Austin, a place where local businesses are highly supported by the Austinite crowd, and the local stigma of “Keep Austin Weird.” It has even become a trademark, extending to other locally run cities such as Albuquerque, New Mexico to Asheville, North Carolina. It all started from Red Wassenich, a librarian at the local community college who distributed fliers and stickers to local Austin businesses. This was adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance and has thrived ever since. Austin is full of awesome local businesses, scenery, nature and an interesting mixture of people. It is one of the best places to see amazing live music for cheap, or free, and to divulge into the music, art, and film scene.
Whether you want to shop for odd hidden treasures, local vintage, costumes, or more, Austin has a great selection of local stores to suit almost every need. Here are some of the coolest and best places to see when in Austin.
1.) Toy Joy
Toy Joy is a college kid’s fun house. It is stocked and packed with the craziest toys, gadgets, odds and ends, and everything to have fun with you can imagine. It is a spectacle in itself, the high walls densely packed with completely random toys. Bringing any child between the ages of 0 and 21 is sure to spark a hint of glee from all the interesting objects. Bringing any adult from the ages of 21 to 200 is sure to spark a hint of nostalgia, and heart warming innocence that no other place can bring. As a local shop, they support all Austin local businesses, and frequently hold local art shows, live music, and fun sales. They also sell some of the most delicious lemonade available, perfect for a hot summer day. It is located at 2900 Guadalupe St., right on the drag.
2.) Uncommon Objects
One of the coolest antique stores I’ve ever been into, they house and sell a bunch of interesting nick-nacks, decorations, jewelry, and all the strangest things you could imagine. I once bought an extremely old autograph book from a one-room high school from a woman named Bertha. I had the best time reading all of these extremely strange memoirs of times at a school in the 1940’s, many of the autographs including rhyming poetry that the students came up with. Even if you aren’t looking for something specific (which is the best way to look at antique stores), you will find something that catches your eye. Buying isn’t even neccessary to enjoy this store, as it holds some of the craziest items I have ever seen in my life. Also local run, it is in one of the best shopping areas, at 1512 S. Congress Ave. You can walk from here to many other awesome locally run shops, and great eateries that I will talk about.
3.) Oat Willies
One of the coolest smoke/head shops around, this extremely old local business sells really good tobacco pipes, pipe tobacco, assortments of cigarettes and clove cigarettes, containers, books, fabric, incense, and great gift ideas. It isn’t just for smokers, and has a lot of really cool locally done glass work. I suggest checking this store out, and if you are looking for more of a specific head shop, be sure to check out The B.C. Oat Willies is at 617 W. 29th St. There is another one at 1931 E. Oltorf St., Austin and one at 9505 Burnet Road. The B.C. is on campus at 2001 B Guadalupe.
4.) Sonny’s Vintage
While Buffalo Exchange is the main vintage store close to campus, and offers great options for clothing, I really enjoy Sonny’s. They offer vintage from clothing, to wallets, to watches, and their best selection includes great instruments to chill on and relax in the store. Their owner is a really nice older gentleman who has one of the chillest attitudes ever. Make sure to check it out at 2928 Guadalupe St.
There are a few great places to grab a bite in Austin, with great diversity in food choices, and lots of great service and pricing.
1.) Aster’s Ethiopian Restaurant
Ethiopian food is some of the best food I’ve ever had. If you are feeling slightly adventurous and have never tried Ethiopian, Asters is a perfect place to start. First of all, they don’t serve food in a traditional American style. You get to choose a main course along with three sides, and they serve it to you on a huge plate, covered in Ethiopian inerja bread, a sort of crepe-like bread, with your food on top of it. You eat with your hands, and use extra inerja to scoop up the food. Of course you can get silverware if needed. The amount of food you receive is far greater than the price you pay. Meals range from 7-14 dollars, depending on the dish. They offer great vegetarian options, as half of their menu is vegetarian. I recommend the lamb, as it is one of my favorite meats for all you meat eaters. It is at 2804 N. IH-35, right by the highway and 30th Street.
2.) Veggie Heaven
For a quicker, cheaper meal that offers healthy alternatives, I suggest Veggie Heaven. Even if, actually especially if you are not a vegetarian, I highly recommend trying this restaurant. They offer the most hearty satisfying meals I have ever tried. It basically is vegetarian Asian food, with a huge array of choices. The meals are delicious, and leave you feeling truly satisfied and healthy. They serve great bubble tea, and Thai tea as well. My favorite dish is the tangerine mushroom-spicy. I usually get this with a fried curry bun-warm dough that is brown and crusty on the outside, warm and soft on the inside filled with curry vegetables. If I get a meal with this side, and a bubble tea, my bill usually comes to around 10-13 dollars. They also are activists, speaking out against murders of Falun Gong followers, and support Falun Gong art in their restaurant. They also give out extra food to the homeless. They are a family friendly local place, and have a great visual online menu for you to check out. They are at 1914 A Guadalupe.
3.) Blue Dahlia Bistro
The Blue Dahlia Bistro is a French style bistro, offering amazing organic and locally supported produced foods. They serve amazing Salads, with a lot of options, great breakfasts, amazing coffee, sandwiches, and more. They also have a wonderful Wine menu, offering a broad array of different wines. They love to serve wine with their cheese platters and have great spreads of things to munch on. Their prices are amazing as well, a meal costing between 7 and 15 dollars, with appetisers from 2-5, and salads ranging from 5-11 dollars, with options of adding salmon or tofu to any salad. I reccommend spending an afternoon with some friends and enjoying some amazing locally produced foods at this delicious bistro. They also have an online menu to check out. They are at 1115 E. 11th St.
4.) Guero’s Taco Bar
Guero’s is famous for it’s great Tex-Mex, assortments of beers, and for being THE bar that Quentin Tarintino filmed his Grindhouse feature “Death Proof” in. The atmosphere is fun, and food is good and well priced, and it is also located on the South Congress strip, where Uncommon Objects is located. They also cater, offer gluten-free and vegetarian options, and have great lunch and dinner specials. It is at 1412 S. Congress Ave. They run on normal business hours, and stay open later on weekends, as it is a bar.
5.) The Clay Pit
The Clay Pit is a “contemporary Indian cuisine” restaurant. They serve some of the best Indian food I have tasted since coming back from India. Even my international Indian friend who attends the University of Texas with me says that it is the closest to authentic that he has had in the U.S. so far. They are located right by campus at 1601 Guadalupe St. Their menu is awesome, lamb kebobs only $8, veggie tandoori for $5.50.
There are too many awesome places to see in Austin for me to put down, but I will tell you some of my favorite places that I have come across since moving here.
1.) The Bat Bridge
Crossing over the river on Congress Avenue, there is a driving and pedestrian bridge. During the summer season, all of the bats gather under this bridge, and fly out when the sun sets to start their hunt for prey. It is really awesome to see the bats fly out from under the bridge, over the water, and through the city all at once. The sight is pretty awesome, and it is completely free. There are a lot of events held at the bridge as well. They shut down the bridge for Marley Fest, art shows and more. It is always a good idea to check this out, as something is generally going down around this area.
2.) The Cathedral of Junk
This was one of the coolest things I have ever seen anywhere. It took me about 45 minutes on a bus to get here, and the adventure was well worth it. After my bus ride, I walked for about 15 minutes into a residential neighborhood, and into a random persons backyard. Once you go to the back yard, there are chicken coops, bunny rabbit cages, and a huge three story cathedral constructed only out of JUNK. The thing is massive, utilizing all sorts of odds and ends, car parts, skis, cds, and anything you can imagine in a junk pile to create an impressive architectural feat. And what is even crazier is that it’s free to see, and it’s in someones back yard. People around the neighborhood have tried to get it to be deconstructed, but hired architects could not find anything about the structure that makes it seem unsafe, and attempts to destroy it have never succeeded. You can climb up to the top story and look around for an awesome view, and check out all the weird stuff it is made out of. It is located at 4422 Lareina Drive, Austin, TX. Check it out.
3.) The Swing Tree
The Swing Tree is a tree some of my friends and I discovered this year. It resides behind the LBJ Library, a piece of architecture worth seeing in itself. It is on campus. This tree is so incredibly impressive. It is perfect to have a picnic under, discuss different topics, and enjoy your friends. The tree is very old and massive. It has one extremely long branch that cascades down the side of the grassy hill it is on, allowing people to sit, swing, and climb on it with ease. It is the perfect place to be with nature, love each other, and enjoy the outdoors. The LBJ is located at 2313 Red River St. Austin, TX 78705. If you walk behind the library, and continue over the two hills, you will see the tree. It right next to a yellow satellite dish. It is not hard to miss!
4.) Barton Springs
While Barton Springs isn’t exactly the most natural or nicest places I’ve ever swam in, it is a really fun and cool place to take a refreshing dip in, and relax with new and old friends. It is also right by Zilker Park, the place where ACL fest is held each year, and often houses fun festivals, such as the kite festival that happened this spring. I suggest chilling and checking out both Barton Springs and Zilker for a nice afternoon with friends, family, or even yourself. Barton Springs charges 3 dollars for adults to swim, 2 for children, but there is also a free side, one that is less swimable, but still fun. Located at 2201 Barton Springs Road Austin, TX 78746.
The Music scene of Austin is constant, and local music venues are scattered throughout the city. A lot of them are in the downtown area, and it is not hard to walk around Sixth Street to find some music to check out. It would be hard for me to tell you about specific bands because they are constantly changing and flowing through the city. I also suggest finding out specific bands, dates, and venues of Austin you’d like to check out. Some great venues include The Parish, 214-C East Sixth St.; Mowhawk, 912 Red River St.; Emos, 603 Red River; and more.
There is always a lot to explore in Austin, and the people of the city are really friendly. It is not hard to make friends, and I suggest finding some people to hang out with and show you some cool places, as certain people know more about the city than I. These are some great places to start, and the adventure will easily continue from there on!
Have fun in Austin, and remember to Keep Austin Weird!