This nature preserve is something out of this world. It's cave like interior combined with it's crystal clear waters reminded me of a hidden land only found in Jurassic Park. You can walk around the exterior of the entire cavern and there is a river trail on the other side. Bring sunscreen and water as there are no amenities at this hidden oasis.
The only downside - you have to make a reservation online and the park is only accessible from 9-12:30 and then 2-5:30 which doesn't give you any time to be spontaneous. Also reservations fill up fast. I would have took a dip but the only reservation spot left was a random Thursday morning and by the time we got there we only had an hour to explore. Total cost of this attraction is $11 for the online reservation and $15 per car in cash at the entrance.
Family Business Beer Co.
If you are a fan of the TV show Supernatural - heartthrob Jensen Ackles has opened a bar mere minutes from the pool. This side street brewery is on the site of a historical home that is supposedly haunted and hosts a large garden in the back where Jep from Duck Dynasty harvests fresh vegetables for his food truck he keeps on the site. They are hoping to convert the home into a restaurant for Jep's Southern Foods.
Open at 3pm on weekdays and 11am on weekends stop by and say hello. You may see him or one of his family members at the bar.
There are several locations of this Austin eatery - one of the most famous is on South Congress - but with a line out the door we decided to walk two streets down and visit the 1st street location where we were able to walk in and eat quickly and effortlessly.
With a large taco menu there's something for everyone. My favorite part was the chips and salsa. Choose between red or green they give you a HUGE bowl where you'll actually need more chips.
Greetings From Austin Mural
A few buildings down from this Torchy's Tacos is the super famous "Greetings' From Austin Mural" as well as several shops and vintage boutiques. I would highly suggest checking out this street before making your way to South Congress.
Seventh Flag Coffee
To get a little caffeine fix we stopped into this minimalistic coffee shop inside a converted home. The nitro cold brew on tap is perfect for those hot Texas afternoons.
Gourghdough's Big Fat Doughnuts
This was the first place I wanted to go when I touched down in Austin. I had heard that everything was bigger in Texas but these doughnuts really take the cake (see what I did there). I actually used my purse for a scale in this photo. These giant doughnuts are customizable or you can order one directly from the menu. We choose the "Black Out" - a doughnut covered in chocolate sauce, fudge brownies, and chocolate chips. Needless to say we shared.
South Congress Street
Now that you need to walk off that doughnut head a few streets up to South Congress Street. This is where the majority of the tourists are. This street is lined with famous shops such as Allen's Boots and Jo's Coffee - home of the famous "I love you so much" graffiti. You could spend a few hours here if you felt the need to venture in every shop, but I warn you they are definitely out of our price range.
But there are tons of photo opportunities around this area and there are tons of little neighborhoods and boroughs to explore.
Want a one-of-a-kind experience in Austin? Go to South Congress Bridge about an hour before sunset. You'll see a huge group of people either sitting below in the grassy knoll under the bridge, kayaking or paddle boarding for the perfect spot, or lined up along the top of the bridge. They are all waiting for the 60,000 bats that live underneath to fly out for the evening. Be prepared to wait for awhile if you want a good spot, or adventure through the woods to sit near the bank of the water. Once these bats are ready they fly out in herds for the nights adventures. This event is over fairly quickly so definitely make plans for afterwards.
Lumiere Tin Type Photography
One of my personal highlights was visiting the Tin Type Photobooth hidden on the patio of Justine's french eatery. The owner takes portraits using an authentic tin-type camera. Photos are between $60 and $110 depending on size and are delivered via glass. It takes about 15 minutes for the photo and 45 minutes for processing so while we waited we grabbed a bite at Justines's.
I wasn't actually able to get a good photo inside this dark, hipster bar so I stole one from online. Not going to lie the prices of some of these plates gave me a little heart attack but it was totally worth it. We both ordered salads and I can honestly say I have never tasted a fresher salad in my life. It literally tasted like they just harvested the vegetables from the ground in the best way. Also every dish comes with a bread basket and olive oil (SOLD)
I always love to use Air BnB's when I travel. I just feel more comfortable and the hosts are always reliable and full of local-only information. Justin's place was no different. This charming little house was in a great neighborhood in walking distance of a lot of the attractions I'm going to mention below. They kept the fridge in the room stocked with water and beer - had tons of helpful guides - and had dogs and cats that we got to love on before we left each morning (Don't worry if you're not an animal lover or allergic the guest rooms are separated from the animals.)
Most coffee shops have a minimalistic feel but Thunderbird combines art, comfort, and coffee to create a welcoming and studious environment.
Also their coffee is delicious, they have barista blend almond milk, and actually steam their latte's to a temperature that lasts (as I sip my still warm latte while working on this blog post at their establishment - and yes I totally still work on vacation.
El Chilito Taco's
Right beside Thunderbirds is a vibrant, Tex-Mex eatery that has multiple locations in Austin. With fast service and a variety of taco options and it being within walking distance of our Air BnB - we ate here twice.
We recommend - Pescado taco with jalapeno aioli - the vegetarian burrito, and the Picadillo taco. Also they have frozen Sangria and Mimosas all day.
Also if you're not afraid of a little walk the "You're My Butter Half" mural is right down the way. There is nothing around this area except the mural - so I wouldn't make a trek unless this is on your bucket list.
Flat Trek Coffee
This was hands down my FAVORITE COFFEE SHOP IN AUSTIN. Flat Trek is a bicycle shop, repair store, and coffee shop. Their chocolate, gluten free doughnuts were delicious, and their mint hibiscus tea was phenomenal. They roast their own blend of coffee so you know it's quality.
There are also dogs in the store who belong to the owners who come up and hang with you. So that made it even better.
(FYI - if you're more of a cat person - about 3-7 doors down is a Cat Cafe)
When we visited Austin it was Friday the 13th - and if you're not an avid tattoo collector you may not know that this is a day where you can get discounted tattoos. We made our appointment in advance and stopped at this female dominated tattoo parlor in East Austin. We both walked away with new ink and a new friend. If you're in the area I highly suggest Catherine.
Voodoo Doughnuts is a staple when it comes to doughnuts. This popular chain only has a few locations around the US and everytime I look it up the words "line out the door" are always associated. Luckily when we walked by there was no one inside. So we grabbed a few doughnuts and chowed down. This is a Cash Only establishment so be prepared to bring at least a $20 to fill that signature pink box.
Why we love Voodoo - topped with cereals, cookies, and other concoctions - these doughnuts aren't too sweet and are perfect for a sweet treat that won't weigh you down.
Blue Owl Brewing Company
Blue Owl is in a really interesting part of Austin, nestled between art boutiques and tattoo parlors you'd miss it if you weren't looking for it. This quaint brewery is home for all beers sour. Since they can't just sell you beer they advertise "brewery tours" that include a really cool business model.
You choose a glass size you want - 5oz, 8oz, 16oz - then you get to fill it 4 times with whichever beers you like and you get to keep the glass! And it's really cheap. We spent $20 total on our 8 beers. Highly recommend if you want to kill some time, drink delicious beer, and get a feel for the local atmosphere.
There are TON's of photo opportunities around this area, so bring your camera.
Want some authentic Texas BBQ but the idea of waiting 4 hours in line for Franklin's BBQ sound ridiculous? Well then go to Sam's BBQ. This literal shack looks abandoned, with a broken sign out front and walls covered in magazine clippings and 4x6 photos of his 6 wives, 18 children, and 43 grandkids (yes he told us all this as we ordered)
This establishment is cash only as well and you can choose a plate which includes 2 sides, bread, and 2 meats. We went for the brisket and prok ribs which literally slid off the bone. While this isn't upscale dining it's authentic Texas and we have found that sometimes the best food is in places that aren't Instagram friendly.
Paperboy & Radio City Coffee
One of the places I really wanted to check out was Paperboy - I had heard about its amazing instagram-able decor (only if you go to the Radio City location) and that the food was reasonably priced and delicious.
Walk over and grab a coffee at Radio City and then by the time you get it your food should be ready.
Hope Outdoor Gallery
When I looked up things to do in Austin - Hope Outdoor Gallery was on everyone's list. What once was a pristine art gallery where creatives could create one-of-a-kind works have art has become an abandoned, overrun graffiti alley until it's deconstruction in June.
One of my clients let me take a few photos of her in the Gallery. The city of Austin says that it will relocate but as of now has yet to confirm its location.
While the side streets are great to explore Austin does has a booming metropolis right down the way. Home to 6th street - "the bourbon street of Austin" where you can party all night - my highlight was the ModCloth store. Try on styles in the store and then have them shipped to your home. Super convienant if you're a wary online shopper.
BEST BRUNCH SPOT EVER! I celebrated my birthday at this Rock N Roll, female ran brunch spot. Serving brunch all day they open at 10am and there was a line at 9:45. Seating is first come first serve and make sure your whole party is there when you arrive.
They have a Seven Deadly Sin menu on Sunday's where they have cheap drinks and eats. I suggest the White Trash fries - but everything we ate was delicious.
Sweet Ritual Vegan Ice Cream
I wish one of these existed everywhere. Being lactose intolerant it can be hard to find ice cream shops that have a dairy free option but this store is COMPLETELY dairy free. They have coconut, almond, peanut butter, and soy bases. You can choose a cup or cone, and choose up to 3 scoops. I got the Chocolate Olive Oil and Mint Chocolate Chip.
Don't miss it
Upper Crust Bakery
We needed a bakery fix before we hit the airport and I came across Upper Crust. They have tons of homemade pastries and goodies, their signature if the cinnamon roll. It's near the airport so it's perfect for a last minute sugar fix.