Austin is a great, lively city with a lot going on all the time. It makes for a great place to visit, since there is so much to do. Our friends Kevin & Jordan live here, so it was great to get a sense of the city with them. They took us to their favorite spots, and we felt like we got to experience more of the city, as opposed to a few of the other cities that we’ve visited as tourists and only seen the must-see tourist spots.
They took us to a place called The Salt Lick, a Texas barbeque spot that is pretty renowned. It’s a 20-minute drive outside the city, on a nice parcel of land set-up as a ranch, so it brings out the tourists. It was worth the hype. They have a great large outdoor patio space with picnic tables for seating, and a wine-tasting room, which we sadly didn’t partake in. They serve all-you-can-eat barbequed meats – enough brisket, pork ribs, and pork sausage to feed a small army. The boys got the family-style meal (read: unlimited amounts of the meat for twenty bucks, of course), so we shared and all got to try a bit of everything. I also got a side of beef ribs, which are larger and longer than pork ribs, and have a bit tougher meat, but I liked them. My favorite of the night was the charred ends of the brisket – perfectly crisp and chewy. The place is BYOB, so we washed everything down with some local craft beer we brought, and finished everything off with some peach cobbler a la mode. #perfect.
The next day we decided to go for a morning run. Austin is a very outdoors-y city, even despite the heat. It has a ton of natural landscape (think wooded hills), water, and bike/running trails. On Town Lake, also known as Lady Bird Lake but which has a shape much more like a river, you can partake in boating, stand-up paddle-boarding, trails, and pedestrian bridges. It’s a pretty sweet feature of the city. We ran down to the Lake and took some sweaty (it was hot and humid already at 7am) photos to share with our running groups back home. We’ll spare you those. There were a ton of other people out, running, biking, walking – many with dogs. It was great to see so many people out being active. After we drank about 5 gallons of water to balancing out the sweating, I went back to the apartment while LSmith finished his 22 mile run (WHY? Who knows!). Later Jordan took us to lunch at Whole Foods. WF started in Austin, and while they’ve outgrown their original location, they built an incredible, larger store across the street. This place was an experience in itself – sensory overload, but in a good way – there were so many cool things to check out. It’s got a fresh sushi counter, tons of prepared, to-order food (sandwiches, smoothies, quinoa bowls), a bar (you can also drink while you shop, hellooo, awesome!), tons of seating both inside and out, and a huge walk-in beer fridge! The doors slide open, and then you find yourself in craft beer heaven.
After lunch, we decided to head out of the city and check out some hidden touristy things, including a graffiti park (the same graffiti park that Tony told us about back in New Orleans and something called the 360 Outlook.
The Outlook was OUT OF THIS WORLD incredible. It was our first real taste of the awesomeness of American landscape on this trip, since most of the South is pretty flat. It’s a bit off-the-beaten path as well, since you wouldn’t really find it if you didn’t know it was there. You park off the side of a small highway, and then hike up a short but wicked steep, rocky hill. I was giddy to get to the top and felt like it was such a cool mini adventure. Once you crest the top, it’s a magnificent view that awaits you. There’s a great view of the 360 bridge, the Colorado river, and the hills of Austin. It was pretty sweet.
Then we went to Hamilton Pool–an incredible natural cave/waterfall/lake/hike. It was amazing. Basically it looks like batman’s summer home. Yeah, the water falls over the cave and into the lake, and you can swim in it. Amazing.