One thing that hit us about Austin was, well, how bloody odd it is. It shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise given the ubiquity of those “Keep Austin Weird” bumper stickers, but having just spent several days immersed in Houston, GuidePal was taken aback at how un-Texan the state capital is. Austin is, hands down, one of the weirdest, zaniest, kookiest cities in the US of A.
On one street, you’ll see hipsters, hippies, cowboys, health and yoga fanatics, jocks and start-up geeks. In other words, it’s a super fun, super cool place.
Thanks to the major festivals which take place throughout the year – like the frenetic South by Southwest – Austin is now well and truly on the map. It’s earned a reputation as one of the best places to live in the States, leading major corporations to open offices here. Some locals fear that these corporate newcomers may chip away at Austin’s trademark quirkiness – but when we walked down 6th Street on Saturday night there was definitely no shortage of weirdness.
TO PEOPLE-WATCH: SOUTH CONGRESS
Throwing ourselves in the deep end, we started on that infamously hip avenue, South Congress. Back in the 1980s, this was the seedy part of town, largely populated by hookers instead of hipsters. Today, the mix of one-of-a-kind boutiques, food trailers and dive bars attracts all sorts of Austinites and sets the scene for some excellent people-watching.
TO EAT: SEAFOOD GALORE AT PERLA’S
Working up an appetite, we headed to buzzy and chic Perla’s which is set right at the heart of South Congress. Perla’s made a splash soon after it launched and has managed to stand the test of time. It has a chic and laidback vibe which perfectly suits the neighbourhood. We loved the ocean fresh oysters, crunchy grilled octopus and flavoursome mussels.
TO PARTY: EVERYWHERE!
We quickly discovered that music and partying is everywhere in Austin, you couldn’t escape it even if you wanted to. And you definitely won’t want to. Post-noshing at Perla’s, we took a short walk down the road to the the legendary and laid-back Continental Club, which has live acts covering everything from rockabilly to country blues, before heading on to Antone’s, where local bands play in a cavernous and very, very fun space.
TO STAY: W AUSTIN
We headed back to our hotel, the W Austin, where the party was still going in its buzzing, ‘see and be seen’ communal spaces which also draw hip locals. The ground floor bars flow into one another, with guests partying and sipping handcrafted cocktails as DJs spin some of the 8,000 vinyl records found on the surrounding shelves. Although it’s a chain, the W embodies all the cool, playful and interested elements of this zany, downright weird city.
The next day we cooled off with a moijto at the pool (it’s the perfect spot for whiling away those hot Texan afternoons), ready to do it all again.