Travel Guide for Visiting Austin, Waco and San Antonio, Texas
Visiting Austin has been on my travel bucket-list for awhile now. So when we got the opportunity to plan a getaway to the city to celebrate Evan’s 30th Birthday, you know I was PUMPED! Plus, it was our first big trip together (eek) and we both came out alive, so I think that’s a good sign right?! Ha. In all seriousness though, this trip was so much fun to plan and explore together. Since Austin is pretty close to a few other cities, we also decided to squeeze in a few day trips too — one to Waco (because I’m a basic Fixer Upper fan) and another to San Antonio!
I reallyyy loved Austin! I’ve heard it be compared to Portland a lot and I can totally see the connection. I think if I had a good comparison to where I’ve been before I’d say it was a mix between Portland and Nashville. Portland for the hipster and foodie scene and Nashville for the wide collection of live music + a little bit of a country flair (although not as much as I thought). It was interesting too because even though Austin is home to nearly a million people, it felt really manageable. Like, driving downtown Seattle scares the crap out of me, but we drove all over the place downtown and it wasn’t bad at all. Plus the city is pretty easy to navigate (and I’m a terrible navigator) so that’s saying something. Def a solid city! So let’s get down to the nitty gritty on some of my recs on things to do on your visit.
Get your Grub on
Not that this will surprise you, but one of the things I was most excited about checking out in Austin was the grub! And it did not disappoint! Between bomb bbq, tacos and food trucks galore, Austin’s food choices were grubbing! Here were some of my favorites
La Barbecue: If you go to one place to eat in Austin, let it be La Barbecue. Seriously. We were going to order some pork ribs but everyone in line ahead of us was ordering the beef ribs, so we joined in too in fear of missing out. The ribs were insanely huge but so. dang. good.
Torchy’s Tacos: This was recommended from one of my friends and it was solid! It’s actually a chain but they have SO many options and it was very tasty.
Bird Bird Biscuit: I actually found this place on Instagram and we had to check it out! It’s a little off the beaten path from downtown (or I think so at least lol) but I’m so glad we checked it out. The food was so tasty plus the restaurant is just super adorbs!
Get Your History on at the Capitol Building
Austin is the capitol after all! While we were looking for parking downtown, we ended up near the capitol building and decided to take a peek inside where we stumbled into one of the tours starting. It was the first full day of our trip, and I have to say I know way more about Texas’ capitol than Washington’s now. 🙈I may need to look into a visit to Olympia soon! Truly, the tour was pretty cool though and it was interesting to learn a little history before getting set free to wander all over the building.
Check out the Bats under the Congress Bridge
In normal circumstances I think the idea of going to see bats might freak me out a little bit. Although I did like to hike through bat caves growing up… but this is definitely a sight to see! Not only is the population of Austin expanding in people but it also has the largest urban community of bats! We opted to take one of the boat tours along the water which was great not only to see the bats come out but also to learn more about the city and take in the views. As cheesy as tour buses and what not can seem sometimes, they are suchhh a good way to learn about the cities you visit. The tour was awesome and we learned a lot plus saw a ton of bats. Guys, there’s 1.5 million of them! Although who is counting those? No matter how many there are if you’re visiting during prime season (somewhere between May and October) definitely make time to check this out.
Learn to 2-Step at the White Horse
You can’t visit Austin without hitting up a honkey tonk, right?! I think before this trip, I was expecting the city to be a littleee more country — I mean it is Texas after all. We got our dose of country in though learning to two step while wearing matching plaid shirts. No that wasn’t planned… and yes we got crap from a few people that night haha. No matter what you wear though, it was a fun little spot to check out in East Austin and definitely a place where it seems like more locals go, which was cool.
Seek out some Street Art
Austin is busting at the seams with street art! Like seriously, the city is SO colorful which naturally my little Bold & Pop color loving self ate that up! Which btw, you can get locations of some of these walls here. Here were a few of my favorites.
Get your Pub Crawl on at Rainey Street
Last but definitelyyy not least in Austin, Rainey Street is suchhh a blast! It’s kind of the Bourbon street or Broadway of Austin and it was just a really fun scene. There was live music at just about every bar which was awesome and pretty much every place had a tonnn of outdoor space — perks to living in a warmer climate. I imagine it gets pretty nuts on the weekends (we were there Wednesday and Thursday) but it was so much fun and it felt like a lot of locals also hit up the scene so it’s not totally just touristy. A few of my favorite places we went to were:
Container Bar: This bar is built out of storage containers which was so neat and unique. They also had hoola hooping lessons that night to keep things interesting.
Unbarlievable: Guys, this may have been my favorite bar ever… I mean, there was a slide in the bar! Say whattt?! And yes, I went down several times! They also had a giraffe statue outside and beanbag chairs in the backyard. SOLD!
Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden: This place was also a blast. They had a huge selection of beer — expected at a beer garden I suppose and they have a giant outdoor space. We caught some live music and it was a great place to chill.
Austin, you definitely get two thumbs up from me!
When I realized that Waco was only an hour and a half from Austin, I had to make a case to include that on our trip! Lucky for me Evan agreed just about as soon as I suggested it. Totally necessaryyyy for this die-hard Fixer Upper fan girl! Full disclosure, we visited Waco for the sole reason of visiting the Magnolia Market & Silos Baking Co.. Which I imagine as a resident of Waco it might be a smidge bit annoying… but at the same time it’s also put Waco on the map for tourism so I imagine the local economy has benefitted from that.
It’s funny because Waco was just about everything I expected it to be. I had read a lot of reviews about the downtown district and people just thinking it was something it wasn’t because of the how it was portrayed on TV, but for me it really hit the nail on the head for what I was expecting. Maybe being from a small town (much smaller than Waco) set my expectations on that, but it pretty much lived out what I would visioned a small town in Texas to be like. Which truthfully it’s really not that small, 136k people live there, but it definitely still has that smaller city kind of vibe. It reminded us a lot of Ellensburg in Washington actually, if you’re familiar.
One thing I actually wasn’t expecting was that the market was actually right downtown! I think since Chip and Joanna live on a farm (actually not in Waco at all) I just envisioned the silos being more out in the country, and not so centralized but they’re actually right smack dab in the middle of downtown which surprised me. Maybe I missed that point on the show?! The market and bakery were everything and more that I could have dreamed of too. I’m not a big crowd person, but we went on a Thursday and the space is so big that it wasn’t too crazy, all things considered — although I hear Saturdays are reallyyyy nuts! Which btw, they aren’t open on Sunday so Saturday is your one weekend shot.
We started out our visit at the bakery to pick up some cupcakes. Apparently the wait can get nuts on the weekend, but we hit the timing right and only waited about 10 minutes. I can’t give enough props to the staff too, everyone was just incredibly friendly and had their system down to give everyone the best experience in a timely manner. The cupcakes were delightful too. I ordered a pumpkin spice (of course) and Evan got the campfire one — both of the seasonal options. I always appreciate a cupcake with a great frosting to cake ratio too and these were on pointttt!
The great thing about the grounds too is it’s been thought out SO well. They really created a space with a family experience in mind. The actual shop was a little crowded, but nothing I didn’t expect. Truthfully, I could have just sipped on some sweet tea and sat in one of their porch swings all day. They also had an impressive food truck selection, an area for kids to play, tons of picnic tables and a gardening area. Even the bathrooms were nice and not too crowded and I expected those to be a zoo.
If you’re a fan of the show, it’s 100% worth a day trip too if you’re staying in the area. There are also quite a few cute other little shops nearby the market and a Dr. Pepper museum if you’re into that. We also played creeper status a little bit and drove by a few of the houses they remodeled that were nearby too. Just LOVE their work!
Our last stop on the trip was San Antonio, and I have to say it was even cooler than I thought it was going to be. Truth be told, I was swampedddd with work before this trip (as well as a few other trips I had in the weeks prior) so Evan pretty much planned most of the spots we checked out and I truly didn’t know much about San Antonio before we went. Plus it was also only about an hour away from Austin so I’m glad we could add it to the trip. Our stop here was short so we mostly stuck to the touristy things to do but it was still so much fun! Here were some of my favorites in San Antonio:
The Alamo: I feel like this is kind of a must for a visit to San Antonio and it was something that Evan was really excited about. It’s right downtown so it was easy to navigate to and we definitely got our dose of history in.
La Villita Historic Arts Village: On our way back to our hotel, we came across an adorable little village square with a bunch of different shops that were really cute.
River Walk: You can’t go to San Antonio without visiting the River Walk. Yes, it’s kind of touristy, but it’s so cool that there’s a little river running through the collection of shops, restaurants, and hotels. We ate at the oldest Mexican restaurant on the walk, Casa Rio that had the iconic umbrellas. Then later on we also stopped at the walk’s oldest bar The Esquire Tavern, which was also a neat place. We also opted to take one of the boat tours which was another fun part of learning about the history of the River Walk.
Texas, you were so good to us! This trip was such a blast and I’m so happy we were able to squeeze so many different places in and get a good mix of touristy and local spots in. Always nice when you get to see a little of both! Until next time, yehaw!