A few weeks prior to the Fourth of July holiday weekend, my wife and I agreed to spend those four days in Austin. We’d had grander plans to venture much farther away, 1 but time and finances have a particular way of dictating your future.
As a one-time, long-time, near-Austin resident, I know the city well enough to get from Hamilton Pool to Barton Springs. My wife, on the other hand, had only visited the city a few times. I wanted to do my best to show her all that the city had to offer. Though our trip was mostly haphazardly planned each day, I came home feeling as if we’d had a quintessential Austin adventure, so much so that I’m blogging about it so that others might consider this schedule as a great way to experience what Austin has to offer. 2
Thursday, July 4, 2013
We drove down on July 4, arriving in Austin around lunch. At my request, we ate at Mighty Fine Burgers, a favored haunt I hadn’t visited in years. At my wife’s request, we roamed around The Domain, checked out a few clothing and furniture stores, and noted how Microsoft’s store was blatantly trying too hard to emulate Apple’s retail superiority.
From there, we traveled to South Congress and visited the few antique/vintage stores that happened to be open. We checked in at our hotel, 3 then headed to Amy’s Ice Creams, a necessary stop for any Austin roadtrip.
We’d made reservations at Soleil at The Oasis on Lake Travis, so we left early enough to ensure we’d make it on time. On our way, I nearly careened off the road when I saw a sign for Mount Bonnell Road. Though she’d failed to remember until my screeching turn reminded her, this was one of the few places that my wife definitely wanted to visit on our trip. We made the short hike up the “mountain” and took in the grand and classic view of the Colorado River. People were already staking out their places in the area, readying themselves for the night’s fireworks show.
We left, drove out to Lake Travis, and enjoyed a tremendously great dinner at Soleil, complete with the rockets’ red glare dotting the skyline all around us.
Friday, July 5, 2013
On Friday morning, we left at 8 a.m. to ensure getting into Hamilton Pool, another must-do item on my wife’s list. As a beautiful and popular destination for both Austinites and tourists, we’d read that getting there at 9 a.m. when it opens is the best thing you can do. If you get there much later, you run the risk of waiting in your car until another car leaves. With only room for 75 cars total, you could wait for one to two hours before entering. Though I didn’t dive in, we quite enjoyed our time there, as evidenced by our photos.
We ate a Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Oak Hill, and while the chicken-fried ribs 5 sang their sweet siren song to my growling stomach, I opted for the short ribs quesadilla, bacon-wrapped quail, and chile-relleno dipped fries. For me, it was the best meal we ate on the trip, and not overly expensive, as one might expect for a place offering such unique plates.
After a much-needed nap, I wanted to check out Austin’s Butler Park Pitch-and-Putt, a nine-hole course located right off the river. I know you won’t believe me, but I came within two feet of holing out #3. 6 We had to cut our short round even shorter because bugs were devouring my wife, and I’d rather have a happy wife than another double bogey on my scorecard.
We grabbed a quick bite at Home Slice Pizza on SoCo, then drove down to the Austin-American Statesman parking lot to take in an event I’d never attended before, despite my decade-long residence near Austin: the great Congress Bridge Bat Exodus. It was a bit crowded.
Here’s our ridiculous Instagram video of the moment. 7
Saturday, July 6, 2013
We enjoyed the inimitable pancakes and breakfast goodies at Kerbey Lane Café, then drove to McKinney Falls State Park. The falls weren’t all that impressive, but the rock shelter by the falls was cool, literally and metaphorically.
We then went to six different vintage stores or antique warehouses. I bought a signed copy of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. 9 My wife just ogled furniture for hopeful future purchase.
We then checked out Pinballz Arcade, a place that had quite the collection of pinball games, as well as this noticeable character.
After realizing how bad both of us actually were at pinball, we left and ate a Pizookie-licious dinner at BJ’s Brewhouse. 10
Sunday, July 7, 2013
On our last day in Austin, we braved the weekend and holiday crowds in Zilker Park and Barton Springs. Renting bikes from the fine fellows at Barton Springs Bike Rental, we darted in and out of heavy pedestrian, pet, and runner traffic all along Ladybird Lake. We jumped into the Barton Springs Spillway, a free area to swim located directly beneath the more popular Barton Springs Pool. 11
On our bike ride (my favorite part of our Austin adventure), I spotted How Do You Roll, a custom sushi place I’d seen on Shark Attack. I begged to try it, knowing my wife’s disdain for seaweed and raw fish. She acquiesced, so I drove quickly and ate just as fast. While I ate, she searched for a place to eat nearby. Overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of choices around 6th Street in Austin, she finally landed on Frank Restaurant. She just wanted a hot dog.
When we got there, we were notified that they were serving only brunch. 12 We humbly asked, “Do you have any hot dogs?” The server replied, “No, we’re only serving brunch, but if you come back at three today … ” I’m not sure if he finished his sentence before we were out of the door and back onto the street.
Funnily enough, another couple exited closely behind us and we could hear the guy talking on his cellphone to a friend: “Yeah, I just wanted a hot dog, and they’re only serving brunch.” We went to my wife’s second choice, a nearby place on Congress Avenue called Swift’s Attic. She ordered some kind of expensive salad that she said was the best food she’d had on the trip, even surpassing Jack Allen’s.
We bid a tired and fond farewell to Austin, trekked through treacherous traffic on I-35, and met up with my family for a much-needed visit and a fantastic grilled dinner. It was the perfect way to end a stellar four-day vacation.