Austin was never on my radar until my brother moved there a few years ago. I did not know anything about it until then. I began hearing all about the music scene, its inclusive and friendly culture, and the interesting bars and coffee shops. So I finally booked a flight, and though it was only for a short few days, it was worth every dollar and hour of my time. My main aim was spending time with family and relaxing. At the same time, my boyfriend and I decided to stay a couple of nights in a hostel downtown so we could get the most value out of this lively, fun-driven place! I have broken down our trip so you can perhaps experience an impromptu weekend getaway that will recharge your batteries.
My brother recommended Native Hostel on East 4th Street ( www.nativehostels.com ) and he was so right! The ambiance of this hostel is a great mixture of partying and laying low. Half the place is a restaurant/bar, and the other half is one of the cleanest hostels I have ever stayed in. The beds are so comfortable and dressed in pristine white sheets, I never missed sleeping in my own bed for a second! This is coming from a 29-year-old who is growing out of the hostel and couchsurfing phase of life. The location is just on the other side of the highway from the main party scene in downtown, giving you a peaceful place to sleep while being a 5-10 min walking distance from what could be the wildest night of your life. Another aspect I loved about Native Hostel is that it can very well be a workplace for those doing home office. During the morning and afternoon hours, you will find people typing away on their laptops while sitting in comfortable sofas or at a long table with plugs. Now that I work online full-time, a place like Native Hostel is ideal to be productive, meet other digital nomads, and get a taste of Austin’s night life without ever having to leave the building.
The best way to truly get to know a city is by walking for hours without a specific plan. You can tackle this any way you want, but here are some of my favorite places to wander around:
360 Bridge – A highlight of our trip was visiting the 360 Bridge viewing point. I think I can let the pictures speak for themselves here. This is completely free. Bring a date or a coffee, and let the wind inspire you into bigger and better things!
Tiny Homes – When my brother mentioned we could check out some tiny homes at no cost, I was sold! I have been obsessing over this eco-friendly and minimalistic lifestyle since the MINIMALISM documentary came out in 2016 on Netflix. And while each year I manage to declutter my closet a little more, this is the first time I have a serious goal with a clear plan and deadline to truly call myself a minimalist. If you are curious about tiny homes, there are so many videos on YouTube showcasing a life that still feels luxurious and comfortable in a reduced and clutter-free space. If you are in Austin, take a look for yourself and visit Village Farm Tiny Homes on Canoga Avenue.
Congress Avenue – A long walk ending in the capitol building, you will want to stop for a coffee somewhere along the way. Try The Hideout coffee shop. The service was top notch, and they have performance and improv classes you might as well join while you are there!
6th street – the most well known party street in Austin, this is a must if it is your first time in this city. My boyfriend and I are no longer interested in long nights drinking beer, so we did not close the bars. But we did open a bar as we were the first ones to arrive! If you like games, consider having a cider at Recess Arcade Bar. It was great fun playing old school arcade games. Though some games are pricey, you can also play a fun round or two of jenga for free. It was a blast from the past, and I hope I get to return there next time!
4th street – has all the gay bars and coffee shops you need to keep you distracted. We stopped for a coffee at Halcyon, a quirky shop with pop culture art made out of sequence. From there, you can take a left on Lavaca Street and walk to your next destination…the Colorado river.
Colorado River – lining the main street called Cesar Chavez, you will be able to follow a path down to the Colorado river. It was lovely to see locals actually taking a stroll, fully dressed in business clothes. Even though we did not get to go kayaking due to the weather, my boyfriend and I still got recharged by that hour spent closer to nature. Walk the entire path heading East and soon enough you will hit my favorite street in Austin…
Rainey Street – we coincidentally saved the best for last. Rainey Street has a great restaurant and bar scene going on. It reminded me so much of Europe, especially on that cold and gray day. It was a romantic stroll that showed us Austin’s nightlife does not have to be as intense as 6th street. If you head over, try out the Container Bar (literally built out of containers).
Coming from Mexico City (where you can find countless vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the most popular neighborhoods) definitely made Austin feel like a long stretch. While many restaurants will have vegan dishes, you will often find your options are limited and extremely spicy. The best place I can recommend to have a vegan feast is Arlo’s Food Truck on Red River street. Sure, you can probably eat vegan donuts at Voodoo Donut, try the one vegan taco at Native Hostel, or slurp the one vegan ramen at Daruma…But if you really want to delight in vegan decadence, Arlo’s is the spot. Their burger and fries will kill any fast food craving, and their mac ‘n’ cheese is something I am still upset about not having back home. Arlo’s is also located right outside Cheer Up Charlie’s, a fun looking LGBT club I regret not going to (I guess I have more than one reason to go back!).
So there you have it, Austin is a city that has a little bit of everything for everyone’s taste and likes. The people were extremely welcoming. Growing up, I remember my social experiences being very compartmentalized. Tight social circles were mostly created by people of similar race and background. Austin proved to be the most inclusive and open minded city I have ever been to (including European cities). Now that the new year is in full swing, and days may start to get a bit dull, try out a little getaway to cheer up and add an extra boost of liveliness. I know I will be going back for more.
Also by Vanessa: Have Irrational Fears? How Therapy Helped Me Overcome Flight Phobia
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Photo: Vanessa Uzcategui