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Trip Review – Austin, TX

Normally I return from vacation already making plans for the next time I visit. Unfortunately, Austin won’t be high on our list. I’m sure the chilly, rainy weather played a part since it prevented us from enjoying any outdoor exploits. Our trip was fun overall, but it didn’t quite live up to our expectations.  Mostly, we were disappointed with the lack of live music. As the self proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World,” we thought we’d find a lot more than we actually did. Thankfully though, the delicious food kept us quite happy throughout the trip. Here’s a recap of how we filled our two days in Austin:

 

Day 1 – BBQ!

I flew in on Wednesday night and Jay picked me up from the airport since he was already in Austin for a work seminar. It’s such a luxury getting picked up versus finding a taxi or renting a car : ) He was staying in Round Rock, a suburb of Austin so we headed straight there to find dinner. What’s a trip to Texas without bbq, right? A quick Google search brought us to Green Mesquite.

We ended up with a humongous and flavorful dinner. We each selected the 3 meat and sides platter, so we were able to try practically everything. Plus, it came with cornbread! The waitress actually laughed because I was so excited about the cornbread. Clearly we’re not from the South. Despite our best efforts, we didn’t even come close to eating everything, but we were stuffed and fell happily into a food coma right afterward.

Our hotel that night was the Hyatt Place in Round Rock. The room was comfortable and fairly large. The extra seating area was perfect for stashing our bags. There’s also a free breakfast, which includes a decent selection of eggs, breads, oatmeal, meat, fruit etc. I also discovered the better than expected gym the next morning! It was a sizable, bright airy room with three treadmills, free weights, and yoga mats. Not too shabby for Hyatt’s economy hotel. Overall, worth a stay if you don’t mind being outside of center city.

 

Day 2 – Downtown Austin

On our way into the city the next morning, I coerced Jay into stopping for donuts at a local food truck, Gourdoughs. This was a fellow blogger’s suggestion – Thanks Kristen!! We didn’t know what we were getting into, so we each ordered a donut. Big mistake (or excellent decision, depending on how you look at it). These things were massive!! We’re talking three times the normal size. You can choose from at least ten varieties and they’re made fresh when you order. I selected a cinnamon sugar donut topped with cream cheese frosting and cinnamon sugar butter. It was basically swimming in frosting and butter and had a nice fried crunch on the outside. Jay ordered a donut topped with chocolate icing, chocolate chips, and brownies!! Heaven. We barely finished half of each.

Afterward we made our way to the Texas State Capitol building for a tour. There’s free parking for capital visitors in a nearby lot (follow the road signs) and the tour is free also. It was about half an hour and included interesting facts about the building and legislative bodies. Perfect for a cold, rainy day. 

 

We went to check in to our next hotel, the Intercontinental in downtown Austin, but our room wasn’t ready yet. Good excuse to eat lunch! You’ll see pretty much all we did on this trip was eat : ) Tex Mex was on our minds today. We stopped at Uncle Julio’s, a few blocks from our hotel and feasted on quesadillas and tacos.

Next up on the agenda was a meeting with a stone fabricator, a late work assignment for Jay. He took us on a tour of the new Fairmont hotel that’s currently under construction. For an hour he showed off the natural stone he cut and installed throughout the hotel, including floors, counter tops, and arches. It is almost beyond belief how much work went into the project and how much stone is used. Certainly a unique experience to see a behind the scenes look at the building!

 

Dinner & Drinks

After dropping our bags in our room, we ventured out for dinner at Easy Tiger – a German style beer garden (with a confusing name). The food and beer were decent – I’d recommend the $3 soft pretzel and beer cheese during happy hour! We strolled down 6th street after dinner in hopes of finding live music. Sadly, every bar we passed was practically empty and there was no entertainment to be found. I realize it was still sort of early, but we were expecting more of a Nashville experience where there’s someone playing music everywhere all the time.

To kill some time we stopped in to the Library Bar for a drink. Cute name, but the only real connection was a row of books that decorated the wall above the TV screens. We kept walking and eventually found a performer in the San Jac Saloon. Exciting! Until he stopped playing about 10 min after we walked in…and informed the bar the next band wouldn’t be on for another hour and a half! Sigh. We decided to wait it out and watched the Olympics as the bar slowly filled up.

The band came on at 9:30 and they were fun to listen to, so all in all it was sort of a success. When we tired of country music, we strolled back toward our hotel and stopped at an underground jazz bar, The Elephant Room. The dimly lit bar was full, but not packed and everyone was actually listening to the music. A jazz quartet performed on stage, playing original music. Plus, the cocktails we ordered were delicious so it all felt reminiscent of a laid back speakeasy. Definitely a highlight of the trip and the perfect way to end the evening.

 

Day 3 – Killing Time

On Friday I was hoping to spend some time hiking around the waterfalls at McKinney state park. Sadly, the weather prevented that from happening. Instead, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Slake, next door to our hotel and drove around the suburbs for a while. We checked out an antique store and a terrific bookstore, Half Price Books. Naturally, we ended up buying a few books…

Lunch was a suggestion from a coworker – Matt’s El Rancho Mexican restaurant. It’s worth the hike outside of downtown for the cheese dip alone. Wow, that stuff was amazing. Practically a meal in itself – it’s loaded with cheese, ground beef, and topped with avocado. Yum.

We checked into our final hotel, the Hyatt Place downtown, and I somehow managed to consume the remainder of both our donuts from yesterday. Then my body gave up and made me take a 2 hour nap…because that’s what vacations are for, right??  We both weren’t interested in another large meal, so we split a sandwich before walking to Rainey Street. Apparently this is the current “place to be” in Austin. It’s lined with cute houses that have been turned into bars and a variety of food trucks tucked in between them. Once again though, we were hoping for lots of live music and found hardly any.

Despite that initial disappointment, we sat outside on the porch of The Blackheart and enjoyed talking and sipping drinks outside in the middle of February. We eventually wandered down the road to Unbarlievable and found a musician playing out back! Hurray! He was a decent performer with a good voice and a guitar, so I was happy. Since we had to wake up early the next morning though, we were back in the hotel by 9:30 and called it an early night.

The flight home on Saturday was early but uneventful. Our experience with Southwest continues to be positive – I’m especially partial to the free snacks, obviously. Overall, Austin might be more appealing in nicer weather for outdoor enthusiasts or bar hoppers who don’t mind staying out late to hear music. We’ll stick to other cities in the future when we’re looking for a wider variety of things to do.

What are your thoughts on Austin? Did we miss out on anything?

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