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My List of Must-See Things To Do When in Austin

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View of downtown Austin, TX
Austin is known for its incredible music, delicious restaurants and food trucks, excellent university, and vibrant tech scene. It’s a city on the move, where people who love the outdoors, warm weather, and succulent BBQ flock to live. And with its never-ending conferences and music and sports events, it’s one that attracts people from around the world. Austin is a weird little big city that I have yet to see someone not love.

I’ve been living here since May, and in the last couple of months since taking a break from my travels, I’ve buried myself in two things: writing and keeping active (OK, copious amounts of eating and drinking, too).

Since you’ve already seen the writing (it’s all in the previous blog posts), I want to share some of the favorite things I’ve done in this amazing city (for when you visit — come stay at my hostel, HK Austin, when you do!). I hope they’ll help you fall in love with it just a little more quickly.

Barton Springs

People relaxing at Barton Springs in Austin
Barton Springs is a pool/creek that everyone flocks to in the warm summer months. Fed by a natural cold-water spring in Zilker Park (see below), the city-run Barton Springs Pool features manicured lawns that are great for lounging on and relaxing with your friends. The wide pool gives you plenty of room to float around and cool off, as the temperature can hit 100 degrees in the summer. The pool costs $3 to get into (for residents, but they never ask for proof), and while there’s lots of space around it, I often prefer to lounge on the creek itself. While the banks are rockier and there are fewer places to lounge, it’s free, it’s the same water, and you can drink and eat along it (something that is prohibited in the pool).

Zilker Park

Gardens in Zilker Park in Austin
Zilker Park is in the heart of South Austin and offers many different types of outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, kayaking, jogging, and anything else you can do in a park. Barton Springs (see above) is here, and there’s a botanical garden and the ever-awesome outdoor Umlauf Sculpture Garden, centered on the artistic works of Charles Umlauf.

The Greenbelt

A trail on the Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin
Located in south-central Austin, the Barton Creek Greenbelt contains 12 miles of gorgeous trails where you can bike, run, or walk. There are even beautiful limestone bluffs for rock climbing and — when there’s enough water in the creek — several swimming holes to cool off in. If you are looking to get out and enjoy the nice weather, this is one of the best places to do it. It’s a favorite of everyone in the city and one of the best things about Austin!

Two-stepping

Performers playing at The White Horse in Austin
When in Rome…err, Austin, two-step! Country dancing is all over the city, with the White Horse being the most famous spot (if you go on Wednesday, they give free two-step lessons). The Broken Spoke is another popular place too.

Movie at the Alamo Drafthouse

The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX
The Alamo Drafthouse is a local institution with multiple locations, where you can watch a movie, drink beer, and order food. Besides showing mainstream movies, they also screen quirky movies and weird previews, host the local Rocky Horror event, and play many classic and cult films throughout the month. This place is more than just a theater, it’s a place for those who love and appreciate film.

LBJ Library

Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin
Lyndon B. Johnson was one of the most powerful US presidents of the 20th century. A complex man, he helped push forward the Great Society, expanding civil rights and the social safety net, while at the same time expanding the war in Vietnam. His presidential library is in Austin, and while it’s not a “hot” thing to do, I highly recommend a visit to learn about one of the most colorful and controversial presidents the country has ever seen.

Rainey Street

Rainey Street in Austin, TX
This nightlife area is filled with old houses that have been converted into bars. Originally the “hipster” part of the city, it’s now mainstream and teems with people on the weekend. Personally, I hate coming here on the weekends: it’s too crowded and there are too many bachelor/ette parties. I find the scene a little too wild for me (though you may not). Instead, my favorite time to visit is for after-work drinks, when there is just the right amount of people to feel busy and exciting but not overwhelming. From Banger’s for Sunday brunch to Clive Bar, Half Step, and Bungalow for drinks, and Craft Bar for craft beer, Rainey is an eclectic and fun place to hang out — as long as you avoid the weekends.

First Thursday

People celebrating at an event in Austin, Texas
One the first Thursday of every month, the South Congress Hotel hosts a huge event with musicians and an all-night happy hour. It’s one of the biggest nights of the month for young professionals and a wonderful place to have fun, meet new people (Austinites are very friendly), and drink cheap. You don’t want to miss this if you’re in town. It’s one of my favorite monthly social activities.

Drink a cocktail

Drink a cocktail in Austin, TX
While beer and cheap drinks are still king here, there is a growing cocktail bar scene in the city. I’d personally rather drink a cocktail than be at a noisy bar. If you’re looking for the perfect cocktail, try Firehouse Lounge, Floppy Disk Repair Shop, Midnight Cowboy, Garage, Whistler’s (see below), and Weather Up (but only for happy hour, as their drinks are slightly overpriced).

Whistler’s

Lots of whiskeys
This bar on the east side of the city is one of the coolest in town, and when I’m in Austin, you’ll probably find me here (it’s also pretty close to my hostel). You’ll also find a robust whiskey selection, knowledgeable bartenders, a cool crowd, and a giant outdoor patio space. On the weekends, an upstairs mescal bar opens. Whistler’s also hosts one of the most famous food trucks in Austin, Thai Khun, which serves some of the city’s best Thai food (the khao man gai (chicken with rice) is spot on). This is a must-visit bar!

Music

A crowd enjoying music at Stubb's in Austin, TX
Austin’s music scene is world-renowned, and there’s always some live music going on or a big musician in town. You’ll find a lot of music on Sixth Street and in the downtown area. Most of the bars host musicians. Stubb’s is a world-famous music venue downtown and hosts a lot of big-name musicians in its outdoor venue. Try to see a show there if you can!

Eating

Delicious Austin, TX BBQ
Austin’s food scene is damn good (though it needs a few more ethnic places). From BBQ to American to organic to Mexican, you can’t go wrong here. Here are some of my favorite spots (longer list can be found here) that will help you put on 10 lbs. before you leave:

  • Bar Chi (206 Colorado St., (512) 382-5557, www.barchiaustin.com) – Decent sushi but an unbelievably affordable happy hour (5-7pm each day). My friends and I come here because it satisfies the sushi craving on the cheap!
  • Wu Cho (500 W. 5th St. #168, (512) 476-2469, wuchowaustin.com) – This is one of the best Chinese restaurants in Austin. It serves a very popular dim sum brunch on Sundays. Be sure to come early as it gets packed during dinnertime and Sunday brunch, and the wait for a table can be up to an hour.
  • Launderette (2115 Holly St., (512) 382-1599, launderetteaustin.com) – Located in an old laundromat, this restaurant is one of the hottest spots in town and serves an amazing menu of Americana and seafood, as well as a decent selection of wine. Some of my favorite dishes include crab toast, burrata, okra, Brussels sprouts, and grilled octopus. If you’re coming for dinner, come early, as it fills up fast.
  • Truluck’s (400 Colorado St., (512) 482-9000, trulucks.com) – This is my favorite steak restaurant because it’s one of the few places where you can also get fresh seafood (crab, oysters, lobster). It’s not cheap, but if you want an upscale steak house, try this.
  • Péché (208 W. 4th St., (512) 494-4011, www.pecheaustin.com) – A New Orleans–inspired restaurant serving Bayou food, with a very friendly staff, tasty cocktails, and an extensive whiskey list.
  • La Barbecue (1906 E. Cesar Chavez St., (512) 605-9696, www.labarbecue.com) – BBQ is a matter of perspective. A lot of people say Franklin’s is the best, but La Barbecue is #1 to me. It opens at 11am. Expect two-hour waits during lunchtime, so get here early.
  • Veracruz (1704 E. Cesar Chavez St., (512) 981-1760, veracruztacos.com) – The best food truck in town (conveniently located across the street from my hostel). It makes wonderful breakfast tacos, and the migas was voted #1 in the country. There is never really a line, but service is slow.
  • Torchy’s (multiple locations, torchystacos.com/in/austin) – World famous (and another spot where the president ate), this taco restaurant has multiple locations around town. It lives up to all the hype! The food here is pretty spicy. I’m a big fan of the fried avocado and “trailer park” tacos. Every location is always packed, so expect a wait, especially on the weekends.
  • P. Terry’s (multiple locations, pterrys.com) – This is the best burger bar in town. It’s delicious and cheap (you can get a burger, fries, and a drink for $6 USD), with filling portions. This is one of my all-time favorite spots in Austin, and since it’s close to my house, I tend to eat here too often!
  • Leaf (115 W. 6th St., (512) 474-5323, leafsalad.com) – This new lunchtime salad place is incredible (also the line is long). Its gigantic salad bar has anything and everything you could ever want to put in a salad. It’s one of my favorite places for a healthy meal in Austin.
  • True Kitchen (222 West Ave. #HR100, (512) 777-2430, truefoodkitchen.com) – This new restaurant is incredibly popular with people after work. All its food is natural and organic. You’ll find healthy wraps, salad bowls, sandwiches, and fresh and flavorful seafood, as well as an incredible selection of wine and cocktails.
  • Perla’s Seafood & Oyster Bar (1400 S. Congress Ave., (512) 291-7300, www.perlasaustin.com)Some of the best seafood and oysters in town!
  • Home Slice Pizza (1415 S Congress Ave., (512) 444-7437, www.homeslicepizza.com) Hands down the best pizza around!
  • Clark’s Oyster Bar (1200 W. 6th St., (512) 297-2525, www.clarksoysterbar.com) – Another awesome spot for seafood, with an incredible oyster happy hour from 3 to 7!

Whole Foods

Whole Foods Market in Austin, TX
Why visit Whole Foods? I mean, they have those everywhere, right? Well, this one is special. This is the original store — and it’s massive. Its salad bar goes on seemingly forever, there are very good restaurants in the store, the rooftop features patio seating, and musicians play on the weekends. It’s an amazing place that is also a popular spot for after-work drinks and Sunday brunches. Stop by at least once to get your fill (and enjoy the walk-in beer fridge).

***
Austin is a perfect little city, offering visitors a plethora of activities to fill the 3-4 days most people spend here. It’s a city to live in. You don’t really sightsee here; you get active. You go out, hang out, and eat out. Skip most of the local museums, get outside, enjoy the food, the drinks, and the music, and get the most out of one of the best cities in the United States — and the place I call home!

Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

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Destinations

Visit the Quieter Side of the Caribbean

 Let’s get away from the crowds and find a vacation spot that is just as beautiful and affordable while we visit the quieter side of the Caribbean.

 

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Summer vacation is around the corner and now is the time to start planning your beach trip. If you are thinking Caribbean then you most likely are looking into Cancun, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, the three most popular destinations. These places are awesome, cheap and beautiful but also the busiest, so maybe a quieter destination ids for you.   Let’s get away from the crowds and find a vacation spot that is just as beautiful and affordable while we visit the quieter side of the Caribbean.

 

Costa Rica

If surf is your goal then Costa Rica is your paradise. Considered the best surfing in the world, with warm waters and consistent breaks all year long, Costa Rica needs to be on your list if you like water activities. Costa Rica straddles both coasts with the Caribbean side being the calmer side with smaller waves and thicker jungles. The Caribbean side is generally cheaper than the Pacific side and much more laid back.

 

Honduras

Honduras isn’t on most people’s lists because the city of San Pedro Sula is currently the murder capital of the world but its well over an hour away from the beaches. This beautiful country sits right on the Caribbean Sea and boasts some of the most beautiful beaches around. Check out Roatan, the largest island off the coast and a major vacation hub. You can fly direct from major US cities like Houston, so no need to worry about the crime riddled central cities.

 

Panama

Nobody thinks of Panama when booking Caribbean vacations but that is their fault. This Central American country boast some of the region’s most secluded private islands and luxurious retreats. Find the above water villas you’ve been searching for with unspoiled marine life just waiting to be explored. Panama has some awesome wildlife and plenty of sanctuaries you can explore and enjoy all that nature has to offer. Panama also has a rich history so you can see some really cool ruins.

 

Trinidad and Tobago

Tourists still under utilize the only actual Caribbean islands on this list, Trinidad and Tobago.   The country isn’t focused on tourism like the other Caribbean nations so they don’t offer as much variety of resorts as the other islands. Trinidad is the business island and Tobago is the pleasure center of the two, so I advise you stay on Tobago. These islands have those authentic laid back vibes you’ve been searching for.

 

Belize

If you want the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the region than look no further than the Barrier reef off the coast of Belize. The largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere is full of marine life and intense coral reefs. Belize also has some radical Mayan ruins you can check out that are located deep in the lush rainforests. There are plenty of guided hikes and activities to keep you entertained and more than enough sandy beaches to relax on. Belize is nestled between Mexico and Guatemala, so it’s easy to get to and affordable.

Try one of these less traveled paths and your vacation will be filled with chill Caribbean vibes.

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Destinations

Luxurious Private Island Escapes

Steer clear of all the tourists, long lines and other common vacation annoyances and instead party like a rock star on your own private island.

 

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We’ve all dreamt of being marooned on a desert island filled with coconuts and privacy, but we all can’t be Robinson Crusoe. Being trapped on a desert island is actually a nightmare, but what isn’t, is staying on one of these luxury private island resorts. Steer clear of all the tourists, long lines and other common vacation annoyances and instead party like a rock star on your own private island.

 

The Meridian Club

This ultimate all-inclusive resort will show you what luxury is really all about as you bask in the beautiful Caribbean sun in Turks & Caicos. The Meridian Club offers everything a regular all-inclusive would offer but they do it with sophistication and class. You won’t need cash because it’s a cashless experience, in fact you won’t need anything when you cruise around the archipelago. Just be prepared to smile, a lot. You can stay here for as little as $900 per night, which in the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty affordable.

 

Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino

The Renaissance Aruba isn’t your typical private island resort, because it’s not on a private island at all. Instead, this luxury resort has its own private island you can book and enjoy some truly quiet time. The 40-acre private island has two separate sides, a family and adult side. You can feed flamingos, hang in hammocks, drink tropical beverages or check out the nude beach. You can get a room for around $175 a night, so jump on that.

 

Necker Island

The ultimate in private resorts is Necker Island, owned by billionaire Richard Branson and used by the super elite. This destination has it all and you and 33 of your closest amigos can stay here for only $80,000 a night. Sounds affordable… for a prince. Recently former President Obama recently stayed here and was seen frolicking with Branson in the ocean. What is paradise worth, well apparently it’s around 80k, but not to worry, I’ve found some more affordable options as well.

 

Affordable Islands

Pelican Beach Resort

Actually sitting on top of the largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere is the Pelican Beach Resort in Belize. This resort has the best location possible for underwater exploration as it literally rests on a lush coral reef system with some of the best dive spots around.   For under $300 for two guests a night you can stay on this semi-private island with meals included, sounds like a deal to me. Highlights include the guided nighttime snorkeling tours where you’ll get to see the ocean like you’ve never seen before.

 

Nangyuan Island Dive Resort

This group of three tiny islands in the Gulf of Thailand is one of the best spots on Earth for underwater exploration.  These three islands are actually linked by pure white sandbars so all three are accessible by foot. For as little as $100 USD a night you can have your own private little island to call your own. The snorkeling and scuba diving here is incredible with sea caves, whales sharks and sea turtles to keep you entertained and mesmerized. This tropical location has 15 unique dive sites so you won’t get bored and your mind will be overloaded with stimulus.

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Destinations

Best Shows in Las Vegas

Vegas has all the gambling, shopping and eating you could handle and that doesn’t even include the countless shows you could see, but which are the best?

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Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world for a reason, there are more things to do here than anywhere else in the world. Vegas has all the gambling, shopping and eating you could handle and that doesn’t even include the countless shows you could see, but which are the best?  While rebranding the city as a family destination, Las Vegas still boils down to what hotel has the best casino, restaurants and shows. I chose my favorite shows for you to see in Vegas and why, so check it out and see some shows next time you are there.

 

All Shook Up

The King is alive in All Shook Up at Planet Hollywood in this awesome tribute show. Travis Allen is the master impersonator who perfectly embodies Elvis Presley in his voice, demeanor and stage presence. If you can handle the annoying screams of women lusting after Allen, then this show is great.

 

Blue Man Group

If you haven’t seen this sensory overload of a show then you need to fix that. The Blue Man Group is the ultimate in Vegas shows because it stimulates all the senses. Now at its new home at the Luxor in a specifically designed theater, just for their unique show, the Blue Boys are back and better than ever. Check out their show and scratch it off your list.

 

The Beatles: Love

The music of the Beatles mixed with the absurdity of a Cirque du Soleil show and you have the formula for an awesome evening. Head on over to The Mirage and checkout “Love” even if you aren’t a Beatles fan. It’s a true Vegas style show with tons of glitz and glamour and all your favorite classics from The Beatles.

  

Absinthe

Cruise on over to Caesars Palace and check out Absinthe, the seductive variety show is half Cirque-du-Soleil acrobatics and half brash comedy show with a dash of burlesque mixed in for sexuality. The show is meant to induce a form of hallucinations indicative of an Absinthe trip.   Seeing this show is like drinking the funky green drink, so be prepared for a crazy time at this adult only show.

 

Penn & Teller

What’s a trip to Vegas without some magic? A boring trip is what. You have to see Penn & teller because it’s an awesome show and you deserve to laugh after you lost all your money at blackjack. The kings of comedy magic will split your sides and make you wonder, “How the heck did they do that?”

 

Purple Reign

No trip to Vegas is complete without hitting the outskirt hotels for some real deals and possibly the best cover band in the world. Purple Reign is the Prince tribute show at the Westgate that will make you believe that Prince is still walking the Earth.

 

O

See Cirque du Soleil in a gigantic pool with acrobatics and synchronized swimming, yep, check that off your bucket list. The Bellagio is home to the famous fountains and O, the most impressive Cirque show to date. This show is so over-the-top that it could only happen in Vegas and at the Bellagio. If you want to see a Cirque show, this is the one to see first. Romantic and beautiful, it will pull at your heartstrings and stimulate your brain.

 

Le Reve

Le Reve is the Wynn’s answer to O, and it may even be better. This show strays away from a story and focuses more on the incredible skill of its performers. You won’t believe what you see in this aquatic master class in acrobatics and performance.

 

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