Meet the Explorer: Tameca Jones is an Austin-based musician serenading crowds as "The Queen of Austin Soul." She can easily be found performing in some of Austin's top music joints. Here are her favorite ways to spend a perfect day in Austin.
Stellar stimulation: In its short time open, Cosmic Coffee and Beer Garden has swiftly become one of Austin’s favorite places to kick it with coffee. Its huge patio, ample seating, and friendly atmosphere make locals flock to it religiously. The rainwater-fed koi pond, chicken coop, waterfall, and large herb garden create a peaceful, earthy vibe outside, while the interior, composed of repurposed metal and wood with 12-foot communal tables, creates a warm community for regulars and visitors alike.
24-karat magic: When I don’t feel like waiting for brunch to begin at 11 a.m., I go to 24 Diner. This popular post-boozy night spot has hip and friendly servers and meals that taste home cooked. My favorite is 24’s chicken and waffles, which are cooked to golden, 24-karat perfection. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.
Great grooves: Waterloo Records has been a part of Austin since 1982 and is the largest record store in town. This treasure chest filled with a great selection of vinyl, CDs, DVDs, and posters is a required visit if you are a music lover. There is something magical about holding a vinyl record and rubbing your fingers over its grooves. This iconic shop also has quirky souvenirs and gifts for you to take back home to your friends and family.
Picture book: Recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 Greatest Places of 2018, the Austin Central Library is an impressive space to explore and relax in. The library’s eclectic stairs, which made me hold onto the rail a little tighter than I normally would, feel like they were taken from a Harry Potter movie. Bravely walk the stairs (or take the elevators) to one of the six floors in this sun-soaked building. The library’s six levels include over 400,000 books, an amphitheater for cooking demonstrations, a loaner laptop vending machine, and bathrooms that use rainwater piped in from a cistern on the roof. The rooftop garden on the top floor gives you a picturesque view of the city and lake.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
By land or by lake: Lady Bird Lake is a 10-mile-long hike and bike trail that gives you some of the best views of Austin. You can explore the area on foot, on wheels, or by kayak. To work off the chicken and waffles eaten earlier, you can hike or rent a bike to travel on the trail. If you’d like to explore the lake, rent a kayak or a paddleboard and enjoy the serenity that surrounds you.
Vintage voyage: Start your vintage store journey up north and work your way down south. In north central Austin, swoon over the curated eclectic wares of Big Bertha’s Paradise Vintage. The store has breathtaking high-end couture clothing and jewelry that you will not find anywhere else. Owner Henry Tarin makes you feel like royalty with his flattering compliments and complimentary flutes of champagne. You may end up spending more than you intended, but looking good is an investment, darling. Ease on down to central east Austin to hit up my personal favorites, Laced With Romance and Charm School Vintage, for more moderately priced but equally fabulous frocks.
Ecstatic hour: Four minutes by car from Charm School Vintage is the Salty Sow. Every day from 4:30 to 6:30 you can get $2 off all of their signature sips, beer, and wine. The sip that satisfies my thirst is their sparkling sangria. They should really rename this period of time from happy hour to ecstatic hour because you can also get their pork belly taco and truffle deviled eggs for $5. The happy hour food is so good here you may want to stay and have a full dinner.
One of us: After a long day of shopping, Jo’s Coffee on South Congress is the spot to refuel and get the second wind you need for the evening. Sipping mocha while watching the sun’s shift come to a close here is quintessential Austin. Walk up and place your order at the takeout window, then take it to the benches facing the street and watch the colorful characters walk by. You’ll also see a gaggle of visitors line up to take a picture with the famous “I love you so much” mural on the side of the coffeehouse.
The Cajun food truck Baton Creole is where you want to put a ring on it. Grab the truck’s trademarked Jambalaya Baton (jambalaya deep fried on a stick) to soak up some of that whiskey you drank and keep it moving because the night is young.
Soul on SoCo: The Continental Club Gallery is located across the street from Hotel San José on top of the Continental Club. Head up the stairs and you will find a cozy little space big enough for just 50 people. Musicians like James Bullard and Emily Gimble sing their souls out here. This place has a cool vibe. You’ll feel like you’re sitting at an intimate concert in someone’s living room. You can either stay at the Gallery all night or go downstairs to the legendary Continental Club, where you will hear some of the best blues, funk, and soul the city has to offer.
Lodge party: Native Hostel is an upscale boutique hostel located in a beautiful historic limestone building. Vibrant and colorful murals adorn the outside walls. Inside, you will find the sensual interior design of Joel Mozersky, a design icon responsible for the interiors of many local gems like Uchi, Midnight Cowboy, and the Highball. Native’s luxurious and elite vibe makes me feel like I am at an exclusive after-party for Drake. Most weekends, they have deejays spinning. If you’re feeling the beat, make your way to the dance floor and party with locals and travelers who flock there.
Just in time: There is a reason I forgo an early dinner in the evening whenever I go out. That reason is Justine’s Brasserie, a French bar and restaurant on the east side. It is one of the few places you can get a high-quality meal after 11 p.m. This place is so magical, Lady Gaga gave it her business when she came to town for a performance. If I ever did something worthy of death row, Justine’s salade verte, côte de porc with potatoes au gratin and haricots verts would be my last meal. Oh, and the crème brûlée. They are open until 2 a.m., but for the right crowd, they’ve been known to keep the party going a little past their hours of operation. The kitchen doesn’t close until 1:30. Their cheeky slogan is “When you think you’ve gone too far, keep going.”