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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

The Most Ethical Tourist Destinations in 2017

There are spectacular destinations that are still doing their part to make the world a better place through their amazing ethical guidelines.

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When you travel you want to make sure that you are traveling responsibly. That is a very noble concern that a lot of people don’t really take all that seriously. However, traveling can indeed be very wasteful if you don’t pay attention. What you bring to travel as well as your destination can make a big difference in how environmental you are being while you travel. It is important to pack the right things but it is also important to try and support places that are doing their part to make a difference in the world. By giving these helpful places your money, you will help them exist and keep them moving forward. A lot of people think they have to sacrifice in order to travel somewhere that is ethically groovy, but that is just not the case. There are spectacular destinations filled with eye-catching delights and 5-star amenities that are still doing their part to make the world a better place through their amazing ethical guidelines.

 

Belize
Belize has recently been making huge leaps to switch over to renewable energy. There was a 10-island challenge made to the Carribean to try and get these islands switched off of using regular electricity and to explore renewable sources. Belize took this challenge and met it head on with their goal to ultimately become 100% renewable. THat is a lofty goal, but definitely an admirable one. Also, who doesn’t want to visit Belize?

 

Cape Verde
Cape Verde or Cabo Verde is a small island off the coast of West Africa. This place uses about 50% renewable energy and has been applauded for its work in the realm of gender equality. Cape Verde has become a goto for how to treat your nation and Planet Earth.

 

Chile
Chile is one of the best countries to visit in all of South America. It is beautiful and fun as well as being incredibly ethical. This country rocks an astounding 98% literacy rate. This country is also known for going above and beyond when it comes to taking care of their farm animals which is very admirable. There are so many reasons to visit this incredible country and now there are even more.

 

Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination already and now it should become even more popular thanks to its amazing environmental protection. This awesome country goes above-and-beyond to make sure that the beauty of the nature around these parts is here to stay for a very long time. It is really no wonder why Costa Rica was recently named the happiest country on Earth.

 

Dominica
Dominica is breathtakingly beautiful and amazingly ethical as well. The Carribean island does a big part to take a stand against the whaling industry and continues to wow with its ability to produce hydropower. Sustainable tourism is a big industry in Dominica, so you can travel here without adding much to your carbon footprint. Now that’s what I call an awesome vacation.

 

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Destinations

The New Luxury Hotel In Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

Now the Blue Lagoon is about to get even better thanks to a luxury hotel that is planning on opening directly next to the awesome warm bathing waters.

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The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is a tourist destination that has been growing in popularity each and every year. People flock from all over the world to visit this incredible geothermal spa. Located amongst a lava field these incredible mineral-rich waters that are so deep blue have to be seen to be believed. Now the Blue Lagoon is about to get even better thanks to a luxury hotel that is planning on opening directly next to the awesome warm bathing waters.

 

 

The Moss Hotel has 62 rooms, a delectable restaurant, appropriately named the Moss Restaurant, and a spa named Lava Cove. The goal of this town is to combine nature with luxury and hospitality. Not only is this place incredibly luxurious, and beautifully scenic, but it is environmentally responsible as well. The hotel will incredibly make use a geothermal power station that runs on waste seawater. So you can feel good about your stay and you can feel good at your stay as well when you take advantage of some awesome spa treatments.

 

 

This hotel looks seriously sick and it is so decadent that you will hate to check out. The location of this place leaves you right next to Iceland’s international airport so tourists can pop in just for a couple hours if they have a layover. Experiencing the beautiful rooms that look out onto the lagoon is something that will stick with you for the rest of your life.

 

 

Laid upon the volcanic rock, the setting for the Moss Hotel is truly awe-inspiring. No matter what side you’re looking out at, you will be blown away by Iceland’s stunning beauty. The restaurant celebrates Icelandic cuisine by bringing flavors from all the different parts that make Iceland so special. You will have food that literally comes from all over this amazing island. Your taste buds will take you on an adventure from the mountains, down to the farmlands, then all the way to the oceans. Experience the finest food that the country of Iceland has to offer and you will be blown away by just how fantastic all the fresh flavors really are.

 

 

The spa is actually carved into the 800-year-old lava flow which is something simply to marvel at. You can’t have a hotel here with a spa that does not take advantage of the Blue Lagoon, that would be a complete waste and the Moss Hotel’s spa does not drop the ball. You will feel like you’re on an alien planet when you hit this spa. Now, that is how it’s done.

A visit to Iceland is not complete without a trip to the Blue Lagoon so might as well stay there in style at one of the 62 rooms inside the Moss Hotel. You will never be treated as well as you are inside this unbelievable luxury hotel and the sites to see are unparalleled. This place knows how to do a luxurious hotel stay.

 

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Destinations

Oh, My Gourd! The Best Pumpkin Events Across The United States.

Some places around this great country take celebrating the pumpkin to new levels with these unbelievable pumpkin related events.

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It’s Halloween season which means it is time to celebrate all things pumpkin. Pumpkin spiced products of all shapes and sizes are being pumped out in every direction. Jack-o-lanterns are being carved and pumpkin pies are being doled out left and right. The pumpkin is a magical gourd that really gives off the feeling of fall. You will celebrate the season every time you see a jack-o’-lantern and when it comes to pumpkins there really is so much to enjoy. Some places around this great country take celebrating the orange gourd to new levels with these unbelievable pumpkin related events.

 

The Great Jack-O’-Lantern Blaze
This fantastic event is held at the Van Cortlandt Manor, a historic place in New York. Here you will find thousands of jack-o’-lanterns made up into some absolutely breathtaking figures. Each jack-o’-lantern has its own face but is also a part of something much bigger. Here you will find a statue of liberty made out of jack-o’-lanterns, dinosaurs and even a carousel that somehow spins. You can enjoy a walk across a pumpkin bridge and hang out in a planetarium that will seriously flip you out.

 

World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off
The beautiful Half Moon Bay is the scene of this insane competition. The Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off brings farmers from around the country together to show off who can grow the biggest gourd in the world. The only way they can move these giant gourds around is with forklifts and special straps and you will be astounded by just how big these things can get. Last year’s winner was a pumpkin that weighed 2,363 lbs. Now that is a lot of pumpkin pies!

 

The Pumpkin Festival
Now, this festival might not have the most creative name, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an unbelievable site worth seeing. This fest has set the record 8 different times for having the most jack-o’-lanterns lit at one time. That is pretty unbelievable. ONce you check out all of the jack-o-lanterns then be sure to give the children’s costume parade a look. There is nothing cuter than a bunch of children marching around in their little costumes. You can also see some super fun dance performances that are dedicated to the awesome season of Autumn.

 

Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta
If you’ve ever seen a pumpkin catapult then you know it is something that has to be seen to be believed. You get to see these giant gourds launched high into the air only to come slamming down onto the ground and breaking into a million slimy pieces. There is also a pumpkin derby as well which is definitely a crackup. The last event is the best though, it is called the Pumpkin Regatta. In this race, competitors make boats out of giant pumpkins and race around an obstacle course. There is one race for paddleboats and one for powerboats. Both races are a true crackup to witness.

 

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