Three nights in Austin, TX (visit #6)–Tucson for Christmas trip

We were in Austin in January 2024, as part of our Tucson for Christmas trip. Read about our previous visits here: 201720182019, 2021, and again a few weeks later in 2021.

Bugsy supports Willie for President
Bugsy supports Willie for President

Oh man we love Airstreaming in (to?) Austin. The location of the campground, the food, the weather (well, usually), the running, the beer, the music… it’s just a fabulous place to park your RV for a few days.

Campground

Bugsy in her yard at the Airstream in Pecan Grove
Bugsy’s yard in Pecan Grove

As always, we stayed at Pecan Grove RV Park on Barton Springs Rd, with a convenience store and nice restaurant next door, Zilker Park down the street, and the river a couple block north. It’s mostly a full-time residential park, but there are a handful of short-term campsites up front, which you should reserve waaay in advance!

Note that you can no longer turn left into Pecan Grove from Barton Springs. Google seems to know that now, but didn’t when giving us driving directions from Fredericksburg, which made for some scrambling as we approached the campground.

Runs and walks

downtown Austin skyline from across the river
a view from my run

One of my very favorite Austin activities is running around Lady Bird Lake. The entire soft-surface loop trail is about ten miles, and with numerous bridges it’s possible to create shorter circuits of whatever length run you’re in the mood for. With skyline views, cheerful exercisers, happy dogs, good footing, and not much elevation change it’s just a delight to run or walk along.

Bugsy hiking the Violet Crown Trail
Bugsy hiking Violet Crown Trail

Bugsy is no longer qualified to go running with us, so we took her for a walk in the woods on the Violet Crown Trail. Starting at Zilker Park we had a lovely stroll of a couple miles with peace and solitude smack dab in the middle of the city. The trail is 13-miles long and we’d love to explore other pieces of it, but it’s really hard to pass up the convenience of the trailhead in Zilker Park. Plus, it’s fun to peek through the fence to see the swimmers in Barton Springs Pool. I keep telling J the swimmer that he needs to swim there!

Bugsy and the Greetings from Austin mural
one of the many Austin murals

We also took Bugsy for an urban hike along South First Street and South Congress. There wasn’t much of interest on South First, but South Congress has a lot going on! It was a gorgeous day and we popped into some stores (Austin is very dog-friendly overall) and even bought a wild piece of art to ship home. I won’t say where we got it in case anyone who might visit my house reads this because oh boy will you be surprised when you see it! It’s the BEST!

Bugsy watching live music at Guero's
live music at Güero’s

Anyway. We finished our SoCo stroll in the Oak Garden at Güero’s Taco Bar. We were drawn in by the sound of live music and the band, McLemore Ave, was so good that we stayed for a few beers/margs in the sun. It was a perfect afternoon!

Live music

Austin is known for its live music scene, but we haven’t really partaken in that since we’re earlybirds and can’t go to a late show. If the music is on the earlier side, though, we are totally in–like the super band at Güero’s. We’ve also seen several bands at The ABGB, a brewery not too far from Pecan Grove, over the years, and did again this trip.

live music at C-Boys

But this year we branched out and went to an actual music venue in the actual nighttime! J’s friend said his favorite venue is C-Boys Heart & Soul and lo, they had a 7:30pm show! The Basil Trio is an organ trio (I was hoping for three organs, but there’s just one) and they were a ton of fun. And because we were enjoying ourselves so much we stayed for some of the second band waaaaay past our bedtime but they were even better than the first band. We’ll go back to C-Boys for sure!

Food

Bugsy and an armadillo mural

We can only spend a few days in Austin because we eat and drink ourselves silly and it’s unsustainable. So don’t be alarmed at the amount of food and drink described below as we attempted to experience Austin to the fullest.

Breakfast

Thom’s Market, two doors down from Pecan Grove, is the coolest little convenience store. We were excited to grab a breakfast burrito for the car the morning we left Austin, but it was a bit disappointing. Sure is nice having Thom’s so close by, though.

Lunch

fish tacos at Turf N Surf
fish tacos at Turf N Surf

Our favorite lunch in Austin is fish tacos at Turf N Surf Po-Boy. We shared blackened redfish and blackened mahi and, as we do every visit, we wondered how we’ve never had a po-boy there when that’s part of their name. It’s just too hard to not order fish tacos. Next time! Dogs are allowed inside at Turf N Surf.

bento boxes and beet fries at Eastside King
bento boxes and beet fries at East Side King

And maybe we have a new second-favorite lunch in Austin? Years ago a friend recommended lunch at East Side King and we finally went. The food is Japanese with an Austin twist and it was delicious! The patio is dog-friendly and the South Lamar location is convenient to Pecan Grove.

five pounds of brisket at Franklin BBQ
J’s five-pound brisket from Franklin

Actually, J would disagree that East Side King is our new second-favorite, because he would rank lunch at Franklin Barbecue higher. This trip, he ordered ahead to take meat back to Virginia to enjoy with other barbecue lovers, since his spouse is not of that variety. If you order ahead, you get an appointment time to pick it up, so you don’t have to wait in the famous line–but there’s a five pound minimum order! J made a bunch of his friends very happy upon our return to VA.

burger snack at P Terry burger stand
snack time at P. Terry’s

J and Bugsy shared a cheeseburger snack from the original location of P. Terry’s, a block from Pecan Grove. They have a delicious veggie burger too, which in the past I’ve been able to buy frozen at the Austin Whole Foods to take home, but I couldn’t find it this time. The burger stand only serves fresh and natural food and we’re big fans.

Dinner

sushi roll at Uchi
delicious sushi roll at Uchi

We’d been looking forward to this for a loooong time: a reservation at the acclaimed sushi restaurant Uchi, our favorite dinner in Austin. It’s walkable from Pecan Grove… kind of a long walk, but you can break it up with a stop at Eberly for a pre-dinner cocktail. The food and the service at Uchi are outstanding, and our experience was pretty perfect. It’s a real treat to eat there.

bowls at Loro
Loro bowls

Imagine if Uchi and Franklin Barbecue had a child, how delicious it would be. Ok that does not sound right, but it happened: the geniuses behind Uchi and Franklin collaborated on an Asian smokehouse and it’s super. We tried Loro our last real time in Austin (the snowmageddon visit was more recent, but obviously we didn’t do much around town then) and were thrilled to return. The menu suits us both with lots of meat options and veg options and tasty cocktails.

ceviche and tuna tostada at Este
ceviche and tostada at Este

After returning to our two top dinner spots Uchi and Loro, we had room for one more dinner out and chose Este, the seafood-focused sibling of Suerte, which wowed us in 2018. Este has a fun vibe and great food–we shared ceviche, swordfish tacos, and the tuna tostada–and great margs… but even with a fantastic experience there, we decided we wouldn’t return, and made a new Austin rule for ourselves: evening traffic is just terrible in the city, so from now on we’ll just stick to our neck of the woods for dinners.

Dessert

Bugsy waiting outside Voodoo Doughnuts
Bugsy waiting outside Voodoo Doughnut

After beers at Central District Brewing downtown (see next section), we walked over to Voodoo Doughnut to take some goodies home to enjoy over the next few days!

Drink

Beer

Bugsy and a sour beer at Central District Brewing
Bugsy and my delicious but odd-looking sour beer at Central District Brewing

Do we have a new favorite Austin brewery? The only two drawbacks of Central District Brewing are 1) that it’s downtown, and parking is a huge pain downtown, and 2) that there’s no outdoor space, probably also related to its downtown location, and a rarity for Austin. But the positives outweigh the negatives: the beer is fab (best tasting beer in Austin?), the taproom is cool, and dogs are allowed inside. The brewery is 4.5 years old and somehow we hadn’t been before. We’ll definitely be back!

Bugsy and a sour flight at Blue Owl Brewing
sour beer flight at Blue Owl

I was so excited to try Blue Owl Brewing, known for their sour beers! Unfortunately, they didn’t hit the spot for me. I had a flight of pomegranate, pickle, peppermint stick, pineapple, and banana cinnamon, and liked the pickle the best. We enjoyed sitting on the dog-friendly patio while sipping.

We returned to an old friend, The ABGB, to hear some live music and have a post-Loro nightcap. They didn’t have our preferred varieties of sours and hazy IPAs, but the APA was good, and it’s always a fun scene there.

the patio at Barton Springs Saloon
festive patio at Barton Springs Saloon

Finally, we had a quick beer at Barton Springs Saloon, an awesome divey bar a block from Pecan Grove. It doesn’t seem to have changed over the years that we’ve been visiting–which we love–except the patio seems bigger and has jazzy new party (or maybe just Christmas) lights.

Cocktails

cocktail at Juliet
the bar at Juliet

We couldn’t resist treating ourselves to a pre-dinner cocktail at our favorite neighborhood bar, Juliet, before heading farther afield. And when I say neighborhood bar, I mean the cozy bar at the swanky Italian restaurant directly adjacent to Pecan Grove.

cocktail at Eberly
the bar area at Eberly

And as I mentioned above, we broke up our walk to Uchi with a drink at Eberly. We like the dark bar area with a bit of an old-school vibe, but I’d read about the new rooftop lounge and I was interested to check it out. Unfortunately, it’s just for private events, not public cocktail seekers.

Coffee

Bugsy on the patio at Opa coffeeshop
Bugsy side-eyeing a complimentary dog biscuit–or my human biscuit–at dog-friendly Opa

Opa on South Lamar is our go-to coffee spot in Austin: it’s near home, it’s super dog-friendly indoors and out, and it has lots of seating inside and on the patio, so we’ve never had to wait for a table. We were surprised this trip to see that smoking seems to be allowed on the patio, though.

To do

Bugsy strolling in downtown Austin

Oh the list is long!

Food

Drinks

  • Pinthouse Brewing – Loro bartender said the location near the Airport is fab (SE Austin)
  • St Elmo’s area – Loro bartender also said this area is full of good stuff (SE Austin)
  • Kitty Cohen’s – retro Palm Springs bar in far East Austin (East Austin) (combine with Jacoby’s?)

Hikes

  • St Edwards Park – short hikes in a city park 20 minutes from Pecan Grove (NW Austin)
  • McKinney Falls State Park – short hikes also 20 minutes from Pecan Grove, in the other direction (close to Pinthouse/St Elmo’s…) (SE Austin)
  • River Place Nature Trail – six miles out-and-back, supposed to be wonderful. 30 minutes from Pecan Grove. Hike during the week to avoid hefty weekend fees (NW Austin)

Other activities

  • Butler Pitch and Putt – 9-hole par 3 pitch and putt with snacks and adult beverages walking distance from Pecan Grove (Barton Springs)
  • Broken Spoke – Austin’s most famous honky tonk, with live music and dance lessons starting at reasonable hours (South Lamar)
Bugsy and the Love from Austin mural

Whew! Austin posts always take me forever because we do so much there. After a whirlwind three days we pressed on to Lafayette, and just when I’d given up hope of stopping at a Punjabi dhaba, we found an outstanding one!!!! I’ll write more about Desi Dhaba in Winnie, TX, in the Lafayette post.

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