A Backpacker’s Guide to Austin

Austin, I love you like a friend I only get to see on rare occasions, but when we do finally hang out we always laugh and get really drunk.

In many ways, Austin is like the anti-Texas, but at the same time has all the good from the state wrapped into it while hardly any of the bad seeps in.  The city is quaint yet exciting, artsy yet not pretentious, and has a small town vibe although it has all the big city amenities one could ever want.  If its music and food you want there may not be a better place in America aside from New Orleans.  Austin’s main tourist district is packed with bars almost all of which have a live band planning nightly.  6th street is also one of the best places in the world to just sit back and people watch as there is such a vast array of people that wander through.

I rarely say this, but I think I could probably live in Austin.  It has enough excitement going on to keep me entertained but also has plenty of places to find peace and quiet.  As a tourist destination, it is one of the best places in The South and likely the best destination in Texas.

Austin state capitol building

Things to Do in Austin

There is no shortage of fun to be had in Austin, especially if you’re around in the summer months.  The city can be cultural and it can also be childish, which is a great combination.

  • Museums: Austin wont blow you away when if comes to museums, it’s not exactly that kind of town.  However, if you’re looking for a little bit of history you can head to the Bob Bullock State History Museum or if you’re looking for art culture check out Blanton Museum of Art
  • The Capitol: Austin is the capital of Texas and the capitol building is an impressive property. They take the saying “everything is bigger in Texas”, and this building is actually taller than the capitol building in Washington, something they seem very proud about.  You can enter for free as it works almost like a working museum.
  • University of Texas: Hook em Horns!  This is one of the most beautiful campuses in the South, and you’ll have to come here if you’re planning on visiting the Blanton Museum of Art.  If you’re into sports see if you can’t catch a football or basketball game while you’re in town.
  • Pub Crawl: There may not be a better city in America to pub crawl.  You can do this on your own although the hostels in town generally set these up as well.  Head directly to 6th street if you’re looking for nightlife.
  • Barton Springs: A nice park set around a natural limestone cavity with a fresh water spring.  In the summer this place gets busy, any time of year it is a nice place to escape from the city a bit.

Where to Eat in Austin

Austin is dangerous for anyone on a diet.  The city has such good food that your days will begin to revolve around food.  Unfortunately, most of the food here will go straight to your waistline, and the portion sizes are massive.

Rib-eye steak at Bikinis

  • Bikinis: I know, it’s a guy thing.  I’m normally against going to places like this but it was the only place open with seating open to 6th Street.  I was glad I stopped in though since the food was very good and great value, and the service – beyond being bikini-clad, definitely knew how to use the southern charm in the right way.
  • Roll on Sushi: Although you’ll have to take a car here, it is worth it.  Think classic sushi with a texas twist.  Perhaps the best thing I have eaten in my entire life was a dynomite roll from here.  It was so incredible that I can hardly type without drooling on my keyboard while thinking about it.  Some other items include a chicken-fried steak roll and lots of other “Texified” eats.  The service here is phenomenal as well.

Where to Stay in Austin

When it comes to hostels there is really only one option in town.  There are plenty of cheap hotels available but you’ll likely be on the fringes and need to take transit into downtown where all the action is.

  • HI Austin:  It’s a good hostel that unfortunately suffers from the same issues all HI-USA hostels do.  They are big, and they don’t let people have any fun.  That being said, not being able to drink in the hostel only means that you’ll be allowed to leave and enjoy 6th Street instead.  The facilities are all good here, there is free and fast wifi, there are computers, and there is a very good breakfast each morning.

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