I’ve decided to split this post into two as it’s long and slightly overwhelming to write up. I had this idea that Texas was full of cowboys, people on horses and BBQ, although I’m sure that might be true in certain places – Austin is definitely not like that at all. Austin is quite possibly one of the coolest and hip cities I’ve ever been to. It reminds me of a mix between Portland, OR and Williamsburg, NY. There’s a real hipster feeling to it with breweries, live music, thrift/unique stores and healthy living. The people (at least in the areas we went to) are very cool with their tattoos and stylish clothing – I felt very out of place as I’m not that trendy. It’s a really accepting and friendly city and if you have the opportunity go check it out before it becomes a new mecca and potentially gets ‘mainstreamed’ – gross.
One of the major Austin pastimes is swimming! It’s the best way to escape the intense heat and also a great summer, summer, summer time (bit of Will Smith there). Barton Springs is a man-made pool in Zilker Park and possibly the most popular. It’s inexpensive (a few dollars) and you can just laze around for hours on the grassy mounds or jump in for a swim or a float. I pretty much sunbathed the entire time and avoided being a lobster which was very relaxing. If you don’t feel like paying there is a part of the pool (more like a creek) that is free and is essentially the ‘hippy’ side where dogs are allowed and there’s music and a more ‘wild’ experience haha. There’s a very skimpy fence separating the two areas and you can see a sneaky photo of it below!
South Congress is an area that is full of yummy restaurants and fancy stores. It’s mainly one major road with the capitol at one end. Along it are cool signs and the famous ‘i love you so much’ graffiti. We popped into different vintage market stores and checked out their goods and also opted for some sweet, sweet lemonade as it was boiling hot that day. If you need to do some souvenir shopping walk up and down here and you’ll find something uniquely Texan.
On the opposite side of South Congress is the begining of downtown which I guess has more of the mainstream/high street stores. It also houses various different guitar statues around as after all Austin is the live music capitol of the USA. The bridge that connects South Congress and Downtown is also very famous at nighttime as there is a ‘bat ascension’ (I’m not sure what to call it haha). Around sunset each night in the late summer thousands upon thousands of bats fly out under the bridge and a big black cloud of them emerges to take over the night sky. It’s a truly bizarre experience and if you’re there at that time of year go see the bats!
Austin is the capitol of Texas and therefore home to the state capitol. It dominates the skyline and can be seen from all different points of the city (and is therefore a good reference point to figure out where you are). We went inside and it’s just a typical, regalesque government building.
If you’re after a very unique experience then you should check out The Cathedral of Junk. I’m honestly not sure how to go about explaining what it is haha. An artist started taking scraps/leftover materials and playing with it to make sculptures. It ended up taking over his backyard and becoming this masterpiece where people now get married, have parties, browse like an art gallery etc. It’s very large and very impressive and although not my cup of tea, my two friends really enjoyed it. If you want to go you do have to make an appointment (it is in his house after all).
I’ll end this with this beauty of a photo from July 4th. We went to the race track to see the fireworks and bumped into Uncle Sam himself. I love how patriotic and buzzed (not only from alcohol but also the spirit of the day) people get for the fourth. Everyone instantly becomes so loving and generous! Next up I’ll post some food recommendations for Austin yumyum!