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Daytripper with Chet Garner: South Austin

Keepin’ it Weird in South Austin
Written by Chet Garner.

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Anytime I day-trip to the big city, I like to pick an area and explore every nook and cranny rather than spend my time in a car traversing the urban jungle. With that in mind, I set out to explore South Austin. Nowhere does the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan ring truer than in this section of Texas’ Capital City.

 

9:00 a.m.  I stopped by Jo’s Coffee on South Congress for a signature “Iced Turbo.”  This magical mixture of coffee, espresso, half-and-half, and sweetened condensed milk (along with chocolate and hazelnut syrups) tasted a lot like a milkshake, but with more than enough caffeine to get my day revved up and ready for action. I threw in a locally baked cinnamon roll, and it was full speed ahead.

10:00 a.m.  While in the South Congress district, I spent some time exploring the eclectic mix of shops, art galleries, and general shenanigans up and down one of Austin’s most vibrant boulevards. While it was still early by South Austin standards, the street was already full of vendors hawking their handmade knickknacks and aspiring musicians playing for anyone who might lend an ear. I popped into Uncommon Objects and browsed its aisles of bizarre, antique miscellany and then walked over to Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds costume

shop and talked myself out of spending the rest of the day in full Sasquatch attire. I’m pretty sure nobody would have even noticed on South Congress. Next I explored Tesoros Trading Company with its thousands of imported handicrafts and then Big Top Candy Shop with its wide assortment of candies—and chocolate-covered bacon.

12:00 p.m.  Before I spoiled my lunch on candy, I opted for a legitimate meal at one of South Congress’ restaurants on wheels (a.k.a. food trailers), serving everything from German sausage to Moroccan feasts. I chose The Mighty Cone’s tasty Hot & Crunchy Chicken-Avocado Cone, a “deep-sautéed” (deep-fried) chicken breast and avocado topped with a spicy cream sauce, rolled in a tortilla, and dropped in a paper snow-cone cup.

1:00 p.m.  For dessert, I headed to Bananarchy for a chocolate- and-peanut-butter-dipped frozen banana that was every bit as delicious as it sounds. Viva La (banana) Revolution!

1:45 p.m.  Next on the list was Zilker Park, Austin’s largest playground. When not crowded for a weekend event, this laid-back park makes the perfect place to lounge around, toss a Frisbee, and just enjoy the Texas sunshine.

3:00 p.m.  As the sun heated up the afternoon, I made my way to Barton Springs Pool. This spring-fed oasis in Zilker Park holds steady at a crisp 68 degrees year round and has been keeping visitors cool for more than 200 years. A few hours alternating between dips in the water and warm naps on the 
grassy hill had me more relaxed than an all-day Swedish massage and an Enya CD.

6:00 p.m.  Another outstanding benefit to trailer dining is that swimsuits and flip-flops are absolutely encouraged (although it isn’t much different at many Austin restaurants). So, fresh out of the pool, I headed for Torchy’s Tacos trailer on South First to devour a couple of its famous green chile-pork tacos.

7:30 p.m.  With the daylight fading, I grabbed a swirled soft-serve custard from Sandy’s and made my way to the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge to watch the evening exodus of the estimated 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats that live under the bridge (between late March and late October).

As the bats took to the sky to begin their nightly foray, my journey was just wrapping up. South Austin is an incredibly quirky place. And if being unique automatically qualifies something as “weird,” then Texas must be the weirdest place on earth. And I’m absolutely fine with that. So, whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.

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