We visited Austin in late April, 2011, in part for a writing convention for Rob which took place at a Doubletree Hotel a bit outside the city, on Interstate 35. It was actually a very nice hotel, but once the convention was over, we moved downtown to The Driskill. This was a splurge, but the convention hotel had been very inexpensive, and this would only be for three nights, so we went for it.
Their “Curio” rooms fit the bill, being small, cozy and reasonably priced (relatively, for this grand hotel). Truly, the hotel was absolutely lovely and the service and staff incredibly polite and helpful. It’s also a great location, central to many things you’d want to walk to in Austin, including the State Capitol and South Congress Street. I would happily stay here again, if I could fit it into my budget.
As far as food, we had some great meals, and fun experiences, in Austin. Here’s the best of what we found:
- Brunch at the South Congress Café. It’s probably the best brunch we’ve ever had, hands down. It was so good, in fact, we went twice! We highly recommend the Migas, the Smoked Brisket Hash, and the Eggs Benedict. We had a tuna tartare app that was a special, and absolutely amazing. Oh, and don’t miss the Infused Bloody Mary.
- For the best burger in town, go to Casino el Camino on 6th Street. Very cool, funky(dive) bar with a great jukebox. If you like spicy, order the Amarillo burger; bring a friend to split it with because it’s huge.
- Walk around and check out the architecture, including some great art deco design.
- At dusk, grab a spot along the Congress Street bridge and watch the millions of bats heading out for their nocturnal wanderings, which is a very cool sight. What not to do: get what you think will be a great viewing seat on the “batio” at the Friday’s right next to the bridge. This didn’t work out quite as well as we had planned: Friday’s are always a garfunkel.
- Go to Barton Springs, a recreation area with natural pools fed from underground springs. We were not aware of how awesome this place was before we went, so didn’t have suits with us, but will definitely plan it right next time.
- If you like beer, don’t miss the Ginger Man pub. Tons of great beer on tap, plus a lovely courtyard out back to enjoy the nice weather.
- Check out the Spider House Cafe for a very eclectic, bohemian bar. It is a somewhat out of the way from downtown, but worth the cab ride. It is like drinking a cold beer inside an R.E.M. video.
- For music, check out Cedar Street Courtyard on West 4th Street.
- Visit the State Capitol building. It’s quite impressive, with some interesting paintings (a very large one of Davy Crockett), and if you hit it on the right day you can sit up in the gallery while the legislature is in session casting votes.
- If you have time for a side trip, consider renting a car and driving about an hour or so to San Antonio. A visit to the Alamo was definitely worth it, and we had a very lovely lunch along the Riverwalk at Las Canarias.
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Austin, and would definitely go back.