I'm going to say something unpopular. Something that may lose me followers or perhaps gain me a few "WTF" comments, but, honesty is the name of the game. So here goes:
I didn't like Austin, Texas.
I know, I know. There goes that one millionth of a percentage chance that Travel + Leisure was going to pick up this blog post. I suppose there's no turning back now, so hear me out.
There were certain things that I liked about Austin. And I'm going to talk about those things in this post; it's not as I walked around with a cloud over my head the entire trip. But the things I liked are things that I can get in other cities. At the end of the day I just simply wasn't feeling this city. And that's okay. We're all allowed to have our opinions and I totally respect the fact that you may love Austin.
Let's first talk through what led me to decide that Austin just wasn't the place for me.
What I didn't like:
1. There's nothing to do besides drink (unless you rent a car. I think)
Here's what happened. We rented a hotel downtown. The "perfect" location. Hotel Indigo, which, please avoid if you can. So we booked a hotel that was right in the heart of downtown. Walking distance to everything. Except "everything" turned out to be the bars. And then more bars. And more bars after that. And don't get me wrong, I love me a good drink (or two or three) and have been known to throw out a "just one more" more than a time or two, but my 35 year old liver can only handle so much. Throw a bookstore in there. Sell me some cowboy boots. Authentic Texas BBQ sauce. Just give me something.
Both Dylan and I kept frantically searching 'things to do in Austin' on our phones, swearing up and down that there was much more to do. I mean, this damn city has made almost every "greatest city" list out there when it comes to the United States. What were we missing?! We eventually figured out that had we rented a car, we could have ventured outside of the city and to different shops, beaches, and parks outside of the downtown area. At least that was the conclusion we came to without actually having done this. But I'm betting there is more to this city if you get out of the downtown area.
2. It's dirty. Like constantly avoiding barf on the sidewalks downtown, dirty.
You read that right. We literally had to look down as we walked to avoid stepping in food and barf on the sidewalks. Not at 1:30am when you'd still be grossed out but understood that more than one college kid had thrown back their body weight in booze and couldn't deal, but at 9am. On the way to breakfast. I'm not looking to eat my meals off the sidewalks, but come on. Hose that shit off in your tourist area. I've travelled to plenty of cities that do this. For perspective, I don't ever recall playing hopscotch over crushed food and barf on my way to breakfast in New Orleans, a city that can throw back just as much alcohol and party to all hours of the morning.
3. The smoking.
THE SMOKING. Good god, is the Marlboro Man from Austin? I know people joke about Texas being it's own country, but jokes aside, I seriously wonder if they were exempt from the smoke-free campaigns the rest of us had to watch growing up.
And to be honest, my issue isn't that people smoke. You can do whatever you want and if you want to smoke than that's your decision. But what I realized is how much those "you can't smoke within XX feet of the building" rules made a difference.
4. It's not my preferred...architecture?
I realize that not every city is going to look like Paris. But Austin was just...meh. That's the best word I can come up with. I didn't look around and get excited. I didn't think "oh what a (cute/cool/unique/whatever word you want to use) city!" There were some cool areas (looking at you, Rainy Street), but nothing that made me stop and think how much I'm digging the place.
What I liked:
1. The food.
I may not have been digging what Austin was giving me, but I hadn't lost all hope, and having some good BBQ was just the thing to cure my "you gotta give me something more, Austin" blues.
Our first BBQ stop was Stubb's, which was a whole 50 feet from our hotel. But it was delish, and I was expecting it to me as the Stubb's Original BBQ sauce is what I religiously keep in my fridge.
Our second BBQ stop was Iron Works, and let me tell you - amazing. The best beef ribs I have ever had. I will dream about those damn beef ribs until the day I die.
And let me just say that any place that pushes mac and cheese as a side as much as the rest of the country pushes french fries and side salads is a-okay with me.
2. The people + vibe of the city.
While I try and keep politics off of the blog, if you follow me on Twitter than it's no secret that I'm liberal. I proudly subscribe to the concepts of love, respect and acceptance (among other Democratic principles), so Austin was right up my alley. It was the beginning of Pride Month and I completely loved being in a place that is embracing of people's differences and not simply just tolerating.
NOTE: Let's just be clear that I'm not saying if you're not liberal or Democratic that I don't think you are loving and accepting of other people. So let's just skip any comments alluding to that. This post is about Austin and what I liked, not about politics.
3. The music.
It's no secret that Austin is known for it's music. Our trip to Austin was actually two-fold; we went to see Paul Simon preform and had decided to make the trek to Austin for the concert in an effort to check out the Texas capitol.
We also scored free tickets to Big Head Todd at Stubb's randomly (okay not randomly, I played dumb to the hosts and ended up being offered free tickets), so we ended up going to two concerts. Two very good concerts that were a lot of fun.
But guess what. I can go to really awesome concerts in many cities and towns around the United States. So while Austin gets points for music, it's not a trait that is exclusive to Austin. The same goes for the two previous "likes".
4. Topo Chico.
So there it is. My reasons for not being impressed with Austin. But in all honesty, I'd love to know what I missed. What super obvious things did I not do that would have blown my mind? Do I need to get outside of the city? What is it that I need to put on my list for when I give Austin a second chance? Let me know, and happy travels!