7 Reasons to Visit Austin, TX
Recently, I found myself in Austin, Texas floating on an inflatable yellow tube. I raised my drink and cheered, “To subdivisions!”. My friends didn't hear me, but ten yards away a complete stranger raised his drink and responded in kind. Now that's southern hospitality.
My friend Jordyn gave up the rainy coast of Bellingham, WA for the sights and sounds of Austin, Texas. She found herself a Patagonia cowboy and got engaged. Years ago, Jordyn’s dad completed a large subdivision project outside of Bellingham and figured he didn’t mind Texas either because he purchased a beautiful house of his own in Seguin, Texas (a one hour drive south of Austin). Jordyn and her fiance convinced a group of our friends from the northwest to visit. They hosted us at her dad's house for a week to show us all that Austin and central Texas has to offer.
Here's the top 7 reasons you're missing out if you're not in Austin.
#1 Breakfast Tacos
“What are we doing for breakfast?” “Juan in a Million.”
One in a million indeed. The Don Juan breakfast taco is a pile of eggs, bacon, potatoes, cheese and salsa you won’t likely forget anytime soon. My friend Nick never stopped talking about it all week. Breakfast tacos are delicious and, in Texas, ubiquitous. No need to query what’s for breakfast, just rest easy knowing it will absolutely be tacos.
Listen. Texas barbecue is for real. I ate brisket in at least 5 different establishments in a week and wasn’t even close to being over it. There’s two places I gotta talk about.
The first place we went to was Burnt Bean for brunch. It’s more modern than it is classic but there was also a cooler in the corner with free beers. Did I mention we were there for brunch? I skipped the beer but did get an incredible plate of brisket huevos rancheros and had one bite of a brisket croissant with strawberry jam that was CRAZY.
The second place we went for barbeque was Smitty’s in Lockhart. You can stop your search for a time machine, just visit this place. No credit cards and no forks. The entrance is through the back of the building where live fires crackle next to the smokers. This is where you order up meat by the pound. They’ve got a modest dining area where you and your crew can dish out portions of various meats and sides with white bread - all on butcher paper. Just use the bread as your vehicle to transfer delicious barbequed meats to your face because again, there’s no forks.
#3 The Bat Bridge (Congress Avenue Bridge)
If you’re into spooky stuff, head on down to the Congress Avenue Bridge after dinner to watch an absurd number of bats stream into the evening air. Bats really started moving in under the bridge ever since it was renovated in 1980. The current estimated bat population sits around 1.5 million, meaning more bats live under that bridge than people in the city of Austin.
Around sunset the bats begin to wake up and then head out into the night to begin their search for food. The experience of watching the sheer number of bats streaming out from under the bridge is wild. Austin is happy to host these critters because somebody did the math and they supposedly eat 10,000+ pounds of insects every night. The more you know.
If you want to feel like a kid again, you gotta get down to New Braunfels and hit the slides at Schlitterbahn. It’s home to America’s favorite waterslide, the Master Blaster. It’s got jets that will shoot you UP THE SLIDE. It’s a trip. It’s also home to the world’s longest water park ride, The Falls. All day the lines were pretty lengthy, but The Falls river ride lasted longer than the wait which was a nice change of pace. They’ve also got a wave pool/lazy river combo which is SO much fun - and no line. Bring sunscreen and be prepared for the lines. Pro tip: have someone in your crew get the all day food pass. Pick up some grub before getting in line and I bet your line experiences will improve 100x.
It’s hard to articulate what is special about Buc-ees. It’s just one of those things you’ve gotta experience for yourself. We went to the Buc-ees in New Braunfels, which is currently the largest convenience store in the world sitting at a roomy 66,335 square feet. It has 120 fueling stations and 33 urinals - but trust me when I say it feels like way more. The men’s bathroom felt like something out of a backrooms video (eerie endless computer generated office rooms, sometimes with monsters), but not in a bad way. There’s more than one wall dedicated to beef jerky, there’s tons of rad merch, there’s a bakery (get a kolache!) and you better believe they’re serving up brisket too.
#6 Austin Bar Scene and Live Music
I was told on more than one occasion that Austin is a drinking town, and there’s certainly an abundance of places to do just that. Our first night alone, we went to Cat’s Pajamas (outdoor tiki bar), The Beez Kneez (decor out of a time machine), Dirty Bill’s (dive bar), Yeti (the cooler giant started in Austin, and yes, they have a bar in front), Ego’s (karaoke bar), The Continental Club (always has live music, the band we saw was amazing), and finally, the fan-favorite, Deep Eddy Cabaret.
I live in Bellingham, WA and our city nickname is “The City of Subdued Excitement” Whether you like that moniker or not, I think it suits Bellingham pretty well. The climate and the social temperature seem to keep any excitement in check. The northwest atmosphere has a touch of grunge almost anywhere you go. Sometimes that grunge can be charming, but sometimes it can wear on you. I couldn’t help people-watching at some of the different places we went and could just tell that people were out to have a good time and they didn’t care who knew it. Some of the bars we went to were definitely grungy, but patrons were wearing cowboy boots - it’s just a totally different flavor.
The band we saw at The Continental Club was way past their prime, and by all appearances, was not cool - but man alive did they play a fun show. The gals were all dolled up and out on the dance floor tearing it up. If the same band played a show in Bellingham, I just don’t see that many people getting out of their seats to dance. But hey, maybe I’m wrong, I don’t get out that much.
#7 Float a River
There’s no summer activity I love more than a good float. We floated on the San Marcos River but it’s certainly not the only place to float. We saw floaters on the Comal River while waiting in line at Schlitterbahn. We rented tubes from Don’s Fish Camp which made the whole experience super easy. They bussed us up the river, we picked out our tubes and then floated back to the parking lot where our van awaited us. The San Marcos was packed with floaters. I suggested to my friend Tyler to try to snag a beer out of someone else’s cooler and he really went for it. He opened up this one unsuspecting guy’s cooler only to shake his head and say “Only Gatorade and waters, and I think he needs ‘em”. Our float lasted about three hours and it was the perfect length for people to start on the path towards delirium - the beginning of which is very comical.
After the amazing food, fun things to do, and spontaneous cheer on the river, the charm of Texas won me over. Don't miss out. Go give Austin a visit and maybe find a Patagonia cowboy/girl of your own.
I’ve struggled with photography over the years. I’m never happy with the photos I get out of my iPhone, but don't want to put in the time/money to learn how to use a so-called “real” camera. Enter the Ilford Sprite 35-II. I watched a couple of excellent YouTube videos on this camera ( here and here) that inspired me to give it a go. The goal with this camera was to get some photos with nostalgia baked into them without any work in post.