Onto the second part of our trip across the pond! We flew on to Austin, the capital city of Texas, from Newark on the 7th. It’s a really short flight, and something I love is that the time on your ticket is almost always longer than the actual time of the flight, meaning that it’s way shorter than expected! I’ve been to Austin many many times in the past, as my grandma has been living there since I was eight. It’s genuinely one of my favourite places to visit, with the mixture of home comforts, tropical weather and a city-worth of restaurants, shops, and activities to keep you occupied. I’ll try to cram as much into this post as possible, but there will be things that we’ve done in Austin over the past 14 years or so that I can barely remember! Look out for a second This is… Austin post in the far-off future for further recommendations!
In a clear continuation of our attitude towards New York, we based many of our plans in Austin around food. The first night we were there – after being picked up from Austin-Bergstrom airport, which is the nearest airport to the actual city that I’ve ever been to – we managed to fit in Rudy’s Bar-B-Q, which has hands down the best brisket I’ve ever had (and it’s called moist. That’s it, just moist). I don’t know if they have Rudy’s elsewhere in Texas, but if you like meat then you’ve got to get yourself there. Even the sides are awesome, the creamed corn actually on a par with the brisket for tastiness. For afters, we popped down to The Domain, which has a popular street for restaurants and bars, called Rock Rose. We stopped at Jack & Ginger’s, which was a pub with a myriad of craft beer and cider to choose from. You’ll notice if you’ve spent any time in Austin that craft beer has become VERY big over there, really only in the past couple of years. I don’t think we went to a bar without at least 10 IPAs to choose from!
Our first full day in Austin was really laid back. We took full advantage of the pool in the garden, did some sunbathing and swimming. They have this awesome concept over there of movie/diner-type places, where you can watch a movie and order and eat dinner at the same time. The Moviehouse and Eatery in Austin is brilliant, although unfortunately the choice of film was not! It’s quite a unique experience which I would really recommend giving a go. We went on to the brewery at the Oasis, which is up on a hill overlooking Lake Travis. Get there about 15 minutes before sunset, grab a cold beer/cider/wine/soda (age/preference dependent!), and just sit and watch the sun slip beyond the horizon. It’s such a beautiful area of Austin, and a truly contemplative, serene moment, perfect for a vacation evening.
We then headed down to San Antonio for the weekend. San Antonio is a city about an hour and a half’s drive away from Austin, perfect for a little weekend trip. We often head down there whilst we’re on holiday, primarily for the famous Riverwalk, but also for the history surrounding the Alamo building, and of course the great food! We kickstarted the weekend with an amazing meal atop the 750-foot-high Tower of the Americas. You can see across the whole of San Antonio, and the Chart House, the restaurant where we ate, actually rotates, so you get a 360 degree view of the city. They have wonderful seafood and steak, and we of course had to get the chocolate lava cake for dessert. A truly memorable evening, and definitely the best food of the whole trip.
Day two in San Antonio meant only one thing: Six Flags!! Six Flags Fiesta Texas is only a fifteen minute drive from San Antonio, and it’s an awesome amusement park. They have both rollercoasters and water rides, and a proper water park too. We had a bit of a slow start – there was a huge downpour and thunderstorm just as we were queueing for our first ride, so we had to exit that, and then when we returned the queue was twice as long (obviously). But we actually ended up fitting in plenty of rides. The Batman rollercoaster was terrifying, Iron Rattler was probably the best one, although Poltergeist is my favourite (they shoot you out from standing at like 65mph). We also did the rapids, the log flume, and a mousetrap-style rollercoaster. If you’re a fan of rollercoasters, I’d seriously recommend getting to a Six Flags park. Yes, it was a weekend, so yes, some of the waiting times were extortionate, but it was hands down the most fun day of our holiday!
Dinner on the Riverwalk is a must if you’re staying in San Antonio. The Riverwalk is kind of the American version of a riverside village in the Cotswolds, with cafes and bakeries lining the streets (although replace cafes and bakeries with restaurants and bars. Obvs). We ended up at County Line, which is another great barbecue place. Matt and I shared the Smokehouse platter, which came with a portion of every type of meat that they served (YUM). There’s plenty of bars along the river, so we picked one of those and had cocktails, although not before we had been tothe Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory! This is a must-visit for me anytime we go to San Antonio. They do all types of handmade chocolates and fudge, along with their signature chocolate-, toffee-, and everything-else-covered apples, which are just insane. Some of them have more chocolate than apple. Seriously. If you have a sweet tooth, and you see one of these stores, definitely take a look around. I know there’s more than one store but I’m not sure whether they operate outside of Texas or not.
Sunday morning, after an IHOP breakfast (do iiiiitttt), we headed round the compulsory historical elements of San Antonio, primarily the Alamo. It’s a great part of American and Texan history, and to be able to still walk through the building is fantastic. They’ve got a little museum and courtyard around the side which are really informative but not too overwhelming (although some of it is outside – beware of the heat!).
Back in Austin, we visited family and generally had a travel/lazy day. I got to meet one of my cousins for the first time since she was a newborn, and let me tell you, she is GORGEOUS. We all took a trip to Front Porch, which is one my favourite places to go in Austin. It’s basically an ice-cream place, but where you can create your own concoctions. There will be 10 or so flavours of ice-cream and frozen yoghurt, and more toppings than you can imagine, and you just pick the size of tub or cone that you want and go crazy. It always tastes amazing and it’s quite an experience!
After heading back to Austin on the Sunday, we had an amazingly relaxed week before we had to head home. We sunbathed, mad use of the pool, and basically just shopped and ate our way around the city. Some shopping highlights were, of course, Sephora and Ulta (hauls to come), and the Premium Outlets at San Marcos, which is a bit of a trek out of Austin but so worth it for the discounts – I picked up a new Kate Spade cross-body bag and a purse for under $100. I’d definitely recommend!
Food-wise, we really made the most of the time we had! We ate out every night, and had a couple of lunch trips out as well. Some highlights were Maggiano’s (insane Italian), Billy’s on Burnet (insane Texas chilli), Mia Tapas (Italian tapas!), and some old favourites like Krispy Kreme and Cheesecake Factory. I’d also recommend Pour House, which does ‘pint and pies’, but for all you British peeps out there, pies means pizza, not actual pies. This really disappointed my dad when he visited last year! But the list of craft beer and cider is awesome, and the pizzas are pretty amazing, despite not being real pies!
Both Maggiano’s and Mia Tapas are at the Domain, and there’s some great places to head to after dinner for some drinks. Our last night, after Maggiano’s, we headed to Brass Tap, which is probably a 20 second walk from the restaurant. It’s in one of the busiest parts of the Domain, so you can sit outside and people-watch to your heart’s content. They also have a pretty impressive beer menu, plus wine, cocktails, and mead for anyone brave enough! There’s enough bars and eateries about here that you can just head over, wander around, and pick somewhere that looks good. I’ve yet to hear a bad review!
During our week in Austin, we did manage to squeeze in a few touristy activities, mainly for Matt’s benefit. One place I would recommend that we didn’t visit is the Bob Bullock Museum – it provides a great overview of Texas history, and is really interactive, with regular special exhibitions. We did head over to the Capitol, the home of Texas state legislature, which is always a unique experience. You can just walk in a have a walk around, and as long as it’s not in session, you can even get into the actual rooms where politicians debate and decide on laws. Finally, we visited the LBJ Library. In the US, every past president has their own ‘library’ which, as well as being an actual library, is usually part museum. Of course, this one centres around Lyndon Johnson, but the museum itself is fascinating. If you have one touristy day in Austin, I would recommend both the Capitol and the LBJ Library – they’re only about a 5 minute drive from one another, and they’re both so unparalleled in both the information one gets and the experience one has.
Although I can’t really comment on the places available to stay in and around Austin, I can highly recommend it as a place to visit. It’s great for a fun-packed weekend visit, but equally as perfect for an extended stay, and even for a relaxing summer holiday – just make sure you’ve got access to an outdoor space! There’s so much to do for those who want to, but the city itself is so laid-back for those who prefer a real getaway. I have to say that Austin is hands down my favourite place to go on holiday to, and probably the only place abroad where I would consider living more permanently. If you’re looking for a US vacation, or another stop on a road trip, then check Austin out – you won’t regret it.