Dates Traveled: 04/14/16 - 04/17/16
Howdy, y’all! Tejinder and I travelled to Austin in April and had a great time exploring all it had to offer. From breathtaking views, to good music to seriously awesome food, we enjoyed every second of the weird Texas city. Here is a list of places we saw and gorged ourselves at.
Where we stayed:
Tejinder is a big fan of Airbnb and found a private bungalow in the district known as Castle Hill. We wanted something close to downtown but still had a bit of distance from the action for some R&R. It was perfectly tucked away off Lamar Street and was pretty cozy.
If you’re looking to stay in the heart of downtown and recently won the lottery, I would suggest staying at the Driskill Hotel off Congress Ave. It is the oldest operating hotel in Austin, dating back to 1886, and is an absolute stunner with it’s Romanesque architecture. It’ll cost you a pretty penny to stay there but a girl can dream!
What we saw:
The Graffiti Park– Located on Baylor Street, the graffiti park is like a taggers playground. It is one of the largest graffiti walls in Austin and is overflowing with character, emotions and color. It was breathtaking to walk around the massive lot and browse the marks of each artist who left their name on the wall. From political messages to love notes, the graffiti wall is just a taste of Austin’s eclectic and vibrant culture.
The Colorado River – Dividing north and south Austin is the beautiful Colorado river that is framed on either side by lush, green trails. This stretch of greenery was one of my favorite parts of the trip! Reminiscent of Golden Gate Park, the trees grew tall and curvy so it felt like they were encompassing you in this separate world void of the city’s chaos. It definitely provided that peaceful escape I was looking for.
The State Capitol Building – From the river, we walked up Congress Ave until we reached the Capitol Building. As a testament to how much Austin has changed over the years, locals told us that up until a few years ago, you could see the Capitol Building from anywhere in Austin. But now with all the new high rises and increasing plans to continue building, the iconic landmark is dwarfed by the shadows of corporate America. Still, it’s rustic appearance against the blue Texas sky demands the attention of pedestrians.
Bats – Yes, there are bats in Austin! In fact, Austin is home to the largest bat colony in North America. They reside under the Ann W. Richards Congress Ave Bridge (say that five time fast) and wake up around sunset to fly eastward for the night. Crowds gather on the bridge, along the river bank, on kayaks and riverboat cruises to see the bats at sundown. There were literally at least a million bats streaming out from under the bridge creating a cloudy jet across the Austin skyline. So unreal! And for the record, Tejinder was totally against going at first but after nagging him for a good few hours, he agreed to go and he admitted that it was pretty cool!
Rainey Street – A strip of houses turned bars/restaurants, Rainey Street is a perfect blend of good music, great food and fun vibes. The streets and houses were packed with party goers looking to start the night off with a wholesome meal and a buzz. Fun Fact: Our Uber driver said Rainey Street used to be the home of Austin’s prostitution community but the government came in and converted them into hip spots for millennials to enjoy their evening in a different way. Gentrification at it’s finest.
The Elephant Room – Aside from it’s amazing food, Austin is most known for their live music culture. We wanted to check out some live jazz music so we headed to The Elephant Room after dinner on Rainey Street. The brick and mortor basement lounge on Congress Ave is the perfect setting to check out the jazz and blues scene Austin offers. The ceiling is adorned with decorated dollar bills and, though we weren’t sure how you got your dollar on the wall, we were planning what our dollar bill design was going to be in between performances.
Sixth Street – If Isla Vista and State Street at night morphed into one, it would be Sixth Street. For nine blocks, there is nothing but bars, clubs, lounges, gift shops and late night bites. The street is blocked off in the evening making it a perfect playground for the 21 and older crowd. The venues were pretty packed that night but we were able to check out the rooftop lounge at Maggie Mae’s where we spent a majority of the night people watching and taking selfies #BaeGoals
Bullock Texas State Museum – The weather was a bit dreary on Saturday so we decided to dodge the rain by checking out the Bullock Texas State Museum. The three story museum focuses on the land, identity and opportunity of the state with the ultimate goal being to tell the story of Texas. As part of the exhibit, we learned that the first wars against the Mexicans to liberate Texas were fought but laymen in their work uniform using whatever weapons were at their disposal. It really spoke to the drive and pride Texans have.
The museum also had a really cool exhibit called “Our Global Kitchen” which allowed viewers to interact with the food, nature and culture of the global kitchen. From the original marketplaces to the future of farming, it was a super interesting exhibit that we both enjoyed.
Barton Spring Pool – The rain really picked up Saturday afternoon but we were determined to cross Barton Spring Trail off our list so we donned our matching Pacman ponchos and hit the road. The relatively short trailhead split off the trail that goes along the Colorado River and follows the Barton Spring. It was so beautifully green and peaceful I could’ve stayed there for hours, even with the downpour. At the end of the trail, there is a manmade pool in the middle of the river! What was more amazing, was that in the middle of the rainstorm, there were a handful of families playing in the river and pool.
What we ate:
24 Diner – I was nervous Austin wouldn’t have too many vegetarian friendly options but 24 Diner put me at ease with their farm to table menu. Every ingredient they used was sourced from local farmers within 200 miles. And don’t even get me started with their milkshake options! I ordered an egg sandwich while Tejinder enjoyed chicken and waffles. We topped it off with a roasted banana and brown sugar milkshake. Yum!
Gourdough’s Donuts – Oh. My. Gosh. I don’t even know how to talk about Gourdough’s. I don’t think there are a series of words I can string together that will explain the deliciousness that is Gourdough’s. I mean, they take donuts to a galaxy they’ve never been before. From savory to sweet, their menu transformed the classic donut into something you never imagined it could be. We loved it so much, we went there twice! We indulged in the Granny Pie (cream cheese frosting topped with caramel, bananas and graham crackers), Nutty Valentine (nutella topped with brown sugar and strawberries) and Free Bird (cheesecake filling with cream cheese frosting topped with black berries, strawberries and graham crackers). Let’s just say that if I could marry their donuts, I would in a heartbeat.
Ramen Tat-suya – We did a lot of walking on Saturday, emphasis on the “a lot” part, and this cozy spot was the last place on our go-to list. We glanced at the menu and instantly knew this was going to be a good meal. I ordered the vegetarian ramen and it came with the basics – broth, noodles, mushrooms, cabbage, corn, tofu, etc. But you guys, they topped it off with crispy shaved brussel sprouts and I couldn’t even! I never had anything like it and enjoyed every slurpy spoonful! I highly recommend visiting this place on an empty stomach because the portions are Texas sized for sure.
Despite the rain and humidity, Tejinder and I were able to see and eat our way thru our Austin list. The one-of-a-kind attractions, captivating history and humble community really make Austin a city like no other. With plans to build more real estate, I am sure it will soon become the hottest spot for tourists and residents alike. Until next time, cowboys and cowgirls!