Welcome to Backpacker’s Boutique. Every Sunday, this spot will feature a new travel blogger. Some weeks it will be a really fun interview about packing, fashion, and fitness so you can snoop inside their bags & lives a little bit and other weeks it’ll be a detailed luxury guide to a city the featured blogger/expat knows very well. E-mail me if you’d like to be featured.
A Luxury Guide to Austin
Tell us a little about yourself and tell us why you’re an expert on luxury travel in Austin.
Hi Rachel! We’re Jimmie and Shelly, a couple from Texas who quit our jobs in 2014 to pursue full-time travel. We run a travel blog called Norway to Nowhere where we recount stories of our adventures and share travel tips and inspiration. Jimmie grew up in Austin and Shelly attended college in the area so we’ve gotten to experience many different sides of this beautiful, quirky city.
What makes Austin a perfect destination for travelers seeking a glamorous trip?
Austin definitely has an understated tone of luxury. It’s not known for its fancy yachts or extravagant nightclubs, but offers a more laid back and relatable glamour. Such is the way of Texas charm and character! Known as the live music capital of the world, Austin attracts musicians, actors and celebrities from across the globe with its popular music and film festivals. In addition to this, Austin boasts world-class restaurants, the famous (or infamous) Sixth Street and bountiful five-star accommodations whose hospitality lives up to the southern charm stereotype.
What 5 star hotel is the best in your town?
The Driskill hotel is a must when visiting Austin. Built in 1886 it has become a historic Austin icon and is situated in the perfect location. It’s only a short walk away to the Texas State Capital, legendary 6th street, fine dining, and the convention center among many other sights. The inside of The Driskill has been restored to its original ornate opulence with glamorous marble, columns and stained-glass features. It is honestly one of the most beautiful hotels we’ve ever stepped foot in – it makes your jaw drop!
If you’re looking for an added thrill, book room 525 as it is rumored to be haunted by the original owner of the hotel. He lost the property in a bet only a year after building and died shortly thereafter!
What about boutique hotels, of them all, which would you send your friends or family to stay at?
There are two boutique hotels that really stand out from the rest. The first is Hotel Ella, which recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. It was money well spent because the property is absolutely gorgeous and screams Texas charm. It boasts an in-house restaurant and bar for a conveniently delicious meal or libation and is located just a few blocks down from the UT campus.
Hotel St. Cecilia in SoCo (South Congress) is such a fun little hotel. Each room has its own signature Austin style and takes inspiration from its namesake St. Ceclia, the patron saint of music and poetry. Perhaps the best feature is the handmade organic beds built by Sweden’s most reputable bedding company, Hästens. We recommend staying in one of the hotel’s 6 poolside bungalows to make the most out of the Texas heat!
Are there any fun activities for the adventurous traveler?
- Paddle boarding and kayaking on Lady Bird Lake has become somewhat of a city pastime for its residents. On nice days, lines for the rentals can be quite long, but getting out and enjoying the lake beneath the Austin skyline well makes up for it!
- If you’d like some tears in your eyes from a mixture of adrenaline and fast speeds, zip lining on Lake Travis has recently started gaining traction. There are five zip lines available, with some an amazing 20 stories high. You can even do these at night for that extra kick of excitement.
- If you’re here at the right time you’ve got to hit up the famous SXSW or ACL music festivals. In the past decade, each of these festivals has grown into a monster all their own, with literally thousands of people flying in from all over the world to attend them. Get Platinum badge tickets for SXSW to attend everything available or VIP tickets to the ACL festival, which will provide you a truly luxurious experience!
Where are the best hang outs during the day?
It wouldn’t be Austin without a good place to hang out during the day. Think of Zilker Park as New York’s Central Park, but with more hipsters and less museums (it’s also less than half the size.) Within Zilker Park lies the crown jewel, Barton Springs Pool. The Pool measures three acres in size and is fed from a natural underground spring that keeps temperatures between 68-70 degrees. When you’re melting from the 105-degree Texas summer, Barton Springs Pool is where everybody goes to beat the heat. You’ll most likely be serenaded by guitar players and musicians as you soak up the sun. Lady Bird Lake is a section of the Colorado River that is popular for paddle boarding and kayaking. Some of the best views of the Austin skyline can be seen from here.
If you’re like us and have an obsession with cafes and coffee shops, then Austin is a gold mine. Head to Kerbey Lane for Texas’ best queso (basically the most delicious cheese dip on the planet), Jo’s Coffee for an adorable photo op, and Mozart’s Coffee Roasters for a delicious Mexican mocha right on the coast of Lady Bird Lake.
If you have a big date night, what are the most delicious restaurants in Austin and what are their best dishes?
Austin is such a difficult place to just recommend one or two places because it truly does have world-class food. Here you will find that most restaurants tend to offer something traditional, put an Austin spin on it, and present it in a way that is incredibly unique.
Uchi is a sushi restaurant, but with that Austin flair we just mentioned. It has a relaxed atmosphere and is one that is enjoyed by many celebrities as well. People will often mention that the menu is full of strange items, however you’d be hard pressed to find anything you don’t like! Try out the machi cure or the bacon steakie and then join the other restaurant goers shouting from the rooftop that it is their new favorite dish.
If you’re not much for sushi, definitely add Barley Swine to your list. Of course, they also operate a bit differently from your typical restaurant. They use fixed menus that you pay one price for and get a whole list of crazy, small dishes. Funyuns and caviar… beet trifle, grilled mushroom and a blue cheese cookie… scrambled egg, crawfish boil and potato…. The list goes on and on. Each dish is extremely unique and oftentimes includes words we’ve never heard of. In addition to the menu, they offer beer and wine pairings.
Let’s talk desserts- what place makes the best?
Over the past decade, food trucks have been exploding into the Austin scene. So much so, that a night out on the town can easily mean grabbing some crazy dinner concoction from a food truck, going to the next one for some drinks, then one food truck down for dessert. Specialty dessert food trucks have become abundant recently, including the Cow Tipping Creamery and Banarchy (it wouldn’t be a food truck without a food-related joke or pun.) If you don’t think food should be mobile, try out Cream Whiskers instead, located just a few blocks from the University of Texas campus. Their specialty is the cream puff, with as many variations as your imagination can come up with.
Tell us all the hot shopping spots; who’s carrying the trendy local designers? Are there designers we should make sure to meet?
Kendra Scott Jewelry originated here in Austin so you’ll find her stores peppered throughout the city. If you haven’t heard of her already (she’s blown up across America), you should make it a point to stop into a store for some beautiful handmade jewelry pieces!
East 6th street is a great place to shop for local stylish treasures. There you can find an eclectic mix of clothing, jewelry and craft stores which are sure to keep you occupied for hours.
What are a couple of the best salons and spas in Austin?
Lakeway Resort and Spa is one of the most well known retreats in Austin. Located 30 minutes north west of the city on Lake Travis, it’s a great place to escape the bustling town and relax. We stayed there for a wedding recently and didn’t want to leave!
Austin is well known for it’s active and healthy lifestyle – from natural food to skin treatments! Organic Spa Massage and Skincare is an upscale salon offering massages, facials, body treatments and several different packages all using (you guessed it) organic products.
Time for a great sunset view… where would you go?
There are several great places to see a great Texas sunset! Auditorium Shores is a park located right on the southern end of the Colorado River with great views of the Austin skyline. Getting outside the city a bit, the 360 Bridge Overlook and Mt. Bonnell are fun little hikes for wonderful sunset views over the Texas hill country. One of the more unique places to see the setting sun is from the Congress Street Bridge near Lady Bird Lake. As the sun sets in the spring and summer, nearly 1.5 million bats fly out from underneath the Congress Street Bridge to feed on insects, which actually makes this the largest urban bat colony in North America. We recommend renting a kayak and experiencing this from the lake itself!
If you’re looking for a great place to eat or drink while watching the sunset, look no further than The Oasis, located just northwest of Austin on Lake Travis. It is quite literally perched on the side of a cliff, with large patios overlooking the beautiful lake. Traditionally, the sunset is met with applause from the patrons as well as a round of margaritas. Doesn’t get any better than that!
Now that the sun’s gone down, fill us on the best places to go for some evening drinks or a great pre-gaming spot.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Austin without stepping foot on Austin’s legendary 6th Street for some live music. However, from a local’s perspective we much prefer a more low-key night out on Rainey Street. It has a more casual laid-back ambience that we love.
But if you’re an Austin newbie, do at least one night out on 6th. We’d even recommend ending the night with the best drunk pizza one can get – Roppolos!
Jimmie & Shelly are an American couple who quit their 9-5 jobs, sold their possessions, and began traveling around the world in 2014. Together they operate their travel blog, Norway to Nowhere, where they share travel tips, city guides, and tales recounting their crazy adventures and the equally crazy people they meet along the way. For your daily dose of travel inspiration, you can “like” Shelly & Jimmie on Facebook and follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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