We’ve spent some time in Hill Country during the 4th of July week in 2019 and discovered why so many of you enjoy Austin, Texas. We had our daughter on our adventures so we know even the kids will enjoy the experiences we are going to suggest. We need to travel again after being stuck indoors and in our town since 2020’s pandemic’s start. We want to help by showing you some of our favorite ways to travel and to do it with “Buy Local” in mind. The small businesses of America will need your help (no matter the town) to recover in 2020. So, think of the locals when traveling elsewhere.
1. Swim in Barton Springs—Dip your toes in one of the Crown Jewels of Austin. You’ll find Barton Springs Pool in Zilker’s Park and this natural three acre pool is fed from an underground spring with average temps between 68-70 ALL YEAR ROUND! So this is a must-do any time of the year you find yourself in Austin. The vibe is Austin “chill” but it does get busy in the summer, so it’s best to visit in the morning if you want to avoid a crowd. This is a great place for a unique dive in nature in the middle of a bustling city. Great for the whole family.
2. Catch a movie at The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema— Catch a movie at The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema—We had our first experience at an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema at it’s birthplace of Austin, founded in 1997. The cinema chain is famous for serving dinner, drinks, snacks and the best locally crafted beer during the movie as well as their strict policy regarding movie-goers etiquette (which everyone seemed to follow)! Alamo is also committed to an exceptional picture and sound quality, so you’re sure to get the most out of your cinematic experience. We had a fantastic experience that included a comfy seat, an efficient waiter and the tastiest cinema popcorn (made with real butter) we’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Being 2019 we watched “Spider-Man: Far From Home” where they had great Mondo Merch available in the lobby and treated us with classic Spiderman commercials from the 1970s to Present.
3. Visit Austin’s famous BATS— Under Congress Avenue bridge in downtown Austin reside tiny bats known as the Mexican free-tail bats that migrate to this bridge each November. The colony is estimated at 1.5 million bats and every evening they exit the bottom of the bridge to fly over 60 miles to a field for feeding. As they exit the bridge several thousand at a time, they put on quite a show, showing off synchronized flight patterns, twists, and turns. This natural phenomenon happens each year between March and November. Lots of people line up on top of the bridge as well as on the shoreline to watch. However, we had the best seats by far! We chose to get up close and personal with a bat watching cruise. Lone Star Riverboat provided the perfect opportunity to watch the bats from the water on their 60-minute bat watching tour on a pontoon boat. Our guide was a wealth of knowledge concerning all things bat and we swear he’s gotta be related to Matthew McConaughey. Since it was an extra special evening, the 4th of July, we were able to stay on the boat and enjoy the city’s fireworks from the water. It made for a magical evening for the whole family.
4. Stay at The Archer Hotel—The Archer Hotel, a stylish boutique hotel, in the middle of the Domain outdoor shopping mall! The Archer was truly Texas chic with eclectic, luxe guest rooms that included comfy beds and a wonderfully huge bathtub. They even offer curated souvenirs from local artisans for guests to purchase. Even the plunge pool had that Texas sass with a huge Texas star at the bottom along with a giant screen outdoor TV and poolside lounge area! If you’re looking for comfort, style, friendly staff, and the perfect location for shopping, eating, or relaxing, The Archer Hotel has it all.
5. Eat delicious food— Alright, alright, alright. When you’re in Austin, you’ve got to visit the legendary burger joint, Top-Notch Hamburgers. This little burger joint has been an Austin mainstay since 1971 and became famous when it was featured in the movie “Dazed and Confused’. We enjoyed the charcoal-broiled cheeseburgers and fresh onion rings and, of course, their famous corn dogs.
Something else Austinites are famous for? BBQ. And they are serious about it. We visited Black’s BBQ, in nearby Lockhart, Texas, which has been around since 1932 and continues to be a family-run, local operation! They offer seven kinds of barbecued meat, fresh sides, and classic southern desserts. We opted for the Giant Beef Ribs, which weighed a pound a piece! This sucker was huge and full of flavorful marbled beef. We did feel a bit like the Flintstones while chomping on the mammoth ribs but it was delicious and satisfying. While we were in Lockhart, we didn’t miss the opportunity to take a few photos of the beautiful county courthouse square which was transformed into the fictional town of Jarden, Texas, for the HBO original series “The Leftovers”.
However, it’s not all meat. If you’re looking for a plant-based meal, we highly recommend Next Level Burger, located inside Whole Foods Market (A local Austin Company you may have heard of). Next Level is a 100% plant-based burger joint that offers some of the best tasting plant-based burgers, shakes, and tots we’ve ever tried. Their motto is “good for the environment, good for you” and Next Level Burger makes it so easy to take care of both.
How about dessert? We headed over to Quackenbush’s Cakery. This eclectic, adorable bakery offers customized cakes and cookies, as well as coffee, espresso, pastries, and more. They even had “salt and pepper” shakers at each table filled with sprinkles and colorful sugar. Their offerings were fresh and delicious.
Breakfast the next morning included a quick trip to Donut 7. This donut shop offers freshly made donuts along with breakfast tacos and kolaches. We tried all three offerings at this local, family-owned business. Everything was fresh, fast and delicious but the plain glazed donut was perfection. Always judge a donut shop on the plain glazed. If they do that right, it’s a winner.