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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 Best Pumpkin Patches In America

Halloween is right around the corner and that means it is that time of year to start checking out pumpkin patches. But which patches are the best? Where can you find that perfect pumpkin to make the absolute best jack-o-lantern?There are plenty of fantastic pumpkin patches throughout this great country of ours and we talked […]

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Halloween is right around the corner and that means it is that time of year to start checking out pumpkin patches. But which patches are the best? Where can you find that perfect pumpkin to make the absolute best jack-o-lantern?
There are plenty of fantastic pumpkin patches throughout this great country of ours and we talked to our colleagues to find out which ones rank the best around the country.
So pack up your bags and prepare to visit the absolute best pumpkin patches that the United States have to offer.

 

 

The Great Pumpkin Farm, Clarence, N.Y.
This patch is fantastic for its award-winning gourds but it’s not just pumpkins that make this patch worth visiting. You can also see incredible scarecrows being made and catch some awesome pumpkin slingshots. Mummys also get wrapped here and there is a hilarious play known as the Cackling-Hen Revue. You can visit this patch again and again as there is something new every single weekend at this amazing farm. You can find pie eating, concerts or even awesome barbecue at the Oinktoberfest. You will find plenty of delectable treats and a world of fantastic entertainment at The GReat Pumpkin Farm.

 

 

Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm, Lockport, Illinois
Take a trip an hour outside of Chicago to Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm. This is definitely a place where you can spend the whole day either picking pumpkins or exploring the enormous 15-acre corn maze. If you happen to find your way out of the maze then try to topple tire mountain or climb aboard the giant wooden rocking chair. This destination has a lot of fun for kids too as there is a baby chick nursery and a petting zoo so you can be sure to snap plenty of classic pictures of your family enjoying Autumn on the beautiful Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm.

 

 

Tom Thumb Pumpkin Patch, Dallas, Texas
Head on over to the Tom THumb Pumpkin Patch to witness 90,000 pumpkins all arranged in a dizzying array of awesomeness. This place creates an entire Pumpkin Village for you to enjoy with your family. This might be the most family-friendly destination on this list and your kids will be begging to go back again and again for the Cinderella Pumpkin Carriage and the awesome hay bale maze. Head over to the Dallas Arboretum to enjoy this amazing Fall wonder.

 

 

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch, Gretna, Nebraska
Vala’s Pumpkin Patch has no shortage of entertainment contained within. In fact, you will find over 50 unique attractions from golf to bumper cars. Don’t worry, they have plenty of food too, so you can spend a whole day or even a whole week enjoying this unbelievable pumpkin patch.

 

 

Pumpkin Hollow, Piggott, Arkansas
If you’re focused on just pumpkins then head to Pumpkin Hollow as it is one of the biggest pumpkin growers in the country. There are plenty of other attractions to enjoy as well, such as a zip line and a pedal tractor so after you find the perfect gourd you can spend the rest of your time really enjoying everything this pumpkin patch has to offer.

 

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Destinations

The Most Unbelievable Surfing Destinations

Pack up your bags, but don’t forget your surfboard and head to one of the world’s best surf destinations.

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So you like to hang ten on some tubular waves. That’s cool, but are you getting tired of shredding the same waves on the same beaches with the same boneheads? Then it’s time to get out there and experience surfing in other beautiful destinations across the world. You will be blown away at how much gnarlier it is to go shred with some killer bros and babes that don’t speak the same language as you. You will most likely learn a lot and even catch some waves that are different from the ones you see. There is nothing as thrilling as redefining surfing as you know it by hanging ten out of town. So pack up your bags, but don’t forget your surfboard and head to one of the world’s best surf destinations.

 

Ulu Watu, Bali
When most people think of Ulu Watu, Bali they think of the old Hindu temple that outdates all other Bali Hindu temples. Either that or they think “Whoa, what a gnarly name!” But many people don’t know that Ulu Watu is also home to some seriously awesome waves that are killer to surf in. If you visit the temple you can look down off the cliffs and see surfers getting their shred on. You’ll want to jump off the cliff and join the surfers below. However, don’t jump off the cliff, there are much easier ways to get down with far less risk of serious injury. Once you get down there you’ll surf the day away.

 

Bundoran, Ireland
This is one place where you’ll need to pack a wetsuit. Bundoran is known as a “cold water Eden” because there are constant swells that are awesome to surf. Most people don’t associate Ireland with surfing but a quick walk through the town would leave you to believe that Ireland has always been a surfer’s paradise. There are plenty of awesome surf shops and even restaurants and cafes offer discounts to visiting surfers. Now that’s what I call totally tubular!

 

 

Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
No surfing list would be complete without mentioning wonderful South Africa. In fact, this is where the pros surf during the Billabong Pro ASP World Tour surfing competition. This place is well known as one of the best-surfing destinations in the world and was even featured in films, has anyone heard of Endless Summer? Yeah, it was filmed here. Now it’s time for you to enjoy your own endless summer by hopping on a plane and hitting Jeffreys Bay.

 

 

Huntington Beach, CA
Huntington Beach is what is known by locals as Surf City, U.S.A. which is why tons of surfers flock over here to see the wonder that is a total surfer’s paradise. They have a bunch of different beaches that are good for different types of surfers. If you ride a longboard you hit one beach and if you ride a shortboard you hit another. Now that’s what I call surfing convenience.

 

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Destinations

Check Out America’s Best Halloween Attractions

We have compiled a list of the scariest Halloween attractions we’ve ever seen that are all guaranteed to spook you silly.

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Halloween is our favorite time of year. What better time to go get super spooked and then go home and hide under your blankets until the sun comes up the next day? I can’t think of a better way to spend my time than to be completely terrified. The problem is, once you’ve been thoroughly freaked, then it’s hard to freak off again.
We have compiled a list of the scariest Halloween attractions we’ve ever seen that are all guaranteed to spook you silly.

 

 

Erebus Haunted Attraction
If you’re looking to scream then head to Pontiac, MI. Here you’ll find the Erebus which is a huge 4-story haunted house that is chocked full of spooky stuff. You’ll have plenty of time to tour the gigantic house but just make sure you have someone to squeeze on or else you might just go loony.

 

 

Bennett’s Curse
In Jessup, MD you will find the award-winning Bennett’s Curse. A haunted attraction that is truly one-of-a-kind and utilizes technology to ensure you are one scared mama. There are 3 houses to fit your personal preference, you can get scared by vampires, zombies or just head to the Sanctuary of Insanity if you’re feeling a little cuckoo.

 

Witches of New Salem
Watches of New Salem is a corn maze that is a tad more frightful than the rest. You will take a tour of this horrifying maze all while being stalked by some serious creeps. You will shriek with fright. Be sure to bring an extra pair of underwear.

 

 

Dent Schoolhouse
This haunted schoolhouse in Cincinnati is fun because it plays on an old history. According to the legend of the Dent Schoolhouse, there was a very naughty janitor who killed the students that made fun of him. So, they decide to take you on a tour of this place right around Halloween. If that doesn’t sound eerie then I think you need to get your eerie meter checked.

 

Hangman’s House of Horrors
This place in Fort Worth, TX has a wild collection of terrifying attractions. Like the Dent Schoolhouse it is also based on a legend, the legend of Hezekiah Jones. Our favorite has to be the Hillbillies Revenge but they’re all fun and tantalizingly terror-filled. But if you have some lily-livered friends along for the ride, they don’t have to go to the scary houses, they can spend their time singing karaoke or listening to live music.

 

 

Terror Behind the Walls
this place used to be a horrible prison in Pensylvania but now it is just used for making your spine tingle. You can hit the outdoor garden maze or just take a tour of the ghostly prison insides. Either way, you will leave this prison shaking with fear. This is definitely one trip to remember.

 

 

ESP’s Night Watch
The Eastern State Penitentiary is a super-old prison that many say is haunted. It sure looks haunted too. What’s so crazy about this haunted prison tour is that you’re not lead anywhere. You just get handed a flash light and you explore all on your own. Now that’s spooky!

 

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