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48 Hours in Austin, Texas

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When I visited Austin for the very first time last year, I didn’t really know what to expect. My plan was to spend a month in the capital of Texas, hoping this would give me a good amount of time to explore the city whose slogan is ‘Keep Austin Weird’. Even though this slogan had me suspect that I’d love the city, I had no idea just how much I’d fall for Austin.

With dozens of live music venues, excellent craft beer, countless food trucks, plenty of outdoors activities, especially along the river, and an overall laid-back attitude, the city won me over during my month there.

Because I had the advantage of being able to spend four full weeks there, I took my time to explore every nook and cranny of the city, but I know that most people come to Austin for a quick weekend getaway. And while I’ve already shared 33 Things I Love About Austin, I wanted to give you a more structured overview of how to spend a weekend in Austin.AustinHere is my perfect weekend in Austin for you – including places to eat and drink, what to do and what to see on a first-time visit:

Friday, 2pm: Welcome to Austin

Luckily, nearly all Austin hotels are conveniently located downtown, which makes it easy to explore the city on foot. If you’re not hugely into walking, I recommend you take advantage of Austin’s easy-to-use bike sharing system. The shared bikes, called B-Cycle, have a great ‘Weekender Pass’, which gives you three full days access to the bikes for only $15 and includes an unlimited number of free rides up to 60 minutes (a 24-hour pass is $12).

The best way to use the B-cycles is to download the free app – that way you have an overview of all available stations around town.

Start with a ride around Downtown to get your bearings: 6th Avenue is the main drag, especially at night, lined with cool (and some cheesy) bars and restaurants. Congress Avenue runs from the State Capitol all the way down to the Colorado River. Once you get to the river, follow the bike path alongside it.

If you turn left, you can ride all the way to Ladybird Lake and beyond (go either until Frontage Road Bridge or Pleasant Valley Road Bridge, cross the bridge and circle back to Congress Avenue Bridge). If you turn right, you will get to Zilker Park and get superb views over the Downtown skyline. Stop at Doug Sahm Hill in Butler Park (on the other side of the river) for the best skyline views.austin texasIf you don’t want to rent a bike, you can easily walk the same route, it will just take you a little longer. A good walk would be across the Congress Avenue Bridge, turning left on Roy and Ann Butler Hike & Bike Trail, walking through Butler Park, crossing the river via the Lamar Street Pedestrian Bridge, and walking back to where you started on the north side of the river.

Food trucks

Reward yourself for your walk or cycle tour with your first taste of Austin’s famous food truck scene. I recommend Valentina’s TexMex BBQ (11500 Manchaca Road), Tommy Want Wingy (94 Rainey St), and Chi’lantro (Asian-fusion comfort food; 823 Congress Ave).

If you have a B-cycle or a car, venture a little further and try one of the tasty food trucks on Austin’s East Side, for example East Side King Thai Kun (1816 E 6th St), Micklewait Craft Meats (BBQ meats; 1309 Rosewood Av), or The Peached Tortilla (banh mi tacos & other Asian-fusion fare; 5520 Burnet Rd #100). Alternatively, head to the food truck park on S 1st Street and W Live Oak Street, where you find Venezuelan, Indian, Baja Mexican & Japanese Fusion, and desserts. Vegans will love Arlo’s (900 Red River Street).austin food truck

5pm: A Stroll along South Congress

It is almost time to go out and explore Austin’s nightlife – start with a stroll over S Congress Ave Bridge, which connects Downtown with SoCo, short for South Congress, where you will find a number of independent shops, restaurants and bars, and some fantastic old-fashioned neon signs.

SoCo is the neighborhood to find some of Austin’s most eclectic shops, like Uncommon Things, Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds, Allens Boots (with over 4,000 boots, definitely peek inside!), Monkey See Monkey Do, and the Yard Dog gallery. If you have a sweet tooth, treat yourself to a cupcake at the Hey Cupcake food truck, to some ice cream at the famous Amy’s Ice Cream shop or stock up on candy at the epic Big Top Candy Shop.

There are some great murals down here as well – look out for the Willie Nelson mural and the I Love You So Much graffiti. Güero’s Taco Bar is a good place for a sundowner margarita, and June’s is a wine bar with a nice patio.austin congress ave bridgeMake sure to walk back towards Congress Bridge in time for sunset, because that’s when – between March and October – Austin’s most unique and free show begins: the flight of the bats.

7 – 8pm: The Flight of the Bats

Since 1980, Mexican free-tailed bats have made their homes in the concrete crevasses of the bridge, and over 1 million bats fly out of there at sunset every night. It’s a rare spectacle to see, especially considering you’re right in the heart of a big city. In fact, this bat colony is the largest urban bat colony in the world! You can either watch the flight of the bats from the top of the bridge or from a big grassy spot near the river below. Be warned: This space fills up quickly.austin flight of the bats

9pm: Bar-hopping along Historic Rainey Street

Just north of Congress Ave Bridge is Rainey Street, a street lined with historic bungalows that are now home to some of Austin’s trendiest bars.

You can either opt for a food truck dinner – there are several on Rainey Street, for example: Art of Tacos, or the tasty Via 313 Pizza Truck behind Craft Pride, Boca inside the Container Bar, or Big Fat Greek Gyros – or you could do a fancy dinner just around the corner from Rainey Street, at what is one of the hottest tickets in town these days: Geraldine’s, a contemporary gourmet restaurant inside the fabulous new Hotel Van Zandt. If you want to treat yourself to a fancy dinner at Geraldine’s, make sure to reserve well in advance.

End your first night in Austin by bar hopping until you can’t keep your eyes open anymore. Places worth stopping at are Blackheart, Banger’s Beer Garden (with over 100 beers on tap), Craft Pride and the Container Bar, which is made out of shipping containers.Austin Rainey Street

Saturday, 9am: Brunch

There are several excellent brunch spots in Austin, but my favorite is 24 Diner (600 N Lamar) which serves solid portions of all your brunch favorites and special treats like their sweet potato hash, or a waffle sandwich. Mimosas are only $3.95 and brunch cocktails start at $7.austin 24 dinerIf you have to wait in line (which you most likely will, since it is the weekend), head to Waterloo Records a couple of doors down to check out some new releases. Waterloo is a great old fashioned vinyl store, which are hard to find these days (but don’t be surprised to see CDs here, too).

If you’re a Whole Foods fanatic, you have to check out the Whole Foods flagship store after breakfast, which is located just across the street from 24 Diner. The 80,000 sq. ft market is more than just your regular Whole Foods – there’s a bar, a wine bar, an eatery, even a makeup counter. Plus a bunch of products that you can only get here.umlauf sculpture garden

11am: Street Art Heaven

Hope Outdoor Gallery is just a couple of blocks from 24 Diner and is a vast outdoor graffiti park – a must-see for street art lovers! The colorful walls are the remainder of an abandoned building, and street artists are allowed to leave their mark here. It is basically an ever-changing outdoor gallery, and you’ll probably be able to see some artists at work during your visit. If you climb all the way up to the top of the hill (the building ruins sit on the side of a hill) you also get some nice views over Austin.

If you’re not into street art, head to the small, yet beautiful Umlauf Sculpture Park ($5 admission) near Zilker Park instead.Austin Hope Outdoor Gallery

1pm: Food Truck Lunch

After your filling brunch, you probably won’t be all that hungry yet, but there’s always room for a small snack from a food truck or for a couple of Torchy’s Tacos. I’ve already given you some food truck recommendations, but for more ideas check out 20 Essential Austin Food Trucks and The Best New Food Trucks In Austin in 2016.tacos austin

3pm: Time for Culture

Austin has a number of places to get your culture nerd on: there are several top-notch museums (Blanton Museum Of Art, Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, The Contemporary Austin, Mexic-Arte Museum) – pick the one that best fits your personal interests. The Guardian has a great overview of the 10 best museums in Austin, my personal favorites were the art museums.

And then there’s also the Texas State Capitol, an imposing red granite building that is only second in total size to the National Capitol in DC (it is even 15 feet taller than the one in DC!), which can be visited in a free half-hour guided tour (note that the last tours on Saturdays start at 3.30pm).Austin Culture

6pm: BBQ Dinner

Austin is famous for its BBQ scene and you have to try at least one barbecue joint on a visit to Austin. Franklin’s (900 E 11th St) is the most famous one, but the notoriously long lines there can make it difficult to fit it into a short visit, so here are some alternatives: Kerlin BBQ (1700 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin ); La Barbecue (1906 E Cesar Chavez St), Freedmen’s (2402 San Gabriel St); Terry Black’s BBQ (1003 Barton Springs Rd); Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew (6610 N Lamar Blvd) and Lambert’s Barbeque (2nd Street District).austin bangers beer garden

8pm: Sunset Drinks

For sunset drinks, head up to one of the rooftops. For great views and al-fresco cocktails, head to The Hangar Lounge (318 Colorado St), The Market & Tap Room (319 Colorado St, Austin) or The Handle Bar (121 E 5th St).austin hangar lounge

9pm: Live Music

You can’t visit Austin without getting a taste of its wonderful live music scene. Austin has something for everyone – country, rock, jazz or blues – whatever you’re into, pick up a TimeOut (https://www.timeout.com/austin/things-to-do/things-to-do-in-austin-this-week) and see who is playing where on the weekend you are in town. The Continental Club on South Congress is one of the most popular and oldest venues, Antone’s is best for blues, and The Broken Spoke is great for two-step, The White Horse for country and then there’s the Red River Music District with venues like Stubb’s, Mohawk and Cheap Charlie’s.

Note: If you want to take a free Texas two-step dance class at the Broken Spoke, skip the sunset drinks and head to the Broken Spoke around 8pm. Lessons take place Wednesdays to Saturdays from 8.30pm to 9.30pm.

11pm: Drinks at a Speakeasy

If you aren’t tired yet, hit up one of Austin’s excellent speakeasy bars. The Midnight Cowboy, right on 6th Street, is probably the most popular one, and getting inside without a reservation is impossible (reserve a table online http://midnightcowboymodeling.com/). A solid and less crowded alternative is Garage which is located in a parking garage and has a large selection of delectable cocktails.drinks

Sunday, 9am: Texas-style Breakfast

Austin is known for its Tex-Mex cuisine and breakfast tacos. For the latter, head to El Primo (2011 S 1st St); Veracruz All Natural (1704 E Cesar Chavez St), Juan in a million (2300 E Cesar Chavez St), Pueblo Viejo (1606 E 6th St) or Taqueria Mi Trailita (5301 Manor Rd).

If you’re more in the mood for a full-on Tex-Mex breakfast, head to Curra’s Grill (614 E Oltorf St, Austin) for Huevos Curras (eggs over carne asada), chorizo con huevo and other scrumptious Mexican-inspired breakfasts, plus a number of creative Tex-Mex style cocktails. Trudy’s Texas Star (various locations) is another solid option for migas, chilaquiles, huevos motulenos or other Tex-Mex breakfasts. Drinks are only $2.50 until noon and $4.50 after that (until 4pm).

Bouldin Creek Café (1900 S 1st St) is the best vegetarian restaurant for breakfast.tex mex breakfast

11am: Kayaking on the Colorado River

After your brunch feast, it is time to burn some calories. If you’ve opted for a B-Cycle bike pass, take a bike and head to the river, where you can rent kayaks at Congress Kayaks ($15 per hour). It is now time to get out on the river, and an hour kayaking can bring you all the way to Lady Bird Lake (west) or to Zilker Park (east).

If kayaking is not cool enough for you, rent a stand-up paddle board at Live, Love, Paddle and paddle around Ladybird Lake ($20 per hour).

Going out on the river was one of my favorite activities in Austin, and the views over Downtown from the river were wonderful. If you head to Ladybird Lake, moving away from the Downtown buildings, you’ll notice how green Austin really is.Austin Kayaking

12pm: A Walk in the Park/Pool Time!

Finish your visit with a walk through Zilker Park, which, at 351-acres, is one of the biggest green spaces in Austin. If you are a fan of Botanical Gardens, it is well worth checking out the Zilker Botanical Gardens ($3). If you’re visiting during the summer months, pack your bathing suit and stop for a swim at the gorgeous Barton Springs pool, over three times longer than a football field and fed by the Barton Spring, the fourth largest natural spring in Texas. ($8 for non-residents, $3 for residents).Austin parks

2pm: Food Truck Time

After your swim or walk in the park, treat yourself to one last food truck meal before heading to the airport. Within walking distance from Zilker Park are the amazing sandwich truck Hey!…You Gonna Eat or What?, The Mighty Cone (fried meats & veggies in tortilla cones), and Kebabalicious (all three are located in 1720 Barton Springs Rd).food truck austin gourdoughs

Practical Information

  • Austin doesn’t have Lyft or Uber, but there are several similar rideshare options – here is an overview of the best Lyft and Uber alternatives in Austin.
  • If you’re on a budget, take advantage of bus No 100 which brings you Downtown from the airport in less than half an hour for only $1.75 (you’ll need exact change). A taxi, in comparison, is around $30.
  • The best way to get around if you don’t have a car and don’t want to rely on car sharing services is the B-cycle bike sharing program.
  • Austin’s public transportation system is pretty decent though, and a 24-hour bus pass is only $2.50 (a single ride is $1.25).
  • GoogleMaps directions worked well to show me bus routes and schedules, but you can also download the CapMetro app for the most accurate information and to buy tickets via the app.

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33 things I love about Austin

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I spent nearly a month in Austin and I’ve already mentioned in my monthly round-up that I’ve got a huge crush on Texas’ quirky capital – who knew that a city in Texas of all places could sweep me off my feet the way that Austin did. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling in the U.S. during the past 6 years, including numerous road trips that brought me to dozens of U.S. cities – but I don’t think I’ve ever declared that I am so enamored with a place that I could see myself live there – that has always been NYC’s prerogative. But I think I might want to make an exception for Austin. Why? Well, let me share 33 of the things that I love about Austin…austin texas street art

1 The food trucks

Of course, for me as a foodie, a city with dozens of food trucks is a culinary paradise. Even if I had tried to eat at a different food truck every day during my month long visit, I wouldn’t have been able to cover them all. Which means I’ll have to come back to continue my quest to try all of them. My favorite so far? Gourdough’s Big.Fat.Doughnuts. Yes, I have a sweet tooth, and I don’t eat BBQ (or any kind of meat), so it’s a dessert food truck that takes the crown (for now). If you’re visiting Austin and are wondering which food trucks are the best, here are 10 food trucks you need to visit in Austin and if you still have room for more, 17 essential food trucks in Austin.Food Trucks in Austin Texas

2 The weather

I don’t think any city could ever come close to how much I love New York, but Austin did impress me a lot – and one point where it wins over NYC is without a doubt the weather. While my friends in New York were still wearing scarfs and winter jackets at the beginning of May, I was sweating by the pool. And months of ice and snow? Not in Austin! It’s not rare to have temperatures in the 80s here during the winter months. Perfect.austin pool

3 An outdoors-y city

I read that Austin’s one of the most active cities in the US, and yes, I always saw people being active: kayaking, SUPing, swimming, rowing, climbing, running, cycling, hiking.. I love how many hiking trails there are within the city limits or just outside of them, and how many people were on the river doing some sort of water sport every weekend.austin stand up paddling

4 The Colorado River

Not only do I love the river that runs through Austin (although I could’ve done without the water snake that chased me while I was blissfully paddling on my board) but also how well developed its shores are. You can walk, run or cycle on each side for miles, there are bars and restaurants right by the water, and there are plenty of things to do on the river, as mentioned in #3. I love being by the water, and I ended up almost daily by the Colorado River – either running, walking or on the river.

Austin Colorado River Texas
I loved the lady who SUPd with her two dogs!

5 The craft beer scene

Austin has an amazing amount of craft beer bars and microbreweries – and if there’s a way to my heart, then it’s with sugar and craft beers. I loved sampling local Texan beers and micro brews from all over the US while I was in Austin, and I feel like I only scratched the surface! But I don’t think it’s impossible to ever work my way through all the beers that I can try in places like Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden or Growler (both with over 100 craft beers on tap) or the Ginger Man (with over 70 taps). If you’re looking to try some of Texas’ best brews, head to Craft Pride, with over 50 Texan beers on tap! Other favorites include: Draught House Pub & Brewery, Pinthouse Pizza, the Black Sheep Lodge and Easy Tiger.Craft Beers Austin

6 Decent pizza

After eating my way through many many of New York’s famous (and less famous, yet still fabulous) pizza joints, I have to admit that I’ve become a bit of a pizza snob. So it’s understandable that I was skeptical when I tried Home Slice, a pizza place that a lot of people had raved about. But guess what: It was definitely a good pizza! And days later I came across an article that the best pizza in all of Texas was actually coming from an Austin-based place as well: Via 313. While I didn’t get around to trying it before I left (another excuse to return!!) I trust the good reviews.austin pinthouse pizza1

7 Red River music district

The Red River music district, which basically means the live music venues on Red River Road, is THE place to be on weekends if you’re into live music. There are super famous venues like Stubb’s where bands like Metallica, Vampire Weekend or The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have played, but also smaller venues like Mohawk and Cheap Charlie’s which had amazing live bands and a great atmosphere every time I was there.austin musicians

8 Speakeasy bars

Yes, I have a thing for speakeasy bars, and I was thrilled when I heard that Austin had several of these semi-secret, semi-hidden cocktail bars. I am still working my way through the lists of the best speakeasy bars in Austin, but I loved the sleek cocktails at the secret bar at the W hotel’s Living Room and ultra cool Garage. For more, check out 9 secret bars in Austin and how to get into each.

9 The sunset spot in Zilker Park

Zilker Park is Austin’s largest city park and not only that – it also offers great views over Downtown Austin. I loved the views from the little hill near the Rock Island, especially around sunset, when the high rises were bathed in a golden light.austin zilker park

10 Chicken Shit Bingo

Even though I never made it to the Little Longhorn Saloon, where people gather for Chicken Shit Bingo on Sunday nights, just knowing that such thing exists made me love Austin a little more.

11 The bats

Yes, you’ve read that right: bats! And Austin is not just home to a few bats, but 1.5 million of them, apparently (which is more than the city’s human population), making it the largest urban bat colony on the planet. Most of these bats live under the Congress Avenue Bridge and they fly out in huge droves every night just after sunset – a spectacular sight, because it takes over 30 minutes until all the bats have come out (you can’t help but ask yourself: where the heck are they all coming from!?). The flight of the bats is a tourist attraction, and while it gets fairly packed on top of the bridge and at a viewing area below every night, I think it is well worth joining the crowds. If you want to see this spectacle for yourself, here’s everything you need to know about the flight of the bats.austin bat watching

12 Unpretentious rooftop bars

Spending most of my time in NYC where rooftop bars usually mean feeling like sardines in a can and sipping on mediocre, overpriced drinks, I was amazed to see how wonderfully unpretentious Austin’s rooftop bars were. Sure, they’re lacking the views over Manhattan’s skyline, but Austin’s downtown buildings aren’t ugly either – especially lit up at night. The bars were barely ever crowded, not even on weekend nights, and drinks were reasonably priced. Some of my favorite spots were the Handle Bar, the Hangar Lounge and The Market.hangar bar austin

13 Apartment complexes with kayak docks

Austin has the already mentioned Colorado River (#4), and it seems like many Austinites appreciate the river just as much as I did, with a lot of locals having their own kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. I loved that when I walked by the apartment complexes right by the river, I discovered that not only do almost all of them have communal swimming pools (you hear that, NYC?) and BBQ areas, but also kayak docks right outside the apartments, and often there were kayak storage racks on the property. Being used to tiny New York apartments, where storing a bicycle can already be difficult, let alone a kayak!, I promised myself that if I ever move to Austin, it would be in one of those buildings, and I’d buy a kayak right away.austin kayakers

14 The thriving coffee shop scene

As someone who doesn’t only love coffee, but works remotely and thus spends a lot of time in coffee shops, I was over the moon when I discovered that Austin had a number of excellent ones! And one thing I particularly enjoyed: that most of them doubled as bars, like one of my favorites, Radio Coffee & Beer or Halcyon. There were too many coffee shops to try (here are 12 worth a visit) – another reason why I need to go back!halcyon coffee bar

15 Rainey Street

It seemed like 6th Street, Austin’s main bar drag, was frequented mainly by tourists, while the locals preferred other spots, such as the bars on Rainey Street which always attracted a large crowd of Austinites. The bars there are housed in little historic bungalows which have been fixed up and converted into cocktail bars. Most of them have big porches and/or backyards, which served as dance floors later at night. Plus, some of my favorite bars are on this street: the already mentioned Banger’s and Craft Pride, as well as the Container Bar, Javelina and Blackheart.austin blackheart bar

16 Pinball Arcades

One quirky thing about Austin are its old-fashioned pinball arcades – something I’ve never seen anywhere in this form: Large rooms filled with pinball machines, lined up side by side, ranging from vintage Metallica or Indiana Jones themed games to brand new Iron Man themed ones. Apparently such arcades used to be ubiquitous all over the U.S., but there are barely any left. Not in Austin though, where you can still spend a fun evening of pinball-ing and other games for only a few dollars in one of the city’s games arcades, most famously Pinballz. If you want to join the Pinball & gaming fun, here are five Austin arcades worth visiting.

17 Live music galore

I knew that Austin was a famous live music spot, but I had no idea that it had so many music venues. I got my fair share of live music performances while I was in the city and would come back for those alone. If you’re visiting Austin and want to enjoy some live music, check out this list of the 10 Best Places For Live Music in Austin (an excellent list) or The Guardian’s Top Ten Live Music Venues In Austin.austin live music texas

18 Public transportation

Okay, Austin’s public transportation is probably not perfect but it served me well. I happened to be in town when Uber and Lyft waved goodbye to Austin and wasn’t sure how I’d get around on boozy nights out after their departure. One of my friends told me that buses were actually pretty good, running all night and only costing $1.25 a ride, or $2.50 for a day ticket. Like I said – whenever I needed to use public transportation, it was fast and easy – something I can’t say about all of the US cities I’ve visited. (That said, I was happy to have a car during my time in Austin because most places are very spread out).

19 Barton Springs Pool

This massive pool is over three times longer than a football field (amazing if you want to swim some laps) and is fed by Main Barton Spring, the fourth largest natural spring in Texas. Austinites pay only $3, and you can stay as long as you want. It is the perfect place for a refreshing dip on a hot Texan summer day.barton springs pool

20 The Alamo Drafthouse

I know, a movie theater that has full restaurant service isn’t something that you find only in Austin, but I love that there are four (!) Alamo Drafthouses, and I thought that the beer menu was larger than the beer menu of some bars I’ve been to (not in Austin, of course!). Plus, some of the theaters seemed fairly new, which I appreciated after spending way too many evenings in New York’s one and only comparable cinema, the old and worn Nitehawk Cinema (note: If the rumors are true, Downtown Brooklyn will get an Alamo Drafthouse in 2016!). The best events in an Alamo Drafthouse theater aren’t the regular movies, by the way, but the sing-alongs, (80s and 90s themed? Yes!!) and quote-alongs.

21 Eeyore’s Birthday Party

A city that celebrates Eeyore’s birthday (yes, Eeyore as in Winnie the Pooh’s best friend!) in the form of a hippie festival – my kind of city, no question. At this festival, held in Pease Park on the last Saturday in April, you find hippies, weirdoes, kids, grandparents, and pretty much anyone who likes to dress up for a day. Everyone comes together to enjoy live music, games, food and drinks – and this has been happening since 1963!austin hope outdoor gallery1

22 Keep Austin Weird

That’s the city’s motto, so I don’t think I need to say more. But just a few things to show you how weird Austin is: #21, Eeysore’s Birthday Party, is a great example, but there is also a Museum of The Weird, a Cathedral of Junk, and for some reason, lamp posts that carry stuffed animals, a Christmas-themed bar (Lala’s Little Nugget), and the Museum of Natural & Artificial Ephemerata (another museum full of weird stuff, run by a family and housed in a private home).Keep Austin Weird

23 There’s art… lots of it!

I love art, and frequent art galleries and museums on a regular basis. That’s why I was excited to discover that Austin has quite a few places that are a must for art lovers: the Blanton Museum Of Art, the Mexic-Arte Museum, the Jones Center (Contemporary Art, but currently undergoing renovations), the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, and last but not least the trendy Yard Dog art gallery.austin umlauf sculpture garden

24 Doug Sahm Hill

Take a date there to marvel at the skyline of Downtown Austin and try NOT to fall in love (with your date or with Austin, I’ll leave that up to you). One of the most romantic moments I had was on Doug Sahm Hill. For a similarly awesome view check out Lou Neff Point, right on the river, where I took the picture below.austin sunset1

25 Bike Sharing

Any city that has a bike sharing system is a good city, and Austin is no exception. Plus, Austin is a bike-friendly city in general but for visitors who want to use them: Bcycles can be rented for $8 per day with an unlimited number of 30-minute rides, or $15 for three days which is perfect for anyone who’s spending a weekend in Austin!

downtown austin with river
You can cycle along the river for miles and miles

26 Festivals

Austin is a city of festivals – In addition to Eeyore’s big birthday bash (#21), the city celebrates music – of course most importantly SXSW (see #33), but there are also a great number of other music festivals (like Austin City Limits), plus festivals dedicated to spam, hot sauce, kites,.. to name just a few. And then there are festivals like the Louisiana Swamp Thing and Crawfish Festival, the Austin Rodeo, various street festivals and so much more.

27 Cheap Parking

Yes, this is another one that comes from my NYC perspective, but being used to seeing signs advertising 30-minute parking for ‘only’ roughly $11 (yes, Manhattan, I’m talking about you!), I was delighted to find cheap parking everywhere around the city. I think the most I paid was $1.25 per hour, and I even got to park for free (for two hours) right by the river for my daily workouts and also on 6th Street, the touristy bar drag of Austin – mind blown! Imagine pulling up right by Central Park or on Broadway and not having to pay for it.

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Cheap downtown parking… what’s not to love?!

28 Hope Outdoor Gallery

I love street art, and I appreciated the big murals around Austin, but my favorite place for graffiti was the Hope Outdoor Gallery, an abandoned construction site turned ‘paint park’. What was supposed to become a condominium complex but was never finished is now a concrete wasteland covered in colorful graffiti, tags and murals, with aspiring artists coming here to practice their skills. I love the concept, and you can pretty much always look over an artist’s shoulder while he or she is working on a piece.Austin Hope outdoor gallery Texas

29 The Highball karaoke bar

This is not just your regular ol’ karaoke bar – this is a karaoke bar that will turn even the biggest karaoke grinch into an enthusiastic singer. The Highball is famous for its themed rooms (there are seven of them), including a Black Lodge (of Twin Peaks fame), a scary room (think The Shining), or a satanic room for Black Metal lovers. I don’t even like karaoke, but kinda wanted to move in there!

30 Voodoo Doughnut

Even though Voodoo Doughnut was born in Portland, their Austin branch is nothing short of amazing and deserves a mention (I am obviously a huge doughnut fan, see #1). What surprised me the most wasn’t how delicious the donuts were but how cheap they were! Thanks for keeping your prices adequate, Voodoo, even in what I guess must be a pricey location right in the center of it all on 6th Street.Austin Voodoo Doughnut TexasIf you prefer savory over sweet, you might want to change #30 to breakfast tacos, which were perfected in Austin. These days, you can get a breakfast taco in too many places to try them all, but if you’re up for a challenge, Austin Eater recommends 24 essential breakfast tacos in Austin to work your way through.

31 Proximity to nature trails

I’ve already mentioned that Austinites are outdoorsy people, but the possibilities for hikes and other activities don’t stop at Austin’s city limits – there are so many things to do around Austin, I don’t think I’d ever get bored! If you need a break from the city, some of the nature trails around Austin you can escape to are the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, Pedernales Falls, Hamilton Pool, McKinney Falls State Park, Bastrop State Park or Lake Travis.austin nature trails texasYou’re not into hiking? No problem! There’s plenty of other stuff to do around Austin: the Texas Hill Country which is great for road trips and has several wineries which can be toured, or San Marcos where you can float in a tube on the San Marcos River for hours.Austin Lake Travis

32 Avocado Margaritas

Need I say more?! I love avocados and I’m never one to turn down a margarita – combine those two and you know you’ll have me at ‘hello’ 😉 There are several restaurants and bars that offer this fine drink these days, but the very best avocado margarita can be enjoyed at Curra’s Grill, an institution in Austin’s Tex-Mex food scene and home of the original avocado margarita! If you don’t like the idea of avocado in your drink, don’t worry: there are plenty of other margaritas on the menu, and everything is so affordable. And it’s not only at Curra’s – I was generally overjoyed when I paid for my margaritas, which is about half of what I pay for a margarita in NYC.

austin craft beers
Because I didn’t take any margarita pictures… here’s one of the many beer flights I consumed in Austin.

33 SWSX

Yes, SWSX might be an industry event, but nonetheless it is one of the biggest music festivals in the US, with over 2,000 artists performing across 90 venues during four days in March. As a music lover, I love the whole idea behind SWSX and every year I find at least one new artist in the festival line-up that I adore (in recent years Emily Wolfe, Courtney Barnett, Sylvan Esso, Soak and Låpsley).austin street art

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Polaroid of the week: Sunset over Austin, Texas

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa texas austin sunsetI have to apologize if I’m getting on your nerves with my constant ravings about Austin – I’ve already sang the city’s praises here and here – and if that’s not enough, here are 33 things I love about Austin. I can’t stop gushing about Texas’ quirky capital. I arrived in New York last week and have been enthusiastically talking about how great Austin is ever since my plane touched down here, almost forgetting that I’m in my favorite city in the world.

But my last week in Austin was a great one, and I finally got the local introduction to the city that I had hoped for: from someone who had lived in Austin for many years and knew the city inside out. Together, we hit up some of East Austin’s coolest bars (including the fabulous Weather Up bar, which I learned had a branch in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood, just around the corner from where I lived two years ago – not sure how I had missed that place back then!), I was introduced to the magic of pinball arcades (I need to bring them to NYC – so much fun!), finally watched a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse while enjoying craft beers and a surprisingly tasty meal, wishing I could always enjoy restaurant service and booze in a movie theater (apparently Brooklyn is getting an Alamo Drafthouse in a few weeks – I am excited!), and had a midnight diner meal at the Magnolia Cafe which came to fame thanks to the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

And then my last night rolled around, and my love affair with Austin came to an abrupt end. It ended on a high note, however: after the weather had been pretty bad all week, with lots of rain, thunderstorms and even flooding, the sun came out again for my last evening in town. I went for my usual evening run along the Colorado River and was rewarded with this sunset – making me feel all fuzzy and warm inside. Austin, I’ll definitely be back – thank you for the amazing time!

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Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: May 2016 Edition

May 2016

In my monthly round-ups, I am looking back at my travels over the past four weeks, what went well and what didn’t, and what’s next for me. 

Where I’ve been

This month I spent between three US cities I love: New York, Austin and Tucson. I also road tripped through the Southwest, visited Dallas for the first time, and spent time with some amazing people. Overall, a great month.May 2016 Arizona Texas

May Highlights

Spending nearly a month in Austin

Austin had been on my travel wish list for a while, but I always knew that I wanted to dedicate some time to exploring the city, not just a long weekend. After all, Austin is known to be a foodie city and I had more restaurant and bar recommendations than I could possibly check out in a month, let alone a weekend. And so I didn’t have to think long when a housesitting opportunity for nearly four weeks came up. And I am so glad that I spent so much time in Austin – it quickly became one of my favorite cities in the US, and I even could see myself returning for a longer stint (although I feel like I’m cheating on NYC just by saying this out loud!). You can read all the things that made me fall for Austin here: Polaroid of the week: Wonderfully weird AustinAustin Texas

First time SUPing

I had several people come visit me in Austin which meant: a good excuse to do a lot of sightseeing. We kayaked on the river, checked out some museums, hiked in the Barton Creek Greenbelt (basically a forest area in the city with lots of hiking trails), bar hopped our way through Austin’s nightlife districts, sampled food trucks, went on a wine tasting trip to the Texas Hill Country, watched the flight of the bats, and saw live music. But my favorite thing? Finally going stand-up paddling, something I’ve been wanting to try for a while now. And I had a blast! I am pretty sure that this is something I’ll be incorporating more often into my travels from now on, and I’m already contemplating where I could try it out on the ocean (which I feel will be much harder than on the calm Colorado River in Austin!). I think that this could happen in California later this year. And then: SUP yoga. Okay, who am I kidding here.. I don’t think I have a good enough balance for a headstand on a paddle board, but who knows.stand up paddling austin

Road tripping through the Southwest

I was supposed to fly from Tucson to Austin, but at the very last minute, the opportunity for a road trip with a travel buddy arose, and of course I jumped on it. We decided to break up the long drive (900 miles) into three days: to White Sands, New Mexico on the first day, Big Bend National Park the second day to hike the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, and then the remaining distance to Austin on day 3.

While this plan didn’t quite work out as planned (see What Went Wrong below), it was a fantastic road trip. I love the barren scenery of the Southwest, returning to White Sands was everything I hoped for, and I had great company – which was important, especially on the long drag of the I-10 from El Paso to Fredericksburg, which doesn’t have any road side attractions and is apparently the most boring part of the I-10 (which runs from coast to coast).Road Trip May 2016

Returning to White Sands

I loved the white dunes of White Sands when I visited this desert in the south of New Mexico in 2013, and I loved it the second time around, too. Even though I’d been here before, the dozens upon dozens of dunes, the bright white sand, the solitude and tranquility of this place – everything had me in awe again. And this time around, I got to experience two things I missed out on when I came here during my New Mexico road trip – I got to sled down some of the dunes, and I got to see the sunset. Would I visit White Sands a third time? Absolutely!White Sands New Mexico

Exploring Dallas

If you read last week’s Polaroid, you already know that Dallas wasn’t really on my list of must-see places, but I am not one to turn down an opportunity to check out a new city, and so I found myself in Dallas for a weekend – and pleasantly surprised by the city! Dallas, as it turns out, is way cooler than I thought it’d be, and I regretted immediately that I hadn’t allowed more time for my visit. I loved especially Deep Ellum, a trendy neighborhood with clubs, bars and great restaurants, and I hope I’ll get the chance to return one day to explore more of Dallas.Deep Ellum Dallas

What went wrong

Road trip fail

We were on our way to Big Bend National Park on Day 2 of our road trip, had finally left the quite boring I-10 and were driving towards the Mexican border when on the completely deserted road a Prada Store appeared on the right side. A Prada store in the middle of nowhere?! It had been about twenty minutes since we even saw the last house! Of course we had to stop to photograph the store. And that’s when I realized that my camera bag wasn’t in the car. We had driven for three hours from Las Cruces and were two hours from Big Bend. I knew exactly where I’d seen the bag the last time: Under the desk in our hotel room in Las Cruces. Shoot. What to do?!

prada art store texas
The Prada ‘store’ in the middle of nowhere

In the end, we decided to drive the three hours back to Las Cruces, because a) I didn’t want to go to Big Bend without my camera gear and b) I was afraid that my gear would get damaged or lost in the mail if i asked the hotel to ship it to Austin, and I had just replaced my lens that broke after the attempted robbery in Mexico City last month. And so we drove back to Las Cruces, on the most boring stretch of the I-10, only to drive it again, for the third time, the next day. Oh well.. I guess it could have been worse, and luckily we discovered it not only in Big Bend, which would have meant a five hour drive back to Las Cruces.

However – I kept thinking how lucky I was to not have lost all of my camera gear – this could have ended much worse than with an additional 6 or 7 hours in the car.road trip

A broken screen

You might have noticed by now that I’m just not very good with electronics.. I lose them, I break them, I washed them (a USB stick, not too long ago), and this month it was the screen of my beloved iPhone that had to stand in for this category. My phone falls .. often.. But this month, I finally managed to break the screen (something I hadn’t done in a while) – and not just crack the screen, but really break it.

broken iphone
Ouch.

Emotional roller coaster

…and that’s all I am going to say about it. Or to borrow Taylor’s words: ‘Heartbreak is the national anthem, we sing it proudly.’ That song was playing a lot on the radio this month and I could relate well to this line.heartbreak is the national anthem

Financial struggles

I don’t want to go into detail here either, but let’s just say that the life of a freelancer is not always as glamorous as it might seem. I get to travel a lot, yes, but trust me, I don’t make a lot of money, and this month was a tough one.May 2016 pics

What’s next for me

An unexpected change of plans

I am only spending a few days in NYC before I’m flying to Germany! I had no plans to visit my home country until October, but a sudden turn of events is bringing me back to Europe for a while. Unfortunately I can’t talk about the details just yet, but I hope I can shed some light on the recent events in next month’s round-up or in July at the latest. Let’s just say that this could be life changing, and I am not exaggerating here.

Of course I’m super bummed out about missing on some fun in the sun in NYC (y’all know by now how much I love my New York summers) but 1) I hope I’ll be back stateside soon and 2) it’s not the last time that there’s summer in NYC and 3) I already have a pretty packed calendar for Germany, and one confirmed visitor for a week of fun in Berlin, a place that I also happen to love in the summer!May 2016 NYC Austin

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Polaroid of the week: Wonderfully weird Austin

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week usa texas austin graffiti parkOh, Austin… I don’t even know where to start.. This city has swept me off my feet the minute I got here! Over the years, I’ve been told by several people that I should go and check out Austin because I’d like it and it was ,my kind of city’ (and that’s what piqued my curiosity and made me eventually come here!). And yes, they were absolutely right!

So what’s ‘Dani’s kind of city’, you’re asking? A green city. A city known for its giant food truck scene. A city filled with craft beer bars, some of which have over 100 (!!) beers on tap. A city with more live music venues I could possibly visit in a month. A dog friendly city where dogs have their own little beaches along the river. A city that has wonderfully weird celebrations such as Eeyore’s Birthday (an annual hippie festival that takes place on the last Saturday in April). A city where apartment complexes don’t only come with communal swimming pools and BBQ areas, but also with kayak parking lots and their own docks on the river. A city where there are more kayaks and SUPs on the river than cars on the road (who am I kidding, the traffic in Austin is definitely something that we need to work on.. but still: on weekends, there are so many kayaks and SUPs on the river that it seems like half of Austin is out on the Colorado River). A bike friendly city. With a bike sharing system, even! A city with a forest filled with hiking trails inside the city limits. A city with great weather – year-round! (New York, I still love you, but I sure could do without your winters…). A city with impressive art museums. A city with a thriving coffee shop culture. A city with a giant store dedicated entirely to hot sauce (help, I’m spending all my money here!). A city with a winery and a whole wine country nearby. A city with enough mouthwatering food to make me gain five pounds (and I’m not done yet!). A city where you people gather in a dive bar on Sundays to play chicken shit bingo. A city with hipster bars that make me think ‘Am I in Austin or am I in Brooklyn?’ A city with speakeasy bars. A city with the most decadent doughnuts I’ve ever seen. A city with street art.

Okay, about the street art: there is by far more street art in other cities I’ve been to, but pictured above is the Hope Outdoor Gallery, sometimes also referred to as Graffiti Park, where it is legal to spray graffiti. Every time I went there, I saw young girls practice their skills, couples working on pieces together, experienced graffiti artists adding a new mural. How many cities do have an area like this, where people can simply come and do graffiti work? In terms of being a ‘gallery’ – it’s a gallery where the collection of art changes constantly. And in addition to being an outlet for artists, this place also offers fantastic city views of Downtown Austin, especially when the sunset skies paint the buildings in warm golden colors.

Yes, it’s official: Austin, I’ve got a huge crush on you.

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