“To me, Texas is Austin, a bunch of cool people trying to make a difference”.
My Walk into the Future journey allowed me to venture to Austin, Texas in June to attend the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) annual conference.
I was nominated for an Excellence in Leadership award by my institution and my trip to Austin was needed to get recognized and receive the award. An expense paid trip to Austin was a welcomed addition to the Walk into the Future adventures.
I visited Austin multiple times when I lived in Texas during my time in the Air Force. My first assignment was at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. I returned to Texas a few years later for an assignment at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio. I always loved to explore and made multiple visits to Austin for football games, track meets and to just take in the music scene while stationed in Texas. Never imagined I would be back in the city for a leadership conference decades later but that’s the catalyst for this latest adventure.
I did not know much about NISOD but quickly discovered this is a huge organization within the 2-year college space. My institution has been a member for years and supports the overall mission of NISOD.
The annual conference is held at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin. This location put conference attendees in the middle of a great environment for culture, food, music, and sightseeing. Yes, I made a point to exploit each of these opportunities.
The hotel was within walking distance to the state capitol, The University of Texas, Congress Avenue Bridge, restaurants, and music. Austin is designed to be a walkable city and has an impressive bike/scooter street setup. A lot of the residents and visitors in downtown Austin jump on electric scooters to get around town. I did not jump on a scooter but leveraged walking to different Austin venues.
Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ was a frequent stop for me on this trip. I received recommendations prior to arriving for this BBQ joint and it was only steps away from the hotel. I made this my first stop in Austin and the food was as good as advertised. The setup is designed for customers to select their meat order which is sliced when ordered. You follow-up with premade side dishes (potato salad, green beans, etc.) and deserts as needed. Meat portions are huge and surprises most people when ordering. I tried multiple selections over my time in Austin but highly recommend the smoke sausage—very good.
Made a few trips over to the 6th Street music venues to listen to live music and experience the Austin music scene. Got a chance to hear a few local bands that were good. This Austin music scene is different than Nashville—there are multiple places to listen to music but it’s not as vast as what Nashville has to offer. The venues were a lot smaller too, so the atmosphere was more laid back as well.
The Texas State capitol was about a mile from the hotel and was easy to reach even with the high Texas temperatures. Decided to venture down to get a few pictures on the capitol grounds and experience the monuments. Explored the grounds and marveled at the architecture of the capitol building. Got a chance to view the monument dedicated to black Texas history and some of the important black pioneers.
Made my way down the hill and decided to get an early dinner at The Capital Grille. I asked several locals where they go for steaks and The Capital Grille was the recommendation from them all. Ventured in to see what everyone was bragging about, and it did not disappoint.
The bartender recommended the Porcini Rubbed Bone-In Ribeye with 15-Year Aged Balsamic to me and I decided to listen to her. This may have been the best steak I have ever had in my life! It was cooked to perfection and the balsamic marinade really pull the flavor out of the steak.
Highly recommend The Capital Grille if you are looking for a great place for steak in Austin:
A final adventure in Austin was to head over to the Congress Avenue bridge to see the bats take flight from underneath the bridge.
This is a nightly adventure in Austin, and I wanted to experience this while in town. The bats come out after sunset, so patience is needed since there is not a set time to view them. I noticed the crowds on the bridge on my first day in town but did not know why they were there. The folks in the hotel explained the flight process and how spectacular it is to see over 1 million bats in flight. I staked out a spot around 7:30 pm with around 1,000 other folks and waited for the show. The bats began to emerge around 8:45 pm the night I was there, and they just kept coming out in waves. I tried to get a few photos, but it was hard to get them lined up well enough for someone to see them. This was a very cool experience and something to try if you are in Austin.
The trip to Austin was for business but I was able to get a few adventures in during my time back in Texas. Made a point to get refrigerator magnets before I headed back home to Florida.
What adventures do you have planned this summer?
“Keep Austin weird”.