TRAVEL | Experience Austin like a True Texas Local

Your ten-gallon hat is calling y'all down

Texas livin' has gotten a lot of good publicity in the past several years. Millennials are flocking to its wide-open spaces, barbecue food trucks, and burgeoning music scene. Pockets of hipster-friendly neighborhoods are popping up all over the state – but none so much as in Austin.

I can always remember that Austin is the cool Texas city (sorry, Dallas) by the way it sounds like awesome" Lame, but effective. And it's true. Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, in part due to the soaring cost of living in other big cities like San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. Would-be West Coasters are donning spurs and 10-gallon hats (okay, Toms and skinny jeans), and moving down south in droves. It's not hard to see why. The sprawling city of Austin has a lot to offer: cultural activities (Chicken Shit Bingo!), food trucks dishing out lip-smacking Mexican food, hiking opportunities, river fun, and weather that doesn't require a balaclava in the winter. That's not to say there's no extreme weather - it does get hot enough to cook up an omelet on the sidewalk in the summer. While there's a ton of activities to choose from, here are some guaranteed wins to help separate the wheat from the chaff.

Outdoor Excursions

Austin offers a wide variety of activities for those who enjoy the great outdoors. While it does occasionally snow in the winter, most of the year it's either quite pleasant outside or downright hot AF.

Hike the desert trails

Austin's sprawl and wide-open territory means that you're never too far from a trail. You'll find plenty of opportunities to go trail biking, trail running, or flat out hiking in multiple parks and trails that are within a two-hour drive from the city center. The River Place Trail is a favorite for many locals. The trail is easily accessible with street parking, and leads down into a canyon. If there's no one else around, you'll hear nothing but the whoosh of the wind gently rustling the leaves, or as you get closer to the bottom, the soft gurgle of a creek. Pro tip: go in the late afternoon so you can watch the sun set over the hills. It turns everything a shade of gold found only in Texas. Other trails like Walnut Creek and Turkey Creek are also surefire hits. Just make sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen!

Splash around in the Colorado River

Enjoy this warm weather activity while you can. The Colorado River, which flows from the Rockies all the way into the Gulf of California in Mexico, has been slowly shrinking as ever-expanding cities use it for their water supply. But for now, the river is a hotbed of activities including kayaking, paddle-boarding, swimming, and just plain hanging out. If relaxing in an inner tube on a hot day with a refreshing cold drink doesn't sound like heaven, I don't know what does.

Culinary Scene

You gotta eat, right?

Eat an entire roast chicken at Julio's

Julio's restaurant is a casual, under-the-radar joint that serves up the juiciest bird in Texas. Its no-frills environment belies the fact that it's one of Austin's tastiest establishments, and if it's warm out, you can up the ambience by sitting outside. Choose from authentic Mexican dishes like Carne Guisada (kind of like a Mexican beef stew with a tomato base) and just-made-five-minutes-ago guacamole. The real star of the show is the roast chicken. It's so tender you don't even need a knife (or a fork really) to pull the meat from the bones. Slap some meat on a flour tortilla and drizzle it with guac and housemade salsa—add a beer for the perfect gastronomic ensemble.

Feed your sugar and caffeine addiction

Quack's 43rd Street Bakery creates some of the most tantalizingly delicious desserts on the planet. The odd moniker is derived from one of its original incarnation as Captain Quackenbushes' Intergalactic Dessert Company and Espresso Café. Do yourself a favor and dig into a slice of their Vegan Double Chocolate Muffin while they're still available, or try and stop yourself from devouring an entire slice of Peanut Butter Fudge Cake. Their menu is ridiculously comprehensive, offering virtually every confection you can imagine.

Boozin' it up

You're in Texas, so prepare to start drinking like a cowboy.

Drink like royalty at The Roosevelt Room

The Roosevelt Room is a swank spot to try all those cocktails that sound so debonair but that you're too intimidated to order. They go all out with over 60 classic and newly invented cocktails, all served at cozy tables by knowledgeable staff. Ever wanted to try eating some silver? Here's your chance. Order The Black Pearl: Johnnie Walker Black Label, Smith & Cross Rum, and Talisker Storm served in a clove-smoked treasure chest and tipped with, you guessed it, edible liquid silver. If you're feeling peckish, definitely order the Strawberry-Mezcal Cheesecake. It'll have even the most ardent tequila haters clamoring for more.

Go for a dive – It's impossible to go wrong at Ego's Bar. Just slip behind a gas station and under an office building and you'll be all set to karaoke your heart out from 9 pm – 2 am nightly. Drinks are cheap and singing talent is passionate, making Ego's the perfect place to let loose. They're open every day from 11:30 am – 2 am, and with no windows, it's easy to spend all day getting tipsy and playing pinball while you decide what hits you're going to belt out later that evening.

A little culture, anyone?

For days when you feel like getting some intellectual stimulation.

Admire some art at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum

You'll be amazed by the life-like sculptures dotted amongst the beautifully landscaped gardens at Umlauf Sculpture Garden. Take some photos with a whimsical hippopotamus or high five the dancing baby. When you get tired of the heat, cool off indoors with their ever-changing exhibits of Charles Umlauf's magnetic works.

Shop til you drop (or feel like having a drink)

Get ready to spend some dough – Second Street District is what every suburban mall aspires to be. Filled with one-of-a-kind brands like Eliza Page, a jeweler that contracts local artisans and uses sustainably sourced materials, and League of Rebels Menswear (seriously), a sartorial version of Disney World, this is one shopping establishment that prides itself on individuality. If you're the type of person who likes to wear makeup while working out, or just happen to live in a crazy sweaty part of the world, hotfoot on over to Rae Cosmetics. Their line is specifically crafted for women who need makeup that can withstand some serious perspiration.

Austin is a great place to live, and possibly a better place to visit, depending on your tolerance for heat. It has everything you could possibly want in a city: outdoor activities, exceptional food and drinks, and shopping galore. All this, and the cost of living there is still pretty affordable. So put on your cowboy boots and get goin'!

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There are several things about wine that can confuse the average person. If you haven't spent the last few years of your life learning everything there is to know about wine, you can be forgiven for picking up a box of the good stuff every now and then. However, if you want to know a little bit more about how to choose a good bottle, we can help you out. We've created a beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine so you can enjoy yourself a little more.

Know What Type of Wine To Choose

First things first, you're going to need to decide the type of wine that you're looking for in order to narrow your search. Are you looking for a red, white, sparkling, or rosé? The choices may seem overwhelming, but try to focus on what foods you'll be pairing the wine with. Reds go great with heavier meals like red meat, while whites tend to lend themselves towards lighter dishes like fish and cheeses. If you'll be drinking the wine on its own, consider what you've tried in the past and what type you tend to gravitate toward.

Know How Much You're Willing To Spend

It's no secret that a penchant for wine can become an expensive hobby. If you're just getting into the idea, don't waste your time or money with the extremely pricey bottles. A good place to start looking for decent bottles of wine is somewhere between the $10 and $30 price range. This will keep you from buying something too low quality without breaking your bank in the process.

Read the Labels Closely

A good bottle of wine will often give tasting notes right on the bottle. Because everyone's palette is different, you may not get the same notes when you try the wine, but it's a good place to start. Choose something with tasting notes that you already enjoy like berries or cocoa and try to see if you get any hints of that as you drink. The labels may also tell you about the wine's acidity, or how tart it is, and the wine's body, or the way it feels in your mouth.

A beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine can only go so far without being overwhelming. The next part of your wine journey will need to be undertaken on your own. Try various types of wine and see what tastes best to you—that's what wine is really all about.

Distillery tours went on hiatus in 2020, but there are high hopes for 2021. While bourbon leaps immediately to mind when thoughts turn to distillery tours, interest in other spirits and how they're made is increasing. Here are a few of the best tours to thrill tequila lovers.

Tequila Herradura

Ride in style on the Herradura Express, a distillery sponsored train ride that runs from Guadalajara to the town of Amatitán for a distillery tour and tastings, followed by lunch featuring live entertainment. The train then takes visitors back to Guadalajara by evening. Herradura is housed in the last tequila-producing Hacienda in the world, Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. Casa Herradura will be closed for visits and tours until Mexican health officials declare the coronavirus emergency over.

La Rojeña

Producer of Jose Cuervo, La Rojeña has a train of its own called the Jose Cuervo Express (currently on hiatus due to COVID-19) to bring visitors to the oldest distillery in the town of Tequila. Jose Cuervo offers distillery tours, tastings, and tours of the agave fields. Mundo Cuervo (Cuervo world) also has its own hotel, Solar de las Animas. Check for COVID-19 hours and restrictions before booking.

Casa Sauza

Founded in 1873, Casa Sauza offers four levels of tours including a visit to the La Perseverancia distillery, a visit to the Quinta Sauza estate, and for those willing to spend more, barrel tastings and a barbeque or a three-course meal. Casa Sauza is on hiatus until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but should go on the distillery tour bucket list.

La Cofradia

The only tequila distillery with a hotel inside, La Cofradia offers many experiences in addition to distillery tours. Choose a hike through natural trails, biking, or horseback riding through the agave fields. Rooms made of giant tequila barrels sit among the agave plants for a unique stay. Visiting La Cofradia is sure to be a tour that thrills tequila lovers. Contact the hotel directly for information about lockdown closures.

A distillery tour offers education about tequila's history and manufacture. Bone up on your tequila terms and tips for choosing quality tequila before you go, so you'll understand what you're tasting.

We don't know how to feel about winter this year. Sure, nobody likes the cold and dreary months, but there's something special about the Holiday season that just seems to be missing. Maybe the thought of staying inside and cozying up to a nice book isn't very enticing given the last few months. The joyful winter wonderland that we usually associate with winter seems to be missing.

That's why our editors decided to take it upon themselves and spread some delight with seasonal meals, courtesy of HelloFresh. For those who don't know what HelloFresh is, it's a meal-kit delivery service with dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes to choose from. Simply select which meals you want as well as how many servings and a neatly organized cardboard box will arrive at your doorstep within the week. Nobody wants to go out in the Winter anyway, and with HelloFresh, you don't have to!

To celebrate the arrival of the coldest season, we decided to highlight some of our favorite (and heartiest) recipes from HelloFresh that are perfect for the Holiday season. Here are five wholesome and balanced meals that will warm you up in no time.

Veggie Loaded Kale & Risoni Soup

A hearty and warm soup is a Winter staple and this veggie loaded kale and risoni soup from HelloFresh absolutely hits it out of the park. All anybody wants during the colder months is to feel cozy and nurtured--just like the flavorful bowl of nutrients. Warm and creamy risoni compliments the seasonal veggies perfectly and the side of garlic bread is a sure-fire cure for any winter blues. With 22 meals to pick from each week, this one is sure to be a household favorite.

Cheesy Red Pesto Chicken Melts

Everyone is familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever tried red pesto? Red pesto offers way more complexity and oomph than its green counterpart. It is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh basil and garlic. This rendition also features hits of chargrilled capsicum for a little extra zest. You get the exact amount of each ingredient and seasoning, as well as super detailed recipe cards, that make meal prep a breeze. Spread it over a glistening chicken bread and sprinkle with cheese for delectable chicken melts.

Winter Risotto

Risotto is a great winter warmer. It's packed full of veggies so your body will light up like fire, but it's also silky, sumptuous and a real crowd pleaser. HelloFresh's Winter Risotto features a heart helping of kale that pairs perfectly with nutty Parmesan and crunchy walnuts for a robust taste. Did we mention that it also comes with fennel seeds sprinkled throughout? This unique seasoning adds a distinctive, yet delicious flavor to this classic winter staple. We know these meals are pretty hardy, which is why we love having the option to pause our subscription or cancel a week when need be.

Cheat's Italian Pork & Veggie Bolognese

A bolognese that only takes 30 minutes to make? Sign us up! This one is chock full of all the rich flavors of a classic Italian sauce. In fact, we're getting some serious Italian grandmother vibes with this recipe. Silky baby Spanish and grated carrots melt into a hearty meat sauce, offering a mouth-watering meal for anyone looking for a little zest. It's delivery quality, but much more affordable, plus you get to cook it yourself!

Smokey Mild Chorizo & Bean Chilli

Yet another clever twist on a weekday favorite! The paprika and garlic flavored cured sausage is a staple in our chopping baskets since it goes well with practically anything. Not only is Chorizo loved for its taste, but also for its ability to infuse sauces with its tantalizing flavor. This time around, HelloFresh has decided to spice up a classic bowl of bean chili with Spanish styling of a smokey mild chorizo. The end result? A mix of chorizo, red kidney beans, corn and avocado, and an irresistible flavor that everyone will love. This is just one of dozens of unique HelloFresh recipes you won't find anywhere else!

Gone are the days of trekking through the frigid cold just for a few groceries. Sign-up for HelloFresh today and get your ingredients delivered right to your doorstep. Time to start cozying up the right way, with a delicious meal and a nice cup of hot cocoa.

Update: Our friends at HelloFresh are extending a special Black Friday offer to our readers. Follow this link to get $90 off across 4 boxes including free shipping!