Our last full day in Austin was Wednesday, November 21. After another yummy breakfast, we took the Suite Ride shuttle to the Austin Visitor Center.
It was fantastic! Our guide kept us informed and entertained for well over the advertised two hours as he brought us all over Austin. Our first stop was at the Capitol. We'd already been there, of course, but we learned so much more on our tour.
Our next stop was at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery. (HOPE stands for Helping Other People Everywhere.) This unique place is a "paint park," developed to allow muralists, street artists, and community groups a place to paint large-scale displays.
It was really neat to explore....
... and even more fun to watch a new mural being born.
These artists told us they expect their finished work to be on display for less than a week before it's covered by someone else's art. While it is a shame that beautiful stuff is covered so quickly, how cool to be able to visit weekly and always see something completely different.
We learned that the HOPE Outdoor Gallery will be closing soon and that this location would become condos. Fortunately, the Outdoor Gallery will open at another location in Austin. Go see this location while you still have the chance!
Austin is famous for its murals. Many of them weren't walking distance from our hotel, so I was very glad The Real Austin Tour had a photo stop at this one (and drove by several others).
Our guide took us along Rainey Street, Sixth Street, and the original Whole Foods Market before getting us treats from Hey Cupcake!
We had a great time with Austin Detours and highly recommend taking a tour with them.
When our tour ended, our guide dropped us off back at the Austin Visitor Center. We walked down the street to Moonshine Grill for lunch. They serve "innovative down-home cooking in a casual atmosphere, steeped in Austin, Texas' historic Waterloo Compound." We'd been warned that the portions were huge, so we ordered two entrees for the three of us. But we hadn't expected the seasoned popcorn to snack on before our food arrived, nor the huge basket of piping hot cornbread muffins. So much food! Here you can see my portion of the pimento cheeseburger (my first - yum!), baked macaroni with bacon gratin, and a cornbread muffin. We also had chicken-fried steak and fries. Everything was absolutely delicious and we left absolutely stuffed. In fact, Trevor and I skipped dinner because we were still so full after eating at Moonshine Grill!
We took a leisurely walk north toward the Texas State Library, where we'd be starting the Urban Adventure Quest. I feel like I've talked about UAQ enough times that everyone reading this knows how awesome it is, but if not, feel free to read about the 12 Quests we've already done and loved. Anyway, if you're new to UAQ, it is a mobile phone scavenger hunt, currently in 69 locations (with more being added all the time). Every time we've done a Quest, no matter how well we thought we knew a city, we've ended up seeing things we hadn't noticed, visiting places we hadn't been, and learning things we didn't know. It's always a debate for us - do the UAQ early in the trip before we know anything about a city, knowing that it will give us a great overview, or do the UAQ late in the trip when we already have the overview and can fill in with new information. For the Austin Downtown Quest, it worked out best to do it at the end of our trip.
From the Library, the Quest took us to the Capitol. As it was our third visit, we knew right where to go! There was no water in this fountain, which was good since we needed to sit there in order to determine what had been altered from a photograph to solve one of the challenges.
As usual, the UAQ was great fun and also quite challenging.
We did very well - our first perfect score in quite awhile. We waited out two short downpours, had a bathroom break, and spent way too long on what should have been an easy question to rank at the top of the Leader Board, but we're very happy to be at #6 of all-time.
The UAQ ended at Lady Bird Lake, which is actually the near the starting point for the second of two Austin Quests. We'd hoped to have been able to do both, but it didn't work out for this trip, which means we'll need to return to Austin someday! We spent some time walking along the lake, then walked across the Congress Avenue Bridge.
This bridge is famous for the million bats who roost here and fly out every night en masse to eat. Well, not EVERY night. By early November, the bats migrate south for the winter, which means we missed them. Having experienced an impressive 250.000 bat flyout here in California, I would have loved to have seen one with four times the bats, but it was not to be. The next time we're in Austin, we'll make sure it's during bat season.
There was still so much to see and do in Austin, but our trip was nearing an end. We spent our final night at the DoubleTree, slept in, and enjoyed our final delicious breakfast at the 15th Street Cafe. We took our time packing. Because of an awesome promotion the DoubleTree was running (Save and Stay Late), check-out wasn't until 4:00 pm.
It was Thanksgiving Day, so I'd checked ahead to see what the bus schedule looked like. I was delighted to learn they were on a Sunday schedule and that our trip to the airport would be just as easy as our trip from the airport had been. Again, only $2.50 for our family of three. What a deal!
Our family had a fantastic time in Austin! I highly recommend taking a trip there to find out for yourself what an interesting and entertaining place it is.