From the moment I watched my first episode of BBQ Pit-Masters, Texas has been on my To Visit list. Growing up food obsessed really takes you to some weird and wonderful places and a BBQ tour was something I had thought about for a long time, so when the opportunity to head to Austin came up I jumped at the chance.
Whilst my trip was primarily business based, I did get a chance to do and see some of the best places in Austin. With a population of just under 900,000, Austin wasn’t overwhelming like some places in America which made it easier to feel at home! A week was all it took to fall in love with Southern Hospitality and a charming city layered with quirky shops.
Flying into Austin, I can honestly say it was not what I expected. I don’t know about you, but when I picture Texas, I do not picture the green blanket that I saw cover the whole of Austin. From the moment we flew in, to driving through the streets, we were met with one of the greenest cities I have seen.
During my visit I stayed in downtown Austin and had some of Austin’s best sights right at my doorstep. Despite the fact we went in their wettest month of the year, it only rained a couple of times and was consistently over 30 degrees Celsius every day.
A week was the perfect amount of time to stay in Austin, however if I could do it differently next time, I would definitely hire a car for at least a few days. Whilst there is a few things to do in the city, a lot of the best sights are a little further out of Austin. Their council doesn’t allow Uber meaning the cab fares can get pretty hefty! It was around $50 USD for a half an hour drive from the Aiport to our downtown accommodation.
Austin also had some of the best eats I have experienced in America, so I will be doing a separate blog post on those with a few extra recommendations that I didn’t get to.
Austin is a quiet, yet vibrant city and I can certainly see why a lot of my American friends label it their favourite place in Texas.
WHERE WE STAYED: Radisson Hotel & Suites Austin Downtown
After spending hours researching the best location to stay that would be close to not only the sights of Austin but also Palmer Events Centre where our conference was being held, I settled on the Radisson. I compared it against a few others on Booking.com (always my go to for travel!) before deciding it was the one for us. The fact it was right on Lady Bird Lake was one of its draw points and I couldn’t have been more happy with my choice. For those of you who follow me on Facebook you will have noticed how often I posted about my hotel – I loved it! Sara and I had a lot of downtime spent there so it was important that we were comfortable.
One of the things I love most about America is their incredible customer service and the staff of the Radisson were no exception. As soon as we arrived, the friendly concierge staff helped us out of the vehicle and whisked away our bags. Having just spent around 20 hours flying to get there, it was a small detail that I didn’t miss. Check in was a breeze and soon enough Sara and I were able to head up to our room on the 12th (and top!) floor. We had chosen a lakeside view and we were not let down! The view at night was sparkly and incredible.
The room was modern and fresh, with two of the comfiest double beds. The coolest thing about the beds was that you could actually adjust them to suit you; both came with a remote to alter firmness! You could choose to sink in, or have a sturdier mattress.
It also had USB ports in the bedside unit so you didn’t have you use an American adaptor if you didn’t have one. It was a room truly designed for comfort and ease with the guest kept in mind.
One thing I loved was the fact they had a mini-fridge. For people like Sara and I who always need to be prepared with extra food, being able to store food in a fridge helped us immensely! They also had a microwave which was another nice touch.
From our room, we could see out across the whole of South Austin and even had prime view for the bats flying out from beneath Congress Bridge; unfortunately they didn’t cooperate before we left!
The bathroom was clean, equipped with all the toiletries you could need and there was no shortage of soft white towels. There was also an option to forgo linen being changed daily which was great to minimise wastage. There was free WiFi and a great air-conditioning unit too.
Travelling from Perth meant I was doing a complete time zone change and with a 12 hour time difference, making sure I did all I could to get into the right sleeping habits was important. The Radisson has blackout curtains in their rooms which was seriously a life saver. You would think the fact that the Radisson is situated in a busy area would mean the noise would travel up to your room, however I can honestly say I was no disturbed by any form of noise once during my stay – even with their pool and a main road just below!
Their salt water infinity pool overlooking Lady Bird Lake was the perfect place to cool off in the 30c days and I certainly can’t complain about the poolside bartender service. Not only did they have an in house restaurant and a pool, but there is also a full service Starbucks inside as well as a gym. Having a gym inside your hotel is always a good thing on holiday; I’m a big advocate for keeping up your regular routine while you’re away as it makes it a lot easier to keep up when you get home! The Radisson’s gym had everything I needed for my weights based training routine, from dumbbells to weights machines. It also had treadmills, bikes, a yoga mat and more.
Sara and I had breakfast in their restaurant, Dine, daily. The staff were incredibly pleasant and very accommodating. Naturally Sara and I had to make changes to the food to suit us, however the answer was always yes! The food was delicious, reasonably priced and always well cooked and had the added benefit of being right downstairs. I will do a full food review in my Austin food blog to come.
Overall, as you can see, I have nothing but positive things to say about my stay at Radisson Hotel! I hope to head back to Austin for Paleo(f)x next year and if I do, I will most definitely choose to stay here again.
PRICE: All up for the two of us with a Lake View room, and two separate double beds, it costs just under $3,000 NZD for 7 nights. Price varies dependent on season and availability but it’s generally around $230 USD per night.
WHAT WE DID: Barton Creek Square
Heading over to America, I knew it would give me a chance to do some excellent shopping! Even with the exchange rate, there is still really good bargains to be had – especially since they’re always having a good sale. Barton Creek Square was around 20 minutes away via taxi and cost us around $30 USD plus tip to get to. They had everything you need there such as Macy’s, Nordstrom, Pacsun, Footlocker, Sephora, Michael Kors, Victoria’s Secret, Sketchers and also Godiva Chocolate. If you make your way there – do yourself a favour and stop by Godiva Chocolate for a Dark Chocolate covered Berry Cone for $13USD. You will not regret it – YUM! The perfect pick me up after hours of shopping. Sara and I spent a long time in Barton Creek Square, and for two people who don’t often shop, we managed to get some excellent finds. My favourite thing to buy when in the US is always shoes and makeup. They have such a huge range of training shoes that I can always find cool new Nikes for around $60 USD that you just don’t see back home. Makeup is also so much cheaper for the best brands money can buy, so I always make a point of stocking up on my favourites – for an idea, I’m partial to Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara ($25 USD), NARS Laguna Bronzer ($39 USD), Beauty Blenders (Around $20 USD) and Anastasia Beverley Hills Brow Products. They’re all a lot more reasonably priced at Sephora! Barton Creek Square had huge variety and wasn’t overwhelmingly busy.
Round Rock Premium Outlets
Every place I have visited in the US so far always has amazing outlet shopping! Austin was no exception. After a little research, Sara and I headed out to the Round Rock Premium Outlets to get in a little more shopping. This ended up being where I did the majority of my shopping as they were prices you just couldn’t beat! Because Memorial Day was approaching, most of the shops start having sales in the week leading up and there were a lot of great deals. Sara managed to do a lot of shopping for her children across a few stores (the Disney store for all of your little Frozen fans! As well as Converse.) and I managed to buy 3 new pairs of shoes and a handbag. If you’re into designer brands then the outlets are most definitely the place for you. I scored my Michael Kors handbag for just $120 USD down from $400 USD with all of their discounts for that day. They have every designer imaginable such as Coach, Ralph Lauren Polo, Calvin Klein, BCBG, DKNY and more. My favourites however, are always the activewear stores: Reebok, Nike, Adidas and Puma all have stores there too.
Round Rock is a little further out of Austin, and again, a 30 minute cab ride cost us $50 USD plus tip. However, because it was on the outskirts of Austin, we were able to catch an Uber back which was considerably cheaper at around $30 USD.
Shoppers tip: When heading to America, generally on a long haul flight you have a checked baggage allowance of 2 bags plus carry on. If I plan to do a lot of shopping, I usually take just one case with me and then head to a Ross Dress for Less and purchase a second case for cheap. Ross usually sells excellent brands such as Samsonite and Calvin Klein for around $80 USD and upwards for a large suitcase.
Downtown Austin is filled with loads of quirky shops, excellent places to eat and a few landmarks.
The first place that Sara and I headed to was Texas State Capitol. A huge piece of Austin’s History, it was something that I didn’t want to miss. It was a short walk from our hotel and a site that is really the focus of the city. Walking up Congress, the State Capitol Building demands attention due to its shear size. We didn’t spend long there because somehow we chose the day where there were a few school trips going on, but the grounds surrounding the building are absolutely beautiful and would be a lovely place to stop and eat lunch. Loads of trees, park benches, green grass and even a few cheeky squirrels!
If boutique shopping is your thing, then 2nd Street District is the place for you. It’s host to all sorts of different shops and even includes a ModCloth store! ModCloth is an online based store which caters to women of all shapes and sizes in some of the cutest vintage style clothing ever. Well worth a look! We found plenty of small shops with beautiful clothes, lovely trinkets and lots to look at.
Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake is one of the most picturesque spots in Austin. Daily we would see people kayaking and stand up paddle-boarding down the lake. If you don’t want to get in the water, there is also a trail that is always humming with activity as people walk, run and cycle their way along the waterside. Sara and I walked along it each day. Spending time beside Lady Bird Lake is a great way to get your Vitamin D in for the day and would be great to picnic beside. As I mentioned earlier, our room had an amazing view out over the lake, and it was incredibly refreshing to wake up and see daily.
The bridge in the photo above is Congress Ave, and every night as the sun sets, people gather on the side walk (see our incredible view from our room below) to witness some of Austin’s 1 million strong bat colony fly out for their evening meal. The bats can be a bit hit and miss, and unfortunately after a few nights watching from our room, we still didn’t get to see them! You also have the option of watching from the water – there are observational boats you can head out on, or a lot of people would go out in a kayak or paddle board. The best time to witness this incredible sight is generally between late July and August.
Whole Foods Market
I’m sure you all know by now, that there was no way I was going to get through an entire post about America without giving a special mention to Whole Foods. Being predisposed to a serious food obsession, I had already checked out where the closest Whole Foods was to my location. Happier still, when I found out not only was it just a 20 minute walk away, but it was also the very first Whole Foods to be opened in USA!
Whole Foods is a chain grocery store with locations right across America, that exclusively features foods without artificial preservatives, colours, flavours, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats. It is the United States’ first certified organic grocer. You can see why a real food girl like me was excited, right?
Whilst it can get pretty pricey, there is just no way you can beat the range that they have to offer. From dairy free cream cheese made from almond milk to several clean eating takeaway Whole Foods branded offerings inside, it is not hard to see why we ended up spending a couple of hours in there. They not only have fresh produce, but also offer natural beauty products, clothing ranges, supplements, houseware and lots more. It truly is the Mecca of real food. Sorry to leave you hanging, but you’ll see just how incredible that food is in my next Austin Eats food post!
Despite having the opportunity to relax and explore Austin, the real reason I was there was to attend the world’s largest Paleo conference; Paleo (f)x alongside my business partner for 10WeekChallenge.co.nz, Sara. Both of us have a real passion for helping people transform their lives through their nutrition so the need for us to be constantly expanding our knowledge is something we are well aware of. Our tickets to Paleo(f)x were around $300 USD but I can honestly say it was worth every penny. We spent 3 days immersed in some of the greatest minds in the real food world and also had the opportunity to connect with everyone on the more personal level at the Paleo(f)x Charity Dinner which was incredible. We had the chance to meet Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, Mark Sisson and Sarah Ballantyne. If you’re into the real food movement, then these are names you will be familiar with and they have all had a huge impact on the way that I view food. Listening to seminars on metabolic chaos, depression & food, libido, fertility and PCOS was a real eye opener and I got some excellent take home messages. All of these are important factors into health care and it really gave me a huge insight. Being able to spend time with like minded people, my LA Paleo friends and make new friends from all corners of the world was priceless and I left Paleo(f)x with a renewed passion for what I do. It has really encouraged me to continue to learn more and I plan on becoming a certified Primal Expert and Health Coach in the near future. I hope to head back to Austin next year for Paleo(f)x as well as further events in the health and wellness sector. Whether you want to learn more about your own body, or learn more so that you can help others, knowledge is power.
I consider my first trip to Austin such a huge success. The people, the city and the food were all huge highlights that made the trip. I can’t wait to go back and explore further. Whether the outdoors is your thing, or live music and bars is more you, Austin has something up its sleeve for everyone. I hope this guide gives you a few ideas for your own trip and stay tuned for my TSV Guide for Austin Eats.