I love Austin. It reminds me of Gainesville, Florida – just a tad bigger. Maybe because they’re both college towns with a laid back creative vibe. I like driving over from Dallas with my dogs and renting an AirBnB near Zilker Park. Well, I actually don’t like the driving part and neither do my dogs.
With only one major highway, if it gets jammed, you’re stuck. My dogs don’t enjoy long car rides. Not sure they ever did, we didn’t take may long trips in California. The two-day drive to Texas may have traumatized them. At least when we get to Austin, we’re all happy. We go for long walks in Zilker Park in the morning, then they sleep all day and I go out and explore or meet friends. I have only been to Auston a handful of times, once for the famed SXSW festival. Once was enough for me. Fun, just too many people for my taste.
Last Christmas, I decided to take formal tour of Austin. Air-conditioned motor coach and all. I chose the Auston Detours “Real Austin Tour” for the bargain of $35.00. In two hours we visited the Texas State Capital, Baylor Street Art Wall and several local neighborhoods and landmarks. Our guide was informative with just the right amount of quirky historical stories to keep us engaged. We visited food trucks and got cake pops. Most importantly, I got some great pictures. I got a lot more out of the state capital than I thought I would.
I also had no idea the Baylor Street Wall even existed. It’s an undeveloped building on a hillside turned community paint park near downtown, the official name is the HOPE Outdoor Gallery. It was officially launched in March 2011 with by the contemporary artist Shepard Fairey (most widely known as the artist who created the Obama HOPE campaign poster during the 2008 election).
It is the only paint park of its kind in the U.S. and has been a place for muralists, street artists, arts education classes and community groups to create large scale works of art inspired by positivity. It’s outgrown its current location, parking is tricky and local residents aren’t thrilled with all the daily visitors. Our guide told us they plan to move to a larger space soon.
Another highlight of this trip was taking the dogs to Red Bud Isle. Such a beautiful little island on Town Lake, just below the Lake Austin dam. The entire island is a dog park. Heaven for canines. No fences needed, just rocky shoreline. The boys had a blast, and I sure do love tiring them out. A tired dog is a happy dog (and human). This place is one of the reasons I could live in Austin one day. The cherry on top was a quaint little coffee shop across the street called Mozart’s Coffee Roasters, which sits right on the water. I love a good latte and croissant.
The food scene in Austin is, of course, also amazing. Breakfast tacos are a well-known specialty. Home to the first Torchy’s Tacos, don’t miss out. My top taco picks include: The Democrat, Trailer Park and Fried Avocado. However, my favorite spot is Lucky Robot on South Congress (or SoCo as the locals call it). They offer more than just sushi, its the hip and casual Japanese street food I fell in love with in L.A.
I also had delicious ramen at Michi Ramen on South Lamar. They specialize in “Certified Texas Raman”, but don’t let that scare you. My ramen with smoked pork ribs was perfect. Here’s a fun fact: Whole Foods started in Austin. The flagship store also houses the companies headquarters. They even have a popular farm-to-table restaurant inside the store called Red Okra. I plan to try it the next time I visit.
I encourage you to visit Austin. See for yourself why so many was to “keep Austin weird”. Have you visited? Any favorite hot spots to share?
Austin Baylor Street Art Wall / HOPE Outdoor Gallery
Texas State Capital in Austin
Austin City Tour Highlights
Red Bud Isle in Austin
Austin’s Zilker Park