Being a huge fan of music, I was super excited to visit the town that brought us SXSW and Austin City Limits. I immediately noticed something else to love about Austin, it’s distinctly chilled out small town vibe. Not that Austin is a small town…as the state’s capital, a major center for high tech industry and with a population of about 900,000, Austin is anything but a small town! Perhaps it’s the friendliness and hospitality of the people you meet, most of them young transplants from across the U.S., or the charming bungalows of East Austin where we stayed, or the ease of getting around on foot or by bike. Either way, there is something very special about Austin!
East Austin: Great music, great food trucks, and not too many tourists, this is the hub of Austin’s hipster culture. You really have your choice of bars around 6th Street and Comal, all of which maximize indoor and outdoor space with large patios and adjoining food trucks. There are also outdoor food courts full of food trucks, so you will never go hungry. We loved checking out Whitehorse, a great country bar where the dance floor quickly fills up with couples doing the two step and the outdoor patio boasts a food truck with delicious tacos. Hotel Vegas was serving up indie rock in one room and a sweaty hip hop mosh pit in another, with a huge outdoor patio joining the two. For something a little quieter, try the Whisler’s down the street.
Rainey Street: For a slightly more upscale nightlife experience, you will find a mix of tourists and locals hanging out in the historic converted bungalows on Rainey Street. There is no shortage of spots here, all of them again taking advantage of large patios, which seem to be everywhere in Austin – another reason to love this city! Perhaps because it was the long weekend, Rainey Street seemed to be taking a lot of crowd overflow from the downtown core entertainment district, locally referred to as “Dirty Sixth”. I was a little surprised to hear no live music coming out of Rainey Street bars, music being the heart of Austin in my mind, but this may be due to potential noise complaints from the surrounding condo boom.
South Congress: For daytime fun, head over to South Congress Street for tons of restaurants, food trucks, and shops you can wander in for hours. You can find some really unique antique furniture and vintage clothes or just window shop at cool stores like Uncommon Objects. Thanks to Nerdy Food Fan’s great post about where to eat in Austin, I couldn’t resist treating myself to a delicious cupcake from Hey Cupcake! I could have eaten much more, but I had already stuffed myself with the much heralded Austin breakfast taco ($2 at Veracruz on E Cesar Chavez – yes, they are amazing!
Surrounding Areas: A short 30 minute drive outside Austin, nestled amongst sprawling Texas farmland and ranches, we found Jester King, a unique farmhouse brewery with free tours and a good variety of beer (though long line ups for beer sampling on a Saturday afternoon!). Lots of families were out enjoying the brisk spring day, snacking on pizza and trying out brews. You really feel like you are out in the country here, although this is technically still in Austin. I was also thrilled to finally see some beautiful Texas bluebonnets in bloom as we made our way out of Austin.
Have you visited Austin? What spots did you love?