A Portlander's Guide to Austin, Texas

Take advantage of new Alaska Airlines nonstop flights to dig into our weird (and warm!) Texas counterpart.

By Sarah Hopwood January 22, 2016

Anne worner  town lake mq0gln

Town Lake in Austin, TX

Image: Anne Worner

Austin in January is basically Portland in July—but with better breakfast tacos.

The best part: Alaska Airlines is now offering a nonstop flight for as low as $319 roundtrip. Time to finally get down to the bottom of the whole “Who’s Weirder” debate. Here are the nine must-see places to extract the essence of Austin in a time-crunched weekend.

Water Bike on Town Lake

Immerse yourself in the downtown cityscape by getting on the lake that runs right through the middle of town. Follow small channels to little-known coves, peer up at the tourists merely walking on Austin’s bridges. Breathe deep and let that sun sink deep into your pasty PDX winter skin.

Pro Tip: When water biking with a friend, position yourselves directly across from each other, full charge ahead and see if you can high five whilst water biking. Props if you’re successful.

Drink Smoky Spirits at Whisler’s Mezcaleria Tobala

Get serious about your sprits at this Oaxacan-style mezcaleria on the way east side of East Sixth. If mezcal’s not your thing, head downstairs to the main Whisler's bar and order an Old Smokey—like an old-fashioned, but with house-made smoked maple syrup in place of sugar. If you spend a bit of time here, you might muster the courage to relive your college years on Dirty Sixth, Austin's de facto entertainment district. Think Bourbon Street meets senior year.

Pro Tip: If you have crowd anxiety, go on a weekday night. This whole street gets packed to the gills on weekends. 

Get Your Honky Tonk on at the Broken Spoke

Get down to the Austin’s most legendary dance hall for a night of two-stepping and ducking under drooping ceilings. Break in those new cowboy boots (the ones you couldn’t resist buying on your stroll through the South Congress shopping district, naturally) on the same floor that Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, and Willie Nelson got down on back in the '60s. Take a lesson in the Texas Two Step (8pm Wednesday-Saturday nights) and then stand back in awe and jealousy at the folks who’ve been doing this since they were in diapers. 

Pro Tip: When things get real heated on the dance floor, sit back and enjoy your pitcher of crazy-cheap Shiner Bock and just bask in the glow of the couples in their 70s who’ve still got the moves. #dancefloorgoals 

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The Broken Spoke

Take a Drive out to Enchanted Rock

It might be a bit of a haul (about 93 miles from Austin), but the views of the Texas hill country are well worth it. Plus, you’ll need to burn some serious calories on that hike before you stop by the absolute best BBQ joint in Texas, Cooper’s Old-Time Pit Bar-B-Que, on the way back to town.

Pro Tip: While at Cooper's, remember you’re in the boonies in Texas. Mind your environment—these are ultra-right wing Texas men with cowboy hats and possibly concealed weapons. 

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Enchanted Rock

Image: Boyd Brooks

Watch a Movie, Master Pancake-Style

Mystery Science Theater 3000 lives on at Master Pancake. You’ve dreamt of the day when your favorite comedians would make fun of those cheesy movies from the '90s, right? Well, what if you could watch those movies with a beer in hand, in a theater, with comedians on stage cracking jokes, forcing you to join in on the fun and wear ridiculous movie-themed hats? Now you can. 

Pro Tip: Ask your Airbnb host if he/she happens to know of a place where you could get something to “help with your glaucoma”… you know… so you can really enjoy the movie.

Peter Pan Mini Golf

This is mini golf like you’ve NEVER seen it. We’re talking weird, borderline scary, huge plaster models of the man-child himself, Peter Pan, and all the other adorably creepy characters who are (and are not in) the movie … like a T-Rex. The two 18-hole courses make the nightmares worth it and the memories will last a lifetime. For better or worse.

Pro Tip: Cash and checks only.

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Peter Pan Mini Golf

Image: NabeWise

Win Some Cold Hard Cash at Chicken Shit Bingo

For years, Austinites have two-stepped over to the Little Longhorn Saloon on Sunday afternoons to wait for a chicken to poo on the number that correlates to their bingo card.  Seriously. Get in on the fun Sundays 4pm-9pm.

Pro tip: Don’t think about it too much. Just go. See. Rejoice in this very weird story you can now tell all your friends. 

Eat some Chicken Tikka Masala at Whip In

Bask in the weird. This part-Indian food, part-convenience store, part-bar gem has some of the best Indian fare in town. 

Pro Tip: Give yourself plenty of time to figure out how to actually get to the building. You’ll see it from the freeway and think it should be easy, but it’s not.

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The Whip In

Image: Paul Narvaez

Hang out in the Beer Garden at ABGB

We have a ton of breweries in Portland. But how many have gardens that you and your dog can relax in during the soggy month of January? If you can’t get enough of the craft beer scene, also check out Craft Pride on Rainey St and grab a pizza on their back patio.

Pro Tip: Get a juicy, citrusy Day Trip Pale Ale at ABGB to honor your Austin weekend.

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