If you’re like me, you’ve heard the buzz about Austin, Texas for years. And maybe like me you haven’t had the chance to actually see Austin. Don’t get me wrong. I mean, I’ve been to Austin. But only once and only for business – just long enough to enjoy the cool airport (complete with live music), and drive around after my meetings. Knowing what I know now, randomly driving around was a wasted opportunity.
So, what should you see, do, and eat if you only have a few hours to spare? On a recent trip to Texas with my family, I decided to find out!
Tacos Tacos Tacos
We rolled into Austin around 11 in the morning. I was hungry and one of the teens was borderline hangry, so it was taco time at Torchy’s Tacos on South Congress Ave. Now don’t worry about going to this location; there are plenty of Torchy’s locations in Austin. But I do have to say this one was very good. Maybe even better than very good.
Welcome to Austin
After filling our gullets, just few blocks away we found the iconic Greetings From Austin postcard mural. While easily identifiable, it’s a little smaller than I thought it would be (not everything is bigger in Texas?). Located at the corner of South 1st Street and Annie Street in south Austin, we had a great time dodging traffic while we tried to grab pictures galore. (Don’t worry, it’s a really, really, really long traffic light so despite several groups hanging around for pix, it wasn’t all that scary for the photographer.)
I love you SO much!
If you investigate before you go, you’ll find that Austin is chock full of mural art throughout the city – part of what makes Austin both fun and quirky. Given our short few hours, we stuck to south Austin, making a self-promise that next time we would spend more time enjoying the murals across the city.
Not too far from the Greetings from Austin postcard mural is a simple, tasteful, and even elegant work of art that I loved so much! The I love you so much mural was a lot busier, and even on a hot April in the early afternoon there were a dozen and a half people milling around waiting for their chance to take a photo.
I love you so much is on West James Street, just off South Congress Avenue. It’s just one of the fun free things to do in Austin.
Know in advance that parking is pretty tight in the couple of blocks around the mural. Although we parked perfectly legally, when we went back to the car we found we’d been boxed in by another photo-seeking group which had parked not-so-legally if you get my drift. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long and I’m sure the driver was blinded by the glaring Texas sun and didn’t notice my glaring look of disapproval. Travel nice people!
I Scream you Scream
Did I mention it was early April? Did I mention it was hot? Did I mention I love ice cream?
More importantly, did I mention that there’s an Austin favorite, Amy’s Ice Creams just across South Congress from the I love you so much mural? It’s at 1301 South Congress for the GPS-er in the family. Funky, tasty, imaginative – all the things you like in food and treats you’ll find on Amy’s menu.
I especially loved the walk-up window, the quick service, the extra supply of napkins, and the comic art adorning Amy’s walls.
- Don’t let the fact that you only have a few hours keep you from exploring Austin! There’s plenty to see and do in a short time. Altogether, we spent about 5 hours there, and created a memorable day. If you have more time, here’s a great 3-day itinerary for Austin with kids.
- Research! Fortunately, we had a good friend give us some hints and helped us plan a schedule for a compact time frame.
- Be forewarned – nearly everyone we talked to said to beware of Austin rush-hour traffic. We had to skedaddle by 3:30 pm. But even by then we were in heavy slowdowns from Austin city center south down I-35 to our destination.