“Keep Austin Weird”, that is their motto and yes Austin was a bit weird. It attracts a lot of hipsters and seemed to be completely different to any other place in Texas. There was live music everywhere and it really lived up to its name as the ‘Live Music Capital of America’. There were even signs everywhere warning that particular zones were “Active Musician Loading Only”.
We arrived at our accommodation, Firehouse Hostel, in the evening. If you don’t mind sharing rooms then I recommend you stay at this hostel. It was well set up, clean and well run. Also it is in a great location to explore the infamous Sixth Street. We grabbed some pizza for dinner and a few beers and settled into the hostel kitchen to drink with some fellow travellers. A group of us went out to explore Sixth Street that night and we were able to catch some live rock music. Sixth Street was pretty crazy and we had a great night on cheap Lone Star beers.
The next day we grabbed a great breakfast at the hostel (bagels, pancakes, anything you wanted) and went for a walk to La Barbecue to wait in the queue for some meat. The most famous barbecue place in Austin is called Franklin BBQ and you have to wait in line for 4 hours to get a meal! People wait with beers and deck chairs. We toyed with this idea, but decided it would be a bit crazy to spend a lot of the limited time we had in Austin waiting in a queue!
The locals told us that La Barbecue was just as good and that the lines would not be as bad. They were right; we only had to wait about 45 minutes. We ordered the beef brisket that had been cooked for 14 hours, the pork ribs, the turkey and a sausage. It was a lot of meat but we managed to get through all of it! It was the best barbecue we had ever eaten. The Texans just do barbecue so well!
That afternoon we headed out to Hamilton Pool with some friends we had made, which is about 45 minutes outside of Austin. It is a natural swimming hole right in the middle of the desert. Even though it is spring the temperatures are way warmer than what we are used to back in New Zealand. Diving into that sweet cold water was heavenly.
That evening we went down to the bridge in the city centre of Austin to see the bats. What, bats? Yes so we were unaware of this phenomenon that occurs in Austin until another traveller mentioned it to us. Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in the world. “Ew” you say? Yes they did smell pretty bad. Under the Congress Avenue Bridge hang 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. They migrate from Mexico in the spring to various sites in southwestern USA to breed. Around sunset they emerge from under the bridge in a huge cloud in order to feed. We had a vantage spot over the middle of the bridge, it turned out to be a good place because we were able to see thousands of bats circling under the bridge just after sunset. It was amazing to watch. Unfortunately we did not get to see the bat cloud cover the sky because the bats only ended up flying out when it was too dark. If you want to see some awesome videos then have a look on YouTube, its pretty insane.
We grabbed some Mexican food and headed out drinking again with some people from the hostel. Our livers are going to need a break after Austin! This time we went to Rainey Street, which is a bit more chilled than Sixth Street. We had another fantastic night, which included some bar-counter dancing (maybe not so chilled). Policemen on horses, at around 2am, kicked us off the streets. The bars close here a lot earlier than they do at home.
On our last morning in Austin we checked out the suburb of South Congress (SoCo). There were a lot of great second hand stores and trendy shops in general. Andrew bought a fantastic cowboy shirt that had a Sasquatch wearing a wristwatch embroidered on it. Sounds weird, but hey, we are in Austin. After grabbing some delicious Tex Mex tacos, we set off on a mission to find me some Cowgirl boots! Why, you ask, were we buying all this Texan clothing? Well we were heading to a big rodeo event the next day, so stay tuned for our Abilene post! We ended up finding an awesome shop called Monkies Vintage and Thrift, and I bought some great leather boots for US$40. Right next door to the thrift store was a conspiracy shop that was selling all sorts of anti-establishment material. Looking through their books and pamphlets gave great insight into cultures from libertarianism to anarchism and 9/11 conspiracy theories. It’s a really fascinating fringe culture but we were not drinking the Kool-Aid so we moved on.
After only two nights in Austin it was time to leave. We really enjoyed ourselves here and the barbecue was second to none.
Here is a breakdown of our costs for 3 days:
Budget = US$690 (NZ$1,000)
Accommodation – US$187
Activities – US$5
Food/Drink – US$328
Miscellaneous (Petrol, cowboy stuff etc) – US$141
Total spent – US$661 (NZ$978)
So we ended up being US$29 (NZ$43) under budget. Austin was a lot cheaper than we thought, and you could probably do it cheaper than we did.