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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

Just Because It’s Winter Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Dream About An Island Vacation

It may be the dead of winter at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t fantasize about taking a warm and relaxing island vacation! Here are the most beautiful island the United States has to offer. 

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Islands are the best. Nothing truly embodies getting away like riding a boat out to a beautiful island and relaxing by the sea while enjoying the island vibes. When people think about islands in the United States they usually think of one place, Hawaii. Of course, they’re not wrong to think that. Why wouldn’t they? Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on planet Earth. However, there are a ton of different islands all over the United States that are spectacular as well.

We have compiled a list of all the most beautiful islands all over the United States for you to enjoy on your next vacation.

DRY TORTUGAS ISLANDS, FLORIDA

Head down to the Florida Keys to visit the beautiful Dry Tortugas Islands. How great is this list? The first island destination we mention is actually seven islands! This place is home to some out of this world snorkeling and if swimming underwater isn’t your thing then you can just kick back and still experience some of the most incredible wildlife Florida has to offer. The reason the snorkeling is so good here is that most of this national park is underwater and it is also protected so that means the coral reef has thrived as of late and where there is a thriving coral reef, there is amazing snorkeling. You also can’t visit Dry Tortugas without visiting Fort Jefferson, the massive unfinished fortress that literally surrounds one of the islands that is composed of over 16 million bricks.

KIAWAH ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA

This island is about 25 miles southwest of Charleston and is an outdoorsy-type of person’s vacation paradise. There are tons of hiking and biking trails all over this island as well as excellent canoe or kayaking. Beautiful parks and beaches cover this island, as well as unbelievable golf courses. Keep your camera at the ready because you can catch a glimpse of alligators, bobcats, and tons and tons of birds, including America’s favorite the bald eagle. Also, Dan Marino lives there, so if it’s good enough for Dan Marino, it’ good enough for you.

SAINT SIMONS ISLAND, GEORGIA

The Timucua tribe first settled on this island back in 2000 B.C. and you can still find parts of their history here on this island, as well as those from Spanish, French and English settlers. Not only does this island have a rich history, it’s also rich with golf courses. This island is a golfers dream but also a hikers dream as well. There are many golf courses, and there are also tons of hiking trails that weave all throughout this island paradise. If you feel like just relaxing then come hang out on the killer beaches or go sailing. The activities are plentiful on this wonderful island. 

 

MACKINAC ISLAND, MICHIGAN

For all of you history buffs, Mackinac Island is the place for you. This island is full of Victorian houses and horse-drawn carriages. Mackinac Island will truly make you feel like you’ve transported back in time. Beautiful hiking and biking make this island a must, as well as the delicious homemade fudge.

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Destinations

Catch The Freshest Powder At America’s Best Ski Spots

If you’re looking for the best skiing in America, look no further than these awesome spots. 

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Ski season is in full swing and all across America, people are hitting the slopes for some good old fashioned fun in the snow. It’s one of our favorite past times and there are so many great places to get some good skiing in throughout the country. So if you’ve got the itch and are planning to take yourself a ski weekend sometime soon, why not do it at some of the best slopes in the country!

Here is our list of the absolute best ski destinations in America. Have you been to all of them? If not, what are you waiting for?!

TAOS, NEW MEXICO

People don’t often think if skiing when they think of New Mexico, but the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains finds itself in this beautiful state and allows for some truly amazing skiing. In Taos in particular, people come from miles around to navigate their unusually long and narrow slopes. But don’t worry, they still have plenty of bunny hills and more amateur-friendly runs for the less-experienced skier.

BIG SKY, MONTANA

Montana is one of the most beautiful states in the country and naturally their skiing is no exception. And then best skiing in Montana is easily in the aptly named city of Big Sky. The views are absolutely incredible in every direction, including a glimpse of Yellowstone National Park itself to the southeast. The slopes here start as high as 4,350 feet and there are over 5,800 acres of skiable land. Amazing.

JAY, VERMONT

Placed ever so delicately just under the US-Canada border, this little ski town is as quaint as it gets. Not only is the town itself adorably scenic and more laid-back than most, but the skiing is actually pretty awesome too! And if you go at just the right time of year, you can hit the Jay Peak Resort water park after a morning on the slopes for a little surf and turf!

STOWE, VERMONT

We stay in cozy Vermont for our next great ski spot, Stowe. It’s a little resort town that sits right at the base of Vermont’s highest mountain. And you’re not going to believe this… but it’s charming as all heck! The massive Mount Mansfield attracts adrenaline junkies from all around the world every year for its many awesome slopes. And if you want to get the full ski weekend experience, stay at the Stowe Mountain Lodge that sits right at the base of Mount Mansfield.

MAMMOTH LAKES, CALIFORNIA

Plenty of people around the country like to bash on California and its residents, but there’s no denying it’s one of the most beautiful states in the country. The unique combination of perfect beaches and breathtaking mountains, all within a couple hours of each other, makes it truly one of a kind.

And in terms of just skiing, Mammoth Lakes has some of the best you’ll find in all of America. But there’s more than just great skiing there! If you’re the sight-seeing type, you have to check out Rainbow Falls in Devils Postpone National Monument. It’s pretty darn beautiful!

NORTH CONWAY, NEW HAMPSHIRE

A mere three hours north of Boston you will find this idyllic little ski town. North Conway features an especially scenic valley and has some of the highest annual snowfalls in all the country. It’s not uncommon for the ski seasons to start in November and go all the way to May in this area of New Hampshire. So you have no excuses for not making it up there! And if you need any extra motivation, New Hampshire doesn’t have sales tax!

BRECKENRIDGE, COLORADO

OK… now I know I’ve talked a lot about the most beautiful states in the country… but I really feel like Colorado has got to be in the top two. Every time I’m in Colorado I can just barely contain myself while looking in literally any direction. It’s just so, so beautiful. As for skiing in Colorado, it doesn’t really get better than Breckenridge.

It can get a little pricey though, so be sure to book your trip in advance. Believe me, it’ll be worth it!

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Destinations

Escape It All With These Secluded Vacation Destinations

If you’re looking to avoid people as much as possible on your next vacation, these are the spots for you. 

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For many of us, one of the best parts of going on vacation is just getting the heck away from all of it. And that most certainly includes people! Getting some quality alone time in a new and beautiful place can do wonders for the soul. So if this sounds like the perfect vacation for you, then check out these amazing destinations that also come with the least amount of people!

PAPINGO, GREECE

We all know how beautiful the Mediterranean is. It’s an incredible area of the world that’s always a worthy vacation destination. But this quaint mountain town is the best option if you’re looking to avoid the crowds and tourists. It also offers some of the best natural river swimming holes and hiking trails in all of Greece.

LA DIGUE, SEYCHELLES

La Digue is one of the over 100 small islands found off the coast of East Africa. And it’s really the only one you need to know about! Because it’s a perfectly secluded and peaceful vacation destination. Almost everyone that lives there only travels by bike and there are literally zero traffic lights on the island. And the beaches simply can’t be beat.

LOFOTEN ISLANDS, NORWAY

When seclusion and nature are top priorities for your vacation, any of the Nordic countries are always a great place to start. And one of the best spots in Norway is easily the Lofoten Islands. Depending on the time of year you visit, you can do just about anything here. From surfing to skiing, to fishing and hiking, these islands have it all.

Not to mention you’ll have a great view of the Northern Lights if they’re in town and can often enjoy some 24-hour sunlight!

THE PEAK DISTRICT, ENGLAND

I mean… it’s the English countryside! You gotta love the English countryside. There are few places greener and every little village is quainter than the last. The Peak District is probably the best option if you’re looking to take in this famous countryside, as it offers many worthwhile historic attractions, and the Peak District National Park offers wonderful outdoor activities.

HSIPAW, MYANMAR

If you’re looking for a truly unique vacation experience while also going off the beaten path, that Hispaw should be at the top of your list. It’s actually a Shan royal city and carries with it incredible history to both look at and learn about. It also carries with it famously chill vibes so it provides a perfect mixture of relaxing and stimulating.

MONTEZUMA, COSTA RICA

Revenge will be the last thing on your mind when you vacation in Montezuma. In fact, it’s likely you’ll never feel more at peace than when you’re in this perfect little beach town. Montezuma is a bit of a “hippie secret” as well and you’ll be sure to meet plenty of interesting artists and musicians while you’re there. This place is perfect for relaxing on the beach all day and enjoying the company of fascinating people all night.

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