Austin, you’re weird.
But I like you.
A few weeks back, Matthew & I took a trip to Austin, Texas to see what all the rave was about the so-called ‘best place to live in the US‘. From the amazing food and live music, to the outdoor life and fun events, I must say – Austin, you’re pretty cool.
We bought our flight tickets for about $100 each to Austin back in February, when we assumed we’d be antsy to get out of Denver’s winter and into the *hopefully* hot spring of Austin.
Windy, rainy and 50 degrees was obviously not the weather we were expecting, but it’s what we got as we walked out of the airport and hopped on the Capital Metro bus to downtown Austin. The upside – $1.50 per local bus ticket is a lot more reasonable than the $10 RTD lightrail ticket we have to buy to get to & from the airport in Denver. Public transportation affordability: check.
After the 30-minute bus ride, it was about 1:00 PM and we were ready to stuff our faces with the Texas food everyone raves about. So, we battled the wind – the rain had stopped, thankfully – a few blocks to SuperBurrito, a popular food truck in the middle of downtown. I opted for the Texas Burrito, which was a combination of carne asada, potatoes, cheese, pico de gallo, and guac in a chipotle tortilla – YUM!
Delicious food: check.
Once our bellies were full, we checked into our Airbnb, just 4 blocks north of West 6th St. It was a private room in the colorful apartment (seriously, there were neon lights everywhere) of an Airbnb Superhost – so although it was super clean and our host was great, it definitely wasn’t anything luxurious, but it was perfect for our 2-night stay.
Thanks to some friends’ suggestions (yay former Austinites) and great online resources (<3 Visit Austin), we had some plans for the weekend, but nothing was set in stone.
So, after dropping our stuff at our home-away-from-home, we simply explored via B-Cycle, which was FREE thanks to Denver’s B-cycle pass giveaway – we were pumped to find out that our passes worked for Austin B-cycles too!
From downtown, along Lady Bird Lake – which isn’t really a lake, but more like a really big river… – to South Congress, we got a taste of a good chunk of Austin during our first day. AND a taste of some refreshing happy hour margs + chips & salsa at Guero’s, a popular taco bar with an outdoor music garden in South Congress.
That night, we also chowed down on delicious BBQ from Stubb’s, a popular restaurant and concert venue in downtown. By the end of the night, we were cold – seriously, it was not the best weather – tired, and just wanted to relax. So, we posted up at Easy Tiger, a bake shop + beer garden along Waller Creek, where we sipped local beer for a good 2 hours while planning the next day’s activities.
We decided to start the day a little later on Sunday – which, for us, meant about 9 AM – to allow the cold air some time to move out. By the time we headed out the door, it was definitely still chilly, so we stopped at The Hideout Coffee House to savor the warmth of caramel lattes. Once we were reasonably warm, we stepped out into the chilly air and hopped on our B-cycles to continue exploring.
Biking all around Lady Bird Lake brought us back to South Congress for brunch at Phoebe’s Diner, where we waited in line for about an hour – don’t worry, we walked around & explored during this time – before finally sitting down to enjoy a delicious smoked brisket breakfast burrito, chorizo hash and a carafe of blood orange mimosas. All of that delicious food + drink gave us the energy to head to Zilker Park, where the 90th ABC Kite Festival just happened to be going on.
After spending hours watching thousands of kites soar across the sky, we biked back to downtown Austin to use one of our Groupons at the oldest business in Austin, Sholz Garten, where we munched on a big pretzel and beer.
Then we were off to Rainey St, where the party never seems to end – even on a Sunday! We got down to some music before joining the masses in watching the sunset over Congress Avenue Bridge, from under which groups of bats flew out to begin their night flights.
That night, we also listened to live music at multiple bars on 6th St before grabbing some fried chicken at Happy Chicks.
Our last day in Austin was all about embracing the best weather we would have all weekend – well, after the morning rain. We biked through sprinkles to East Austin, where we had to try the famous Veracruz All Natural breakfast tacos. We’re big breakfast burrito people so tacos were a fun twist to our taste. We knew it was gonna be tasty when we saw A LINE of people waiting IN THE RAIN. Talk about dedication. Then, while waitingfor better weather, we went to yet another coffee shop – this one a charming, historical spot surrounded by lush greenery – Cenote. Another latte and I was ready to brave the outdoors.
With the weather still a bit gloomy, we headed to the Texas State Capitol and got lost as we took a free self-guided tour inside the massive building. Thankfully, we found our way out to the SUNSHINE – yes, the sun finally came out!! – and headed to the University of Austin to check out the campus. We sat on the steps and posed as students for a little while before Matthew insisted that we go to In ‘N Out. You bet we got animal fries & the double-double with everything + the whole onion.
Then it was my turn to choose what to do. And that was simply to soak up the sunshine by Lady Bird Lake. It was truly a dream until some really mean geese came and squawked and chased us away.
And just like that, around 5 PM, our trip came to an end. We boarded our bus and headed back to the airport, where we flew back to Denver – our home, ‘the 2nd best place to live in the US’. It’s okay, Denver. I still think you’re cooler than Austin.
So after that long, detailed breakdown of our not-so-sunny, yet oh-so-fun trip, I’ll break it down at a much simpler financial level:
- Round-trip plane tickets: $100 each = $200
- Bus tickets: $1.25 x 2 each = $5.00
- Airbnb: $85 x 2 nights = $170
- Food & Drink: ??? This is hard b/c I definitely did not keep track. But I’d say about $150 – if that?
- Transportation: $0 (thanks to our free B-cycle passes!)
- 3-Day Trip to Austin for 2: ~$500
One thing to note is that we don’t ever actually create budgets for our trips, but rather we just opt for reasonable options, like taking the bus or bikes instead of an Uber and grabbing happy hour bites and Groupons instead of full-price meals. This way, we’re forced to explore each city even more AND usually gain an even better idea of what it would be like to live there.
All in all, Austin, you are truly weird.
I don’t know where anyone works in the city (seriously, where are the office buildings?!) and you call large rivers lakes (Lady Bird Lake is not a lake!).
But you’re pretty cool.
And we’ll probably be back for more delicious food, fun nights filled with live music, and sunnier weather.
frugal & free,