October 5, 2014
I’ve never had much of a reason to visit Texas over the years. However, the company I work for has a theme park in San Antonio, so it moved up on my bucket-ish list. Additionally, I’d heard a lot of great things about Austin, Texas. So, in what might be my second most spontaneous trip, I booked a long weekend to San Antonio and decided I’d take a day of that to visit the Texas state capitol.
My first full day in SA, after sleeping in, I venture out in the late morning and made the slightly longer than an hour drive north to Austin. Honestly, I didn’t know where I was going or what I was wanted to see when I got there, but I’d heard it was the live music capital and that there was a HUGE music festival taking place the same weekend.
I arrived around 11:30 a.m. after setting my GPS simply to Austin, Texas. I’d gotten off I-35 essentially right in downtown and after driving down the famous 6th street, I found an inexpensive parking garage. I grabbed my bag and headed to the Starbucks I’d passed, knowing I could grab coffee, breakfast, and plan of attack for my adventure.
I found a small chair toward the back, pulled out my iPad and started searching the DMO (destination marketing organization) website for the city. To my surprise, I was pretty much in the heart of downtown. After looking for a few walking tours, I found a great app that included two free walking tours of the historic parts of Austin; specifically Congress and 6th Street. I finished my oatmeal and headed out doing the reverse of the Congress Ave tour.
The short walk featured buildings and structures dating back to the mid 1800s and many of the influential founders and investors that shaped and formed early city history. My version of the tour had me ending at the State Capitol building, across the street from the Governor’s Mansion. The weather was great and the lighting was well for good pictures.
I then made my way back to the start, after a short jaunt over to see St. Mary Cathedral. I then followed the walking trail down 6th street, which pedestrian traffic had picked up because of the Houston Texans vs. Dallas Cowboys football game. I ventured off the beaten path in search of a small park or somewhere to sit down and start writing, as I was feeling inspired. Unfortunately, no location struck my fancy, but I decided to return to 6th street and grab a pint at one of the local establishments. I ended up at Darwin’s Pub which features live music most of the time. However, it being Sunday afternoon, the vibe was a bit lighter with football on all the screens and the bar staff very attentive.
I tried one or two local craft brews and enjoyed their sausage flatbread before calling it a day and venturing back to the car to make the trek back to San Antonio.
I was only in Austin for about five hours, but the vibe, people, and city itself was clean, inviting, and downright friendly. I found myself walking the streets almost wishing I’d gone to University of Texas at Austin instead of UF … almost:). I could actually see myself living there, which isn’t surprising given how many people have told me I’d love the city. Don’t get me wrong, I love Florida, but the vibe was unique, fun, historic and authentic. All this, even with week one of a huge music festival (Austin City Limits – ACL). I definitely plan on making a return, and hopefully for SXSW next year … if I can make that happen.
General observations about downtown Austin:
Venture out – the streets are easy to walk, but there are bike rentals throughout the area. While I can’t speak to the traffic situation on a weekday, or in the evenings, all the motorists were VERY respectful of pedestrians in the crosswalks. Moving about seemed easy and as safe as possible.
Day and night – I was there during the early afternoon, but the city is known for its nightlife. Had I been staying in the city, I would have made it a point to check it out in the evening and enjoy some of the live music.
Food is great – Austin is also known for food trucks, but even the local establishments featured great food and friendly staff.
Keep it weird – yep, ‘nuff said.
American History, Austin, Darwin's Pub, Texas, Travel, Walking Tours, Weird,