A Day in the Life || Austin, Texas
My travel day started at 3AM. This afforded me two major things:
1. A full first day in Austin
2. A very snoozy flight, followed by a lot of coffee.
Thankfully, Austin lends itself to both very delicious coffee and varied options for travelers who desperately want to throw themselves into the local flavor but who also probably need a nap. To throw myself into the local flavor, I called Danny, who I met two years ago while on the road trip for Simon and Ruby.
Danny, before fully becoming the business owner/podcast host juggernaut he is now, was a bartender at Torchy’s where Kate and I had stopped for tacos as we entered Austin. We ended up sitting and talking with him for hours, and we’ve been friends ever since. At the time, he’d made a list of things we should see and try in and around the city. In knowing I was returning, I asked for an updated list and maybe for a travel buddy.
So, with that, with a lot of adventures, and with a lot of trial and only a little error, this is my list of the perfect day in Austin, Texas:
1. Barton Springs. It tops just about every Austin-must-see list, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s my first stop and my last stop in Austin every time. In the mornings, I like to sit on the upper steps and overlook the pool and listen to the sounds of swimmers gliding through their laps. It’s also a great place to drink your coffee, if you’re not down to join the crowd of swimmers that grows as the morning opens. If you are down, though, it’s a small fee and a really fun time. The water is chilly (the air temperature in March peaked at 85* but the water maxed out at 68* — just enough to make me lose my breath and keep me active as I swam.)
That coffee? There’s an Austin Java not even a full mile from Barton Springs, and they have delicious (and fast) coffee, plus they’ve got the kindest crew. They also have tacos. Which, whew.
2. Tacos. Tacos, everywhere. Focus on tacos like most people focus on air. There are breakfast tacos and lunch tacos and dinner tacos and late night music tacos and truck tacos and it’s important you try them all. (My favorite breakfast taco at Austin Java is the veggie chorizo + avocado + egg + cheddar. I get two and eat them with an iced latte at Barton Springs.)
(Torchy’s also has a fried avocado that will haunt your dreams. Or maybe they just haunt my dreams. Maybe you should just try one and then tell me all about it? Write me a letter. I love letters, and I love that dang taco.)
3. I met up with Danny at Hope Gallery off of Lamar (a longterm location moments from changing). Regardless of location, it’s worth checking out. Taggers, artists, and enthusiasts cover the walls of the gallery with love letters, signatures, and giant, sprawling murals.
4. I make a pretty concerted effort to find creative ways to workout while exploring new places. It’s in part because I really love exploring new food and in part because it makes me feel one hundred percent better in my body and in my job (uhhh, I have a tendency of getting myself into very physical shoots, so staying on it pretty regularly helps a lot). Mayfield House and Nature Preserve affords hiking, a really gorgeous drop down to the water (and checking out the cool houses and bungalows lining its bank), free-roaming peacocks, AND it’s right around the corner from an overlook of the water and the city skyline.
Danny and I clucked at a lot of peacocks and peahens, did several hiking loops, then climbed the stairs for the overlook at which point I announced I needed something cold to drink.
5. The Yeti Flagship downtown has an outdoor bar with local beers, Topo Chicos, and cold drinks for adults and littles alike. AND it’s right around the bend from the bat bridge. Park once, win/win/win.
Unless, of course, you sit on the grass for two hours after your cold drink and wait for bats who don’t come, in which case it’s only a win/win. Here’s a card from my Airbnb host since the bats felt sheepish.
6. Not into bats? Take back the evening with kayaking. Check out the Rowing Dock, decide between a single kayak, double kayak, paddle board, or canoe, and paddle your way to downtown. It’s surprisingly cheap, and you don’t need much time to fully enjoy it. (My single kayak was $10/hr, pro-rated after the first hour. I took my time paddling to the full downtown view – and back – and it cost $15 total.)
Double points: this adventure comes with a relaxing arm workout that’ll make anyone feel better about all those fried avocado taco dreams.
Triple points: this adventure comes with equal doses of cityscapes and nature sounds. Gentle water rushing along with a gorgeous skyline view? Don’t mind if I do.
Sparkle bonus brownie points: if you like kayaks *and* bats, you can kayak under the bat bridge and do it up in style.
7. Catch some music at ABGB. The bands are good, the outdoor dining garden is relaxing and gorgeous, there are murals, and the pizza is way too good to be brewery food. The beer list is great (I tried the Sassy Tugboat — a citrusy IPA) and I’m almost entirely sure the margarita pizza was crafted from the love of my ancestors, a few dirty jokes, and the happiest cows on earth. ABGB? Guys? Explain. Please.
In all of this, too, there were so many beautiful moments of wonder. Like the roses of Texas coming into full bloom, the garlands covering the walls of the touristy district of South Congress, the music lilting from half of the buildings in the city, and the sweet love notes on half of the city signs. I’m grateful for the full compilation of touristic color, local friendships, live music, morning swimming, and a little extra wonder around every corner in Austin.
Don’t forget the tacos.