“I’ll give you the whole secret of writing. Rule No. 1. Write a good story. There is no Rule 2.” ~ O. Henry
Austin is a city of transplants and techies. There’s a distinctive hum of creativity and innovation within the city: a work hard, play hard vibe reflected in the morning rush of week days followed by easier, lazier weekend days spent outside running, brunching, kayaking, sipping coffee or margaritas on a sunny patio.
It’s a fun city. Young city. And it’s growing everyday.
My Rideshare driver (yes, that’s right – Austin doesn’t have Lyft or Uber, but Austin, being what it is, quickly made up for the deficit with a surplus of related apps: Fasten, RideAustin, zTrip, Fare, GetMe…too many, I say, too many) told me that “upwards of 140 people move to Austin every day.” He may have been exaggerating, but the allure of the city speaks for itself. There’s always something new to experience in Austin, from the music scene to the wall art, not to mention the many restaurants and food trucks scattered around the city.
Visit for a weekend, and you might be tempted to stay for much longer – maybe even long enough to put down some roots.
Here are 5 things I loved in Austin:
1. South 1st
South 1st is quickly becoming a trendy area, slightly off the beaten path and far less crowded than its popular neighbour SoCo a couple blocks over. It’s home to the famous Welcome to Austin mural and the original Torchy’s Tacos, and there’s some fabulous food to be discovered here.
Elizabeth Street Café // This lovely spot is a fusion Vietnamese-French restaurant with the absolute best Breakfast Banh Mí. That, along with an iced Vietnamese coffee, might have been my favorite meal in Austin. Also try the lychee jam and croissant.
Seventh Flag Coffee // Across the street from Elizabeth Street Café is this beautiful minimalist coffee shop with a sunny patio and a fantastic iced latte.
Gourdough’s // Right across from Seventh Flag Coffee boasts a food truck corner with Gourdough’s sitting right on the curb. Just around the corner rests Roadhouse Relics and Art for the People Gallery, housing an eclectic array of artwork and gifts.
Bouldin Street Café // This vegan/vegetarian café provided the perfect mid-morning breakfast on their quiet, homey patio. Order a glass of orange juice and try the tofu scramble and vegan blueberry cornbread.
Dolce Neve Gelato // While it was closed when I walked by, I kept hearing glowing reviews of Dolce Neve. The cute little white building holds creative flavours like Crema Dolce Neve and Mascarpone and Fig.
No guide to Austin would be complete without a mention of SoCo. On Saturdays, the street gets so crowded that it can be hard to find space on the sidewalk. Lined with artsy, vintage shops and restaurants, SoCo offers a wonderful afternoon of wandering, browsing, and noshing. Hit up Jo’s for a breakfast taco and a picture at the iconic “I love you so much” wall. Then talk a walk through Uncommon Objects and browse through the lovely SoCo Bookstore. Gypsy Wagon has so many beautiful pieces, and on the weekends, local and traveling artists set up in the outdoor lot to show off jewelry, handbags, photography – you-name-it.
Café No Se // Just the prettiest restaurant I have ever seen. Light and airy, full of white wood and blue accents – it’s one of those places where I swear the ambiance makes the food taste better. And the food was already top-notch. Order the beet toast with spiced walnuts and marinated kale, and definitely don’t miss the Kouign Amann, rated best in the city.
Manana Coffee and Juice // This beautiful, airy coffee shop has a bright and sunny patio and gorgeous tiling work all around the counter. Enjoy a cortado outside before meandering down the crowded SoCo street.
Central Standard // Right around the corner from Manana Coffee and Juice sits the Central Standard patio, replete with lounging chairs and flowers on every table. While we didn’t have the chance to catch the Happy Hour specials, I read that the cocktails here are on point.
3. Texas State Capitol & Downtown
The State Capitol, proudly proclaimed by the tour guide near me as “the biggest capitol in the entire United States,” is truly a beautiful building. The park around the capitol is perfect for a picnic lunch and offers a good view of downtown. If you’re in search for a good meal, head down the main street and turn on 2nd to hit up La Condesa.
La Condesa // A classic margarita and the fish tacos are enough to make my day (the margarita alone is the best I’ve ever had). The chic indoor restaurant seating is perfect for a pre-dinner drink or fancier dinner, but I loved the patio, with its view of 2nd street lit up at night.
Houndstooth Coffee // Parked in the lobby of a larger bank building in the financial part of downtown, it’s easy to miss this lovely, little coffee-shop. Sip a Cortado at the counter while watching all the business people hurriedly stride by.
½ Step // Nestled halfway down Rainey St., this speakeasy-type bar offers a solid Moscow Mule (although I also loved the Ginger Paloma). The outdoor patio and courtyard are all lit up at night, and the indoor area is cozy and candle-lit.
4. Whole Foods
The flagship Whole Foods is, for lack of a better adjective: simply awesome. I couldn’t get over just how big the store was, and how many options were offered for dinner and lunch every-day. The taco bar is the BEST thing ever, with a make-your-own-taco menu that is, dare I say it, better than many of famed taco joints in Austin. Be sure to try the Buddha’s Brew Pineapple and Greens kombucha or the Mint Julep Kosmic kombucha.
Right across from the flagship Whole Foods sits the famous Waterloo Records store, holding a treasure trove of old and new records, album art, and an entire row of CD’s. Down the street sits BookPeople, one of the largest independently owned bookstores in Austin. One could spend hours browsing the multi-storied bookstore, happily reading in the coffee shop or wandering the aisles in the travel section before catching a reading or book signing on the third floor.
5. Lady Bird Lake
Fondly referred to as by the locals, Lady Bird Lake and its surrounding trail offer a sweeping view of Austin downtown. Early Saturday morning, I got to the trail to find what felt like every person in Austin also out running on the trail. Austinites are a dedicated outdoorsy crowd, and my friend informed me that this was the norm on any given weekend day. Rent a kayak for a leisurely afternoon on the lake and soak in the sunshine.
While I didn’t have a chance to check out these places, here are a few more places I’d love to visit in Austin:
Blanton Art Museum (Closed on Mondays)
Elizabeth Ney Museum (Closed on Mondays)
Other Fun Links:
1. This beautiful guide to Austin made me want to book another weekend there as soon as possible to visit all the places I didn’t get to see.
2. Eat This Poem – Austin had some wonderful local tips and places to eat.
3. Gorgeous pictures in this post featuring 5 Things in Austin.
4. The coolest city in Texas.
5. These guides never disappoint.