Friday, July 28, 2017

The Ultimate Austin Travel Guide

In my last blog post, I promised y'all that an Austin photo overload was coming. You may have thought I was kidding, but this post is proof that I'm not! I took so many pictures and explored so much of Austin last week, and I'm so excited to be sharing my Austin Travel Guide with y'all. I've been to Austin a couple times before, but this time I was old enough to actually help plan the trip and choose the activities we did. My family and I were in Austin for four full days, but we managed to pack so many activities into those four days, which is why this post is so lengthy. I'll stop rambling so y'all can go ahead and start reading, but I really hope you enjoy!

// WHAT TO DO //






UT Campus // You really can't go to Austin without exploring the campus, even if you're not a UT fan. The atmosphere of the campus is so cool and unique, as with any college town. We walked along The Drag, toured some dorms, visited my mom's sorority house, stopped at the Co-Op, and visited the Texas Tower, but there's so much you can do! We devoted an entire day to simply exploring the campus, and that was by far our busiest day of the trip. It was one of my favorites, though - I've always wanted to go to the University of Texas so I really enjoyed getting to see my future home.






The Domain // When we told a family friend we were planning on going to The Domain while in Austin, she responded by saying that it is one of the most "Dallas" activities we would do. After walking around The Domain, I have to say that I agree with her. The Domain is a large outdoor shopping area filled with tons of stores, and it reminded me a lot of the shopping areas in Dallas. They had a lot of my favorite stores, such as Altar'd State, Lilly Pulitzer, Madewell, J Crew, Vineyard Vines, Anthropologie (they didn't have a Francesca's, though... how disappointing), and the list just kept going on. The venue is massive! We also went to Sprinkles Cupcakes while shopping... mainly because I was wearing a green shirt and I thought it would look good next to the pink ATM if I took a picture when we went (#bloggerprobs). Pro tip: if you ever go to Sprinkles, get the Red Velvet - it's a classic but so good!




Mayfield Cottage // Y'all... this excursion was such a unique experience and it was one of my favorite activities of the trip! My mom read about this place on Trip Advisor, and after reading some reviews, she decided that we had to go. Mayfield Cottage is this beautiful little botanic garden that, between the ivy-covered stone walls and the variety of colorful flowers, looks like something straight out of a fairytale. The best part is that it has peacocks everywhere! There were about six or seven giant peacocks that were just walking around the entire time. We brought some sunflower seeds to feed to the birds, and they would eat right out of your hand! Not only was this place a picturesque dream, but it was an experience unlike any other.




Mount Bonnell // I've been to Mount Bonnell before, but we went again on this trip because it's one of my favorite Austin attractions. Once you reach the base of Mount Bonnell, you climb up a short flight of stairs, and then you have access to the most incredible view of Lake Austin! The view is especially gorgeous if you go during golden hour, which we did, and I loved getting to watch the sunset.


Graffiti Park // I had seen a couple pictures of Graffiti Park on Instagram, so naturally I wanted to go see what the hype was all about. I wasn't sure what to expect, but our trip to Graffiti Park ended up being a really fun adventure. Graffiti Park is just what it sounds like - a giant area filled with graffiti of all sorts. It's on a hill, so when you climb all the way up to the top, you see an amazing view of the Austin skyline! There are also tons of spray paint cans lying around, so you can leave your mark in Austin and add some graffiti to the walls if you desire.

South Congress // I'm going to be honest with y'all... I enjoyed going to South Congress, but if I were to go back to Austin, I probably wouldn't visit SoCo again. South Congress is a street filled with all sorts of eclectic restaurants and shops, but some of the shops were a little too eclectic for my taste and the ones that I did like were a little out of my price range. Maya Star was my favorite shop, and the only place that had cute clothes and reasonable prices (in my opinion). If you've never been here, I recommend going it, but it's not something that I would do if I came to Austin again. It is home to the famous "I love you so much" mural, though, so if you're looking for cute photo opportunities in Austin (aren't we all?) then come here!

You're My Butter Half // Ever since seeing this mural online, I wanted to go take a picture in front of it with my sister! It's out of the way of the heart of Austin, but worth the drive because it makes for the cutest pictures!






Town Lake // A lot of people go paddle boarding or do other activities on Town Lake, which sounds really fun, but it's also nice to just walk around the lake! My mom used to go running around Town Lake when she was in college, and I can see why! It's so pretty and scenic. We were going to have a picnic there, but decided against it since it's summer and would have been extremely hot. If you're going to Austin in the spring or fall, though, a picnic would be so nice! Town Lake has a big bridge that you can walk on and look down at all the paddle boarders, but you can really go to any part of Town Lake and enjoy yourselves.

// WHERE TO STAY //

We stayed at two different hotels on our trip, and I loved them both. For the majority of our trip, we stayed at the Marriott Renaissance at the Arboretum, and we spent the last night at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin. Both hotels were very nice, and I loved them both, but they were two very different experiences. The Marriott at the Arboretum is nice because of the friendly atmosphere and the good restaurant (and of course the fact that it's within walking distance from Francesca's), and the JW Marriott is a great experience due to the amazing view from the rooms and the rooftop pool. Personally, I preferred the Arboretum Marriott and would stay there again if I ever returned, but the JW Marriott is such a cool experience since it's in Downtown Austin!

// WHERE TO EAT //

Now for the best part... the food! Y'all. We ate at so many good restaurants on this trip. Since my mom went to college in Austin, we went to a bunch of restaurants that she went to in college, and they were so good. I didn't have a single bad meal while in Austin!





Z Tejas // We ate here during the first night of our trip, and the food was good, but the really unique thing about this restaurant was the view. Their patio overlooks a gorgeous scenery of trees, and is the perfect place to watch the sunset from above. I'm a sucker for a good sunset, and this sunset was nothing short of spectacular. As for food, my mom and I split the Chicken, Artichoke, & Mushroom Stack and the Smoked Chicken Chile Relleno. Both were good, but I preferred the latter of the two.

Texas French Bread // We ate here for lunch while exploring the UT Campus, and I fell in love with the atmosphere of the place. From the wooden walls, to the abundance of tiny succulents, to the chalkboard menus, I was in love! If you want a sandwich in Austin, this is the place to go! I had a veggie sandwich and it was hard to eat because I have sensitive front teeth that make it hard to bite into food, but the few bites I did have were delicious! My sisters also got blueberry muffins, so I tried a bite of theirs, and they were the best blueberry muffins I'd ever had!

Polkadots Cupcakes // After reading their menu online, we stopped at Polkadots Cupcakes after lunch at Texas French Bread to try their unique flavors like Black Bottom and Salted Cookie Dough. They were all out of Salted Cookie Dough, but their Black Bottom Cupcake (basically a chocolate cheesecake cupcake) was so decadent and delicious! The whole cupcakery is so cute and quaint - it's full of pastel accents and has the cutest little patio!


Knotty Deck // When we couldn't decide where to eat for dinner one night, we settled on simply eating at the hotel's restaurant, Knotty Deck, since their menu looked pretty good. My mom and I weren't very hungry, so we split two appetizers - the jalapeno hummus and the pesto bruschetta. Since it was just a hotel restaurant, our expectations weren't very high, but we were blown away by how good the food was! Both appetizers were addicting and we kept reaching for more. For dessert, we had a slice of their ginger chocolate cake, and every bite was heavenly. While I would never have chosen to eat at the hotel, I'm so glad we did because it was the perfect meal.

Kirbey Lane // There are few things that I love more than brunch, and one of those things is brunch for dinner. At Kirbey Lane, they serve brunch all day, and they're open until midnight, so you can enjoy their famous pancakes whenever you please. I got the apple whole wheat pancakes per my mom's suggestion, and they definitely did not disappoint! I also tried some of her migas - I'd never had migas before, and let me tell you, I've been missing out!

Hula Hut // Within five seconds of arriving at The Hula Hut, it became one of my all time favorite restaurants simply based on the atmosphere. The Hula Hut is right on Lake Austin, and the entire place is decked out with grass skirts, palm trees, docks that are painted pink, and more! Sadly, my camera battery died, so I wasn't able to capture the gorgeous atmosphere or the amazing food (my shrimp quesadillas were the best meal of the trip!). Take my word for it, though, - if you're headed to Austin, you must come here. And the best part? They have a location in Dallas, so I've already placed it high on my list of local restaurants to try. I'm definitely going there ASAP!




Amy's Ice Creams // Did you even go to Austin if you didn't enjoy a scoop or two at Amy's Ice Creams? Amy's is pretty much my favorite ice cream place I've ever been to. They have a bunch of classic flavors that are so good (Mexican Vanilla, Sweet Cream, Chocolate) but they also have fun rotating flavors like Chocolate Cheesecake! However, the best part about Amy's is their toppings. They have so many toppings, from candy, to fruit, to syrup, and instead of merely sprinkling the toppings onto the scoop of ice cream, they mix the toppings in by folding them into the scoop of ice cream! You can watch them mix your toppings in, and it's incredibly cool. I got the Mexican Vanilla with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups mixed in, and it was the perfect treat to enjoy on a hot day.

Whole Foods // Being the Whole Foods addict that I am, I'd been looking forward to going to the biggest Whole Foods in existence. They have a huge selection of lunch items, especially compared to our tiny local Whole Foods, and their dessert case is definitely colossal too! This Whole Foods had such a nice patio area, so we ate lunch outside, and after lunch, we went up to their rooftop area to get another view of downtown Austin.

Overall, it was an amazing trip and I'm so glad I got to travel to Austin with my family! If you've never been, you should definitely take a trip there sometime - it's such a fun experience.

I took wayyy more pictures than what you saw in this post, but I didn't want this post to be longer than it already was! Click here to access my VSCO where you can see a lot more snapshots, and click here to watch my Austin Travel Diary that I posted on my YouTube channel!

Have you ever been to Austin? What was your favorite thing you did? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

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