Posted by: txaggiechick | January 29, 2009

Explore Austin

This weekend some friends expressed an interest in visiting Austin for a 3-day weekend. I promised them a short synopsis about the ins and outs of Austin. Since my journey currently has me residing in Austin, I figured it would make an excellent blog post of my favorite Austin things. (also let’s face it.. brevity is not my forte. So this likely won’t be brief… oopsie)

I suppose I should start with the caveat that in my travels I’ve found that the single most influencing factor has been the experience itself… and by and large the people in it. I’ve been pretty blessed by having a launching pad here in Austin surrounded by some pretty kick ass people who challenge and support me in various ways…. sometimes to do devious and bad things like sushi and martini night but I digress… Each section is delineated by the type of activity held within it as everyone wants to experience various sides of Austin. I will say that my favorite time to visit Austin is during March and April. This primarily coincides with the wildflowers that flourish during this time period and more importantly South by SouthWest! Yeah Baby! \m/ Oh and it’s not too hot!

Exploring Austin – Outside
As many of you know, I’ve been doing the Round is Not a Shape program for a little while now (by the way I’ve lost 3 inches in my waist alone!!! Yipppee!). In doing so, I’ve dramatically increased my outdoor exploration so this section is simply about the wonderful outdoor hiking and walking areas that I have discovered along the way. I’ll probably turn this into a series of my favorite things by talking about my favorite day trips from Austin which include Blanco, Gruene, and Enchanted Rock. So stay tuned. Same bat time. Same bat channel.

For any of you that really love thunder storms, there is one place in Austin to watch the lightening and thunder roll through the hills. Of course you’ll need a rain coat or not mind getting soaked (yes… admittedly I have a thing for dancing in the rain), Mount Bonnell is the tallest point inside the Austin City Limits and it has some breath-taking views. I actually enjoy the climb up the stairs to the summit. It’s not that bad and gives you an awesome view of downtown and the lake.

The easiest place for me to climb up and relax is literally walking distance, across the bridge, from my office. It also happens to be where the search and rescue team practices and drills. Yum! But to be in the very heart of Austin and surrounded by nature, there’s the Barton Creek Greenbelt. It’s a great hike and so easy to get to.  On a gorgeous day, you’ll meet tons of great people here. The Greenbelt also has some extensive rock climbing formations which I recently started exploring and mountain biking trails. Literally a haven for any outdoor enthusiast.

For anyone who is staying downtown there’s several city routes that you can take. For some reason I have always loved walking up Congress Avenue from the South Congress shops (mentioned in the shopping and eateries section) all the way up to the Capitol building. Talk about a great way to ensure you don’t go into a food comma.

Exploring Austin – Eateries
For those of you who really know me, you’ll know that my priorities are good alcohol (more like great alcohol) over good food any time of the week and twice on Sunday. Lord forgive me for I have sinned. But since cutting down on the alcohol and focusing on fitness and health, I’ve really expanded my horizons in Austin fooderies. Admittedly I’m also a closet Food Network junkie where I discovered the likeness of Hey! Cupcake, Maria’s Taco Xpress, and most importantly Flip Happy Crepes! 

Austin has some great local places to eat and drink… and be merry! This is just a list of my favorite spots. Let’s start with breakfast first. Maria’s Taco Xpress  and Magnolia Cafe are by far my favorite. Just be careful. Both of these places serve some huge portions. Sharing is certainly a good idea! Food fights are optional! Baldy would get mad at me if I didn’t mention his favorite, the South Congress Cafe . It’s great for lunch, brunch, or breakfast or anything in between. Not to mention their mimosas are uber tasty!

For lunch, I typically do something lighter. There’s a ton of little sandwich shops around town. Depending on where you are, I usually opt for The Sandwich Joint or the San Francisco Bakery. They all have great cups of soup or small toasted sandwiches that knock Subway on their ass. If you’re downtown, you can always get a single slice of Home Slice. That place totally rocks my socks. But no food fights please… Don’t want to waste such yummy goodness! LunchGuru might want to chime in here. He’s my go to guy for lunch ideas even if he is in up in the Rock.

Dinner and drinks is where it’s at. This is my bread and butter. My creme de le creme.  coup de gras. You get the idea.This is what a ton of my social interaction rallies around. Okay enough of the preamble let’s talk about some great drinks and eats! I tend to stay south and downtown for dinner since most of the girls work downtown anyway. If you want north, let me know! This section is mostly delineated by cuisine.

For Japanese food, there’s two really great places downtown. I prefer going to Imperia, but there is also Kenechi. Kenechi is wonderful for their sushi. However since I have a lot of friends who aren’t into sushi, Imperia has a much more diverse menu. I highly recommend the Sea Bass. Melt in your mouth delicious!

Now. You can’t come to Texas without some good ole fashioned Tex-Mex or Mexican-influenced cuisine. Austin is a little different than San Antonio. If you want traditional Mexican or Tex-Mex style I highly recommend you wait and go to San Antonio. It’s mucho grande better! (Can you tell I didn’t take Spanish in High School?)  But for a very interesting Southwestern style feel, I highly recommend zTejas. They also happen to have a very good selection of tequilas which never hurts and serve fresh-baked cornbread before every meal. I will even stop by there just to get a cup of tortilla soup and sit out on the patio. You’ll hear a lot of people regale the virtues of Chuy’s. I’m not personally a big fan but you may disagree! Oh! How could I even forget! Trudy’s! Their food is okay but their Mexican Martinis are to die for. OMG the stories those little shakers could tell would make a sailor blush.

For some good soul food you can never ever ever go wrong with Hoover’s . Hoover’s is where my dad wants to eat every time he comes to Austin. (well that and Freebirds… he loves their haberno sauce) They do southern fried with a cajun twist up right. Also again with the huge portions. You have been warned. You might also want to try Threadgills on Riverside next to the Hooters. The other two American food categories include my favorite grilled salmon and french fries in the world, Hyde Park Bar and Grill . If you see Bartender there, tell him I sent you and he’ll serve you up a Appletini that will probably make your knees buckle. “Trust in Titos! Ole!” (it’s a inside joke thing… ) 

If you want the spreadsheet-o-happy-hours let me know! I have a friend who maintains daily and weekly happy hour specials in Excel. The Roaring Fork on Sunday’s is probably the best deal ever! And Cork N Company’s Monday Madness is to die for. Most of these are week day specials but certainly enable you to eat and drink like a king on a court jester’s budget!

If you want actual bars and other hang outs, please let me know. There are several great ones on 4th street. I’m just trying to be as good as I can and not lead you into a path of temptation… who am I kidding!

Exploring Austin – Events
This section is going to be brief because I’m running late. But there’s a lot of great things to do around Austin that don’t involve drinking, eating, or drinking… did i mention drinking?  Kidding. Because Austin lacks a professional sports league (due to those orange jersey wearing *#*W#), there really aren’t a whole lot of great sporting events around. BUT have no fear! The Dallas Stars are putting a farm team here in 2009! Yippee! I can’t wait to get ice hockey back in Austin! Until that point, you have the option of the Round Rock Express baseball team up in Round Rock and NCAA sporting events. Oh and the rodeo is coming to town! YeeHaw!

Fortunately all is not lost for Austin is well known for being the Live Music Capital of the World. And boy is it ever. If you love walking casually down a street and hearing all forms of music filtering out of the bars, then Austin is your nightlife. Every Thursday through Saturday night you can hear several different bands all over town. Just saunter (yes I said saunter) down 6th and 4th street and find a sound that appeals to you. They have everything from Jazz and Blues (Eric Tessmer is my fav) to Salsa to Hard Rock \m/. The metal scene is on Red River if you want to face the angry crowds. It’s not for the faint of heart. Copa Bar & Grill has some great Salsa and Latin Dancing if that’s your game. Oh! and don’t forget about the Spazmatics. While not an exclusively Austin phenonmia, the Spazmatics rock every Wednesday night at Cedar Street. If you just want to let loose and have some fun to great 80’s and 90’s music, then you certainly have to check them out. Talk about the nostalgia factor! And if you’re planning a trip in March, be sure to check dates for South By SouthWest! It’s awesome and beloved but can make visiting Austin and finding hotel accommodations a little bit challenging.

Oh yeah and go see the bats on congress bridge or rent bikes at the Bike Shop off Lamar and head to the trails! Whatever you do, have some fun and don’t hesitate to enjoy yourselves. There’s tons of other things I didn’t mention here like swimming at Barton Creek but I’ll get to those too I promise!

Exploring Austin – Shopping
Now let it be known. I detest shopping. Detest. Abhor. It’s my least favorite activity in the whole world. I think I’d rather be working… okay well maybe not but still. I’d rather have someone else do this. However it’s the only quality time I get to spend with my mom so I do have to be well versed in the art of the shopping mall. Recently opened, the Shops at the Galleria in Bee Caves is the least painful of all the options. It’s a very outdoorsy open mall with several nice shops and department stores. It’s also conveniently got a Dick’s Sporting Goods, Lowe’s, and Little Woodrow’s (BEER!) for the man in your life. Believe me when I say it’s the least painful! If you want something on the higher end with tons of shopping, go to Barton Creek Mall or the Domain. And most certainly if you’re feeling eclectic or want something localized, hit up South Congress avenue or drive around between 6th and 35th streets on Lamar. You’re sure to find something zany and wacky there. Without a doubt. Trust a sister on this one fact.

Exploring Austin – Websites
I swear I missed my calling. I totally should have been in marketing or a travel agent. But be sure to visit some of these great Austin – specific resources to help cater to your every Austin adventuring needs.
Edible Austin features local Austin restaurants. It’s also where I found the farmer’s market! She writes for more communities as well.

Wanting to explore the natural side of Austin? Look no further than Austin Explorer. This site is totally written by an engineer who doesn’t know anything about HCI but I won’t hold that against him or her. I probably wouldn’t do much better. I am NOT a UI person. This is site has however opened my eyes to the plethora of hiking and biking trails in and around Austin. It’s the best way to find easily accessible locations to disappear even inside a blazing metropolis like Austin.

So now that I’m really late, I’m going to end with this. Whatever journey you decide to make, make the most of it! Enjoy each day to its fullest and embrace the world that comes at you! Most importantly, have fun! Each day I step out of my apartment into a new adventure. Granted oftentimes the adventure is forgetting that I parked down a very precarious, steep, grassy hill and I’m wearing 5″ heels… but that’s an entirely different type of adventure all together. But I do boldly go where no one has gone before…. Or something to that affect. It’s all in the attitude that true exploration and adventure exists. Again, I apologize for not being brief. Tersity is not my thing!

We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.  ~Hilaire Belloc

“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – this is to have succeeded.” ~  Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Responses

  1. What a fabulous post!

    First, I want that happy hour excel spreadsheet.

    Next, I’ve never been to hoovers. Would love to go someday.

    I say it is time for us to party:)

  2. Let’s go sometime. You would like it. We could even go for lunch next week! Just let me know! I’ll send it to you at work! It’ll brighten your day!

  3. A+ content

  4. Hi! I’m the Community Manager of Ruba.com. We’re building a website to highlight some of the most interesting places travelers around the world have discovered. We’ve read hundreds of blogs about Austin and we think that this post is awesome! We’d love to highlight excerpts from your blog (assuming it’s OK with you of course) and to discuss other ways of tapping into your expertise if you are interested. I’m at erin[at]ruba.com.
    Thanks! 🙂


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