Back in mid-May, I took a weekend trip to visit Austin, Texas with a couple of buddies. We spent the weekend exploring a really cool and quirky city, enjoying the amazing food and drinks, and seeing some interesting sights and sounds along the way.
The plan was simple. Leave Friday night and take a red-eye flight to get into Austin in the early morning hours. Spend the next couple of days exploring the city, crash at an Airbnb, and make it back to San Francisco in time for work on Monday. Sounded simple at the time, but the end results were a bit more complicated, which made things even more fun!
This is our 48 hours in Austin, Texas.
You know a trip is going to be good when things don’t go according to plan almost right away. I flew out from SFO a bit past midnight and got into Austin in the early morning hours on Saturday. Here’s what I wrote down to remember the ridiculousness of the situation I was in:
05:00am Land at airport in Austin
05:25am Get to airport line bus stop, realize it’s not running yet on Saturday schedule, call a Lyft
05:35am Get to Airbnb, proceed to spend 15 minutes looking super sketchy with a flashlight trying to find the key, to no avail
05:50am Call Jay who says he told the owners 10am, so it makes perfect sense that they’re still at home at 6am and aren’t expecting anyone
06:00am Briefly consider finding a random bench somewhere to sleep, head to a Starbucks
06:05am Suddenly realize that the bus to the airport should be running now (why not sleep at the airport), make a mad dash back to the bus stop next to the Airbnb
06:15am Catch the bus (woohoo)
06:30am Arrive back at square one
So here I was in another city, at some random neighborhood before the sun was out, trying to figure out my options because of a check-in time misunderstanding. By the way, there was a two hour time difference compared to SF, so most of this was happening during normal dream hours.
I did end up napping at the airport for a couple of hours, at least until Jay flew in a bit later and we met up with Derek at the Airbnb. The house we stayed at was part of a quaint duplex, and the owners left their older cat for us to take care of that weekend in exchange for half off the going rate. Not a bad deal for some easy feeding and cleaning, plus plenty of play time!
Jay and Derek’s high school friend Ameya showed up a bit after things were settled down, and as the Texas resident, he was an awesome guide during our trip to the city. The following was a rough schedule of our Saturday activities:
10:00am Arrive in the SoCo (South Congress) district. Enjoy a juicy Texan burger at Hopdoddy’s Burger Bar. Try to stay awake given the one-two combo of sleep deprivation and good food.
11:00am Post-lunch stroll around the SoCo area. Grab an Iced Turbo (iced coffee with chocolate and hazelnut) from Jo’s Coffee. Watch some people take pictures in front of the “I love you so much” graffiti painted on the side of the shop and completely fail to realize that it’s a pretty famous spot. Maybe I should’ve done some trip planning beforehand. Feel the caffeine kicking in.
11:25am Walk around the SoCo area some more and stop by some of the many antique shops along the strip. This is a pretty weird (in a good way) place, along the lines of Berkeley and Haight-Ashbury in SF. We walk by rows of deer heads mounted to the wall, old furniture that would look at home in haunted houses, and various other trinkets from the past. Some stores only sold hats, and others had cool assortments of art and music.
12:20pm Take a quick ice cream break at Amy’s Ice Creams. Order the famous Mexican vanilla ice cream, and proceed to watch the ice cream melt at a record pace in the hot and humid late-spring weather. Side note – the entire weekend was in the high 80s and nice and humid.
01:oopm Arrive at the Texas State Capitol, where we check out the inside of the building, including the House and Senate chambers. Admire the various historic paintings and the nice comfy chairs that elected officials get to sit on.
02:00pm Trek over to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. Overall a very nicely-done exhibit, although it made sense that they played up President Johnson’s civil rights and social welfare accomplishments and were more hush-hush about his escalation of the Vietnam War. Selfie with a Johnson statue before heading back to the house.
03:00pm Get back to the Airbnb, take (several) much needed power naps, and beat the afternoon heat while relaxing in the house.
06:45pm Arrive at Rainey Street, a street with classy bars in repurposed houses. Grab dinner at the food trucks before getting a local Texan beer at Craft Pride.
09:30pm Meet some really cool UT Austin folks (Derek’s friends) and go bar hopping at the famous Sixth Street near campus. I have never seen so many bars and people in one area. Entire streets are shut down so people are milling about all over. Check out some pretty cool bars with cheap drinks – definitely a more college vibe than Rainey.
03:00am What better late-night food than good ol’ Taco Bell? When in Rome…
11:00am This was it! We picked one of the highest-rated barbecue places to try out in Austin, opting for quicker food-to-mouth time at La Barbecue instead of the four-hour wait times at Franklin. The wait still took an hour, but it was worth it as we split 5 pounds of brisket, sausages, pulled pork, turkey, and ribs, not to mention orders of coleslaw and potato salad. A meal for the ages, with plenty to take back to SF for lunch the following day!
12:30pm Need to take an emergency power nap for the food coma, back online shortly…
03:30pm Power nap was longer than expected (just kidding, but we did chill at the house some more and play with Yorke, our awesome cat friend). Arrive at the Drag, the famous street next to UT Austin. Admire the graffiti art, shops, and restaurants. Take another food break at Halal Bros.
04:30pm Check out the UT Austin campus. It’s a beautiful campus with a similar vibe to UC Berkeley. Snap some pics of the UT Tower and other buildings around the area.
05:00pm Of course, the two Berkeley Haasholes (including yours truly) and UCI DSP business frat brother make a stop at the business building – Red McCombs School of Business. There are escalators inside! How awesome!
05:30pm Meet up with a couple more of Derek’s UT Austin friends for dinner at Torchy’s Tacos. As a big Tarantino fan, I order the Mr. Pink and Mr. Orange, which are the tuna and salmon tacos. Both are delicious.
07:00pm We make a final walkthrough of the campus, this time with our two new friends showing us around. Head back to the house for an early night in preparation for the next morning’s early flight.
10:20pm Take a quick selfie with Yorke, make sure everything is packed and good to go for the morning.
The Trip Home
Thankfully I woke up to my alarm the next morning, around 4 am. After grabbing all my stuff and remembering my barbecue leftovers in the fridge, I made it to the airport and my flight without any drama or delay.
After a quick nap, I was back at SFO by 8am. It was tough, but I took BART to downtown and walked directly to work. The work day was one of the toughest ones I’d experienced in a long time, but at least I had some Austin barbecue for lunch!
Special thanks to Jay & Derek for being awesome travel buddies, Ameya for being a stellar host, and the UT Austin folks for showing us a fun time!