Craig and I have a bucket list of visiting all 50 states before we’re 50, and we usually try to work in at least 2-3 states on our trips. We’re about halfway there on both counts, so we definitely wanted to keep up the pace. But for spring break this year, I wanted to do something relaxing and enjoy tons of good food and drink. Enter Austin and San Antonio, Texas, aka my two new favorite places in one of the biggest states, so that made up for only one destination this year.
Part 1- ATX
Austin has been a popular city for decades (it is the capitol after all), but the cultural boom in the last ten years has made it the 3rd fastest growing city in the nation. With great shopping districts, entertainment dubbing it the “Live Music Capitol of the United States”, multiple bars for various taste and interests, and amazing food on every block, it’s not hard to see why.
As soon as we left the airport, we headed for Torchy’s Tacos on South Congress. Ok I know this is going to turn a lot of people off, but I hate tacos. I love the crispy shell, not the authentic crap that I know is a trillion times better. But Torchy’s was good and I would definitely go back for their Mexican Street corn, and maybe bring my own flour tortillas to wrap all the fixings in.From there we drove around to see the cool art work downtown, including the postcard mural and Hope Street Outdoor Graffiti Park.
We checked into our authentic Austin airstream Air BnB in a backyard paradise. I LoVe air bnb so much, and it seems like air streams in Austin backyards are as common as swimming pools or sheds, except way better. Our hosts have plenty of suggestions of things to do in the town, and left an adorable storybook about how they started becoming Air BnB hostesses.They even had a menagerie of animals, who all have their own hashtags:
We intended to Uber to Rainey Street for dinner, but discovered Uber and Lyft had a big falling out with Austin and no longer existed. Without bothering to do much research about why and how the city with the 3rd highest rate of DUI related arrests gave up sober ride shares, we decided to take it easy and drive ourselves. Rainey Street is definitely the upscale street in the city, lined with delicious restaurants and fun live music bars with a slightly more expensive demographic than other parts of the city. We had dinner at No Va and the grabbed a drink and heard some tunes at Bungalow after. Even though it was Wednesday, there were a ton of private events at the most popular spots, but we did get to spy on a party at the shipping container park I realized at this point I love Austin, mainly because it allows for cute outfits and photo ops.Afterwards I got donuts at Little Lucy’s. When I told her I was a blogger (kind of true) she gave me a free bag of donuts to write a review. I got lavender pistachio, chocolate espresso and peanut butter banana, and would have gotten every flavor. I’m still actually considering going there right now to get more.
Our hosts suggested breakfast at a little diner called The Omelettry. The omelettes were good, but the highlight was the egg drawings people create. Note the Selena rendition (left) and Will Smith (lower middle).We drove up to Hamilton Pool Preserve, a popular spot about 30-40 minutes outside the city. In the summer it’s crowded with swimmers and floaters, but the grotto was closed due to high bacteria levels, so there were just a ton of looky-loo photographers and stoners (it was 4/20). There is a steep quarter mile climb down to the pool, and a separate half mile trail that goes the opposite direction along the river. Entry fee is $15, and well worth it if you like gorgeous scenery you wouldn’t expect to find in Texas.After becoming one with nature, I needed to become one with new clothes, so we headed to South Congress Ave to check out the boutiques. I’m not even sure where to begin describing my recommendations, I found something cute and perfect in each one. If all black is your thing, try Blackmail; if not, find something more colorful at Creatures or The Gypsy Wagon. Up the street at Maya Star they had Pom Pom accessories to die for, and this cute cactus ring. (Side note: most of the jewelry in this picture I already owned, but liked the vibe)The guy at Triple Z Threads gave me a free sticker and tote bag for being a blogger, and I’m seriously considering moving to Austin and making this a full time gig. He also told me that he knew Delaware was hood AF, which is the first time someone’s told me that. Uncommon Objects is a bizarre, somewhat color coded antique store with plenty of aisles to browse.Or make a stop into Allens Boots and take in the sweet smell of leather and cowboy dreams
Of course stop at the I Love You So Much “mural”(?), aka some famous spray paint with a line of tourists waiting to take this picture. Typically when I go on vacation I try to avoid foods I can get anywhere, but HomeSlice Pizza is so good it puts most other pizza places to shame. Plus it’s right next to this little lemon lemonade stand and cupcake trailer .To end our (my) shopping extravanganza, we (I) got Cop Stop ice cream at Amy’s, a perfect combination of donuts and coffee in one little bowl.
We headed further down (or up?) Congress Ave to see the Capitol Building, where Senator Wendy Davis wore her pink sneakers to defend access to birth control for all. Austin is a little blue city, but sometimes you’re reminded that it still resides in a giant sea of red.
Tired from all the walking, we found an answer to the question of how drunk and or exhausted people get around, using local apps like Ride Austin. It was exactly like Uber, and donates part of your fare to a charity of your choice. The driver was adamant about keeping Uber and Lyft out of his city, and said something like “Sometimes Austin seems so different, sometimes it just seems to same.”
Prior to our trip, we kept reading about the Congress Bridge bats, but didn’t think about going unless we were close, which we happened to be. We waited for 2 hours with all the other bat watchers, expecting a glorious and/or terrifying emergence of the bats.
Apparently, for no real specific reason, thousands of bats nest under this bridge and produce baby bats. During the spring they come out at dusk in waves that people buy river cruise tickets to see. Unfortunately, the bats didn’t come out until after dark, but it was a cool/weird spectacle to experience. I recommend watching from below rather than the bridge, and bringing snacks and also a head covering in case they poop.
I wanted to explore 6th Street, aka The Dirty, but was hesitant after reading a blog that said I was probably going to die if I went there. The strip of bars probably could kill you, if you have no self control and drink yourself to death, but it was fun to people watch and listen the dueling pianos at Pete’s. Some guy paid upwards of $300 to hear Creed’s “Higher”, which is probably more than Creed made playing that song.
The next day I pulled out our photo booth pictures from Petes, and found these of a random drunk girl who must have decided to take wig photo booth pictures by herself, then forgot to take them with her. HAVE YOU SEEN THIS GIRL? Tell her I have her photos!
Part 2: SATX
Craig and I left the Airstream paradise to head to San Antonio, about an hour and a half drive down the highway. Remember that time I said I didn’t like tacos? That does NOT apply to breakfast tacos, which are FUCKING AMAZING.
We stopped in the small town of New Brunfels for (more) breakfast and discovered Texas is full of Germans. Seriously. There is an entire German themed water park, The Schlitterbahn, complete with a Squirt’N’Sliden, Tubenbach (river tubing) and Blastenhoff (sexual sounding, but just a ride). Upon some research, Germans randomly settled in Texas, started celebrating Oktoberfest and attracted a ton of people who like to drink.
There is another cute town nearby, Gruene (pronounced Green, not Groon as I assumed) that is a refurbished ghost town with one of Texas’ oldest dance halls, a general store and shoppes called “Gruene with Envy” and “Gruene Eggs & Ham”. Which I was like, wow they’re really taking these “groon” puns far, but then discovered it’s pronounced “green”, so then I thought, wow they’re really taking these “green” puns far. When we reached downtown San Antonio, we went directly to The Alamo. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know too much about the Alamo, except to remember it, and even after the self guided audio tour I purchased, I’m still confused about what happened. People say The Alamo is a tourist trap, but it’s free (unless you buy the tour for $7) and it is cool to step into a piece of history. I read about how Americans from Texas immigrated to the Mexican territories, and basically were welcomed but had to promise to learn the language, customs and religion to be accepted. And then at some point Texas was like yeah, Mexico, were doing that to you now.
From the Alamo, we strolled over to the famous River Walk, a beautiful spot lined with bars, hotels and restaurants. We took the barge tour, but I wouldn’t recommend it. They smash like 40 people on an open air boat with plastic seats that force you to saturate in your own ass sweat. Plus, the tour basically just points out the hotels and restaurants, something you could do less sweatily by walking around with a drink in your hand.
From the River Walk, you can get easily walk to San Fernando Chapel, one of the oldest churches in San Antonio.I kept seeing people with colorful flower crowns, and assumed it had something to do with San Jacinto Day and that they must be holy, revered headpieces. We headed to El Mercado, where an entire street party was happening in full force. I tried to be culturally sensitive and asked the vendors what the flower crowns represented and apologized for calling them “flower crowns.” He laughed and said it was just a giant 10-day drinking fest San Antonio invented called Fiesta, and the flower crowns were made specifically for tourists like me. Lol.
We headed to our Air Bnb, where Charlotte had coconut creamer and yoga mats ready for our arrival. I LOVE AIR BNB. It’s just like staying at a relatives house, except you’re not obligated to spend time with them. We Ubered to The Pearl Brewery, an old Brewery turned hip district full of bars, restaurants and residences. We had the best barbeque and beer at The Granary, where our waiter was super serious about his job. I asked him to put me together a beer flight and he was over the top about checking if I liked it. I did though, so it’s okay.
For some reason, there is so much ice cream in Texas and we stopped at Licks for Brown Sugar Brown Butter Pecan/Carrot Cake, and Mint Chocolate/Texas Cafe Au Lait. Everything is made locally, and the cups are even compostable.
A couple started talking to Craig in line and told him “You know what they say…two scoops in the morning!” Craig and I were so confused because they thought it was hilarious, and so I Googled it. Apparently it’s common for people to tell other people who have their tonsils removed “Take two scoops and call me in the morning.” Whenever we travel, my friends and I like to play a game called Us Or Them, trying to figure out if we’re weird or the other people. At first I thought they were weird, but after Google proclaimed this is a common saying, I’m thinking it’s us.
It is true what they say, everything is bigger and better in Texas! Austin and San Antonio have become some of my favorite cities, and I will definitely be back to eat more and wear more cute outfits, don’t worry.