A quick recap in case you’re just joining me here on the complete rundown of my lovely Austin adventures: we’re staying on South Congress, enjoying some donuts, seeing some amazing graffiti, and drinking some good beer. Now onto the rest of the trip!
I’m usually an over planner when it comes to vacation. I never want to miss anything exciting to do in whatever locale we happen to be visiting. But for some reason I didn’t feel the need to do that in Austin. So when it came down to Wednesday, we picked up the guide book and decided to explore a bit. We started off by visiting The Contemporary Austin. I was a little disappointed because I’ve heard it has a fantastic collection with stuff by Chuck Close and other amazing contemporary artists. Unfortunately it’s in the tiniest little space and they had a very limited selection on display. The exhibits they curated were wonderful, I just wish there was more. Fortunately I heard they’re working on getting into a bigger space so hopefully that helps.
After having lunch, we ventured over to the campus of University of Texas at Austin. I didn’t think we’d head over there but it’s such a big school and an important section of the city that I’m glad we did. Of course our first stop was the legendary football stadium. Being from a part of the country that is definitely not hugely invested in college football I was amazed by the Longhorn stadium. It’s bigger than the Philadelphia Eagles’ stadium so it just blew me away. I’d love to be there on game day but I also think I’d be a little overwhelmed.
Our second stop after taking a very sweaty walk around campus was the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. This was my first visit to a presidential library and it was amazing. I didn’t know too much about LBJ before visiting besides his involvement in the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. I learned so much about him as a person, his ideas, his presidency, and about the 1960s. They had a fantastic exhibit called “Sixty in the 60s” which highlighted sixty influential people from the 1960s. There were some really interesting artifacts that highlighted accomplishments and spoke to who each person was from Charles Schultz to John F. Kennedy. As a former museum major I just wished I had been the one to think of such an interactive, informative, and engaging exhibit. They even integrated 60s music that made me want to dance in the gallery.
What really blew my mind was the sheer size of the library. It was a beautiful mid-century modern building that reminds me of the architecture of Yamasaki on the Princeton University campus. You aren’t able to access five floors because they are filled with archives of all of LBJ’s papers and artifacts. This just goes to show what a hardworking and dedicated president he was. The Sixties exhibit was on the first floor and we traveled up to the top floor to see a recreation of LBJ’s oval office, some of the family’s pieces from the White House, and Lady Bird’s office that she actually used when she served as a trustee for the University. I think that floor was my favorite. I love when a museum recreates whole rooms to transport you back in time. I also loved the view from Lady Bird’s office. You could see the stadium and all of the Austin skyline.
The last big Austin thing we did is so epic it needs to be split between this post and my post on What We Ate. Nick and I were crazy enough to wait in line for some of the epic brisket and other bbq from Franklin BBQ. Now if you don’t know anything about Texas bbq or bbq at al then you don’t know that Franklin BBQ with Aaron Franklin at the helm was crowned the best bbq in the country. That in turn makes it the best bbq in the world because who else besides us crazy Americans smokes meat over a pit of burning oak and then wipes it down with a concoction of spicy sauces? So because of this distinction people come from far and wide to sample some of Aaron Franklin’s meat as his humble restaurant in East Austin. Nick and I debated but decided bbq lovers such as us could not pass up the opportunity to taste the pinnacle of all bbq.
Deciding to visit Franklin bbq is not as easy as making a reservation or even venturing over to a different part of town to pick up takeout. It is a full on commitment. People often arrive outside its doors at 6 a.m. to begin the line. Did I mention the restaurant doesn’t open its doors until 11? It is not uncommon to wait for four hours to get your meat. Which in the end was what it ended up being for us. We arrived around 10 a.m. and were even further back from where I stood to take the above picture. Most people brought camping chairs and coolers and it was sort of like a big party under the hot Texas sun. By the time we got to the front door and were almost in the ac we had been waiting almost 3 hours. By the time we sat down to eat with a heaping plate of greasy brisket, sausage, turkey, and ribs it was 3 hours and 45 minutes since we stepped in line. Eating at (and waiting in line for) Franklin Barbecue was probably one of the craziest things I’ve ever done for a meal. But I will admit, it was worth it.
That concludes our short but sweet adventures in Austin. This trip was different from our past adventures but in a good way. I feel like visiting Austin and Texas was like visiting a whole new country with different customs, food, and people. I am counting down the days until Nick and I take our next trip!