If you only had 36 hours to spend in Austin, what would you do?
By the time you read this article, I will be several hundred miles north of Austin on I-35 towards Minneapolis. For four years, my wife and I have called Austin home, but now it’s time to say goodbye to this wonderful place.
So I asked myself, “What will I do during my last 36 hours in Austin?” What resulted was an itinerary of sorts that I hope Austinities and visitors find useful for planning a spare weekend. More importantly, I hope this gets you thinking about what you would do if you had 36 hours left in Austin. Just don’t put off your exploration until it’s too late.
DAY ONE // 9:00 AM – Breakfast on the East Side
Veracruz All-Natural is the first stop as we begin 36 hours in Austin, Texas. This Mexican food trailer offers everything from breakfast tacos to tortas. What brings me here today is their migas taco. Migas are very simple and yet can unnecessarily be made complicated. Here, less is more: scrambled eggs, tortilla chips, avocado, pico de gallo and shredded white cheese on a handmade corn tortilla.
With a Topo Chico or watermelon agua fresca on the side, this meal pretty much sums up why I love breakfast in Austin.
1704 E Cesar Chavez St – Website
11:00 AM – Kayak Lady Bird Lake
Time to work off those tacos. The best bet is to head west from Veracruz All-Natural to Austin Sailboat Rentals, next to Holiday Inn Express, to rent some kayaks. Nearby is a stretch of Lady Bird Lake that’s less busy but close enough to Congress Avenue Bridge to take in some great skyline views. There’s no better way to pass time between meals than with some physical activity!
20 North IH 35 – Website
1:00 PM – Torchy’s Tacos
Torchy’s has expanded to other Texas cities and Denver, but nowhere near where I’m moving to. Lunch begins with their liquid gold queso, the best in Austin in my opinion. Next, a Brushfire Taco (jerk chicken, roasted jalapenos, mango salsa, diablo sauce). Finally, a Trailer Park Taco ordered the only way it should be: covered in queso.
What’s not to like about fried chicken, pico, cheese and queso? I will miss clogging my arteries at Torchy’s.
3:00 PM – Alamo Drafthouse
Unfortunately, Minneapolis has no Alamo Drafthouse. How do they watch movies up there?
The best part of the Alamo experience is the pre-show. It’s a montage of videos related to the movie one is about to see and really gets you in the right frame of mind. It doesn’t matter what’s showing, either. Pitch Perfect Sing-A-Long? Sure. Matthew McConaughey as an astronaut? OK. Some obscure horror movie? Absolutely!
Oh, did I mention their pretzel? Served with a side of queso and mustard, it’s a great snack. Along with a good Austin-made beer, the Alamo Drafthouse is a getaway from the heat and my last movie-watching hurrah.
6:00 PM – Pre-Dinner Drinks at El Sapo
Editor’s Note: El Sapo closed on Sept. 1, 2017. There are no plans to reopen.
When beer isn’t in the cards, any of El Sapo’s margaritas will do. Especially their maracuya (passionfruit) margarita, if you can get it.
With the right drink in your hand with the right company, El Sapo will feel like it’s exactly where you need to be at that moment in time. It’s how I’ve always experienced it.
900 West 10th St. – Website
8:00 PM – Dinner at Pinthouse Pizza
Burnet Road between 45th and Braker is another of my favorite areas in Austin. It’s also home to stalwart pizza and beer oasis, Pinthouse Pizza.
It’s always a simple order for me here, something that takes me back to childhood: red sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, mozzarella and jalapenos. Or their meat-heavy Cannonball. If you can get their seasonal Burro’s Breakfast beer, which they make, it must be ordered.
All tables are meant to be shared and they have lots of televisions for whatever sport you’re into. There are many great pizza places in Austin, but this one happens to be my favorite.
4729 Burnet Rd – Website
DAY TWO // 6:30 AM – Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail
Yes, 6:30 AM is early. But if you get out there at the right time, you can watch the sun rise over Lady Bird Lake on the Congress Avenue Bridge. That sight alone is worth the trek.
The Hike and Bike Trail is perfect for running as it offers plenty of shade throughout most of the trail. The 4-mile Eastside Loop is a personal favorite. At certain moments it feels like an adventure, as I’m literally running off the beaten path and feeling every inch of Austin’s elevation. It’s the perfect place for physical activity before another day of amazing Austin food!
9:00 AM – Breakfast at Kerbey Lane Cafe
Kerbey Lane Cafe’s pancakes, enchiladas and eggs benedict have kept Austin happy for over 35 years. For the past four years, the Eggs Francisco have kept me happy with a combination of scrambled eggs, avocado, tomato, bacon and queso.
The original location on Kerbey Lane is quaint, cozy and always busy. However, the food and service is always worth the wait.
3704 Kerbey Ln – Website
11:30 AM – 360 Bridge Overlook
The Pennybacker Bridge on Loop 360 is an Austin icon and the 360 Overlook is a great place to get great views of Lake Austin. Just after Courtyard Dr, look for the signs that say “No Parking on Row.” All that means is that you have to park perpendicular to the road.
Hike up the side of the cliff. When you reach the top, you’ll see Lake Austin, Austin Country Club, the 360 Bridge and downtown. You’ll be so mesmerized that you won’t mind all the high school kids and their selfie sticks.
1:00 PM – Austin Beerworks Brewery Tour
Austin Beerworks is my favorite brewery in town. If I could only drink one beer for the rest of my life, it would be their Pearl Snap Pilsner. Refreshing, crisp and it comes in a beautiful can.
The brewery itself is in north central Austin, close to several other breweries. Austin Beerworks prides itself in making great beer and having fun doing it. Take their tour, drink some of their beer and grab a bite from whichever food truck they bring in.
3009 Industrial Terrace – Website
5:00 PM – Farewell Drink at Draught House
An article about Draught House Pub on The Austinot is what made me want to become a Contributing Blogger. Draught House Pub has been around since 1968 and is by far my favorite bar in Austin. They have an extensive beer selection that’s always up to date, and the interior feels like an old school English pub: dimly lit, dark wood and an atmosphere that projects 50 years worth of good times over brews.
Outside, their beer garden is perfect for socializing, or Settlers of Catan if you’re into it. It’s a haven for locals and neighbors and the perfect place for a final beer in Austin.
4112 Medical Pkwy – Website
7:00 PM – BBQ Dinner at Freedmen’s
Editor’s Note: Freedmen’s is closing Aug. 31, 2018, at its West Campus location.
It wouldn’t be a farewell without barbecue. Freedmen’s often gets overlooked, but it’s a top notch BBQ spot. Best of all, there’s no crazy line in order to enjoy their smoked meats.
The best thing on the menu here is the pork spare rib. The meat falls right off the bone. Their smoked veggies are also delicious and you have to end the meal with smoked banana pudding. There may be “barbecue” elsewhere in the country, but none quite like the kind in Central Texas.
2402 San Gabriel St – Website
For 28 years, Texas has been home. It’s hard not getting sentimental about this place, with its many beauties, imperfections, contradictions and promises. Of all the cities in all of Texas, Austin is a true gem and one I will miss dearly. But thanks to technological advances, I can get on an airplane and fly from the Twin Cities in less than three hours. So maybe it’s more like “36 Hours in Austin…For Now.”
Don’t procrastinate. Get out and experience the Austin you love, like you only have 36 hours left here.
@edwinxavierocho wants to know:
If you could only spend 36 hours in Austin, what would you do?