Roam Guide / Austin, Texas
Wing Ta is a highly sought after fashion and lifestyle photographer and the creative director behind Canary Grey. She creates visual content for local and national brands, drawing inspiration from her love of modern design, fine arts and traveling. Wing and her partner Nick reside in Minneapolis and recently welcomed new baby Odin.
When to go?
The weather is the most inviting in the spring or fall but we went in June for our babymoon. We wanted to go to a smaller city in the U.S. that had a fun laid back vibe, with plenty to do and a good food scene.
“It was in the high 90’s everyday, but it's a dry heat, so it wasn't overwhelming.”
How to get there?
Austin is an Easy 2.5 hour flight from MSP. A perfect distance for a long weekend. Downtown Austin is walkable in certain areas but I suggest you rent a car to see the whole city. The neighborhoods are spread out but parking is relatively easy.
Where did you stay?
We stayed South of town at an Airbnb in the Bouldin neighborhood. It’s one of the most culturally and architecturally diverse neighborhoods in the city. With charming homes dating back to the turn of the century and great access to green space. There are a lot of great home rentals available in Austin but I chose this one because it had a pool, and like I mentioned it was HOT.
Another great option is the Hotel San Jose, I have been wanting to go back since enjoying drinks on their patio during a bachelorette party a few years ago. A beautiful property with a really lovely outdoor lounge, a great place to relax and hang out. You also can't beat the location on South Congress, in great proximity to everything- live music, shopping, and an awesome dining scene. If you are looking to stay on the other side of downtown, near the University of Texas, consider the beautiful Hotel Ella.
Rtip: If you are in search of a home rental large enough for a group take a look at this vrbo. A contributor favorite located just a few minutes from downtown.
What should we do?
There is so much to do! We spent some time walking around Zilker Metropolitan Park. It reminds me of the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes — a beautiful oasis in the middle of downtown, it’s easy to forget you are in the city. You can walk or bike the trails, rent a kayak or canoe and explore the river. There is plenty of green space for a picnic in the park too. If you want to do something unique make your way to the Barton Springs Pool, this is not your typical pool, it's about three acres in size and fed from underground springs, with an average temperature of around 70 degrees. Be prepared to wait in line for a bit, and be warned you will need to bring your picnic supplies back to your car because they are not allowed inside. If you want more time outdoors you should check out Lady Bird Lake, there is a Boardwalk that meanders along the waters edge giving you a great view of the city.
Rtip: You can also explore great trails and biking outside the city at McKinney Falls State Park. Another great place to cool off, and a less crowded than the Barton Springs Pool, here you can take a dip in two gorgeous waterfalls. Or travel further into Hill Country and hike to the Hamilton Pool Preserve where you can cool off in the turquoise colored natural pool and swim under the waterfall.
In Austin, you don’t have to go far to find good music, like the intimate venue 3TEN Austin. We walked to a stretch of clubs on South Congress and bought tickets for a show at C-Boy's, found a comfy booth and listened to some great Jazz. If you can, catch one of their annual music festivals, they host Austin City Limits in the fall and South by Southwest in the spring.
Where should we eat?
When in Texas, you must eat barbecue. Franklin BBQ is an Austin staple and for some is considered the best BBQ in Texas. The lines usually snake around the block, so be prepared for a long wait, like hours. A better option may be to pre-order for take out. The new Loro (by James Beard Award winners, Chef Tyson Cole of Uchi and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue), which is described as an Asian Smokehouse meets Texas BBQ is not to be missed. The menu is amazing and they have an awesome patio. Many friends insisted we also try Micklethwait Craft Meats, a food truck that serves BBQ and smoked meats on picnic tables under a canopy of trees, another long wait but worth it, the food was absolutely incredible. We were partial to the chicken sausage and pork ribs but honestly you can't go wrong.
We stopped for lunch at the Josephine House, a local favorite. The restaurant is an adorable cottage-style home and so charming. We shared the carolina rice bowl with shrimp, and the Alsatian tart and pastries. It is a tiny place, so make a reservation if you can. If possible try to sit outside in one of the coves- so pretty! We took a short drive to Windsor Park to check out Hank's for brunch, worth the drive to see a different part of the city and for the delicious cold brew coffee. They have a gorgeous yet spacious patio and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner- and stay open late on the weekends! I can’t forget to mention the fantastic fried chicken sandwich and fries we had at June’s All Day, a cute cafe and wine bar. If you are sick of BBQ (if that’s even possible) and in the mood for seafood, Perla’s and Clark’s Oyster bar both came highly recommended. Perfect for oysters and a cocktail on the patio.
What should we drink?
Our local friends suggested we meet them at The Garage Cocktail Bar, a really cool Speakeasy with great craft cocktails. It’s tucked away (a bit hard to find even) in an old, valet ticketing office, with high ceilings and clean metal lines. Nick said his Old Fashioned was excellent, sadly, I had to take his word for it.
The Better Half serves both coffee and cocktails so it was a perfect combo for Nick and I. Really cute inside and another great patio. We also tried out Caffe Medici, they have multiple locations but are locally owned. They serve Minnesota’s very own Spyhouse coffee, a nice connection to Minneapolis with a warm, cozy vibe.
What is the one can't miss item on your itinerary?
The food Scene! This is not a city where I would take advantage of the Airbnb’s kitchen. It’s best to just commit to eating out.
Tell us something we don't know?
At sunset from March to October, more than 1.5 million bats emerge from underneath the South Congress Bridge and people line up to watch the show. If you go, I suggest you arrive 30 minutes or so before sunset to find a prime spot. It sounds strange, but it’s a sight to see.
What should we shop for, or bring back with us?
You can explore some great boutiques on South Congress and on North Lamar downtown. We found some awesome pieces at By George and Kick Pleat. By George carries a well curated assortment of men and women’s designs along with one of a kind accessories and artisan home goods. Kick Pleat is an on-line women’s shop I frequent, so I had to visit the shop in person. The space is stunning…it has a modern yet minimalist aesthetic and they stock really amazing designers. I especially love their accessories and shoes! Take Heart is a charming boutique located in East Austin that offers a wonderful selection of home goods, candles, ceramics and more. We found the sweetest items for baby to take home with us.
RTip: Tucked inside the South Congress Hotel you’ll find Sunroom Boutique. Like Wing, we’ve shopped online and instagram but have always wanted to visit. They stock a lovely assortment of jewelry, clothing and accessories from independent designers and artists. The shop in the hotel lobby is said to be worth checking out as well.
What should we take on the trip?
A few classic dresses, a great bag, a good book and a hydrating face mist to help cool you off.
Click here to see everywhere Wing suggests you put on your Austin itinerary.