Passports & Parsimony

major adventures on a modest budget 

Touring Like a Texan: 3 Days in Austin

If you'd told me six months ago that I'd be planning a trip to Austin, I would have been a little surprised. It's never really been on my radar or my US travel bucket-list. But, a good friend of mine (a fellow blogger who writes over at galloblog.com!) wanted to pay Austin a visit and asked me if I'd tag along. We didn't plan much of an itinerary beforehand -- we sort of made it up as we went, which can be a lot of fun!

Austin is a unique city, very quirky and offbeat in a way that felt reminiscent of Asheville. People take pride in Austin's weirdness! You'll likely see more hipsters than cowboys in this town (although you can buy a sweet pair on cowboy boots in one of the shops on South Congress).

There is quite a lot of outdoor art and graffiti to see around town. I also didn't blow my planned budget for the weekend, partially because meals come in generous, Texas-size portions. After a big hearty breakfast, you won't be hungry again until dinner, which saves you a few $$.

I'm definitely glad I paid this place a visit and I hope you get excited enough to add it to your must-see list ;)

Day 1

Our Airbnb hosts couldn't check us in until 4 pm, so we were left to wander about the city with our rolling luggage in tow. We were all pretty hungry and wound up at the Magnolia Cafe near South Congress. Nothing like some good brunch on a Saturday morning! I forget the name of the omelette I had, but there was a generous amount of queso on top. Yum :)

We spent the afternoon wandering about South Congress, and ducking into art galleries, antique shops and little boutiques. We also found an outdoor market where artists and jewelry-makers were selling their items. Apparently they're out there every Saturday. As a bonus, I got a little glimpse of the Austin street murals I'd read so much about.

That evening, we grabbed a drink at the Ginger Man before heading to Gloria's for dinner. One of our Lyft drivers recommended it, saying it was one of the best places in town for Latin cuisine. He was right! We were raving about how delicious everything was. I'd been craving tacos so I ordered the steak tacos with beans and guacamole salad. When I eat Tex-Mex or American style tacos, I won't go near them unless there's cheese inside. But if you eat authentic tacos, the meat is so tasty, no cheese is required. A note to the penny pinchers: this isn't a cheap restaurant (my meal was 16 bucks plus the margarita), but worth a visit nonetheless!

Next we ended up on Rainey Street, which is really unique. At first glance, it looks like a residential street, but all the charming, historic houses have been converted into bars. I'm not much of a bar hopper (plus after that dinner I was beyond stuffed), but it's still fun to walk around and soak up the atmosphere!

Day 2

We grabbed a quick breakfast a Mour Cafe (the avocado toast is only a little over 5 bucks!) and headed off to the Barton Creek Greenbelt for a hike. Claire taught me a tip: when anyone asks how far you hiked, round up to the nearest 10. Makes you sound much more fit and impressive. Also, check out the cute lil ghost on the trail markers :) If rock climbing is more up your alley than hiking, you can do that on the Greenbelt as well! Plus, if you're really brave, you can pay a small entrance fee and take a swim in the Creek itself! But beware, I hear the water is chilly.

After the hike, we caught a ride to the capitol building and explored the HUGE and beautiful grounds. Full disclosure, I thought this would be boring, but it wasn't! I started to understand what people mean when they say Texas is practically its own separate country. Maybe they've been planning to secede for quite some time...did I mention that everything is bigger here?

We also did a little exploring of downtown.

Naturally, we had to seek out a delicious BBQ joint for our last dinner in Austin. We chose Coopers, which was really delicious and decently priced! I spent about 10 bucks on a quarter pound of brisket and some jalepeno mac and cheese (the sides come in generous portions -- I was stuffed by the time we left).

After dinner the night was young, so we wandered downtown in search of some interesting bars and live music. The first we went to was Halcyon, which specializes in espresso cocktails (I didn't get anything here, but loved the atmosphere).

Next, we did some searching on Google and found that the Westin has a rooftop bar called Azul. I've never been all the way to the tip-top floor of a nice hotel before! Even the elevator looked swanky. Not to mention, rooftop = spectacular views.

The last thing we did was actually my favorite: we went to a jazz club called the Elephant Room and spent a few hours listening to the music. Okay, I may have been a little underdressed in my denim cutoffs and t-shirt, but it was dark, so who could tell anyway? If you decide to check it out, don't make my mistake. Look the part and wear something a little classier ;) All silliness aside, the trio playing that night was awesome and I couldn't stop tapping my toes.

Day 3

Our final day in Austin! Breakfast tacos are big down here, so we opted to visit the aptly named Taco Joint near UT Austin. And y'all...it was GOOD. The portions were massive and the price tag was small (about 5 bucks for two big tacos!). I ate and ate and was satisfied. I'd recommend the chorizo and egg, but the bacon and egg was good too. Plus, you get whatever sauce you want on the side. I went with the avocado sauce and something that looked like chipotle mayo.

Claire met up with a friend who works at UT Austin, so the rest of us wandered around the campus in the meantime. My friend Emily found some geocaches -- apparently there are quite a few around the city! I snapped a few photos of the campus, but my real mission was to find some more street murals. Here are the ones I found:

Found on 222 E 6th St

Found on 601 W 6th St

Found on 121 E 5th St

Forgot where I found these guys -- I wandered into an alleyway and discovered them

E 6th St near I-35 Access Rd

E 6th St near I-35 Access Rd

Forgot where this was too :(

I had so much fun doing this even thought it was a blazing 87 degrees outside! And, to avoid paying for a Lyft, I walked from UT Austin to downtown and walked from mural to mural. Now, some folks who can't stand the heat may not have chosen to do this. But I often feel more familiar with a city when I explore it on foot. I loved imagining what inspired the artists who made these murals, and got some ideas for my next painting, whatever that may be (hint: it's a mural!). Nothing gives me the itch to create like looking at other people's artwork.

Our group reconvened at Caffe Medici -- the one on 8th Street -- and cooled down. This is the coolest little coffee place! The wall opposite the couches is a giant floor to ceiling bookshelf. AND one shelf is a secret door leading to the mailroom. How cool is that??!! Claire and I saw the mailman disappear into the wall and were utterly intrigued. We had to go push the shelf too, jut to be sure we weren't hallucinating. The secret door is shown in the photo on the left below. For some reason it says Fire Riser Room (???). You even spot the mailboxes at the edge of the picture.

Hope you enjoyed the highlights of our trip! Maybe one day I can get Louise over here for a Texas roadtrip ;) Be sure to subscribe so you'll be informed when we post again!

~ Lael

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