I’ve traveled the majority of my life and yet, I’ve never hated anything more than feeling like a tourist. Obviously, it’s inevitable—you can’t visit Washington DC without seeing the Mall or London without riding on the Eye or Cleveland without visiting the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. However, I think there’s something to be said for trying the local (or at least the more unknown) places.
So, that’s my mission, to bring the local flavor of a city to your visit (which arguably should still include all the museums and sightseeing you want). This week, I’m focusing on Austin, Texas!
Austin is home to a lot of beautiful nature, but particularly there’s a bounty of swimming holes, such as Hamilton Pool and Barton Springs Pool, which are also nature reserves. You can swim, sunbathe or hang out with friends—just make sure to check the park website before you go, because depending on the depth of the water, rangers may not allow swimming.
Polvos Mexican Restaurant is famous for its salsa bar, but more importantly, it is one of many Austin restaurants to draw the line between “Tex-Mex” and “interior Mexican” food. Polvos, along with many others, is firmly in the latter category and serves food from the Oxaca and Puebla regions.
Ready to see a cult-classic? How about a new release? One of the twenty-two Alamo Drafthouses provides for all your movie-viewing needs, with flair. Although the Drafthouse provides dinner and drinks, it is most notorious for enforcing strict cinema etiquette.
If you’re 21+, meander on over to The Whip In! It’s a craft beer bar with an Indian-style Tex-Mex-inspired pub, which sounds like amazing fusion cuisine, right?
About an hour from Austin’s city center, Longhorn Cavern State Park provides stunning views of river-carved rock. In the 1920s, the caverns were used as a speakeasy, and currently, you can host an event in the biggest cavern! You can walk through some part on your own, but to go deeper and darker into the caverns, you’ll need a guide—and a headlamp!
Voted Best Ice Cream by the Austin Chronicle eight years in a row, Amy’s Ice Creams offers over 300 flavors of both ice cream and fruit ices, although only seven flavors are standard. However, the funnest part about Amy’s is that the employees often do tricks while serving the ice cream—such as passing cones under their legs or throwing ice cream!
In Austin, aside from spring, summer, fall, and winter, there’s a fifth season: bat season! During the summer, take a boat to watch the bats fly out from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge (which houses the largest urban bat colony in the world) at sunset. Have your camera at the ready!
A tradition since 1967, the annual lighting of the Zilker Holiday Tree is a festivity you can’t miss! The tree consists of 3000 lights hung from a moonlight tower, as a part of Austin’s Festival of Lights. It’s hard to explain, so just look:
Some cities specialize in brunch. Well, Austin specializes in breakfast tacos—there are endless types, endless combinations and an endless amount of restaurants to try. Everyone has their favorite, so ask around!
A free summer concert series, Blues on the Green, is an eclectic mix of blues, country and Latin music ensembles, all based on local Austin artists! With crowds in the 1000s, it’s best to get there early to spread out a picnic blanket and claim your spot for the evening!
If you love vinyl albums, VHS tapes and all those forgotten one-hit wonders, head to End of an Ear Records! Check out the variety of staff favorites or attend a new-arrival listening party!
Want amazing music with minimal cost? Then come to Austin during Free Week, where bars, lounges and concert venues all over the city host free performances of local bands. Many locals refer to it as their cure for the post-holiday blues!
In a fairy-lit courtyard, Kebabalicious serves organic Turkish doner kebabs as live music plays all night long. There’s also a food truck that moves around to all of Austin’s festivals!
The Austin Texas Roller Derby is a beloved local experience, as Flat Track Derby started in Austin. Go and cheer on the Texas Rollergirls in the “BloodShed,” which is what they call their practice facility, or for a slightly bigger venue, check them out in the Austin Convention Center!
Make yourself feel better about your messy room by visiting Austin’s Cathedral of Junk. Found in quiet suburban neighborhood, it’s invisible from the street because it’s wrapped in leaves. However, if you visit, make sure to bring along a piece of junk—the creator has been adding to the piece since its inception in 1988!
If you love your hometown or have a city you’re particularly familiar with, and want to show tourists what the locals love, please contact me at [email protected] and I’ll happily sit down with you to work out an article that showcases your love for your city.
Image Credit: austintexas.gov, roadsideamerica.com, wildtexas.com