On our most recent trip to Austin, the hubby and I were discussing what makes Austin such an appealing vacation destination for us. He noted how ironic it was that Austin, the capital of one of the most conservative, “red” states, could be so…well, hippie. I’d never really thought of it that way, but I think that particular fact is part of what makes Austin so awesome. It has a little something for everyone, and a great sense of community to go along with it.
Although I tend to see a lot more strollers and bicycles than I do babywearers, that’s probably because, on our trips, we frequent places like Zilker Park, where strollers and bicycles can be more practical. I never get funny looks for babywearing though, and I’m far from the only one doing it. In fact, I’d say I probably get more funny looks for whipping out a bottle for my cloth-diapered, Beco’ed little girl than anything. Talk about incongruous, huh?
As I mentioned in my intro post, I’m a bit of an accidental natural parent. We got into the crunchy lifestyle because of severe Milk Soy Protein Intolerance in our oldest, which required a lot of vegan foods, and we delved deeper when our youngest proved to have Milk Soy Protein Allergies and extremely sensitive, eczema prone skin. So, although we are making an effort to transition our family, I wouldn’t say we are yet 100% granola. We use cloth diapers and wipes, babywear, make some of our own baby food, buy mostly organic, and avoid preservatives and artificial ingredients as much as possible, but we still occasionally eat at McDonalds and buy processed foods for convenience. So, that being said, I think the best way to illustrate the glorious breadth of lifestyle and acceptance in Austin is to give you a brief sample of a day there for our family.
On our last visit, we started the afternoon off with a carnivorous lunch at Mighty Fine Burgers, where my oldest expressed his disappointment at receiving a hot dog because there were no chicken nuggets (I’m pretty sure the kid would exist on chicken nuggets if we let him).
Afterwards, we enjoyed a trip to Zilker Park, where we played outside, rode the Zilker Zephyr (a fun little miniature train), watched clowns make balloon animals (ok, I admit, I tried NOT to watch the clowns…they kind of creep me out), and listened to musicians play.
Then, we headed back to the hotel to get checked in and swap out some cloth diaper gear, got back in the car, and headed out to do a bit of shopping. We spent most of our shopping time at The Natural Baby Company on South Congress, and then headed to Dominican Joe a few doors down for a late afternoon pick-me-up. After reconvening again in the hotel room, we had dinner at the loud and busy but super yummy North By Northwest. Huzzah for micro-brew! By this point, it was past the kids’ bedtime, and we had two super cranky monsters on our hands. Luckily, the Homewood Suites, where we were staying, was just a short drive away. Although it’s not in the heart of the action downtown, we like to stay on the North side of town, where it’s a bit quieter and we’re only a short drive from a variety of activities and restaurants. Since we drive in from Dallas and have a car, it works well for us. Plus, places like the Homewood have amenities, like a door between the bedroom and living room, at a more reasonable price. WIth a 3 year old and an 8 month old who still hasn’t gotten the memo that she can sleep through the night now, the fold out couch in the living room that can be shut off with a closed door is key to survival on our family vacations. Also, my son was pretty excited that there are donuts, scones, AND eggs for breakfast (his needs are simply, really).
The key to this story is that, not only were we able to enjoy the best of all worlds (burgers, nature, local artists/musicians, crunchy baby shopping, and local beverages), but everywhere we went, people were extraordinarily friendly, and there was a great sense of community. To me, Austin is a bit like being in a small town with big city perks. The cashier at Mighty Fine Burgers asked about our trip and offered advice on fun things for kids; we chatted with the family behind us on the train; I got cloth diaper tips from the Natural Baby Company owner and a veteran cloth diaper mama while our kids played together; and the other patrons made an effort to walk around the “sand castle” my son decided to build in the middle of the walkway while we were waiting for a table at North By Northwest.
So, whether you’re “I think someone might have dropped a speck of oat into this organic yogurt” crunchy or “I just broke my teeth trying to bite into this granola bar” crunchy, Austin has a little something for everyone. Stay downtown in the heart of the action, or head to the quieter North side of town for a more suburban feel. Whatever choices you make, you can always count on plenty of time outdoors (if you want it), and lots of family fun.