Before you get the wrong idea, the hashtag #XXXV doesn't stand for something inappropriate. It's simply the roman numerals for the number 35. A group of us met up in Austin last month to celebrate Michael and Sean's 35th birthdays. What better place to rub shoulders with college kids and remind yourself you're getting way too old for this sh*t? All kidding aside, Austin provided the perfect urban backdrop for a fun, laid-back and gluttonous weekend with friends.
As a Dallas-native, I've always been a bit skeptical of Austin and the non-stop love-fest our state capitol receives. What could possibly be so great about this college town? I quickly realized that Austin caters to all interests. There's something for everyone here. However, what really sets apart Austin from its bigger Texan counterparts is how compact and accessible the city is. Within a 2 mile radius, you'll find some of the best bars, coffee shops, music venues, outdoor recreation, food trucks, BBQ pits and fine dining in the country.
Below are a few of the highlights from our trip. Just a heads up. We ran into a bit of bad luck with temperamental weather, so a few outdoor activities like Barton Springs were left out off the itinerary. Regardless, there was more than enough to keep us occupied (and dry) throughout the weekend.
Keep Austin Weird
Austin has long been recognized as the country's most liberal capitol that just so happens to be in the country's most conservative state. It's a haven for artists, musicians, hipsters, hippies and rednecks alike. Nowhere is this more obviously on display than South Congress Avenue. The road runs south through the heart of central Austin and offers some of the city's best shopping and dining. We spent an afternoon exploring the various vintage shops and boutiques after a quick lunch at Snackbar.
Eat (And Drink) Your Heart Out
Food trucks. So many food trucks. Austin was one of the first city's where four-wheel dining, which has since spread across the world, really took off. There is obviously no shortage of delicious food trucks, but the city's food scene is much more diverse than that. I'm not even going to try and lay out all the great dining options in Austin (you can check out this awesome article in Travel + Leisure for that). Frankly, we barely scraped the surface with only 3 days in town. Instead, I'll sum up our experience in 4 words: breakfast tacos and sushi.
Every morning in Austin should start with breakfast tacos. The best we had were from Veracruz Tacos. Make sure to get the migas. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Uchiko. Michael had previously visited sister restaurant Uchi, and was quick to claim it as one of his favorite restaurants in the states. Uchiko did not disappoint. Come hungry and be prepared for a great mix of traditional and inventive Japanese dishes.
If you're thirsty, head over to Rainey Street. The tiny street just west of I-35 has a plethora of funky restaurants, bars, pubs and outdoor patios. A few other fun options include Easy Tiger (bustling beer garden) , Firehouse Lounge (low-key speakeasy behind a hostel) and Cheer Up Charlies (hipster gay bar)
Coffee All Day
To say I drank a lot of coffee in Austin would be a complete understatement. I pretty much stayed caffeinated morning until night, partly because I was reeling from jet lag the entire weekend. However, it was primarily because there were so many amazing, innovative coffee shops and roasters to check out in Austin. Most of our favorite places were scattered around the East Austin neighborhood where our AirBnB house happened to be located. Thank god. Here were a few of my favorites:
A Bit of History
In the midst of all the face-stuffing and boozing, we managed to squeeze in some time to explore the historic side of Austin. We visited the State Capitol and University of Texas campas a few blocks to the north. As it was a Sunday, the entire area felt a bit deserted. The first thing that strikes you when visiting the State Capitol is how all the government buildings are constructed of pink granite. It gives everything a dusty almost nostalgic feel. As for the UT campus, opinions varied within the group. Some thought it was beautiful, while others (namely Catherine who went to OU) could care less.