You’ve all heard about my friend Jake by now. He is, sincerely, one of the best people that I’ve ever met. This is why it breaks my heart to say that as of last Saturday morning he is now not 5.3 miles away, but 1093 miles away (yep, I google mapped it) in Indianapolis, IN.
As his gift to me before he left, however, he vowed to fulfill one of my resolutions with me. And, what better way to bid farewell to your fair city than to explore it as a tourist? The rules were simple, if it came recommended by any local, we would do it, as long as it fit into our budget. And thus began…
Resolution 3: Be a Tourist in (Our) Own City
Even as a seasoned Austinite, I’d never heard of Franklin Barbeque, but evidently it’s kind of a big deal. And, by “kind of” I mean its a really big deal. Its gotten publicity all over the city, state, and even the nation and anyone who HAS heard of it will tell you that its well worth getting in line at 9:30 a.m. and waiting the two and a half hours to get in for lunch. You heard that right.
I couldn’t figure out why we needed to leave at 10 a.m. to get lunch, but when we arrived at 10:30, we were greeted by a line that already looked like this:
But after finally getting inside the door (and narrowly missing a torrential downpour of rain!) the smell of dry rub, cracked pepper and pounds and pounds of smoked meat whisked any question of this place’s worth straight out the door behind us.
At the front of the line, we piled our trays with pulled pork, turkey, brisket, sausage and the very last 3 ribs in existence for the day, since they close when they sell out. Lucky us.
Let me just say, that the brisket here is legendary. I mean, I’m no expert, but I’ve had a lot of barbecue in Texas, and this stuff nearly knocked me off my bench. Especially paired with ESPRESSO BARBECUE SAUCE. Also, I usually preach that a barbecue joint is no place for white meat, but the turkey here ended up being my favorite part. Don’t knock the white meats at this place.
So, with full bellies and warm barbecue smoked hearts, we set off for more tourism.
And where do tourists start but the Austin Visitor’s Center?
With clouds that threatened to soak us at any moment and no idea where to start, an enclosed van that promised to show us Austin as we’ve never seen it before sounded like a brilliant starting point. So, we picked up our boarding passes and headed out to the van with our tour guide Chris…5 other inconsequential tourists…and, much to Jake’s delight, 2 model-worthy Australian chicks. Who says sightseeing is for fuddy-duddy tourists only? Certainly not these guys:
Our timing turned out to be perfect, because as soon as we took off the rain started falling, and while you’d think that it would kind of put a damper on things it was actually quite nice. Driving in the rain is already pleasant, but to have someone else driving in the rain while you see some of the most beautiful sights in Austin is even nicer.
The tour was impressive. We went all the way out to the hill country, which is arguably one of my favorite parts of Austin. Rolling hills, giant mansions, and some of the best nature views in the city. Then came back through UT Campus to learn about the school, the stadium, and the sculptures and art around campus. Back around downtown we checked out 6th street and the warehouse district.
I’ve been in Austin almost all my life and learned things about our fair city that I’d have never known. Some history, some sites I’ll have to come back to later (since the van didn’t stop anywhere), and most importantly some amazing little dives that came recommended by our guide. Turns out the east side, which I have vehemently avoided since–well, forever–has some of the best food and margaritas in the city.
Back at the visitors center we had to take a short break for some of Jake’s work business but came right back up to make a visit to the Museum of the Weird, which came recommended by Jake’s mother Holly.
The Museum of the Weird sits right on 6th street inside the Lucky Lizard gift shop, which is a pretty fantastic site on its own, but if you shell out the extra $8 you get access to shrunken heads, real human skeletons, large lizards, mutated animals, mummies, an apartment that used to be inhabited by Johnny Depp (who knew?) and a side show.
The sideshow was worth the $8 just by itself. This guy…well, he makes any and all of my masochistic friends look like pansies. He got straight down to business by thrusting his entire hand into a raccoon trap, having audience members tug and pull at it to prove it was real. Then, after a gruesome tale of tongues turning to something resembling hamburger meat, he wasted no time snapping his tongue into a mouse trap. THEN…as if it wasn’t enough that we could see him bleeding onto his shirt, he managed to hammer a large metal spike into his nasal cavity, and finished off the day by hanging a large crab from his eyelids by two fish hooks and having each and every one of us come up for a photo op (seen above).
It was slightly nauseating, but purely incredible, especially to that little creature in me that has a soft spot for the weird and messed up.
Next up, a trip down South Congress to check out the recommendation from our sightseeing tour guide: trying on some cowboy boots at Allen’s. Because, you know, it’s Texas
And what boots wouldn’t be complete without trying on some hats to match?
Post boot-shopping we just had one more stop to make. The local-famous Big Top Candy Shop where we picked up bulk candy and an egg creme for the ride home.
There are so many fantastic shops on South Congress, but after a long day of tourism, the candy shop was our number one priority and the one where you can really get the Austin flavor. Ha! See what I did there…?
There are so many more things to see and do in Austin, but we were touristed out by the time our candy was paid for. It’s really amazing how much of your city you don’t see, even when you live there. People always take for granted the things that have always been there, and the things that always will be, but playing tourist showed me that there’s always something you haven’t seen, and always something you haven’t learned.
So never stop seeking out something new, even when you think you’ve seen it all. Everyone thinks about how big the world is, how much there is to do and experience, but it’s easy to forget that even without going outside of the city limits there’s a whole world to see just within arm’s reach.