It’s the “Fastest Growing Big City in the Country for 2015” (Slate), ranks in the top 5 for great-paying jobs (Washington Post), ranks best for job creation (Time), and even beat every other country in the world in a recent study on the top tech cities (WSJ).
Hell, this place is even called one of the best cities for dating globally by the BBC.
For such a booming place, it may surprise visitors to see how laid back a lot of Austin’s recreational scene is. This is a sort of symptom of being in Austin it seems — even the roads are considered nightmarish due to people regularly driving too slow.
With all of this in mind, The Measure set out to show how one local couple (the girlfriend and I) spends their average Saturday in Austin.
There are plenty of Top 10 lists out there so we’re doing something a little different. We spend our day doing as we would on any relaxed Saturday if showing a visiting friend around — all while taking the best iPhone pics we can in the process.
4905 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX 78751 – 4 Miles from Downtown Austin
We start our day (after sleeping in too late) by going to grab a genuine Texan staple — breakfast tacos — at local favorite Tyson’s Tacos. Being nearly noon, these tacos basically work as lunch as much as they do breakfast but we aren’t officially calling this one brunch.
Sometimes, Tyson’s gives out free keg beer with breakfast but no-dice today unfortunately. Fact is though, that doesn’t much matter. Tyson’s breakfast tacos are the truth and the line outside proves it.
Taco 1: “Avocado Abogado” – Egg, Rib-Eye, Avocado, and Skillet Potatoes – $2.95
Taco 2: “Robinsonian” – Tortilla Strips, Egg, Pico de Gallo, Cheese, Bacon, Avocado -$2.45
Tyson himself (who is usually around), thought it was a bit crazy that Thrillist named his restaurant one of the best taco places for musicians. “How the f*ck do they know that?” The new policy seems to work well keeping the line entertained at least.
East Austin Succulents
801 Tillery St, Austin, TX 78702 – 3.9 Miles from Tyson’s
After filling up on a morning Coke and tacos, we head to East Austin Succulents look around and maybe find some new plants for the place.
It’s a big nursery in the East Austin neighborhood and is a great place to spend an hour or so shopping around for some of the most self-sufficient plants on earth.
The entry area has your usual big plants to fill out a hill country xeriscaped home – which we’re working on…
There’s plenty of diversity in the succulent nursery as well. Many an otherwise boring desk is adorned with these little guys.
These, on the other hand, may be less desirable in your office.
Barton Springs Pool
2201 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78746 – 5 Miles from East Austin Succulents
Barton Springs is so “Austin” that it’s pretty much cliché to mention it.
That said, this Austin landmark has remained relatively unchanged with Austin’s major growth and is the local favorite place to cool off – even in September.
University of Texas professors in the early 1900s would come to this then-secret spot to read and write and three of these men are memorialized at the entry’s statue.
The pool is a natural, spring-fed creek bed with lifeguards on duty and a year-round temperature of 70° F — almost cool enough to help on a 103° summer day. The pool also has its own endangered breed of salamander.
There are many similar swimming holes in the Austin area but Barton Springs is within city limits — just across from Zilker Park where the Austin City Limits music festival takes place.
It costs just 3 bucks per adult for daily entry.
The Low-Key Dinner
Lucy’s Fried Chicken
2218 College Ave, Austin, TX 78704 – 3 Miles from Barton Springs
Lucy’s is a local joint with two locations in Austin: one off the tourist-slammed South Congress and the other up north on Burnett. This place is so popular they bought an extra parking lot.
The wait isn’t usually bad but there are plenty of local beers (and unique cocktails) to have with your green tomato or fried deviled egg appetizers.
Our team pretty much has the same thing (and frankly, this is the most popular “dish” at Lucy’s), the Chicken basket. Note that Tyson’s and Lucy’s have the same red and white paper — poor form for this photo essay.
Entree: Fried Chicken Basket – $9.50
Sides: Smoked Potato Salad and Collard Greens – $2.25 each
Drinks: Austin Beerworks Peacemaker – $4.50/can
Hotel San José Lounge
1316 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704 – <1 Mile from Lucy’s Fried Chicken
This popular boutique hotel in the heart of South Congress Avenue is – for its quieter atmosphere alone – a great place to cap a busy day exploring the city.
It turns out Hotel San José does not, however, serve true cocktails. All well and good, we decide to opt for the hotel’s wine-based variations over beer.
Frozen Hanalei (for him, yep) – Sake, Guava, Mango, Lime, Fancy Umbrella – $11
Tropical Sangria (for her) – White Wine with Champagne and Fruit – $12
After drinks, we finish the night with a live street show by LA’s The Sleeping Ghost and many more. Odd location, typically great music.
When You Visit
This is a very independent place and the fun is yours to be had. Austin is well known for its live music scene but a real Austin experience should honestly go all day.
Don’t come for Sixth Street unless you’re college aged, single, and into big crowds with spilled drinks. We prefer a more dynamic experience over that.
Check out the only F1 Track in the U.S. or drive your own fast ride with a hill country exotic car tour (it’s really a thing!). Definitely eat tacos for breakfast but follow it with a local beer at a nearby outdoor bar on either East Sixth (it’s different than regular Sixth) or Rainey Street. On any sunny afternoon, you’re sure to find good times, nice crowds, and an adventure that goes at whatever pace you like.
In any case, avoid the “Top Lists” and just go with the flow. Ask the locals. Austin is the kind of town with plenty of great places to wander into.
- Tyson’s Tacos
- East Austin Succulents
- Barton Springs Pool
- Lucy’s Fried Chicken
- Hotel San José
- My Girlfriend, Kristen.