Austin travel tips?
October 15, 2012 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Thinking of a January trip to Austin, and I've got a few questions...

My main question is: do we need to rent a car? We're mostly interested in good food and drink, walking and window shopping, and music on the punk/rockabilly/alt-county spectrum and we're thinking of staying at the Courtyard near the convention center. (Yes, I'm sure there are more charming places, but we can use our Marriott points and save money for beer!) Is this a good location for remaining car-free?

Food-wise, I'm an omnivore but Mr. Arkham is a pescatarian. Any good BBQ places that might have something he can eat?

Any tips or advice on things to do and/or see appreciated! I'm sort of wondering if there's enough to keep us occupied without a car for a long weekend, since we're not really in the "young hipster" demographic anymore...
posted by JoanArkham to Travel & Transportation around Austin, TX (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Car2Go Austin is currently having a promotion where you sign up for $10 for a lifetime membership, and that also gets you 30 minutes drivetime included in the price (30 minutes would normally cost about $10). I'm not sure if you've got to be a local to register, but if not, it might be a good backup in case you don't rent a car but decide you'd like to make a trip somewhere a little further afield (or you've walked too far and want to get back to your hotel quickly). You'll be staying within the Home Area for the cars, so you'd be able to park anywhere and leave the car.
(Not associated, just toying with the idea of signing up even though I don't have any immediate plans to use the service.)
posted by katemonster at 8:40 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

You do not really need to rent a car. We needed a taxi for a couple of locations because we had a baby and a fair amount of luggage. Other than that, bus service is pretty plentiful and cheap. There are a few locations that aren't as easily accessible by bus bu much of the center of Austin is incredibly walkable.

Taxis are so cheap that it's not worth your while to rent a car unless you are heading outside of town.

You will need to take a bus down to South Austin for hanging out. Google Maps has all the routes, just choose directions by Public Transport.

Food trucks are all over Austin and not to be missed. I know of no location that offers BBQ fish, but there are plenty of Tex-Mex and pure-Mex places that feature fried fish tacos.

I guess we're still in the young hipster demographic? (mid-30s), but I never want to be so old that hanging out in quirky stores or watching live music is no longer fun.

The statehouse is good looking.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:12 AM on October 15, 2012

Also it would help to know why you chose Austin and where you're traveling from.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:12 AM on October 15, 2012

Response by poster: We would be flying in from DC. Austin has always been on our list of "American cities we'd like to see." We like to visit funky, fun, walkable cities for vacation like Portland, San Fransisco, and New Orleans and Austin seems to be in that same niche.

(One of these days we want to come out to see the bats, but I know January isn't the best time for that.)
posted by JoanArkham at 9:57 AM on October 15, 2012

I second the Car2Go recommendation - there are 300 some-odd Smart cars sprinkled throughout central Austin (the map here shows that where you are staying is basically the center of the operating area. You can take the car out of the area, but you keep paying until you bring it back. In area you park it anywhere, don't bother to pay the meter, and go on with your life. It's awesome.)

From downtown/convention area you can reach many interesting places on foot. A few places I would recommend are probably outside of the walking area, but are quick cab/bus rides away. Notably:

The Mean Eyed Cat - rickety old chainsaw store that is now a Johnny Cash themed bar, and is much better than it sounds like it might be. They have great live music, usually within shouting distacne of classic country. But I also saw a band playing Booker T covers there one night that was one of the best bands I've ever seen. Beer only. This is possibly a walk from where you are, if you are active walkers. Perhaps a mile and a half?

Ginny's Little Longhorn - I linked an unafffiliated facebook fan page for Ginny's, as this is their official page, which kind of shows you what sort of place you are heading towards. An institution. Excellent music, country + rockabilly. You can easily see living legends perform in a room the size of a McDonalds bathroom. Ginny's is maybe 5 miles north of downtown, so it is a cab or bus ride away. There are two other well-regarded dive bars within walking distance of there -Lala's and the Poodle Dog Lounge, if you wanted to complete the North Central Austin Dive Bar Black Liver Triple Crown. Ginny's and the Poodle Dog both are beer only, but still do set-ups (bring a bottle and buy use of a glass and mixers). Lala's has a full bar.

Fish BBQ sounds reasonable, but I've never seen it here. Fish tacos: aplenty!
posted by dirtdirt at 10:31 AM on October 15, 2012

You may also want to look in to renting a couple of bikes, if you're a bike-y couple. That way you could pedal down to south Austin or east sixth without having to worry about when the busses are running.

I'm a vegetarian, so I understand being stuck in BBQ country with an empty stomach. The awesome thing about Austin is that there are so so many vegetarians and vegans that almost everywhere has at least a few fun/delicious options. So, while the BBQ joints may not have a ton for your husband, he'll eat really well everywhere else.

Also: queso. Eat so much queso.
posted by itsamermaid at 10:50 AM on October 15, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, all! We have Car2Go here in DC, and Mr. Arkham has been curious about driving one of those little cars, so that may be something we look into...although cabs mean he could sample more beers. Is it fairly easy to get one on the street, or is there a company you recommend?

As far as BBQ, a food truck might be the way to go...I can get carnivorous and he can find something else. He's a huge fan of cheese tamales.
posted by JoanArkham at 12:58 PM on October 15, 2012

Definitely take some time to wander the shops on South Congress. Lots of quirky/funky/weird stuff to find.
posted by MuChao at 6:06 PM on October 15, 2012

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