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Last week we headed down to Austin for my cousin’s wedding, and tacked on a few days on either end to explore the city. I was thrilled since this city had been at the top of my US travel list for a long time AND it was my first time in Texas ever.
As a lifelong California, I had some ideas about Texas (mostly from movies, because they are the best indicator of real life, right?). Austin took all those notions, and turned them upside down. I fell fast and hard for the lovable weirdness of this capitol city, which had an artsy, laid-back vibe mixed with a good dose of Texas twang.
Here are a few first impressions that stuck out from my brief visit there.
Street Art Everywhere
Austin excels when it comes to street art in every medium. The Hope Outdoor Gallery, a massive graffiti park on building foundations was a personal favorite. The best part is you could spray paint your own art if you so desired.
The street art on S 1st Street was abundant and in the most unexpected places.
There was also an East Austin Studio Tour, which was going on the weekend we were there, and opened up artist studios (and homes) to the public.
Lots of Green Space
One of the biggest ideas I had about Texas was that it was mostly all flat, and well dry. Austin was neither. It had greenery as far as the eye could see, especially where we stayed in South Austin, at the edge of Hill Country.
And speaking of hills, there were many, which made for ideal sunset vistas like Mount Bonnell, providing stunning views of the Colorado River and the downtown skyline.
Also, there was no shortage of stunning fall foliage on our walk around Lady Bird Lake.
People Were Super Friendly
From a quick howdy on the street, to the general openness of locals, Southern hospitality is alive and well in Austin. We were taking photos of each other at the Insta-famous mural at Jo’s Coffee and a group of ladies quickly came up and asked if we wanted a photo together. It is easily one of my favorite photos from our trip.
Our Airbnb was one of the best I’ve stayed in (and there have been a lot). Our room and bathroom was immaculate, and the owners couldn’t have been more welcoming (thanks Andy and Noah!).
Kala, the resident dog only elevated our stay. She definitely was spoiled with lots of cookies and belly rubs.
A City That Is Texas at Heart
Despite the hipster vibe throughout Austin, the city still has deep Texas roots. The moment we turned on our rental car country music started to blaring through the stereo and we decided to keep it as the soundtrack for the rest of our trip.
There was also plenty of cowboy attire everywhere from cowboy boots on the dance floor at the Continental Club to a guy waiting in line who had a fully cowboy get-up boarding our plane to Austin. It’s this unique mix of cultures that makes this city so awesome.
If you go…
Lake Bird Lake-a scenic lake that has walking paths around its perimeter and a view of the downtown skyline
South Congress-one of my favorite streets to walk around and soak in the funkiness that is Austin (Continental Club, Allen’s and many more memorable shops and restaurants occupy this street)
S 1st Street-one block over from South Congress, this street is a bit quieter than its neighbor and has some of the coolest street art (including the famous Greetings From Austin postcard mural), and excellent food
Mount Bonnell-recommended by our Airbnb host for prime sunset views of the city and the Colorado River
Texas Capital Building-we stopped by before we headed to the airport and I’m glad we did-the main building is stunning, would love to go back and take a free guided tour next time
Hope Outdoor Gallery-graffiti galore on the sides of building foundations, pretty much the coolest thing in Austin
Continental Club-to get a taste of country music Texas-style, this is the spot to go, there’s also a dancing floor for those who want to show-off their two-step
Sonesta Bee Cave Austin-located in the beautiful Bee Cave area, this hotel is about 25 minutes away from downtown, is within walking distance to shopping centers, and has a complementary shuttle that will take you anywhere within a 5 mile radius of the hotel.
Hotel San Jose-located centrally on South Congress Ave. this dog-friendly, bungalow-style hotel is beautifully designed, and has a garden bar that serves up delicious snacks and plenty of happy hour specials.
Where To Eat
For where to get the best breakfast tacos and BBQ, check out my Where To Eat in Austin post.