Exploring Austin- Beyond the Music
I had never been to Texas, and being a music lover, Austin was the obvious choice. I didn't know what to expect and didn't do a whole lot of planning, aside from my stay in a real Tiny House (162 Sq.ft.). That was a highlight! In a short 4 days I went onto feeling comfortable in the city. If you have a few days in Austin, this is a great little itinerary that flows very well.
Upon arrival- Jet down to the the most famous mural "Greetings from Austin". I mean this is a must. Plus it's on the way to the downtown area. This will be your first bus ride! Don't worry about going on a tour of the murals, you can find them all over the city, just keep your eyes open!
In addition to the murals and not far from the Greetings from Austin mural is 'Graffiti Park at Castle Hill'. The location has been recently fenced off with talks of it being moved. But you can still get a good view and feel from the outside of the fence. Below is a good pic I took, definitely worth the quick walk by!
**The bus is $1.25 one trip or $2.50 all day, exact change needed.
In the Downtown area, the Capitol Building cannot be missed. As I personally don't care much for government buildings, my visit was brief, but still worth it. The building is really beautiful inside and out. Opportunity for photo ops, including of the beautiful 'Texas African American History Memorial' monument. Walk the grounds, breath in all the green areas around. People hanging on the grass area is quite common.
Still near downtown go to one of the closest watering holes Austin has to offer, 'Barton Springs' . While the region has dozens of natural springs, this is easy to get to, even if you are not renting a car. It's very popular among the locals and the water stays a consistent cool of 72 Fahrenheit year round. (22 Celsius).
Day 2 in Austin started off at Lady Bird Lake (a/k/a Lake Austin, a/k/a Colorado River) . I would say it compares to Central Park in New York, where the locals go for their daily workout but offers great views of the Downtown area, wildlife and fun activities like Kayaking, Paddle boarding and more. You can easily spend a couple of hours there hiking the trails, people watching and getting some great photos. Make sure to catch the 'Stevie Ray Vaughan" statue at Lady Bird as well. This bronze statue commemorates the life and music of singer/songwriter Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Many may not know this, but within 90 minutes of Austin there are some 12 caves that you can visit. If you go to San Antonio there are others as well. The underground caves are like a historical adventure. About 40 minutes from Austin you can find the Inner Space Cavern, in Georgetown. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get to the caverns by public transportation. Greyhound and the like will take you but with limited availability, so it's best to spend the money and Uber. Go on the "Hidden Passage" tour, which is about 1.5 hours and will give you an in depth history and view of the caves.
The cave was discovered in 1963 during the construction of I-35, the most busy highway in the city. There were several large openings to the caverns during the Ice Age, and several skeletons of prehistoric Ice-Age animals have been found in the caverns; many were trapped in the cave after they fell through the opening, unable to escape, and others drowned in thick, quicksand like mud at
the bottom of watering holes. The caverns are estimated to be 90–100 million years old. The cave was opened to the public in 1966. You can feel the temperature change through the pathway and you will see several cute little bats (Don't worry they will be sleeping and are tiny tiny!)
Now for a Hidden Gem, that most people visiting Austin don't get to see: Lake Travis, more specifically "The Oasis at Lakes Travis". Incredible place, especially after the caves before heading back to the city.
As I met people daily in Austin, I did share that I wanted to visit "The Oasis". The common opinion was that it's more about the view than the food. To my surprise, a simple order of chicken fingers blew my mind. I thought the food was great, the drinks were great, the staff friendly and the view nothing less of spectacular.
The last spot on Day 2 before I got a little taste of the nightlife Downtown was the Pennybacker Bridge. This is basically a lookout on either side of the road.
Pennybacker Bridge is over Lake Austin which was created by dams at both ends (Lake Travis on one end and Lady Bird Lake).
I was lucky to have met a couple people that just pulled over to show me this spot. But fear not, while this lookout wasn't swarming with people, the Austinites will certainly know what you are asking for.
The nightlife is Austin is really cool and laid back. The talent is insanely good. As a music lover, I thoroughly enjoyed the music, from classic to modern to alternative and country. A young town with polite people who keep the beautiful city clean, Austin truly captivated me.
Day 3 in the Music Capital of the World, I was very much wiped out. While I didn't feel rushed to do any of the things I did, and enjoyed meeting others along the way; I made it a point to ride public transportation 90% of the time and hike wherever I could. So I needed a day of rest, and the Tiny House I was staying at was the perfect place to do just that! With the original plan to take a train to San Antonio Saturday, I changed my plans, enjoyed great food and chilled. The Tiny House was an experience in itself (Blurb coming soon)!
Before I could dive into the nightlife, I went for some real "Texas Barbecue", at Terry Black's. I had the pleasure of taking a tour of the smokehouse and got some great information about the history and operation of the best barbecue place in town. I am dying to share the details, so keep a look out on the Blurb section for a piece on Terry Black's to!
Saturday night was upon me and I started out at the classic "Continental Club". The continental club is a very quaint music venue, at most 60 people there for the early show at 8 pm. The band was talented, but I wasn't quite satisfied. I knew that a lot, if not most venues, didn't charge a cover, so off I went to Rainer's Street. Walked into The Drafting Room, and caught a really tight band- no charge! Cozy outdoor seating, with garden lights. To end the night I stopped in "The White Horse", in East Austin, a legit Honky Tonk bar. It was almost like I had been transported back in time and was at a local bar of a ranch town. :)
Last day in Austin, I finally decided to go Vegetarian! Austin is pretty big on vegetarian/vegan foods. I went to a neighborhood called Holly. A neighborhood on the rise full of great places to eat, art and interesting stores. The Rockin Vegan Tacos were in fact rocking!
Lastly before I headed to the airport, I met some friends I hadn't seen in almost a decade and went down to the "Domain North Side" ( #DomainNorthside ). A charming outdoor mall that had everything from shops to restaurants, homegrown brands intermingled with national mainstays. This is where the locals, families and such hang out. Everything you need is right there.
And off I went home that afternoon. Almost 4 full days in Austin, no complaints. I experienced Austin like a local, like a tourist and discovered a lot on my own. Austin is growing at a tremendous rate and it's no wonder that for the last 10 years it has welcomed on average 152 people relocating per day.