Earlier in the summer, I traveled with a friend to Omaha (honestly thinking it was a big place) and some people suggested that it couldn’t be counted for my blog because I said a “major” city. Ok, fine. So here’s another one!
A couple months ago, my husband, Thor, sent me an email that had a link that simply said, “I just bought tickets.” I clicked the link, which took me to the FUN FUN FUN FEST in Austin, TX over Veteran’s Day weekend (if you want to know more about FFFFEST, check out my blog post about it here).
I have to admit, we spent so much time at FFFFest, and we were on foot the entire time, that I felt like I didn’t get to really explore the city like I should. But based on my Nike Fuel Band, I can tell you we covered A LOT of ground by running/walking (Friday was literally my “Best Day Ever” since I started wearing my Fuel band 11 months ago).
First off, hotels were EXPENSIVE when I was shopping around for a place downtown (I’m talking a minimum of $400/nt) so I picked Casulo Hotel a couple miles from downtown that had shuttle. It was billed as a “luxury boutique hotel.” When we got there, I realized the location was terrible. We were right on the freeway in a gnarly area (the concierge literally suggested we go to Denny’s for dinner). The room was really nice and spacious, and that was probably the only good part about the hotel.
Everything else about the place was off. It looked kind of dirty; the decor was a mass of kitchy items picked up at Goodwill; the hot tub didn’t work; the “restaurant” was really just short order kitchen with quesadillas; the fitness room was FILTHY. We decided to check out after two nights and relocated to the Radisson downtown (thanks Expedia).
The first morning, we decided to go on a run towards the downtown area to get a better picture of what Austin had to offer. It was not picturesque. We were running past strip malls and freeways. The neighborhoods immediately across the “lake” were nicer, but not that nice. On our way back, I did spy some cool shops; unfortunately they weren’t open…
Later we took a cab downtown (that hotel “shuttle service” was a total scam!) and wandered. The weather was FRIGID and not the sunny warm glow everyone had told us to expect, so we ended up spending most the time looking to buy me a jacket.
So here were my impressions after spending three nights and four full days in downtown Austin:
1. FOOD: Um not that great. We ate out A LOT (using Yelp as our guide) and nothing blew our minds. On the first night of the fest we ate from food carts in the fest, and we both agreed that the food was terrible (except a giant brownie) so we stuck to places downtown. We had a decent lunch at a place called Second Bar + Kitchen, and a tasty crepe breakfast at Le Crepe…otherwise everything else was memorably bad.
2. PEOPLE: It was hard to tell who was actually FROM Austin, so I will give Austin benefit of the doubt that not ALL of the dirty hipsters resided there. But outside of the fest, Thor and I agreed it was not a friendly city. We continually told people, “We’re from out of town! Where should we go??” The cab drivers were surly as hell; both hotels were unhelpful in suggesting restaurants; and restaurant staff across all venues were aloof (and sometimes unintelligible). On our way back to the airport, we had an incredibly friendly and helpful driver. We were like, “Where was this guy on day one?!”
3. STUFF TO SEE: I was more satisfied in this department. On the last day, we went for a run along Ladybird Lake (right across from our hotel) which had trails obviously frequented by runners. I also managed to stop into TWO museums: The Contemporary Austin Modern Art Museum and the Mexi-Arte Museum. The latter was featuring an exhibit of Jose Posada’s work (for FREE!) and I could have stayed for hours. We also walked up and down 6th Street (as some recommended), and I’m sure if you like to get wasted it’s your scene – but for us it didn’t have much to offer. We stopped at Recess Arcade Bar to play some vintage arcade games, but to my dismay the games were mostly broken and the place reeked of last night’s beer vomit.
4. MUSIC: Well clearly this is where they are are ahead of the game. FFFFest had a wealth of different music (big and small names), and Austin City Limits was just last month, and they also host SXSW. You could tell that everyone there listens to SOMETHING, and sees live music on a regular basis. Everywhere we went, there were statues or murals of famous music artists.
Overall, Thor is ready to go back to Austin, but I’m not totally sold. Every time I go somewhere new, I remember how cool Portland is. In Austin, there were all these “Keep Austin Weird” signs everywhere, which was funny because Portland has the EXACT same thing. Thor insisted Austin started it, and I was like, “Well as far as I can tell, Austin ain’t got shit on Portland.” Would you like me to prove it? Read this: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-30-most-portland-things-that-have-ever-happened-in-portl
So maybe see you next time, Austin. If nothing else, you definitely wore me out.