Where to Drink, Eat, Stay, and Do in Austin, Texas

Austin City Guide

With its live music, thriving food scene and proximity to the gorgeous Hill County, Austin is must-visit city. It’s no wonder people are moving here in droves from tech companies to chefs to those fleeing colder climates and high rents.

Austin Terry Black's BBQ Beef Ribs

Food

This list is by no means exhaustive and unfortunately light on food trucks but a few highlights from my trip.

Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden for the Big Band Brunch every Sunday. 30 house made sausages + 100 beers on tap to enjoy in the beer garden + live music + surprisingly mellow crowd = perfect Sunday. Get there before 10:30am to avoid the line.

Torchy’s Tacos began as a food truck and is now an Austin institution with over 30 stores throughout Texas. Breakfast tacos are a must-try, particularly the Migas, packed with scrambled eggs, crisp corn tortilla strips and green chiles. Brisket is quintessential Texas and the smoked beef brisket with grilled onions and jalapeños will not let you down.

Juice Austin truck on South Congress is delicious antidote to meat-heavy meals. Fruit and vegetable juices as well as a satisfying kale salad in honey lime vinaigrette, avocado,carrots, sesame & sunflower seeds. Burro Cheese Kitchen sandwich truck is next door and will make your grilled cheese dreams come true. Build your own or try one of the favorites: Waylon & Willie sour dough, aged cheddar, gouda, carmelized onions, pepperocinis, spicy maple and bacon sauce.

Serving a proper Italian gelato in cute shop lined with plants, rustic white wood walls and bright yellow chairs, Dolce Neve has 18 handcrafted flavors made daily. Enjoy flavors like ricotta & pistachio, salted caramel & pretzel, and fromage blanc with strawberry while lounging on the patio.  The newly moved Lick has unique pairings like orange and Texas fennel, grapefruit and champagne marshmallows, and roasted beet and mint ice-cream all made from local family owned dairy in Texas and the waffle cones are made in-house. Vegan options as well.

Grab a Stumptown coffee and croissant from the French bakery or take a seat on the garden patio and settle into a breakfast Bánh Mì at Elizabeth St. Don’t be surprised if you have the urge to stay through lunch with a delicious bowl of phở.

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Do

Live music, festivals and events check out Austin Insider Blog.

Watch the largest Mexican free-tailed bat colony in North America emerge from the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge just before sunset every night for their feeding. Cold weather and rain keep the bats in but the warmer months draw more bats, up to 1.5 million. Get to the bridge early to secure a spot, About Austin has tips on peak bat time and sunset times throughout the year. You don’t want to miss this!

Enjoy the 10 miles of hiking and biking trails on the Ladybird Lake.

Since 1984 the Mexic-Arte Museum has been exhibiting Latino/a art on Congress Avenue with the current exhibit, “Obra Gráfica: Selections from the Mexic-Arte Museum Print Collection features the Museum’s growing contemporary print collection including new works by Alejandra Almuelle and Michael Menchaca.”

Hamilton Pool – A favorite Austin swimming hole with a majestic 50-foot limestone waterfall about 45 minutes drive from the city. Make sure you get there before 11am as they fill up quickly, $15/car. Reservations will be taken soon for mid-May and presumably through the summer.

The good news if you are turned away from Hamilton Pool you have Hill Country to explore. A mile up the road is Westcave with hiking trails, field trips and group canyon tours. Thirsty? Another mile up the road is Westcave Cellars. Reimers Ranch is perfect for swimming, fishing, biking and rock climbing.

AO Austin has  “Austin + Hill Country in 90 Minutes” tour that is a great way to see and learn history of Austin neighborhoods as well as get a sense of what Hill County has to offer, all in a very comfortable 14-passenger Mercedes van.

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Stay

Hotel Van Zandt is a beautiful ode to music, from the record bird installation in the lobby to live music Monday through Saturday at Geraldine’s. The rooftop pool has incredible views and fire-place to keep you cozy in the evenings. The many restaurant and bars on Rainey Street are a block away.

The newly built JW Marriott is close to Rainey Street, 6th Street, Ladybird Lake path, and South Congress Avenue. A block away you can catch the 100 bus to the airport ($1.75) and you only have to walk two blocks away to the Congress Avenue bridge to jockey for space to watch the bats come out every night.

Bungalow-style converted motel, Hotel San Jose is minimalist, trendy, and popular live music venue in the heart of South Congress Avenue.

The historic and luxurious Driskill Hotel is on the famous 6th street (on the west-end of “dirty sixth”). Come for a drink in the lobby at the Driskill Bar to see the stained-glass dome and marble floors without having to splurge for a room.

Quiet and cozy boutique Hotel Saint Cecilla with a view of downtown and close to South Congress but is so pretty and relaxing you might find it hard to leave this urban oasis.

Here’s Your Lunch Deal of the Week – Cherry Circle Room | The Loop, Chicago

Cherry Circle Room Chicago Wild Sausage Sandwich

Step back in time to a private old school club with rich leather booths, wood paneling, and an air of exclusivity at the Cherry Circle Room in the renovated Chicago Athletic Club Association Hotel. Pickelhaube helmets, framed crest banners and rabbits with swords and shields on the dinnerware lend an air of military/secret society mystery.

The best way to get a delicious meal at a fraction of the regular cost is during Restaurant Week – through Thursday, February 4th. The 3-course $22 lunch menu is a bargain, the lunches below come in at $43 and about $37 ordered a la cart any other time.

Cherry Circle Room Chicago Chicory Salad

Cherry Circle Room Chicago Chicory Salad

Drawing inspiration from the Chicago Athletic Club menus as far back as 1890 yet keeping with seasonal ingredients, Cherry Circle Room serves Continue reading

12 Ways To Make Sure Your Valentine’s Day Is Brilliant

What To Do, Gift, And Eat This

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year giving you the whole weekend to celebrate. However, you do not need to officially celebrate Valentine’s Day to enjoy any of these ideas, Chinese Lunar New Year events are included as well. Have fun!

Do

Visit the solarise: a sea of all colors exhibit at the Garfield Conservatory to experience various art installations and the “amazing relationships between two remarkable forces of nature – light and plants!”  Free and open daily 9:00am – 5pm.

Image via Chicagoist.com

Image via Chicagoist.com

The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Orchid Show begins on February 13th. Surround your senses with fragrant blooms and vivid colors with over 10,000 orchids.

Celebrate the Year of the Monkey on Sunday, February 14th a the Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade. Have dim sum at one of the many restaurants in Chinatown then head to the parade at 1pm.

Also part of the Chinese New Year, Art Institute Chicago Gallery Talk given in Mandarin February 13, 2016 from 12pm – 1pm, included in museum admission.

Late night laughs at Second City’s Fool Me Twice, Déjà Vu. The 11pm showing is still available on Friday the 12th and Saturday the 13th, Feb 14 is sold out.

Gift

Etsy has a great list of Editors’ Picks for him, her, kids and even pets. I’m loving the Romantic Cocoa and Mallows gift set.

Image via CitrusAtelier Etsy.com

Image via CitrusAtelier Etsy.com

For the travel lovers the scratch map is the perfect gift. Have fun scraping off the places you’ve visited and get inspired for future destinations.

Image via Scratchmap.org

Image via Scratchmap.org

Fields & Forest Grooming Set that includes beard balm for the facial hair inclined person in your life.

Eat

Image via RM Champagne Salon

Image via RM Champagne Salon

The Chicago Tribune compiled a list of 120 restaurants with information on prix fixe menus and Valentine’s Day specials.

An ultra romantic Parisian-chic spot is RM Champagne Salon, they also deliver macaroons V-Day weekend.

Show your love with a homemade meal – you can never go wrong with breakfast in bed. Here are 5 Valentine’s Day pancake recipes.

Dinner more your speed? Try this lemon gnocchi for two menu.

 

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Elephant Family in Serengeti National Park – Tanzania

Family of Elephants Serengeti National Park Tanzania

Throwback Thursday to 2006 when I was on a safari in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The guide parked the jeep a bit away from the elephants and they keep coming toward us and went about their business as if we weren’t there.

It was an incredible feeling to be so close to these beautiful creatures, to hear them, smell them and watch them communicate with their trunks – quite extraordinary to see this family of elephants in their natural habitat. The elephant calves were having the time of their lives and it was so much fun to watch them play.

They continued on and the moment was over but remains one of my favorite memories.

Walking the Cultural Trail on Brick Lane – East End, London

Let’s Adore and Endure Each Other Great Eastern Street London

Named for the brick kilns brought by the Flemish in the 1500s, Brick Lane has a wealth of history brought by the many Russian, French, Muslim, Jewish and Bengali immigrants throughout the years.

Maps of 20 historic sites are provided on Brick Lane and online for you to plan your time. With only two hours to spend I concentrated on the street art and whatever popped up along the way.

Brick Lane London | AliciaTastesLife.com

Brick Lane London | AliciaTastesLife.com

Graffiti

‘Drinking problems’ on the Truman Brewery Gates. Brick Lane, London

‘Drinking problems’ on the Truman Brewery Gates. Brick Lane, London

There are many street art tours available but setting out on your own and discovering the art on and off Brick Lane is Continue reading

Stunning Views from the Rooftop at Azotea in Madrid

Azotea in the Círculo de Bellas Artes is where you want to be to watch the sunset. In the heart of Madrid, Azotea has a 360 degree views, relaxed and sophisticated ambiance and great chill music. It doesn’t get better than watching the changing hues of peach, pink and orange splash over beautiful Madrid while basking in one of the plush couches.

Plan ahead to snag a reservation for dinner at the Tartan Roof restaurant. No reservations are needed for drinks and view at the bar.

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Stained Glass Dome in La Rotonda – Madrid, Spain

Stained Glass Dome in La Rotonda - Madrid, Spain

Beautiful light flows through the elegant stained glass dome at La Rotonda restaurant in the Westin Palace hotel in Madrid Spain. Known for their Sunday Opera Brunch it’s also a great spot to stop by for tea, enjoy the decor and people watching.

The mannequin with the vintage suitcases was part of the 100 Years Traveling Together  exhibit.  Historical pieces from Samsonite gave a glimpse into how travel evolved from 1912 through the decades.

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Pintxoteca Orkestra at Platea Madrid

Pintxoteca Orkestra Platea Madrid

Pintxos, also known as pinchos or tapas, are typical Spanish bar snacks. These beauties are from Pintxoteca Orkestra at the Platea Madrid food hall – largest gastronomic center in Europe. It includes a theater, bar, restaurants and a club.

Inside Tempelhofer Feld – From Nazi Airport to Public Park in the Heart of Berlin

Tempelhof Berlin Runway

Tempelhof Berlin Runway

Built in the 1920’s, Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport was a busy hub taken over by the Nazi’s in the 1930’s, the Russians in 1945 in the Battle of Berlin and finally handed to the US as part of the Potsdam Agreement and used throughout the Cold War years for military and commercial use. This historic landmark is a must-see and  Continue reading