Not only is Austin the Live Music Capital of the World, it is home to some pretty cool hidden gems that even some Austinities may not know about.
From little-known eateries to upscale hotels and even virtual reality entertainment, there are so many wonderful and weird things to do in Austin. Whatever it is you prefer, there’s something to suit everyone. Here’s a roundup of gems worth getting acquainted with to give you a real taste of Austin life.
Tip: Check for opening times/COVID restrictions at all venues during the pandemic.
Archer Hotel in Austin’s Domain
Combining the best of a lux boutique hotel with Texas chic, Archer Hotel in Austin’s Domain upscale shopping destination, is an eight-story boutique hotel fit for any type of stay. Whether you’re a couple looking to get away for a romantic night, a group of girls wanting a safe party weekend or a small family, the Archer offers so much!
Upscale, yet Texas, touches from the cascading chandelier in the lobby to the brown leather walls in the elevators to the funky purple and pink house shoes in the bathrooms, Archer has everything we want and need. Read more about all the reasons we love Archer in a previous pre-pandemic article here. Not to mention, because it’s in the heart of the Domain, you have hours and hours of window shopping and exploring right out the front door.
For a real culinary treat, start your day with breakfast at Archer’s signature restaurant— Second Bar + Kitchen, led by celebrated chef David Bull. Start with a healthy grilled pineapple yogurt parfait featuring mixed berries, candied pecans and mint. Then, for a hearty start to your day, revel in the Texas benedict with pulled pork and jalapeno corn muffin, topped with a chorizo gravy. If you’re feeling on the sweet side, the banana bread pudding french toast will have you feeling sunny!
Time to Play
Aldrich Street is a hip and fun-filled town center where the old Robert Mueller Municipal Airport served Austin up until 1999. This vibrant bustle of activity sits in the master-planned community called Mueller. Couples or families can easily enjoy an entire fun-filled day around Aldrich Street. Along with its beautiful and buzzing parks (both family- and dog-friendly) and award-winning playscape, there’s also street art. The 10 miles of trails make it a great place to start the day with a workout and spend the remainder of the day having fun.
In partnership with the City of Austin and developers Catellus, the area began to take shape in 2004, with the “greenest” H-E-B, the Ronald McDonald House to serve Dell Children’s Hospital and 700 acres of developed land. It’s expected that 15,000 people will live and work in Mueller when the project is complete, among 15,000 planted trees.
Visitors will want to check out retailers such as Lila + Beth (the owner is a resident of Mueller), Witchcraft Bottle Shop (where you can find the very best of Texas craft beer), Lady Quackenbush’s Cakery (offering customized cakes and a delectable bakery) and plenty of others.
Aldrich Street also features the Thinkery children’s museum, an Alamo Drafthouse movie theater and a wide pedestrian paseo full of fun stops like Lick Honest Ice Creams. In fact, you’ll find 40 eateries/restaurants like Colleen’s Kitchen (also a local) and B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub (which was actually built in Ireland and shipped over) here.
One of the most exciting finds at Aldrich Street was a small vegan cafe called Rebel Cheese, sadly currently closed for dine-in but open for take out and delivery. Their cheese board wowed us with amazing soft cheeses like blueberry cheddar, sundried tomato and truffle chevre, paired with a chilled chardonnay. After that, try their Bacon Brie & Me or The Grinder sandwich. Vegan or not, you’ll be hooked!
Jessie Andrews Park is a pentagonal-shaped park in the northeast of Mueller. In addition to the octopus sculpture, the park will feature an outdoor dining area with space for occasional food trucks, a nature-inspired playscape, shaded strolling paths, tables for games such as chess and checkers, restrooms, bike racks, a live performance space, and more.
Sandbox, a state-of-the-art virtual reality entertainment complex in The Domain in Austin opened February 2020. This futuristic VR experience for groups of up to 6 (the more people, the more fun) where you can see (even though they look like robots) and physically interact with everyone inside (you can heal your teammates by touching their shoulder).
Choose one of five worlds to be immersed in, such as Amber Sky where your team battles aliens. Each game is a unique experience. The Curse of Davy Jones is a thrilling treasure hunt on the high seas. Or try Deadwood Mansion, an intense zombie survival experience. These exclusive worlds will make you feel like you’re living inside a game or movie.
The visit begins by choosing your game name and putting on wristbands and shoe bands with sensors. Then, you’ll be fitted with a vest and headgear. Once the experience starts, you’ll be in another world.
Get your vittles
Taco Bronco is a taqueria barbecue trailer from the award-winning Micklethwait Craft Meats team, that sits in a tree-lined backyard of Batch Craft Beer and Kolaches on Manor Road. Nearby to Aldrich Street, head over to enjoy tasty Tex-Mex at its best. Feast on the Tres Hombres Platter featuring three tacos with rice, beans, chips and queso.
One platter will feed two people but you might not want to share once you taste the first bite. Pair that with a tasty craft beer from Batch and you’ve got the ideal afternoon/ evening with kids and dogs welcome.
Chef-owned and operated, District Kitchen on Anderson Lane is a dining event not to be missed. The team sources locally whenever possible, such as cheese from Antonelli’s and bread from Easy Tiger. Since they also specialize in cocktails, you might want to visit at a time you can imbibe to get the full experience.
Start with the hummus duo served with pita and veggies or the shrimp and avocado, blending shrimp, cucumber, avocado, tomato, roasted sweet potato with a coconut lime vinaigrette. If you’re aiming for brunch, try the Heart Breaker, biscuits topped with duck fat gravy, bacon, shishito peppers, cheddar, onions and two eggs. If you’re in the mood for an entree, something with the perfect twist is the Pimento Cheeseburger, topping brisket with pimento cheese and all the fixin’s.
Cover: Archer’s Classic King Guest Rooms provide iconic floor-to-ceiling photo murals and king platform beds. Courtesy photo
Marika Flatt is the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine. This travel pro loves to hit the road but knows there’s nothing better than being home—especially when you live in the heart of Texas. You can hear her “Weekend Trip Tips” on the statewide NPR show, Texas Standard.