WEEKEND GUIDE TO AUSTIN <> AUSTIN, TX

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Nine years, two weeks and a day  - that is how long I lived in Texas before making a proper trip to Austin. Only three and half hours from Dallas and filled with all the things that make my wanderlust heart sing - how is it that I lived in this state for nearly a decade and was only just exploring Austin - shame on me. I had such an incredible time in Austin and can say without hesitation -  it will make my top twenty list of favorite cities in the world.

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Getting There. Flights to Austin can be expensive. It is only four hours from Dallas but airfare from Dallas average $350. If you live in Texas, i recommend driving. If you don't live in Texas and are looking for ways to save on your trip - you can fly into Houston or Dallas and get a rental car to drive to Austin or hop on a mega bus. You can also use a private jet on wheels service line Vonlane if you departing from Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth or San Antonio.

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Getting Around. I had my car to get around but had a challenge finding parking especially in the downtown area. Make sure you have change on hand to pay for parking. If you are flying in and don’t want to rent a car; it is worth noting Austin has an odd relationship with Uber and Lyft (and there have been times they are not available in the city). Austin has several alternatives including Ride Austin and Fasten - be sure to download the app before you go. It works sort of like Uber and is quite reliable.

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The Best Time to Visit. Texas summers are legendary and although Austin is not like most Texas cities, it is still very hot in summer. Texas dwellers are used to it (mostly), but if you have flexibility visiting in spring or fall, that will be my preference. If you are heading this way in summer, make sure to stay hydrated.

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Where to Stay. Having a car means you can stay away from downtown and more expensive hotels. I stayed in a hotel about twenty-five minutes from the center and with a car, that was not inconvenient; parking, on the other hand, is another story. If you want to stay close to center - I recommend: Four seasons Austin; Aloft Austin Downtown; Doubletree university area.

What to do.The beauty of Austin is that it has something for everyone. If you are in search of a weekend of food or just nightlife - you will not be disappointed. If you prefer history or culture or the outdoors - again there is more than enough for you to see and do in Austin.

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  1. Visit the Texas State Capital. One of the most impressive capital you will ever visit.

  2. Hike up to Mount Bonnell for an incredible view of Lake Travis. Also, sunset views from Mount Bonnel are stunning

  3. Visit the Zilker Botanical garden - do not miss the Japanese garden

  4. Visit Bullock Texas State History Museum for a wealth of history.

  5. Take a stroll down Congress Avenue (South Congress) lined with shops and restaurants - I recommend Jo’s coffee (the coffee is excellent but their Tacos are even better); and Amy’s Ice cream. There are also some murals in this area to look out for - including the “I love you so much mural” by Jo’s Coffee and “Willie Nelson for President” mural.

  6. Visit the Umlauf Sculpture garden for quiet statues and water lilies. You might even catch a wedding while you are there.

  7. Explore the Hope Outdoor gallery for some of the best murals/street art you will ever see. If you can maneuver your way to the top, you will be rewarded with some amazing views of the city.

  8. Get your photograph taken by the “Greetings from Austin Mural.

  9. For the nightlife - clubs; bars; live music - head to the sixth street.

  10. Stop by the Austin Farmer’s market. Market opens at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

  11. If you have time, take a tour of the University of Texas camp

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Where to Eat. As much as Austin is known for culture and music, it is also a foodie town. A few spots I will recommend

  1. Franklin’s Bbq. Get there early and plan to wait up to 2.5 hours to place your order. Some days, the line is so long, the sold-out sign goes up before the restaurant opens. Plan accordingly.

  2. Blenders and Bowls for amazing acai bowls and smoothie blends. I recommend - The O.G.! bowl.

  3. Jo’s Coffee. One of the best coffee shops in Austin and from my Travels. It is the only place I will order an iced dirty chai because they have set the bar so high. They also serve amazing breakfast tacos.

  4. Hillside Farmacy. One of two of my favorite brunch spots in Austin. I love the ambiance and the weekend brunch menu delivers. I recommend the Green onion biscuit and gravy with a side of scrambled eggs.

  5. Paperboy. This is my second brunch spot recommendations. The stationary trailer is open till 2 p.m. I recommend the B.E.C (bacon,sunny egg, and pimento cheese on buttermilk bun).

  6. Voodoo Doughnut. The vegan glazed doughnut, always.

  7. Lucky Robot. Amazing traditional Japanese dishes

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Day Trips. If you have got more than a weekend to spare. Then you should consider taking a day trip to one of these locations

  1. Waco. Visit Magnolia | Tour Baylor Campus | Have the best ice cream at heritage creamery

  2. Hamilton Pool. All the waterfalls you want. I hear the pools have been around for thousands of years.

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24 HOURS IN THE FRENCH QUARTER - WHAT TO DO, WHERE TO STAY & EAT <> NEW ORLEANS

24 HOURS IN NEW ORLEANS

Last fall I booked a sponteneous trip to New Orleans. I had some family in the Country and they were spending a few days in New Orleans ("NOLA"), I had no intention of meeting up with them since I was going to be hosting them in Dallas at the tail end of their vacation, but by a stroke of luck, I found deeply discounted tickets on skyscanner. I purchased my ticket late Friday evening, booked a room and hurriedly tossed a few items into an overnight bag. The next morning, I was on the 7:45 a.m flight headed to Louis Armstrong airport in New Orleans.

When I boarded the plane on Saturday morning, the only thing I was sure of was my accommodation. Over the years , the Hilton New Orleans St. Charles has become one of my favorite places to stay in NOLA. It is located in close proximity to the French quarter, but away from the volume. I arrived shortly before 10 a.m and met up with my party at the Hotel.

10 A.M.

Arrived at the Hilton New Orleans St. Charles Hotel - One of my favorite hotels. Checked into our room and had about half an hour catch up session.

10:30 A.M.

Headed out to brunch at Chef John Besh's Luke restaurant. Another personal favorite in the city.  I recommend the Crispy fried chicken biscuit or the Jumbo Louisiana Shrim En Cocotte (shrimp and grits) - forget everything you know about Shrimp and Grits - this is the gold standard for Shrimp and Grits.

12:15 P.M.

Back to the hotel for a few hours of R & R. I had a very early start and my co travellers were coming off an international flight so we needed the rest.

2:30 P.M.

It was time to explore the city.  I was on my own because everyone wanted to rest. 

I started out on St Charles street towards Canal and on to North Peters - my first stop was at Cafe du Monde (a must if you are in New Orleans). I was lucky to snag a table with a great view of Jackson square and spent the next hour people watching while stuffing my face with Beignets and hot chocolate.

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3:30 P.M.

After a blissful time people watching , I spent the next few hours leisurely exploring the French quarter taking in street performances and some of the best architecture anywhere. I had plans to stop by little Vic's on Toulouse St for frozen yogurt but I was still stuffed from the Beignets and hot chocolate. I made a stop into the Shops at Canal Place, instead. 

5:50 P.M

Arriving at the shops at canal, I immediately located the Anthropologie store and proceeded to lose track of time wandering the store and doing serious window shopping.  

6:40 P.M.

We had dinner plans for 7:30 so I headed back to the hotel for a shower and change of clothes. I took the back roads heading back to the hotel. I loved the colorful and unique architecture that lined the streets.

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7:30 P.M.

Dinner at the Upperline restaurant. The food here is incredible and I would easily rank this in my top 10 favorite restaurants. If you make your way to the Upperline, I recommend the duck and andouille etouffe with corn bread followed by either the slow roasted duckling or the lamb shanks.

After dinner, we settled in to watch LSU take on Missippi state (college football) - it was just like old times (and LSU won).

Sunday Morning  - 6:30 A.M. 

Time to pack up and head back to Dallas, but not before a stop by to Cafe dr Monde for Beignets. Did I mention, it is open 24 hours ?

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