This is the best view of Austin, TX-a place that I like to call home. One of the fastest growing cities in the country, and one that has really touted its reputation as "Live Music Capital of the World", with music fests that seem to occur every other month. It is also becoming a "Foodie Heaven", with restaurants and food trucks springing up everywhere; every other one seemingly servicing something with sriracha-mayo, parmesan-encrusted, and truffle-oil infused. Don't let it be a popular restaurant-it's going to require a two-hour wait just to sink your teeth into that honey-glazed cinnamon roll filled with pork-bison chili topped with sriracha aoli and served on a bed of kale. Then you have the late night downtown bar scene-cheap drinks a-flowin' (I've been around, and still am amazed that some places routinely will serve mixed drinks for $2.50 all. day. long). A town that fully embraces the "eat, drink, and be merry" philosophy indeed.
But just like the party girl at your local dive bar, you sometimes have to wonder, "is there MORE? She's pretty and is always down for a good time-she can take shots of 151 like no other, but is there more to her? Has has she read a book? Wait...can she even read?"
I will admit, I have lived here for 7 years and was enamored by the good food, friendly people who like to party, the constant music tests, and again, the ease of constant partying (don't judge-I moved here in my late 20's). But recently, I have decided to dig deeper into the Capital of the Great State of Texas. "There has to be more" I said to myself. This picture above is the perfect manifestation of this. Every stock photo you see of Austin will have either the capital building, UT tower, our gleaming new skyline towering over Town Lake (now called Lady Bird Lake, but that just doesn't roll off the tongue as easily), or the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue. Why not capture the city from the hills that rise up on the west side of town? Or the many lakes and greenbelts that weave in and out of town? These are just as iconic to the city. So here's to exploring a lesser know, "nerdy" side of Austin:
1. Elisabet Ney Museum
I really nerded out when I discovered this former art studio-turned museum. The story behind Elisabet Ney is probably as intriguing as any good international espionage movie. She was a German sculptor, renowned for meeting and doing a bust for Otto Von Bismarck; fellow info nerds know that he was the first chancellor of the newly formed Germany in the mid 1800's. She then abruptly migrated to the United States with her husband (perhaps for leaking info from King Ludwig to Bismarck), and eventually made her way to Texas, where they purchased an old plantation to fill their dream of creating a Utopian society. She then opened her studio in Austin in 1892. There's more to the story but this place is a must-see. Plus, it's FREE.
304 E. 44th St
2. French Ligation
Built in 1841, this is the oldest surviving home in town. It was constructed to house the Ambassador of France to the Texas Republic (recall that at one point, Texas was it's own country until it joined the Union in 1845). In an up-and-coming city where anything built prior to 1970 seems "old", this is kind of neat.
802 San Marcos St
3. Texas State Capitol
Texans like to brag that our dome is taller than the one in Washington, D.C. Albeit true, it's not the tallest capitol structure in the country (this honor goes to Louisiana), but arguably ours is the most grandiose. Tours are free and are given about every 45 minutes or so. It's not enough just to drive by it, you must go inside to get a view of the dome from the inside. Truly impressive.
Downtown where Congress ends at 11th St; you can't miss it.
4. O. Henry Museum
Writer William Sydney Porter (aka "O. Henry") lived in Austin for a few years before he went to prison, came out a writer, moved to NYC, and became famous for his short stories. His home still has all of his original furnishings in tact, and also displays one of his unpublished manuscripts. They also host a "pun-off" here, although I have yet to attend one.
409 E. 5th St
5. San Antonio Missions
Maybe I am reaching a bit on this, as San Antonio is a whole 'mother city. BUT, it's barely an hour away (45 minutes if you go with the speed of traffic on I-35), and it's worth visiting if you have time to do a day trip. Especially to see not only the Alamo, but it's sister late 1700's-era Spanish Missions along the mission trail. And as much as a food town Austin is, it doesn't have the heaven-sent puffy tacos in abundance like they do in S.A. Ask around about theses and let the locals steer you to the best restaurants serving them.
6. LBJ Presidential Library
Located on the campus of UT, this library/museum is a must-visit to learn more about this colorful President chock full of Texan sensabilities (maybe a little less harsh than the Bush's, but I digress...).
2313 Red River St
7. Bullock Texas State History Museum
The huge bronze lone star in front of the building says it all-everything is bigger in Texas. This museum explores everything Texan, and is a neat juxtaposition since Austin seems to be the "anti-Texas" city: extremely liberal, and oil did not fuel growth here as it did in many other Texas cities.
1800 Congress Ave
8. Umlauf Sculpture Garden
No frills here-a series of sculptures set within a manicured garden setting.
605 Robert E. Lee Rd
9. Architecture on East 6th Street
Come down here during the daytime, before the streets are blocked-off (Thursday thru Saturday at night) for the safety of the thousands of bar hoppers that flood the streets every weekend, Bourbon Street-style. This area, east of Congress Avenue to I-35 is actually on the National Register of Historic Places, as most of the buildings (in mainly Victorian style) were built prior to the 1880's.
There you have it; the partier can read! She even writes a little short story every now and again, too. All of these places (with the exception of the drive to San Antonio) can be covered within an hour. Long enough to get in, get some culture, leave, and then wait in line for that barbecue place, see a show at that one concert venue, and then party it up until 2 A.M. downing $1.50 Long Island Iced Teas!