I love Austin. I’ve visited briefly twice before and enjoyed myself thoroughly each time. During my latest visit, however, my husband Daniel and I stayed for two weeks. In this post, I’ll share our favorite things to do in Austin and highlight great places to eat, drink and admire the city’s street art.
Visiting Austin during the COVID-19 Pandemic
When Daniel and I arrived in Austin, we had been traveling more-or-less nonstop for the previous several months. We arrived the day before Halloween 2020, although we hardly noticed the holiday. We’ve been avoiding most public places and gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a few days in charming and sunny Austin, however, we began to thaw towards the outside world. The gloriously sunny weather meant that it was easy to eat and drink outdoors. Austin has a formidable food truck scene with opportunities for eating al fresco everywhere.
And don’t get me started on the music! Austin is famous for its lively music scene with bars and venues seemingly on every corner. There were ample opportunities to catch live tunes during our visit, despite various shutdowns and pandemic-related setbacks.
And so it was that Daniel and I had a fabulous time in Austin. We ate out pretty much every day, sampled local beverages, admired the prolific street art, and got our groove on. Ahh, bliss.
Nowadays, of course, we wouldn’t attempt anything of the sort due to the alarming resurgence of the Coronavirus. We travel much less frequently these days and only venture out to go grocery shopping or to spend time exploring the great outdoors. But back in October, COVID transmission rates were relatively low in Travis County.
And so we enjoyed our moment in the sun.
Food Trucks Everywhere
One of the first things that I noticed in Austin was the proliferation of food trucks. They really are pretty much everywhere. The trucks are often grouped together in little parks so that it is easy to grab some cheap and yummy food on the go. This dining style is particularly well-suited for pandemic dining as it take place completely out-of-doors.
The Austin Food Scene
While I would have been perfectly contented to eat every meal at a food truck, Daniel encouraged me to broaden my horizons. There is more to the Austin food scene than just food trucks. So much more!
Eating at Franklin Barbecue usually requires a bit of advanced planning. As one of the most popular restaurants in Austin, Franklin Barbecue typically attracts a big crowds and *really* long lines. Lucky for us, however, the restaurant has changed its seating policy due to the pandemic. At the time of our visit, food was available for pick-up only. All we had to do was order online and sign up for a pick-up window. Easy peasy.
A friend recommended the chili queso at Torchy’s Tacos so we had to stop by for a visit. I particularly enjoyed the white trash taco with fried chicken. Yummy!
Daniel and I wandered over to Launderette one afternoon after a stroll along Ladybird Lake. It was an unplanned visit but a satisfying one. We arrived just in time for happy hour and helped ourselves to some yummy drinks and snacks.
The Austin Drinking Scene
Outdoor beer gardens and bar patios are ubiquitous in Austin. It’s been a long time since we went out for an adult beverage since most bars are indoors. Daniel and I were looking forward to spending a night (or two) out on the town.
The Mean-Eyed Cat Bar
I’m a big fan of Johnny Cash and so we had to pay a visit to the Mean-Eyed Cat Bar. Named after one of Johnny’s songs, this dive bar is an homage to all things Johnny Cash.
The Lustre Pearl East
Located a mere few blocks from our AirBnB rental, the Lustre Pearl boasts a giant courtyard for outdoor drinking.
Catch a Live Show: Buffalo Gals at the Sagebrush
I was eager to see some live music while we were in Austin. And so, after much research, we found ourselves at Sagebrush on the other side of town. We picked Sagebrush because it has an outdoor stage and, even though live music was permitted indoors during our visit, I wasn’t super comfortable with that notion.
Upon arrival we discovered that while the venue has three stages, only one of them is located outdoors. Unfortunately, the Buffalo Gals were scheduled to play on one of the indoor stages. Boo. It was a great show, however. We had a great time.
Admire Austin’s Murals and Street Art
The other thing I noticed right away upon arriving in Austin (besides the food trucks) was the street art. Colorful murals are everywhere. Many businesses have giant murals painted on their outer walls. It’s as if the businesses are trying to outdo each other in an effort to vie for attention.
Hang out in the South Congress Neighborhood
Daniel and I spent several evenings wandering around Austin’s South Congress neighborhood. SoCo is a fun neighborhood with lots of bars and restaurants as well as iconic Austin sights.
Walk around Downtown Austin
While we preferred to spend most of our time in Austin’s funky neighborhoods, Daniel and I did pay one visit to the downtown area and the state Capitol.
Pay Homage to Office Space
Daniel and I were surprised to learn that the movie Office Space was filmed in Austin. So we made a pilgrimage to the building where the exterior office building scenes were shot.
Election Night Jitters
One of the reasons we chose to stay in Austin was because of the presidential election. It has been a contentious election year and we were both feeling a little nervous that things might get crazy or even violent on election night. Daniel and I don’t have much experience traveling in the southern part of the country and we wanted to be someplace familiar.
It was a surreal time to be traveling.
Stroll along the Shores of Ladybird Lake
Ladybird lake is a river-like reservoir which runs directly through the city of Austin. Trails along the lake provide ample opportunities for walking and biking. Daniel and I spent one of our last evenings in Austin watching the sun set over the lake. It was a fitting farewell for our time in the city.
More Information and Resources
Planning to visit Austin? Check out the following books for more inspiration:
- Lonely Planet Pocket Austin by Lonely Planet and Amy C Balfour
- Austin Food Crawls: Touring the Neighborhoods One Bite & Libation at a Time by Kelsey Kennedy
Where are we now?
Dates: October 30-Nobember 9, 2020
Great American Road Trip Status: Days 117-128
Location: Austin, TX
Total Trip Mileage: 8669.3
For more details on our Great America (Socially Distanced) Road Trip, see my previous posts:
- Days 115 & 116: Marilynn’s Place, Hurricane Zeta and other Adventures
- Days 113 & 114: Visiting Hot Springs Arkansas, America’s First National Park
- Day 112: Touring Graceland during the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Days 110-111: Hiking in Mammoth Cave National Park
- Days 106-109: A Quick Visit to Huntington, West Virginia
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