Seattle was getting colder every single day and there were no hopes of a warm day anytime sooner. I was getting impatient and bored sitting at home, so I started planning my next travel.
I had to decide between Dallas, Austin, and Houston. I did a lot of research and concluded that Houston is a big corporate kind of city, whereas Dallas and Austin, promised more cultural experience. Out of the two, Dallas and Austin, I decided to go to Austin because internet claimed it had better transportation. Apparently, it wasn’t even average.☹️
I wonder what Dallas public transportation had been like!
LANDING IN AUSTIN
I booked the flight tickets for the worst ever time, at a very less price though. My flight from Seattle was at 11:20 pm and it reached Austin at 5:15 am (3:15 am in Seattle).
All that was compensated for when I landed in Austin and got out of the airport. Coming to a mild temperature from freezing cold was so relieving. Despite a little drizzle, the weather seemed just ideal!
I am glad the hostel was pretty close to the airport. It took me around 20 minutes to reach my hostel from the airport.
WHERE TO STAY IN AUSTIN
If you are a solo backpacker like me, hostels must be your first choice as well. They are in budget and you meet and make friends with people from everywhere.
I stayed in HI hostel (Hosteling International) on the eastern side of Austin along the Ann and Roy Butler Trail by the Lady Bird Lake and not too far from the city center.
Hostelling Internation is a global chain of hostels and if you are a member, you can get special discounts and deals.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH HI HOSTEL
My very first impression of the hostel was not very good. The lady at the reception was a little too impatient and irritable, maybe because of the lack of sleep. She couldn’t find my correct booking. It took her some time to retrieve partial booking and re-book for the total no. of days I was going to be there. Overall I got very negative vibes after entering the hostel, which no doubt, got better with time.
The room had a lake view and was kept clean. The beds were also quite comfortable. The free breakfast included bread, butter, and jam, milk, and fruits.
All in all, it was an above average stay - I would recommend this hostel if you want to be away from hustle bustle of the city and in a close proximity to nature.
DO A GROUP CITY TOUR
I had my breakfast in the hostel around 8:00 am and left for the city tour that I had booked through Viator. I wanted to do this tour to get an overview of the city early through the trip so that I am able to plan the rest of it. I walked to Austin's Visitors Center where the tour had to begin. It was 2 miles from my hostel, so I decided to walk and enjoy the scenery around.
I was tired and sleepy due to an overnight flight, but I pushed myself and kept walking till I reached the visitor's center and got a seat in the van. Unfortunately, because of a smooth driving and one person speaking all the time, (that, of course, our tour guide and driver), I fell asleep in no time. I switched on the recording to at least record and later listen to it while deciding places to visit - I later lost it.
So basically I slept for 60 minutes of the 90 minutes of the tour, without gaining a lot of information!
This tour is really helpful if you are a lazy planner, and want to know the city from a local's point of view
EAT AT BLENDERS & BOWLS
After the city tour, I walked to this super healthy restaurant, Blenders and Bowls where I had some coffee and an avocado toast. They had a huge variety of smoothies and acai bowls. It's a must go place if you are seeking a healthy yet filling meal.
VISIT OLIVE INDUSTRY ORCHARD IN DRIPPING SPRINGS
Just when I thought of going back to the hostel and taking some rest, I realized I had booked another tour of an olive industry that had cost me 6 USD. The location was 24 miles away from where I was having lunch. Tired and sleepy, I still booked a cab to this place.
While it was too late to realize that I have booked a 40 USD one-way cab for a 6 USD tour, I felt at ease when I started talking to my Uber driver - Mohsen from Iran. We talked non-stop for 45 minutes about similarities between Iranian and Indian culture and our lives in the US. It was like I have met an old relative of mine. As we were going towards the country-side, he got excited about the horses and the cows that we saw on our way. He was simply the sweetest.
Dripping Springs is not very far from Austin, but I had to take an Uber because of poor connectivity through public transport
Texas Olive Industry was situated in Dripping Springs, far between the farmlands. It was an amazing feeling standing in between rows of never-ending farms.
The tour was very informative. We were introduced to different varieties of olives, and ideal conditions for growing and harvesting them. Then we looked at the olive orchards where we learned more about the planting and the growing process. We could not enter it because of damp soil, but normally you can take a stroll inside the orchard and take a close look at the trees.
After that, we went inside to see the mill that is used to extract and process olive oil. We also learned about the difference between pure, light, virgin and extra-virgin olive oil and how to identify a fake or adulterated olive oil.
In the end, we were offered samples of different olive oils and balsamic vinegar to taste.
I was a little worried about if I’d get an Uber back to Austin. But luckily, the cab I got was already headed my way to drop someone in Dripping Springs. I drowsed off within 5 minutes after sitting in the cab.
I had big plans for attending a live music performance at night. I decided to take a small nap and re-energize myself before leaving again. Unfortunately, my "small" nap lasted for almost 4 hours and I woke up around 10:00 in the night. So, I decided to stay back and postpone my plans to some other day.
TAKE A FREE AUSTIN ART TOUR
Austin is one of the most colorful cities in the US. You can find such beautiful murals and graffiti around every corner of the city. Make sure to take some time out to see and appreciate the street art - a significant part of this city.
I booked a free East Side Art Tour with Tipster - you don't actually need to pre-book but it's polite to do that. We walked through Eastern Austin and stopped at various points where Natalie, our tour guide, gave us insights into the artworks and their creator.
It is a free tour but a generous tip is recommended if you like it
VISIT HOPE FARMERS MARKET
Austin is all about promoting local businesses and that's why you'll find a lot of people in a weekend farmers market.
HOPE Farmers Market operates on every Sunday in East Austin and you can a variety of things there, including farm-fresh produce, food vendors, live music, yoga groups, and much more.
I treated myself with a Ginger Orange Juice, and I'll admit it was one of the best juices I have ever had!
EAT TEXAS TACOS
Tacos were in the top of my list of Texan delicacy that I wanted to try. Torchy’s Tacos was a common suggestion in several food blogs for best tacos in Austin. So, I decided to go there. I went to the one closer to the university. That was not the best choice though, as it was super crowded with all the students. I ordered "Independent Taco", one of the vegetarian options they had. I personally found the taste very average. But I would appreciate their quick and organized service despite being so full.
GO FOR A HIKE AT MOUNT BONNELL
After my lunch at Torchy's, I booked an Uber to Mount Bonnell. I had to take a cab because the location was a little far from where I was and the buses as I said before did not have a very good connectivity.
The hike was really easy. Once you reach the top, you can sit and enjoy the spectacular views of the lake and the city.
After coming down, I decided to walk to the nearest bus stop and take a bus back to my hostel.
VISIT TEXAS STATE CAPITOL
A perfect example of a royal and antique architecture. After touring the building, you can spend some time strolling in the surrounding garden.
Later that night, I made friends with a Norwegian lady, who was in her 50s and a solo traveler since so many past years. She was super inspiring. We went to dinner together and called it off a night.
EAT AT VIA313
I would like to admit that I look for pizza places anywhere I go. I had a light breakfast in the hostel and decided to have brunch at Via313. There are around 5 locations of the restaurant in Austin, and I decided to go to the one near my hostel. But I was too early for dining there since it opens later in the evening - so check the timings before you decide a location.
Partly disappointed, I took an Uber to the one near Texas University. I was hungry and craving for food that I ordered more than I could have eaten alone. Their pizza and garlic bread were too delicious and their tomato sauce was worth dying for!!
I got the remaining pizza packed and headed off to the next stop, Bullock State Museum (I won't highly recommend it as it wasn't very exciting - only if you are a history buff, then you can visit it).
VISIT HOPE OUTDOOR GALLERY
During the Art Tour on Day 2, our guide, Natalie told us about the HOPE Outdoor Gallery and I made sure that I visited it before I left Austin. After touring the museum, I went there and spent some time looking at the art and appreciating the art culture that this city supports.
Bring some paint and spray to leave your mark here!
WATCH MEXICAN BATS UNDER THE CONGRESS AVENUE BRIDGE
Later in the evening, I went for the Bat Watching and Sunset Tour with Capital Cruises. The perfect time to view a large number of bats is between March till November. I was a little early for that timeline, but I could still witness a few of them emerging from underneath the limestone bridges.
Apparently, it is the largest bat colony that migrates from central Mexico every Spring.
ATTEND A LIVE MUSIC PERFORMANCE
I was in Live Music Capital of the World and I had already missed attending live music in the last two days. Today I had to make sure, I go to one. As soon as the tour got over, I walked to The Continental Club for The Peterson Brothers performance they had that day. The music was great and it was the first time ever, that I danced without company (feeling of a mini accomplishment).
PS: You can check do512 to know about the events' schedule
I did not stay after the performance and walked back to my hostel. Later, I finished packing and was ready for another early morning flight back to Seattle