This is the final part of my travel posts from my US trip in Feb/March earlier this year. After New Orleans it was time for Texas! Honestly I didn't really know what to expect but I ended up absolutely loving the place, especially Austin. We were very lucky that Mark had made friends with a Houston local through his work so we got all the hot tips for the best places to go (mostly to eat) in both Houston and Austin. Our new friend's girlfriend was also vegetarian which meant the recommendations were perfect for us, and we caught up with them for dinner while we were in town and had such a lovely time.
The main reason we came to Houston was to visit the Space Centre, so we only had one night there before driving to Austin the following day once we were done at the Space Centre.
I didn't realise how much there was to do and now I wish we'd had a bit more time to explore as Houston was a lot cooler than I was expecting.
Barnaby's Cafe, 1801 Binz St
The first thing we did after we landed and sorted out our accommodation was get some lunch. Mark's friend recommended this place to us and it was SO GOOD. Those waffle fries with the cheesy sauce were incredible.
Apparently Barnaby's is known to be a LGBTQI friendly restaurant which is really cool because businesses don't often take a stance on things like that. They also had a sticker on their front window saying that they don't allow concealed carry guns on the premises... when in Texas!
Houston Museum of
5555 Hermann Park Drive
Houston has an entire museum district that was luckily within walking distance of our AirBNB. Of course we didn't have time to do everything, so we picked this one for our only afternoon in Houston and it didn't disappoint.
They had a special exhibit about mummies which obviously covered Egyptian mummies as well as specimens that were only about 100 years old. It was pretty intense at times but made for a really interesting afternoon.
Hopdoddy Burger Bar, 4444 Westheimer Rd
This is where we went for dinner with our new friends. It's a Texas burger chain that started in Austin that is apparently super popular. They also have special Texas softdrinks including a pink cactus one (with free refills of course), but my favourite was the vanilla soda.
Grand Prize, 1010 Banks St
A cool little bar we went to after dinner that happened to be around the corner from our AirBNB. It's got a relaxed vibe with lots of fairy lights and a jukebox that gets a good workout.
SPACE CENTRE HOUSTON
1601 E NASA Pkwy
We were both super excited about visiting the Space Centre because like I said it was the reason we came to Houston. I kind of knew what to expect because I've also been to the Kennedy Space Centre in Orlando, but of course there were some definite highlights.
The most obvious one is the misson control room. We're all familiar with the phrase, "Houston we've got a problem," well this is Houston! You actually get to go to the mission control room that was used during the Apollo 11 moon landing, as well as all the other Apollo missions, the Gemini missions and a bunch of shuttles. There's also a TV screen showing the currently active mission control room where they're actually monitoring the ISS today.
Like the Kennedy Space Centre, they have a moon rock that you can touch, so now I've touched 2 out of the 8 available to the public in the world! They also have an actual Mars meteor rock that you can touch too - super cool!
Glazed, 1333 Old Spanish Trail
This is a Houston-only place that makes doughnuts fresh to order. If you like your breakfast fucking intense you can get a glazed croissant sandwich, or a glazed doughnut grilled cheese with bacon. It made me feel pretty conservative sticking with the Cinnamon Toast Crunch flavour!
what to do
I had heard from lots of people that Austin was really cool, but even then it went beyond my expectations. I absolutely loved it there!
South Congress Ave
This is where most of the action is, at least in terms of cool boutique and vintage shops as well as a tonne of places to eat. We spent a fair bit of time here, particularly because it was really close to our AirBnB and we loved it.
Unless you want to stay on the Downtown side of the river (which is North, while this is South of the river), I'd definitely recommend trying to stay around here because you'll have everything at your doorstep.
There's no need to mention specific shops as you can easily walk the length of it and look at whatever takes your fancy within a couple of hours.
Given that Austin is the capital of Texas we figures we'd walk up Congress St to the Texas Capitol Building and have a look around.
Graffiti Park, 1008 Baylor St
Our friend mentioned this Graffiti Park which is West of downtown. There's a bit of a view from the top but I wouldn't say it's a must see if it's out of the way and you don't have a car.
Waterloo Records, 600 N Lamar Blvd
The reason we went to the area is because Waterloo Records is around the corner from the Graffiti Park, which is a really cool record store with lots to look at.
Modcloth, 200 W 2nd St
I didn't even know this was a thing, but there's a real life Modcloth store that we happened to walk past, so I insisted on stopping in since I have browsed their website so many times over the years.
White Horse Tavern, 500 Comal St
A woman working in a convenience store on South Congress heard our accents and we got talking about where we should go out in Austin. All along East 6th is just bar after bar, but she said if we wanted something more relaxed we should check out the White Horse Tavern which is waaay up the East end. We got there just before a free (except for tips) swing dance class started, so we joined in and learned a few moves which was definitely something different for both of us, but we had a lot of fun.
What to EAt
1822 S Congress Ave
Oh man, Torchy's. Basically Mark's friend gave us exactly the right number of food recommendations to cover us for every lunch and dinner we had in Austin except one, which meant we got to pick our favourite to double up on, and it was Torchy's.
They've got a bunch of meaty tacos, but these are the 3 vegetarian options. There's a scrambled egg one with a fried mild chili, a fried Portobello mushroom with beans and corn and a deep fried avocado. This is Tex-Mex at its best!
Chuy's, 1728 Barton Springs Rd
You see that white sauce? Oh man. When we sat down our server put some chips and a bowl of that sauce in front of us and we ate so much of it we filled up and had to share a burrito for lunch! It's their creamy jalapeno sauce which neither of us would have picked in a million years because we don't do spicy food, but it's not spicy at all and it tastes unbelievable!
Doggie Style, 603 W Live Oak St
Texas is crazy about food trucks! But I'm not complaining because there was an all vegan food truck withing walking distance of our AirBnB with hot dogs and fries.
Arlo's, 900 Red River St
Arlo's is actually a food truck in the carpark of a bar called Cheer Up Charlie's. We ended up taking our food inside because it started raining, but the fake bacon on these burgers was exceptional (although the patty was not). The bar was pretty fun too, Mark enjoyed their cocktails and I had a delicious ginger beer.
Home Slice, 1415 S Congress Ave
Everyone goes on about this pizza and it certainly didn't disappoint when it comes to size - everything's bigger in Texas! We stuck with the classic margherita and it was delicious.
212 E 6th St
I first became obsessed with Voodoo when I had them (several times) when I was in Portland a few years ago, so I was stoked when I found out they had a location in Austin.
I've tried quite a few and I think my favourites are the voodoo guy (pictured) because he's filled with this incredible raspberry jam, and the peach fritter with cream cheese icing. My memory told me they were the best doughnuts I'd ever eaten and I still stand by that.
Aside from the obvious, two more things that put them ahead of the rest are the really cute pink boxes you get your doughnuts in, and the fact that they sell little milk cartons because that is the perfect accompaniment to a doughnut! I haven't tried any of them but they also have vegan doughnuts on the menu if you were wondering.