This week I’m once again working with Marriott International and my good friend Brendan Van Son, but this time instead of Route 66 we’re exploring more of the great state of Texas. Although I’ve visited a couple of times in the past, I’ve never really experience very much of the state which is why I was so excited for this new adventure. The final stop on our drive around the state was also new to me, the country’s Capital of Cool – Austin.
I still find it odd I hadn’t visited before, but that meant I was a little extra excited to hit the ground running and experience as much as I could. Experience is actually an important word, because more than a single sight or attraction, Austin is very much a city of special moments.
For me that started at my home base for the visit, the luxurious JW Marriott Austin. Enjoying an ideal downtown location, staying at the JW made it easier for me to do as much as I could, while also enjoying the hotel’s services and amenities. One popular attraction that is only a couple of minutes walk from the hotel is the South Congress Avenue Bridge, home to the city’s unofficial mascot, the bat.
The bridge is home to more than a million Mexico free-tailed bats and their nocturnal wanderings have made the city famous. Every night they leave the bridge in search of insects towards the coast, but the process of departure is what attracts all of the attention. Departing simultaneously, the resulting patterns and shapes of the murmuration of bats is nothing short of mesmerizing. I never thought I’d find flying bats to be so beautiful and interesting, but the experience took my breath away.
That’s not the only time I experienced the waterfront, one morning I had the good sense to walk down to Lady Bird Lake (which is actually a river, I think) and joined a 90-minute kayak tour of the city. I always love experiencing a new city from the water, and this tour wasn’t just informative, it was a lot of fun. For only $20 (they should probably charge more) I paddled along as the guide explained more about the history of the city, from the Congress Avenue Bridge all the way to Barton Springs. I always enjoy the different perspective that being on the water provides, and Austin is a perfect place to explore by boat.
Austin though is world-famous for two things: music and food. Luckily, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy both, as I discovered during my time in the city. Live music is everywhere, so it’s not a challenge to find, but the evening I spent at the classic Continental Club was fun for its retro-charm. When it comes to the culinary side of the equation, food trucks rule the roost in Austin. Any type of cuisine you could possibly imagine is represented and many trucks are permanently stationed, making them easy to find. One of the most unique trucks in town was also my personal favorite, Gordough’s. Using doughnuts as their base, the creative chefs here have created an incredible menu of both sweet and savory dishes, just don’t visit if you’re on a diet.
Whether it’s history, culture, outdoor recreation or nightlife, Austin is one of those rare cities where the cliché is actually true – there is something here for everyone. It’s also a modern, fun, dynamic city that I know I’ll visit many times more in the years to come.