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.
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.
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'!