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Because I only had four days to spend in Austin, I wanted to wisely maximize my time so I could fully experience this “weird” city. Personally, I’m a big fan of walking or van tours that take you to all the city’s main attractions. I try to schedule these excursions on my first day, so I develop a vague sense of direction (I rely on freakin’ google maps too much) and decide if I want to re-visit any cool attractions or neighborhoods later on.
After doing some research, I settled on booking The Real Austin Tour with Austin Detours. I wanted to learn more about the city’s unique history and culture, and of course, I was curious about what, exactly, made Austin so weird, haha.
I took a leisurely walk to Austin’s Tourist Information Center on a humid, cloudy, and occasionally rainy morning. Not my favorite weather! Yet, somehow, the steel sky didn’t make a single dent in my mood! After meeting my guide, Joe, and the other tour members, we boarded a funky blue van and were given both water and umbrellas for our adventure around the Texas capital!
As a side note, Austin Detours uses cozy Mercedes vans for all their tours. So not only was the group small (just how I like it!), but the van made the tour enjoyable in rain or shine.
Here are some of the awesome stops we made over the course of two and a half hours!
Texas Capitol Building
One of Austin’s most famous attractions is its incredible Capitol Building. My jaw dropped when we first drove down Congress Avenue – with the capitol waiting for us at the end of the road.
I already knew the capitol would be impressive, lots of people told me as much, but still. The gorgeous architecture, with its sweeping dome and granite and marble structure, along with an expansive lawn perfect for lazy picnics on sunnier days, still knocked me off my feet.
For this trip, Austin Detours thoughtfully includes a stop inside the Capitol Building – which was a real treat! Instead of aimlessly wandering on my own, I received cool insights regarding the statues and monuments on the Capitol’s grounds, stories about Texas’s governors, and much more! I especially loved learning about Miriam “Ma” Ferguson – the first female governor of the Lone Star State – and how she took a firm stand against the Ku Klux Klan. Get it!
Ride Downtown including Historic East 6th Street
After the Capitol Building, we took a ride around the University of Texas and Austin’s Downtown core. As we gazed out the van’s windows, Joe told plenty of stories to enrapture us! My favorite story was about the Driskill Hotel – which is the oldest operating hotel in Austin – and apparently this place is haunted! I’m a sucker for ghost stories. I was the kid who read a new Goosebumps book every single day, so obviously, I wanted to learn all about the spooky happenings surrounding this 1886 hotel.
The Driskill Hotel is also significant from a historical standpoint. For example, President Lyndon B. Johnson met his wife, Claudia Taylor, for their very first date in the Driskill’s dining room! Pretty cool, huh?
Paint at HOPE Outdoor Gallery
If you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time, then you know I have a not-so secret obsession with street art. Unsurprisingly, HOPE Outdoor Gallery was my favorite stop on the tour. Despite the rain wrathfully pouring on my umbrella, I walked through the mud (ewww, my poor shoes…) and took as many pictures as possible on both my phone and camera.
HOPE Outdoor Gallery is open to all artists and is a very popular place for tourists, too. Therefore the walls change all. the. time. For instance, after Carrie Fisher’s death, many memorial paintings to Princess Leia appeared all over the gallery.
What made our tour super special was Joe provided us with a super cool opportunity to leave our own temporary marks on HOPE Outdoor Gallery! I painted an adorable purple heart. Don’t laugh. Street art isn’t one of my many talents, haha.
Speaking of art, Austin has lots of instagramable murals so be sure to take advantage.
A delicious cupcake at Hey Cupcake!
I’m a sucker for cupcakes. Seriously, I was obsessed with cupcakes in college. Maybe too much. Uh, anyway.
Food trucks are an essential part of Austin’s unique (weird) culture. I don’t think I went to a single restaurant during my stay; instead I opted to try a variety of food trucks scattered throughout East and South Austin, and my stomach doesn’t regret that decision one bit.
On the Real Austin Tour a sweet cupcake is included in the price. Can we say “heck yes?!” Not to mention, we could pick any cupcake our hearts desired. I obviously went with chocolate and peanut butter. Best combination ever, am I right?
A glance at S. Congress Avenue and South Austin
No tour of Austin would be complete without a chance to see S. Congress Avenue – one of the city’s coolest shopping streets! I loved this part of the tour so much that I walked miles to return later, haha.
Here Joe told us that one of the biggest things that made Austin “weird” was supporting local businesses. I didn’t see a single Starbucks or McDonalds in this area. I have to say I love how Austin encourages small business owners and entrepreneurs.
So what did I think of Austin Detours?
I loved my tour for many reasons! First of all, my guide, Joe, was extremely knowledgeable and full of energy. His passion for Austin was contagious, making me want to learn more Austin’s history and culture. Austin Detours also limits the number of passengers on each tour, which is great, because you can ask questions, take pictures, have conversation with fellow tour members, and enjoy the experience without feeling like herded cattle. Being on a smaller tour absolutely made a big and positive difference!
Furthermore, this tour was great from a practical standpoint. Austin isn’t the easiest city to explore without a car. One day I walked thirteen miles (!!) because I didn’t want to rent a car, and while the exercise was great, my feet wanted to die a little. The Real Austin Tour makes the city so, so, so much more manageable, especially if you’re on a tight schedule!
A big thank you to Austin Detours for partnering with Blond Wayfarer! I had a great time. As always, all opinions are my own. As for you folks, have you ever been to Austin?