Let’s face it: Austinites don’t know how to handle cold weather. We’re used to living in a land of perpetual summer, drinking our Topo Chicos and paddling across Lake Austin shirtless. When the temperature drops closer to freezing, however, we’re forced inside our homes to hibernate.
That doesn’t have to be the case! The cold season can be your opportunity to explore the parts of Austin you would otherwise ignore. There’s a whole world of local Austin originals waiting for you to walk in the door shivering.
Support Sustainability With Zhi Tea
Zhi Tea is an Austin original in every sense of the phrase. They’re a completely locally-owned tea shop that believes in community, sustainability and great teas. Founded in 2006, Zhi Tea began with the idea of selling a product the owners believed in, while building a company that could be a cornerstone of the community.
Needless to say, they succeeded. Zhi Tea has won awards in Austin for their commitment to sustainability. They also partner with multiple grassroots organizations like Urban Roots and Sustainable Food Center. Everything they make is processed in the shop and they deeply believe in fair trade.
But how is the tea?
Tremendous. Every pot of tea they brew is handed to you with a series of timers. As the sand slips through the glass, your tea steeps. Your job is to choose how steeped you want your tea, depending on the intensity level you enjoy. Combine that attention to detail with the dozens of teas sourced from around the world, and you could easily spend an entire afternoon dissecting and enjoying everything from oolong to green.
I am the farthest thing from a tea aficionado, but my server was more than happy to explain the differences between the teas to help me find the right fit for me. Moments later, I was relaxing and warming from the inside out.
4607 Bolm Road – Website
Explore Other Worlds at Book People
It doesn’t get more Austin original than BookPeople. It might be my favorite company in the entire city. In a world where large-scale retailers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon are consuming local book retailers, BookPeople has continued to thrive. They’ve done so by growing into more than a book store. This is a safe haven for the bookish, the creatives, the intellectuals. There’s always something fun or weird going on inside those walls
Aside from its huge catalog, I love BookPeople for its constant rotation of authors or thinkers who speak on the second floor. Storytelling events are also encouraged. You can often find schoolchildren sitting cross-legged in rapt attention as an employee reads out loud.
BookPeople also makes some bangin’ coffee. One of my favorite things to do on a cold weekend morning is to warm up with a couple cups in the upstairs coffee lounge. After I’m good and caffeinated, I wander around the store and explore books to add to my ever-growing tower of things to read.
603 N. Lamar Blvd. – Website
Explore the Different Faces of Austin Coffee
Everyone knows Austinites love coffee–that’s no secret. Less known are the many ways we can find coffee in Austin. Coffee is definitely a labor of love for those in the biz, and there are as many types of coffee shops as there are personalities behind the counter. There is a coffee shop for every mood you could be in.
Epoch Coffee has been my go-to spot for people-watching for the past eight years. When I’m in the mood for writing or reading, the serene atmosphere of Bennu Coffee is more appropriate. Thunderbird is fun and casual, and they have craft beer on tap. Genuine Joe closes early, but has a comfy and relaxed vibe you can’t get anywhere else. I could go on for ages, so check out my coffee hunt series for more suggestions.
Recently, there has been another change in Austin’s ongoing love affair with coffee. The coffee truck scene has been growing, and it offers an easy way for Austinites to explore new types of brew. You can make a whole afternoon out of visiting the different trucks. It takes a lot of passion to stand in a metal can serving coffee, so these businesses definitely deserve our support.
Lucky Lab Coffee Co., for example, combines amazing coffee with social activism. It’s my favorite coffee trailer in Austin currently. Fifty percent of all their tips go to supporting dog-related charities. I spent a cold morning visiting their trailer tucked behind Urban Outfitters on the Drag. Not only is their mission something I can get behind, but the people behind the counter were incredibly friendly, and their coffee was some of the best I’ve had. The house chai tea latte is their signature drink, so be sure to ask for that when you visit.
2420 Guadalupe St. – Website
Get Creative With Our Amazing Museums
Is it gray and cold out? Sleeting or freezing rain? Maybe even a little snow? Don’t worry about it. Luckily for us, Austin is home to a handful of museums with world-class exhibits and central heating. Below are a few of my favorites
Bullock Texas State History Museum
Bullock Texas State History Museum takes you on a spiraling tour of the history of Texas, including its pre-history. You start on the bottom floor and learn about native cultures who lived here before European expansion. Then, as you walk up the museum’s curving walkway, you’re introduced to the settlement and history of our great state. The final exhibit is man’s missions into space that were launched out of NASA’s headquarters in Houston. Every floor contains interactive displays that immerse you in history instead of just lecturing you about it.
1800 Congress Ave. – Website
Blanton Museum of Art
As one of UT’s signature museums, Blanton Museum of Art contains a rotating list of exhibits. Fun fact: it also contains the world’s oldest photograph! Exhibits here range from the historical to the completely artistic, and they’re always worth visiting.
Since Blanton is connected to UT Austin, it also routinely offers educational resources like workshops, lectures and screenings. Filmmakers, painters and writers frequently stop by to share their expertise and perspectives with museum-goers.
200 E. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. – Website
The Contemporary Austin
The Contemporary Austin is located in the heart of downtown and is home to a constant rotation of new and thought-provoking exhibits. This is the place to go when the weather is rough, but you want to celebrate the dynamic and exciting culture Austin has to offer. Much like the people of our city, The Contemporary shirks labels and the traditional confines of expression.
The exhibits are intensely creative and incorporate many approaches to art. You will find installations created on the rooftop, and interactive exhibits that require you to crawl and huddle down on your knees to experience them fully. Personally, I think The Contemporary is best experienced with close friends who enjoy discussing art created by those on the bleeding edge of our city’s creative community.
700 Congress Ave. – Website
@DustyVegas wants to know:
What is your favorite thing to do when it’s cold in Austin?