Since we embarked on this journey of home ownership last July, we’ve put a lot of time and energy into renovating our 1890s fixer upper. Despite all the extra work we’ve temporarily taken on, we strive to maintain a balance of fruitfulness and abiding. So in the beginning of March, it was time to walk away, let our contractors do their thing, and hit the road!

We’ve been interested in checking out Austin, Texas for several years now, particularly because of friends and family who live there and love it (and convinced us we’d love it too). We finally made it happen last month–and as a reno couple who looks up to Chip and Joanna Gaines, of course we added Waco to the itinerary!

Day 1 :: Thursday :: North Austin

Fresh off the plane, we had one thing in mind: eat TexMex. Our friends Whitney and Robin met us at a local Trudy’s restaurant for Mexican martinis and SUCH good food. I had a chicken-stuffed fried avocado with refried black beans that I’m now craving all over again.

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Day 2:: Friday :: Salado, Waco (Magnolia), & Austin (The Domain)

Friday morning, Matt and I kicked the day off with Chick-fil-a (because I have to eat Chick-fil-a when I travel…even if a few franchises finally opened in Michigan…), then we made our way toward Waco.

We made a pitstop for coffee in a village called Salado. The place we chose was called Lively. It turned out to be a buzzing little cafe with all kinds of intriguing food options (but, Chick-fil-a). The prices were surprisingly low and the coffee was perfect. Fueled for Magnolia!

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Once we completed our hour-and-a-half trek from Austin to Waco, I kept an eye out my passenger window for those famous Magnolia silos. But just like Chip and Joanna Gaines, those silos were so unassuming. They weren’t the first thing I noticed in Waco, and in fact, they kind of snuck up on me in their modesty as we turned a random corner. And I like them even more for it.

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And behind the modest first-look, absolute grandeur. I couldn’t put my camera down. There’s much more to share about our trip to Magnolia, and you can find it here.

After our venture to Magnolia, Whitney and Robin showed us around The Domain–which is basically a big, beautifully-designed outdoor mall with upscale shops and restaurants. (Austin friends, does that description fit the bill?) We ate at a place called The Yard House, which boasts over 100 taps and 100 dishes. (It’s a chain, but the one closest to Grand Rapids is in Chicago, and I hadn’t heard of it before.) They have a drink size called a “half yard”, and this is what it looks like:

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Day 3 :: Saturday :: Austin (South Congress)

South Congress quickly became my favorite part of Austin. If you’re from Grand Rapids, think busier, bigger Eastown with an excellent view of downtown.

Our first exposure to South Congress was with our cousins Jeff and Rachel. They had won an outing for four to Otoko, a 12-seat, 20-course omakase restaurant. (Think Jiro Dreams of Sushi. We feel so spoiled that Jeff and Rachel chose to share such a special experience with us!)


This food experience was truly the very best I’ve ever had. We swapped our wine pairings for six sake pairings to enjoy throughout our meal. Everything was presented to us in writing in personalized menus–super helpful for following along with what it was we were putting into our mouths!

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If I had to choose a favorite dish, it would probably be the white sea bass with irizake. The most interesting dish was our very first–it included sawagani (Japanese freshwater crab), which we were told to eat in one bite! I was a little hesitant to put an entire crab into my mouth in one bite, pincers, eyes, and all, but when our cousin Rachel said it was like a potato ship, my bravery kicked in. Rachel was right, it totally crunched and tasted like a yummy potato chip!




Day 4 :: Sunday :: Fredericksburg + Johnson City

On Sunday, we took a drive through Texas Hill Country to explore an old German town called Fredericksburg. We strolled through some shops and ate a meal, then made our way back toward Austin. We took one pit stop in Johnson City, at a place called the Hill Country Science Mill. The intent was to check out art by McKay Otto, but we ended up doing much more than that. The Science Mill is an awesome museum full of engaging activities, seriously for all ages. One of most interesting exhibits is called “cell phone disco”, and it features sensors that translate the electromagnetic waves from your cell phone into visible light. This was such an interactive place, and it kept us all entertained!


Day 5 :: Monday :: South Congress & Downtown Austin

On our last full day in Austin, we spent most of our time in South Congress and the downtown area. Matt and I started the day with bacon gruyere crepes at a June’s bistro, breakfast tacos at Jo’s, and smoothies at Juice Austin.


Whitney joined us later for lunch at Home Slice (because their pizza smell followed me around South Congress, and I just HAD to have it). But first, photos with Mr. Rogers. After sharing a few pizzas at Home Slice, Whitney took us into Big Top Candy Shop, where adults melt back into children.






We then drove downtown and used the energy from our sugar rush to walk up to a view.


It was windy. All the more fun walking up the hill.


We made our way to a couple places for happy hour drinks and snacks, and later met up with Robin for some good ol’ Texas barbeque. I must have been too hungry and thirsty to take any photos at that point!

A trip to Austin is well worth the ticket. We had such a great time doing what the locals do–and sprinkling in some touristy treks. We were happy to share our adventure with some friends and family, but even if you’re traveling solo, there’s enough to keep you entertained (and well fed…) in Austin, Texas.

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