Austin is one of those cities that always draws distinct parallels to Nashville, and in many ways I agree: They’re both towns whose musical roots run deep. They’ve become hubs for Millennials who were priced out of LA and New York (or simply wanted a better quality of life). They’ve got rapidly expanding startup scenes, not to mention some of the best food and booze in the country. And, at their core, they’re both distinctly Southern, despite being, by all accounts, more liberal than their neighbors.
And they’re both just plain gorgeous, too.
That’s all to say that it comes as no surprise then that I’ve have a growing love affair with Austin since my first visit in 2008.
The initial reason for our six-day trip earlier this month was to see my college roommate, Lemon. Following our time at a luxury resort in Texas Hill Country, we settled in at her new house for three nights where we had a pretty detailed itinerary plan laid out—all of which comprised eating, drinking and lounging—and couldn’t wait to catch up after not seeing her and her husband for eight months.
And if we’re being completely honest here, there was an underlying goal of this trip: to finally meet Clinton, aka #HorsePuppy, the Great Dane they rescued a year ago. How about that face?
The great thing about visiting a city you’ve been to twice in the past—not to mention, a place where one of your very best friends will reside for the unforeseeable future—is that you don’t feel the need to see every square inch in a mere visit; you can take it at a leisurely pace.
However, what we forgot to factor in was nap time, and as we were all technically on vacation—and the Texas heat was no joke—we wound up ditching plans on multiple occasions for lounging in their Northwest Hills home.
Spontaneity is a beautiful thing, y’all.
At the end of the day, I think we struck the perfect pace—and mix—and every time we did leave our air-conditioned lair, it was for a worthwhile endeavor like…
Losing our Escape Game virginity
As claustrophobic as I am, I was terrified of the mere thought of being locked in a room until I escaped or the 60 minutes ran up, whichever came first. Then I found out that it’s against Texas law to lock someone in a room, so technically you can leave whenever you need. The end result? I absolutely loved the challenge of the Escape Room. We did the Heist (difficulty level: 8) and escaped with 11 minutes to spare!
Drinking along Rainey Street
When SVV left his ID back in Tennessee, I was worried I’d be buying drinks for him all weekend long. And while that was the case in some places where we were carded to even enter the establishment (on a Friday afternoon, too!), in others, it wasn’t an issue.
Fine dining at Olive & June
This contemporary Italian restaurant reminded me a lot of one of my Nashville staples, Rolf & Daughters, and not only had delicious, seasonal fare, but a great ambiance and top-notch service. I’d love to go back on a Sunday night for Olive & June’s family-style dinner.
Getting our taco on at Torchy’s
There are approximately a million-and-0ne places for tacos in Austin, and you could legit have a week-long taco crawl eating tacos for five meals a day and never repeat locations, but Torchy’s is a local institution, and I’m glad we fit it in our heart attack-inducing dining schedule.
Drinking all the brews at Austin Beerworks
Like Nashville, there are so many breweries, we had trouble narrowing it down. Do we go for the fan favorite, Hops & Grain? Do we check out the one everybody is raving about, Jester King that’s waaaaay out of town in Hill Country?
Speaking of Central Market, shopping there is a must
Yes, grocery shopping. You can hardly visit Austin and not go to HEB’s answer to Whole Foods, which in my opinion is even better. The herb and spices section, not to mention the beer selection, is out of this world.
Eating all the doughnuts
We first grabbed a bag of minis at Little Lucy’s on Rainey Street for a little nightcap, then the next morning got up and trekked over to Gordough’s for breakfast. Call us fatties, but it was worth every calorie and extra gym session I’ve logged since. I’m only sad we didn’t have time for a trip to Voodoo, too.
Sunday brunching at Chez Zee
It was extremely difficult narrowing down the respectable list of brunch options Lemon sent me to just one, but when I saw Chez Zee had an entire menu of Benedict plates, I knew this was the restaurant for us. We didn’t choose wrong.
Mingling at Yard Bar
What I’m really now wondering is why every city doesn’t have its own dog bar? It’s the most brilliant concept I’ve ever heard of.
Breeds of all shapes and sizes convene off-leash in this large, fenced-in outdoor space. Even if you don’t have a dog, the dog park-meets-bar-meets-restaurant is worthy of a visit. And hey ladies, the Bark Rangers (essentially hall monitors for the dogs) are pretty darn cute, too.
Sorry, that one’s not up for grabs.
Eating all the pizza at Bufalina
This local icon now has two locations, and despite the wait usually being more than an hour long, we lucked out and caught them on a night when we were able to grab a table right away and get our order on. Some of the best pizza I’ve had in a long time.
Renting a party barge on Lake Travis
I’d been out to see Lake Travis on my inaugural visit to Austin, but never been in the water, so I was stoked when Lemon said their annual tradition is to rent a party barge (complete with a slide!) for the 4th of July. Given that it was also SVV’s birthday, this made it insanely easy for me to plan because, well, I didn’t have to do a thing except come along for the ride!
Oh, and supply an inflatable flamingo, of course.
I’ve been on plenty of party boats in the past, but this barge just outdid them all. It fit 60 people, and given that we only had 40 or so, there was plenty of space to lounge. Our captain docked in a private cove where we had the afternoon to swim, grill out and make use of the slide (and various inflatables we brought along for the ride).
A huge thanks to Lemon, Keaney and Clinton for being such gracious hosts (and friends) and carting us all over town! We can’t wait to come back very soon for our next round of Austin adventures.
For more Texas travel inspiration, start here:
Cute post. You all spent a great time in this hot season. And I really adore that Lake Party! 🙂
Indeed, Lemon’s squad really upped their game with the lake party! Then again, Americans like to celebrate their independence, ha 😉
What a wonderful post! Clinton is so adorable and escape rooms are awesome! I’ve been to three already and I’m kinda claustrophobic myself but you’re having so much fun you don’t have time to worry!
Thanks for the great pictures and writeup. We visited Austin in the summer of 2011 and it was mostly very hot when we were there so we didn’t get to do a whole lot of sightseeing. I’m sure we’ll be back someday!
Anne, I don’t doubt it. While the temperature was technically lower than it has been in Nashville most of the summer, the humidity must have been double that. I don’t sweat as much at the gym as I did just walking out Lemon’s house to get in the car (on second thought, maybe I need to work out a bit harder, ha).
What’s your favorite Escape Room challenge so far? I can’t wait to try more in Nashville soon.
Yeah, the humidity and the heat are just too much. I live in Israel, so the escape rooms I tried are all local. It’s extremely popular here. I think there are around 200 escape rooms in Israel at this point.
My favorite was a time-travel room where we traveled to Kentucky of 200 years ago and then to Soviet Russia of the 60’s. It was very well done with great puzzles.
Austin looks so awesome! I can’t wait to visit one day
One of the greatest cities in America! You’re gonna love it!
Sigh, you absolutely killed it in my favorite city in my home state. Central Market is one thing I miss the most from Texas (and as a real grocery store, it’s cheap!). And I’d like to be in that Lake Travis water right about now . . .
I can’t ever go back to Whole Foods after discovering perfection. Why can’t every city have a Central Market???
I am dying to get to Austin!! This is going to be bookmarked carefully for a future trip (maybe on book tour if there are Paris lovers out there?!)
Oh girl, you would have a heyday there with all the tasty things to eat (particularly the baked goods!). I feel like I didn’t do the eating justice this time…but it was just so hot! (Go in the late fall or early spring.)
Austin looks like a great city! I can’t believe I used to be happy there were dog friendly restaurants – a dog restaurant where dogs can roam freely outside is so much better! Especially if it’s linked to a food truck!
I saw one is opening in Kansas City, but other than that, I have honestly never heard of a dog bar. Why doesn’t every city have one? It’s a doggone shame 😉
I was an admirer of Austin for a good long while and now I’ve lived here for almost 4 years this August! My fiance and I love it. Glad you got to go to all of the great places in town. I love how each restaurant in town has such good ambience (and out of towners love that too!) and our laid back pace. My sister is in Nashville so I need to head up there for a visit! Great writeup.
Ah, I’m so glad we passed the local’s litmus test! I can see why you’d love it there; I always thought if I didn’t make it back to Nashville, I’d settle in Austin.
The other restaurants on our overly ambitious itinerary that we didn’t make it to are: Laundrette, Uchiko, Apothecay, Jacoby’s, Gourdough’s Public House, Veracruz All Natural. Which means, I clearly need to return within the next year before the list of new spots outgrows the current ones I want to try! =)
THAT GREAT DANE THOUGH.
Sorry, thought he stole the show. -Proud mom
And his stomach capacity for Rice Krispie treats!
Hmm… seems to be a trend to be in Austin, since you and Dani from GlobeTrotterGirls been there recently 🙂
I love Austin! Looks like you guys had a great time. I’m going back to visit in November and can’t wait. Some of these places, I’ve never been to, so I’ll have to save this for ideas on where to eat. I miss Central Market – I lived in Houston for a few years and it’s seriously one of the best grocery stores ever. The one in Austin is amazing.
I’m checking out Austin for two weeks in January. I want to check out the tech (job) scene and eat my way through the city a bit as we make our way back to the west coast. I’m holding onto this post for reference!
I def need a re-do of Austin! We did a girls trip there a few years back, and our vibe as a group was just off. (It didn’t help that it was freezing in October, and we were unprepared!) I do remember stellar food and live music, though!