Austin is a compact city that has changed a lot in the last decade. Austin for a long time has attracted the people different from the majority in Texas. Today, it is called the blueberry in the tomato soup and attracts tech talents, digital nomads, and tourists from the whole world.
Austin is a city known by many names: the live music capital of the world, the blueberry in the tomato soup, Silicon Hills. They’re all true.
The little big city has in just a decade turned into a skyscraper filled tech center of the South. Here, the prices to start a company are lower, the state tax has been slashed, and the support for local businesses is good. Here lies the state’s capital along with a whole list of great universities. For years and years, the city has attracted bands and musical acts from far and wide.
All have swayed Austin to the left and given the city the nickname as the blueberry in the (Republican) tomato soup. It is different from the stereotype of Texas, but it offers that, too; the big steaks, the BBQ, the southern hospitality. 72 hours is not nearly enough, but you’ll get a taste of the good life here and go home hungry for more.
Where to stay
Downtown is filled with all the best hotels; Hilton, Fairmont, JW Mariott, Driskill and so on. The prices are set accordingly, but you can also find cheaper options in the surrounding neighborhoods. I opted for Airbnb to get a real feel of living in the city, which is a very safe place to rent an apartment or house. It is easy to get around by Lyft and Uber, and the busses work fine as well. Just remember to carry exact change, 1,25 dollars a ride.
Where to work
Austin has many good cafes fitted for digital nomads working with their laptops needing good coffee and good wifi. At East Cesar Chaves you’ll find Cenote. A cute little house turned into a coffee shop. They serve food both breakfast and lunch and have a huge open patio.
Where to eat
For breakfast go to Blenders & Bowls and get an acaí bowl with toppings. I went for the O.G., a massive mush of chilly acaí with banana, strawberries, and hemp granola on top.
In the middle of downtown, you’ll find Gus’s Chicken. A place famous for its many chicken plates all fried in golden peanut oil. The portions are huge and come with sides so if you want to try both white and dark meat find someone to share it with!
Now you’re probably hungry for a big Texan meal in the evening. Take a table on the rooftop of Eastside Tavern. Here’s beer on tap, basket on the screens, and meat on the menu. I opted for a two-meat plate, turkey and brisket, with a fresh take on coleslaw and a frosé – yep, not that traditional after all – and it was delicious. Next time I’ll go for a three-meat plate.
Note: If you want to try real Texan BBQ like Franklins or La Barbeque you have to be willing to queue up early in the day and you still might get disappointed. These places sell out fast!
What to see
Explore downtown and Eastside. The city center is very compact. You can walk to everything and even rent a bike – which you should totally have done in the morning as the first thing. Don’t miss out on Rainey Street, 6th street, the State Capitol and the bike path along the Colorado River where you’ll find a whole chain of parks along Waller Creek, a ramification from Lady Bird Lake.
Cycle down 6th street in the late afternoon. This is where it is going down in the evening, and where you’ll find the oldest operating hotel in Austin, the Driskill, completed in 1886.
Head east and explore the neighborhood that is the East Austin. Not too many years ago, Eastside was the city’s historic black neighborhood but has experienced a strong wave of gentrification. Now it is a trendy area with 2-3 story houses, porches, and hip eateries. East 6th street and East Cesar Chavez sports many good places to listen to a live gig, eat some BBQ, or just walk around and feel the Austin vibe. Here you’ll also find the Zilker Brewing Company where some really good local beer is made.
Where to work
Sit outside in one of the many parks. Austin is blessed with both lots of green and lovely weather – although the temperatures can easily reach 100 Fahrenheit in the summer! Given that you travel there in the spring or autumn as the locals suggest, the temperatures will be more moderate, but the weather can change quickly. Bring a blanket, a yoga pillow or the like and head to Zilker Metropolitan Park or Palm Park.
Where to eat
Austin is full of food trucks where you can get everything from ice cream and a cup of coffee to Italian, Mexican, or fried food. A popular place is Trailerpark Eatery on 1st street south of the bridge.
On East 6th st you’ll find a Bob’s Burgers truck and on Rainey Street between the quirky places you’ll find yet another collection of food trucks. Yet here they compete with delicious places like the G’raj Mahal, which serves traditional Indian food paired with local beer.
According to various Uber and Lyft drivers, you have to try Whataburger. Established in 1950 in San Antonio it is a proper Texan burger chain where the calories are as high as the summer temperatures. But don’t count. Just order. The greasier, the better. The “healthy” option is just not as juicy. And please, order onion rings with that.
What to see
South Congress or SoCo is a very cool area filled with local restaurant, markets, and boutiques. Like Eastside, South Congress has flourished in the last decade. From here you can see all the way to the State Capitol just in the middle of the highrises, many of them built after 2007 where the view was completely different.
This is also where you’ll find the best second-hand shops and soon St. Elmo Public Market.
If you’re into any outdoor activity, you’ll find it just across from Lady Bird Lake. Zilker Park is one of the most beloved places to hang out during the summer. Here is the Barton Springs, a set of four natural water springs at Barton Creek, located and the city has constructed the Barton Springs Pool, a public pool filled with water from the nearby natural spring.
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You can’t visit Austin without seeing some live music. At 6th you’ll find plenty, but also Stay Gold in East Austin have some sweet gigs likewise does The Continental Club. Pete’s Dueling Piano bar is also worth a visit, it has a small entry fee, but the show is intense, and so is the audience. If you’re not into live music all night pop into Recess, a bar that has collected all the old arcade games which you can play for just a dollar a piece.
Just a short bike ride away you’ll also find Rainey Street. Here are all the cool bars like the Container bar and unBARlievable.
Where to stay
If you didn’t go for an Airbnb apartment, and even if you did, spend one night at one of the fancy hotels downtown. From JW Mariott you’ll have some pretty sweet views and a rooftop fitted with both a pool, spa and a bar.
Where to work
If you want the well-known setting, WeWork has great office space on Congress Ave. If you want something more local go to one of the Caffe Medici’s location. Caffe Medici is Austin’s original specialty coffee shop and makes a helluva Matcha Latte and kicking espresso. The seating is free, and the wifi is too.
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Where to eat and what to see
Wake up early and stroll to Congress Avenue to watch the bats return to their home in the millions under the bridge. It’s a daily event that attracts both locals and tourists at both sunup and sundown. The Four Seasons Hotel offers breakfast with a view of the Austin bats.
Afterward, hail a Lyft and drive the 20 or so minutes to the Domain.
This is a fake European outside shopping mall and residential area where you’ll find all that your heart wants from shopping to eating. Because as you might have noticed, shopping is not a thing downtown. Luckily, the Domain has everything from Dick’s Sporting Goods and Macy’s to smaller and more luxurious brands located at Domain Northside and Rock Rose. And when it comes to food, you’ll find every kitchen here.