• Roxii Hoare-Smith

Why I Fell in Love with Austin, Texas

Updated: Dec 28, 2019

If you know me in person or just from social media, then you’ll probably know how much I go on about how I LOVE Austin.

When planning our trip around America we originally discussed Dallas and possibly stopping by Austin. I hadn’t heard much about Austin but my travel buddy (thank you Natalie!!!) had heard good things so suggested we include the city in our itinerary.

Flights to Dallas didn’t work out well so we decided on a few days just in Austin between New Orleans and Las Vegas and I am SO happy we decided to go. It was my favourite stop on the trip and I’ve already booked a flight to return this summer.

But why do I love Austin so much!? Here’s why….

The Food

My favourite thing about Austin (and every place I visit) is the food! Austin is all about Texas BBQ and Tex Mex so if you are visiting then ensure you try both.

When going to Texas everyone and every travel website and book will recommend going to Franklin BBQ. During our visit the restaurant was closed as in August 2017 it caught on fire (see more here). It reopened late November 2017, just a few weeks after our visit. I would love to go when I’m there next but many articles say you need to arrive at 5-7am to get a table at Franklins. I love food and would LOVE to go but I also love sleep…so if anyone goes to Franklins PLEASE let me know what it is like!

The best BBQ I had was at Freedmen’s which sadly closed (see here) which I am absolutely gutted about because I think about that beef brisket daily (I booked my flights before I read that it had closed for goodness sake.) It’s closed now but the article says the owner is open to reopening the restaurant (an excuse for me to return) and the owner was/is due to open a new restaurant so fingers crossed. SO if you want BBQ and don’t want to queue then my third recommendation is Stubbs, its great for BBQ and concerts and it is still open and we didn’t have to queue!

Many recommended we visit Gueros Taco Bar on South Congress for Tex Mex, and it didn’t disappoint. We only had to wait about 5-10 minutes for a table but the queues can grow during peak times. We indulged in possibly the best tacos and margaritas I’ve ever had. I can see why it is often named the best Mexican food in Austin.

Austin is famed for its food trucks and there’s plenty all over the city to try out, with an array of cuisines and dishes all of which are very affordable. My favourite was a snow cone truck which had a huge variety of flavours and mixes to choose from. Perfect for a sweltering hot day in Texas!

VooDoo doughnuts is an Austin hot spot as it is famous for it’s large variety of unique and quirky doughnuts. I was so excited to visit but to be honest it didn’t live up to expectations and I didn’t think it was worth the hype – sorry!

Chicken Shit Bingo

Chicken Shit Bingo at Little Longhorn Saloon is a must when in Austin. It is is the main reason I am returning to Austin and I’m not even joking.

Chicken Shit Bingo has been running at honky-tonk Little Longhorn Saloon for around 25 years now. Culture Trip describe the game perfectly, ‘unique version of bingo involving chickens, chicken feed, and what chickens do after they eat.’

The bingo is played between 4pm and 8pm on a Sunday. It costs $2 for a ticket with a number on which corresponds to a number on the table. Once all of the tickets are gone the round begins (there’s around four games each Sunday.) T

he chicken is placed on the table and whatever number or line the chicken poos on is the winner. During our visit there were winners of over $200! Unfortunately I didn’t win but the chicken did poo on the line above my number…so close!

This all sounds pretty strange but it was such a fun day. The bar offers free hot dogs to guests and cans of Texas Lone Star beer are around $2. The locals are also all very friendly too so we sat with them talking about football and joined in with the dancing – I even had a lesson in how to Two-step!

South Congress

South Congress Avenue is a quirky and vibrant area full of local boutiques and shops – highly recommend the Italian sodas in Big Top Candy Shop – and great restaurants (including Gueros). It’s a bustling area which is fun to just roam around window shopping and admiring some of Austin’s most instagramed murals. It’s where the famous ‘I Love You So Much’ mural is.

South Congress leads to the Congress Avenue Bridge which is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony. The bats emerge nightly from under the bridge between March to October around 20 minutes before sunset – I am hoping to see this on my next visit.

Rainey Street 

Rainey Street looks like your usual neighbourhood but the houses are actually bars, restaurants and food trucks. It’s the ideal street to get some food and go on a bar crawl.  Look at this guide to the bars and restaurants on Rainey Street which they refer to as ‘Disneyland for adults’. I highly recommend a visit here.

Graffiti Park

Graffiti Park is an iconic place in Austin. It’s a fascinating area where you can watch talented artists at work and the artwork changes so often so every visit you’re guaranteed to see something different. It is worth climbing to the top of the park to see great views of downtown Austin.

At the time of writing this article Graffiti Park is relocating so be sure to do your research before you go as it will no longer be at Castle Hill.

Frat parties

Ok this isn’t something for everyone but an experience I have to mention. Our Air B&B was in West Campus close to the University of Texas and amongst many Frat and Sorority houses. It’s a great area to explore, I was living my college movie dreams wandering around the Austin campus and the local streets seeing all of the college students walking to and from classes. Just a normal day for everyone else but I felt like I was on a movie set.

On our first night in Austin we got brought along to a Frat party in one of the local houses which was a great experience for me. Just don’t do what I did and tell the college students that attending their party was ‘the best night of your life’ and embarrass yourself after one two many Bourbons.

Where to stay

Austin has a load of great Air B&B options across the city. We booked ours just a couple of weeks before and found great property suitable for two people and very affordable in West Campus near the University of Texas. There’s Ubers everywhere in Austin so we easily travelled around from West Campus. There’s plenty of restaurants, bars, food trucks and fast food options in the area too so you won’t go hungry or thirsty.

How to get there

During this trip we flew with South West from New Orleans to Austin.

Since my visit Norwegian launched direct flights from London Gatwick to Austin so of course I had to book a return trip for 2019. The flight is around 10 and a half hours from London and you can get a return from under £400.

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