I am so excited today because we are going to be talking about my new home – Austin! Yes – this born and raised NYC girl has been an Austin resident for the past several years and I am loving every minute of it!
Alison Lamell, the Tourism Marketing Specialist at Visit Austin recently joined me to dish about our fabulous city and I am pretty certain by the end of our chat you are going to be adding Austin to your list of must see destinations.
So have a seat and read on to see what makes Austin so whimsical, so inclusive, so welcoming and just flat out amazing!
Part of the fun when you visit is going to all the different districts that Austin offers and we’re going to talk about some of them today. A lot of them have amazing historical pieces behind them. I mean we are in capital, right? So, this is where history is made and it’s a great way to walk in history so to speak. But it’s not just about history. As you’ll see Downtown Austin has a different vibe than South Congress and then the East Side is different from both of those – there are so many little pockets and different cultures within each district that we’re going to share today. And you will see that there are so many things off the beaten path in Austin and so many little districts in the area that one trip usually isn’t enough. Even Alison stated that when she has someone come to visit, she’ll ask them before they leave when are they coming back because they didn’t get to see everything that was on her list! And I agree – with so many places to go you never have enough time – I think that people should be here at least for a good five to seven days when they come – not just a weekend or you’ll definitely have a jam packed weekend – but if you can spend five days to a week then I think you can really get to know the true Austin.
- Downtown: It is an amazing vibe right here indeed! Second Street is the shopping district where you will find plenty of fabulous boutiques. Then you have Fifth Street which is our gay district and is very LGBTQ+ friendly. Here you will also find plenty of cafés and a great barbeque option that is higher end – Lambert’s. There really is just something for everyone in the Downtown Austin area.
- South Congress: South Congress is filled with history – and so much more. You can spend an entire afternoon just on South Congress where the downtown shops and boutiques are higher end. You’ll also find quirky gift shops, just really funky and quirky stores that you can literally get lost in for a day – such as Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds – which Alison stated is a must. She described it as the most elaborate costume shop she thinks she has ever seen where you can go inside and try on a bunch of silly costumes. She also said you gotta try on the boots! Then there’s the NYC-style pizza joint Home Slice – which is a staple there, the legendary Continental Club and you of course you have to stop for a picture at the I Love You So Much mural!
- Rainey Street: This is a new up-and-coming area and a lot of new places like hotels and bars are opening up here and it’s just been amazing to see it grow. What’s cool is that it actually started out as just a neighborhood – so these are all literally old houses that have been turned into bars. It’s really a great place to bar hop because it’s an entire street of bars – like the Container Bar made completely with containers and Bangers that has like hundreds of beers on tap. And here is a fun fact – there are over 2000 food trucks in Austin and Rainy Street is home to a food truck trailer park. These food trucks are serving up amazing cuisine at great prices – like two tacos for $4.00. It’s just an inexpensive and a great way to feed yourself – especially after bar hopping on Rainey Street all day!
- Sixth Street and Red River: Known as one of our most entertaining districts we saved Sixth Street and Red River for last. This is a totally different vibe, and it is really where most of the Live Music Capital of the World kind of started to get its name and then it just morphed from there. Alison shared that when she first moved to Austin, she spent the first year of her life on Sixth Street because it’s just THE place to go. It is something you have to experience to believe and its where all of the tourist’s head to so you will meet people from all walks of life. Here you will find live music at every bar, and they actually shut down a section of Sixth Street so it’s kind of like our Bourbon Street if we compared it to New Orleans. They actually cone off the street and you’ll see policemen on horses just kind of patrolling very casually – but you can just pop in and out of every bar as you please. Some of the more popular and historical bars you will find on Sixth Street include Maggie Mays and The Blind Pig. It really has a life of all its own!
And you guys we’ve got so many of these little niche neighborhoods and we’re growing so much and thanks to that there’s so much more diversity that’s coming in. And a lot of the people want to be entrepreneurs as well so there’s a lot of mom and pops – so you really are supporting local when you shop and eat here.
We already touched on the I Love You So Much mural but then there is the You’re My Butter Half mural on the east side, the Willie Nelson for President mural, the Smile Even If You Don’t Want To mural and The Continental Club has a mural of Aretha Franklin looking down over the city on the top of their building. In a nutshell – any or all of the murals you find here are definitely places you want to have a picture because they are just iconic in Austin.
The Great Outdoors
First off – this is a city that really allows us to be outdoors – whenever you visit – because it’s a year-round destination. Need proof? We have 300 days of sunshine and an average temperature of 68 degrees! And there are plenty of ways to enjoy that weather like visits to Barton Springs Municipal Pool and Hamilton Pool, stand up paddleboarding right in the downtown area, kayaking on Lady Bird Lake and boating on Lake Austin – just to name a few. It really is a city that caters to an outdoor lifestyle – and wellness too – as that nature connection is super amazing here. And there are tons of outdoor restaurants and other places that you can really hang out at no matter what the temperature is. Even when it’s super-hot here there’s places that you can hide in the shade – or perhaps make the outdoor misters your new best friend!
The other thing that is so awesome about being here is that we have a fabulous food culture. You like barbeques? We got ‘em! There’s the uber-popular Franklin Barbecue where you need to get in line by 5:00 AM or some other ungodly hour – a fact to which Alison shared that the secret at Franklins is to order your food to go! Then there is Alison’s favorite barbecue – Terry Black’s Barbeque – which is on Barton Springs Road. She noted that they get a long line here too, but they have a little service window, and you can order a beer while you wait in line. Now that’s a pro-tip! What other city can you go and just order a beer and hang out while you wait for your food? And it’s not just barbeque – Austin really is like a cultural melting pot where you will find some of the best food in Texas. There’s Asian. There’s Thai. A really hip noodle place called Ramen Tatsu-Ya – which is another place that is always so packed that you have to wait outside – but – they will allow you to get hot sake while you wait in line – which is another great insider tip btw. And those 2000 food trucks we mentioned earlier? Sometimes they go into neighborhoods. My neighborhood on occasion we will solicit one or two and then we’ll have a party in our park with the food trucks as our food source! So, if you have a group of people and you guys want to do an outside event, we can arrange for one or several of those food trucks to be at your event!
Austin truly is a very walkable city. When you’re downtown you really could walk all of downtown if you wanted to and then you can continue to walk up to South Congress and over to Rainey Street. And if you don’t want to walk, we have bikes to rent and we have scooters to ride – so it really is very easy to navigate here.
There are accommodations for every taste all over the town. If you want an apartment, you can find one. If you want to stay in a hotel – we have hundreds of them, and new hotels are opening up on a consistent basis.
Our Take On Austin
So, what I love about Austin so much is that there’s so much to do here and it doesn’t feel like we’ve got the hustle and bustle that you have in the northeast. We have an amazing vibe here and everybody wants to not only work hard to play hard as well! And Alison agreed that’s totally something she noticed coming from New England and moving down here. It is just a slower way of life and I she joked maybe its just because we’re not freezing cold, and the weather is beautiful here, so everyone is just a bit happier.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing Austin is open for domestic visitors!
Guys it’s time to get your boots on and let’s get some walking done and let’s walk these amazing districts of Austin – let’s go eat our hearts out and don’t worry about those calories because you’re walking it off! And you know I’m here to help you create the perfect itinerary and heck and I can be your personal guide while you’re here!
For more details on things to see and do in Austin, where to stay, it’s price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!