In September the opening weekend of college football occurred over a long holiday weekend, so my college roommates from across the country converged on Austin for a reunion weekend and the Notre Dame vs. Texas game.
Because none of us had really explored the city before, we had made three priorities of Austin activities. Priority #1 was (obviously) barbecue. Priority #2 was Texas-style tacos, and priority #3 was craft beer. On our first full day in the city, after staying up waaay too late catching up at our airbnb, we went on a wild brewery / taco tour around lots of different neighborhoods in Austin. My taco-enthusiast friend Meggan had planned out our route and volunteered to be our soccer-mom-style chauffeur, and we embarked on our voyage. Our taco stops included Papalote, Torchy's Tacos, and Taco Joint. Our consensus was that our first stop Papalote had the best flavors... and it didn't hurt that we had Amy's ice cream immediately after.
In terms of breweries, we liked the beer the best at Hops & Grain, where we ordered fries and bought custom pint glasses. We loved the vibe and the live music at Independence Brewing, situated in a huge warehouse with giant garage-style doors that opened to outdoor seating.
The next day we embraced the killer heat by heading about 30 miles north of the city to inner tube down the San Marcos River. Now, I'd been river floating before in California and this experience was nothing like that. There were so many hundreds of people floating the river with us that at some points the entire span of the water was covered in humans. The six of us arranged ourselves in a pinwheel formation around a central cooler tube, where we attempted (unsuccessfully) to keep our beers cold. After two close calls with amphibious serpents — which was rather alarming to Meggan — we approached the end of the three-hour float. At the very end we passed a group of about 50 people playing music on waterproof speakers. As we got even with them we recognized the song they were playing: the Notre Dame victory march. We looked around and realized they were all alumni from our class at ND, in town for the game.
After a day in the sun, it was time for the epic barbecue we'd been waiting for. We ate at Terry Black's Barbecue, the type of place where you grab a tray and are served meat by the pound, complete with coleslaw and mac n' cheese and cornbread sides. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Definitely the best barbecue I've ever had. But afterwards we really paid for it. A day in the sun followed by an extremely heavy meal made for some very sleepy girls. We passed out early, into meat-fueled comas.
The day of the game was SUPER hot and humid, and we spent the afternoon bar hopping down Rainey Street, the new hipster neighborhood with the best bars and restaurants. Our favorite turned out to be Container Bar: a building completely constructed out of shipping containers stacked on top of one another. At one point Alison was so overheated that she poured a cup of water onto her own head... This was oppressive humidity!
The game was one of the most exciting college football matchup I'd ever seen. Notre Dame tragically lost in the last 3 seconds of the game... a fate that we knew all too well from past ND seasons. Kim and I sat in the literal last row of the stadium, which put us around the height of the tallest office buildings in the city. So at least we got a gorgeous Texas sunset out of the deal.
After the game, disappointed Notre Dame fans flocked to 6th Street, a road downtown famous for its wild nightlife (for context, it reminded me a lot of Bourbon Street in New Orleans). We found a bar containing a large number of our friends, which was an arcade on the ground floor and an open rooftop with a dance floor on the top floor. When we heard last call at 2AM, we all flocked across the street to the Austin location of VooDoo Donuts, a Portland-based shop with crazily shaped donuts and wacky toppings. My favorite was the captain crunch topped chocolate glaze, but Kim was by far the most donut-enthused of the group (see photo).
On our final day in Austin, before heading to the airport, we went sightseeing around the city... as much as we could handle in the oppressive humidity. One of the famous attractions is a big empty lot full of graffiti, from amateur to professional. Each layer gets covered up as locals come to paint something on top. We checked the tourist checkbox and fled to an air-conditioned taco joint, to end the trip exactly how we started it!