Camp Cookies + Sangria: Field Trip to Austin, Texas

Last week, we introduced you to our new summer series, Camp Cookies + Sangria, which will give all those adults who are jonesing for a fix of that magic that is summer camp, whether you went as a kid or not. Today, we’re taking a field trip down south to Austin, Texas, so get your cowboy boots and be prepared for a lot of “y’alls” as we venture out of the camp walls to the “weirdest” city in the Lone Star state.

Over the weekend, I went to Austin to attend the ATX Television Festival – think of it as a way smaller version of Comic Con but specifically for TV nerds, less lines, and more humidity and BBQ. This was my second year attending the fest (which I strongly recommend to all TV fans), but last year I didn’t get to do as much wandering about the city as I wanted to. This year, my friend came with a list of suggestions from locals and let me tell you – the entire weekend, we (modestly) kept saying we were KILLING IT in Texas, because we got so much done in a small amount of time, but everything we did was spot on. Here are some of a few items on our itinerary, for your own field trip to Austin!

To Do

Texas State Capitol

{1100 Congress Avenue}

Even if you’re not into going to visit historical places, the building itself is gorgeous. It’s located in Downtown Austin, and takes over a massive 51 acres. You can go in and look around for free, and there are even tours to learn about the history of the building, and you know, Texas.

Alamo Drafthouse

{320 East 6th Street}

The ATX Fest has screenings at this awesome movie theater which also serves as a bar/restaurant. You can order food and drinks directly to your seat, and not just popcorn. I’m talking like burgs and beer. I’ve never been for a regular movie, but they also have cool events like sing-a-longs and showings of older movies, which sounds awesome.

South Congress Bridge Bats

{100 South Congress Avenue}

Listen, I’m not usually one with nature. But if there’s something that’s super unique to a city, I am into it. The city itself is the spring and summer home to about 750,000 bats – with up to 1.5 million at the peak of the season, making it the largest bat colony in North America. WUT. Well in the summer around sunset, the bats come out from their homes underneath the bridge to search for food (bugs) and they come out like a freaking black tunnel of rabies. When my friend and I went, we kind of stumbled upon it and did not come prepared – as in bring bug spray because those little shits are everywhere. You can stand by the bank of the Colorado River or on the bridge itself to view the bats, or even go to a nearby restaurant or bat cruise. And if you’re lucky (we weren’t) you’ll see something akin to this:

Good lord.

Hope Outdoor Gallery

{1008 Baylor Street}

Austin is known for being the cultural capital of the state, with large music, theater, film and art scenes. The latter of which is awesomely display at the Hope Outdoor Gallery, which is basically an abandoned cement construction site which graffiti artists use as their canvas. It’s legit one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, and we even got to witness one artist at work! Definitely a must-see if you’re into checking out something off the beaten path.

Austin Live Music

{all over Austin!}

With annual events like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits, the city’s music reputation precedes it. You’re not doing Austin right if you don’t check out at least one live music show. One day, I was walking down one of the main streets with all the bars (7th Street), and all you could hear was the cacophony of live bands playing from every direction. It was amazing. You can simply stumble into a bar and take in a show, or find out more into your personal interests. We used this site, AustinLiveMusic.com, to see what was going on, and we found a band called Foot Patrol, a local funk group that played Prince’s entire Purple Rain album in honor of his birthday on Saturday. I mean, come on, where else would you be able to go something like that in a place like this:

To Eat

24 Diner

{600 North Lamar}

Besides being the cultural mecca of Texas, Austin is known for its out-of-this-world food. I highly suggest you take a brief pause on whatever diet you’re on when you visit this city (sidenote: I didn’t get to have BBQ on this trip, but I had it last time at the Salt Lick and … drooolll all the meat. Gimme all the meat). 24 Diner was recommended to us by an Uber driver, and we will forever be in his debt. This place is everything you love about all-American diners except without the negative connotations. The decor is like an “upscale” diner, and the chef is a CIA (Culinary Institute of America, not like, Homeland) trained cook, and has taken all the diner faves and kicked it up 10 notches. The cocktails were insane – I had something called Dad’s Cider – idek what was in it but it was good and there was a lot of alcohol. We also had bomb deviled eggs and for the main course – chicken and waffles. A second Uber driver suggested we try it, and our amazingly awesome waitress Jayme supported the decision. Actually, not only did she support the decision, she showed me how the locals eat it – drizzle Cholula hot sauce and then their super light and non Aunt Jemima-y syrup on top and it is NEXT LEVEL. I’ve only had chickwaff twice before (and from the same establishment) but I can say this was by far the best chickwaff I’ve ever had in my life. I could not recommend this place more!!

Home Slice Pizza

{1415 South Congress Street}

Let’s be real – pizza in Los Angeles is just not the same as pizza on the east coast. Any transplant can tell you that. So imagine my surprise when I go all the way to Austin to find on point pizza. We ordered the Margherita pizza and I wish computers had smell-o-vision because the basil wafting off this? Oooooo chile. It was thin enough that it didn’t feel like you were eating a loaf of bread and the dough itself was to die. Also check out the back patio – there’s a bar, a ping pong table, and those hanging lights that I love that are apparently everywhere in Austin. Oh and they give out Smarties as an “after-dinner mint”.

Magnolia Cafe

{1920 South Congress Avenue}

Down the street from Home Slice, Magnolia is like the diner version of 24 Diner. As in, it’s a real diner. This place was packed and we had to wait to get a table even at like 10pm on aThursday. But it was totally worth the wait, if only for the queso. Guys. Texas does queso right. The queso from Chilli’s is legit garbage next to this. I mean this queso comes with avocado! And it comes in a huge bowl, so get ready for a huge queso brick in your stomach afterwards. Worth it.

The Hideout

{617 Congress Avenue}

I came across The Hideout while I was wandering around for 30 minutes in between panels during the festival, and it was a such a great find on my part (again, very humble). The outside is very inconspicuous, as it’s just wood paneling, glass windows, and just a chalk board luring you in with drinks and breakfast tacos. Now I love a good coffee shop, and this place became my go-to over the weekend. The coffee is fantastic and even their pressed sandwiches are delish. They also serve alcohol, which is awesome but it was too early for me to be drinking anything other than coffee. Apparently it’s also a theater towards the back of the building, so that’s cool. The only weird thing was that they were playing weird music both times I was there – including something that sounded like the Sci-Fi ringtone on iPhones.

To Drink

Garage

{503 W Colorado Street}

STEFON VOICE: THIS PLACE HAS EVERYTHING – A flashing neon light sign signifying where you enter, egg whites in drinks and cars passing by the window since you’re in an actual parking garage. We definitely felt not cool enough to be at this bar, but the kissing couple sitting next to us was high as a kite, so we felt better about ourselves. The cocktails are a little bit on the more expensive side ($8 to $15) but tasty and worth every dollar. I just want to know how the owner came up with putting a bar in a fully functioning parking garage.

Key Bar

{617 West 6th Street}

Going back to our fave 24 Diner and our girl Jayme the waitress, she gave us so many suggestions for bars in the area, and Key Bar was one of them. The sign is a little inconspicuous, it’s basically a picture of an old key, so just look for that. It’s mostly an open air bar, and there are even fire pits, I’m assuming they turn on when it’s a little cooler than the hot days of June. The most unique thing on their menu are the shakers, which is basically a shaker of alcohol, and you’re given a glass with a popsicle of your choice and you pour the alc into the glass, so when the popsicle melts, the drink becomes the flavor flav of the popsicle. The one I procured was the All Good, which comes with a raspberry/mint popsicle and it was really tasty and refreshing. It was also a great place for people watching, and we made a drinking game by taking a sip anytime a Prius drove by (didn’t end up drinking a lot with that game).

Random Suggestions

Food Trailers: In L.A., we have a shit ton of food trucks (as our friend Eva used to work on one), but in Austin, it’s all about food trailers. They’re everywhere downtown, some are mobile, some are not, but they usually set up shop and have seating outside, like this fried chicken place on South Congress. Again with the lights! Obsessed.

Heat: Y’all – the heat in Texas is NO JOKE. Coming from a California resident, I’ve never encountered this kind of heat. Or rather, the humidity. I can sort of handle Vegas at 110 degrees, but Austin at 95 degrees is horrible – you walk 2 blocks and you’re already doused in sweat. So in saying this, plan your days carefully. No one’s judging if you take a little siesta in the middle of the day before you go out at night.

Mecca for Friday Night Lights fans : Last year, we embarked on our own FNL tour of faux Dillon, which was actually all shot in Austin. If you love Coach, Mrs. Coach, Riggins, and/or have a penchant for blocking season two out of your brain, here’s my guide to visiting the home of the Panthers. Lions.

TV Nerds Unite: Okay, one last plug for the ATX TV Festival – if you have a hard time keeping track of all your shows, ship at least one fictional couple or like hearing behind the scenes stories from cast and crew members of your favorite shows, this fest is for you. Over the course of a weekend, celebs gather in Austin to talk about their shows and meet fans. There are past shows (Hey Dude reunion), current shows (Orange is the New Black) and upcoming shows (that scary ass show The Strain) featured, and there are also panels with some of TV’s most influential people talking about their craft in a non-douchey way.

Alright, campers, hope this is a handy guide on your own field trip to Austin. Enjoy, y’all!

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10 thoughts on “Camp Cookies + Sangria: Field Trip to Austin, Texas

  1. AHHHH. Austin is one of the best places on the planet! I adore Texas and Austin is a gem. Everything you did sounds amazing too – I’ve never heard of that Hope gallery and it sounds pretty cool!!!

    Also, thank you for giving me an excuse to go back to Austin! I obsess over my TV shows and this sounds like a perfect option for me 🙂 Weeeee!

    Like

    • Yes! Definitely go to the ATX fest and feel better about your life knowing there are others that obsess as much as you do! Also the Hope gallery was so awesome. And I assume that since anyone can spray paint there, the grafitti art changes all the time, which makes it even cooler!

      Like

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