Austin, Texas during Memorial Day Weekend was everything I had hoped for and then some. Between the hotel, the food, the Liberal vibes, and the nightlife, I would move there in a heartbeat (though I seem to say that about most cities I visit)!
My dad told me that we were taking a quick family trip after I graduated, but kept the location a surprise. I was definitely happy when I found out it was to Austin, and I even got an Away luggage set as a graduation gift to break in on this trip!! Away makes some of the most durable and stylish luggage and in the tan color I could not resist showing it off to everyone at the airport :). Seriously just look at it! In my mind simplicity is always in, so this set will never go out of style.
FRIDAY: West 6th & Rainey Street (food trucks)
After arriving, we rented a car from Fox Rent A Car, the cheapest option for those of you traveling on a budget, and then we drove downtown to the JW Marriott. This hotel was waaaay nicer than I expected and the pool area is open after 6pm on Fridays and Saturdays for local (or not) partiers. The location was prime and the view was spectacular. I highly recommend staying here, and if not then you HAVE to at least spend an afternoon in their pool with 20 of your closest friends! I didn’t take nearly enough pictures of this place, but here is a bit of the view.
Being that I didn’t know the location of our trip, I wasn’t able to travel-plan like I usually do. So Friday night we ventured out with no idea where to get dinner. My dad saw a bar called The Ginger Man and thought getting a beer would give us time to research local restaurants. The Ginger Man had so many local beers on tap that we were there a while just getting a boozy taste of Austin! The Live Oak Hef was my favorite, but the atmosphere at Ginger Man was a little lacking so we set off for dinner.
Austin can be separated into 3 sections north of the river: West of Congress (the main street), East of Congress (“Dirty 6th”), and East of highway 35 (super east of congress lol). Specifically, 6th Street is best separated into those sections. We explored West 6th to get dinner at Clark’s Oyster Bar on Friday night, which is a nautical-yacht club type restaurant that I highly recommend visiting. We ordered a taste of 3 different oysters, and the Washington ones were by far the best. We also got a white fish ceviche and probably would have ordered everything on the menu if we were hungry enough. Seriously that place was the best.
We then started walking back toward downtown and found fun bars with live country music! We stopped in the Rustic Tap, which offered the best music, life size beer pong, and drink specials – like a shot in a beer 😉 – so we had to stay there and enjoy the country atmosphere of drunk 20somethings and couples in cowboy boots dancing in the dirt! College frat boys, take note of life size beer pong (pictured below). Trash cans. Volley balls. Write it down.
We thought the night was at an end as we had plenty to drink already and thought we found the great bar area of Austin, so we started back to the hotel. My dad, of course, then insisted he needed tacos and I sure as hell agreed with that great idea, so we walked all the way across downtown to Art of Tacos, which was the only taco truck open late. Holy moly was it amazing, and no, that’s not the alcohol talking. They offered brisket tacos (a must buy) and some quesadilla thing that was to die for. Plus, the truck is located conveniently on Rainey Street which is the 2nd bar street we found in Austin!
SATURDAY: Jo’s Coffee, Farmer’s Market, Whole Foods, Hope Outdoor Gallery, The Salt Lick, Twisted X Brewing, Zilker Park, Rainey Street (bars)
The next day, we woke up and went to Jo’s Coffee in downtown for some stumptown brews. I ordered the Belgian Bomber, which is a mix of their coffee and their Turbo. The Iced Turbo is their most popular and sweetest option, but because I like less sweet coffee the Bomber was perfect for me! They also have great food options and a couple locations around Austin to cater to everyone’s needs.
We then went back to West 6th to see some of the crazy antique collector shops, a few local boutiques, and my personal favorite, Whole Foods! Unlike every other Whole Foods market, the first one ever is located in downtown Austin, and it is HUGE *cue Alec Baldwin impersonating Donald Trump saying huge*. It had a juice bar, an actual bar, breakfast, lunch, and dinner options in their hot food section, a cafe, a seafood restaurant, two other random restaurants, and every healthy food and supplement option you could think of!! I would move to Austin just to shop there, it was that impressive. Austin and most of Texas also know about this drink called a Topo Chico, which is sparkling water from Mexico that California really needs to catch on to. Close by was a farmer’s market that had Buddha’s Brew Kombucha on tap so we bought a jar of their Blueberry to support the local business.
Next, we visited Hope Outdoor Gallery, a tourist attraction targeting graffiti artists. The art changes daily with different families leaving their mark, or actual artists painting murals, and it was fun to see how unique some of the murals were! In one of the tall vertical sections was the face of “Here’s Johnny” from The Shining. Word to the wise, wear good shoes to this place because my cute Target sandals were struggling climbing around this attraction!
After, it was time to buy a six pack and travel south a half hour to The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas. This place is the staple of southern barbecue, but doesn’t sell alcohol so bring a cooler of your own! There is indoor and outdoor seating, but if you don’t want to wait 2 hours then just sit outside like we did and drink more water. The food was obviously delicious. We ordered a Rancher to split with all the sides and an extra order of Buffalo Ribs to satisfy our curiosity. Our waiter, Cody (great service dude), recommended we check out a local brewery after lunch, so we then headed to Twisted X Brewing for some good beers and live music.
Then came the short drive back to Austin, and we decided to check out Zilker Park since the weather was nice. Note: the weather seemed nice but we were actually dying from the heat and humidity. If you do visit go prepared with water!!! We walked along where Barton Springs (a great natural swimming area for $2 entry) leads to the Colorado River known as Town Lake, and watched all the paddle boarders and kayakers staying cool on the sweltering day. We even witnessed a couple brave souls jumping off a bridge!
After cooling off in the pool back at the hotel, we headed back to Rainey Street to get dinner and check out the bars in the area. Dinner was at L’estelle House and we ordered the Paris burger to split. If I were hungrier I could have eaten the whole thing because it officially tops the charts on my favorite burger list!! Order yourself a Paris, go get a Merlot on tap and the wine bar in the guesthouse, and sit under the lights on the patio feeling like you’re in heaven, because honestly you are!
As for the rest of the bars in the area, the best was Container Bar made out of shipping containers. It had a great atmosphere and multiple bars on two levels, making it easy to get a drink and a spot with your friends! They also have a Spanish food truck! No, not mexican food or texmex but SPAIN Spanish food in the bar. Combine all of that with a DJ and/or live music, and you’re ready for a great night. My next favorite place was Clive Bar for their taste in live music and their guest house secondary bar. Sam Page and the Gilded Grits were playing that night (you can find them on Spotify, iTunes, or whatever else) and were obviously amazing, just like everything in Austin.
I realize how long this post is already and this was just the first day and a half!! For that reason, I’ve posted a part 2 to this amazing weekend (Keep Austin Weird: Part 2), which includes our travels around SoCo, “Dirty 6th,” and Tacodeli. Let me know what you think, and I hope you get to travel to a new city that you’ve been inspired to experience!
Life is an adventure, so keep exploring it!