Austin, Texas: Stuff to Do

Aw, I love you, too! Caitlyn poses in front of an iconic piece of street art on South Congress.

Aw, I love you, too! Caitlyn poses in front of an iconic piece of street art on South Congress.

Believe it or not, we don’t just eat when we go on vacation (although, my prior blog posts might indicate otherwise). We take in the culture, we squeeze in a little exercise and we’re usually on the move most the time.

Such was the case in Austin, the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World.” Strangely, it wasn’t until our last night in Austin that we were able to really take in some of the city’s music, but we’ll get to that soon.

Our first bit of culture came our first night in town, when we visited the much-ballyhooed Esther’s Follies. We were a little concerned at first by the older clientele in the cozy audience at the 6th Street staple, but we weren’t disappointed (it was also the early show, so we thought maybe more people our age who aren’t so wimpy would show up then). A healthy dose of magic, musical numbers and comedy sketches kept us in stiches and awe for a good 80 minutes. Most the acts parody older songs (although, a couple of more modern songs made the cut) and lampoon current events and people from Texas Governor Rick Perry to President Barack Obama and the First Lady. A surprisingly high quality set and costumes make the show a must-see in Austin. Tickets are $22-$29 a person.

Not a bad seat in the house at the Zach Theatre.

Not a bad seat in the house at the Zach Theatre.

While in town, we also swung by the Zach Theatre to take in the opening weekend of the comedy-drama (or is it “dramadey?”) “In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play.” The story takes place in the Victorian era and focuses on a doctor who sees women (and one man) in his home office for cases of “hysteria,” with the solution to what ails them turning out to be an early version of the vibrator. While notably comedic in the first act, the second act takes a more serious turn and explores the relationship between the doctor and his wife, as well as their love life. Tickets were affordable and there’s not a bad seat in the house. The show continues through Feb. 23.

Of course we HAD TO see some live music while in Austin, right? On Super Bowl Sunday, we headed down to Strange Brew Lounge Side in South Austin – a bit of trek via bus, but well worth it. We heard the delightfully twangy-folsky sound of Chet O’Keefe as we gobbled down our grilled cheese and veggie sandwiches. It’s a cozy space, but it also has chairs, which is something I was adamant about when picking a live music venue. We might have the bodies of Millennials, but the thought of standing in a crowded room next to sweaty people for an hour wasn’t appealing to us, so we’re happy Strange Brew was able to save the day. Best part? No cover that night … probably because most people were watching what turned out to be a horrible game.

Can't travel with a historian and not visit the state museum, right?

Can’t travel with a historian and not visit the state museum, right?

Austin isn’t just all about the shows. It’s also home to the Bullock Texas State History Museum. We lucked out, as the first Sunday of each month is Free Admission Day. Hooray! It was fascinating looking at the early days of Texas and the path it’s taken to get to where it is today. Unfortunately, we only had about an hour-and-half, which was probably about an hour short of what we would have liked to have spent there, but we had a play to catch!

Austin is also home to some fun shopping off South Congress, or “SoCo.” It actually reminded me a lot of Fountain Square or Mass Ave in Indianapolis – lots of quirky, eclectic shops selling everything from sassy T-shirts to jewelry at the plentiful Saturday artisan markets. Make sure to stop at Guero’s for tacos and Amy’s for ice cream. We also enjoyed the short walk from downtown to South Congress; walking around Austin is fairly easy with the numerous walkways and well-maintained sidewalks. We even saw some people paddle-boarding in the Colorado River on one of the warmer days we were there.

In short, Austin isn’t just for live music. It’s home to a wide variety of cultural offerings that should please most visitors.

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