Experiencing Austin

I haven’t fallen in love with a lot of someones but I have fallen in love with a lot of somewheres. My latest fling: Austin.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t fall in love with the heat. No place is perfect! While I did my best to glisten a la Ashley Judd in A Time to Kill, I’m convinced it’s impossible to feel sexy when you’re constantly sweating. But the river, the bridges, the cityscape, the rooftop views, the breakfast tacos and the whole “Keep Austin Weird” undertone definitely wooed me.

I was there last weekend for a friend’s birthday. We stayed 15-deep at an Airbnb house that was about a mile from the east end of Sixth Street. The location worked out pretty well and I got to experience so much more of Austin compared to the first time I went for work several years ago.

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The nightlife
Austin is known for its live music scene and the notorious Sixth Street certainly delivered. Similar to Broadway in Nashville, both sides of the street are lined with bars showcasing a wide variety of musicians. We spent a lot of time on the Dirty Sixth end, with some highlights including Easy Tiger (stopped in for a beer but they also bake bread!), Maggie Maes (awesome rooftop deck), Chupacabra Catina ($2 happy hour beer) and The Gatsby (posted up on the balcony overlooking a big back deck and watched a couple bands play).

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The Driskill Hotel is an old timey oasis in the middle of the Dirty Sixth bar hopping scene. The architecture and décor ooze opulence and indulgence. We cozied up in leather barstools and enjoyed some very well-made cocktails.

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On our last night in town, we went to Rainey Street and this is where Austin truly stole my heart. It wasn’t necessarily any less crowded than Dirty Sixth but it had a completely different vibe. Every spot had great outdoor spaces with string lights (I might be slightly obsessed with them…) and good music that you didn’t have to scream over.

I read about Container and it lived up to my expectations and then some. It’s a really cool space that’s built with shipping containers. Bungalow was another solid spot that looks like a regular house from the outside but is gutted and open inside. And we ended the night dancing our asses off at Javelina until last call.

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To experience Austin is to experience Dirty Sixth, yes. But I would highly recommend checking out Rainey Street. And we heard from a few locals that the west end of Sixth Street is developing more and cultivating a somewhat upscale culture.

The eats
To experience Austin is also to eat breakfast tacos and BBQ. Our house was only a few blocks away from Juan in a Million. I tried a migas taco, which has crispy tortilla chips in it, and it was delish! Our group also hit up Salt Lick Bar-B-Que. I don’t get all crazy over BBQ like some people so it was good but not amazing to me.

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My favorite meal though was our first one in town at Stella San Jac. They had the most amazing biscuits and salted butter and my burger with onion straws hit the spot. I have to give a shout out to our waitress Clarissa for handling our huge group. She was a rockstar!

The things to do
One of the coolest – literally – things we did was take a dip in Barton Springs. I’ve been in natural hot springs before but this water runs around 68 degrees. It was heavenly compared to the 100-degree weather we’d been walking around in. It is a bit of a shock to your system when you first get in but so worth it.

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We also went to a Round Rock Express ballgame. The birthday honoree and a lot of the guys on the trip are big baseball fans. I am not. However, I do enjoy the ballpark atmosphere. We sat in a section of rocking chairs and it was really relaxing and a unique experience. I probably could have sat rocking sipping my cold cider shooting the shit with the group forever.

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And if you like all things quirky and eclectic, South Congress is a great place to stroll through. There are boutiques, art galleries, bookstores, restaurants and of course live musicians playing on the street.

The place to run
My training schedule called for nine miles while I was down there and luckily our house was less than a mile from the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. It wraps around the river so you can run almost entirely uninterrupted with spectacular views of the city. I managed to get out the door by 7:30 a.m. but it was already almost 90 degrees by the time I finished. Props to the Austin running community for dealing with that on a daily basis!

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I had a feeling I would love Austin going into the trip but I wasn’t sure what to expect with the group dynamics since I only knew the birthday honoree and his girlfriend. The group was awesome though and I had so much fun. And luckily they’ve traveled together quite a bit so they’ve mastered the balance between group activities and letting people do their own thing.

So, Austin, you’ve got a hold on my heart. Until the next trip at least…

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