TL;DR | With a wonderful host and multiple guests from out of town, we did Austin right. Lots of eating, drinking, and walking around a city that's growing at an astounding pace. Mostly, tacos! And wedding detour!
Austin, like Vancouver and Denver, was a mainstay destination. We spent a full week there, relying on the hospitality of our friend Ali and her boyfriend Nick. We arrived the day before we were due to fly out for a family wedding in New York for the weekend, so almost as soon as we drove up we were off again, leaving the house at 4am to catch an early flight out of Austin. We landed at JFK, took a few trains to Grand Central, then took another train to Beacon, New York. Clearly we just can't get enough of traveling.
The wedding was beautiful, and the opportunity to visit with family and friends on the east coast was well worth the trip. After a whirlwind weekend including a bit more family time for Stephen in Connecticut, we boarded another flight to return to Austin. We arrived after midnight, slept hard, and awoke refreshed and ready to see the city.
Stephen had been hyping up Austin for some time, after spending a drinking-heavy weekend there once with his guy friends. Suffice it to say, the city did not disappoint (though much of our time there was, similarly, spent drinking). A lot of our activities also involved eating (naturally barbecue and fried chicken). We were able to experience some wonderful suggestions from Ali, making a visit to Hamilton Pool outside the city (a natural swimming hole with a waterfall), and exploring the South Congress neighborhood to stare at very expensive cowboy boots (Stephen picked out -- but did not buy -- the ones Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant recently purchased, just to give you a sense of the price range we are talking).
We also enjoyed a visit from Stephen's Dad and Deborah, which included a much anticipated trip to the Salt Lick about an hour outside Austin. This BBQ joint is the real deal, set in the countryside and offering signature beef ribs which converted Deborah from someone who “didn't like barbecue” to someone who ordered second helpings.
For apertifs, we sampled a few drinks on Rainey Street, where every watering hole is a converted shotgun house with a backyard offering different games like Cornhole and Hula Hoop. Side note on Rainey Street -- when Stephen last visited there were maybe 3 small bars in what felt like a rural area. Now apartment buildings have replaced the original mainstay, Lustre Pearl (new location across the street), and the while the vibe is still great it does lack the original flavor.
We had dinner at Launderette, a converted laundromat turned restaurant in a newly hip and trendy neighborhood in East Austin (if you're looking for a real estate investment, now's the time to buy!). Great food -- one of those places where you simply want to order everything on the menu -- and they didn't even mind that we stayed for three hours. We also spent a significant amount of time boot shopping, yet again, sorely tempted by hats and footwear at Allen's. Finally, we toured the LBJ Presidential Library, which offers impressive displays from his presidency and a replica of the Oval Office when he occupied it.
We were also lucky enough to enjoy a visit from Ali and Stephen's friend from Tufts, Yuantee, who attacked the food and alcohol in Austin with much enthusiasm. Emily's friend Chrissy also joined throughout the week, including for an entire day back on Rainey Street wandering from bar to bar. Despite this aggressive drinking, we still went to Midnight Cowboy the next night, a speakeasy-style bar downtown with a hidden entrance and elaborate cocktails.
We had an amazing time in Austin, made possible in large part thanks to Ali and Nick for their hospitality and willingness to drive us around (shout out to to Nick especially on that one). We could not have enjoyed playing with their dogs, Bailey and Shiner, more, and want to say a huge thank you to both of you. Also to Stephen's Dad and Deborah for making a pitstop on their way across the country, Yuantee for making the drive into town and being so encouraging with the drinking, and Chrissy for making the time amid dual-degree studies to say hello!