of loyal Texans (I know, you love Texas), I’m just being honest. Every state has its strengths and weaknesses, some more than others. Take all the Texas stereotypes and throw them out the window… there is hope. It’s Austin, Texas!
I have been to all the major Texas cities several times throughout my three years of traveling full-time. I don’t mind the other cities, but I’m not packing my bags to move there anytime soon. Austin is a different story. It embodies the patriotic spirit of Texas, while maintaining a progressive identity and entertainment culture that is unrivalled.
Entertainment: It’s called “The Live Music Capital of the World” for a reason. As a music enthusiast this is the epicenter for music lovers of all genres. My favorite spots were Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, Emo’s, and Continental Club. I was in awe looking at their live music calendars; they attract everything from big names to local breakout groups. Austin is the only city where you can walk along a downtown street and experience amazing live music without the pretentiousness or deep pockets that has become the norm.
My favorite place to find city events: Austin Chronicle http://www.austinchronicle.com
Food: I tried everything from the expensive Perla’s Seafood and Oyster Bar to the food carts on South Congress and it was all delicious. I used the Yelp app on my phone to find places around me and I was never disappointed by the local spots. I recommend trying places as you walk around, keeping in mind the sketchier it looks, the better the food will probably be. When shopping on South Congress you have to stop at Home Slice (1415 S. Congress) and the cupcake cart midway down the street.
Shopping: South Congress is unlike any shopping I have experienced throughout my travels. The stores are full of locally made items that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Monkey See Monkey Do (1712 S. Congress Ave) has great games, figurines, clocks, and funky toys that you can’t help but buy. Uncommon Objects (1512 S. Congress Ave) has the most amazing antiques, I felt like I was on the TV show “American Pickers.” You can find handcrafted jewelry, furniture, art, and collectibles from artist around the world at Tesoros (1500 S. Congress Ave). I wanted to buy half the things in this store to decorate my apartment, including a mirror that was framed using old typewriter keys. I love the reasonably priced jewelry at The Gifted (1700 S. Congress Ave). Parts and Labour (1117 S. Congress Ave) has trendy jewelry,gifts, stationary, and graphic t-shirts.
The best women’s clothing store for those in their 20’s was Creatures Boutique (1206 S. Congress Ave). The icing on the cake was the unbelievable vinyl art pieces all over the walls by local artist Adreon Henry. Every store is original and unique; I wish more of them had online stores so I could keep buying.
Nightlife: Most blogs and travel guides will tell you Sixth Street is the place. I enjoyed a
good frat party when I was 21 years old, not so much now. The street is packed with live music venues and bars, but it’s like going to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. You can find great local spots around Austin while avoiding the throngs of college kids.
My favorite area within walking distance of my hotel was the Second Street District. This is the place where you will find the chic young professional crowd. There are lots of trendy stores, health food cafes, upscale restaurants, and wine bars. Located on the south side of downtown, this area is part of an ongoing redevelopment initiative to attract people into the city and seems to have worked!
For those low-key nights out with some friends, try Lustre Pearl. I was mildly concerned walking up a dusty path into a converted house, but I quickly realized this was Austin, I wasn’t in Miami anymore. The drink selection and pricing is decent, but the most appealing feature is the large outdoor space lined with picnic tables. Plus, any bar that incorporates ping pong tables and a taco truck is a real winner in my book. It was more of a college crowd, but I can deal with that occasionally.
Exercise: I hate hotel gyms so I try to get out and hike or sightsee while traveling. I chose the most popular and centrally located recreation spot, the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail (also known as the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail). The trail covers 10.3 miles, but
you can choose different segments to match your endurance level. The trail is flat, so I barely broke a sweat taking in the views of downtown Austin and Lady Bird Lake.
I really wanted to visit Barton Springs Pool, the man-made swimming pool from the Parthenia natural spring in Zilker Park. Unfortunately, the only day I had free was a Thursday and it’s closed on Thursday’s for cleaning. It was highly recommended by the locals so I suggest you visit it and report back!
Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail details: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/trails.htm
Complete Austin Trail Guide: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/traildirectory.htm#townlake