Where to go/stay/eat in Austin that will appease my parents (50s) and my sister and I (20s) in April?
March 14, 2011 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Snowflake travel question: trying to find a balance between stuff in Austin my parents (50s) will like, and drunken night time punk rock shenanigans for my sister and I. None of us have ever been to Texas before. Help us do your city justice, oh wise austonians! way

A little background: We'll be in Austin for the 22 through the 27th. My parents are NPR liberals, I skew kinda alternative/what some might call hipster but not really, and my sister will go along with whatever. I live in Portland for a while, but they're from NJ. First off, where to stay? Downtown is a little too expensive and I'm sure there's a cooler neighborhood elsewhere. My mom was looking at a hotel in the university district, is that a place people who don't go to the college like to hang out? I'd like to stay somewhere stumbling distance from some cool dive bars/thrift shops/etc (ok so a hipster neighborhood I guess). We're renting a car, so it's ok if the neighborhood is in an odd place as long as it's neat.

Activities: We like fun, quirky, kitchy stuff. We're more into fun stuff than educational or cultural but not adverse to it. Would it be weird to go to the children's museum without children? We also, like the gawking yankees we are, want to drive out to the "god's country" part of texas where so called "real america" is to get barbeque or whatever it is people do there. What is a good town for that? My mom really wants to go horseback riding too. I'd love to go to a decent amusement park because we don't have any in oregon, but googling didn't really show much.

Nightlife: Any leads on basement dance parties/shows? Collectives? Illegal non-techno warehouse parties? Dive bars with whiskey and pinball? Barcades? Maybe even rad gay bars? I'm reading the Austin Chronicle, is there another alt weekly I should check out?

Where do we absolutely have to eat? Where would you eat in austin if your parents were paying for it (within reason)?

Thank you so much, askmefi rules!
posted by Betty_effn_White to Travel & Transportation around Austin, TX (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Having spent only two days of my life in Austin, I will have the nerve to beat everyone to Rudy's -- The Worst BBQ In Texas. This one you can pay for your parents.
posted by gijsvs at 12:58 PM on March 14, 2011

Places to stay:
I think you want to be on South Congress. Check out the hotel San Jose. It ain't cheap, but you're right down the street from boutiques, restaurants, some trailers, and the Continental Club. If you'd like an even nicer experience, you can go to the Saint Cecilia. I've stayed at each on my anniversary and can heartily endorse them.
"God's country" and bbq: Unless you're willing to go out of town to Lockhart or Luling, you'd probably enjoy The Salt Lick in Driftwood (about 30 minutes south). Family style is all you can eat, and it's not too shabby. If you do go to Lockhart, hit up Smitty's or Black's, as Kreutz' is a shadow of its former glory. In Luling, hit up the City Market. Those are 30 and 45 minutes outside of town respectively.
Depending on your music tastes, you're probably best served going to 6th St. The Chronicle is your best resource here. The Red River strip is a little nastier, but accordingly more punk rock.
For gay bars, you should probably hit W. 4th, in the warehouse district. There, you'll find Oilcan Harry's (gay) and Rain (lesbian).
Nice places to eat: I'm a huge fan of Parkside on 6th. I also enjoy Paggi House. If you end up on South Congress, you'll also be walking distance to Vespaio, which is an Italian place.
Horses and amusement parks: sorry, can't help you.
posted by Gilbert at 1:10 PM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Check out the answers to this question for general Austin stuff to do & eat; xarnop & I both gave a number of suggestions, as did some other folks. (I'm closer to your parents' age than yours.)

Lockhart is the place to drive to for barbecue. They have a cool-looking old City Hall to gawk at as well.

I've ridden horses here. This was a group of 10 or so people on horses following a guide; most of us knew squat about riding horses. It was fun and we were all saddle-sore the next day, so expect that if you're not used to it.

AFAIK the closest amusement park is Six Flags in San Antonio.
posted by magicbus at 1:16 PM on March 14, 2011

As for BBQ, my favorite is Smitty's in Lockhart. Just went there this past weekend...you walk by the open fire in the meat smoking room (yes, it is smokey in there) and order your meat. Luckily, you don't eat in the smoking room :) but you do have to eat with your fingers as no utensils are provided. Cash only and about 30 minutes south of Austin. It was named one of the top 5 BBQ places in Texas by Texas Monthly

I would definitely look for lodging in the South Congress area if downtown is out. I don't think the University area would be too much fun, but I don't find the college drag very interesting. FWIW, I am more similar to your parents than you--41 years old and from NJ (but in Austin for over a decade).

As a parent of a 19 month old, I can't imagine that the Children's Museum would be too interesting. I go there all of the time and were it not for Baby Murrey, I would be pretty bored.

No amusement park in Austin, but Six Flags and Sea World in San Antonio are about an hour away.

Can't help with the Nightlife portion of your question...I am more Deadhead than Punk Rock in my leanings. But I think 6th street (east of Congress Ave.) is your best bet...if nothing else, it is fun people watching.

On someone else's dime, Uchi. Awesome sushi but very pricey. For a more reasonable cost and an Austin vibe, everyone out-of-towner I have ever sent to Ranch 616 has loved it.
posted by murrey at 1:16 PM on March 14, 2011

The LBJ Presidential Museum is free beat my expectations (which were relatively low).
posted by mmascolino at 1:34 PM on March 14, 2011

If your parents like jazz, go to the Elephant Room, very close to 6th Street. It's on Congress downtown.

The Elisabet Ney Museum in Hyde Park is kind of a hidden gem. There's a nice little coffee/gelato shop around the corner.

I agree with everyone's suggestion to stay on South Congress. But if you have a car and stay downtown, you're really close to South Congress anyway. Almost but not quite walking distance. My favorite Mexican restaurant anywhere is Gueros on South Congress.
posted by jayder at 2:55 PM on March 14, 2011

You can check out South Congress-area lodging, but it's going to be pretty expensive, too. I wouldn't stay near UT. It's a little too studenty/college partyish (and not the cool kind of college party). South Congress has gotten pretty fancy and yuppified over the past few years, but there are some nice shops with cool stuff to check out. Home Slice is a really popular pizza place (so much so that the had to open another part in the building next door) that's pretty good (I think East Side Pies has better pizza, but it's way smaller and not as nice atmosphere-wise)

I'd recommend Salt Lick for BBQ. Go to the one in Driftwood, if you can, not the one in Round Rock. However, if you really want to get out to small town Texas, you can check out Lockhart. There are several nationally famous BBQ places down there.

East 6th is where all the hipsters go to bars. I probably skew that way, myself, and I like a lot of those spots. Coming after SXSW, hipster townies might be tuckered out and so it won't be as crowded down there. Shangri-La, Rio Rita, Liberty, Cheer Up Charlies, etc. are good for outdoor sitting and drinking. There are also shitloads of food trailers in Austin both in and around these bars and most of them are pretty good, actually.

I feel like I should be giving you links, but I'm a little lazy today and these places are all easily googleable.

LBJ Museum is pretty cool, even just because it's a really pretty building and it's on a nice hill with a big fountain.

We don't have any amusement parks, and I wouldn't really think it worth it to go to San Antonio for theme parks, since they aren't any different than any other Six Flags anywhere else in the country.

Feel free to memail me. I guess I'm pretty well versed in the "hipstery" Austin scene/am from here, and have done plenty o' the "god's country" stuff, too.
posted by elpea at 2:57 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, I'm gonna go against the South Congress vote and suggest the East Side. I don't really know what the lodging is like over there since it's up-and-coming (read: newly gentrified), but S. Congress really is quite expensive, maybe as expensive as downtown in many cases, because the hotels are kinda fancy and very popular.
posted by elpea at 2:59 PM on March 14, 2011

Just want to chime in a bit for the drunken punk rock side of things. Lovejoy's is the only bar I can tolerate on Sixth Street, and it often has local metal/hardcore. The Broken Neck is somewhat of an icon on the Austin hardcore scene and is lots of fun. I will check in with my people who are still in Austin and get back with some more names.
posted by Polyhymnia at 7:08 PM on March 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks! Right now we have a hotel booked right by the capitol (la quinta)...This is walkable to red river strip and the action on 6th right? It looks like it's right by 6th, and like 6 blocks from the lovejoy from what I can tell. How social is the drinking scene in austin? Is it easy to make one night friends? (I mean friends, not boner buddies)

To clarify the god's country thing: we want to day/half day trip somewhere super texan, if that makes sense. I'm not sure what exactly we'll want to do, but the Creation Museum is too far away.

I know the six flags things sounds silly, but there are seriously no real amusement parks in Oregon at all. There's a smallish one with like two roller coasters by seattle, and that's all we have. Even though sea world icks me out on an animal rights level, I might push for that anyway, ethics be damned.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 11:56 PM on March 14, 2011

@Betty, that particular La Quinta is not really the greatest, but so long as you're just using it as a crash pad, you should be fine. It's an easy walk to 6th (and it's down-hill!). You're also literally in the shadow of the capitol, assuming you're into that. You can also get to the Bob Bullock museum and the Harry Ransom Center on campus without too much work.
Might I also suggest the Texas Chili Parlor? It's just to the west of where you're staying.
If you want to get funky, head to the east side and go to Sam's BBQ on E. 12th (you'll be staying on 11th). It's not exactly walking distance, and I wouldn't recommend walking around E. 12th at night anyway, but they are open until about 3am on weekends.
A day trip to Luling is definitely possible to pull off. It's about as Texan as I've seen in the area, and I've lived in Texas all my life. There are also farmers markets, antique shops and the like for you to check out. Plus, really good barbecue (easy to find; just remember, in Texas the barbecue place is always across from the town square).
Six Flags Fiesta Texas is somewhat closer than Sea World. Sea World will be a solid two hour drive. Six Flags is further north, so that will cut your travel time by about 1/2 hour. Sea World does have a couple of roller-coasters, a log ride, and some water slides, but the animals are the primary attraction.
posted by Gilbert at 10:33 AM on March 15, 2011

while checking out the Bullock and Ransom, drop in to the Blanton as well. Also perhaps LBJ presidential library. I find it has a real kitschy charm. (all of this is near/on campus and not far from the laquinta)

Luling over Lockhart for BBQ...more charming town and City Market is the place the my guests always ask to go back to. Plus the painted oil rigs on the highway are funny.

quintessential Texas? San Antonio. 90 min drive. Alamo tour AM. Lunch on the RiverWalk. Afternoon riding coasters at 6 Flags Fiesta Texas.

I have a feeling that you guys will really enjoy South Congress area as well. Lots of kitschy shops, a handful of food trailers (that are all the rage here), and really easy to get to from downtown (drive right down congress or take the number 1 or 13 southbound on the bus).

feel free to memail if you have any specific questions.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 7:05 PM on March 15, 2011

6th and Red River area is alright, but is in pretty close proximity to the lame part of 6th, mostly dominated by fratty drunk college kids and tourists. You might check out Jackalope or Casino El Camino. I definitely recommend checking out the east side bars, though. Better food trailers and carts, too.
posted by elpea at 12:46 PM on March 16, 2011

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