If character is a collection of distinct qualities, Austin has character in spades. And one of the qualities we particularly loved in our recent visit to this vibrant Texas city was its embarrassing wealth of art. While there were incredible museums and parks, we are firm believers that some of the most important art can be found in public spaces. The pieces are often in unexpected locations: back alleys and vacant lots, across the walls of abandoned and neglected buildings or commissioned by neighborhood businesses. It’s the kind of art that viscerally reflects the rich histories and diversity of cultures of the communities in which they are located.
We’ve spent much time scouring New York City for similar treasures, and we’ve documented many of them in our summer series here. And so it seemed only natural we should include some of the incredible examples we discovered during our stay in Austin.
When it comes to murals and street art, HOPE Outdoor Gallery is a necessary stop. This community paint park is managed by a non-profit (Helping Other People Everywhere) and is recognized as one of the Top 10 artistic destinations in Texas. Shepard Fairey helped it get off the ground in 2011. According to the website:
“It is the only paint park of its kind in the USA and was developed to provide muralists, street artists, arts education classes and community groups the opportunity to display large scale art pieces driven by inspirational, positive & educational messaging.”
That statement doesn’t include street art-loving bloggers but after documenting so many incredible works and meeting some of the amazing artists, we thought why not give it a shot ourselves? And that’s what’s great about HOPE Outdoor Gallery, by obtaining the appropriate credentials and materials most anyone can try their hand crafting the next masterpiece, from novices (like ourselves) to established artists. Painting is free, though we were happy to donate to the cause.
1101 Baylor St
Paint Pass pick up at the HOPE Information Trailer: Sat-Sun 11am – 4pm
And if you are looking for inspiration prior to trying your hand at it, you won’t need to venture very far. As we discovered during our stay, there’s no shortage of incredible murals and mosaics. Here are some of our favorite pieces:
If you’re a big street art fan, be sure to follow Street Art Chat on Twitter. There’s a monthly chat date where you can share your own finds, but they also post great pictures and articles on a regular basis.
Pair it with:
Just like New York City, street food is part of Austin’s DNA. And some of the best food in the city can be found at the ubiquitous food trucks parked haphazardly on what seems like every street corner, or corralled in nearly every other parking lot. Here are some of the best Austin has to offer:
Okay, so everyone knows Franklin Barbecue is Austin’s best. But when there’s so much to do and see and eat in Austin, and you’re only there for a long weekend, is it really practical to stand in line for three and a half hours? Hell, no. Enter Kerlin BBQ, which still makes many best-of lists. You’ll find jaw-droppingly delicious brisket, with all the usual fixin’s, as well as purportedly fantastic kolaches. (To our great chagrin, they had just sold out when we arrived.) There’s a simple picnic setting, with little to no wait. Yeah, you heard me: No wait. Eat BBQ and carry on.
1700 E. Cesar Chavez
Thur-Sun: 11am-4pm (or until SOLD OUT)
Veracruz All Natural
When Veracruz All Natural’s first tiny trailer opened, it was just a simple snow cone, smoothie and juice stop. Then they started selling tacos and tortas and the whole thing exploded. They’ve since opened their third trailer and their first brick and mortar location. Food Network rated them as having one of the five best tacos in America, if you care about such things. We will attest that their Migas tacos and Fish tacos were straight up to-die-for, so much so we visited them twice.
Pro Tip: Migas is scrambled eggs with tortilla chips mixed in and cheese sprinkled on top. It’s common in Tex-Mex cuisine and should definitely be on your list of things to eat in Austin.
The quintessential saying goes: Everything’s bigger in Texas. Now, pair that idea with Gourdough’s tagline: Big. Fat. Donuts. And maybe you have an idea why we would stop here. We dare you to check out what they’re cooking up in this Airstream trailer. The insane menu includes such creations as the Mother Clucker, with Fried Chicken Strips and Honey Butter (yes, on a donut). We decided on the Cherry Bomb, with Glazed Cherry-Topped Holes, Cinnamon, Sugar & Cake Mix Topping. We’re still recovering from the experience, in the best possible way.
You can find a ton of solid tacos in Austin. Folks talk passionately about their preferences the way New Yorkers talk about pizza or bagels. Torchy’s is probably not going to win awards. Some might even relegate it to the “fast food” category. Ignore them. Torchy’s is exactly what their tagline says: Damn Good Tacos. They are the no-frills, tasty, when-you-need-them, where-you-need-them, Jimmy Stewart-everyman of tacos. Give us a couple of the Fried Avocado tacos and we’re happy campers.
***A hearty thank you to everyone who sent recommendations our way!***