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Weekend guide to Austin
Eating, drinking, and partying during a long and lazy weekend in Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas, is a vibrant and eclectic city, but the city truly comes to life on weekends. Brunches are epic. Live music is everywhere. To take pressure off of the weekend warrior who might be staying downtown, we’ve come up with a few suggestions on how to make the most out of your Saturdays and Sundays in the Texas capital.
Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon is a Texas dive bar at its finest. The place might be small in appearance, but what she lacks in size, she makes up for in honky-tonk charm. Serving up great food, cheap beer, and lively entertainment, Ginny’s is a great place to relax after a long week. Another perk: You can pinch some pennies by bringing your own food and drink. Of course the biggest attraction is on Sundays, when the bar hosts a bingo game determined by where a chicken poops. The game is simple: Buy a ticket with a number on it, grab a free chili dog, and wait for the featured feathered friend to lay a pile. If the chicken mess lands on the same square that features your number, you walk away a little richer. If not, you’ll at least leave with the memory of one crazy round of bingo.
Viewfinder Tip: Ginny’s fills up fast on Sundays. Bring your own lawn chair for seating and a light jacket to fight off the evening chill.
If you don’t want your night to hinge on the unforeseeable bowels of a chicken, skip the foul play and head downtown to the rambunctious area lovingly referred to by the locals as “Dirty Sixth.” Technically, this corridor of chaos is East Sixth Street and represents the city’s entertainment district. Between the pulsating clubs, eclecctic bars, and music venues, there’s a watering hole suited for everyone. (If you find yourself a victim of Dirty Sixth’s boozy wiles, pass the car keys over to the night’s Designated Driver or hop on one of the ubiquitous pedicabs; these human-powered machines can easily maneuver through Austin’s traffic and are usually more affordable than taking a taxi to your hotel.)
We all know that the best way to fight a hangover is with a little hair of the dog. While the iconic Driskill Hotel is known for its rich history and eerie apparitions, spirits of a different variety cater to those haunted by the night before. An exceptional build-your-own Bloody Mary bar awaits The Driskill’s parched patrons. Start with a mason jar with a generous helping of vodka at the bottom. Top off your jar with either the regular bloody mary mix or the spicy house mix, then head to one of the tables laden with various accouterments. Continue to stuff in as many jalapeños, cheeses, vegetables, and meats that you can. The only rule that it all has to fit in, or on, your jar. Return to your seat and enjoy your monstrosity of a bloody mary.
Food trucks reign supreme in Austin and it would be a shame to miss out on a tasty meal on wheels. While there are mobile food trucks around every corner, a few have wheeled straight into the hearts of Austin’s food fanatics.
One of the more popular food trucks, “Hey!… You Gunna Eat or What?” is applauded for its Monte Cristo sandwich. Shiner Bock beer batter engulfs the ham and cheese sandwich before it fried to perfection. Topped with a light dusting of powdered sugar, the Monte Cristo sandwich is the ideal combination of sweet and savory. Order up a side of the housemade potato chips and you’ve got yourself the perfect, albeit greasy, meal combination.
If you’re hankering for something a little more exotic, head to the Fat Cactus food truck. Here, fry bread is the star of the show. The starch is served up warm, light, and fluffy. Choose whether you want your fry bread dressed as a taco or pizza and it will come with an assortment of fresh and tasty ingredients. Fat Cactus’ cilantro lemonade is a great way to wash down your meal.
Every night around sunset from March to late October, those who gather around the Congress Avenue Bridge are treated to a unique sight: What appears to be dark clouds emerging from underneath the bridge actually are flurries of fuzzy bodies and wings of Mexican free-tailed bats. These bats awaken from their slumber every night and head out by the tens of thousands in search of food. Onlookers often can smell these winged creatures before seeing them. If you want to see this spectacle in person, head to the promenade around the Congress Avenue Bridge early to avoid fighting for a good view.
Just over the famous “bat bridge” lies the eclectic shopping area of South Congress. This is the place to find a unique souvenir from your trip to Austin. An array of local shops and boutiques line the street, many catering to every want and wish. A personal favorite, uncommon OBJECTS, is an antique store and curiosity shop combined. Walls are adorned with jackalope heads and framed pictures of caricatured pickles, while every nook and cranny is stuffed with something that will shock or awe. Prices are reasonable and experiencing the store is a trip in and of itself.
For the manly man, STAG is a one-stop shop. With the headline “provisions for men,” this store carries everything from men’s barware and bandanas to gadgetry and apothecary products. If you find yourself traveling with a man who hates shopping, drop him off at STAG and you’ll be the one dragging him out in the end.
What are your favorite ways to experience a weekend in Austin?
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Chris and Tawny have had articles and videos published on USA TODAY TRAVEL, BBC Travel, Matador Network, as well as appeared as guest stars on TLC Asia's Fun Taiwan television series. When not on the road, you can find Chris and Tawny nestled in their home in Tacoma, Washington fueling up on coffee and cat cuddles while planning their future adventures. You can follow their travels on their blog, Instagram, and YouTube