Since crossing off Texas with the Houston Marathon this January, I have no plans to run the Austin Marathon anytime soon, so I can’t recap that here for you (besides repeating the rumor that it’s hilly). But if you’re curious about things to do in Austin (besides the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail reviewed here), I’ve laid out what I did this week during my four-day visit.
I arrived Monday afternoon, checked into my hotel (the W Austin downtown), then ate a very huge, very late lunch of beets and pizza at Due Forni, which was not the greatest decision since it was only ok and I had dinner plans about 2 hours after that at Chuy’s, pictured above. Apparently Chuy’s is a chain but it doesn’t feel like a chain, and I had never seen one before. They had an amazing happy hour special where they provided a FREE nacho bar with unlimited chips, different salsas, refried beans, nacho cheese, and seasoned ground beef. I don’t know how they stay in business. Anyway, it was great, even though I almost died of heatstroke walking there. Note that about a week ago I was camping in the snow. Moving on!
The next morning I took a 90-minute driving tour to get a sense of the city and the surrounding area (which is still technically the city). My biggest takeaway from the tour was that the highways were covered in wildflowers (some pictured above, but really impossible to capture all the many kinds and colors). It was very beautiful. Also the house from Spy Kids is in the hills, and Andy Roddick plays tennis sometimes at a club up there. Moving on!
After the tour I walked from the Austin Visitor Center (really nice bathrooms there, BTW) to the South Congress shopping and eating district, where I had some great fish tacos at Guero’s Taco Bar and purchased the fun things pictured above at various shops. I resisted buying any cowboy boots, but I did buy a lot of candy at Big Top Candy Shop, which as far as candy shops go was pretty excellent.
I resisted getting a scoop of Amy’s Ice Cream on the walk back to the hotel only because I had 5:30 reservations at Qui, which is probably the best restaurant in Austin (according to people who know these kinds of things). You might know it as the restaurant from that guy who won Top Chef recently. I used to watch Top Chef, but I haven’t in several years, so I didn’t know who this guy was, but he put out a tasty menu, pictured above. At $55 for the full tasting ($65 for meat, $100 or $110 with wine pairings) it was a relative bargain, as a similar meal in NYC would have easily been over $100 without beverages. I recommend! After dinner I strolled back along the infamous 6th Street, where I bought a pretzel at Easy Tiger (for my run the next morning) and stopped in at a bar that had some live music going (the Dirty Rooster). It was still so early it was light outside and the crowds were sparse, so it was a good time to visit 6th Street without having to deal with the crazy drunkies. I recommend!
The next morning I did my long slow run around Town Lake, reviewed here. I was so tired afterwards I barely managed to get a salad at Jo’s Coffee before falling into a deep, spiderweb filled sleep. That night I had meatballs and brussels sprouts at Malaga Tapas a block from my hotel, which were ok but I think I should have waited for a spot at La Condesa to open up.
On Thursday I drove down MoPac Highway to Driftwood, where I rode a horse with Texas Trail Rides. We saw three snakes during the ride, including one HUGE rattlesnake. The guide kept talking about how there were a lot of water moccasins around, and how she hated them so much because they chased you. Needless to say I never got off my horse until we were back in the parking lot. I recommend!
Since I was already down there, after my ride I went to The Salt Lick for their famous BBQ. The turkey and brisket were my favorite, but overall this meal was only ok. I preferred Chuy’s and Guero’s, so I think I just like Mexican more than I like BBQ. I did appreciate that The Salt Lick offered free refills on soda.
I drove back into Austin, making a quick stop at The Whole Foods grocery store downtown, because while I’m not a fan of Whole Foods per se, the tour guide had told us it was the “second largest Whole Foods in the world” and that Whole Foods actually started in Austin. (The internet indicates that the largest Whole Foods in the world is in London, but that the largest grocery store in NYC is in fact the Whole Foods on Bowery. I’m not 100% sure any of that is correct.) It was a pretty standard Whole Foods, but I splurged on a cup of mixed berries that I ate that night and they were the best berries I’ve ever had in my life. So, there ya go.
Finally, after dropping off my car at the hotel, I walked down to the capitol building, where I enjoyed the A/C and felt awkward watching the people in business suits going about their work while groups of sweaty, t-shirt wearing tourists gawked around them. Or, rather, I felt awesome that I was not one of those people in business suits, because I bet a lot of them were lawyers and would rather be on a horse, eating BBQ, or buying berries at Whole Foods than wearing a black poly suit on a beautiful spring day in Austin, Texas.
While I was in Austin I really wanted to walk around the UT campus, tour the Bullock Museum, and maybe stop at the Blanton Museum of Art, too, but I was just too wiped out from the heat and the touring and the running on the days before. So I wandered back to my hotel to swim, except the pool was like ice water, so I just sat next to it reading some John Scalzi. The next morning I packed up and went home!
Have you ever toured Austin? Did you manage to visit Hula Hut, swim in Barton Springs, eat breakfast tacos, or climb up the stairs to Mount Bonnell? What do you like to do when you travel? Share in the comments!