Weekend Getaway to Austin, TX
I’ve always heard Austin, TX was a really fun city, like a mini-San Francisco (imagine a liberal bubble in the middle of Texas) with great food and lots of live music. After our quick 3-night stay in Austin– I totally agree! Because there’s a wavepool in nearby Waco, Shaun and I decided to take another weekend getaway to somewhere we typically wouldn’t travel to.
Braving the Southern Heat
The only potentially downside of our trip was that we went in August… and it was hot as heck. At least 90-100° everyday, and just barely dips under 80° at night. The city is centered around the beautiful Colorado River with the scenic Lady Bird Lake – however, it’s illegal to swim there. (Not sure if there’s bacteria, or what the reason is) but it felt like torture to have such beautiful water surrounding you, without the relief of jumping in!
However, there is the super popular Barton Springs natural water springs on the west side of the city. There’s a play-to-swim area (with lifeguards, toilets, etc.) and also a free access area (like a regular creek!). We didn’t go to either, because our trip was so short and we wanted to make the most of our time in Austin.
Congress Ave. Bridge
An interesting sight to see in Austin TX is the flight of the bats! Austin has the largest urban bat population in the world, and every night at dusk all 1.5 million of them come out to play! Seriously, one and a half million bats. I knew it was a popular tourist “attraction” to come check it out, but I was amazed by the huge crowds gathering together at Congress Avenue Bridge as the sun set to wait and watch!
Congress Avenue Bridge also offers an awesome vantage point direct to the Texas Capital Building (see below). Since it’s free to enter, we decided to take a detour to the north side of town. Just a few blocks away is the University of Texas campus and their super-huge football stadium. The Capital Building and the UT campus were both cool to see, but I wouldn’t put either of those sites on the do-not-miss list.
Taste of Austin
We stayed at this Airbnb on the east side of the city, with awesome “superhosts”! The studio is a stand-only unit with it’s own entrance and yard, complete with the necessities and even stocked with food and snacks! Bonus! The best part was that it came with bikes, free for us to use. The popular bike paths are super picturesque along the river. We biked downtown on our first night, but it was too hot out to keeping riding as our consistent transportation (and we rented a car!).
The east side, specifically East 6th Street. & Cesar Chavez Street, are super cute, kind-of industrial areas. There’s lots of breweries with warehouse-vibes and delicious eateries. Our first meal in Austin was at La Barbacue– we were warned the lines can be insanely long, but we arrived at a strange time (like 3pm) and lucked out with just a few other people in line. Later that weekend, we drove by and consistently saw the painfully long line. The picture below doesn’t even do it justice (the line snakes around a few times inside, too…).
Actually, we quickly noticed that waiting in line is a popular past-time for Austin locals. At Hopdoddy Burger Bar, we easily stood in like for at least an hour (honest opinion: not worth it). For a popular ramen bar, Ramen Tatsu-Ya, we waited another 45 minutes (super worth it!).
We would never typically wait that long for any restaurant at home, but in Austin, it seemed like the trendy thing to do! The restaurants have the waiting-in-line-experience down to a tee: the staff take your bar orders as you wait, passing out fruit-infused water as you wait in the 100° weather, and even assigning you what table you’ll sit at, before you’ve even placed your order. People seemed to love it, too. It was a trip!
*Other notable places we ate on the east side (with no line!) are Lazarus Brewing (huge brewery with ample outdoor seating –or indoor if you need some A/C– and live music at night) and Bufalina (very chic and super yummy pizzeria).
Grabbing a drink? Downtown vs. Rainey Street
In addition to the trendy east side, there’s three other central areas we explored: downtown, Rainey Street, and South Congress Avenue (more on this later, aka “SoCo”).
In my online research, other travel writers had described downtown as “the place for people in their 20’s to party” and Rainey St. as “where you go when you’re over 30.” I guess Shaun and I are old souls, because we wayyyy preferred Rainey St.!
Downtown is the epicenter of the sky scrapers, and 6th Ave. is the main bar/restaurant/touristy strip. We walked around thinking we’d stop somewhere for a happy hour drink, but we wanted to get outta there and soon as we got there. The bars were super loud with aggressive promo-guys out front trying to lure you in for their $2 shots. No thank you!
So, we walked to nearby Rainey Street instead and laughed at ourselves for decidedly clicking with the “older crowd” more than our own age group. Rainey Street was three blocks of unique bars and breweries, several of which are set in historic bungalow-style homes. We grabbed a drink at Lucille, which had plenty of indoor seating (yay A/C!) as well as a fun patio out back.
My only regret for the weekend is not indulging in any of the many, many food trucks around the city. It was just too dang hot to sit and eat outside in the sunshine. We were walking around so much sightseeing that when you finally decide to take a break for a meal, all you want is some air conditioning!
South Congress Avenue
South Congress Avenue is to Austin, what Brooklyn is to New York City. It’s the trendy, colorful, hipster, vintage, eclectic and artsy hotspot in town. It’s directly across the river from the skyscraper of downtown (literally straight across Congress Ave. bridge and you’re there!). South Congress (nicknamed SoCo) is full of food trucks, vintage shops, cute eateries with super long lines, and chic boutiques. This would be another great part of the city to find an Airbnb– very walkable part of the city with lots to see & do!
Coming soon– our trip to the Waco Wavepool and Shaun’s first time surfing artificial waves!