“Keep Austin Weird” was a slogan created to promote small businesses in Austin in 2000, but it’s become a mantra Austinites live by. And now that we’ve had the opportunity to visit this one-of-a-kind city, we can see why they claim it with pride. We’ve talked about the incredible street art scene as well as the robust coffee, art and food options in Austin. But for a true taste of what makes this city stand apart, we suggest you take some time out of your visit to check these out:
New Yorkers suffer exorbitant rents and ridiculous commutes, but we get amazing pizza and Central Park in return. We are masters of the trade off. So when you propose an escape from the city, a skeptical New Yorker might ask, “What exactly am I giving up my breakfast bagels for?” Well, if you’re headed to Austin, the answer is: A LOT.
Austin has long been a dream destination of ours, so we wanted to check off as many items from our bucket list as we could on our first trip. When considering accommodations our priority was clear: location, location, location. Downtown Austin is the place to be, but the options can be overwhelming. Choosing the right home away from home can make all the difference, so here’s how to make sure you pick the right one for you.
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.
There’s really no end of things to explore in New York City, but insiders know it takes some digging to uncover what’s hidden beneath the city’s surface. Citywide events like Open House New York and Jane’s Walk make urban exploration attainable to the masses. They feed our never ending curiosity by giving us access to sites and experts that would normally be out of reach.
In the summer of 2007, while Justin and I were still living in Phoenix, we made our annual pilgrimage to New York City with great anticipation. Our trips always included an ambitious list of restaurants to tackle, as well as a sampling of plays and musicals. That summer, we were excited to check out an Off-Broadway production we had read about called In The Heights.
At the 37 Arts Theater in Hell’s Kitchen (since renamed the Baryshnikov Arts Center), we were seated in the second row, close enough to see the beads of sweat on the performers’ faces and watch the spit escape from their lips. It was everything we’d hoped it would be: exciting, fresh, funny, captivating. We were so enamored with the performance that we waited after the show to speak to the creator, a young upstart named Lin-Manuel Miranda. But there was no one else waiting, and we questioned ourselves. Was this not done? Were we not supposed to approach the cast? We suddenly felt starkly like out-of-towners, clueless about the lay of the land. He exited the theater, and we lost our nerve. We stood there and watched him go by.
It might not come as too much of a surprise to learn that I was kind of a weird kid. For a portion of my youth, my family would drive down to Singapore where we’d meet up with extended family members and venture on a vacation together. Riding high on the success of a couple of short cruises to Indonesia, the adults tossed around Disneyland as an ambitious follow-up. I remember thinking to myself, “But Disneyland sounds so boring, it’s just going to be a bunch of kids running around.”
Did I mention? I was seven at the time.
There were two take-aways from my trip to Venice many years ago. 1) Learn to travel light. Though the bridges are pretty, lugging suitcases up and down them gets old fast. 2) I don’t care if Venice is sinking, it can take me with it. The city that brought us tiramisu, Titian and Vivaldi was as magical as promised. Paris may hold the title City of Love, but I’d be strapped to conjure up a city more romantic than Venice. Maybe the fact that I’m a fan of a little-known rom-com called Only You starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. has a little to do with it. (Fair Venice is one of its co-stars.)
In case you missed it, I kicked off Part One of our Kyoto travel guide here. Kyoto’s a really fun place to visit, especially in the fall. Picking up where I left off, here are some of my other must-see destinations:
Arashiyama has several worthy attractions, but it’s located away from central Kyoto. It was actually easiest for us to hop on a bus, though the train might be a more convenient option for others. Since it was further out, we made sure to get an early start. We dropped by the Arashiyama train station to check out the Kimono Forest (which is accessible all the time so you’re not limited by opening hours) then we headed to the Iwatayama Monkey Park.
Travel seems to be a universal love. Exploring other locales and cultures is inarguably intoxicating. But it’s not a universal pursuit. Many people find themselves restricted by time, money and responsibilities, in any number of combinations. I started traveling while I was in college, and it often required sacrifices in time and comfort to accommodate a minuscule budget. To see as much of the world as I could, I sat through timeshare presentations and slept on trains. And my adventures in lodging have included a middle-of-the-night flooding and relocation to a different hotel (and I confess to using this term rather liberally here).
But the challenges pale in comparison to the experiences and the memories. So despite such calamities as missed connections and lost luggage, I book the next flight and carry on. Justin and I have eased up on our travel schedule recently because our 17-year-old cat, Chloe, can no longer be left unsupervised. But with our families being dispersed all over the map, we still find the need to travel, though we now take turns so that someone is home with Chloe at all times. My recent turn with the compass came in the form of a family trip to Kyoto.
I’ve always been an obsessive planner when it comes to travel, although the tools have improved vastly from my early days. My friends and I used to lug around heavy guide books and giant maps, and today all we need is a smartphone and a good data connection. (In that regard, I can’t recommend Project Fi for eligible Android users enough — my access in Japan was seamless. And no data roaming charges!) We started with Google Maps, where my brother created a personalized map, threw on all the points of interest in Kyoto then shared it with the family. I then started a Google Sheet (Google’s version of Excel), also shared it with everyone, and started plotting out our itinerary using the map as a tool to determine which landmarks were within close proximity of each other.