Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Uniquely Austin

Whether you're taking a day trip, a weekend romantic getaway, a girls' trip, or thinking about moving and living here, here is the perfect guide to Austin to get you started. This is an email I wrote to one of my girlfriends quite a few months ago when she mentioned she and her hubby would be coming to Austin for a romantic weekend getaway and asked for suggestions of places to go. I wrote it from memory in an hour, and there's a lot more where that came from! One of the things that inspired me to post it here is I figured out an easy way to link to all my uniquely Austin posts. You can find those posts over on the sidebar under "A Local's Guide to Austin". If you need more info on a specific subject, let me know.


Renaissance hotel is fabulous, but expensive! Do it, if you have the cash. They are within walking distance of restaurants and shopping.
If you prefer staying downtown Four Seasons is gorgeous, and you can make s'mores by the lake (for free on Friday nights).

If you'd rather spend your money elsewhere than just the hotel, the Drury on 35 is a great deal for an older but super well kept up and clean hotel with a continental breakfast. It's about five minutes by taxi from downtown.

I'm sure there's more great hotels, but that's something to start with!


Flat Creek Estate is a gorgeous winery about 30-40 minutes from downtown and about 20 minutes from our place. They serve lunch or you can just go for a wine tasting.

Lake Austin Spa is AMAZING! I just went there for the first time on Sunday and spent 3 and a half hours in a robe the lap of luxury with gardens, pools (indoor and out), and hammocks by the lake. If you go Sunday- Thursday you can get any spa service and use the facilities for free. Waxings start at $20 and massages are around $90. If you want to go Friday and Saturday, I believe it's a $25 facility charge fee if you don't get a package of services.

The Duchman Family Winery is a place I've been wanting to try forEVER. If you want to make it last until the evening you can eat at Trattoria Lisina next door. If you decide to eat out there, definitely make reservations for the Trattoria Lisina. This would make an absolute fabulous afternoon and evening.


Just for fun on Lake Travis rents jet skis at $70/hour and ski boats for $75/hour. They're quick and easy, and I don't believe you need a credit card for a reservation.

Paddle boarding and kayaking on Town Lake is popular and SO much fun. Right now the best place to rent from is Rowing Dock. Kayaks are $10/hour and paddle boards are $15/hour. You can go right to the skyline or left to Red Bud island, a popular island for dog owners as there's no leash law.

Hiking -

Sculpture Falls is a gorgeous hike if the water is running. Even if the water isn't running, it's shaded and beautiful. It's located next to 360 and mopac and less than 5 minutes south of downtown.

Bull Creek District Park is another beautiful hike. You can access the Ingle trailhead off Old Spicewood Springs Road off 360.

Hamilton Pool is absolutely gorgeous and about 30 minutes outside of Austin. However, the water is spring water and probably pretty cold. Next door is West Cave Preserve where they offer guided tours by reservation. Though I haven't been yet, I just recently heard about it and it sounds gorgeous.

Mount Bonnell, Laguna Gloria, and Mayfield Park are all very close to each on the west side of mopac at the end of 35th street and offer each their own unique views, different degrees of hiking, and gorgeous settings.

Town Lake trail goes along the edge of the water downtown and through Zilker Park and along Barton Springs. There's lots of people, occasional views of the skyline, and it goes along the waters edge almost the whole time. I've done it enough I'm over it, but I definitely think you'd enjoy it as a first time. I'd recommend the loop from Lamar bridge to Congress or 1st street bridge, or Mopac bridge to Lamar bridge, depending on how far you want to go. Lamar to 1st street is the shortest and takes you by Auditorium Shores and the Palmer Event Center, where you can climb a grassy hill to sit on a bench and enjoy the gorgeous view of the Austin skyline.

Music -

There are many districts to Austin:

Warehouse district: Mid 30s to older crowd, but fun, especially seeing Spazmatics at the Cedar Street Courtyard. Fun places near here are 219 West for happy hour food, Halcyon's for chocolate martinis, and Qua to dance on top of sharks. Nearby is Rebels for country dancing and bull riding if you're game :) .

East Sixth is gross, dirty, and has lots of under age kids with fake ids. If you're down for a no holds barred crazy drunk night, East Sixth is your place. If you do go there Maggie Mae's, the Blind Pig, and Shakespeare's have a decent crowd and rooftop bars.

West Sixth is late 20s, young 30s and has the vibe of Sixth Street without the stupid people. This is where we went for the girls weekend in Austin. Fun places here are Key Bar, J. Black's, and The Ranch.

Seventh is punk street. Stubb's is near there and usually plays good bands. Emo's and Mohawk are pretty popular there as well.

Eastside - Hipster crowd. Eastside Cafe has live music and strong drinks. The Liberty is popular, but I haven't spent too much time over there. Hipsters make for too fascinating of people watching and I just end up staring all night.

On Congress there's the Elephant Room for excellent live jazz, and I've heard the Light Room is a great new place. The Continental Club is on South Congress and has an eclectic diverse crowd. Broken Spoke is also on South Congress and I've heard is great for the Texan country experience.

For good bands, I recommend checking out a couple venues websites to see what's playing then look up the bands website or myspace to see if you like their music. The headliners usually play at 11pm. Every place I mentioned on Seventh has live music, as well as Maggie Mae's, 219 West, and Cedar Street Courtyard. Cedar Street Courtyard is an outdoor venue.

Restaurants -

I'll list ones that I've heard are good first as we don't go out go that often to more expensive places, then I'll list the ones I have tried and love with notes:


Eastside Cafe
Buenos Aires
Live Oak Brewery I've heard gives free tours and tastings on Saturday at noon
Blue Dahlia is excellent for breakfast & lunch
Kyoto is great for sushi and above the Elephant Room -- the Dress Shop is in between the two and I definitely think you should stop there for an adorable little dress to wear on your trip and remember the trip by
Iron Cactus has solid good food and a rooftop dining area
Whole Foods headquarters is perfect if you need picnic food, or a quick breakfast, lunch, or dinner24 Hour Diner has great brunches and I believe some vegan options
Halcyon's is a cute coffee place
Cork & Co. would be great for wine on Congress Ave -- though I've never been there it looks fun
Max's Wine Dive is another fun wine place as well with yummy, but not so healthy food - definitely check out the menu before you go. I love their atmosphere.
Fado's has a dark Irish pub atmosphere, yummy appetizers, and an excellent Irish Car Bomb ;)

South Congress:
Home Slice and next door, More Home Slice, is great for excellent quick and cheap pizza.
South Congress Cafe is delicious for dinner and I've heard they're good for brunch as well.
Olivia is near South Congress and Restaurant Week there was delicious - not sure what their prices are like normally.
Vespaio has decent food - I've only tried the pizza there and it wasn't memorable, but I've known people to love the pasta there.
Guero's is where you, Allison, and I went and it's still one of my favorites for people watching

The food trailers on South Congress are also quick, cheap eats
Snack Bar is delicious and has plenty of vegan options I believe, as well as delicious Owl Tree Roasting Company coffee
Black Sheep Lodge looks like a fun, bar/possibly pub atmosphere that I've always wanted to try but haven't made it to yet -- technically, they are on South Lamar
Barton Springs -
Chuy's for margaritas and Mexican food
Austin Java, for coffee and breakfast
Uncle Billy's for over priced, but good BBQ and occasionally live music
House Wine is a super cute place for wine

Keep in mind a lot of Austin restaurants have vegan options, including some that I mentioned but may not be aware they offer that as an option.

Events -

Let me know the dates you're coming and I can be more specific, but for now know that if you come on the first Thursday of the month there is a first Thursday event on South Congress with vendors and lots of live music. Every Sunday in the early afternoon there's a farmers market on the east side of 35 on 5th called Hope Farmer's Market in an old, steel building as well as outside that is so relaxing to walk around.



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