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Travel Diary // Austin { SXSW }

Austin Travel Diary // What to see, where to eat, and what to do in Austin, Texas (especially during SXSW)

If you follow me on instagram, you know that I recently had the opportunity to travel to Austin for the South by Southwest (SXSW) interactive conference as part of my day job. While I typically keep the goings on at work separate from the blog, I thought this would be the perfect time to start a new travel diary series.

I’m always looking for personal recommendations and reviews when traveling to new places, and my first source for them is usually family and friends. Since I like to think everyone who stops by this blog falls into that category even if we’ve never met, I figured I’d start sharing recaps of any interesting places I visit. Sound good? Well then, let’s dive in to the wonderful world of Austin, Texas, shall we?

Austin, Texas travel tips

First, I’ll say that my experience of Austin was unique since I was there during one of the city’s biggest events. Somewhere nearly 50,000 people trek to the city in mid-March for a back-to-back music, film and technology conference. In just 5 days, I saw most of the hotels in downtown Austin, several of the top restaurants and music venues, and more. So, while I can’t speak to a “typical” weekend in Austin, I certainly experienced plenty worth sharing!

PLAY

Shopping in Austin Texas // Travel Diary for Austin // What to do
Even though my primary reason for visiting Austin was business, I made an effort to carve out a little personal time to experience the Austin culture–albeit probably the touristy side of the local culture. With a few hours off from SXSW sessions, I hopped in an Uber and went to Torchy’s Tacos (more on that in the “EAT” section below). There are a few locations, but if you go to the one on S 1st St., a quick walk through a suburban neighborhood will drop you right into the epicenter of S Congress Street shopping!

Things to do in Austin, Texas // Travel Diary by Bubbly Design Co.

 

I had a few recommendations from friends in hand, but mostly let myself wander anywhere that looked interesting. What I found was that you really couldn’t go wrong in any shop. I found a black lace top in Mayastar, a store filled with tons of bohemian tops and jewelry. Two doors down was Uncommon Goods, an adorable treasure trove of vintage and antique wares, where I found an amethyst formation as my “uncommon” souvenir.

One must-see is Allen’s Boots–the mecca for cowboy boots. Upon entering, the salesperson directed me to an ENTIRE row of cowboy boots, just in my size. I kid you not. Imagine a typical Nordstrom Rack size 8 shoe section… then double it. And they’re ALL cowboy boots. Every color, decoration, pattern, and style you could ever want. The browsing alone is fun!

Some of my other favorites included Parts & Labour { all locally made, Texas goods & gifts }, the TOM’s shop, and The Gypsy Wagon, where I may’ve indulged in cute housewares and stationery just a little too much.

What to do in Austin // Austin travel diaryWhat to do in Austin // Austin travel diary

 

EAT

Where to eat in Austin, Texas // dining out recommendations

If Austin is known for one thing, it’s probably music. But, if the city gets two things to lay claim to… the next one would be food { in my humble opinion }. From tacos in a trailer to barbecue, southern fried food to sweets, my tastebuds found many yummy things to feast on during my visit.

Where to eat in Austin // Dining out recommendations

 

If you visit S Congress Street for some aforementioned shopping, stopping for a Baja Shrimp taco at Torchy’s is a must. Try to limit yourself to one or two tacos and the queso, which I’d say is a 4 on a spicy scale of 1-10 { I’m a spice wimp and I loved it! }. If you’re alone, or in a small group, ask for a 1/2 size of the queso. It’s not on the menu, but will be plenty to get a taste while saving room for dessert.

Where to eat in Austin // Austin travel diary

I couldn’t choose between Amy’s Ice Cream and Hey Cupcake!, both of which came highly recommended. So, take my lead and do both! I went fruity with a Sweetberry cupcake and indulgent at Amy’s with the Dr. Pepper Float flavor. Directly across from the street is Jo’s Coffee, home of the infamous Austin sign…

Things to do in Austin // the Jo's coffee "I love you so much" sign{ I do love the occasional nerdy tourist shot! }

Most of my other meals were dictated by SXSW events and parties and I didn’t necessarily experience the typical menus. What I can say is that many of the hotels have nice restaurants and bars worth stopping into including the Four Seasons, The W { also love their pool deck }, and the JW Marriott. The Driskill Hotel, which was built in 1886, is something of a landmark in the city and maintains a very traditional “Texas” feel to it. I’d recommend stopping in for a cocktail before a concert or dinner.

My other stops included Cru, a wine bar that also has a Denver location, the new Soho House { incredibly hard to find in east Austin } and Swift’s Attic. On a nice night, Cru is a great spot to enjoy dinner al fresco and their prix fixe menu was all very fresh. Swift’s Attic is supposedly a great brunch spot, but we stopped in at night and enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and “ice ball” cocktails { where the mixers/ingredients are frozen into an orb of ice and liquor is drizzled over the top }.

For my next visit, I’ve already got Uchi Sushi, Foreign and Domestic, and Max’s Wine Dive on my list. If you’ve been, what were some of your favorite places for eating out?

 

SXSW HIGHLIGHTS

Travel Diary for Austin, Texas during SXSW // what do see and do

I would be remiss if I didn’t share a few of the highlights from my SXSW adventures. While not a “typical” part of a visit to Austin, they’re still too fun and silly not to share.

First, there was our funky airbnb house, which I’ll be sharing more about soon. It was my first time using airbnb and we couldn’t have been happier with our choice. Since music is so central to Austin’s culture and to SXSW { it actually started as a music-only festival }, I was lucky enough to attend three different concerts–Mark Ronson, The Flaming Lips, and Halsey. Each were memorable in their own right.

We boogied to “Uptown Funk” with Mark, were wide-eyed and in awe of The Flaming Lips stage antics { people in mushroom costumes, huge balloons tossed to the audience, and more }, and fell in love with Halsey’s emotional voice and blue hair!


Travel Diary for Austin, Texas during SXSW // what do see and do

Celebrity sightings aren’t rare at SXSW either. I attended a social media panel that featured model, Karlie Kloss and listened to Elijah Wood and Rainn Wilson { from The Office } speak about their latest film, a thriller called The Boy in case you’re interested.

What to do in Austin // Austin travel diary

There’s no easy way to sum up Austin, in my opinion. The city is diverse, interesting and should certainly be on your travel bucket list if you haven’t been. Why not schedule a trip around when your favorite band is playing in Austin so you also get to see one of the city’s iconic music venues like Austin City Limits?!

I’m sure there are a million more places to visit and fun things to do than I could’ve ever seen in my five short days there. If you’ve been to Austin, share your favorites and recommendations in the comments so we can all learn!

I certainly will be returning to Austin again next March and would love to shake things up next year!

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