Early last year my best friend Ava and I headed to Austin for a week for a girl’s trip (as documented in this vlog). While I had previously only been there for a weekend in high-school, Ava had visited the Texan city many times and was keen to show me the best parts of the city. I then returned in October to attend the inaugural TravelCon, and those two experiences ensured that I fell in love with the city.
Austin is known for its quirky, laid-back atmosphere and I can attest that this stereotype is true. Whether you are looking for a weekend getaway or a more extended experience, there is so much fun to be had in this city that you are guaranteed to fall head over heels for its unique charm. Just remember, the city’s slogan “Keep Austin Weird” is its motto for a reason. We had a wonderful time, so I wanted to share with you what I loved so much about the city, along with my recommendations, to encourage you to consider your own trip there.
1. The Food
The food scene in Austin is next-level and what struck me was the lack of pretentiousness surrounding the cuisine. There is passion, undoubtedly, but people are generally just interested in eating something scrumptious. While BBQ and Tex-Mex should be musts on your “to-eat” list (we had it at Freedman’s which was good but not amazing, Franklin Barbeque is the renowned one in the city hence the hours-long queue), the variety of culinary offerings in this city are far more significant. Throughout the week we were there, we didn’t have a bad meal. In fact, we only ate mouth-wateringly delicious dishes.
Our first stop was Lucky Robot, a Japanese Kitchen and Sushi Bar. One of Ava’s favorite places in Austin, the food was fresh and exquisite. Located on South Congress, a stretch of hip boutiques and fantastic eateries, this was the perfect place to begin our Austin adventures. Another stand-out meal was dinner at Launderette. Serving gourmet New American fare, this converted Laundromat boasts a menu featuring dishes such as; grilled broccoli with compressed pear, white verjus, sunflower seeds, and fermented black beans; a sunshine bowl with turmeric hummus, sprouted grains, pickled beet, quinoa, butternut squash, tahini dressing, and beef short rib with red harissa, mint, pickled onion, and currants.
Whatever you do, make sure to have a meal at Odd Duck. Here we feasted on BBQ octopus and pork belly; oven roasted sweet potatoes and lavender crème brûlée — all from the gluten-free menu! (Side note: every menu in Austin seemed to have pork belly on it, it is a thing down there, and we ate a version of it at almost every meal.) For a hungover brunch, head to Yellow Jacket Social Club, a cozy, local spot with a fantastic weekend brunch menu. My favorite coffee shop (that we visited) was Stonehouse Coffee. Not only did they brew an excellent cup of joe, but it is located in the charming historical Dawson Stone House.
Other places on my radar for next time are Kemuri Tatsuya, June’s All Day, Jo’s Coffee, Elizabeth Street Cafe, Torchy’s Tacos, Josephine, and JuiceLand. Let me know if you have tried any of these (or if you have other recommendations!), as I am sure I will be back in the city soon.
2. The Creative Community
One of the (dare I say it) pleasant things about being in Austin is that the “things to do” are eating, drinking and listening to live music. There aren’t too many museums or churches that you need to check off the list. The “sights” that the city does offer are centered around the vibrant creative community. Hope Outdoor Gallery is a community paint park that gives muralists, street artists, and other groups the chance to display their work. There are other famous murals around the city:
the “Greetings from Austin” one (1720 S 1st St);
the “I Love You So Much” one (1300 S Congress Ave);
the “Dazed and Confused” one (S 1st St, near Monroe St);
the “You’re My Butter Half” one (2000 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd),
the “Hi, How Are You” one (21st St & Guadalupe).
These murals are continually changing as a symbol of how dynamic the city’s art scene is.
Potentially, you can also check out the Cathedral of Junk, which sits in the backyard of someone’s home. An ongoing sculpture made out of literal junk, owner Vince Hanneman takes visitors by appointment (give him a call at 512-299-7413). We didn’t manage to do it this time, but it is top of my list for my next visit. Other fun things to do? Catch a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse, spend a Saturday morning perusing the Austin Farmers Market, stroll through the Zilker Botanical Gardens.
3. The Vintage Shopping
I would be telling a little white lie if I said that the vintage shopping in Austin wasn’t one of the main reasons we thought this would be the perfect location for a girl’s week. Ava and I are both terrible influences on each other when it comes to shopping, but we didn’t need any assistance in emptying our bank accounts when we saw what the stores had to offer. As you may have seen in this Come Thrifting With Me in Austin video, I scored some incredible pieces.
Here were the stores I loved:
- Room Service Vintage – A massive store with everything vintage from clothes to furniture records to Playboy magazines. You are sure to find a gem in here!
- Ermine Vintage – Ermine has a great selection of high-quality but affordable pieces, and I loved how everything was organized by size!
- Big Bertha’s Vintage Paradise – Filled high with the kind of designer vintage pieces I dream about buying, Big Bertha’s is the crème de la crème of vintage shopping in Austin. No photos are allowed, and the worker was very unpleasant, but it is worth going just for a glimpse at the gowns of yesteryear.
- Goodwill Central Texas – This is a massive Goodwill not far from the three vintage stores mentioned above. As always, Goodwill is hit or miss but there was a lot of stock, and it was jam-packed with shoppers looking for gems.
- United Apparel Liquidators – Ava’s favorite store, United Apparel Liquidators is a designer outlet (not vintage/second-hand but still bargains) with lots of high-end designer pieces. While very much out of my budget, I did pick up a pair of sunglasses for $10.
- Flashback Vintage – A charming vintage store in an old house, the here prices are medium-level, and there was a mix of fantastic vintage pieces and things you could find for less in Goodwill.
- Buffalo Exchange – Undoubtedly, the BEST Buffalo Exchange I have ever been to! The prices were terrific, and the selection was seemingly never-ending. It is where I bought the above vintage leather coat and is a must for all vintage/thrift-store lovers.
- Prototype Vintage Design – A fantastic vintage boutique shopping experience, everything in Prototype Vintage Design is organized by color. Plus, they play funky music, and it doesn’t feel chaotic — the dream!
4. The Live Music (and Nightlife in General)
Austin isn’t billed the “Live Music Capital of the World” without merit. This city lives and breathes live music of all sounds and varieties. Home to South by Southwest (SXSW) and the Austin City Limits Festival, every evening throughout the year you can find an abundance of live music events in its many clubs and bars. After all, Austin has more live music venues per capita than anywhere else in the US. We saw Overcoats and Tennis play at Emo’s and loved the venue (and bands), and I also saw my faves First Aid Kit at The Moody Blues as part of Austin City Limits Live. If you do go to a show at Emo’s, be warned that there aren’t a lot of food options around and so your best choice is the very quick, very cheap, very delicious Pho Please.
Another evening we headed to Cheer Up Charlies, an enjoyable gay bar with a sizeable outdoor area and electronic DJs playing. While in Austin, going bar-hopping on Rainey Street is also something to experience at least once. Our favorite place was Barbarella which has themed evenings, a fun crowd, and plenty of space to dance. We ended up there on two occasions! Another recommendation I received was Continental Club.
5. Friendly People
Austin is undoubtedly a big city with a small-town heart, and that is made very clear through the friendliness of the locals. Even by southern California standards, the locals in Austin were so unbelievably amicable. Every Uber driver was talkative and chummy, waitresses went out of their way to advise us on the menu, and locals were happy! It was surprisingly noticeable — especially since we were coming from New York — and only goes to show how much people love living in Austin. (Speaking of living, we stayed in this adorable Airbnb which I would highly recommend!)
And, who can blame them? The city is fantastic!
Have you been to Austin? Where are your recommendations?
Let me know in the comments below!
Originally published on May 10th, 2018