Austin is one of the best cities in Texas! 

Nah…..let me take that back. Austin is THE best city in Texas! No one can argue with that because it’s true. Although Austin is Texas’ prodigal son, a city completely different from the rest of the state. And f not for the unbearable summer heat and the crazy weather Texas is known for, you might even mistake it for Portland or Los Angeles. Also, unlike Texas, Austin is progressive, a perfect oasis  for the free-spirited liberal young minds. 

Believe it or not, Austin is the #1 most desirable place to live in the United States. Now that’s an argument I can see brewing from other cities. ! I’ll tell you why it’s true. Not only Austin is less expensive than most major cities, it’s exciting, colorful, diverse, healthy, active, vibrant, lively, interesting, artsy, and yes…weird!!

Murals are a part of the city’s charm

“Keep Austin weird” is a famous slogan found everywhere in Austin. Just in case you’re wondering what it means— it was a campaign that was started by the Austin Independent Business Alliance to promote small local businesses. Texas is home to many big corporations such as the oil and gas industry (Exxon, Valero, Halliburton), airlines (American and Southwest), telecommunication (AT&T), grocery stores (Whole Foods), and many more large corporations. My guess is this is the reason why Austin campaigned for supporting local small businesses. “Keeping it weird” is also a movement to preserve its offbeat culture.

Austin has pretty much everything I need in a city to be happy.

The people here have a healthy and active lifestyle. The city is surrounded by walking, running, or biking trails, where residents use for their daily exercise. Dogs are also a huge part of the community, making Austin a very fur-friendly city. 

Austinites are hipsters…like me! This is something I say that makes my older son cringe. He insists I am far from being a hipster. First of all, he said, I’m too old (age discrimination?). Second, I don’t even look or dress like one (I suppose you need to have tattoos and nose rings to be a hipster?yeah, whatever!). Well, let’s just say, if I was much younger, I probably would’ve been a hipster. Going back to the people, hipsters outnumber cowboys and that proves my point that Austin is NOT Texas!  

*FYI, I don’t have too many “weird” pictures of Austin but I promise you the city is eclectic and vivacious!

The dog park near our hotel
Beautiful trails in the city
Austinites are very active

Austin is home to an incredible food scene. In recent years it has grown immensely in sophistication, boasting numerous world-renowned chefs. From BBQ joints to taco shops, from creative sushi to delicious tapas, the city caters to everyone’s taste.

We had the pleasure to dine at Uchi, one of the best sushi spots in America (according to Thrillist). I’ve lived in the Dallas metroplex for 16 years now and I haven’t found a Japanese restaurant as exciting and as creative as Uchi. Fortunately for us, Uchi opened in Dallas just recently!

Austin is also the most vegan friendly in the United States—this is nowhere close to what you might expect from Texas that’s known for its cattle industry. If you think of Texas food, it’s usually BBQ!

When it comes to food trucks, Austin is always in the top 10 spots for best food trucks in America. In fact, in 2014, proclaimed Austin as #1 for ten best cities for food trucks in the United States.

One of many food trucks in the city

Because of its close proximity to Dallas (only 3 hours away), we drive to Austin at least a couple of times a year. Sometimes we’re just passing through when we go to San Antonio (my second favorite city in Texas). We are currently here on spring break and lucky for us, it’s the same week as SWSX (South by South West). If you haven’t heard, Austin is dubbed as the music capital of the world and SWSX is an annual fusion of film, interactive media, music festivals and conferences that takes place in mid-March. Approximately 600,000 people visit Austin just for this reason. We didn’t get a pass this year but we are planning to get one hopefully next year. Although you can still find free concerts somewhere in the city or things to do even if you don’t own a pass.

Waiting for the (free) concert to start during the SWSX

We always stay at the Hyatt Regency in Barton Springs, located on the shores of Lady Bird Lake. The lake is where people go kayaking, boating, or wake boarding. There’s also a nice trail that surrounds the hotel, where both tourists and residents use. The hotel allows easy access to all the cool areas hence we usually don’t need to wander far. But this time, as part of my personal challenge, I made sure we explore Austin away from the hotel and embark on a little adventure. 

This is the view from the balcony of our hotel

This is my personal challenge #3

Our normal route to Austin would have been  from our house directly to the hotel, but I convinced my husband that we stop at Lake Travis (25 minutes away from downtown Austin). I wanted to see The Oasis, a restaurant located on a cliff 450 feet above Lake Travis, offering a breathtaking view of the lake and surrounding Texas hill county.

The food wasn’t great but the ambience made up for its mediocrity. The view reminded me of the time when we were in Sorrento, Italy. We had our sumptuous breakfast everyday at the hotel’s balcony and right in front of our eyes was the spectacular view of the Bay of Naples.

If we hadn’t stopped by at The Oasis, we would’ve never known that Austin’s terrain also includes rolling hills reminiscent of Hollywood Hills or Malibu in Southern California. As a consequence of visiting Austin often, I took its familiarity for granted, neglecting to explore it in depth (thinking that it’ll always be there and in within reach). 

Also included in the itinerary is hiking, something I have never done in Austin.  I googled the best hiking spots in the area, and found McKinney Falls State Park, along the banks of Onion Creek. The park has two waterfalls, the lower and upper McKinney Falls where people can go swimming. Also, there are a lot of small trails (not as strenuous which is appropriate for my younger son) but it’s hard to know where to start or where to end.

upper McKinney Falls
Lower McKinney Falls

This trip was short but it was more productive than our previous visits. Thanks to my personal challenges this year, it inspired me to divert from our usual routine. As I mentioned, our hotel’s location is near all the excitement that it’s easy not to go far (sure, we can blame it on the hotel).

But, hey, you’re in Austin. There’s nothing boring about this city. Even if you don’t wander far from where you are, the city is weird enough to entertain.