Bikes, Buses, and Boats in Austin TX

A quick thanks for reading the blog – glad everyone stopped by for the Austin update on Wednesday, and I’m happy to report another post tonight!

While we focused mainly on food and beverage for the last one, I’ll get into more of what we did here.  I’ll bold some things throughout this post, and you can find more info for anything bolded in the last post.

Friday

We arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport just before noon last Friday.  Knowing our flight home left in another 53 hours, we got right to exploring!

The Capital Metro system throughout Austin is excellent, and we had no issues using the buses during our stay.  They offer a route to and from the airport, Bus 100, that will take you downtown or continue all the way up to the University of Texas campus. A single ride is $1.25, but most of the time it will make sense to get the Day Pass.  Good for a single day and only $2.50, it definitely comes in handy.  You can pay cash on board (exact change), or buy your pass through the app on your smartphone.  The ride from the airport is about 20 minutes to downtown, 30 up to the university campus.

Once our bus arrived in the city center, we walked over to our AirBnB, only about half an hour (we’re big fans of walking).  Hungry by now, we stumbled upon Veracruz; it was love at first sight!  Fueling up on some great tacos, we dropped off our bags at the house a little further off, and caught the next bus back into downtown.  Friday’s high was somewhere around 102 degrees Fahrenheit, so we made our way to Barton Springs.  The public bus drops you off on the road out front, and it’s really easy to find from there.  On a hot day, just follow the crowd!

BartonSprings-1

Barton Springs pool, complete with diving board!

There are two main parts to Barton Springs.  Free and…well, not free.  The Barton Springs you hear everyone talking about is the paid entrance.  It’s a cool spot, basically a river with walls like a pool.  There’s a diving board, and plenty of room for swimming, diving, and relaxing in the shallow end.  The river continuously moves through the pool, down the river further, and then empties into Lady Bird Lake and the Colorado River.  The water hovers around a constant 68 degrees, a bit cold in comparison to the hot Texas weather, but very refreshing.  Beyond the fence of the pool, downriver, there’s also plenty of swimming.  If you like swimming at the ponds, and don’t plan on using the diving board at the pool, save a bit of cash and swim downriver.  Get off at the same bus stop and walk to the Barton Springs entrance, then walk to your left.  You’ll find it.  Be warned, I like to call the free part the “party” side.  Beer, questionable herbs, you’ll find it here!  Listen, it’s nothing you wouldn’t see at any other beach, just keep it in mind if that’s not your kind of scene.  There were still plenty of kids splashing around and everyone was having a good time.

AllensBoots

After soaking and laying out in the sun for a few hours, we caught a bus back into town.  Call me crazy, but for an early dinner it was tacos round two!  Torchy’s held their own, especially after getting a hold of the secret menu.  We continued the walk over to South Congress Ave, where we shopped around a bit and took advantage of the air conditioning inside all the doors.

We walked north, continuing along South Congress Ave.  The Congress Avenue bridge (across Lady Bird Lake/the Colorado River) is home to North America’s largest urban bat colony.  Once the sun starts to go down, they zip out from their roost to catch their weight in bugs along the river bank.  First, you only see one…then two…five…ten, and pretty soon there’s a stream of bats pouring out from underneath the Southeast corner of the bridge.  It really is a sight to see, and if you’re interested even a little bit, get to the bridge early by half an hour or so for a decent spot.  Anywhere along the east side of the bridge near the middle, all the way down to the southern bank of Lady Bird Lake should get you a good view.  You’ll have to see for yourself, as it was nearly impossible to get a decent picture of the bats!

Like the bat colony, we decided to come out of hiding for the night!  We continued up Congress Avenue to 6th Street for a little bar hopping.  Normally this isn’t really my scene, but I hate to miss out on something in a new place!  We had a great night listening to the music and hanging out in the middle of everything.  Before leaving the area, we mellowed out a bit at Easy Tiger and listened to Waller Creek running over the rocks.

Saturday

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Austin’s B-Cycle bike share system got us around all day Saturday for only $12.99.

Even though we stayed out late the night before, we rolled out of bed early the next morning!  Just down the street from our AirBnB was a bus stop and a B-Cycle bike rack just past the bus.  It had cooled down since the previous day, and I suggested we buy the daily pass and ride around town!  Honestly, it was probably the most fun I had during the trip!  I’m no professional cyclist, but I really enjoyed cruising from one attraction to the next all day Saturday.

A day pass will run you just under $13, and is good for unlimited 60 minute rides anywhere around town.  That means that as long as your ride is under an hour long, you won’t be charged any extra.  Anything over 60 minutes is $4 plus tax for each additional 30 minutes.  Easy fix though – check the bike into a station prior to 60 minutes, and then check a new one right out again to continue your ride.

Franklin Barbecue edit

As soon as we hopped on the bikes, we made our way to Franklin BBQ.  We were really looking forward to a great lunch, but the line stretched around the corner.  We were waiting only a few minutes before someone came out and explained that the popular barbecue joint wasn’t guaranteeing lunch on Saturday, and we likely wouldn’t get any food before they closed.

Well, we still needed lunch!  So we hopped back on the bikes and wheeled all the way up to Black’s BBQ on Guadalupe Street.  After the cycling all morning, some great barbecue hit the spot!  I can’t say enough about the ribs at Black’s – great flavor, super tender, and it all fell right off the bone.  The rest of the food was great too, but the beef ribs really stood out.  We explored the area around the University of Texas campus for a bit, and then rode south into the city for our next adventure.

A few weeks ago I was scrolling through Groupon, and figured I should look for something to do in Austin.  Luckily, I stumbled along a deal for Texas Rowing Center, a kayaking outfit along the north shore of Lady Bird Lake, just west of the MoPac Expressway.  I promptly snagged a Groupon for 2 kayaks for two hours, and we had a blast!  I’d say the water is best seen by kayak (canoe or paddleboard if you prefer), and you have two options.  In addition to Texas Rowing Center, there’s also Congress Avenue Kayaks closer to the center of the city, also along the north shore of the water.

Thoroughly worn out from kayaking, we met up with a friend living in Austin over at the Hanger Lounge for a few drinks then sausages at Frank for dinner.  Then, on to the Alamo Drafthouse to finish off the night!

The Drafthouse was recommended to us by a friend that lived in Austin for a few years after college.  It’s a great venue that offers film, commentary, and comedy.  If you’re ever in town, see if they’re offering a comedy show.  We went for a roast of Tom Cruise, and it was absolutely hilarious!  Definitely the most I laughed on this trip.  The theatre has a full selection of food and drink, liquor, and some delicious cookies.  You order everything by simply writing it down on a note and leaving it for the server.  We got out of the movie and weaved between drunk college kids and bachelorette parties on 6th Street, hopped on our bikes, and rode back to the AirBnB to rest up for our last day in Austin.

Sunday

Alright.  I’m not ashamed to say it.  We went back to Veracruz for some breakfast tacos Sunday morning!  We fit in with the food truck vibe perfectly too, after packing everything up from the AirBnB and strapping it on our backs.  Something about backpackers and breakfast tacos – I don’t know, I just feel like the two go well together!

StreetArt-ButterHalf edit

Anyway, after our fill of breakfast tacos, we hitched a ride on the Capital Metro bus up to the Butter Half mural on East Martin Luther King Blvd.  A little saddened to see that some folks had tagged the artwork, we crossed the street to lift our spirits with a quick drink from Bennu Coffee.  If you’re in the area, definitely stop by – delicious fresh baked muffins and a great coffee.  Or so I’m told…I’m not a coffee guy, so I opted for an ice cold Lime & Punishment.  Not sure where the punishment comes in, but the lime, mineral water, and coconut was a great combination!

We sipped the drinks while we waited for our Lyft to arrive, and hopped on down to the Texas Capitol building.  There’s a bit of history nerd in both of us, so we try to schedule time to see the museums and historical sites in any new city.  I’m more of an ancient civilization guy (check out Machu Picchu and Chichen Itza), but she has a thing for American history, so we strive to see it all!  The Capitol Building was impressive.  Taller than DC’s capitol, the building represents a lot of Texas history.  Fun Fact:  Texas is the only state to have entered into the US by way of a sovereign treaty.  All other states were bought, settled, or revolted against their previous colonial rulers.  The Republic of Texas declared independence from Mexico in 1836, and joined the union in 1845 (or 1846, depending on which date you count) by popular vote.

 

After learning a bit more about the lone star state, we caught a bus south to explore Congress Ave a bit more.  By this time, we only had another two hours left in the city, and we made the most of them!  We swung by Amy’s Ice Cream to cool off, wandered through Uncommon Objects, and settled on some lunch at Guero’s Taco Bar.  Absolutely the best way to end a trip to Austin, we sat in the fresh air with some tacos, live blues music, and a cold beer.

It was a short ride back to the airport via the Metro bus, and we navigated the airport itself easily.  Once checked in, we stopped by the United Club near gate 13, using Club passes from my Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card.  I’ll write up another post on the United Club in the next few days!

To any Austinites out there, we really enjoyed exploring your city!  For anyone thinking about going, you definitely should!  There’s so much to do, and the city is very easy to navigate.  Hop on the bus, ride a bike, or walk pretty much anywhere.  Each part of Austin has a different vibe, and we loved it all!

I’ll be going to back to Austin.

Even if it’s just for the tacos.

Torchys-5

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