One of my friend’s from high school and I went to Austin this past weekend. She’s one of the few friends I have left who is still single and childless and therefore has the time and money to take off on weekend adventures with me (plus she’s a pretty cool chick!). Last year we went to Hawaii and Jamaica together. This year we ventured into the land of hipsters, live music and a food truck on Sixth street that sells the best hot dog I’ve ever eaten.
Here are a few of the more interesting things we saw while there:
1. A movie theatre that’s also a bar/restaurant
I know this isn’t the best photo. But it was dark and I was trying to be stealth ninja about it so I wouldn’t get caught using my phone during the movie. But as you can see (maybe?) the chairs are normal movie theatre-style seating. The only difference is that in front of each row of seats is a built-in table/bench with menus and a pad of paper and pen for you to write down your order for the waiter.
It’s called the Alamo Drafthouse and is located in the center of the city on 6th street (although they screen current films, they also show films from the 80s and 90s as well as movie musical ‘sing-alongs’ and according to a girl in my hostel, “Filipino pornos”. She was sort of drunk when she went though, so she might have been confused?).
2. A slew of funny, clever signs
To know me is to know I love me a clever sign. Or even a failed attempt at a clever sign. Japan was full of them and it was hilarious. I give Austin props for making the effort.
Note the bit at the bottom that reads “Taking a picture of this sign without coming in for a shot is cheating”. I totally cheated.
I must warn you, drinking too much of the “soup of the day” can result in wandering around lost at two in the morning and then losing your hostel key four times in a row (though I, of course, wouldn’t know anything about THAT).
Last year, East Austin was number seven on Forbes list of Top 20 “Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods” in the US. I could certainly see why. It IS a pretty a hip, young city and it wasn’t nicknamed “the live music capital of the world” for nothing.
It didn’t feel at all pretentious though (like certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn or San Francisco do). Everyone seemed really friendly and down to Earth.
Apparently one of the signs are that you’re a hipster is that you love cupcakes…but c’mon…Who doesn’t love cupcakes?!
4. Funky, colorful graffiti art
There’s this place in Austin called “Castle Hill”, where the entire side of the hill has been spray-painted with graffiti art. It’s near the Whole Food world headquarters (anyone else surprised to learn that Texas birthed the organic food trend?) and it’s a cool spot if you’re looking for a unique backdrop for photos.
5. Bats (lots of ’em)
Every evening, right around dusk, hordes of picnicking tourists gather under a bridge to wait for the thousands of bats to awaken from their daytime slumber.
Sitting in the grass waiting for the bats to wake up felt a lot like waiting for a concert or fireworks show to begin. Vendors sold ice cream and sodas, little kids waved glow sticks and photographers fiddled with tripods and zoom lenses. Everyone was earnestly staring at the
stage bridge, video cameras in hand, waiting for a sign the show was about to begin, and I half expected a mic’d MC to step out of the bushes and shout something to the effect of, “Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls! Put your hands together for the Austin bridge bats!”
You know you’ve made it when you get your own fan site and hashtag.
These signs were everywhere…which I found funny. Apparently these “bat-lebrities” aren’t into signing autographs, interacting with their fans or being “handled”.
Here’s a couple “grounded bats”. Um…cute?
When the bats finally made their appearance, it was a little underwhelming. I don’t know what it was I was expecting exactly. Maybe I was hoping they’d do some aerial tricks? Dive bomb into the crowd of tourists? Or that a few of them would morph into vampires and saunter into the crowd and bite someone? I think I definitely was hoping for, at the very least, some live music. SOMETHING.
Instead I got this:
Annnnnnd…..there they go! Flying off into the sunset.
6. A giant pool with weeds growing in it (aka Barton Springs, a natural spring located in the center of the city).
Besides the bats, the other thing everyone (the guide book, the receptionist at the hostel…EVERYONE) kept insisting we go see was Barton Springs. Barton Springs is in the middle of a park and seems, upon first glance, like any ol’ rec center pool. There’s a three dollar cover charge to get in, a diving board, smelly bathrooms and a half a dozen lifeguards strutting along the concrete sides of the pool blowing their whistles and yelling at swimmers for backflipping or sneaking their innertubes into the wrong side of the pool.
But then you look closer and you see weeds growing where you’d normally see sky-blue concrete and moss growing along the pool ladders and walls. That’s because it’s not a chlorinated pool but rather, a natural spring. And a freezing cold one at that.
Probably the most interesting thing about Barton Springs is that outside the life-guarded portion of the springs is the free, ghetto version (the only thing that separates the two is a chain-link fence).
The ghetto version of the springs has everything the official version doesn’t, including dogs, beer, drunk people, pot smokers and nudists. And at least one crazy dude with a studded neck piercing who told me that he was missing his “vampire eyes”.
Yeah, it was a weird place. But then again, so is Austin.
To see more photos from my trip, click here:
Have you ever been to Austin? What did you think?