Life is full of surprises and Austin Texas is one of the best.
Before arriving in Austin, I thought I was in for Stetsons, rodeos, Republicans and red necks. All the Texas stereotypes. I can make that bold, embarrassing admission in hindsight because Austin, Texas was anything but that! It blew – and opened – my mind in quick succession.
Austin is the not only the capital but also the beating heart of Texas. From great shopping to gorgeous sightseeing, here are the main things that stole my heart in Austin.
First cab off the rank? My credit card. Having heard a bit about the fashion in Austin, I headed straight to South Congress Avenue, south of Lady Bird Lake. This long, undulating road is full of contemporary-style stores bordering traditional tourist territory, alongside some incredible vintage stores.
Feathers Boutique is a must for some incredible vintage finds, but if new designer styles are more your bag, you can't go past By George. This incredible space offers men's and women's fashion and accessories as well as homewares, shoes and an ice box (fully stocked) next to the cashier, should you fancy shopping under the influence!
There is also Allen's Boots full to the brim with - you guessed it - cowboy boots and all the trimmings to team them with. Finally, don’t miss the iconic antique mecca, Uncommon Objects, that dips into the quirky heart of Texas and its unique collectibles.
Learn the history
I had a hankering for some history while in Austin, so I headed to The Texas State Capitol. The Capitol – an immaculate and intimidating building steeped in the history of Texas – houses the offices and chambers of the Texas Legislature and the Office of the Governor. Even if politics aren’t your forte, a peek into this incredible landmark gives visitors a true sense of Texas.
I continued on to the nearby Bullock Museum, which offers a succinct snapshot of Texas' most defining moments. Locals told me they also visit this museum regularly because it never gets old and always has fresh and fascinating stories of prohibition and settlement history.
I also highly recommend strolling through the University of Texas campus. Within its parameters you will find dozens of museums, libraries and unique venues designed for current and past students, curious community members, and tourists who wished they were still at college (aka me!).
The flight of the bats
If you still have some steam in the engine after a long day of museum hopping – and visiting between March and October – head to the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, where 1.5 million bats emerge each night – pretty much on cue at dusk – from their hiding places underneath. Hot tip: get in early as it typically draws big crowds.
Take a dip
The highlight of my trip was getting off the beaten track to take a dip into Barton Springs Pool. This three-acre pool is flush with the crispest, clearest water from underground springs. With a record-setting number of visitors in the last few years (800,000 and counting), this should be high on your list of things to do in Austin - just get in early!
Don't neglect your wellbeing
If you're looking for a less-touristy experience, my standout tip would be to make Wanderlust Yoga your final port of call before heading to the airport. I popped in on a whim and was treated to the studio's very own unique style of YoStrong yoga, which integrates yoga postures with weight training and athletic conditioning. This high-energy workout is unexpectedly fun and fresh, and an accurate reflection of the city.
Stay at a hostel
Staying at a hostel not your bag? Think again. Native Hostel is no backpacker hang. Situated downtown, this accommodation blends luxury with Native American influence. Each hostel room boasts luxe bunks with rich, velvet privacy curtains, loft-style larger beds. There's also a bar next door that includes some of the best breakfast nachos and late night Moscow Mules you've ever come across! The vibe is super cool and always buzzing.