I’m in Austin, Texas this week spending time with My Baby and the world’s smartest grandkids, Jonah Bear and Lilly Bug. While they were at school and daycare, I spent some time in one of my favorite areas of Austin – SoCo.South Congress Avenue runs due south from the state capital building cutting through the heart of downtown Austin and into one of the most unique shopping and dining areas in the city. On weekends and evenings, this place is jumpin’. Parking can be a mess (especially on Saturdays) but the variety of shops and restaurants make it worthwhile. Everything from antiques to candy and cowboy boots to cupcakes, as well as great food can be found on South Congress. If you’re into the twinkling lights in the live oak trees on a patio with a cold adult beverage scene, you’ll find lots of good choices here after dark. I go for the shopping. If you’re looking for Austin hot spots, SoCo is on fire. If you’re ever in town, you have to go. To get you started, here are just a few of the shops I love:
Big Top Candy Shop
This candy shop rocks my world. I love the circus themed decor and the absolutely huge variety of treats they offer. This place carries the candy of my childhood – orange slices, circus peanuts, chick-o-sticks, candy corn…I could go on and on. They have a section with gummi everything. They have a retro section with hard to find candies from the past. They have bins of M&Ms in every color. They have a handmade chocolates counter where you’ll find irresistible treats like sea salt caramels, homemade fudge and get this – chocolate covered bacon. You heard me. If that’s not enough to entice you, they also have an old-fashioned popcorn machine and an ice cream counter. This place is a sugar lover’s mecca and a circus lover’s shrine. Big Top Candy doesn’t have a website, but you can connect with them on Facebook or MySpace. You AND your kids will love this place. You can find them at 1706 South Congress.
Farm to Market Grocery
I love this little organic market. It’s tiny, but it’s packed with organic products from all over. They carry local items and produce, as well as items I’ve never seen and that excites me. I like to discover new things and expand my view of the world. My Baby introducted me to Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-In-One organic peppermint liquid soap in this little market. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this soap. It wakes me up in the morning like no other, and the tingly peppermint senstation feels fabulous after a hot day in the Texas sun. The selection of organic vegetables and carry-out foods like hummus and samosas are just lovely. Drop in for a fair trade fiesta sometime. And don’t forget to pick up some soap. Farm to Market Grocery is located at 1718 South Congress. http://www.fm1718.com
I couldn’t get a good photo of this place. It’s a cupcake shop inside of a stainless steel Airstream trailer, and it catches the sun like a kaleidoscope. Every photo is pure glare. Maybe it’s not the sunshine. Maybe it’s the aura coming off the giant rotating cupcake on top of the trailer! When you try them, you’ll hear angels sing. If you love cupcakes (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t) this place needs to be on your radar. The cupcakes are big and fluffy and delicious, and for a few pennies more they’ll even pump a big shot of whipped cream right down the middle of it. Flavor choices include red velvet, carrot cake and winner of my favorite name, the Michael Jackson. It’s a chocolate cupcake with white butter cream frosting. I can state from personal experience that the carrot cake and red velvet cupcakes are extraordinary. Want to try them? I like to visit the trailer at 1600 South Congress, but there are other locations around Austin. Visit their website to find them. But find them you must! http://www.heycupcake.com.
I saved the best for last. This is one of my favorite shops to kill an hour in. It’s fun and funky and literally filled to the rafters with antiques and collectibles.
And so, my friends, if you’re ever in Austin and need some “me time” and a spa isn’t your cup of tea, visit South Congress, or SoCo, as the locals call it. There are 5-6 blocks of unique shops to browse, coffee spots to soothe your caffeine addiction, and a multitude of restaurants with fabulously shaded patios and views of the state capitol. It’s a great place to stroll with friends and family and take in the funky fun Austin has to offer. Don’t forget to pick up some chocolate covered bacon. I got mine!