The other day, my cousin messaged me and asked if I knew of anything to do in Austin… Of course, I have some great recommendations for thinks to do in Austin. I love it there. It’s been our second home for over ten years.
For sights, I really enjoy the architeure of the Texas State Capitol Building on Congress. Also, the bridge on Congress Avenue over Lady Bird Lake at dusk with the bats flying out from their roost.
Plus there are miles of fantastic walking, running and biking trails all along the river in downtown Austin. Loads of places to wander and get in touch with nature.
Shop til you drop!
South Congress Avenue and 6th Street West of Lamar are great neighborhoods for browsing and window shopping. There are a several uniquely Austin businesses around there where I have found some funky finds. From homegoods to clothing, the shop owners are proud of being Texans and they support their local artists and designers.
Food & Tunes
On the South Congress side of town, The Continental Bar and Guero’s Taco bar are great places to socialize and also happen to have good live music. Just check what time the band starts online… It’s almost always a good representation of local Texas music.
On Sunday’s the brunch time band at Joe’s Coffee is also awesome. I’ve been to Austin in January when it is freezing rain and there’s nothing happening outside. Rarely though does the cold keep Texans inside when they could be out playing music.
Another place that’s got a great band most Saturday nights is called the White Horse & it’s east of I-35 a couple blocks and near 6th Street. Look it up, my friend Dave Insley has a band called the Careless Smokers that usually plays honky tonk swing in there. They also offer dance lessons on Saturday nights. Super good times, not fancy, but as a bonus they have a pool table.
Another great iconic Austin place is the Driskoll Hotel on the famous 6th Street. Even if you’re not staying there, it’s beautiful to have a drink inside in the bar. I’d recommend 6th Street, but only if your college age or into a crazy shot-shot-shot-shot scene. For me, “Dirty 6th” is not really my cup of tea. Generally, I prefer the places that are off the beaten path a bit. Even Antone’s, the icon for live blues music has moved to the East side of I-35. What’s the city coming to?
Great trendy Vietnamese food at a place called Elisabeth Street on First Street (also on the South side)… and as always the Torchy’s Taco Truck would never steer you wrong. Those guys can make tacos out of the most amazing ingrediants. The guys at Torchy’s recently opened a retro dine in taco dive that has a huge bar area and outdoor seating to boot. For those of you familiar with the bygone Austin landmark, Fran’s, you’ll note that Torcy’s Taco is on that same plot of land.
Another idea is the Whole Foods headquarters store. It’s downtown Austin on the corner of 6th and Lamar. It has an ice rink on the roof. Also enough prepared food to pick up anything your tastebuds fancy for a great lunch on their patio. While you’re there, across the street is one of the only record stores left in the world called Waterloo Records and they have our 7 Million Jigawatts cd on their shelf somewhere.
Check out Cedar Street in the Warehouse district at night when my pal, Rob Wagner and his band Suede or the Jukebox Junkies are playing. The place is “inside-outside” and has a totally fab Austin vibe.
A great outdoor concert venue to see major label artists is Stubb’s BBQ.
I would not recommend their bbq, but I do love their sauce. The outdoor stage with the wild west style lean-to beer and bbq stands surrounding the main hill. The stage sits on the edge of some valley would have been stream if the weather ever rained in Texas.
That’s not all!
There’s Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, swimming in Barton Springs, tubing the Colorado River, drive through the Hill Country, take in a pickers circle in Lukenbach, shop till you drop at the San Marcos Outlet Mall… There’s so much to do in Austin. All you really have to do is put your feet on the ground and bring your appetite.
I’ve been fortunate to travel around Australia twice now. The first time was a sort of feel around and try out anything. Take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Now, I’m not saying that the second time you just coast and give up all goals. In fact just the opposite, since you’ve already had a smattering of options from the first time, now you can hone your targets on something a bit more specific. So in each port of call, you are making the absolute most of your time in the vibrant Land Down Under.
The second time we visited Fremantle or Freo as the locals like to call it, we heard about the main streets for shopping and eating like Market Street and Little Creatures Brewery on Mews Road. We spent quite a bit more time walking the side streets and checking out the fantastic free public art in the forms of statues (Bon Scott), paintings and murals (Horatio T. Birdbath).
You see, we just wanted to get a little exercise and walk around the town. It has a really cool artsy bohemian vibe. In the park in the center of town, there was a fair. Well, atleast that day there was one. There was a breakfast juice cart with some dread locked hippies selling cold pressed watercress juices and some other varieties based on coconuts or carrots. They also made espresso and cappuccinos. My inner caffeine addict was super happy about that. Around the rest of the “fair”, there were some tents of people selling vintage clothing… or things that looked like they came from 1980′s era Mad Max. Other tents had leather goods and some folks were making lunch time snacks on portable bbq grills. Lots of folks just wandering around chatting it up and enjoying a beautiful day.
After we passed the park, we walked to the waterfront and followed it around to the marina side of town where Little Creatures Brewery is based. They have two buildings. Basically pole barns with really cool decor. One side is the actual brewery with the big silver vats of suds on display through glass. It has that notorious smell of curing hops and barley. They offer sampler size glasses, allowing a wee taste of their wide variety of beers in the garden out front.
The other side of the building is the main restaurant. Long picnic style tables cross the main floor, huge order windows look into the kitchen that spans the length of the entire main floor. Plus second floor drinking seating area and also additional eating space outside on the pier overlooking the marina and ocean. It’s a wicked place to hang out with amazing pub style food. I recall our group tried almost all of the appetizers, had a pizza, some burgers, and ordered more food than we could consume.
After our lunch, we wandered through yet another park and back into town. Across from the Freemantle Markets is a building with alot of personality. On one wall, there was a fantastically detailed mural with small intricate circles, squares, mazes and spaceship style architectural overtones.
It’s like Horatio has seen the inside of a great machine that we are all just cogs in. On the other side of the planet in a land that is inhabited and yet deserted all at the same time, he’s drawn a map right on the side of the building. Who knows what direction it’s pointing?
Ever wonder exactly who he is calling on that little red telephone receiver?
I chatted with Horatio for quite some time that afternoon. We discussed art, music, travel. We talked about inspiration and why people keep pursuing art. He’s an interesting bird with a free spirit and amazing talent.
Sometimes I wonder what my true inspiration is, should be, has become, once was… “Do justice to your talent”, says Horatio T. Birdbath. Somehow I agree.
Horatio insisted on taking our picture in front of his mural. He said something about being able to capture the true spirit reflected in our souls.
I love how the picture turned out. True happiness.
One time in Tahiti, we had an “overnight” and decided to rent some cars to go to a yacht club called “Coconut Grove” to watch the sunset. It was considered in the top things to do on Tahiti in the Lonely Planet Guide Book.
For some reason I was fixated on seeing the sunset over Marlin Brandow’s favorite place on the planet. Plus, too many times watching and singing songs from the South Pacific musical while I was growing up… “I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair and send him on his way.”
Little did the fine folks at Lonely Planet know or warn us that car rentals in Tahiti are quite interesting for American English speaking individuals (i.e. those of us non-French peeps). Not only that, but there is some freaking crazy rush hour traffic in Tahiti… Yes, I said it, RUSH HOUR. More like 3-5 hours trapped behind other cars without air conditioning on a two lane road going in a circle around an itty bitty speck in the middle of the big blue oceanal abyss, but hey, we had a “long day” remember.
We decided on 3 cars because we had between 10-12 people who were interested in our little adventure. It’s always fun to have a group to pitch in on costs and to have a support network should something go amiss.
One thing you should note is, the car rental place is only open until 8 pm and they expect all returns in by 7:30. The guys and I had to play a show that night around 9:30. We decided to have only four of us go to pick up the rental cars at the airport and hopped a cab away from the ship and downtown Papetee.
After a 15 minute cab ride, we strolled leisurely in to the rental car store. A plump Tahitian woman in standard office wear, navy skirt and white button up shirt, stood behing the counter looking ominiously our way. Realizing she barely spoke English and we spoke no French, we proceed to show the reservation slips and confirmation number. Stacks of paperwork came our way, each driver had to fill out a separate rental agreement and provide a credit card guaranteeing $1000 deposit were anything to happen to the vehicle while in our posession for the day. Jake realized that his drivers license was expired, so I became the default third car driver. (I was totally hoping to be a lazy passenger.)
Literally 1.5 hours later, and a new nick name for Scott, “Mr. Vernee”, we had keys and were heading to the parking lot to view start up our hooptees. The funniest little cars waited, kinda like a hatch back Renault but not any make I’d ever heard of.
Our friends that were in on the gambit, were by now waiting patiently by the side of the road for us to swoop in and pick them up near the port. Little did we realize that by 2:30 pm, the traffic both heading into and out of Papetee would pick up and start to bog down. We cruised past graffiti coated buildings and the blue bay on the left. Finally in another thirty minutes, we’re near the ship in a dead lock down. The fellow adventurers, Alicia, Scott B, Scott V, Bill, John, Cat, A, Coco, Matt and some others, were waving their hands trying to get our cars over to the their side of the road to hop in.
We passed through the round about and picked them up. We started navigating back out away from the city toward the airport and beyond that the sunset side of the island. Crawling at maybe 10 mph at the most, the traffic was really stop and go. The whole time, I’m watching the guys in the mirror behind me and trying not to let the engine or our bodies over heat from the 95 degree temps and poor air conditioning in the car. The futher we get away from the city we get, the more rural our surroundings become and still the traffic is backed up for days. I just kept wondering where all these people are going.
Next thing you know, Scott B and some of the others a few cars back are yelling. We realize that they got rear ended by some local. The pulled their cars over and I pulled a U-turn to see what was up. Basically some uninsured local chick hit his bumper but you really couldn’t see any damage. We made a plan to meet up at the Coconut Grove and the rest of us took off.
We cruised around some neighborhoods that looked pretty slumy. The houses were mostly of corregated tin and cement block. I remember seeing alot of bright blue tarps. The road was very gravely with huge pot holes. We got a little lost and turned around the block three times and to get back on the highway. We ended up far away from the restaurant turning around at some fancy resort…
Finally, with a little back tracking and some fancy U-turns, we ended up in the parking lot of a tiki bar / yacht club. The gang all piled out of our little clown cars and scored some tables close to the pier for the evenings entertainment… The glorious sunset in the South Pacific in the French Poloynesian Island on Tahiti over looking Moorea, this is an event of a lifetime. And it sure was quite a memorable day.