A Winter Getaway to Austin, Texas

Mar 12, 2023

For many years now, we've done a little vacation somewhere warm and sunny during January to help stave off the winter blues. We planned to do the same this year, but the long MLK weekend in January seemed to follow too closely behind the holiday break that included a trip to St. George. So in order to maximize the anticipation of a vacation, we pushed it off until February.

We thought about doing a family trip, as we usually have done in the past, but none of our usual warm and driveable options were calling out to us. So Mike and I decided to go somewhere alone, much to the disappointment of our kids.

Our criteria were: somewhere we could fly to with our sky miles and warmer than Utah. 

We landed on Austin, Texas.

Besides meeting the above requirements, the area was also home to a few of Mike's relatives, and one of my friends from my college days used to live there and has always spoken so highly of it (we relied heavily on this blogpost of hers while planning). Plus, we had never been to Texas before, so it felt like something we needed to experience. 

We left on a Wednesday afternoon and came home on Saturday morning, and it was the best little vacation. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Here are some of the highlights:

The food

I don't know if I've ever been on a vacation where every single meal has hit it out of the park. Until now. All of the food was amazing. A recap:

Pappasito's Cantina: our first taste of Texas. We had to wait an hour to be seated. It was worth it. The salsa was different from anything we'd ever had before and the tortilla chips were paper thin and crispy. We ordered the fajitas sampler and couldn't quite believe how good it was. Maybe it helped that we were starving from a day of traveling. (This happened to be our only warm day while we were in Texas, and we marveled at being able to walk around at night without a jacket.)

Phoebe's Diner: Mike asked the waitress for recommendations. She said, "Well, our bacon is good." He thought that was a funny thing to specifically mention, but he never says no to bacon, so he ordered a side of it with his brisket benny, and it truly was unlike any bacon he'd ever had before. Nearly a quarter inch thick with a crackly crust and rich flavor, he wishes he could recreate it at home. I ordered the deep fried French toast with berries, and my mouth is watering as I write this.

Torchy's: This is the one place that was on my "must-go" list. I have heard about this chain for years, and I wasn't going to go to Texas without trying it. We only ordered a couple of tacos because we were still full from breakfast, but they were so yummy. But it's the queso that I still crave on an almost daily basis and wish I could easily get around here whenever the whim strikes.

Amy's Ice Creams: Quite possibly Silas's favorite stop from the trip. I got the Belgian chocolate. Mike got the Oreo shake. I said we didn't have any disappointing foods on this trip, but I forgot that Mike was actually unimpressed with his shake. It was super sweet and didn't taste like real Oreos. But mine was excellent. I told Mike he needed a redo before forming an opinion. 

Hopdoddy's: I ordered the Primetime, and Mike ordered the Classic, and he said it was in his top three burgers of all time. We also got fries and a side of brussels sprouts (which could have masqueraded as chips rather than vegetables).

Gourdough's: We were completely and utterly stuffed from a day of eating. But we couldn't pass up this donut truck. Sadly, we took them back to our apartment and literally could only manage one bite (and Mike had bought FOUR at $8 each). We ate them for breakfast the next morning, but it wasn't the same.

Cooper's Barbeque: I'm saving this for its own highlight because it was an experience unto itself.

Jeni's Ice Cream: yes, more ice cream. We got the brambleberry crisp, milkiest chocolate, and darkest chocolate. Yum, yum, yum. 

The last thing we ate was a cobb salad and fries in the hotel restaurant on our last night, and after gorging ourselves for two days straight, that salad was exactly what I needed.

Walking by the river

We spent some time on our first morning walking along the Colorado River that runs through downtown Austin. Our walk took us under the famous Congress Bridge, home to hundreds of bats, although we were too early in the season to see any.  The day was overcast and windy, which is not exactly the forecast we were hoping for when we planned our trip. However, we just kept reminding ourselves, "It's warmer than Utah," and really, once our bodies were warmed up from walking, it was pretty pleasant. 

The library and bookstore

When I travel, one of my favorite things to do is visit the public library and an independent bookstore. Luckily, these two places happened to be within walking distance of our apartment and each other.

Austin's downtown public library is really awesome. It has an open staircase that circles up to all five floors (yes, I walked up all five flights and checked out each section). Mike hung out in the atrium with a napping Silas while I explored a bit. I loved the reading porch off of the children's section and the rooftop patio accessible from the top floor. 

We made a stop at the Whole Foods flagship store where we let Silas run around on the playground for a bit until we all got too cold. Then we headed over to Book People: a fun, three-story independent bookstore. We spent some time wandering around looking at the cool book displays and choosing a few souvenirs for our kids. 

Hill Country Weavers

Once we decided on Austin as a destination, I had to look up the local yarn stores in the area. I found Hill Country Weavers, which I'd heard about before, and Mike was nice enough to let me make a stop there. I'm so glad I did. It's one of the best yarn stores I've ever been to. There was so much yarn, all beautifully displayed and thoughtfully organized. It was so fun to recognize many of the brands that I've seen other people knit with before but never personally seen myself. I ended up purchasing three skeins (which demonstrated considerable restraint, I assure you): two from Hill Country Weavers' own yarn line and one from another Texas dyer. 

Mount Bonnell

We hiked to the top of Mount Bonnell to get a bird's eye view of Austin. I use the term "hike" very generously as I think it took us all of five minutes to get to the top. It was windy and chilly, but Silas still loved running around. We explored the surrounding area a bit before heading back down. 


On Friday, we left Austin and traveled west to Fredericksburg. Mike's aunt and uncle live there, and they showed us all around this cute town. We walked from their home to Main Street, which was lined with such interesting and unique stores. We mostly just window shopped, except for Rustlin' Rob's, which we felt compelled to go into. It was basically the store of Mike's dreams, filled from top to bottom with sauces, spreads, and dips--and every single one of them available to sample. Pretty cool concept.

Cooper's Barbeque

Mike's one goal for this vacation was to get real Texas barbeque, and Brian and Claudia knew exactly where to take us. The day before, when we were still in Austin, Mike asked, "Where are all the Texas accents?" Well, we found them at Cooper's. That place was legit. You choose the meat you want, and they slice it at that moment. Per usual, Mike wanted to try everything and got the brisket, pork chop, prime rib, beef ribs, and sausage. Then you pick up your sides. We tried the the sauerkraut, mac and cheese, and beans. (The beans were really amazing--so much so that Mike tried to recreate them a couple of weeks later.) You find a place to sit at long tables, cafeteria style. In the middle of every table is a bag of the whitest of white bread, along with ketchup, mustard, and squeezable margarine. You dish up your food on a thick sheet of coated paper that acts as a plate and eat up. It was pretty fantastic. Definitely one of our favorite memories from Texas.

Brian and Claudia's property

Mike's uncle and aunt have a beautiful piece of property outside of Fredericksburg, and they are in the process of building a home on it. We got a sneak peek tour, and it was absolutely gorgeous. Claudia's attention to detail and design is inspiring, and everything about their home is so thoughtful. It was a treat to walk through the unfinished rooms and hear them talk about their vision for the space. Afterwards, we walked around the property and admired all of the work Brian has put into it already. We are planning to see them again next year for the solar eclipse, so it will be great to get to see everything finished.

When we told people we were going to Austin, they wanted to know why. I guess maybe it's not as obvious of a destination spot as, say, San Francisco or New York City, but I would definitely give it two thumbs up and go back again. There were things we would have liked to see that we didn't have time for and, more importantly, things we wanted to eat. We were so impressed with how nice and friendly everyone was--I don't know if any of my babies have ever received as much positive attention as Silas did in Austin. Thanks for showing us a good time, Texas!

(And a special thanks to my parents who watched our kids while we were away. This trip would not have been possible without their generosity!)

(And final side note: I know it looks like I'm wearing the exact same outfit during the entire trip. I maybe didn't plan for the cold temps as well as I should have so ended up wearing my one and only sweatshirt most of the time.) 

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