Editor’s note: This post is part of a series themed to The Travel Effect, a national advocacy campaign created by the U.S. Travel Association. Visit Seattle is committed to promoting the importance of travel and we remind our hard-working team members with a “Spontaneous Getaways” program. Each quarter, we award one employee a trip of their choosing. We provide the transportation and allocate extra paid time off, they return rejuvenated and sometimes even write about their travel experiences. We hope this post inspires you to book your own trip soon.
Jenn Horenstein, my faithful “Wingman,” and I on the way to Austin. Photo: a selfie of course!
In the midst of planning the Visit Seattle Annual Holiday Breakfast event, I was lucky to have my name drawn in the Travel Effect Employee raffle for two round-trip airline tickets and some extra time off – perfect timing as I wrapped up the final details for the last event in 2013!
That night I went home and tried to decide what I wanted to do for my getaway. I immediately started researching warmer weather destinations including St. Lucia, Cancun and the likes. Unfortunately, with it being the holidays, most were blacked out for travel or the hotel prices were through the roof. Going back to the drawing board, I started thinking about places I have heard fun things about that I had never been to. I called up one of my close friends, Jenn Horenstein, and we picked Austin, Texas – a city I had heard great things about for nightlife, music scene and ease in getting around.
In order to get the most of our trip, I reached out to the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau team to find out about all of the cool places to go for a single lady and her “wingman.” They sent me oodles of information on where to go, what to see, where to stay, taxi information, best spas and more. Their website was a great resource for maps, tours and discounts. At this point, we were getting really excited – I think we both just needed to get away, especially with the stress of the holidays and work.
Packing for the trip. Photo by Kate Kurkjian.
The day before our trip we both received our check-in alert and decided that the upgrade option to first class was 100% worth every penny to kick the trip off right. That and a few other ladies’ weekend necessities.
We boarded the plane and were greeted by one of the nicest flight attendants I have ever met. She was almost like our personal mixologist…can’t have a real girls’ weekend without a fun cocktail or two!
Great jazz and BBQ at Lambert’s. Photo by Kate Kurkjian.
We landed in Austin in the late afternoon and headed to the hotel, the Hyatt Place Downtown. After settling in, we hit the streets to get a feel for the town. There were tons of cute restaurants, bars and boutiques nearby. We were located a block from the convention center so I can imagine there is normally a lot of convention attendee traffic in the area. Finally, we stumbled upon a place called Lambert’s. Located in this cute historic building, there was such a cool, busy vibe coming from inside. There we enjoyed a few happy hour cocktails, amazing BBQ small bites and then the music of one of Austin’s many local jazz bands. We talked to people around us about where to go out nearby. We heard that West 6th is a little more of an older scene, while East 6th was the younger college crowd.
The “downtown donkey.” Photo by Kate Kurkjian.
So we set out to West 6th and found Little Woodrow’s. This entire time we were walking around with no coats and kept commenting on how great the weather was – a nice 55-60 degrees for most of the time we were there. At Little Woodrow’s we met a ton of people who were more than happy to share opinions on where to go. We also discovered that this place was a Seahawks bar, so we found our spot for the Sunday game. Jenn created a list of all of the yummy restaurants and fun local spots we had to try. Next stop on the way back to the hotel was a place that was a little more honky-tonk style, complete with a bull to ride and a huge dance floor for line dancing. A food truck stop finished the night off as we strolled down the street and passed by a donkey. I guess that would make sense because we are in Texas, right?
The next morning we slept in, got in a good workout, walked a little more around town to do some sightseeing and then started our spa day at a place called Milk and Honey. We had appointments to get pampered from head to toe and it was perfect – a great location near the hotel, a relaxation room for before and between treatments and very clean and well maintained. We found a local Mexican place for dinner and then headed back to the room to call it a night early.
The Alamo. Photo by Kate Kurkjian.
The third day brought a fun adventure. We rented a car and drove the 90 minutes to San Antonio, Texas to explore the Alamo, the Riverwalk and meet up with my family who lives there. This was two days before the Alamo Bowl Game was being played so the downtown area was busy with a lot of University of Texas and University of Oregon fans everywhere we turned. Both of these sites were definitely huge tourist attractions with a lot of souvenir shops and chain restaurants. My uncle and his family showed up to take us to a great local favorite. It was called Mi Tierra Café & Bakery and had amazing Mexican food, a mariachi band and was set in the middle of a year-round outdoor marketplace. The marketplace reminded me a lot of the Texas version of Pike Place Market with local foods, crafts and entertainment. I really enjoyed catching up with my family members, who I don’t get to see often enough. We headed back to Austin in the early evening, changed and then headed out for another night out on the town. We got to three spots that we had heard good things about, meeting new people all along the way. The Saxon Pub was one of the favorites, where we listened and danced to live music from the Shinyribs.
Dinner with my family in San Antonio.
Sunday was our last day in Austin before our early flight back home on Monday. Before we had to return the rental car we drove to an Austin hot spot that the locals RAVED about called TacoDeli, where there was a line 10 people deep. Worth the wait, too. Every bite of their breakfast burritos and homemade salsa selection was so delicious! Then back to Little Woodrow’s to watch the Seahawks game. It was fun talking to the other fans; a lot of them were transplants from Seattle to Austin and missed home. We shared stories of some of our favorite Seattle hang outs and even exchanged numbers with a couple of them for the next time they are back in the Northwest. We met a cute couple that had visited Seattle for the first time, got engaged at the Space Needle and then honeymooned there. They are excited to come back and we volunteered to be their tour guides. It was then time to go back to the hotel to pack and head to bed before our early flight.
Our Travel Effect trip was an amazing experience. Being open to trying both tourist attractions and finding out about some of the locals’ favorite hot spots really gave Jenn and I a great ladies’ weekend experience in Austin. We went in with a plan in mind, but nothing set in stone. I think that really helped us to enjoy so many different aspects of the city. The biggest take away: everyone was SO NICE in Austin. So many were willing to give us advice on what to do and not do and what we had to be sure not to miss.
I can’t wait to get back to Austin and enjoy more of their BBQ!