Hello, friends! Last week from Thursday to Sunday, I was in Austin, Texas on a solo vacation. This was my first time in Texas and my first trip alone and I want to share my experience in case you decide to visit Austin someday or if you’re considering going on vacation by yourself. Or perhaps, you are just curious to know what I was up to, which is super flattering, thank you! I think the best way will be to break it down day by day, so let’s start with Thursday!
On Thursday I arrived at Austin Bergstrom International Airport at around 10:45 am. I took a Lyft first and foremost to where I was staying. I couldn’t check in yet, so I decided to go kitty-corner to Whole Foods to buy some basic groceries: oat milk for coffee, oatmeal, apples, and a few snacks. From there, I hopped back into a Lyft driven by a retired Texas cop with three daughters, who gave me safety tips for the weekend. He took me to a place called Joe’s Bakery where I devoured some beef tacos and then headed back to my accommodations, which I would classify as something between an Airbnb and a hotel. It is called Locale and I chose their Downtown Austin location on Lamar and 3rd Street, which was a bit west of the main action. I was upgraded to an apartment with a king-sized bed for free and had a double sink in the bathroom, plenty of closet space, a granite countertop in the kitchen and an inviting, modernly design living space. They provided a fully stocked kitchen with all of the utensils and cookware, coffee, and more.
Then, I took a Lyft to the Texas State Capitol and caught the 3:30 pm tour. I learned about the six points of the Texas Lone Star (Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States, and the United States) and that the building is the largest in terms of the square footage of all state capitols. We were taken underneath the dome with the Lone Star in the middle (apparently it’s over eight feet wide). The tour guide was a bit hard to hear due to the raucous with elementary school kids and their teachers shushing them bouncing off the walls. Luckily, it was quieter in the Senate and Congress meeting rooms.
After this, I walked to the Bullock Texas State History Museum and was admitted for free since the museum was only open for about 45 more minutes. I was only able to get through the first floor, which covered early Texas history. As you can imagine, it was very violent! Afterward, I walked back to Locale to rest and get ready for dinner.
I booked a table at Fixe Austin, an elevated southern food restaurant with romantic, rustic decorating and phenomenal food. I drank a nice, earthy pinot noir from Santa Barbara and had an “appetizer” of a warm homemade biscuit straight from the oven, Meyer lemon butter, and homemade blueberry preserves that was nothing short of euphoric. For my entree, I had a red grouper, Carolina gold rice grits, local beans, sweet corn, red pepper chow chow, benne seed furikake with a side of charred broccolini, smoked Apache bleu cheese fondue, Meyer lemon. The meal was unbelievably delicious and I had a very attentive and friendly waiter. There was a fairly raucous group nearby with a cackling woman with big blonde hair dressed in black sequins. I was in too good of a mood, or perhaps a food coma, to mind all that much. By the time I was finished, it was around 10 pm and I was exhausted from walking all over, so I went back to Locale to rest up for the next day.
This was my favorite day because it contained two activities that I enjoyed the most. Also, the weather was the best, maxing out at a sunny 75 degrees, while Thursday had been in the forties (still an improvement from Chicago)! I made breakfast at my apartment, then walked through the University of Texas, Austin campus to the LBJ Presidential Library, which took just under an hour. I bought a ticket for $10 and walked the museum for an hour or two. Three of the 10 floors are open to the public. The museum is incredibly well-planned with permanent exhibits and a reproduction of the Oval Office during his presidency. My favorite part was being able to listen to snippets of LBJ’s secretly recorded conversations with notable people from Jackie Kennedy to J. Edgar Hoover. LBJ inherited a very difficult and intense time in American and World history. His legislation was generally progressive and well-meaning, but was overshadowed by the Vietnam War and other foreign relations fiascos. Still, I got the sense that he cared intensely about this country and quite literally wore his heart out during his leadership. The LBJ Library was an incredible, immersive experience and it spurred me to continue researching the period. Even for a non-history buff, I think it’s worth a visit.
After that, my feet and legs were tired and achy from walking and standing all morning and I decided it was time for lunch. I went to Casino el Camino, a divey rock bar with phenomenal hamburgers, recommended to me by my mom. The burger did not disappoint, but it was a long wait, so I just sat and enjoyed some ice tea and music from the jukebox.
I went back to Locale and got rid of my jacket since it had warmed up substantially. I walked across the Colorado River to Barton Springs Bike Rentals and Tours, for the two hour “Austin in a Nutshell” bike tour. It ended up being a total blast. I was joined by a friendly Executive Assistant/Office Manager from Los Angeles and three ladies on a girls trip, hailing from Denver, Colorado. Everyone was extremely friendly and good humored. We were lead by the most enthusiastic, funny, and upbeat tour guide named George who shared tidbits and historical, yet modern facts about Austin. He obliged us all by taking our photos at various stops as well.
After this, I walked back to Locale and showered off all the sweat and dust then took a cat nap. Dinner on Friday was at The Grove Wine Bar + Kitchen, local wine bar known for their thin crust pizzas nearby that I’d been eyeing on my walks. I ordered a custom pizza with my favorite, spinach and onions, and had two glasses of Colene Clemens Margo Pinot Noir from Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon. There were a few cute couples around and this was the only time I wished I had a dinner mate with me. I became quickly distracted by a loud mouth idiot that was laughing and shouting. You could tell he was trying to be “the guy” and he was wearing dumb purple loafers. Fortunately, I was able to watch as the manager asked him to pipe down! I was even more exhausted from the walking and what was closer to a three hour bike tour (my group was especially chatty), so I went back to Locale around 11 pm and passed out like a baby!
On Saturday morning, I had some oatmeal and coffee, then decided to walk on the trail along the Colorado River to get to the famous Greetings from Austin mural. A nice couple took my photo and I took theirs, then I hopped in a Lyft to Viva Day Spa where I had a custom facial that was very relaxing and refreshing. With my freshly glowing face, I got back in a Lyft to Kendra Scott’s flagship store on South Congress, which was adorable. I treated myself to a custom engraved ring as a sort of memento and a simple gold necklace to match a pair of earrings gifted to me for Christmas. In addition to the custom engravings, there was a color bar available where you could customize your jewelry. You can imagine the boyfriends and husbands sat around waiting for their ladies to make decisions.
I then walked north on South Congress to go to the famous South Congress Cafe (another recommendation from my mom). The wait was two hours but I was able to immediately snag a seat at the bar; one of the perks of solo travel. I ordered eggs Benedict on fried tomatoes and a potato pancake. It was delicious! Afterward, I continued up north on South Congress and people watched as I went. It was buzzing on Saturday; you can tell Austin enjoys its brunches and shopping! I walked all the way back from Locale to work off my meal, getting there around 2 pm. I took a nap then cleaned up to go to the Rainey Street Historic District. It was wild! Full of people drinking and partying and having a good time. I didn’t hear any live music, but rather there were DJs playing contemporary hits. It was a little too rowdy for me, especially by myself. If I were with girlfriends or a significant other, I would have stuck around, but the bars were full of groups and I felt it would be awkward. Instead, I stumbled upon The Roosevelt Room on 5th Street, which was way more my speed anyway. I had a basic glass of pinot noir but was really there to enjoy the ambiance: dim lighting, craft cocktail, speakeasy type of vibe.
I will say that since my dry January, I really haven’t had a strong desire to drink. I had a total of four glasses of red wine on this trip and nothing else. I mention this because I absolutely think you can have a great time in Austin whether you drink or not. In addition to a general lack of desire to drink, I think as a solo female traveler, I felt more comfortable enjoying a glass with dinner and beyond that, staying aware and alert. There is a legitimate homeless problem in Austin and while only one approached me that alarmed me the entire trip, I felt way more confident being out at night with my wits about me. I listen to too many true crime podcasts anyway.
For dinner, I went to Torchy’s Tacos, the Austin staple that everyone said I must go to. I ordered the beef fajita, the beef brisket, and a chicken taco. They were great, of course! I walked back to Locale after this (it was early enough and very close). I debated going out, but I decided not to as I had what I thought would be an early flight in the morning (it got delayed by two-three hours).
To sum up, Austin, Texas is a wonderful place to visit solo, as a couple, or with a group. While Texas is of course imbued in Austin’s identity, the city’s motto is “Keep Austin Weird” for a reason. It draws in residents and tourists alike from all parts of the country and the world. It’s cosmopolitan while being earthy-crunchy. Austin struck me as friendly, easy to navigate, and generally progressive. The people I encountered were open, kind, and helpful. The Colorado River, Lady Bird Lake, and the surrounding greenery were beautiful and accessible with newer, expensive pedestrian bridges and riverside trails. The food was varietal but consistently good. The history of Texas and the pride of the locals were evident and fascinating. The only downsides included the prevalence of homeless people and the lack of live music opportunities, though admittedly, I prioritized good food, museums, and outdoor experiences first. I had also visited before South by Southwest in March, Austin’s days-long music festival. I would highly recommend a trip. Thank you for reading!
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