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!


  • 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


    • 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. 


    • 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. 

    Homemade Raspberry Lemon Pop-tarts by Julia Walck

    Homemade Pop-tarts | Julia Walck

    I made raspberry lemon pop-tarts this morning because the thought of homemade pop-tarts made my mouth water. I didn't go into this planning to do a blog post, but these turned out too good to not share! Tarts filled with sweet, puffy goodness... with sprinkles!

    HOMEMADE POP-TARTS (makes 8)

    Ingredients (Pastry):

    2 cups flour

    1 tablespoon sugar

    1 teaspoon salt

    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into parts

    2 large eggs (one for the dough mixture, and one for brushing on the pastry)

    2 tablespoons milk

    Whole fruit jam (for the filling) I used Bonne Maman raspberry preserves

    Ingredients (Lemon Glaze):

    2 cups confectioners' sugar

    3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    Food coloring


    Homemade Pop-tarts | Julia Walck


    Step 1: Make the dough

    1. In a big bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt.

    2. With your hands, work in the butter until the mixture holds together.

    3. In a separate bowl, whisk one egg. Then pour over it the dough and mix everything together.

    4. On a floured surface, knead the dough until it makes a smooth ball.

    Homemade Pop-tarts | Julia Walck

    Step 2: Assemble the tarts

    1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

    2. Divide the dough in half. Take the first half and roll it out into a large rectangle, 1/8" thick, on a lightly floured surface. You'll be cutting this into a 9"x12" rectangle, which you will then cut into eight 3"x4" rectangles. 

    3. Line up your eight dough rectangles to parchment paper on a baking pan. Repeat step 1 with the remainder of the dough. 

    4. Beat your extra egg and brush it over the surface of the first dough (on the parchment paper). This is the "inside" of the tart, and the egg is kind of like the "glue". Scoop a big tablespoon of jam in the middle of each rectangle. Leave about 1/2-inch perimeter around the tart.

    5. Place the second rectangles on top of the first. Use your fingertips to press firmly around the tarts, sealing the dough on all sides. Press the outer rims of the tarts with a fork, and puncture the tops with your fork to let some steam escape while they're baking. 

    6. Bake for 30 minutes.

    Homemade Pop-tarts | Julia Walck

    Step 3: Make the glaze

    1. Whisk confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl. The glaze should be thick, but pourable). Adjust sugar and lemon to get desired consistency.  

    2. Glaze the tarts once they're completely cooled. Sprinkle immediately, let the glaze dry, and eat up! 

    Homemade Pop-tarts | Julia Walck

    This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Everything is Poetry

    The Museum of Ice Cream by Julia Walck

    On Monday night I jumped into a pool filled with sprinkles, received a call from Seth Rogen on an "ice cream hotline" and ate a lot of delicious ice cream. 

    Where was I, you ask? A pop-up exhibition in the Los Angeles Arts District called The Museum of Ice Cream.

    The plastic sprinkles from the pool somehow lingered on you long after leaving. I found one when I was washing my hair the next morning. 

    And if you're wondering how to find the entrance to the Museum of Ice Cream, the trail of sprinkles lining the ground will most certainly give it away. 

    Unfortunately, you don't really learn anything about ice cream here... but you do get to eat some. 

    Pictured above is charcoal infused cookie dough. Mmm. 

    This place is an Instagram-machine. There's not a single area dubbed unworthy of a photo, and I think that's kind of the point. 

    The pun game was real strong in the California room. I think Vanessa Fudgens takes the cake, or um, ice cream in this case?

    Spongy pink pancakes sandwiching a vanilla scoop of ice cream? OK. 

    Loved all the colors in this room! 

    It's not too often you say this after visiting a museum, but I think I need to hit the gym now.

    Exploring Manchester by Julia Walck

    After Festival Number 6 (how was that already almost 3 months ago?!), Emily and I stayed a few days in Manchester to wind down. It mainly consisted of drinking and thrift shopping. No complaints here.

    DAY 1

    Give me a moment while I re-live getting from point A (Festival Number 6 in Portmeirion, Wales) to point B (Manchester):

    It was raining when we woke up. We were pretty tired due to the night before. We had watched Noel Gallagher in the rain while eating chips and I convinced Emily to go to a DJ set for Maribou State, which resulted in a late night. 

    We had pre-packed most of our things the afternoon prior to make it easy getting out. I gathered up the last of the glitter and we said goodbye to our yurt. 

    Then came the mud. I mentioned it was raining right? Somehow my suitcase seemed much heavier, and I now had to hoist it over an ocean of mud while simultaneously not falling in said ocean. We made it to the shuttle filled with fellow groggy, wet festival goers, (a very different scene than when we were going TO the festival), and were off.

    When passing the car park, Em and I were both very happy we didn't have a car at this festival. All the mud from the rain was like quicksand to the cars and multiple people were stuck. 

    We got to Bangor for our train a bit early so I got Em and myself some flat whites and pastries while we waited. A Virgin train worker came up to us with trash bags and asked if we wanted them for our wellies. I can't tell you how amazing that moment was. I removed my mud soaked (now crusted on) rain boots, managed to shove them in my suitcase, and changed into tennis shoes. 

    The train ride was alright. People had taken our seats and they put up a fuss about moving and then continued to be quite loud all the way to Crewe, our connecting train. When getting off this crowded train, I had to lift my suitcase off in a way that wouldn't hit people. Funny thing though: when flying in, the side handle completely broke off my (borrowed) suitcase while in the baggage claim. Broken handle side was towards me when I lifted this suitcase off of the train, and it got caught in my pants. It ripped and slid it's full weight down a few inches while I cringed and we ran to our next train.

    The second train ride was much smoother. Once we got to Manchester Picadilly we walked about a mile with our suitcases to our AirBNB down the road. 

    We instantly threw ourselves onto the bed and let out a big sigh. There was a debate whether to nap or actually go out and celebrate. It was my birthday after all. 

    It was decided that we first get some lunch. We ate at Gorilla Bar and Kitchen which we actually had twice on our trip because it was so good. Not to mention basically just down the stairs from our AirBNB.

    After lunch we slipped into a food coma and took a nap. We rested up, got ready, and then went out for the night.

    Our first stop was Guilty by Association. It's a basement bar in the Northern Quarter which drew us in with a pinball machine and a neon sign. The bartender kept trying to perfect a lemon in the shape of a rose for me in my drinks, which was nice. And funny.

    We ended up at a ping pong bar next. Twenty Twenty Two was tucked away in an alley and down some stairs. Sounds sketchy, but trust me it's not. It's a very artsy, underground space where you can watch people get smashed and be terrible at ping pong. AKA it's awesome. 

    I ordered a bees knees (as usual). Gin, honey and lemon. Up. For some reason I thought to myself, "They love gin over here, they must make a good bees knees." The bartender had no clue what that was and this was their first time making it. It wasn't good so he made me something else that was. Let's just say I got quite a few drinks on the house this way.

    Just around the corner was a bar called Allotment. They had at least fifty different types of gin, so I figured why not try one I've never had? I ordered a gin and tonic with Forest Gin (because the packaging was so pretty) and it was really good. The atmosphere in Allotment had an open floor plan, and was good for drinks or dinner. Nice quiet spot. 


    We walked past this bar called FAB which was covered in comic books and playing cards. I was drawn in by the nerdiness of it so we went up to the door. In a British accent, the bouncer asked us, "Do you ladies know whats on tonight?" We each shook our heads and he said, "Wrestling match". Haha. Thinking that might be too rowdy we continued on.

    The next spot was The Temple. It's a pub that's a renovated public toilet turned bar. 

    It's really little in there but quite charming. The fact that we were out so late on a Monday night meant there wasn't a ton of people inside and we had full reign on the jukebox. 

    "Grounds for Divorce" by Elbow and "Blue Orchid" by The White Stripes were two of my picks. Manchester is a very musical town which you could really see by all the band posters wallpapered all over the pub.

    By this point we had each switched to beer. We chugged and went on to the next bar, because this night had somehow turned into a pub crawl of sorts. 

    Our final stop was Rain Bar. This was a minute walk from our AirBNB so it felt like the proper spot to wrap our night up. (You can even see it from our window).

    I think I had like 7-8 drinks in total that night? We did good for just having done a 3-day festival and endured so much travel. 

    DAY 2

    Surprisingly neither of us were hungover from the night before. We got some brunch at Moose Coffee, and then went vintage shopping for most of the day. 

    We started at Afflecks. A fellow festival-goer actually told us about this spot. It was a lot bigger than we anticipated. I think there was about 4 stories to this labyrinth of shops. Punk stores, record shops, condom factory? This place had a bit of everything. We wandered around for a long time here checking out all the little shops. 

    Down the road we saw Cow Vintage. What a cute shop! Two stories of glorious vintage clothing. I found three dresses here and each were like 10 pounds. The dressing room was awesome too: floor to ceiling carpet. It was a pattern lovers dream! 

    When we were checking out, the cashier noticed our accents and asked where we were from and what brought us to Manchester. She mentioned she had gone to Festival Number 6 a few years back and thought it was awesome we came all the way from LA for it. She took out a notepad and started writing a list of great bars and other vintage shops in the area for us to check out. Her name was Melissa and she was super helpful and awesome to us! We already had a lot of the same spots on our list, but some new ones were Blue Rinse Vintage, American Graffiti, and Junk. Melissa also told us about a speakeasy bar where you enter through a washing machine. Her words were "Google 'hidden bars in Manchester'". If only we had more time in the city! 

    Pop Boutique was next. This vintage shop had two stories as well, but the lower story had a lot of furniture and decor. 

    I got the most awesome retro pillow here – which was a little hard to travel home with but worth it. 

    We took a break from thrifting and got some coffee at Foundation Coffee House. Really clever branding and good design here. And good coffee. And good sense of community. Basically good everything. That next night (Wednesday) they were doing a screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to honor Gene Wilder's passing. They told us there would be candy galore! And drink specials (because it was also a bar). They had movie nights every Wednesday. It seemed like there was always something to do in this city.

    Walking down the street a window display with a disco ball, confetti and cake in a shopping cart drew me in to a bakery called Milk Jam. I ordered a slice of cake since I never had any on my birthday. 

    This cake was chocolate with shimmer dust topping and gummy bears, bubble gum, Cheetos, sour straws and cookies. It definitely filled my sweet tooth craving.

    That night Emily and I went bowling at a spot called Dog Bowl down the street from our AirBNB. The bowling ball returns were dog butts and there was a massive disco ball. I lost, but those two things definitely made up for it.

    Day 3

    Federal Cafe was our spot for brunch on our final day in Manchester. I got the smashed avocado on sourdough toast with a poached egg on top and a bloody Mary. I'm still drooling about this meal to this day.

    After brunch we stopped at Primark and TopShop. I bought entirely too many things but I just kept finding great items! I literally had to sit on my suitcase to fit everything in before coming home.

    The Manchester Art Gallery was on our walk back to the apartment and we figured we should stop and get some culture while we were here. 

    One of my favorite rooms was an interactive art piece where you got to play dress up with plastic neon shapes, oddly pieced together scarves and weird tube things. 

    There was also a Vogue exhibit happening. Vogue 100: A Century of Style. You entered into a room where a video projected onto two walls, and a mirror was on the other reflecting the videos. Behind the scenes of photoshoots, moody music and photographs plastered the walls.

    Walking further into the exhibit, large scale framed famous portraits hung stacked floor to ceiling. There were also cases with every single issue of Vogue laid out cover by cover; the progression was really cool to see design-wise and fashion-wise. 

    The rest of the museum was filled with renaissance style art. Here's two of my favorite eclectic pieces below.

    We went to a trivia night at Common. It was Flight of the Conchords themed and I embarrassingly did terrible. I blame the gin and bottle of wine Emily and I split.

    Despite the letdown on the trivia, this spot was really cool. I grabbed a "grab bag" filled with little flyers and things to do around town for that month. It made me a little sad that I was leaving and wouldn't be able to go to any of the things like a Nicolas Cage movie marathon, more trivia nights, or one of the fifty some odd concerts happening. Lots of great print design in there though and nice little souvenier. 

    By the time we got out of trivia all food spots were closed and we decided to just walk back to the apartment. On the way, we saw a sign from God that said "late night food"! 

    It ended up being Black Dog Ballroom, which was associated with Dog Bowl where we'd gone bowling. I got a hot dog some fries and a beer and was happy.


    We got a good night's sleep and headed to the airport in the morning to go back to LA. Manchester was great and I wish we had even more time to explore.

    Bill Murray 

    Street art

    Neon legs

    Locks above the canal