Austin, Texas City Guide: The New American Hotspot!
City Guide: Austin, Texas
Not only am I trying to globe trot to different countries around the world, I also have a curiosity to see all that my home country has to offer!
Over the past few years, mid-size American cities such as Nashville, New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Portland, Charlotte, Minneapolis and Austin have become major hotspots for people who live in the U.S. and around the world! Instead of taking a girls’ or guys’ trip to Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, Houston and New York, where everything is a bit overwhelming and expensive, men and women are now heading to the mid-size cities I mention above to experience a culture that is more close-knit and easy to savor.
This past week, I traveled to Austin, Texas, for the first annual TravelCon event for travel bloggers like myself. Before the three-day conference began, I flew to Texas’ capital a day early so that I could explore all that the city has to offer! Today, I am so excited to go over everything I did and all that you must see and do when you travel to Austin, Texas.
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Everything you MUST do in Austin:
To get around in Austin, there is a train, but the easiest way is to either rent a car (if you aren’t staying downtown) or take an Uber or Lyft like I did. If you are staying downtown, most places are in walking distance and they are easy to get to.
Stay in an Airbnb:
Even though it is convenient to get a hotel room in downtown Austin when you visit, I highly encourage you to get outside of the main areas of the city and stay where the locals are. There are so many different neighborhoods to Austin that are unique and authentic and being able to stay in these areas are definitely the best way to experience the city.
During my time in Austin, I stayed in the cutest Airbnb in the Dawson area. It was a little casita located in the backyard of the owner’s main house. I loved the little courtyard with stringed lights! The casita was perfect for me as it was a studio that featured a quaint nook area, loft, little kitchen and a backyard.
The area that I stayed in had some cute restaurants that have been in the city for quite some time. They were decorated with local street art, string lights and so much more. You could also find a lot of food trucks outside of the downtown area. It is adorable!
If you are looking to save money and enjoy the authenticity that Austin offers, I highly recommend staying in an Airbnb.
Savor all the FOOD (and Drinks):
Austin is known for some great cuisines so if you are a foodie like myself, I highly recommend creating a bucket list and making your rounds throughout the city. Here is a list of food places you must go to during your time in Austin, according to my experience:
- House Park Bar-B-Que: If you are looking for an authentic BBQ restaurant with a warm and welcoming ambiance, then I highly recommend going to House Park Bar-B-Que. I found this great place on my way to Graffiti Park and I will admit that when you first walk in, it is a bit of a dive, but my pulled BBQ chicken sandwich was absolutely amazing! Also the staff was super friendly to me. I told them I would definitely be back in the future!
- Salt Lick: Known as one of Austin’s most popular BBQ restaurants, you could find this great place in the Driftwood section of the city, in the suburb of Round Rock and also in Austin’s airport. In fact, I savored some great breakfast tacos at Salt Lick’s airport location. They were a good fuel before I flew back home.
- Lambert’s: If you are looking for a great Texas BBQ brunch spot, then Lambert’s in downtown Austin is a great place to go to on a Saturday or Sunday. Lambert’s is also one of the fancier BBQ restaurants I visited during my time in Austin. Not only could you get some great BBQ, you could also savor other delicious southern comfort meals.
- Torchy’s Tacos: Also known as taco heaven, you could find Torchy’s Tacos all throughout the state of Texas. If you are looking to savor some amazing TexMex tacos, then you HAVE to go to a Torchy’s. They have so many different types of tacos for you to choose from and they even serve breakfast. During my time in Austin, there was a Torchy’s Tacos truck located near the conference so we all were able to enjoy them.
- VooDoo Doughnut: I could finally say that I tried VooDoo Doughnut! Prior to going to Austin, I only thought that you could get these famous donuts in Portland, OR, but apparently they have a few locations throughout the country. Besides, Portland and Austin, you could also find a VooDoo Doughnut in Eugene, Denver, Hollywood and Orlando. This fun donut shop offers several “crazy donuts” with some fun toppings! I had a vanilla-frosted donut with Fruit Loops! (I honestly can’t tell you the last time I had Fruit Loops.) In addition to VooDoo Doughnut being a donut and coffee shop, you could also see a live band play there. In Austin, it is located in the city’s lively 6th Street, snuggled between some fun live music bars. It was my first stop in Austin.
- Gourdough’s: Known as an Austin staple, it is a sin to travel to this city without making your way to Gourdough’s Donuts’ airstream or Gourdough’s Public House. Located in the South Lamar area, you could sit down at Gourdough’s Public House and savor some amazing donut sandwiches. There is seriously nothing better and to top it off, they even have a weekend brunch!
- Chi’lantro BBQ: If you are looking for a foodie heaven that features Korean BBQ mixed with Mexican ingredients, then you definitely have to make your way to Chi’Lantro. There are quite a few locations and food trucks that you could go to within Austin, but the one I went to was in the South Lamar area as it was the closest to my Airbnb. It was, in fact, the place where I met up with my friend Lydia who just recently moved to Austin. We enjoyed kimchi fries as well as a Korean BBQ bowl. It was so good!
- Wu Chow: After a great day of learning at the conference, nothing was more fulfilling than having dinner at one of the best farm-to-table dim sum places in Austin. Wu Chow is located on 5th street in a posh area of downtown. Here, you could savor some delicious Asian food and also enjoy a well-needed cocktail. At Wu Chow, I had chicken and spinach dumplings with some vegetarian Singapore noodles. It was amazing!
- Jo’s Coffee: Besides VooDoo Doughnut, you could also enjoy breakfast and coffee with some live music at Jo’s Coffee that is located downtown. In addition to the downtown location, which is cute and colorful, you could also find a Jo’s Coffee truck and they are also on the University of Texas’ campus. Besides breakfast, you could also get lunch, dinner and grab-and-go items.
- Houndstooth Coffee: Another great coffee shop in downtown Austin is Houndstooth Coffee. What is great about this wonderful coffee shop is that it focuses on sustainability. Local and national suppliers from around the country source sustainable products from the best farms and provinces.
- CRÚ Wine Bar: If you are looking for a quaint, elegant, artsy and delicious place, all in one, to wind down and relax after a long day, then CRÚ Wine Bar is the perfect place! Here, you could sip a refreshing glass of wine (or a bottle) and savor some great small plates. When the conference was over on Saturday, I enjoyed a lovely glass of rosé with some amazing lobster and shrimp dumplings. It definitely hit the spot!
A Mix of Everything
- Fareground at One Eleven: Known as Austin’s first food hall, Fareground at One Eleven is an inside/outside, eat/drink, work/play as well as an early morning and late night food and drink hub in downtown Austin. After the second day of the conference, we all went to Fareground where we were able to enjoy a plethora of different foodie options as well as a wine, beer or cocktail. There is a cheese shop, American food stand, taqueria, bakery, vegetarian stand as well as a sushi and ramen shop. At night, the lawn in front is lit up with lights. It is a great place!
Get Weird in Austin:
As you wander throughout the city of Austin, you will continue to see signs that say “Keep Austin Weird”. This slogan was adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance to promote small businesses within the city. Here are some fun ways to experience Austin’s “weirdness”:
- Museum of the Weird: Located on Austin’s 6th Street is Museum of the Weird. When you first walk into this place, you will see a gift shop. In the back, you will find a museum that features some unusual items and works of art. In addition, the museum also explores paranormal subject matters like Austin’s haunted scene as well as the Texas Bigfoot. It is one of the last true dime museums in the United States and definitely deserves a visit.
- Graffiti Park: One place I definitely had to see during my time in Austin was the city’s famous Graffiti Park, which is officially known as Hope Outdoor Gallery. Another reason why I HAD to get there was because it will be demolished in 2019 and relocated to a different area in Austin. The park opened in 2011 as part of a SXSW event for muralists. Concrete walls and slabs from a failed housing development, that was supposed to be built in the 1980s, were decorated by locals. What is cool about Graffiti Park is that you could bring your own art supplies and implement your creativity.
Enjoy Central Texas Nature:
One of the best ways to experience nature in Austin is by heading over to Zilker Park, located in South Austin. One side of the park is where you could see the Colorado River and the other side features Barton Creek. There is so much to do within this 350-acre park.
Besides Barton Springs Pool, which I talk about below, Zilker Park features a science center, theater, several ball parks and playgrounds, a mini train for kids, campgrounds and a sculpture museum. One of the highlights during my time spent at Zilker Park was roaming through the botanical gardens.
Zilker Botanical Gardens is one of the best botanical gardens I’ve been to. Here, you could wander aimlessly for hours through wonderful succulent and cacti gardens, Japanese gardens and paths as well as rose gardens. After a fulfilling trip to Japan last month, I was so excited to see the Japanese gardens and found them to be absolutely magical! There were hidden trails, Koi-filled ponds, a bamboo path and so much more. This place cannot be missed if you come to Austin.
Another great place to experience the nature in Austin is by heading to the Congress Avenue Bridge around sunset. Above and below the bridge, you could see bats flying through the air. It is so cool!
Visit the State Capitol:
As you stroll up the famous Congress Street in downtown Austin, you can spot a beautiful view of the Texas State Capitol. Throughout the day, you could book a tour and get a U.S. history lesson about the “Lone Star State”. One thing you cannot miss if you head inside the Capitol is the beautifully-detailed dome.
Hang out on the Water:
Known as one of the crown jewels of Austin is Barton Springs Pool. This wonderful area is a great place for locals to swim year-round, specifically during Austin’s hottest days. Barton Springs is fed from underground springs with an average temperature of 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a great place to hangout with family and friends and there is also a lawn area to sunbathe, read a book, take a nap and enjoy some snacks. (Throughout the area are some great food and ice cream trucks!) In addition, it is also cool to walk around the springs’ trails and hangout on the mini cliffs. I definitely enjoyed being at Barton Springs because it was over 90 degrees during my time in Austin.
Other ways to have fun on the water is by scheduling a tubing tour along the Colorado River. With some of these tours, you could BYOB and waterproof speakers and have a great time! Nearby is also Lake Travis, where you could party on a boat or yacht. It is perfect for the 20 or 30-something crowd and makes for great bachelor and bachelorette parties!
Dance to Live Music:
Another great staple Austin is known for is its live music scene! Throughout the city, you could find numerous bars and restaurants with some awesome live country, folk, blues, jazz, bluegrass, indie and classic rock music.
As you walk through the lively 6th Street or Rainey Street, you will find a plethora of different live music bars. Here is a list of wonderful bars I went to during my time in Austin:
A lot of these bars offer a great rooftop that overlooks the city and I highly recommend trying a Texas cider or delicious craft beer while you are there!
Explore the City with a Scooter or Bike:
Throughout Austin, you will find lime green bikes and scooters. As I have mentioned previously in my Seattle blog post, Lime are bikes and scooters you could “rent” to get around a city. All you need to do is download the app, find a bike or scooter and start riding! These are especially helpful when it is super hot (or cold) outside and you need to get somewhere far.
Some great things to see in Austin on your scooter or bike are the murals! There are so many great murals around the city and throughout the different districts that just get you.
Attend Austin City Limits:
Austin City Limits (ACL) is a big music festival that is held annually in Zilker Park. In fact, ACL will be held two weekends in October. This annual music festival is inspired by the KLRU/PBS music series and is produced by Austin-based company C3 Presents, which also produces another major music festival called Lollapalooza that takes place in Chicago every year. This year’s festival features major artists such as Paul McCartney, Odesza, Metallica, Childish Gambino and many more.
Meet a New Friend:
One of the best aspects of Austin, Texas are the locals. The people here are some of the friendliest I’ve ever met and they are always willing to help you out! From my Uber drivers to my Airbnb host and the people on the street to waiters and waitresses at restaurants and bars, “Austinites” are some of the best! It is so easy to meet a friend in this city.
Click here to discover more to do and see in Austin.
I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time in Austin, Texas and discovering everything you could see and do in this lively city. If you have any questions about my trip, please feel free to email me at email@example.com, contact me via social media or leave a comment below.
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