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Austin, Texas City Guide by Julia Walck

Polaroid | Austin Motel | Austin, TX | Julia Walck

I went to Austin for the first time ever a couple of weeks ago! Before you ask, it actually wasn't for a festival or a show. I went just to go and explore... weird, right?

My friend Karlee was in Dallas for work, rented a car and picked me up from the Austin airport on a Wednesday afternoon. We were in town for four days and I was determined to make the most of it. Thankfully, some really rad friends steered us in the right direction of good grub and fun activities. 

I've rounded up links to everything we did just in case you find them fun, too! 

Things to Do:

  • Stay at the Austin MotelSouth Congress
    • The location of the Austin Motel was perfect for us. So many walkable restaurants, bars and vintage stores! Oh and having Jo's coffee just around the corner really helped with my breakfast taco cravings each morning. 
  • Watch the bats at Congress Bridge | South Congress
    • Every night at sunset, around 1 million bats fly out from under the Congress Bridge. The way the bridge is built makes it the perfect condition for these bats to inhabit, and at sunset they come out to play. We found that they came out more from the South Congress side of the bridge than the side close to downtown. 
  • Hamilton Pool Reserve | Dripping Springs
    • You need a reservation to go to the Hamilton Pool Reserve. You make the reservation online for $11, and day-of bring $15 cash to park and have your reservation number ready for the attendant. Trust me the planning on this one is worth it to swim in a grotto with catfish, watch the water drip from the stalactites and see the birds fly in and out of their cave nests. 
Polaroid | Hamilton Pool Reserve | Austin, TX | Julia Walck
  • See Ellsworth Kelly's Chapel at the Blanton Museum | University of Texas Campus
    • Free admission on Thursdays! All other days (except closed on Monday) is $9 for the chapel and whole museum. Ellsworth Kelly's Chapel was a must-see for me while in Austin. The size of the work, amount of time that went into the planning of the project (3 decades!), the fact that Kelly was an athiest and the completion of it just before his death in 2015 making it his final work all are factors that make this work of art so compelling. 
  • Rent Electric Bikes from Pedego | South Congress(ish)
    • We took a 2 hour bike ride around Lady Bird Lake (AKA the Colorado River), and enjoyed the sunshine. Once I got the hang of the electric bike it was smooth sailing from there. 
  • Walk Through the Capitol Building | Downtown Austin
    • You can either take a tour or do a self-guided one. We did a quick walk through, and the architecture of the building is pretty phenomenal. 
  • Barton Springs Municipal Pool | Zilker Park
    • Go swimming with the salamanders at Barton Springs! $8 cash entry per person. No food or drink allowed (other than water). Get there early to avoid standing in line! (We went around 9am). Watching the divers was possibly my favorite part of the trip. Friends would line up and watch as divers would flop extremely hard or do an impressive dive. Super entertaining either way.
Polaroid | Barton Springs Pool | Austin, TX | Julia Walck
Polaroid | Diver at Barton Springs Pool | Austin, TX | Julia Walck
  • Drive Around a Bit and Explore! | Anywhere
    • We saw tons of great art just driving around in the car on the way to and from activities. Bring a camera and have some fun!

Bars:

  • The Continental Club | South Congress
    • Bar/music venue. The Continental Club was right across the street from The Austin Motel where we were staying, so we caught some tunes our first night in seeing The South Austin Moonlighters. 
  • Stay Gold | Holly
    • Margaritas and frosé. What more do you need? A giant outdoor patio? You've got it. Giant fans to beat the heat? You've got it! An indoor stage for live bands? You guessed it, you've got it! Bonus: great signage outside. 
Polaroid | Stay Gold | Austin, TX | Julia Walck
  • Weather Up | Holly 
    • From the outside, it looks like you're walking into someone's house. There's even a big backyard to go along with it. We sat at a wobbly table inside, and were served by a man who looked like Matthew Gray Gubler. Who, when asked to describe the taste of yellow chartreuse could only compare it in a poetic way, expressing that it tasted like "the side of a mountain". It tasted like Gatorade. 
  • Whisler's | Holly
    • A very eclectic mix of shabby chic, industrial and "hunter" style. Whisler's has a long, bustling bar top that extends through almost the entire interior of the bar. I was drinking an old fashioned when I took a photo of said bar and accidentally let my flash go off leaving everybody a bit blind. Oops. 
  • Kitty Cohen's | Holly
    • Kitty Cohen's has a large outdoor patio space that surrounds a small pool in the center. They served a mean Singapore sling here. Best drink of the night!
  • Spiderhouse | North University
    • A cafe/bar/ballroom. Karlee and I grabbed a beer on the outdoor patio that's surrounded by loads of old signage (which is 100% my jam). Once it started to rain, we retreated to the covered cafe section which was still just as cool an environment. 
Polaroid | Spiderhouse Cafe and Ballroom | Austin, TX | Julia Walck
  • Midnight Cowboy | Downtown Austin
    • A speakeasy bar housed in a former brothel. You have to make a reservation before stopping by, and you'll be assigned a "buzzer name" to buzz once you arrive. We were greeted by a very enthusiastic server who helped us refine our drink choices based on our taste. I got a tiki drink that came lit on fire while our server sprinkled cinnamon on top of it making it spark and eventually clapped out the flame. Drinks and a show. 
  • The Redheaded StepchildDowntown Austin
    • Fronted by a "floppy disk repair" sign, "The Readheaded Stepchild" is another speakeasy bar that's just around the corner from Midnight Cowboy. The only reason we discovered it is when we were in our Lyft, I was taken aback by the sign that read "floppy disk repair". Our driver overheard my confusion and chimed in, letting us know sometimes there's a code, sometimes there's a doorman, but it's usually hard to get in. We sort of just stood outside until someone left, and I grabbed the door before it shut. Reflexes! We then sat on swing seats at the bar while enjoying our drinks. 
  • Las Perlas Mezcaleria | Downtown Austin
    • Huge selection of tequila and mezcal. I was brave and mixed a Paloma with all of the whiskey I'd been having that night and I survived! 
  • Half Step | Rainey Street
    • A nice, southern homestyle bar equipped with a large front yard and deck/patio to sip your drinks. This bar seemed the least "college-y" out of anything else we were seeing on Rainey Street. Which turned out to be just way too much of a college scene for us to explore more bars after this stop. 
    • Hotel Saint Cecilia | South Congress
      • There's just something nice about hotel bars sometimes. Especially ones with delicious drinks (even if they are $20. You're on vacation, right?). Hotel Saint Cecilia is sort of hidden down a side street in the South Congress area. I got major Chateau Marmont vibes from their little sign outside and just the hotel in general, actually. We walked back to their little bar area, enjoyed the nice night and took a peek at their pool area with a great big neon sign reflecting over the pool that reads "SOUL". 
    • Hotel San Jose | South Congress
      • We ended up at the Hotel San Jose for a nightcap on our final night. A cozy little outdoor area next to the pool home to a southern-Spanish-Anthropologie-style aesthetic.
    Polaroid | SOUL | Austin, TX | Julia Walck

    Coffee:

    • Epoch Coffee | North Loop
      • Never say no to coffee and pastries. This was a perfect coffee stop-off after vintage shopping in North Loop. 
    • Jo's Hot Coffee Good Food | South Congress
      • Get a breakfast taco and take a photo in front of the "I Love You So Much" mural. Oh and grab some coffee, too. Pet a dog while you're at it. There seemed to always be a minimum of 3 in line. 
    • Mazama Coffee CoDripping Springs
      • Great for a post-Hamilton-Pool-dip. 

    Food: 

    • Sala & Betty | New American Food | North Loop
      • Good for a quick meal: they even have a drive-thru!
    • Elizabeth Street Cafe | Vietnamese Food | South Congress
      • Yes I got pho even though it was 90 degrees outside... and it was delicious! No regrets! Their branding gets an A+ from the interior/exterior design of the restaurant to the menus and all the way down to the neon pink straws their cocktails are served with. A very non-traditional-"Austin"-spot, but I definitely recommend checking it out. 
    • Rolling in Thyme & Dough | Sandwiches | Dripping Springs
      • I got the turkey in thyme sandwich and it was honestly one of the best sandwiches I've had. I'm not sure if the pre-lunch Hamilton Pool swim attributed to this or not, but either way I was happy. They also bake cakes and pies in-house and all of them looked so good! But I was too full to even attempt to eat a slice. 
    • Launderette | American/Comfort Food | Holly 
      • Super cute interior. Good food but smaller portions. Maybe grab a snacky bit to share while you're here, too. 
    • Magnolia Cafe | Diner | South Congress
      • Open 24/7. We went for breakfast and diner food was exactly what my hangover ordered! 
    • Guero's Tacos | Mexican | South Congress
      • Save your money on the house margaritas here (maybe it was a sub-par day?), but order ALL THE TACOS! I got two of the a la carte spicy tacos. The "El Jefe" was my favorite!
    • Stubb's BBQ | BBQ | Downtown Austin
      • Try to come here the night of a show! I gawked over all of the gig posters they had framed on the walls from past shows: Spoon!? Wilco!? My Morning Jacket!? Wish I could've seen those acts in an intimate venue like Stubb's. Oh and food. Get the BBQ, obviously. But the mac n cheese is basically just Velveeta. 
    • Torchy's Tacos | Mexican | South Congress
      • Damn good tacos. 
    Polaroid | Skull Street Art | Austin, TX | Julia Walck

    Vintage Stores:

    • Ermine Vintage | North Loop
      • Good for vintage clothing, accessories and shoes.
    • Revival Vintage | North Loop
      • Great for larger scale furniture and homeware items. Has a vintage clothing section in the back that's color coordinated! I snagged a set of four, tall saguaro cups here and they will be the only thing I'm drinking out of all summer! 
    • Room Service Vintage | North Loop
      • Loads of great barware and tchotchkes galore! Plus a decent selection of jewelry and clothing. I saw a pitcher with ballpark style text that read "Suds", and you know I lugged that big hunk of glass all the way back to LA. 
    • Austin Antique Mall | North Shoal Creek
      • 30,000 square feet of sweet, sweet vintage. Austin's largest antique store that really has a bit of everything. We made sure to do this one on a day we had a rental car since it's a bit further north than Austin. Everything in North Loop was on the way because I'm a planner! 
    • Flashback VintageSouth Congress
      • Hallelujah! They have a plus-size-friendly rack! Multiple rooms of vintage-goodness sprinkled in with a home goods mainly in the form of kitchen accessories. Fun jewelry, a good sized shoe selection and lots and lots of clothes. 
    • Passport Vintage | South Congress
      • The front room is mostly denim, but as you work your way back there are more of your standard vintage clothing goods. Go in the dressing room here! Trust me. It's a bathroom turned greenhouse with an iridescent mirror to make your vintage going experience all the more magical.
    Polaroid | Passport Vintage | Austin, TX | Julia Walck
    • I Luv Vintage | North University
      • Wide variety of vintage clothing from multiple vendors in the shop. Dig for gold here. And grab a beer at Spiderhouse afterwards to celebrate a job well done. 
    • Feather's Vintage | South Congress
      • Clothes. Clothes. Clothes. On the pricier side, but good pickin's. 
    • Prototype Vintage | South Congress
      • Hidden gems live here. Heaps of vintage clothing, shoes, hats and accessories. I found a denim maxi dress that fits my 5'3" body perfectly. If that isn't heaven-sent I don't know what is. 
    • Charm School VintageCentral East Austin
      • Vintage clothing, purses, shoes and accessories. 
    Polaroid | Look On The Bright Side | Austin, TX | Julia Walck

    Thanks for reading. Let me know if you use any of these tips for your Austin trip, or have any fun spots to add!  

    All photos were shot on my Polaroid I-Type Camera. 

    Denver, Colorado City Guide by Julia Walck

    When I heard that Bonobo was on tour with a new album and playing a show at Red Rocks I jumped at the chance to make the trip to Colorado. 

    Next time you're on a plane I suggest listening to the title track off Migration upon takeoff. Look out the window at the planes, fields, cars, shapes... everything. It just feels so right. I definitely had a moment. Traveling to a beautiful place to see a beautiful show with a song that embodies getting from point A to point B... magic.

    My friend Karlee and I flew in to the Denver airport and took the train to Union Station. (Which was super easy!) There was surprisingly a lot of great restaurants, drink options and spots to hangout at Union Station. We found ourselves back here at times just for those reasons. 

    Here's what we did while in Denver for the weekend! Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post and have a look at the map! (I just discovered custom maps via "Google My Maps" and I'm a little obsessed).

    The Kitchen is super walkable from Union Station, so it was really convenient just getting in from the train to go straight to lunch. And it was happy hour! Cocktails right off the bat of vacation are pretty standard, right?

    Later that night we continued the drinks with whiskey flights and herby vodkas at Williams and Graham, a speakeasy style bar in a "corner bookstore". 

    Down the street was Linger. This bar was converted from an old mortuary called Olinger's and now they refer to themselves as an "Eatuary". Equally terrifying (when you think about it) but punny. I love that they kept the original sign for Olinger's but turned off the "O".

    I was getting pretty hungry and in need of some food after so much drinking, so we got 10pm pasta from Bar Dough.

    Friday morning we brunched at The Cookery at Myrtle HillThe huevos rancheros is delicious! Especially when paired with a bloody Mary. 

    We worked up quite the appetite for shopping, so we hit up Antique Row. 

    Antique Row in Denver is a stretch of road between Arkansas Ave and E Iowa Ave filled with antique stores! Check out the "Antique Row" section on the below map to see my favorite shops. 

    I found some cute lil' stir sticks, vintage letters and a Mickey Mouse head pin for a friend. Antiquing is a lot like treasure hunting and sometimes you just find that gold! 

    coffee-hudsonHill.jpg

    We grabbed some coffee at Hudson Hill to regain some energy for the show! ...we may have also had a cocktail here too... I mean hello, they do have a full bar.

    Nearby was a ping-pong bar, (yep you read that right), Ace Eat Serve. Unfortunately there was a company party happening and we weren't able to play ping-pong. (Damn you cool companies!) However, we were still able to drink. They have a really good happy hour deal for $2 veggie spring rolls and $5 highballs. I also suggest getting "The Chef's Special" if you like PBR and kimchi pickle backs. 

    ok. OK. OKAY. The moment is here... Red Rocks! 

    Within a minute of walking down the path into the venue, we saw 2 deer grazing on the other side of the handrail. What?! This place was so pretty already I couldn't wait to see Bonobo

    The show was general admission so we could sit wherever. Karlee and I found a good spot in the middle a little less than halfway up. 

    Innov Gnawa was the first act. They're featured on Bonobo's song, Bambro Koyo Ganda, and it was cool to hear their solo stuff.

    RedRocks-Nick-Murphy.jpg

    It got dark before we even knew it, and Nick Murphy with his massive amounts of lasers came on. His new album, Missing Link, had just released a few days prior so he had loads of new music to play. Don't forget the oldies though like "No Diggity" and "The Trouble With Us"

    It was time for Bonobo! So I'd actually seen him twice already in a two week span, and this would be my third. But they never get old. I'm always down to dance, and dance I did. This (above) is the only photo I took of the whole performance! That's how you know it was good.

    The whole day had been pretty hot: around 75 or 80 degrees. Out of nowhere, it started raining. And then it continued to hail! Everyone around us acted like this was a completely normal thing to happen at a show at Red Rocks, because well, I guess it was. Luckily the hail was really small and it was cool to see little ice clumps gathered in our hands. 

    The show was amazing and hard to describe in words. Honestly if there's someone on the bill at Red Rocks who you'd love to see, go. It's really a venue like no other and an awesome experience.

    Holy hangover, Batman! Okay, so Saturday my body hated me. Like didn't want to move or do anything at all. 

    Lucky for us this was the day we scheduled a rental car to drive out to Boulder and go hiking. Yay! 

    First we stopped at Blackeye coffee for some lattes and breakfast sandwiches. Seemed like a fitting name for a coffeeshop given the state we were both in.

    Somehow we mustered up the strength to go through with it. We hiked Gregory's Pass which was beautiful! I suggest not going on a day you're hungover, but even if you are you shouldn't miss out on some good ol' nature. It'll do your body good.

    The hike was near the equivalent of 48 flights of stairs. We did about an hour up and an hour back, so we didn't make it fully to the top but what we did see was so pretty.

    Since we had the car for a little while longer after the hike, we drove around Boulder and ogled some houses. Man they're cute out there!

    Back to Denver, then after a quick nap back at the hotel we were ready for food.

    Mushroom pizza is my favorite. So obviously, yes please! Cart Driver in the Art District was SO GOOD. Karlee and I split a pie and it was the perfect amount for the both of us.

    RiNo Art District had tons of street art to wander around and see. Great photo ops! 

    The Denver Central Market is also in RiNo and it's super cute. Look at this typographic tile!

    There was coffee, pastries, ice cream, a deli, fresh veggies, a bar and more.

    I went for the blueberry lemon ice cream at High Point Creamery. One: because I love blueberry and lemon; Two: because the ice cream was a complimentary color to my golden mustard jacket. 

    Next up was Bar Fausto. Finally! A place where a Bee's Knees is on the menu. AKA my favorite drink. Gin, honey and lemon. Perfection.

    Video game bars are amazing. And there's one in Denver! The 1up has two locations for optimal arcade time for whatever side of town you're in. We went to the one in Colfax so we'd be closer to Voodoo Doughnut

    Good things come in pink boxes is right! I will always go out of my way to get to Voodoo. I mean on the way back from a roadtrip from LA to Washington we made one stop in between: The Voodoo in Portland. Will stop for doughnuts. 

    We brunched at Beatrice and Woodsley on what happened to be Mother's Day. There was a prix-fixe menu, and everything was delicious. I've heard when they have a full menu, the crawfish beignets are a must.

    We walked around the area (to try and settle our stomachs from such a big meal) and to go shopping. There was a Goodwill and a Buffalo Exchange within walking distance and of course we went to both! 

    I found a straw pom pom hat and collared long sleeve star dress at Buffalo Exchange. Score! 

    So the University Building in Denver has a smokestack painted to look like a GIANT PENCIL. I just love anything kitschy like this. I had seen it from a car when we were driving past one day and I needed to make sure we made it back here so I could snap a shot, so we stopped on the way back to our hotel. 

    Next stop, Larimer Square. A cute little street filled with string lights, lots of restaurants, along with chain stores and some local boutiques.

    I was really craving chips and guac, so we found a nearby spot to grab some grub. Lucky for us, Next Door was basically next door at Union Station. They also refer to it as "Union Station Restaurant", "Continental Room" or the "Caboose Lounge" (personal favorite). 

    The time for our flight out was drawing near, so we hung around and grabbed a drink at Terminal Bar before catching our train back to the airport. Seriously how cute is this bar though?

    There's honestly so much to do in Denver, and I feel like we only touched the tip of the iceberg. 

    Hopefully this map will be helpful if you're planning a trip to Denver, or maybe it piques your interest to visit... Have fun exploring! 

    Note: There are sections on this map for bars, food, coffee, places to go, and even a section of my favorite antique stores! They're color coded and can be found on the left.