I love Austin and all it has to offer: museums, music, restaurants, and recreation. We love entertaining out of town guests and playing tourists around town. Over the Independence Day holiday, we entertained a family member who has visited us before, and we didn't want to give her the same old experience. That meant our usual staples of Tacodeli, Frank, Tarka, and Alamo Drafthouse were ruled out. We had a great time visiting some old favorites that we hadn't been to in a while.
Overall, I thought this place was a great alternative to dirty 6th for anyone who wants to have a great time in a calmer, less club-like atmosphere. The food was good, and they had plenty to offer: bowling, card games, bar, full food menu, ping pong, billiards, and a great lounge atmosphere. We bowled (admittedly I was terrible) and ate dinner and I thought the service was great. If you're going to bowl, I should warn you that it doesn't come cheap, but you get what you pay for in aesthetics. Goodnight feels exclusive, retro, and not your typical bowling alley.
I am so fortunate to live in a town with such great coffee shops. We visited both Houndstooth and Caffe Medici (congress location) and drank up their deliciousness. Houndstooth's Central Austin has the added bonus of being beside Tacodeli, so it is a great option for anyone looking to grab a great espresso with their breakfast taco.
Town Lake Fireworks
Town Lake and 4th of July Fireworks at Auditorium Shores Anyone who loves the outdoors can appreciate Town lake and the leash-free dog park. Although the 4th of July brings a record crowd each year, the fireworks were entirely worth it, and the live symphony performance is such a unique pairing. Everyone knows that parking is a challenge so consider your options well in advance for next year, and remember to bring a blanket if you're planning on being there a while.
2nd St District
We took our guests shopping along the 2nd street district, and I adore this area. I do admit that it caters more toward women (Milk and Honey, Francesca's, Luxe Apothetique, etc.) but there are great souvenir stores, design shops, and other boutiques that cater to antiques and baby apparel. Everyone can find at least one interesting shop to pop into.
Visiting South Congress screams "tourist" but it is still a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. We visited Uncommon Objects, Allen's Boots, and popped in to drop some bills into the Austin Pets Alive donation box. We were also interested in Ten Thousand Villages since they were prepping to set a world record in honor of the Dali Lama's Birthday.
Blue Dahlia is a great tiny french bistro. They have a wonderful back patio area and adorable tartines, salads, and breads. Their espresso is good as well. Since the space is so tiny it can get loud, but this is a wonderful break from the typical downtown hustle. For anyone looking to venture into East Austin, I wholly recommend Blue Dahlia.
Delicious. The only word to describe this off-the-beaten-path Japanese comfort food restaurant. Its tiny, and waiting (outside) for seating can sometimes be a chore, but the food is well worth it. They offer ramen bowls and rice bowls and the best Brussels sprouts you will ever eat in your life. If you haven't been, it is worth the drive. It recently was awarded the honor of Bon Appetit's 50 Best New Restaurants in America so you don't have to take just my word for it.
By the end of the trip, we were looking for a casual restaurant that was a bit off the radar. We'd already been downtown and through South Congress, and I was looking to get away from crowds. We headed over to Chuy's on Research Blvd. and ate on the patio. It was relaxed, quiet, delicious, and peaceful. Good cheap eats. The texmex offers great variety, and their support of Austin charities makes you feel good when paying your bill. The decor is interesting, and you have a lot to look at while you eat.
I've heard it said that this is the best kept secret in Austin, but seeing how I always wait in line for about an hour, I don't think it is very much of a secret. Regardless, this is a wonderful burger place that offers amazing food, milkshakes that will blow your mind, and a full bar. They support local farmers and healthy alternatives, so it is the most delicious and if done right, the healthiest, burger you'll ever eat. I will add here that the service at the Anderson location is consistently terrible, but as long as you get your burger, you shouldn’t need much from the wait staff – Just get your add-ons and extra fork at the get-go before you’re forgotten about.
This quirky little smoothie shop offers the healthiest options that we ate or drank during the staycation. The best part is JuiceLand shares a space with Sweet Ritual, a vegan ice cream shop. I always go for the Berry White, a refreshing combination of strawberries, raspberries, and pineapple juice and when I’m in an ice cream mood I get the vanilla soft serve. You’d never know its vegan. Sweet Ritual also has fantastic sundae options.
We also hit up some delicious brunch at Lambert's Barbecue, so good in fact I ate so quickly I didn't take a photo!
It was great to have family in town and enjoy what Austin has to offer. The proof is in the pudding that you don't have to go far for a great vacation.