Vacation to ATX during the Pandemic
I took a trip to Austin, TX, in October with my boyfriend, Rick, and my dog, Noodle, during the pandemic and this is what we did.
We flew out of Atlanta into Austin on a direct flight with Southwest. It was my first time flying southwest with Noodle, my emotional support animal. It was also my first time flying Southwest during the pandemic. I’ve flown with Delta since.
Southwest only requires a letter from your doctor that prescribes you an ESA. Other airlines, like Delta, require additional paperwork such as vet records and acknowledging that your dog is well behaved and listens to your instructions. Everything went smooth with Southwest checking in and boarding.
Because Southwest only requires a doctor’s note, we ran into a few other dogs that didn’t listen to their owner. Great example of why it’s so important to have your dog trained if traveling. Noodle ignored the other dogs that would bark at him. I also made sure to have a tighter leash on Noodle around these dogs. It really makes everyone involved uncomfortable when a dog acts up in an airport. And when I say act up, I mean a dog not being attentive to their owner: focused on the other dog more than the owner. If you travel with your dog or have ever considered it, make sure your dog is well trained for an airport environment. It will make things easier on you and those around you.
All airports seem to have a mask requirement. Delta’s aircraft definitely felt cleaner than Southwest because they notify you that your plane has been sanitized. I’m not sure what Southwest’s sanitation protocol is. Regardless I felt safe with my mask on while traveling. I was already a germaphobe before covid so washing my hands and hand sanitizer were already part of my Airport routine.
Upon arriving we picked up our rental car and headed to our Airbnb in East Austin.
If you’ve ever looked for an Airbnb that’s dog friendly, then you know the options are slim pickings. Since Noodle is an ESA, I search for places I like (without the pet friendly option on) and message them privately. I ask if they would be open to hosting a well behaved ESA. This may work in your favor even if your dog isn’t an ESA. If you’ve got a well behaved dog, let them know and just see if it works. This one Airbnb said yes to hosting Noodle. They do not typically accept dogs but felt comfortable hosting us after I assured Noodle wouldn’t make a mess. I personally think it’s better to be transparent with a host than sneaking in your dog and getting hit with the fees afterwards. Best to be comfortable in a place that knows you have a dog with you.
We woke up Wednesday morning and went straight to Barton Springs Bike Rentals where we rented two Hybrid bikes. We did not need a reservation. Noodle stayed at home for this adventure. We biked the 10-mile Lady Bird Lake Trail around the lake. It was a great way to explore the city upon arriving and a great workout too. It helped familiarize the city. Wonderful views with different perspectives along the trail. The trail allowed us to see a lot of Austin. We detoured off the path on to Congress Ave. and rode up the street to see the Capital. It took us about an hour and a half to complete the 10-mile loop.
We returned our bikes and stopped at a food truck called Granny’s Tacos for lunch. Greasy but sooo good. Rated 5 stars on Yelp, we had to try this place out. We were starving from our bike ride and these tacos hit the spot! We got the Migas, Picadillo, Abuela, Alambre and Champechano tacos. Our favorite was the Alambre taco which was loaded with steak, bell peppers, chorizo, onion, bacon, jalapeño, cheese and avocado. Delish!
After lunch we wanted to spend some time outside next to water since it was 96° outside. A lot of watering hole are closed because of covid, you need a reservation or they’re dried up from the heat. We went to Barton Springs since you don’t need a reservation to access the creek. The water temperature at Barton Springs is 68–70° year round so it was a great spot to cool off. Noodle got to splash around and cool off too. He loved it! We rented a kayak from Zilker Park Boat Rentals. We did not have a reservation and Noodle was able to join in the front of the kayak. We paddled down Barton Springs until it opened up into Lady Bird Lake. We kayaked down Lady Bird Lake as we sipped on our lemonade vodka that we packed. It was beautiful weather on the lake and lots of people were out enjoying it too. We saw lots of turtles on our kayak ride.
We went home to freshen up and get ready for dinner at Contigo where we had an outdoor reservation. Noodle joined us. We met up with my good friend Maxie and enjoyed cocktails, an appetizer and a delicious meal. The Guave Margaritas were delicious. I could have gone without the queso but the entrees were fire. I ordered the Grilled Tri-Tips, Rick ordered the Smash Burger and Maxie got the Fried Catfish Sandwich. We all thought our meals were delicious and finished our plates. Not only was the food and drinks great, the environment was great too. Tables were social distanced and waiters wore masks. Contigo felt like a safe place to dine.
We ordered breakfast tacos from Veracruz on Thursday morning. Every person I asked for food recommendations said we had to get tacos from Veracruz. We got the Migas Originales, Migas Poblanas, Egg and Bacon, El Sancho, and Al Pastor tacos. Our favorite was the El Sancho taco which was stuffed with cheesy chorizo and eggs. Really good tacos and would rank them up there with Granny’s Tacos. The tortillas are homemade and taste so fresh.
Later that day we ventured out to Lake Travis to zipline at Lake Travis Zipline Adventures. Reservations were required in advance and Noodle stayed home for this.
It was advised to wear masks when you weren’t able to social distance. The zip line guides wore masks the entire time. Before entering their building, hand washing was required as well as temperature checks. We wore our masks for the majority of the adventure. We took them off to actually zipline and also when we were able to socially distance ourselves from others while hiking. The company provided gear, a boat ride to the island where the ziplines are, and plenty of water along the way. There are a total of five ziplines and the last three are the fastest and longest zip line in Texas. The first two lines were short and easy whereas the last three were trillers.
I opted for fashion over function and wore my Birkenstock’s which wasn’t ideal for hiking and ziplining but I made it through with both shoes on my feet. Close toe shoes are highly recommended. There was quite a bit of of hiking to the base of each zipline. The hiking was all uphill. About a mile of hiking when you combine all the walking. The longest hike was the last one to the highest, fastest zip line that was 2,200 ft long. The views were incredible over Lake Travis. It was a great way to see Lake Travis without renting a boat or visiting a park.
Fried chicken was on our mind for dinner so we ordered from the food truck Spicy Boys. Zilker Brewing and Spicy Boys share the same lot. You can sip on beer and order chicken from Spicy Boys. We called our order in and still had to wait so we got a beer from Zilker while we waited. We brought our food back to the Airbnb to eat.
The first bite was the best bite. We both got Fried Chicken which came with a five piece drum and thigh with signature spicy seasoning, sweet chili-honey sauce, fried shallots, scallions and lime. For our sides, we ordered tater tots and Som Tam which is a shredded green papaya salad marinated in tamarind, garlic, lime juice and soy sauce. It was all delicious! Good and tasty fried chicken with a thick, crunchy batter.
Started Friday morning at Sawyer and Co. for breakfast. Noodle was able to join us. We had an outdoor reservation but it wasn’t needed since we were the only ones there. This place is so cute! I had a blast having a mini photoshoot with Noodle since we had the entire outside section to ourselves.
Their food has a Cajun flare. We both got the 2 egg breakfast. Rick got the andouille sausage and I got the boudin. The sausage was delicious and the boudin had too much rosemary for my liking.
After breakfast we ventured out to the Hamilton Pool Reserve which was about an hour west of Austin. I made a reservation online a few weeks before our trip. No dog’s allowed so Noodle stayed at the Airbnb. This place exceeded my expectations. It was short hike, about .25 miles, down to the pool reserve. Typically people are allowed to swim in it but they are not allowing swimming because of covid. The reserve was so much bigger than I expected. You could walk completely around the reserve. Masks were advised to be worn when passing other people. The reserve was pretty big so social distancing wasn’t a problem.
We picked Noodle up after the reserve and went to Vinaigrette for lunch. I got the All Kale Caesar salad and Rick got the Asian Chopped Salad. Vinaigrette has a huge outdoor seating area with tables socially distanced. Waiters sanitized the chairs and tables between guests. This place was more expensive than the other food we ate. The salads averaged $17 with no added protein. Salad was alright, probably wouldn’t be back unless someone else was paying for my meal!
After lunch we looked for a few murals within the city. There were two right by our lunch spot. We checked out the “I love you so much” mural and was sad to see it had been replaced with a sponsored “I love voting so much.” The wall art was not spray painted like the original. I am all about voting but I didn’t like the original art had been replaced by something that’s sponsored.
The Greetings from Austin mural was great! There were several people taking photos at this one so we were able to get a group photo. The sun was facing the mural too which is always a bonus. We visited around 1pm. There was a previous French bakery next door so I stopped for some macaroons. The funfetti macaroon was delicious!
We drove by the “Hi, how are you” mural and checked out UT’s campus.
We then headed up to Mt. Bonnell to check out the views of the city. This was a short hike up to the view. I’d say less than .25 miles. Easy to get to with gorgeous views of the city. The drive to and from Mt. Bonnell felt like driving through the Hills in Los Angeles. I never knew Austin was so hilly.
We decided our last meal was going to be from Saigon Le Vendeur which is a Vietnamese food truck. We looked up a brewery nearby and drank a few beers at Hops & Grain until dinner time. We tried Ales for ALS which was a heavier IPA and also Fine Time which was a lighter lager. Both were great!
We finished our beers, picked up dinner and went to the Airbnb to eat. We both got the Spicy Chicken Vermicelli Bowl as well as the Shrimp Spring Rolls. This ended up being our favorite meal of the trip! It was so flavorful, not too spicy, and the noodles were so refreshing. It left you feeling a good type of full.
After dinner, we walked Noodle and ran into a front yard jazz band called Soul Wagon. This was our first time hearing live music since the pandemic so we sat down on the curb and joined all the other neighbors listening to the front yard jazz. The band plays front yard jazz every Friday night. It was such a pleasant surprise for the last night of our trip.
Our flight was at 10am so we picked up breakfast tacos from Juan In A Million right when they opened at 7am. We ordered two of the chorizo and egg tacos and two of the sausage and egg tacos. I’m not sure if we were taco’ed out at this point but neither of us thought the tacos were anything special. We made our way to the airport and checked in with Southwest. The three of us traveled back to Atlanta and still had most of the day Saturday to spend in Atlanta.
Austin is such a fun city that is passionate about music, dogs, food and nature. There’s really something for everyone in Austin! I recommend bringing your dog if you can. The city is so dog friendly and there are plenty of activities you can do with your dog.
Covid is still alive in Austin. I did not see any indoor seating available. Masks were worn by employees at restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, breweries, food trucks, etc. Masks were also suggested to be worn if going inside anywhere. We wore our masks unless we were able to safely socially distance outside. There was never a point in the trip where I felt uncomfortable about my safety. Austin seems to be taking the pandemic seriously as a city and I felt safe visiting during the pandemic.