When you think of Texas, a few things come to mind. Football. Pickup trucks. Cowboys. Sound about right? Well what about technology, live music and sushi? Yes, you read that right and yes, you should add these to the Texan repertoire.
For Tim's birthday last year, we decided to spend a long weekend in Austin, TX. JetBlue flies to ATX direct from BOS, making this a super easy weekend trip. We also happened to be there during Halloween, so not only did we have really great weather, but we also got to see Austin go all-out for the occasion.
Tim and I stayed at The Driskill hotel, which is rich in history and charm, and boasts a central location suited for exploring the best of what Austin has to offer. Keep in mind the hotel is near "dirty 6th" so you may encounter rowdy crows on Thursdays, Friday and Saturday evenings. However, don't let that discourage you from stay here - you can't hear the commotion from the rooms.
The staff at the Driskill is wonderful. Everyone is extremely friendly and helpful. My husband an I found it very pleasant. The rooms are on the smaller side due to the original layout of the hotel, but very well decorated. I especially loved the vintage suitcase bedside tables. It's also part of the Hyatt group of hotels, so we were able to book it using points (via transfer from Chase Sapphire Reserve).
See & Be Seen
There's no shortage of attractions in Austin. Our first day, we were lucky to catch the Mexic-Arte Museum Viva la Vida Festival and Días de los Muertos parade down Congress Ave. With activities for the whole family, music, dancing and tricked out cars, it was a great way to get introduced to the city.
Looking for a little bit of culture? Check out the Texas State Capitol building and the University of Texas campus. I hear there's an awesome segway tour that stops at both. You can thank Tina Karraz for that tip! We decided to bike instead, but more on that later.
After hearing of the magical Congress Ave Bridge Bats, we decided to head over right before sunset. Although we made some friends waiting, the bats didn't flock. We did see a few and we certainly heard their little bat noises. But, alas, no sweeping bat views for us. This is quite common in the off seasons so do your research before you go.
If shopping is more your style, head to South Congress for some of the cutest boutiques Austin has to offer. We loved By George and also spent a solid hour trying on cowboy boots and furs at Allen's.
With the sun shining on our last day in Austin, we headed to Zilker Park. We rented a tandem kayak at the Rowing Dock and hit the Colorado river in style. You can also rent stand up paddler boards. We saw quite a few pups on the water sunbathing. The best part was turtle spotting in the Barton Creek, which ends at the famous Barton Springs. Not to mention, the view of the city is really great.
There's no shortage of good restaurants or James Beard winning chefs in Austin. Breakfast tacos and barbecue are an absolute must, but don't ignore the rest of the foodie scene in town. Make sure to make reservations as early as possible as these spots book up weeks in advance.
The first place we tried Odd Duck. Chicken fried fish head, kale salad with tongue, redfish ceviche and ash-roasted carrot hummus. Need we say more? They've also got an open kitchen, so ask for a bar seat to catch all the action.
For Tim's birthday, we opted for dinner at Uchi. Fair warning, it's on the pricy side but they do a daily happy hour from 5-630. Our waiter, John, guided us through the menu and recommended a tasting followed by some rolls. The walu walu grilled escolar is what dreams are made of. Never in a million years did we think we would eat some of the best sushi of our lives in Texas of all places (I mean we live on Boston Harbor for crying out loud).
What's a trip to Texas without some world-renowned BBQ? That's right, we ate at Franklin BBQ. We got there at 8:15 in the morning to score some covered seats and ate at 12:30. Think of it as a college tailgate, without the football. Diners are friendly and it's a great bonding experience. Franklin employees also come around with beer for sale throughout the wait, so that makes the time go by quickly. Was it worth a four hour wait? You better believe it. Did we get the meat sweats from all that brisket? You better believe that as well. Sure made for a fun flight home!!!!
TIP: Bring sunblock and water. If you forget it, CVS is a 5 minute walk. There's also a small coffee cart behind Franklin that serves a mean cup of joe.
Once you're done with all that eating, it's time to hit the town. You can find tons of bars and live music venues to your liking, from folk to alt rock, country to jazz. We recommend hostel cum speakeasy, the Firehouse Lounge for some French 75's and karaoke.
Austin is a really spread out city, so walking may not be your best bet for getting across town. Tim and I signed up for the bike sharing service, B Cycle, and biked our way around the city. It was fast, easy and safe - the bike lines are wide and everywhere.
As others will tell you, Lyft and Uber are banned in Austin. You can read more about that here. However, there are plenty of other, similar services to chauffeur you around. Check out Ride Austin and Fasten. With all of their promo offers, we hardly had to pay for a ride all weekend.