Deej Does Austin

This week, my wife and I made our first ever trip to the Lone Star State, to attend her sister's wedding in Austin. Over the years, I've heard nothing but great things about Austin from friends that visited, so I looked forward to experiencing it for myself. While we only saw a small portion of the city in our three days, it was clear from the beginning that Austin is my kind of town.

We arrived into the Austin airport around 10 a.m., which gave us the benefit of a full day of exploration, at the expense of a 3:45am wake up call. As we approached for landing and then taxied to our gate, I began to wonder if Austin really was the trendy, cosmopolitan town I'd heard it was, because my first impression was less New York, and more Toledo. Once inside the airport, however, I quickly changed my opinion, as their terminal was one of the nicer ones I've been in lately, and seemed to be modeled after an old aircraft hanger.
Austin Airport
After checking into the Hyatt Regency Austin and taking my obligatory nap, we set out to explore some of this beautiful city. Our hotel was located right on the Colorado River, where there were always people out kayaking, paddle boarding, and a few fishermen as well. Austin is clearly a very physically fit city, as the jogging trails and parks near the river were always packed, and cyclists nearly matched the number of cars in downtown.
Austin Congress Bridge

Adjacent to our hotel was the Congress Street Bridge, where each night hundreds of thousands of bats take off en masse from their "cave" under the span. We waited for about half an hour for their "launch," and I began to seriously question if we were wasting our time. But once the show started, I was glad we waited, because it really is a "must see" in Austin. The only downside is the lovely aroma of guano as you take the walk across Congress Bridge.

As with any trip, food played a big role in our plans for the weekend. We dined at several great local restaurants (more on that later), but there were numerous others I wish we could have visited. With the exception of a McDonald's, Starbucks, and TGI Fridays, there was a noticeable absence of chain restaurants. After a few days of observation, I realized that although there were few chains in the downtown area, Austin was definitely not lacking in the fast-food department.
Austin Congress Bridge
Austin, it seems, is in love with the "Food Truck." Vacant lots in downtown get turned into food truck "villages," with multiple vendors serving everything from tacos and burgers to sushi and Thai food. If you're hungry, just walk out to any corner, and you're bound to find something good to eat. In fact, I searched on Urbanspoon for a local donut shop, and drove by the address three times, because I was looking for a brick and mortar building, and not a truck on the corner. Sadly, I never got the glazed donut topped with maple icing and bacon, but I'm sure my heart will thank me later.

We made time to stop by the original Whole Foods Market, which was nearly as much fun as Epcot during the Food & Wine Festival. I had visited the nearest location to my home in Orlando before, but Austin's makes it look like the corner jiffy store. Every sense is teased as you make your way through the store, soon to part with wads of cash for 7 items. But like any good merchant, it's clear that Whole Foods understands their primary goods aren't those which are sold on the shelves, but the buyer's experience. I left the store exhilarated, and depressed. Exhilarated from the sensory overload...depressed from the realization that they'll never open one in Ocala.

Austin Whole Foods When I visit a city, I judge its greatness by asking myself at the end of the trip if I would live there. With Austin, the answer is a resounding yes. The people, the food, the culture, they all speak to the things I value in life. The downside is I'd have to get serious about running, because otherwise the excesses of fine dining, food trucks, and Whole Foods would do me in.

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