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.
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