photo by Matt Lapinski
We dare you to find a more welcoming city than the hipster-chic state capital of Austin, Texas. It’s been deemed the San Francisco Bay of the southeast with tech-start ups and Silicon Valley powerhouses flocking to plant roots on the fringes of Texas Hill country. This is likely because Austin is cosmopolitan, yet relaxed, with an eclectic dining scene, quirky street art, live music and most importantly for us, infinite opportunities for adventure. So, come on y’all! gaan + co is gettin’ weird in Austin, Texas.
Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the US. Attracting more than 20 million visitors a year, it beats out Rome and London. To say there’s a lot to experience in Austin would be an understatement. Even with ample time to plan, figuring out where to go and what to experience may be overwhelming. This #gaanguide is designed to explore the city by foot, bike or public transit at a leisurely pace, in hopes you’ll discover more hidden gems of Austin along the way! You’ll see some metropolitan highlights, and you’ll get a feel for the natural wonders of Austin. Feel free to mix and match your days to best suit your style!
Photo by Matt Lapinski
But first, let’s eat. Austin is notorious for its tacos. It’s not a stretch for locals to incorporate tacos into all three meals of the day. We recommend you kick off your trip with a breakfast taco at Vera Cruz. The location on Cesar Chavez is an Austin staple, founded by sisters Reyna and Maritza Vazquez in 2008. These ladies don’t mess around. As 3rd generation chefs, their family recipes lay the groundwork for the menu. At $3.00-$4.00 per taco, you may want to try a couple, including our favorite, the Migas Poblanas with egg, tortilla chips, jack cheese, cilantro, tomato, onion, avocado. Tamale House of East 6th street is also a great spot for an equally authentic take on a real Mexican breakfast. Wipe your hands and face with one of our body cleansing & personal use wipes and you’re ready to roll.
Time to get moving. Grab an Austin bike rental and get lost. Check out this curated guide to Austin’s most famous street art and mural walls to find the many famous Instagram-worthy urban canvases like “You’re My Butter Half”, “Greetings From Austin” and “I Love You So Much” just to name a few.
Hop back on that bike, and head to South Congress. For those looking for a spin on typical touristy “attractions”, this area offers some of the original elements that helped coin the city’s famous tagline, “Keep Austin Weird”. Some one-of-a-kind spots include the Cathedral of Junk and the End of an Ear. These sights are super bizarre, so we’ll let you experience them without giving anything away. The area is also full of quirky stores, along with plenty of tokens honoring the Lone Star State. Parts & Labour and Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds are two classic favorites and you can’t miss exploring aisles and aisles of cowboy boots in every size and color at Allens Boots.
If you’re hungry, South Congress Cafe is a casual diner-style spot with a super creative, yet traditional menu. And the restaurant fits in perfectly with the funky vibes of the neighborhood. Or, if you’re in the mood for BBQ (in Austin, you better be!) and you don’t mind a line, you should set your sights on Franklin. This place has been voted number one BBQ in the country (some have named it the best in the universe) on several US and international lists ever since they started with a simple food truck in 2009. This eating experience is worth the wait if you ask us – or ask former President Barack Obama who has dined at Franklin numerous times. Prepare yourself for a line that could last 2+ hours – these guys open at 11 am and remain open until they sell out. We say it’s an Austin must-do and hours well spent, plus you’ve got our deodorant wipes in case you break a sweat.
Photo by Matt Lapinski
After you’ve eaten your weight in BBQ, casually make your way to Sunset Happy Hour at P6 at Line Hotel (reservations are encouraged) and watch the famous bats over the Colorado River from your seat with one of the best views in town. And yes, you read that correctly. Bats. The South Congress Bridge puts on a nightly bat show between 7:30-8:30 pm and bat enthusiasts come from all over the world to watch the bats perform in the night sky. It may sound a little scary, but it’s more like a spectacular if you ask us. Certainly, an adventure you’ll remember forever and a perfect way to end the day.
Your outdoor adventure options in Austin are extensive, so for this next set of recommendations, we’re giving you options that could easily be incorporated throughout your trip. But first, since we like to start every adventure with a solid meal, we’ll head to Banger’s on Rainy Street. This sausage house and beer garden knows how to brunch with the best of them! Grab a seat in the beer garden and order a Banger’s Benny: braised pork belly, poached egg & hollandaise sauce on an English muffin, topped with chipotle dusted shoestring potatoes. A vegetarian version also exists, and some swear its better sans meat! If you’re looking for something a little lighter, Cherrywood Coffee House in Central Austin is a true community space with outdoor seating and lots of tables. This place is usually packed with young people, families, and dogs enjoying a classic cold brew. They’ve got a full breakfast menu (lunch, too!) and we’re big fans of their smoothies. The Sunset Lane mixes honey, pineapple, mango, banana, orange juice and almond milk for a tropical and filling fuel-up for your day ahead. Pair it with a house-made chorizo taco and you’ll be full for hours.
Post brunch, you can see the city from a different angle when you head to Epic SUP and rent a stand-up paddleboard to explore the city by water while getting in an awesome workout. These guys are centrally located, affordable and are always running a special, especially for groups.
If you’re looking for a hiking or bike adventure, head to Barton Creek Greenbelt. The Greenbelt is a system of trails that run throughout Austin and the surrounding areas. With features like hiking and biking trails, rock climbing and when the creek levels are higher, even swimming, there’s plenty to explore. There are three access points to the Greenbelt, so accessibility is super easy from just about anywhere.
For more gorgeous green space, Zilker Park (host of ACL) is a wonderful city park for Austin residents and visitors and centrally located so you can walk or bike there. The park boasts beautiful views of the city and great walking trails. During the summer months, you can check out the Woodland Faerie Trail in the Zilker Botanical Garden before taking a plunge into the Barton Springs Pool that remains at a refreshing 68-degrees.
Photo by Matt Lapinski
We recommend bringing along a picnic on any of these adventures, and there’s not one better to equip you with sandwiches than the historic Avenue B Grocery and Market, which is the oldest and longest-running grocery store in Austin. This gem is more than 100 years old, dating back to 1909. Classic menu items include the King Combo (roast beef, ham, turkey and three kinds of cheese) and the Queen B (avocado, cheese, mushrooms and jalapeños). Add a deviled egg or pickled onions for only 46 cents. Take it to go, or if you can’t wait, have a few bites on the epic front porch for a taste of old-school Austin.
Another popular hike near Austin’s city limits is Mt Bonnell. Located just on the outskirts of town, this hike is great for beginners and takes you to a viewpoint that overlooks the whole city and then some. Fun fact: Mt. Bonnell is the highest point in all of Austin. You may want to save it until later in the afternoon, as it’s a picturesque place to watch a sunset. If you happen to stay until dusk, make sure to pop over to Dry Creek dive bar and boat dock for a beverage (cash only) on your way back. This place is another Austin tradition that dates back to 1953. Owned by the founding family, Dry Creek is a throwback spot with a 45rpm jukebox serving local beers and good vibes.
Since we’re on the topic of cocktails, we’ve got another Austin gem that’s worth checking out. Whisler’s Mescalera is a great bar with a laid-back atmosphere and a sophisticated beverage program. These guys do an awesome job of staying below the radar, so you won’t find exhaustive crowds.
If you’re hungry, there’s no shortage of options along East 6th Street, from Via 313, a Detroit-style pizza joint that got its start as a food truck, or Licha’s Cantina for their famous ceviche tostadas, you’ll have your pick! No matter where you dine, we wouldn’t want you to miss the locals two-step while you get your game on at Chicken Sh*t Bingo at C-Boys. C-Boy’s Heart & Soul is a neighborhood juke-joint featuring classic soul and R&B music onstage, a spacious outside patio and the cozy upstairs “Jade Room” lounge styled after 50s era Japanese GI bars. This place has a vibe entirely of its own and also brings out some of the best characters in Austin.
Photo by Matt Lapinski
Your adventures in Austin are going to be epic, and you’ll likely stumble upon some brand-new happenings, art pieces and friendly locals along the way. Make sure you bring along the gaan + co as your Lone Star State companion, because the only thing as hot as Austin’s summer vibes are the summer temperatures!
Hashtag your Austin Adventure #gaanGuidetoAustin and tag us on Instagram @gaan_co and you could be featured in next month's newsletter and win a gaan + co Gift Pack!
- Written by Rachel Levy