There are cities across the states that people rave about, and most of them or on my to-visit list, like NYC, Las Vegas, and New Orleans to name a few. So far, I have really enjoyed all these raved-about cities that I have visited. So, after years of hearing people go on and on about how wonderful Austin, Texas is, I knew I wanted to visit. When my roommate suggested a weekend girls trip to Austin, I jumped at the idea! Everyone else loves this city, so of course I will too, right?
I was wrong. I had heard that Austin has amazing live music and just a generally chill, enjoyable vibe that I was excited to experience. I had even heard Austin compared to Nashville, and as someone living in Nashville I was looking forward to being in a similar atmosphere as home. Yet I left Austin after a few days feeling underwhelmed and disappointed. We did so much on our trip and I enjoyed many of the sites we saw and foods we ate, however something just felt lacking and the city didn’t stand out to me.
With that said, we did so much and my favorite activities are detailed below!
Explore Texas History at the State Capitol
I love visiting state capitol buildings around the country. Not only are they a great way to learn about the history of the state, but each has it’s own unique architecture that I love to see. The state capitol building in Austin is no exception – it’s beautiful! We took our time wandering thrugh the park outside the building before entering to walk through the halls. I do not know much about Texas politics, but learned a bit from the information provided inside the building. This was a great free activity to introduce us to the state.
Tour Austin City Limits Theater
As one of the longest running American Music TV Programs, Austin City Limits is an icon of the city, and the show is now filmed in the Moody Theater located in downtown Austin. This was one of my favorite activities of the trip, due entirely to an exceptionally friendly employee. As we were outside the Moody Theater, taking pictures and trying to peak inside, a super friendly employee came over to see what we were doing. When he learned that my roommate was a huge fan of the show and that she worked in the music industry in Nashville, he volunteered to show us around on an impromptu tour. We were thrilled! We had the opportunity to enter the theater where they were setting up for a private concert that evening, go backstage, and even see a private balcony made for Willie Nelson to smoke when he performs there. We learned about the history and saw artwork on display showcasing the history of the theater. This was our last stop before heading to the airport so we weren’t able to look into tickets to the show that night, but I would definitely go back to Austin just to see a show in this historic theater.
Check Out the Skyline from Lady Bird Lake
Austin has a small but mighty skyline comprised of unique buildings. There are a few places in the city to find a view of the skyline, but my favorite was the view looking across Lady Bird Lake. Named after Lady Bird Johnson, a former First Lady of the US, this lake is actually a reservoir built into the Colorado River that runs through downtown Austin. There is a nice walking path along the lake that makes for both a great place to take a stroll and a great place to admire the skyline.
The Congress Avenue Bridge that crosses the river is also an attraction of its own – as the sun sets from Spring to Fall thousands and thousands of bats that live under the bridge can be seen flying into the night. Unfortunately our visit was not at the right time of year to see these bats take flight, which we did not learn until we had been sitting out in the cold waiting for about half an hour.
Admire the Artwork at Graffiti Park
Graffiti Park is located on Castle Hill within the city and looks to be well-loved by the city. Unlike most graffiti, this graffiti is legal and painting is encouraged. There is now a fence stopping people from getting too close as a new park is built, but you can still easily look past this to see the artwork displayed on the walls. There are so many talented artists that it is wonderful to see a place like this that allows them to express themselves.
Pose with One of Austin’s Many Murals
From Graffiti Park to the dozens of murals around town, Austin is no stranger to art. There are so many murals to visit depicting everything from famous people from Austin to different sayings. We found a list online of all of Austin’s murals before we went so we would know where to find the ones that most interested us and I definitely recomend all visitors do the same. These murals are spread throughout the city so if you are trying to visit a lot of them you will need to drive from one to the other.
Take a Hike up Mount Bonnell
While planning our trip to Austin we wanted to spend some time in nature outside of the city and were hoping to do at least a small hike. We decided on Mount Bonnell, which is more of a short walk than a hike. Located just outside the city in Covert Park, Mount Bonnell stands 775 feet high and is one of the highest points in the area. From the parking lot there is a short walk up about 100 stairs to reach the top, but the view from the top is absolutely stunning. From the top you can see the city off in the distance and a beautiful view overlooking the river. We arrived a little before sunset which seemed to be a popular time as the parking lot and mountain were full of people.
Eat TexMex, or More Specifically, Eat Tacos
We couldn’t go to Texas and not try TexMex and we both love tacos, so that is what we sought out. We landed in Austin hungry and just before lunchtime so our first stop after leaving the airport was at a nearby Torchy’s Tacos. We had seen Torchy’s on a few different lists of the best tacos in town and were excited to stop. I didn’t realize this was a chain that felt a lot like a fast food restaurant. But fast is good when you’re hungry, so I was happy with the speed that our tacos were ready. They were definitely very tasty, but weren’t that different than tacos I could get back home in Nashville.
Even after doing all of these activities and taking in the sights, I still left feeling like Austin was missing something and it just didn’t live up to my expectations. Are there any cities you have had high expectations for that let you down?