AUSTIN, TEXAS - Live music, delicious barbecue and breathtaking scenery.
I will admit Austin, Texas, wasn't my first choice for a weekend trip with four of my college friends, but during my short time there I ended up falling in love with a city that offers both a lively urban scene as well as stunning natural settings.
I was hoping for New Orleans, but after taking a vote, our group ultimately decided to spend some time in the "Live Music Capital of the World."
After arriving late on a Thursday night, we got a good night's sleep before heading out to Barton Springs Pool early on Friday. Water activities were a common occurrence throughout the weekend as we were getting used to the 90-degree heat.
Before making it to the pool, we stopped at food truck to get a bite to eat. Luckily there's so many different options, with food trucks almost at every corner.
My meal was Hawaiian tacos, which featured mahi-mahi fish. Though it was a bit spicy, I couldn't stop eating. After a short walk over to Zilker Park, we made it to Barton Springs Pool.
The springs range from 0-18 feet, with an average temperature of 68-70 degrees. The water is fed into springs and measures about three acres in size, according to the Austin Visitor Center website. My friends and I enjoyed spending the day splashing around in the water to cool off while gazing at a nice view of the Austin skyline.
That night we ended up at a Mexican restaurant, and I had an enchilada that was almost as good as the ones I had while in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, earlier in the summer.
On Saturday, we rented a car to make the short drive out to Martindale, Texas, to float down the San Marcos River. Thankfully Don's Fish Camp had a shuttle to take us up the river, so all we had to do was hop on the bus, pick up our tube and be ready to view some gorgeous scenery. It felt as though I was traveling through a jungle, all while only being about 40 minutes away from downtown Austin. Don's even had tubes specifically designed to carry coolers of refreshments. After about a three hour trip down the river, I was ready for some barbecue.
Even though ribs have never been my favorite food (I'm much more of a pulled pork kind of guy) the ribs we ate literally came right off the bone.
In terms of live music, Sixth Street in downtown Austin was unlike anything I've seen before outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Having traveled there about two years ago, I didn't think any city could beat the amount of live music on Nashville's streets.
Boy, was I wrong.
With more than 250 live music venues, there is a reason why Austin boasts about being the "Live Music Capital of the World." My friends and I had a blast exploring the bright and lively streets, with rock, blues, jazz, hip hop, punk or Latino melodies bursting out of almost every bar.
With so many amazing places to visit, I wished the night would never end. But alas, we had to be up early the next day to go underground.
About 1.5 hours northwest of Austin are the Longhorn Caverns. We woke up early on Sunday morning to be on one of the first morning tours.
The cavern is full of marvels. One was Crystal City, an area of the cavern that is adorned with calcite crystals. When the Civilian Conservation Corps was clearing the cavern of debris in the 1930s, they believed the shiny crystals were diamonds. So at first they called the room the Hall of Diamonds. When they realized their mistake, they then called it the hall of disappointment.
Another interesting find was the Queen's Watch Dog, a formation naturally carved out by water that ended up looking like a canine.
Our tour guide also had fascinating bits of history to share. For example, in the 1920s the main room of the cavern served as an underground dance hall and concert venue. Also, about 50 years prior, the bat guano (or feces) from the cave was harvested by the Confederate Army to be used as gunpowder during the Civil War.
One of my favorite parts of the tour was being able to see a tricolored bat just feet away from me while it slept. This smaller bat actually hunts by licking themselves and eating whatever sticks to their bodies. Our tour guide said jokingly said "they're basically like flying spider webs."
After emerging from our trip underground, we ate some brunch before heading to the airport. It was unfortunately time to head back to the Stateline Area so I could make it to work on Monday.
All-in-all, I was delighted Austin was where we ended up for our weekend trip.
TRAVEL TIP: When traveling to Austin and looking for a bite to eat, keep in mind many of the places don't take reservations. Eat early.