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The city of Austin in Texas is a pretty cool place. It’s about as far from how I imagined Texas to be as possible. As a first time visitor to Austin and Texas, I imagined the state to basically be desert and not much else (which is true when you get to western Texas). But Austin is full of hippy vibes, great food, coffee and cool districts to explore.
If you’re a first time visitor to Austin there are a few streets and sights you simply shouldn’t miss.
As the capital of Texas, Austin is home to the State Capitol. It’s an impressive building to take a look at and it’s free to enter too. The State Capitol also run free tours every half hour where you’ll be guided around the building and learn about the history of both Texas as a state and certain governors.
It was actually pretty interesting to learn about the history of Texas – I’d no idea it used to be part of Mexico before it became part of the US!
Congress Avenue Bridge
As dusk falls hundreds upon hundreds of bats come out to gobble up all the mosquitoes. It’s a pretty spectacular sight and a lot of people turn out each night to see it.
Find out the best times to see the Austin bats and get the lowdown on everything you need to know about them.
The University of Austin
The University of Austin also has some beautiful buildings and is just north of the State Capitol. While we were there you couldn’t walk around everywhere without showing suitable university ID (perhaps that was because it’s term time, I’m not sure), but even driving past is worthwhile. You should, however, be able to climb the University Tower which gives you great views out over Austin.
The first ever Whole Foods
The first Whole Foods Market was in Austin and it opened up in 1980! This store is absolutely huge and if you’ve only visited Whole Foods in London then make sure you also visit in America – they’re SO much better.
The lunch options alone blew me away. They’ve got make your own ramen, tacos, so many hot, cold and salad options, sushi, BBQ, made to order sandwiches, tonnes of coffee which is freshly roasted and so much more. I could’ve spent hours browsing the shelves (and blown all my travelling money in one shop!).
South Congress Avenue
This road is home to many weird and wacky shops. In fact, whether you’re a fist time visitor to the city, or have been many times, you’ll find plenty to entertain you in this neighbourhood.
Our favourite stops along here were; Uncommon Objects, a shop selling all sorts of antiques and oddities, home for the type of objects you’d find in your Grandparents’ attics but they somehow manage to look cool here; South Congress books, specialised in Texas and Austin based books; and Parts and Labour which has some awesome prints in and Austin slogan T-shirts.
Graffiti Park at Castle Hill
If you take a walk around Austin you’re sure to stumble across some graffiti. Only, in Austin, it’s more like a piece of art. We saw some very cool pieces during our stay in Austin but Graffiti Park at Castle Hill is the best place to go to see lots in a short area.
Graffiti Park is an ever changing area; you’re unlikely to see the same artwork two weeks in a row. That’s what makes it such a fun place to visit. If you’re feeling arty, take some spray paint and get involved in Austin’s art scene yourself!
The Drag is the nickname given to the part of Guadalupe street in Austin that runs adjacent to the university. For this reason, you’ll find it’s particularly busy with students.
The street is full of budget friendly eats including ‘Which Wich’ (a better version of Subway) and several food trucks serving all sorts of cuisines.
It’s also home to the University Co-op. The University Co-op is an absolutely massive shop that’s full of pretty much any item you can think of with the Texas Longhorns’ (the name of the university’s sports teams) logo on it. Honestly, I mean anything. Bottle openers to towels and even Nike clothing with the logo on! I can’t imagine any university in the UK having quite as many branded items – even Oxford and Cambridge!