Austin: The weirdest place west of the Mississippi

The slogan “Keep Austin Weird” could possibly be the most accurate slogan for any city (sorry Portland!). Between the weather (end of March was perfect), the food, the bars, food and non-stop slew of outdoor activities, I was just about ready to move by the end of the long weekend (oh did I mention the food?).

We flew to Austin on Southwest – cheap direct flights, 2 free checked bags, the friendliest staff – to do a long weekend (3 days in Austin, 1 day in San Antonio). In true NY fashion, we decided to do the city where people claimed you needed a car all on public transit/our own two feet.

Without a car, we wanted to stay somewhere convenient, but hotels downtown were a little pricey, so we opted for an Airbnb. We stayed across the street from the Palmer events center and could not have gotten a better location. We were steps from a city bike location, 5/10 minutes from several major bus stops (including the airport shuttle) and a 10/15 minute walk from just about everything we wanted to do.

Day One (Saturday)

South Congress

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The first day, the weather was grey, overcast and 87% humidity with a chance of lightening, so we help off on any outdoor activity and decided to do brunch and shopping in the South Congress district – the area that gives Austin it’s quirky reputation.

We ate at Guero’s taco bar, where food, unlimited chips and salsa, plus drinks came to $15 a person. The Bloody Mary’s had a great kick and flavor to them, the corn tortillas were so good we actually ordered extra as a side, and there was an unlimited salsa bar. Have I sold you on this place yet? No? Well here’s an added bonus: My friend Dan who came on this trip with me is a Vegetarian, and found tons  of DELICIOUS options here for meat-free meals.

We spent the remained of the afternoon wandering the shops, and I walked out with quite a handful of art. Uncommon Objects, Parts & Labor, and Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds were hands down my favorite shops.

Crazy 6th Street

In the evening we headed down to the 6th street district to eat and drink before seeing the evening main event: Ether’s Follies. We went to Waller Creek Pub House, and I had a Ruben I’m still dreaming of along with my favorite drink ever: A vodka club with Deep Eddy Grapefruit Vodka. It’s refreshing and doesn’t taste like alcohol, and the same price as any well vodka, so drink with caution or you’ll be 3 drinks deep in just over an hour (oops). The Pub also had an amazing local craft beer selection, so I highly recommend it for dinner and drinks before an evening out.

Ester’s Follies is Austin’s answer to SNL. It’s musical sketch comedy, along with a Vegas style magician. I don’t know the last time I’d seen a live show that had me rolling laughter so hard. It takes on everything from politics, to Texas stereotypes, poking fun at just about everyone under the sun. It was kinda nice to see Trump impressions that weren’t Alec Baldwin based – but I’ll refrain from saying anymore as not to spoil the show. Score 10/10 Must See!

We then headed out to a bar that has a mini-adult playground on the roof (drunk seesawing anyone?) called Handlebar. Between the name, the drink price, the roof top playground, I was basically begging Dan to talk me out of moving by the end of the night.

Day 2 – Only things that start with Bs

Brunching

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We spent the morning waiting out a tornando (luckily our airbnb was in a basement). Once the clouds cleared it was 80 and sunny and it was like the storm never happened. We did brunch at Frank, which is known for it’s homemade sausage and hotdogs. Talk about a southern brunch – cheesey buscuits, sausage gravy, extra sausage – I was in a full on food coma by the time we finished.

Biking

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To work off the food, we took those city bikes we’d rented and did a tour of Austin, around the downtown area, the UT Campus, and the Capital building. We then rode down to lady bird lake and explored the nature paths. The Lake was gorgeous, and we had to keep stopping to admire the view. After a few hours of exploring, we headed back to the Airbnb to apply aloe in heaping amounts, because the first sunburn of the year is always the worst.

Bats

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Right before sunset, we headed down to the South Congress bridge, or as it is known in the evening, the Bat Bridge. The bridge is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America (750k-1.5 million depending on the month). At sunset, people line up or take an evening cruise to see all the bats fly out. It was both really cool and mildly creepy to have that many bats flying about you.

BBQ

For dinner, we then headed for out next item on the Austin food checklist: BBQ. While Salt Lick reigns supreme, we had no way to get there without a car. We instead chose a big outdoor place with craft beer called Uncle Billy’s. I’d never in my life actually had a piece of brisket so tender. How does the South get their BBQ so good! Dan wasn’t thrilled with his vegetarian options (mac n cheese, mac n cheese, and salad), but he’s a good friend for putting up with my want to eat every meat under the sun.

Day 3

The original Whole Foods

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After 3 days of non stop meat, grease, and heavy food, my body was begging for a reprieve. We decided to take a visit to the original Whole Foods – because what sounds more Hipster than that. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I love visiting really cool super markets (Stew Lenard’s, Wegmans), and this Whole Foods did not disappoint.

Barton Springs

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After eating our meal on the terrace watching people do yoga (yes, all of this is still at While Foods), we headed down to Barton Springs for a relaxing day. Walking through Ziker park, we got to Barton Springs at about noon and didn’t move for the entire afternoon. The resident price was $3, when you hand your ticket to get in, no one checks where you live. Otherwise it was $10. The springs are naturally fed into this pool, at a constant 67-70 degrees.. It’s a little cold for my taste but plenty of people seemed to be swimming. I instead plopped myself down in the sun and read for a few hours. By the time we got back to the apartment, I was a tomato, despite the layers of sunscreen I used.

Unfortunately it was time to return home to rainy NY, and we sadly headed to the airport. We took the airport bus ($1.75) from the south congress bridge which was late to pick us up but still got us to the terminal with plenty of time. I got my Salt Lick BBQ at the airport – not as good as the real place I’m sure but delicious none-the-less.

Austin was non-stop fun and non-stop food. I couldn’t recommend a place more for a fun long weekend.

The Useful Stuff:

Getting Around: Public transit is limited but we had a lot of luck with using the city buses. For only $1.70, it was totally worth it, especially the airport shuttle. Otherwise, we really did ride bikes EVERYWHERE. It was such a bike friendly city, we found it the most convenient, and very quick in most cases.

Prepare for food lines: Everything we ate was SO GOOD, but especially for brunch, we did have trouble finding places without huge waits. It’s a foodie city, and that means foodie wait times.

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