Funky, bohemian, arty, fresh… these are not usually words that come to mind when you think of Texas.
Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Texas is home to Austin: the unashamed hipster capital of the world. Even if you don’t like hipsters, you’re going to fall in love with Austin.
1. Kayak Lake Austin
Whatever you do in Austin, don’t sleep in!
Austin is so hot right now. Literally.
In summer, the city by the lake can hit 36 degrees Celsius, meaning if you don’t get up and moving early, you will be confined to spending the better part of the day lazing around in air-conditioned frigidity.
Spring out of bed early and make your way down to the Texas Rowing Centre where you can hire a paddleboard or kayak for around $15 an hour.
The lake is gives you a great view of the city and is home to a plethora of cute little turtles, boobies (tee-hee) and catfish.
Bonus points if you adapt stealth mode and paddle silently enough to take an up close photo of the critters.
Extra bonus points if you manage to push a frenemy into the lake in winter.
2. Go antiquing
As the day heats up, head on over to South Congress Avenue, a short drive from the Texas Rowing Centre.
There you’ll find, amongst a variety of other funky stores, “Uncommon Objects” – hands down the most eccentric and intriguing antiques store in Texas, if not the whole United States.
Uncommon Objects is brimming with unique items, you could easily spend hours there (even if you aren’t an enthusiast), and the staff don’t mind if you touch.
There are oddities for every budget; postcards from the 19th century, a range of taxidermied creature doodads (including, but not limited to stuffed racoons, mounted deer heads, a lamp made from armadillo skin and a beaver skin top hat), a host of strange turn of the century medical objects, scores of antique signs, jars full of teeth, real vintage cowboy boots, and thousands of other quirky items.
International traveller’s tip: before you decide to invest in that stuffed rattle snake you’ve always wanted, make sure you’ll be able to bring it through your home country’s customs first.
3. Sample some Home Slice pizza
Grab a slice of the famous Home Slice pizza just around the corner from Uncommon Objects.
For around $10 you can get a huge slice of pizza and two beers.
For the vego we recommend the ‘White Pie with Spinach’, and for the pizza purist the ‘Pepperoni and Mushroom’ will not disappoint.
Bonus points for Instagramming one of their funky signs.
4. Get a photo at Castle Hill
The city of Austin in an awesome, awesome, destination… on many levels.
One of the coolest spots in Austin is a little place lovingly referred to by locals as “Castle Hill”.
Castle Hill is the foundations and partial walls of what was planned to be an inner-city apartment building.
For reasons unknown, the building contract fell through, and local street artists quickly took a liking to the unfinished structures, using them as a canvas for their maverick masterpieces.
In what can only be described as one of the coolest moves a governmental body has ever made, the Austin City Council decided that instead of destroying the structure, they would allow graffiti artists to continue to paint (with permits, of course).
The permits are easy to get and the result is one of the best, most diverse arrays of community art you will ever see.
Bonus points for climbing all the way to the top of the four storey structure and snapping an ultra-beatnik selfie.
5. Own at least one bar game
Once you’re in the city, gather your friends and mosey on down to “Buffalo Billiards” on sixth street.
Built in 1861, the former boarding house (read: brothel) is now the place to settle once and for all who amongst you is the ultimate bar games champion.
Pay per hour to settle the score in billiards, ping pong, air hockey, shuffle board, darts, fussball, pinball, console games, and more.
As with all bar games, losers buy the next round of drinks, which is okay, because you’ll be able to shout five people for under twenty bucks.
Bonus points for retaining more than three titles.
6. See a live comedy show
Keep the good times rolling at “Esther’s Follies” comedy and magic show.
The tickets are only $22-29 and the show is by far the best entertainment value for your dollar in Texas.
Esther’s Follies is an iconic comedy institution.
The actors blend topical satire, creative improv and mind-melting magic to create a performance that blows Vegas right out of the water.
If their wicked combination of drag queens, elderly Ali-G wannabes, dance breaks and disappearing puppies doesn’t entertain you, nothing will.
Traveller’s tip: When they open the doors, it’s like a cattle stampede, so get in early to avoid being trampled.
7. Ride a mechanical bull
It’s pretty much mandatory to ride at least one mechanical bull whilst in Texas.
Once you’ve got your liquid courage and a taste for laughing at people hurting themselves, head down the road to “The Trophy Room” and have a crack at taming that wild, mechanical beast.
Five dollars and a couple of legal disclaimers later, you’ll be straddling that bad boy for as long as you can.
Stick around long enough and you’ll be put to shame by the bar staff who will ride that sucker for faster and longer than even the most skilful cowboys. With no hands.
Traveller’s tip: don’t ask the operator to go easy on you. That only increases his urge to see you flying across the ring.
8. Bring on an eargasm with some live music
In case you didn’t know, Austin is the live music capital of the world.
Every single night of the week the police block off the roads in the city centre so that music connoisseurs (read: party people) can roam free without the bother of staggering into unsuspecting cars.
Don’t worry about which act is going to be where, just walk until you hear something you like.
In fact, you don’t even have to set foot in a bar to hear some phenomenal talent – the buskers in Austin know their stuff.
Bonus points for buying the band a round of drinks after the show.
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