Welcome back to the Travels with Quigley series, featuring travel tips from my adventures with a jet-setting rescue terrier. This is our fifth edition in a series of dog-friendly guides to cities around the world. In December, we shared tips on how to celebrate the holidays in Brussels, Belgium. Now we’re kicking off a new year of city guides in the dog-friendly city of Austin, Texas. As a special start to 2019, author Briana Moore is handing the mic over to blogger, scholar, and photographer Katherine Hysmith to show off this self-proclaimed “weird” destination.
Let’s start with a very Texan dog joke:
A three-legged dog walks into a bar and says, “I’m looking for the man who shot my paw.”
In all seriousness, though, I’m thrilled to share Austin’s wonderful neighborhoods alongside two of my dear friends, Quigley Moore and his human, Briana. As many of you already know, Briana is a photographer and storyteller and Quigley is, well, many things, including a Pendleton National Parks Ambassadog. For three months in 2016, the duo traveled across the U.S. working on a creative retelling of Steinbeck’s famous novel “Travels with Charley,” the narrative of the author’s own adventures with his faithful pup. A large part of their tour brought them through Texas, with a nice little stint in Austin — my old stomping grounds. I happily shared my favorite dog-friendly locations with them, including several great eateries, a couple of beautiful hikes, and, of course, a handful of wonderful photo opportunities for any human or four-legged friend. And now I’m excited to share them with you!
WHERE TO STAY
Note: while we prefer to share the locations we personally visited, our Airbnb in Austin was a horrible experience. Instead, we’ll be highlighting local hotels that received rave reviews from local and visiting dog-owners alike.
Dogs and their humans will love their time at the lush, urban bungalow Hotel San Jose. It’s located on Congress Street in one of Austin’s most popular neighborhoods, so you and your pet will be mere steps from many of the city’s best in food and entertainment. If you happen to visit in the spring, you’ll be welcome to strut your mutt in the hotel’s annual Pet Parade, which culminates in a hilarious costume contest.
Around the corner is the historic Austin Motel, where the accommodations are chill and the food is hot! Between its modern décor, delicious restaurant, and adorable motel shop — not to mention the best pool in town — you and your BFF (Best Furry Friend) could quite happily enjoy your entire vacation on the property until it’s time to check out.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
If you like your coffee with a side of lake views, head to the vast deck at Mozart’s Coffee Roasters and stay a while. Your pup can bask in the sunshine while you enjoy live music and tasty desserts. Be sure to grab some house-roasted beans to go, too! Another casual (and budget-friendly) dining institution of note is P. Terry’s. When I started eating meat again, I was first tempted by P. Terry’s simple, old-fashioned burgers that come with a massive pile of shoestring french fries. Dogs are welcome on the patio, and dog treats can always be found at the counter (or, if you’re a real nice human, you can order a vanilla milkshake to share).
Central Market Cafe is where I spent most of my undergraduate career — studying on the porch and living vicariously through the young, hip families with their Chaco-clad children and stylish dogs in bandanas. Head there for great eats to whet any palate, cool beers and kid-friendly sips, live music on the weekends, and plenty of outdoor space for you and your pup to relax.
Foodies will find a little piece of Texan heaven at Contigo. This restaurant is essentially entirely outside, and the picnic-esque tables (complete with woven blankets for those cool evenings) are perfect for ranch-to-table meals with a furry friend in tow. The drinks are unfussy (translation: good, but not over-elaborate) and heavy on the Texas charm, and the crispy green beans are worth a double-order. Pup-friendly snacks are also available upon request.
I would be remiss to discuss Austin’s food scene without mentioning breakfast tacos, and you can’t talk breakfast tacos without Jo’s Coffee. Everyone knows about Jo’s. And those who know about Jo’s also know to go early if they want breakfast tacos before they sell out. The SoCo location is where you can also find the iconic “I love you so much” mural — so don’t forget your camera. Dogs are welcome on the patio and are usually in line with visiting humans for a quick photo op at the mural. While there, be sure to try the Robert Palmer (green iced tea, lemonade, and Topo — a.k.a. “Texas bubbly”).
WHERE TO SHOP
Your pup will beg you to visit the award-winning specialty pet shop Lofty Dog. There is always something going on there, from weekly sales to rescue meetups. On the third Thursday of every month, the Lofty Dog also hosts its fabulous Poochinis and Peticures event, where owners enjoy martinis while their pets receive a nail trim. What’s more, all donations benefit local pet shelters!
Since Austin is the live-music capital of the world, you wouldn’t want to miss the historic Waterloo Records on Lamar and 6th Street. Pop in and listen to rising musicians (Waterloo proclaims to have a “special propensity for Texas artists”), find old favorites on vinyl, and jam out with your pet.
If your dog gets along with cats, go play at Dragon’s Lair! Not just a comic book store, this shop (complete with in-house cats who roam the store) is a space for human and furry friends to meet up and play games directly off the shelf (you can bring your own as well). Dragon’s Lair also hosts regular book signings and celebrity events, so be sure to check out their monthly schedule.
WHERE TO PLAY
Looking for a trail to take your pup for a walk? Head to Auditorium Shores at Town Lake. The two of you can jog along the lake, and then you can let your companion roam free in the dedicated off-leash zone, which offers great views of the ATX skyline. Bonus: the park is conveniently located close to the S. Lamar P. Terry’s stand, so if you work up an appetite, fries are within reach!
Another fantastic leash-free park is Red Bud Isle, located in the middle of Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake) just below the Tom Miller Dam at Lake Austin. You’ll likely come across canoers and kayakers there (and, if you’re lucky, a kayaking dog like Katherine’s family pup, Clover!), so be prepared to strike up conversation with your fellow canine adventurers.
If your dog wants to play but you’re in need of a pint, head to DogHouse Drinkery for the best of both worlds! DogHouse Dog Park is a 10,000-square-foot off-leash area in the front of the Drinkery, which is also used for adoptions, training, yappy hours, birthday parties, and other wonderful events for both humans and hounds.
For other off-leash dog parks and trails around Austin, check out this interactive digital map compiled by the city. If nothing there works for you, just ask a local (especially if they have a dog, too) — new places are popping up every day to accommodate four-legged companions.
WHERE TO POSE
There are countless photogenic backdrops scattered across Austin, from the vibrant murals to the city’s capitol. Fun fact: the striking building rests on 50 acres of well-kept grounds and stands taller than the United States Capitol in D.C. Between the beautiful pink Texas-granite structure, ample shady trees, and countless squirrels, the capitol is a great place for a rest, a game of fetch, or a photo shoot.
For the most visual variety of art, nature, and urban backdrops, be sure to stroll a section of the gorgeous tree-lined paths along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. A few highlights include the iconic Stevie Ray Vaughan statue, sunset at Bat Bridge, and the Waller Creek Boathouse with its “Forever Bicycles” installation.
But what would a list of Austin’s best backdrops be without a mention of the city’s plethora of street art? While we recommend visiting the iconic “I love you so much” mural, we also suggest bringing your pup to the lesser known “I love you, bacon” mural on 1300 E. 6th Street. Though it may be best to bring an actual bacon bribe with you, too.
We hope you enjoyed the tips, inspiration, and — of course — the fluff. Please drop us a message with any further questions, or to share your own insights!