Austin has been our favorite stop so far, hands down. I will admit that a good part of this is due to the fact that we had amazing friends drive down from Dallas to visit with us for a few days! Man, I didn’t realize how lonely I’d been feeling until getting to hang out with friends! We had an awesome time – part just hanging out at playgrounds, part sightseeing, part swimming at their hotel. So. Much. Fun. Here’s our recap of everything we did while in Austin:
I typically get a little nervous about booking spots in RV parks (vs. state parks). I never know how run-down they’re going to be. They never look anything like the photos online. In some ways, Hwy 71 RV Park was that way – it didn’t look much like the website showed it. However, everyone was friendly, the sites were clean ,the bathrooms were wonderful (private, residential style bathrooms), all the utilities worked well, the laundry was more than sufficient, and we were able to get mail delivered. The park is conveniently located between Bastrop and Austin – it’s easier to go into Bastrop for your shopping needs (about a 15 minute drive), but Austin is only about 20 minutes away – if there’s no traffic. So.. despite the park having some super old permanent trailers and not letting the kids roam around unsupervised, we’d definitely go back.
Just south of Austin is a great state park. McKinney Falls has just about everything you could want in a state park – waterfalls, old lava flows, rock shelters, picnic areas, a campground, a playground, and more. We stopped at the visitor center and got the skinny on how to most efficiently see the waterfall and the rock shelter. Both are an easy hike from the parking lot and SO worth it. The kids could have easily explored the area for a couple hours. And bathrooms are nearby, too, for the kid (or mom) that inevitably needs to go.
One of the places we went with our friends was the Bullock Museum. This is a museum of Texas history so (forgive me) I wasn’t expecting to be amazed. But it was fantastic! We caught the multi-sensory film about the shipwreck LaBelle – the movie was both well-done and super cheesy at the same time, lots of fun. When we were there, a video game exhibit called Pong to Pokemon was running and we probably could have left the kids there all day. But the rest of the museum was really interesting as well – they had lots of life-size displays that the kids found fascinating. Oh, and the Bullock Museum is part of the NARM network, so you can get in for free if you have a reciprocal membership.
One afternoon, Doug took off work a little early and we headed into Austin. We had a few goals – get some pics of the street art Austin is famous for, check out the shops on South Congress, and eat in a trailer park. The shops along this iconic street were so much fun. Some of them are a little bit risque, and there is some salty language visible in shop windows, but that’s fine with us. We picked up some souvenirs, but mostly just looked around. Normally I don’t particularly enjoy browsing shops, but this was a horse of a different color! Some of our favorites: Big Top Candy Shop, Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds, and Triple Z Threadz.
Apparently it’s a thing in Austin to eat at food trucks in a trailer park. It’s not really a trailer park, it’s just that some of the food trucks are actually Airstreams. This particular trailer park had great reviews, but when we went, it was pretty much just a vegan place and Torchy’s Tacos. That was a little disappointing at first, but Torchy’s Tacos more than made up for it. Omg. So amazing.
I was a little nervous about finding the murals we were looking for, but it turned out to be pretty easy. I’d found a website that listed which ones were easy to park at and we pretty much just did those. Of course, we found a lot more along the way!
Greetings from Austin – Roadhouse Relics – plenty of side street parking
You’re My Butter Half – United Way Austin – side street and lot parking
Mr. Rogers – Home Slice Pizza – park on South Congress or in lots nearby
Smile! – Hey Cupcake – parking on SoCo or in lots nearby
On our drives to and from Austin, we kept seeing this enormous scrolling sign advertising pie vending machines. That was something we’d never seen before, so it didn’t take long before we decided we just had to visit this place. Berdoll’s Pecan Farm not only has a pie vending machine, it also has a giant squirrel named Miss Pearl, amazing fudge and other candies, and a lot of random, fun gifts. Oh, and pecans. Lots and lots of pecans. We didn’t get any pie, but we got fudge, candied pecans, and pralines that were even better than the ones we got in New Orleans.
One of the things Austin is known for is its BBQ, so we had to get some while we were in town. We decided on Southside Market and BBQ – partly because it has a Bastrop location, but mainly because of its fantastic reviews. It did not disappoint – everything we got was amazing, from the brisket baked potato to the cheddar jalapeno sausage. I know Salt Lick is considered the must-do of BBQ places, but you really can’t go wrong with Southside BBQ.
Okay, so Hamilton Pool really deserves its own post – and it’s got one, thanks to Lachlann. But I’ll give you my perspective real quick, too. First off – ever since we got the idea to travel full-time and I started looking up cool places to go on Pinterest, I’ve wanted to go to Hamilton Pool. It just looked so incredible. I was a little nervous that it wouldn’t live up to the pictures, but I really needn’t have worried. Now, the website will tell you that it’s a short (.25 mile) hike to the pool, and that it’s steep. That doesn’t really convey what it’s like. If you’re hopelessly out of shape like me, this hike will be a strain. On the way down, I was scared of falling – the trail descends steeply down ‘stairs’ made of wobbly rocks and tree roots. On the way up, I was scared I wouldn’t be able to climb another step. Thankfully there are a few benches that divide the quarter mile up into sections, but honestly, we had to stop more often than that. It was really taxing.
Now, that said.. I would gladly do it again to go back to Hamilton Pool. Since it was winter, the vegetation was mostly brown and not lush like in the pictures, and the waterfall was just a trickle, but it was still incredible. It’s one of those places that’s hard to really describe in words. The scope is just incredible. Doug and the kids walked around the trail inside the grotto while I sat near the water to recuperate. The kids loved climbing all over the rocks, I enjoyed the rest and the view, and everyone agreed that Hamilton Pool was one of our best stops yet.
If you’d like to see more of our stay in Austin, check out our videos!