12 Hours in Austin, Texas

When on a time crunch for traveling, it can be hard to fit in all you want to see. When I was staying at Texas’ Messina Hof Winery this past April, I knew Austin would be a must-visit for me. Filled with deep music history, art and local color, I was fortunate to spend a day getting familiar with the state capitol and all of their eclectic, musical vibes.

From live music everywhere you turn to glorious gluten-free options and plenty of lively bars, Austin turned out to be such an ideal city to explore on my own. While I didn’t get to see everything, here are a few of my highlights whilst spending a day in Austin.

Strike a Pose at the “Greetings from Austin” Mural

I admit: getting a photo of myself is one of the most awkward things for me when I’m doing some solo travel. It’s difficult to strike a pose or want to look silly when you’re relying on a complete stranger you grab off of the street to trust with your camera phone. Am I right? Luckily for me, Austin appeared to be filled with like-minded, solo individuals. Famous for its dozens of unique and fun murals that make for an ideal Instagram post, when I stumbled upon their iconic “Greetings from Austin” mural, several other visitors were in my boat. Enjoying a local, on-our-own adventure, and needing a photographer. We all took turns helping one another out, and this continued throughout my day in the city.

To snap your own Insta-worthy shot at the “Greetings from Austin” mural, which is a nod to a 1940’s post card, just head on down to the city’s South Austin district. The painting is on the side of an art gallery, and is definitely worth a stop. You’ll have to have your photographer step onto Annie street in order to get the full view. Be patient, this is an often busy street and intersection, but there will be a break for you to get your shot.

Mural address: 1720 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704

Greetings from Austin! (c) Mary Farah
Enjoy the Unique Art all Around

The more I get to see the USA, the more I notice the similarities between metropolis cities. This is especially present when Starbucks, McDonald’s, Target and the likes are often on every other corner. This is why murals and street art makes me so happy. Art helps keep each place more authentic, and Austin is a great example.

As I walked around the South side and South Congress neighborhoods, there was an abundance of wall art and clever posters to admire. For some reason, these disturbing posters of Anne Frank has stuck with me. It’s a sobering reminder that art can really make you think, and shake you.

Art posters along First street in Austin. (c) Mary Farah

Clearly, not all are melancholy. These are some fun ones that I loved.

Welcome to SoCo, South Congress. (c) Mary Farah
So many cafes and buildings have murals in SoCo. (c) Mary Farah
Stevie Ray Vaughan in the Park

Everybody knows I’m a music fiend. A lot may not realize I often list the Sky is Crying from the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan, among my favorite albums. So, of course I had to make a bee line down to the gorgeous Lady Bird Lake and park to see the bronze statue in the guitarist’s honor.

While Frommer’s lists the statue as “artificial and awkward,” I couldn’t of been more satisfied. While the location may seem a bit random, Vaughan moved from his hometown of Dallas out of high school and quickly began his legacy in Austin. Right at the lake and overlooking the sky scrapers of downtown, the statue serves as a beautiful tribute to the musician we lost much too soon. Once again, I had to ask some friendly strangers to snap a shot of me looking like my gawky self.

What? I’m air guitar-ing! (c) Mary Farah
(c) Mary Farah

Lady Bird Lake serves as a great place to get a walk in, or if you’ve got a bike or dogs in tow, they offer bike trails and plenty of room for Fido to play.

Statue address: 210 Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, Austin, TX 78704 (You’ll have to park a bit a ways in their parking lot then take an easy 5-10 minute walk to locate Stevie.)

Gluten-free Findings

As far as gluten-free in these parts, Austin reminded me of Seattle and Portland at times, especially when it came to the restaurants and cafes.

For a fantastic happy hour as well as one of the best brunches in the area (according to the locals), pay a visit to South Congress Cafe, conveniently located in the ultra-hip and laid back South Congress neighborhood. I love a great happy hour, yet you sometimes have to search out the best. Cheap cocktails often means light on the alcohol, but don’t fear at South Congress Cafe. I decided to pull up a chair in their fun bar, with its diner-like atmosphere and bright, spring colors. During their weeknight happy hour, folks can enjoy their famous blended margaritas for just $3 and will not be disappointed. The perfect blend of frothy lime flavors with just the right amount of tequila to keep you happy for further evening excursions.

Their menu serves up lots of Americana and Tex-Mex, and my server was extremely gluten-free knowledgeable and they’re happy to guide you through the menu to be “safe.”

No visit to Austin is complete without visiting their downtown, where you’ll see why Austin is the “Music Capitol of the World” with its rows of bars, clubs and venues all offering live music nightly. To get into that spirit and enjoy the noises surrounding me, this is why I decided on Iron Cactus for dinner. I opted for a patio table upstairs and took in the ambience and musical noises coming from nearby bars.

At the Iron Cactus, they offer a “Gluten Free-ish” menu. While they, like many restaurants, cannot guarantee cross-contamination, they ensure that they do their best and offer a great selection of classic Mexican dishes for us like enchiladas and fajitas.

Dinner at Iron Cactus. (c) Mary Farah
The best margarita over at South Congress Cafe. (c) Mary Farah
A Night Cap in the Cherrywood Neighborhood

After walking the streets of downtown and taking in all of the music coming from the venues, I decided to cozy up with my laptop over in the Cherrywood district of town, and conveniently found the locals hangout, Cherrywood Coffeehouse. Nestled just miles from University of Austin, this ample space offers up the usual fare of baked goods and java favorites, and more. If you’re in the mood for tacos, sandwiches, even breakfast for dinner, Cherrywood will have you covered. If you’re planning to check out their evening entertainment like open mic and comedy nights, you can treat yourself to a wine or beer, too.

I may have only had a day to explore Austin, but I managed to squeeze in all I wanted to see and then some. Next up on my Austin bucket list? Attend a gig at the Austin City Limits. It’ll happen! xo

(*Disclosure: This is not a sponsored or hosted post. I explored Austin on my own and loved my experience.)

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