Ten Cool Things to do in Awesome Austin
25 March, 2015
Texas – cowboys, guns, and right wing nuts? Hello Austin – the hipster, colourful, anti -Texas city in The Lone Star State. Get your tattoos out, here is the definitive list of 10 things to do in Austin (which are awesome!)
1. Eat Breakfast at Juan in a Million
The taxi driver told us, one day he drove past Juan’s and couldn’t understand why it was suddenly queued out the door – the restaurant had featured in the infamous Man versus Food and this naturally brought a spike in business.
This is ‘thee’ place for breakfast tacos and boasts of a Mexican authentic mix of native and Spanish traditions. Now us Scots / Brits would assume that tacos are hard shells, they are for some meals but for breakfast tacos they are a soft tortilla type wrap. We did queue but for a short period of time, the place is big. You will be greeted with Juan’s special handshake; he’s a local celeb now.
I went for the Don Juan El Taco Grande ($4.60) minus the bacon. I can’t see how anyone can clean the plate. Adam from Man v Food was challenged to eat eight – he managed four and a quarter.
2. Stroll the Austin Riverside
I was really happy with our choice of stay at the HI Hostel. Yes, it’s a half hour walk from the centre of town but that was a blessing for getting some sleep and the views on the walk to town are gorgeous.
Housing on the river front starts at $1150 per month, I would consider that! It’s bustling, bikes; dog walkers and runners pound the well-developed path. Kayaks; boats; river bikes; birds and turtles dominate the water.
3. Make a Splash at Barton Springs
This place is cool. It’s a natural spring for the public to sunbathe around, kayak and swim in. Or sunbathe on your kayak as I saw some girls do. Two options – pay $4 to use the swimming pool style spring, nice grassy hill to sunbathe on.
Second option is to use the neighbouring (there is just one fence that separates the two) spring for free. Don’t make the mistake we did, take the turning before the bridge, there is a concrete hill you can lie on, we were stuck on the muddy and stony ground but that was fine with a towel. The locals will laugh and ask if you went into the water… It was national puppy day when we went so there were heaps of cute dogs to coo over. We walked there from the HI Hostel (along the riverfront, very pretty, approx. 50 mins) and cycled back.
UPDATE: We stayed in this area for our wedding in Austin using Airbnb.
4. Wander Along South Congress (SoCo)
Dirty 6th is a cool, messy street full of filthy bars but if you are looking for a street that is laden with seriously gorgeous looking people (everyone has fully committed tattoos, even saw a girl with a leg sleeve), see SoCo. South Congress is lined with lots of vintage shops and delicious eateries.
On Saturdays, a pop up market sells artwork and jewellery. Look out for the topless cowboy on a horse. Yes.
5. Shop for Sweets at Big Top Candy Shop
Aka heaven for me! This circus themed candy shop also sells ice cream and floats on South Congress (you can tell I love this area?!)
6. Get Snap Happy – Graffiti in Austin
There is a lot street art in Austin. South Congress is a good place to start.
You’ll see a large gathering at the end of a shop- this is the ‘I love you so much’ wall. Story has it, the artist spray painted the message on her girlfriend’s shop’s wall after they broke up.
There was an alternative message ‘I hate you so much.’ Not a direct response from the shop owning girlfriend thankfully! The message was ruined but you can see a third version (the second was put on wood but warped) on the wall in Bungalow (bar) on Rainey Street.
Castle Hill is also a sweet spot for street artists.
7. Cool Things to do in Austin: Rainey Street
Another cool area. We ate curry at G’raj Mahal Cafe which is a typical (for the area) wooden house style restaurant decked out in not so typical bike wheels and umbrellas. A starter samosa; two curries and two naan came to $44.59
PS – this area has exploded in the last year! You heard it here first!
8. BBQ, Austin Texas Style!
Do it like Texans do! We planned to queue from 9am for Franklin’s BBQ until a taxi driver suggested Blacks in the Barton Springs area. On our search for Blacks, two different locals recommended Green Mesquite so we settled for there.
No need to settle, it was a decent plate of two meats and two sides!
We returned the day after the wedding to feed hangovers! Try the Mac & Cheese side.
9. Hire a Bike
Like many cities (in London they call them ‘Boris bikes’ as the initiative was started by the mayor, Boris Johnson), Austin has bike stations where you can hire a bike for short distances around the centre of the city. To do so, you insert your credit card into the machine, it takes off $8 per bike for the full day and as long as you dock it every 30 mins (to avoid people not returning them through out the day I suppose) you will not incur any other charges (unless you crash into the river). They are ideal if you are buzzing about the centre. We used them from Barton Springs to South Congress as that was the closest station to our hostel. They are pretty clunky; take it for a spin on a pavement before you hit the road. We used the designated bikes lanes and felt safe enough. They have cute baskets for you belongings and a bell to warn walkers.
10. Stay in an Airstream
A what?! All over Austin you will see silver food trucks in little clusters of outdoor food courts or standing proud individually. Well, some homeowners take these food trucks, remove the cooking equipment and kit it out with kitsch home stuff and let you stay in them! We found three on AirBnb (a rental website – if you book through us here you can get £14 off your first stay, and we get credit too). We stayed with Alexandria in East Austin near 11th Street. The airstream sits in her back garden and you have access to your own bathroom, which is attached to the house. It was cosy and just what we needed to end our stay in Awesome Austin!
GET HITCHED IN AUSTIN!
Craig and I loved Austin SO MUCH we went back the following year and eloped! Here is our wedding story – An Austin Elopement.
Image by Corey Mendez Photography I Castle Hill, Austin
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We have no affiliations with any of the places mentioned above. It’s all out of love!
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