Are you looking for a truly local taste of holiday glee?
Here are five festive favorite activities that no self-respecting Austinite would miss.
5. Do some one-stop local shopping.
Keep Austin weird by patronizing two holiday shopping favorites: Armadillo Christmas Bazaar and Blue Genie Art Bazaar.
You’ve got to purchase a ticket for the downtown’s Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, which includes shopping booths, multiple live music performances every day (check out the Spotify playlist), and two full bars. It’s as much an experience as expo.
Since 2001, Blue Genie Art Bazaar has provided a free, unique gathering of Austin-y gifts. You’ll find one-of-a-kind artisanal creations (preview 200 local and regional vendors on the website) conveniently located near central Austin’s Highland Mall.
4. Catch a show.
Austin loves a good performance. Many make Zachary Scott Theatre’s productions of the classic A Christmas Carol and iconic Texas send-up A Tuna Christmas seasonal must-see events.
Stop by Mozart’s Coffee Roasters to score a warm snack and soak up a breathtaking light display. Stroll down 37th St. east of Guadalupe to see whether it’s a good year for the block’s traditionally quirky home installations. And brave crowds and buy tickets for Austin’s longstanding tradition, the Trail of Lights. Believe it or not, this 52-year tradition was once a drive-through activity. Suitable for the whole family, Austin’s Trail of Lights includes food trucks, Santa’s Workshop, nightly entertainment, and some 1.24 miles full of 40 light displays (about 2 million lights!).
2. Find a workout.
No matter the season, Austin loves to get physical. For many, no holiday is complete without a polar bear dip into Barton Springs Pool. Thanks to its approximately 68 degrees temperature, some start the day with a morning visit to this spring-fed pool year ‘round (no entrance fee before 8 a.m.).
Swimming not your thing? Work up a sweat and get a group hug with November Project Austin. This nationally-certified, #weatherproof, free workout (M/W/F, from 6–7 a.m.; more details at website) features cardio- and body weight-based group exercise.
1. Twirl under the Zilker Holiday Tree.
Every Austinite–no matter how big or how small–will stand under these spiraling Christmas lights, look up, and twirl. The City of Austin first lit the 155-foot Zilker Holiday Tree in 1967 and it’s brought unbridled joy and general dizziness ever since. (Tip: Due to Zilker Park road closures, combine your tree twirl with a Trail of Lights trip.)
If you’d rather skip the 300,000+ crowd driving to Zilker Park, drop in at Austin’s new Central Library (710 W. Cesar Chavez St.). The rooftop deck provides a spectacular view across Lady Bird Lake. Can you spot that shining 10-foot point-to-point double star atop the Zilker tree?
Ah…that morning cup of coffee. For a lot of us, no day starts without that ritual of grind, brew, pour. The resulting heavenly aroma elevates the barely alive to sublimely awake. How ’bout an afternoon pick-me-up cup? Or sharing a mug and catch-up with friends?
For many, a good cup of coffee is an integral part of daily life.
If you’ve basked in a steaming cup during your Top Trip Rentals stay, then you have Joe Lozano, owner of and master roaster at Third Coast Coffee, to thank for that caffeinated bliss.
Why Third Coast Coffee Is In Our Vacation Rental Homes
Third Coast Coffee is a quality, small-batch roaster, and Lozano brings a wealth of knowledge to this Austin-based company. He helped found one of the nation’s first fair trade coffee co-ops (Cooperative Coffees), and Third Coast Coffee imports its beans directly from this organization.
Lozano attributes Third Coast Coffee’s quality and consistency to strong bonds between his team and those co-op farmers. Achieving organic designation is an expensive process. Because an organic product is important to Third Coast Coffee’s quality, Lozano supports farmers financially.
“The way I protect my source is to make sure [coffee farmers] are well paid, even above market value. I do it because I can, and I pay them what they deserve.”~Joe Lozano, Third Coast Coffee
Lozano loves a roasting challenge: “I can take even a moderately scored bean and roast it to a much higher standard.” This coaxing is an art, one he and the other Third Coast Coffee roasters refine to bring out the best flavor in each batch.
And there’s a Third Coast Coffee roast for every taste. From the dark roasted Double French to Colombia Fondo Paez, a medium roast with a patina of caramel, each bag paints a story that can be traced to its unique farm of origin. [Literally. Find the farm by entering your Third Coast Coffee lot number bag on the Fair Trade Proof page.]
Have Another Cup of Austin’s Third Coast Coffee
Top Trip Rentals stocks Third Coast Coffee’s ground Guatemala roast in our vacation rental homes. You can also purchase whole bean Third Coast Coffee to take home in our Lounge at Littlefield (one of the lovely amenities with staying at downtown’s Littlefield Lofts–book your Top Trip Rentals stay!).
Call ahead to visit the Austin plant on S. Congress Ave., arrange a sampling, or attend one of the weekly “cuppings.” Any visit is like a religious experience, one that provides new revelations on the coffee process—and a heavenly buzz.
Each month, Third Coast Coffee features a particular roast. If you’re not in Austin, you can still elevate your coffee game by visiting Third Coast Coffee’s website to read about their beans and meet the co-op farmers who raised the crop.
Share Your Austin Morning Coffee with Us
How do you take your Third Coast Coffee? Show us your cup of bliss when you’re staying with @TopTripRentals (Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter–tag us, please!).
November: when families across America come together to eat. Yes, lofty reasons exist for gathering and tasty dishes are made for savoring but face it: no Thanksgiving table is complete without pie.
But what kind of pie?
Austin’s locally owned Tiny Pies owner and founder Amanda Bates answers that question handily.
“Thanksgiving really goes with the Tiny Pies idea, our whole business concept, which is that everyone can have their favorite. No one has to be stuck eating their aunt’s favorite pie….We’re in the best business, and our storefront says all–‘We’re baking up smiles.’ That’s truly what we do.”
Tiny Pies is Austin Grown
Tiny Pies founders and owners Amanda Bates and her mother Kit Seay have lived in Austin since 1976. Both women graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, and this mother and daughter duo has always loved baking. Since 2011, Tiny Pies has been the family business and a labor of love.
Listening to Bates talk about pies reveals the depth of that love. Just try to nail down her preferences:
“My favorite pie changes seasonally, along with the local produce. Right now it’s cherry (I love how really bold and tart the flavor is). Pear cranberry is delicious, and I’m a pumpkin pie kind of gal, so there’s that. But year ‘round, coconut cream is one of my favorites. In the summer, I go for something that’s not too sweet, like our summer peach pie and the strawberry rhubarb.”
Bates and Seay developed Tiny Pies to solve a problem: how to pack pie in school lunches (truly, this is a family of serious pie lovers). Answer: handheld pie. Production started small but grew exponentially in 2012 after national exposure (Oprah Winfrey’s magazine). Tiny Pies moved out of Austin’s farmers markets, into retail locations (Burnet Rd. flagship and production facility, plus South Lamar shop), and expanded their offerings.
Still, Tiny Pies remains a family business. “‘Mom and I do pretty much everything,” Bates said. “I’m marketing and business development, and I oversee catering. Mom makes sure we’re on track—she’s involved in so much it’s hard to list it all.” Regular staff numbers about 20 employees, though ranks swell somewhat during busy times.
“We’re still a very hands-on shop,” Bates explained. “Nothing goes out of the kitchen without me knowing about it.” And if you’re arranging a catered event or corporate-branded gifts, that’s Bates on the Tiny Pies end.
“This is the time of year when we’re shipping pies all over the country for businesses to say ‘thank you’ to their clients. Working out those details (selection, shipping, price point, dates, etc.) is a very back-and-forth process. I do tons of that,” said Bates. “And I love working with customers; if I could, I’d work the store every day.”
Pie Beyond Thanksgiving
December is a busy pie time, too. According to Bates, “we try to bring in more rich and hearty flavors,” tastes that pair well with a hot chocolate or a nice after-dinner toddy on a winter day. She mentioned a Christmas-y chocolate cream pie with peppermint whip is in the works. One of her favorite fruit pies, cranberry pear, and cherry are traditional choices for festive tables.
Don’t forget Pi Day (March 14). This national math-focused celebration is like Tiny Pies’ Super Bowl. “Pi Day is even harder than Thanksgiving, because it’s all compressed down to one day, “ Bates explained. Tiny Pies gets into Pi Day in a big way; each pie sports a pi cut out, perfect for that photo op. While stores normally carry 12 to 15 flavors, Tiny Pies adds some additional flavors so every pi lover can find the perfect treat.
What’s New at Tiny Pies
Not into sweets? November’s featured savory tiny pie is the Texas Pete (vegetarian chili and cornbread). How ‘bout spinach ricotta empanadas (half-moon filled pastries)? Or there’s the 5-inch veggie potpie, full of whatever seasonal goodness local resource Johnsons Backyard Garden has produced. At that size, potpies are a hearty solo meal or nicely shared by two.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re full-on lunch and dinner,” explained Bates. While the Burnet Rd. store is primarily for pick-up, the South Lamar location has indoor and outdoor seating, perfect for lingering.
The Tiny Pies team keeps baking up new ideas. “Oh, yeah, we take requests,” replied Bates when asked if customers ask for specific flavors.
Though the November menu is locked down, Bates pointed out that’s not usual: “ If people want to start seeing something in store or need a specific flavor for a party, sure.” She quickly added a caveat: Tiny Pies won’t compromise quality, so “everything has to be vegetarian, locally sourced when possible, and meet standards.”
Though Bates herself eats gluten free, there’s not currently a gluten free Tiny Pies option. Why? Too much flour flies around and Bates would hate to risk kitchen cross contamination. But in January, Tiny Pies hopes to add cups packed offsite with gluten-free pie fillings and cookie crust as an option.
How to Build the Perfect Holiday Pie Platter
Austin’s Tiny Pies provided tips for a tasty no-fuss pie platter.
Provide an assortment. Bates says to choose an assortment of nut, fruit, and cream pies: “Everyone’s going to have a favorite; this covers your bases.”
Think about transport. Cream pies need refrigeration, so if you’re traveling for 30 minutes or more, these have to be kept cold. Tell the shop staff about your travel plans so they can assist with selection and packing (boxes work well for flights).
Choose size. Lots of tiny pies or a few big ones (Tiny Pies has 9-inch pies, too)? This Thanksgiving, pick up a box of 6 or 12 in-house assorted tiny pies Monday through Wednesday; you can pre-order selected assortments until Nov. 15. Would you like a bite? Tiny Pies has pecan pie bites for those who just “want a taste.”
Opt for seasonal. Bates gave November-specific recommendations. “Fruit, go with pear cranberry and cherry; someone always wants apple. We have two pumpkin varieties: chai whip and pumpkin cheesecake. Nut, choose Sweet Texas Pecan or the Texas Two-Step (pecan with brownie). And for cream, coconut and chocolate cream are always crowd pleasers.”
Top Trip Rentals Recommends
Austin’s known for its wonderfully Instagrammable spots. Stop by the Burnet Rd. store to experience the original Tiny Pies vibe. Savor wonderful pie smells, pick one out, and snap an iconic Austin pic against the “Measure Up Strong Man” wall.
Is the thought of getting your home ready for holiday guests dragging you down? Are you worried that there just isn’t room for everyone? Will you be lucky to get time off to spend with family—and just forget about having days to cook and clean for visitors!
Why not let someone else take the hassle out of holiday hosting? Here are a few good reasons to book a vacation rental home for your next holiday gathering.
5 Holiday Reasons to Rent a Vacation Rental Home
1. Grow a Spare Bedroom
Getting together as a group can be tough, especially when you have a big family. Many vacation rental homes maximize space with flexible floor plans; they’re set up to accommodate more guests.
For example, Top Trip Rental’s amazing private residence, the Graeber House, has multiple living areas, two kitchens, three bedrooms, and 3.5 baths (nobody’s waiting for a shower here!). A little secret for grown-ups: an indoor pool plus its location in the heart of Austin’s downtown destination, 6th St., provide amazing “wow” factor for special occasions.
2. Get Along Better with Family
These days, many families are blended. Not everybody can comfortably share space. Why not book a cluster of rooms? Vacation rental homes’ more affordable pricing makes multiple books a realistic option for family members with varying needs.
Littlefield Lofts in Austin was recently holiday “home” for Top Trip Rentals company owner Chereen Fisher’s extended family.
“It was great,” Fisher said. “The kids opted to sleep in Grandma’s room as a special treat. We picked one loft, #701, where the families ate and gathered together. And my brother and sister-in-law had private, quiet space for baby in their own home.”
Littlefield Lofts’ 24 vacation rental homes within one building ensure a combination of space and privacy that works for your family. The Top Trip Rentals reservation team is happy to help you select the best lofts for your groups’ needs.
3. Let Someone Else Sweat the Prep
Wouldn’t it be nice to simply spend your holiday time enjoying friends and loved ones? That vacation rental home you’ve booked for Thanksgiving will be clean and ready for company, plus you’ll be rested and ready for family fun.
Done celebrating? Someone else can wash sheets, clean bathrooms, and handle that messy kitchen.
Not everyone wants to cook a big meal. If you’d like to order in, Austin has several ways to work out having holiday dinner without the hassle.
Staying at Top Trip Rentals’ Hyde Park Hideaway? Maybe your crew would like to sup on Hyde Park Bar & Grill’s fabulous Cajun fried turkey. Since 1982, this local destination decorated by a giant fork has been wowing folks with comfort food (and everything on the menu can be ordered “take out”).
4. Pull Together a Friendsgiving
Sometimes it’s the family we choose that needs celebrating. Why not make that holiday with friends an outing?
Choose a vacation rental home where everyone can fully relax. If you’re used to tiny house living, a large home with a spacious outdoor patio area might be just the thing for gathering together and kicking back. Go for a roomy kitchen for all the festive cooking you can’t accomplish in a crowded apartment.
This large, 3,500-sq. ft. home, situated right on the shores of constant-level Lake LBJ in Marble Falls, provides plenty of room to roam and relax for as many as 12 people. And Central Texas’ mild winter temperatures allow you enjoy the outdoors no matter what season.
End every day of your special holiday retreat with a gorgeous sunset view from the deck!
Rooms pictured here are Top Trip Rentals vacation homes ready for your holiday fun.
New to town? Naturally, you need to find a great place for food. Austinites love to eat out, and the city is chock full of possibilities.
One of our pleasures at Top Tip Rentals is cutting through the noise to recommend uniquely Austin places. Destinations that go above and beyond in providing that special taste of the town that keeps people coming back. That’s why it’s always a pleasure to direct Top Trip Rentals visitors to Parkside and the various Parkside Projects family of restaurants.
Introducing Chef Cirkiel’s Parkside Vision
Chef Shawn Cirkiel is a nationally known and celebrated chef who brings simple yet artful, good, fresh food to the table. In Austin, he’s also known as an innovative restauranteur with an impressive array of businesses.
After years of honing his craft in famed restaurants on the East and West Coasts, Cirkiel returned to his native Austin to run (and eventually own) the popular Jean Luc’s French Bistro. That experience led him to envision Parkside Projects, an investment properties concept based on bringing people together through great food and authentic atmospheres.
“We cook what we like to eat,” explained Cirkiel, “and provide a space for people to celebrate and enjoy life.”
Meet Parkside Projects
At a time when others were masking downtown’s noise, Cirkiel created a space to embrace and enhance that hustle and bustle. His first project, Parkside (301 E. 6th St., just two blocks from Top Trip Rentals’ Littlefield Lofts), broke new ground with its vibrant city scene embrace.
“Downtown is loud, energetic, and exciting, “said Cirkiel. “We are that beacon on the corner that celebrates it.”
And celebrate Parkside does—with really good food: “You feel like you are a part of the action, so it’s the perfect spot to soak in the atmosphere, grab a great martini and oysters before a show, or stay longer for dinner.”
Several other properties comprise Cirkiel’s project, each in a unique location.
Inspired by his childhood love of matadors, Cirkiel transformed his grandfather’s former gas station and body shop on Airport Blvd. into Bullfight (4807 Airport Blvd.), a Spanish tapas bar. Go for paella; enjoy the daily happy hour; have wine and cheese on the patio.
Other Parkside Project businesses include The Backspace, an intimate pizzeria in downtown, near 5th and San Jacinto. A short drive from downtown Austin, upscale Italian restaurant Olive & June features more refined dining (think pasta, pork meatballs, and hamachi crudo) on a large terrace under one of Austin’s signature oak trees. In addition to the restaurants, you may encounter Parkside Projects’ event venue, 800 Congress, where Austin’s warehouse aesthetic meets chic style.
The latest Parkside Project venture is Jugo, a “grab-and-go destination” where busy, hungry people can pick up quality, healthy juices, smoothies, sandwiches, and more–all with that signature emphasis on fresh, organic, local, and seasonal ingredients.
Take a Parkside Seat
People like fun and flock to it, so Parkside can be bumping. Reservations are always recommended. Should you have to wait, stroll down 6th St. to see what’s shaking (you can always stop at the window in front of Esther’s Follies and take part in the comedic shenanigans). Another option? Go casual and enjoy your food at the bar.
Top Trip Parkside Pick
The raw bar at Parkside has us raving. Oysters! With as many as 16 varieties to choose from, Top Trip Rentals recommends a little of each to hone your palate.
Share Your Food Porn!
How many of native Austinite Shawn Cirkiel’s projects did you visit? Show us at @TopTripRentals what flavors you ingested and which atmospheres you soaked up at these signature spots: Parkside, Olive & June, The Backspace, Bullfight, and Jugo. Go ahead; take a picture of that amazing food and share!
Whatever the reason, you need to make your way to 9201 Circuit of The Americas Blvd., Austin, TX 78617. From pedals to propellers, we’re here to help!
Transportation Options for COTA
Ride Your Bike to F1
When COTA first opened, the City of Austin worked out a bike route from downtown. There are dedicated bike paths, free bike parking onsite, and travel distance is about 13.6 miles from Top Trip Rentals’ Littlefield Lofts location (119 E. 6th St.). Downtown Austin to COTA Bike Route
Do a CapMetro and Shuttle Combo
Public transportation is not Austin’s strongest suit, but the local service (CapMetro) has teamed with COTA to provide special MetroRail schedules for the weekend. You can ride MetroRail into downtown and take advantage of shuttle services from Austin Convention Center (4th and Trinity). The second shuttle pick-up is at Travis County Expo Center (7311 Decker Lane); both drop off at either COTA’s Front Gate or McAngus lot, near the Grand Plaza. CapMetro and COTA Shuttle Info
Taxi to COTA
Austin has a variety of taxi services, all readily available from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and throughout the city. Those lime green ones? That’s ATX Co-op Taxi, a hybrid between traditional street-hail and ride-hail service, where each member holds an equal share in the company (and the drivers have a soccer team!). Road congestion can be frustrating (#atxtraffic) and time sitting adds up. But that taxi will drop you off and pick you up without parking hassle. Consult a handy fare calculator to estimate your taxi cost.
If you’re going to sit in traffic, you might as well sit in style. Austin Private Car Services has special USGP packages for traveling to COTA (limo, anyone?). Now, we are all about that unique home-town experience, which is why we’re partial to Ross Elite Services, owned by University of Texas athletes and champions Aaron Ross and Sanya-Richards Ross.
Why Not Fly?
One of the many entertaining aspects of COTA is watching the helicopters come in and drop off passengers. You, too, can skip the highway lines and soar to the track. Epic Helicopter Tours will ferry up to six people, but you need to book at least 48 hours in advance. (And while we’re at it, here’s a shout-out to Lonestar Helicopters, which has provided aerial support for F1 and flown rescue missions to Hurricane Harvey’s smallest Houston victims).
Drive Your Car to COTA
There are a variety of parking lots at COTA, and you’ll want to consult maps to determine exactly where each is and which your permit specifies. If you haven’t bought that parking pass, you’re out of luck–they’re all sold out for 2017’s USGP.
We took this opportunity to ask White Reaper a few questions, and frontman Tony Esposito was kind enough to oblige. Naturally, we started out with the shameless plug:
Q: You’re staying with Top Trip Rentals for another year. What brought you back to us, and what in particular did you enjoy about previous visits?
You guys are really friendly! There are some truly wonderful people at Top Trip. This will actually be our third stay at Littlefield Lofts, and you even allowed us to stay at a house that Top Trip has as well.
New Music from White Reaper
Q: You’ve got a new album out. What can ACL attendees look forward to from your set? What are your favorites? Any surprises in store?
We’re actually working on a new set at the moment, so I don’t really know what to tell you! We’re adding some songs we’ve never played before, and some songs we haven’t played in a long time. That’s all I can say for now.
Q: Watching your “Judy French” video, I find myself flashing to a bunch of different references, from Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” flag motif to that punk bandana (I went down the rabbit hole looking for some ancient MTV video with a car…). What were your influences in making the “Judy French” video? And it’s very different from the clean black and white of “Little Silver Cross.” Where do you get inspiration?
Our buddy, Brandon Dermer, directed the video and he just knocked it out of the park. We try to go as big or as strange as we can when it comes to videos just because there’s so much fun to be had in that department. We love movies, so inspiration is kind of hard to pin down since it comes from every which way.
Q: Gotta ask: How are you feeling about playing a big festival in light of the Las Vegas shooting? Has this horrible tragedy changed anything about the way you feel about festival venues and ACL, specifically?
The tragedy in Las Vegas is devastating and terrible. Gun laws need to be reformed, without a doubt. However, this doesn’t change the way we feel about playing shows like ACL or Lollapalooza in the slightest. If it happens, it happens, but we don’t have time to live in fear.
White Reaper on the ATX Experience
Q: In a recent review of your second album, Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen said “the Dazed and Confused comparisons are inevitable.” Do you agree? How do you feel “The World’s Best American Band” style meshes with our iconic Austin vibe?
Dazed and Confused is one of our favorite movies, and Linklater is one of our favorite directors. We take that as a giant compliment. We definitely agree, too. We were raised on that soundtrack.
Q: Will you have any extra time around your ACL appearance here in Austin? If so, what are some things you’re looking forward to doing while here?
We’ve got some extra time. Our guitarist, Hunter [Thompson] is actually from Austin, so we know our way around pretty well. We’ve got a lot of friends in town that we’d love to catch up with and hang out with.
Band Travel Tips
Q: If Texas music fans were heading to Louisville, what would you tell them to see and do there?
Go to eat and drink at the Back Door. Check out Morris’ Deli [2228 Taylorsville Rd., Louisville, KY]; there’s a drive in theater right the across the river in Georgetown, Indiana. Louisville has a pretty chill old-school kind of vibe. I love it there.
Q: You’re traveling a lot with this tour. What’s one “must pack” item that helps you feel at home wherever you go? Any travel tips you care to offer?
Think Luke’s Diner (without the food). Or Central Perk (but definitely no Smelly Cat kitty litter). Maybe you flashed back—way back—to “Cheers.”
That friendly neighborhood place is probably the best comparison to Top Trip Rentals’ newest guest amenity, the Lounge at Littlefield.
From Loft to Lounge at Littlefield
Loft #705 has morphed into the Lounge. Top Trip Rentals owner Chereen Fisher described the welcoming space on the 7th floor of downtown Austin’s Littlefield Building as a “landing spot to interact with staff” and, laughingly, a place for the “temporarily homeless.” By that, she means Top Trip Rentals guests who are early for check-in or need a spot to hang before going out or heading out of town.
The Lounge features the same sleek decor of guests’ lofts, minus bedrooms. Sleeping areas have been converted to upstairs meeting space, which can be reserved for use. Those striking paintings with their distinctive style and iconic subject matter are originals by Cornelius Carter, an Austin artist whose work has been showcased at City Hall.
Stop by the Lounge on Friday through Sunday (11 a.m.–4 p.m.) and you’re likely to encounter reservations specialist Cara Thibodeaux. “I love being able to meet our guests,” said Thibodeaux. In her spare time, Thibodeaux writes a blog (The Great Full Girl, which includes pieces on food and travel) so it’s no surprise that she enjoys “offering some great local recommendations of where to go and what to eat.”
Thibodeaux is at the Lounge at Littlefield to put a smile on guests’ Top Trip Rentals stay. In addition to relaxing on the sofa or stashing luggage, try out an Urb-E (and helmet), host a meeting in the upstairs space seating four to six people, and pick up featured products from Top Trip Rentals’ local partners. A jar of queso (Austin Slow Burn), scented candles (Benjamin Soap Co.), hot sauce (Yellowbird), and caffeine fix from Third Coast Coffee are a few of the items currently available at the Lounge.
Did You Say “Happy Hour”?
Top Trip Rentals’ staff is truly interested in providing unique experiences, so Littlefield Loft registered guests should watch for texts and check out hallway signs announcing upcoming Lounge special events. A recent happy hour included impromptu live music, complimentary libations and snacks, plus a lot of friendly mingling. (Why does everybody always wind up in the kitchen?)
Among our guests that night: a bike messenger/clothing designer from Brooklyn, happy group of girlfriends from New Orleans celebrating one’s 30th birthday, and really big dog (plus his very nice owner).
Who knows what extra goodies Top Trip Rentals might choose to feature in the Lounge? During ACL Festival, for example, guests can stop by for some High Brew coffee and Voodoo Donuts as they make their way to Zilker Park on Saturday morning. At a recent staff meeting, there was talk of margaritas….
Whether it’s Cara’s friendly smile, a place to relax, or some tasty goodie, Littlefield Lounge is part and parcel of the Top Trip Rentals experience. We’re definitely doing everything we can so you’re always glad you came. Stop by and say “hi”!
Welcome, Austin visitor! Have your eyes started to itch? Are you sneezing? Can’t go anywhere without a tissue? Does it feel like you’re coming down with a scratchy throat and bad cold?
Relax. Your trip isn’t ruined.
You’re not sick (though you may want to die).
You’ve just met Austin’s allergens.
What’s Irritating In Austin’s Air
Generally speaking, Austin has great air. Low pollution, little smog, few ozone action days.
“We have first-time guests actually ask, ‘What makes Austin smell so good? Why does it have such a unique scent?’” said Chereen Fisher, Top Trip Rentals founder and owner. “It’s a mix of things, I think: our unique limestone-y soil and then everything that’s in the air.”
Depending on the time of year, that “something in the air” could be any number of things. According to Allergy and Asthma Center of Austin, ATX is often listed among the top 5 American cities for allergens.
With more than 300 days of sunshine annually, Austinites love their outdoor lifestyle. Whether exercising or lounging, spending time outside means getting a handle on any allergy issues.
Knowing what’s blowing in the wind in any given month provides some helpful information for avoiding sneezes, sniffles, and snot.
Here’s a handy breakdown of seasonal pollen and particles you’ll likely breathe in on an Austin visit.
Austin’s Fall Allergens (September, October, November)
Fall Elm (also known as cedar elm; native to central Texas; produces little round seed pods called samaras; prominent in east Austin)
Ragweed (10–30 percent of the U.S. population reacts to ragweed, known as ‘hay fever’; ragweed can grow as tall as 2 ft., though we’ve seen 5 ft. plants in particularly wet years; one plant can create billions of grains of pollen per season; often found along Barton Creek greenbelt)
Weeds/Grasses (central Texas’s weed season, from August–November, is one of the longest in the country; includes Johnsongrass, one of the top 10 worst weeds in the world, and carelessweed aka pigweed–pigs love to eat it; watch out for contact rashes when on single-track trails)
Mountain Cedar (locals swear that a good bowl of spicy tortilla soup helps combat infamous “cedar fever”; those yellow clouds hanging above those scrubby trees aren’t smoke but visible pollen; most Austinites hate cedar trees–actually Ashe junipers–with a passion; yep, you can make gin from the berries)
Weeds/Grasses (yup, still hanging around; because winter is relatively mild with few hard freezes, Austin has a long growing season)
Oak (February to late May, Austin’s gorgeous spreading oaks carpet cars and patios with a greenish dust and dropped clusters, called catkins; just forget about washing your car for a while)
Austin’s Spring Allergens (March, April, May)
Mountain Cedar (watch the allergy forecast–we swear cedar fever ends)
Weeds/Grasses (in addition to the pollens, watch out for poison ivy along Austin’s trails; “leaves of three, let it be”)
Mesquite (Texas ranchers don’t like this native thorny tree, which is really a legume; bees like the flowers; Austin’s wild monk parrots eat the beans)
Oak (live oaks, Spanish oaks, red oaks…we’ve got lots of oaks)
Smoke from Mexico (spring agricultural fires in Mexico and central America blow into Texas, bringing hazy days and trouble for asthma sufferers)
Privet (aka ligustrum; City of Austin has identified ligustrum as an invasive species; sadly popular in older landscapes)
Texas Mountain Laurel (you’re probably not allergic, but that’s what smells like Grape Kool-Aid)
Austin’s Summer Allergens (June, July, August)
Star Jasmine (late spring, early summer; not actually an allergen, but extremely fragrant flowers scent the Austin air; people hold “white” parties when it blooms)
Saharan Dust (north Africa sends Texas gusts of fine dirt; on the up side, the Saharan dust makes summer sunsets truly gorgeous, as light filters through the particles)
Pet Dander (year ’round; Austin loves its dogs, so odds are good that you’re sharing that patio restaurant with Fido, not to mention just about every other public place)
Mold spores (year ’round in central Texas; even when Austin is in drought conditions, check the mold count)
No matter how hot it is, college football means fall has officially arrived. Fans all over are celebrating Saturday game day and getting into following their teams.
Whether your team is at home or away, college game gets better with a stay at a local vacation rental. How? Here are four good ways that booking a unique home-away-from-home experience can improve game day.
1. Create a Fan Oasis
Games are better when shared with friends. For traveling fans, away trips can feel lonely. So bring buddies! Vacation home rentals sleep more people than standard, cookie-cutter hotel rooms. Plus, they have that wonderful “at home” feel for stretching out.
Top Trip Rentals suggests: Our 410 E. 6th Street location, also known as the Graeber House, has a 65-inch TV and sleeps as many as 12 people. This unique venue is nestled right in the middle of Austin’s famous nightlife and live music scene. And there’s even an indoor pool, so you can refresh after a day spent outdoors at Darryl K Royal Memorial Stadium.
Top Trip Rentals suggests: Our Littlefield Lofts are located in the heart of downtown Austin. As you walk to DKR Memorial Stadium, you’ll pass Scholtz’s on San Jacinto and travel through tailgate alley.
When you head home, 6th Street’s famous bars are there to keep the game-day buzz alive. And perhaps you can get a glimpse that burnt-orange UT Tower glowing after a Longhorn win.
Why ruin a great Saturday by messing with traffic? Make every game-day minute count by removing unnecessary travel time from the weekend agenda. Or, at the very least, make that car time more fun. Choosing a vacation rental home after some savvy thought about game day routes skips the hassle and leads to happier football fans.
Top Trip Rentals suggests: Sadly, #ATXtraffic is a thing–even without 100,000 rabid football fans taking to the street. On home game days, I35 and MoPac (Austin’s main thoroughfares) can become parking lots.
You don’t have to actually go to the game to have a spectacular football Saturday. Why not do your home viewing up right with a weekend getaway? Booking a vacation rental home with fabulous amenities can make fans, friends, and family happy on college game day.
Top Trip Rentals suggests: Though football signals fall, Austin-area temperatures often say “summer.”
Don’t fight those warm fall Saturdays. How about watching the big game out at the lake? Why not spend the day outside, on the patio, grilling some good food, while watching college game day TV coverage?
Our Rainbow Cove and Sunset Shores vacation rental homes, situated on the shores of beautiful constant-level Lake LBJ, accommodate groups who want to relax–and when the ‘Horns score, you can hear the entire lake roar!
So whether you’re visiting Austin to support an away team or a bleeding-orange Hook’em Horns Texas hometown fan, treating yourself to that game-day getaway may be the key to a perfect football Saturday.
Question: What do helicopters, flood victims, and medically-necessary breast milk have in common?
Answer: Austin runners.
Harvey Hits Houston Hospitals
Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Friday, Aug. 25, bringing a wide swath of destruction to Texas’ coastal cities. Just four days later, the Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin was faced with a crucial problem: four Houston-area hospitals desperately needed donated human breast milk.
At Tuesday’s Board of Directors meeting, Executive Director Kim Updegrove explained the increased demand. While Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas in Ft. Worth had picked up evacuees’ needs, the Austin facility would cover Houston-area hospitals. Due to flooding, mothers couldn’t reach babies in NICU (neonatal intensive care units) and power outages had reduced stock. Donated human breast milk is usually delivered by Federal Express or other courier service, but roads were awash and routes impassable.
Board member Julia Weatherby listened, and she, Updegrove, and fellow BOD members weighed delivery solutions. Boats? Too problematic. Helicopters? Hospitals have helipads, so flying would be best…but Updegrove hadn’t found an Austin-based pilot with access to a helicopter. There was another problem: how the nonprofit would fund the emergency mission.
“The situation was becoming critical,” Weatherby explained. “The process of acquiring donor milk is very similar to donor blood. For inpatient recipients, the hospital manages their supply (they order in a big batch, usually not specific for a patient)…A small percentage [of donated milk] goes to outpatients, babies who are healthy enough to be at home but still need donated breast milk because they’re not healthy enough.”
Why not substitute formula? Those vulnerable babies have no choice. That donated human breast milk is medically prescribed.
Without appropriate nutrition–babies at different stages require breast milk with different components–these tiny patients couldn’t thrive. Without breast milk, they’re at risk of developing serious disease, like NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis, which damages the intestinal tract).
For these Houston-area babies, this milk delivery was a matter of life and death.
The clock was ticking.
Austin Runners to Babies’ Rescue
Weatherby pondered the Mother’s Milk Bank’s need. How could she help?
Now, members of Austin’s running community know Weatherby well. She’s a popular figure who’s combined her love of travel, running, triathlon, and technology in a variety of community services. Naturally, Weatherby thought to tap her local resources–perhaps a pilot friends was available? Some six of her buddies fly small or commercial planes.
Being social media-inclined, Weatherby turned to Facebook.
“I thought about tagging [my pilot friends],” said Weatherby. “But then I decided, tonight, I’ll just send a generic message and talk to people tomorrow.” She posted a simple status update at 8:18 p.m.
At 10:05 p.m., Jill Beardsley was checking Facebook from her bed and breakfast on Lake Bemidji in Minnesota. Beardsley and her husband Dick (that’s right; Dick Beardsley, the famous American marathoner) moved to Minnesota a few years back, but they’re near and dear to the Austin running community and maintain those friendships. She saw Weatherby’s post and immediately thought of more Austin running royalty: John Conley.
“I know John is taking flying lessons. I figured he would know someone or, at the very least, someone who could take it one step further to finding [a pilot],” Beardsley modestly commented. She tagged her good buddy (and John’s wife) Stacey Conley.
The Conleys have been pillars of the Austin-area running scene. Through their company Conley Sports, they managed many classic road races and events before retiring in 2016. Stacey and Jill are fast friends and past running partners. At 11:19 p.m., Stacey responded to Jill’s tag.
Stacey connected Weatherby with Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Special Operations Captain Steve Bush. Bush, the owner of Lone Star Helicopters LLC.,had helped the Conleys for years with the Austin Marathon support.
“I gave Julia Steve’s number and thought, if it’s meant to happen, it will. I was thrilled when I heard Steve would help out. I assumed he’d be swamped with other rescue efforts and wouldn’t have any free time at all (which, for all I know, is probably true),” Stacey explained.
“Out of all the volunteering and donating I’ve done, this is by far the most satisfying.”
Less than 24 hours after Weatherby’s post, Bush and his team had delivered those crucial life-saving and health-enhancing milk deliveries.
It wasn’t until another running friend posted–“Love you and our friends!”–that Weatherby made the connection. Her Austin running community had come through for those babies and their families.
“I never even got to my pilot friends,” Weatherby mused with a smile. “It’s funny because everybody’s so humble (‘All I did was post a message’) but having that link is so crucial to getting what you need.”
Since 1915, Austin’s Paramount Theatre has been a shining beacon to central Texans seeking exciting and eclectic performances. Its gloriously restored blade and distinctive marquis blaze forth, announcing that magic is about to be made.
Paramount Connections Across Generations
From comedy to music, theatrics to political commentary, classic films to cutting-edge cultural events, the Paramount and neighboring sister, the State Theater (or “Stateside”), transcend the past.
“No strictures to what we can or can’t do,” said Jim Ritts, CEO and executive director of the Paramount and Stateside, as he sat in the original 1935 film projection and vault room and chatted with Top Trip Rentals. “[The Paramount’s] a connector.”
Ritts recounted a special time when he experienced the power of the Paramount.
The scene: the Paramount’s performance of Mark Twain Tonight, Hal Holbrook’s one-man show since 1954.
That night, Ritts met a father/son duo attending the show. That night was the boy’s 13th birthday. The father’s father, Ritts learned, had taken him to the Paramount for the same show on his 13th birthday.
That generational continuity carried an emotional wallop.
“I choked up. This place is truly the fourth character in every performance; it’s what is central—the Paramount, Holbrook’s Mark Twain—and the river flowing through connecting a grandfather, father, and son.”~Jim Ritts
Artists who perform here also attest to the theatre’s impact. Ritts pointed out that many—he mentioned Lyle Lovett, specifically—were inspired here, and subsequently chose the venue to kick off tours and new releases. Lovett’s not alone. The theatre estimates that some 10,000 performers have graced the stage throughout the Paramount’s storied life. And every year, more than 200,000 audience members experience the Paramount’s magic.
Engaging Austin’s Theatre Community Beyond the Show
The Paramount opens minds, hearts, and doors through a variety of outreach programs.
“Literacy to Life” introduces third graders to stagecraft. Professional “Story Wranglers” help students learn techniques to improve skills and build confidence while they write an original theatrical production (you can see finished works online at the Paramount’s website).
The Summer Classic Film Series Family Film Festival introduces young and old alike to the wonder and joy of iconic movies. With discounted prices and matinee times, the weekly series is a wonderful way for adults and kids to pass the dog days of Austin’s summer months.
And did you know that the Paramount Theatre plays a role in SXSW Edu? That’s right; the Paramount staff has promoted the importance of arts education at this annual Austin conference (here’s the 2018 SXSW Edu schedule).
Had you spent an August evening with filmmakers Chad Calek and Justin Holstein, you might have said “yes.” The two noted paranormal investigators were in Austin to promote their latest project, Sir NoFace. This documentary investigates a “full-body apparition” recorded by an Australian paranormal team. Is the image an accomplished fake, or does the footage prove, once and for all, that ghosts exist?
Austin Welcomes Sir NoFace
The Sir NoFace Lives Tour launched in Austin at Emo’s on Aug. 2, 2017, and whether you believe or not, Calek and Holstein put on a great evening. The two men, friends for more than 20 years, shared their love of film in an easy-going, personable manner before a raptly enthusiastic crowd of fans. They showed clips, told stories, and laughed at each other (and themselves) for being terrified. As Calek put it, “There’s a certain amount of humor in being completely f**ked.”
Calek is known as director and star of the autobiographical documentary American Ghost Hunter and A&E’s reality series Paranormal State. He and Holstein formed AGH Television, an independent digital distribution website and home to their many joint projects. Recently, A Blood Red Sky became available on Amazon Prime. Britain’s Chillingham Castle, the “most haunted location in the world,” sets the scene for Calek, Holstein, and the rest of the AGH team to explore the interaction of altering their minds while experiencing paranormal activity.
These filmmakers are masters at building suspense and setting mood. Sir NoFace was genuinely creepy, and dark, cavernous Emo’s (2015 E. Riverside Dr.) was the perfect setting for getting your pants scared off. And becoming a believer.
3 Tips for New Ghost Hunters
In case you’d like to check out some haunted locations on your own, Calek offered a few tips.
Do your research (look for places with known activity and read up on their history before you go)
As a protection, listen to the voice inside of you (“when you’re calling for the undead to do things to you, it gets really scary,” so trust your instincts)
Don’t play with a Ouija board (“it’s not the board itself–it could be a Ouija banana; you’re giving up your freedom. And that’s dangerous….”)
Top Trip Rentals was happy to host the AGH team at another historic (but not so ghostly) Austin property, 410 E. 6th Street (also known as the Graeber House). Calek, Holstein, and crew were looking for a space where they could all stay together. “The road is a tremendous amount of work,” Calek explained in an email. “I prefer to be tucked away in a place that has similar amenities to my home, so that I can enjoy the company of my touring team, who are also my closest friends.”
We’re pretty sure 410 E. 6th Street isn’t haunted. But if you’d like a tour of some Austin spots that supposedly host a ghost or two, take a look at Austin Ghost Tours when you book your next ATX stay.
How can you be a local business and make recommendations to guests without knowing the town? Top Trip Rentals loves Austin and, whenever possible, we’re out and about, discovering what’s special about our city.
We’ve collected a few images and comments from our most recent #toptripping experiences. Check out what the Top Trip Rentals staff recommends:
Parkside’s Summer Social Series
Top Trip Rentals owner Chereen Fisher loves to get the group out to make connections, sample offerings, and glean ideas for guest experiences. She suggested Parkside’s Summer Social Series: “I want to go because it sounds fun, yummy, and the event is something worth knowing more about.”
Purchasing admission to Parkside’s Summer Social Series grants what could be called the “Pick Your Parkside Pleasure”: choice of one each from three specialty cocktails, three courses from Chef Nathan Lemley, and three courses from featured guest chefs (different dates feature different chefs).
“It was a great experience being able to try creative collaborations from Parkside’s chef Nathan Lemley and Crossroads owners Danielle and Wayne Van Steen.
The cocktails were colorful, and the food was light and flavorful. Parkside’s rooftop patio is a lovely gem in Austin’s 6th Street entertainment district.” ~ Cara Thibodeaux
Interested in Parkside’s Summer Social?Put August 2o, 2017 on your calendar. The next event features chef Nathan Lemley and guest chef Lyle Bento. Learn more and buy tickets.
Mattie’s at Green Pastures
Austin’s locals remember many, many years of wonderful dining and event experiences at unique home-turned-restaurant Green Pastures. Recently, this piece of history was renovated and reopened by new owners as Mattie’s at Green Pastures, and we were eager to see how the traditional had been transformed. We’re happy to report that original charm has been preserved (peacocks, the house itself) and lovely modern updates added (decor and menu).
“Because I’m a gluten-free eater, previewing the menu is important. I never want to sit there, nibbling on the garnish from my drink, while everyone else chows down on fantastic looking but I-can’t-eat-those appetizers. Not only were there gluten-free options, but our server was very knowledgeable about all of Mattie’s various dishes and their ingredients. I recommend the Kale Salad.
The little details at Mattie’s impressed me. The cocktail menu was extensive, and including the photo of Mary Faulk Koock and her husband Chester, who established Green Pastures Restaurant in 1946, was a sweet touch. My Green Pastures Mint Julep was a perfect combination of classic cocktail with a modern update, just like Mattie’s.” ~ Leah Nyfeler, Communications
“Every dish we ordered here at Mattie’s did not disappoint. My absolute favorites, however, would have to be the Biscuits and Butter as well as the Crispy Cauliflower.”~Cara Thibodeaux
In addition to her role as Reservation Specialist at Top Trip Rentals, Cara has a personal food blog, The Great Full Girl. Visit “Mattie’s at Green Pastures” for more in-depth information about her experience.
Interested in trying Mattie’s at Green Pastures?Be sure to make a reservation. Once the weather’s a bit cooler, we recommend enjoying the outdoor tables on the porch and on the grounds. Maybe you’ll spy one of the white peacocks.
Mermaids have swum here. Musicians played (perhaps you were one of the guests for the SoFar pop-up concert with Harvest Thieves, Brookfield, and Zula Montez). Maybe your company held private events here during Austin’s annual conference celebration, South By Southwest (SXSW).
However you know 410 E. 6th St., the Graeber House, we’ve got a new iteration for this historic downtown location.
On Wednesday, June 28, Stout Magazine is hosting Houston-based business author Scott Sonenshein. A panel of Austin entrepreneurs will review Sonenshein’s book Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined.
And you’re invited to this unique vacation rental in the heart of downtown Austin to join their discussion.
Living the “Stretch” Lifestyle
Scott Sonenshein is the Henry Gardiner Symonds Professor of Management at Rice University and a respected expert in business management, psychology, and strategy.
So what’s his book about? What place does “stretching” have in business? Sonenshein explains:
“People think of resourcefulness as something done out of need when facing shortages or to resolve problems, but that’s just one aspect of it. Stretching means we don’t start from feeling like what we have isn’t enough. Instead, we embrace what we already have and then creatively put those resources to work, such as time, money, relationships, and materials.”
Magazine publisher Christi Hester knew immediately that Sonenshein embodied the “bold, brave, and determined” Stout lifestyle.
“There’s a chapter in Stretch inspired by Robert Rodriquez,” Hester explained. She had heard the filmmaker speak a few years earlier and was “blown away by how Rodriquez ‘mavericked’ and created his own vision; he was a disrupter before people started using the term.”
She reached out to Sonenshein to create an unconventional book review—a discussion on how executives implement experiences to encourage leadership success and build a purpose-driven life.
Meet the Experts
Each of the panelists brings their own “stretch” to the discussion.
Hester recognized The Graeber House, 410 E. 6th St., as a fitting location for hosting the group: “There’s simply no other house like it in Austin. When I think of the Stout mindset, 410 fits the bill.”
Top Trip Rentals has your vacation rental home just like you’d like it, and KEY Concierge further enhances that stay. Technology helps their tea of hospitality experts develop and deliver customized itineraries in advance for out-of-towners.
Founder and CEO Kim Shrum created the app-based service to provide “next level” services for discerning travelers and staycationers.
“We’re in a rewarding business,” explains Shrum. “We’re creating memories for our clients through unique experiences you can’t buy out of a box.”
These special itineraries involve tapping into the local community to identify unique adventures (arranging day trips to Marfa or catering intimate dinner parties) as well as satisfying everyday needs.
Our Top Trip guests find that KEY Concierge is a big help with services such as pre-arrival grocery delivery, bar stocking, and airport transportation. No matter what’s on the agenda, KEY Concierge infuses its services with personable and thoughtful attention to detail.
Check This Out
Enhance your Top Trip Rental stay by booking one of KEY Concierge’s popular tours in Austin. Try the Brewery + BBQ Excursion. Outdoor lovers won’t want to miss KEY’s private Hill Country Ride or A Day on the Lake (so many ATX adventures to arrange!).
Tell Us About Your Experience
How has KEY Concierge enhanced your Austin stay with Top Trip Rentals? Add your comment here or show us on Instagram (@toptriprentals, #toptripping). Did you get the complimentary breakfast?
In honor of two anniversaries–30 years of South by Southwest, Austin’s premier festival (1987–2017), and Top Trip Rentals’ 10th anniversary–we gave SXSW 2017 musicians a special promotional rate during their stay. Yes, while ATX room rates hit high notes, we lowered rates to $30 a night so musicians could conveniently rock a 6th Street launch pad during their SXSW’s performances.
Austin, Live Music Capital of the World
Are we crazy?
Well, Top Trip Rentals believes Austin’s soul is its artists.
We wanted to tip an appreciative hat to artists of all stripes (musical, visual, theatrical) who’ve made success possible.
Top Trip Rentals couldn’t have asked for better guests, and so we created a tradition. During big festivals and events, we’ve reserved a portion of our vacation rentals at affordable prices for performers, those souls who get on stage and give their energy, genius, and artistry every night.
Stay with Top Trip Rentals During Your Gig!
Are you a performer (musical, visual, theatrical) who needs an affordable place to unwind during Austin’s legendary festivals and creative events?
Updated Oct. 2017: Top Trip Rentals recently added a new amenity to the downtown Littlefield Lofts location, the Lounge at Littlefield. This complimentary gathering place is perfect for guests to meet and mingle. We also have featured products available, and we welcome our guest musicians to stop in, use the meeting space, visit with fans, and share merchandize through Top Trip Rentals market place in the Lounge.
As we greet 2017, our Top Trip Rentals staff doesn’t want 2016 to get away without reflecting on a few special highlights.
In 2016, Top Trip Rentals welcomed more guests from more varied locations to more accommodations than ever before. That kind of growth introduced new faces to our guests.
We added two great new team members: Rebecca Barbeau, general manager, and Cara Thibodeaux, reservations specialist. Both come with extensive travel-related professional and personal experience.
Meet Cara Thibodeaux, Reservations Specialist
If you’re booking a Top Trip Rentals stay in Austin, your first contact will most likely be with Cara. She calmly and knowledgeably answers hundreds of daily calls and emails regarding accommodations in Austin and the surrounding Hill Country.
Cara’s extensive experience includes working with hotel brands and vacation rentals, including HomeAway.com and TurnKey Rentals. When she’s not working, Cara travels the world (recent trips include Guatemala, France, Spain, and Italy) and writes an Austin food blog, Foodofthe512.
Meet Rebecca Barbeau, General Manager
Rebecca joined Top Trip Rentals in 2016, filling our newly created General Manager role. Rebecca has years of experience globe-hopping and working in resort hospitality at some of the nation’s most gorgeous locations: Big Sky, Catalina Island, and the Grand Canyon.
Rebecca keeps everything running smoothly at Top Trip Rentals. You will find her at the Littlefield Lofts property handling guest relations, working with our housekeeping staff, and overseeing the moving behind-the-scene pieces. When not tenaciously problem solving for Top Trip, Rebecca loves traveling and used to live out of the largest piece of Samsonite luggage you’ve ever seen.
Cara and Rebecca can be reached at Top Trip’s email if you have a question about an upcoming stay. Make sure you say “hello” when you book your stay.
Now that the dust has settled (literally), let’s take a moment to reflect on Austin City Limits 2016.
This year, ACL festival managers went for a younger crowd and the music skewed heavy on EDM. I wandered around and saw a number of bands: Catfish and the Bottlemen, Melanie Martinez, and Cage the Elephant all played fabulous sets, full of energy and showmanship.
Why You Need an ACL VIP Pass
There wasn’t a must-see band for me; honestly, I went because I had a Top Trip Rentals VIP pass.
I LOVE the VIP area of ACL. If you have the money, it is so worth it (a VIP pass is about $450 per day versus $100 per day). Just beyond the VIP gatekeepers lies the promised land–air conditioned flush toilets; free drinks from Tito’s Vodka and Troublemaker Wines; free food from local vendors, like Ranch 616, and catered meals from Central Market. It’s called the “Grove,” and the area’s shady and relatively quiet. There are even big-screen TVs showing the stages and others set up for football.
It’s an oasis for sure in a sea of people and heat.
ACL Venue is the Big Star
There are moments of pure transcendence at ACL.
Ironically, I ended up spending as much time watching the crowds and clouds as I did the bands.
Don’t get me wrong–the music is great. But Austin has a lot of great music happening at all hours in all places all across town most of the time.
What makes ACL such a great experience music is the setting. Austin’s Zilker Park, nestled on the edge of Lady Bird Lake, provides a great view across the water of Austin’s ever changing skyline.
It’s really a gorgeous site to experience live music.
The people, the attitude, the winter weather, the music–there’s a lot to love about Austin. So, how do locals narrow down what to do when entertaining out-of-town friends and family?
Whether visiting for a few days, traveling for work, or enjoying Austin’s signature festivals and events (ACL, SXSW, F1, The University of Texas Longhorn games, and more), our Top Trip Rentals’ staff members can guide visitors to live like a local.
Here to help are some of our favorite places and things to do in ATX. #goplaystay
Rebecca’s Top 5
Walking the Barton Creek greenbelt (and stopping for swims in Barton Creek along the way).
Wednesday night margaritas and “Texas Radio Live” at Guero’s Oak Garden.
ACL 2016 is coming up fast. And that means it’s time to pick your favorite bands.
When equally interesting bands are playing at the same time at opposite ends of Zilker Park (the ACL venue), it’s hard to pick who to hear. And it’s impossible to run between stages during performances to see two acts at once (well, it can be done but not easily).
The only way to manage your band picks is through a careful review of the ACL website lineup page including bios and videos. Then, download the app and set up your schedule.
Top Trip Rentals Recommends
Who are we psyched about seeing at ACL? Here are a few of our staff recommendations.
Sandra’s Top 5:
Mumford & Sons
Rebecca’s Top 5:
Band of Horses
Rene’s Top 5:
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats
Quaker City Night Hawks
Corrine Bailey Rae
Cara’s Top 5:
As you can see, our crew at Top Trip Rentals is looking forward to a real mix of bands and styles. We guarantee that, no matter your taste, you won’t find a bad band at ACL.
Not much of a planner? Not sure what you like? Wandering the park and staying at a stage that sounds interesting could yield a great new find.
The kind ACL folks have put together a great guide. With the festival now in its 15th year, they know a thing or two about having a great time. The ACL guide includes FAQ for getting the most out of the festival. Read this to learn details such as how to get from downtown Austin to Zilker Park, what items can and cannot be taken, and additional programs to music during the event.
Dripping Springs was once a sleepy ranch town. Located 25 miles west of Austin, the town is on the way to the gorgeous Texas Hill Country. But as with all things near Austin, Dripping Springs has changed.
Today, it’s thriving town in it’s own right. With a new string of vineyards dotting the landscape, a thriving wine community exits. Only a short drive from downtown, Dripping Springs is an easy spot for a day trip getaway.
Local Wine and Food Festival
If you are looking for an excuse to explore Dripping Springs, this weekend provides the perfect opportunity. This Saturday, September 10, 2016, the city is hosting the 9th Annual “Dripping with Taste Wine & Food Festival”. The Food and Wine Festival showcases more than 75 food, wine, and spirits vendors made or produced in nearby Dripping Springs.
When it came time to create a specialty cocktail for 410 E. 6th Street, our historic Graeber Home, Top Trip Rentals chose Barmadillo partner and mixologist JR Mocanu. His mission–to merge traditional and modern elements to accurately reflect the downtown Austin building’s historic significance and modern updates.
Presenting The 410
With these requirements in mind, we present a mix of locally-sourced spirits that looks sweet but tastes substantial (it’s the bitters).
In keeping with the historic provenance of the building, The 410 in made of ingredients available to barkeeps in the 19th century. The combination, however, is a modern celebration of the home’s mid-20th century remodeling and renovations.
When you book your Top Trip Rentals stay at the Graeber House, request a batch of “The 410” to get you in the spirit.
At our 6th Street vacation rental home, the Graeber House, Top Trip Rentals has displayed works from artist Cornelius Carter’s “Faces Series.” The Graeber House, also known as 410 E. 6th Street, is a 4,800-square foot 19th century mansion located in the heart of downtown Austin. Carter’s work graced its historic walls with unique artistry, including this iconic portrait of the late musical genius Prince.
Who is Cornelius Carter?
Cornelius Carter is an Austin-based, classically-trained artist. He was born and raised in 1970s Memphis but left the South to attend the prestigious Minneapolis College of Art and Design on a partial scholarship. After a stint in New York selling paintings as a street artist in Greenwich Village, Carter returned to Memphis before eventually settling in Austin to raise his son.
In 2015, Carter and two other Austin artists were chosen from some 1,250 entries submitted by more than 300 local artists and art organizations to featured at Austin City Hall.
At the opening press event, he unveiled “The Death of the King,” a large-scale portrait of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, part of the “People’s Art Gallery.” For the duration of the year, “The Death of a King” was displayed at the Austin City Hall.
Cornelius Carter’s work, though rooted in the traditional portraiture paintings of European masters, often depicts societal struggles involving race and class. People and their relationships are one of his central themes. According to his website, Carter “weaves together imagery from history, mythology, childhood, and life experience to create images that are thought provoking, captivating, and beautiful….”
Bringing Art to Austin’s Vacation Rental Homes
Through the Graeber House’s partnership with IEI Austin, Carter’s gallery, our guests have enjoyed a rotating inventory of artwork. Top Trip Rentals values Austin’s creative community; it’s part of what makes our city great, and we’re proud to showcase local artists whenever possible.
“Guests to the historic mansion can see Carter’s works of musical icons while staying in the heart of the entertainment district in a section of Austin that glorifies musicians,” says Chereen Fisher, Top Trip Rentals owner and Graeber property manager.
Answer: Austin. South Congress Avenue (“SoCo”), to be exact.
#GOPLAYSTAY on Austin’s South Congress
Top Trip Rentals’ updated 1930s era SoCo bungalow is a mere one block off of Austin’s famous South Congress Avenue. Some of the coolest (and weirdest) shops are a short walk away in the heart of this incredibly fun neighborhood.
Stroll over to Big Top Candy, Austin’s famous Continental Club, Amy’s Ice Creams, Kendra Scott Jewelry, Perla Restaurant ,and many more than we can list in one blog. Also, some of the best boot shopping in the state as mentioned in the Conde Nast article. It’s old Austin meets new.
In Texas, we love to drive. Cars rule the road. So how do you get around Austin if you’re not driving?
At one point in time, Uber and Lyft suspended operations in Austin after voters weighed in on Proposition 1. As a result, the Austin City Council proceeded with more stringent security requirements. (This Texas Monthly article provides excellent coverage about the debate. Welcome to Austin, folks; we have lots of civic engagement!)
What Are My Ride Options in Austin?
If you’re navigating Austin without a car, what are the transportation options?
Austin has public transportation (take Capital Metro for both bus and light rail)
Try a ride hailing service (like GetMe and RideFare; Wingz goes to and from the airport only)
Car2Go is a convenient carsharing service (and dedicated parking places).
Austin’s primary cab services are Yellow Cab and Austin Cab (note that Austin’s cab companies gets less than stellar reviews on Yelp. From the complaints, cab services seem to take a long time, so allow plenty of lead time when requesting a pick-up)
Austin B-cycle, a cycling ride share, is a great way to have some fun and get a bit of exercise. And there’s a station conveniently located directly in front of our Littlefield Lofts on 6th Street!
TIP: Top Trip Rentals hasn’t tried it yet, but Shire Cab Company gets great reviews. The driver, Al, is a local musician (and, we hear, a character), so try Shire Cab Company for that uniquely Austin experience.
It’s been a long time coming, but one of Austin’s newest transformations is the Seaholm EcoDistrict near West Avenue and 3rd Street. (Sure; the district’s bigger, but if you want to tell a driver where to drop you off, that’s a good corner.) Commissioned in 1948, the Seaholm Power Plant produced power until 1989. It closed in 1996 and became a Texas Historic Landmark and National Historic Place. Now, it’s becoming a downtown destination.
Established highlights of this downtown area already exist: salons (Jackson Ruiz has a location in this development), grocery stores like Trader Joe’s, and restaurants, including True Foods Kitchen. You can enjoy a lovely outdoor dining experience with a view of the decommissioned power plant steam pipes. The Seaholm Power Plant sign is still there. Commissioned in 1948, Seaholm produced power until 1989. The plant closed in 1996 and became a Texas Historic Landmark and National Historic Place.
A quick trip these days reveals an ongoing construction site. The new Austin Central Library is in final stages (that completion date keeps changing); the entire area, once completed, will be a pretty cool spot and interesting mixture of iconic and cutting-edge Austin architecture.
Once the dust has settled, the Seaholm District will be an amazing gem of a destination for locals and travelers alike.
Twenty years ago, Austin’s shopping options were pretty basic.
Now, if you needed camping or backpacking equipment, plenty of choices for water purifiers and tents existed. But Austin was not exactly known as a destination for high fashion and design.
That, my friends, has changed.
New Shopping Options in Austin
In the last few years, Austin has seen amazing retail growth. The newly developed (and constantly expanding) Domain Shopping area north of town, Hill Country Galleria (near Hwy. 620 and 71), and an amazing and unique number of small boutiques around downtown offer something for just about everyone.
Some of the most interesting and unexpected shopping can be found near Top Trip Rentals’ Littlefield Lofts, located at 6th and Brazos. One option for shopping is known as the West End (or West Sixth Street.).
Wandering Austin’s West End Shopping
Where is the West End? Start from the Littlefield Lofts building on 6th Street. Take a long walk (or catch a pedicab) heading west; your destination is the intersection of 6th Street and Lamar and Blvd.
Taking in a few boutiques and shops along this expanding downtown shopping corridor is a wonderful way to pass a few hours. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at Walton’s Fancy and Staple (owned by Austin’s sweetheart Sandra Bullock) before stopping in at stores.
Housed in a historic building, Walton’s has a little of everything: food, pastries, coffee, antiques, garden supplies and other curios. Get some Southern comfort food, like the shrimp and grits (their specialty, it seems), or go for the breakfast tacos.
After filling up on breakfast and cappuccino (the coffee is good!), I was ready to walk toward my ultimate destination– the Jonathan Adler Boutique on West 5th Street. My companion was destined for BookPeople, a well-known locally owned book store, so we strolled by not-yet-open bars and not-yet-finished condo construction one our way to 6th and Lamar.
This busy pedestrian- and traffic-filled intersection is surrounded by a few women’s clothing stores (chains like Anthropologie, Free People, and Title Nine, and local shops, such as By George). But nothing caught my eye.
At 5th and Lamar, I made a quick dash into West Elm before entering the shiny explosion of cool next door that is Jonathan Adler’s Austin store. Oh, I want to buy everything in there! From subversively messaged cross-stitch pillows to candles vodka-scented candles, this shop has everything a downtown Austin loft needs to shine–sparkly, modern, and cleverly crafted furniture and accessories.
And if you are still in the market for camping supplies, never fear. Austin hasn’t quite let go of its roots. REI is housed between BookPeople and Anthropologie.
From the outdoors to the outré and outlandish, Austin’s got you covered.
In the “blink and you missed it” category, none is changing more rapidly in Austin’s food scene than the offerings for brunch. Every good restaurant in town now has some kind of option for this Sunday meal that is better than breakfast and more important than lunch. It’s a verb. It’s brunch.
Parking in downtown Austin can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be!
If you’re looking to take the hassle out of downtown Austin parking, we have two solutions.
Easy Parking in Downtown Austin
Parking at Top Trip Rentals is available for purchase with your Littlefield Lofts stay. Arrange for this handy amenity when you book your downtown vacation rental home in the Littlefield Lofts building.
Use a Handy Parking App
Find elusive Austin parking through Best Parking. Visit the website or download the Best Parking app to discover those rare parking spaces. Simply choose “Austin” and then select your area from the neighborhood map. When you click on the link provided, we’ve shown the area of Austin near Littlefield Lofts. (You’re welcome!). Voila! Wherever you are, nearby parking rates and locations are listed.
We had a great week with the folks from Capitol One Spark Small Business program who held their VIP reception with author, chef, raconteur, Anthony Bourdain at our historic Graeber Home on Austin’s famed 6th Street. Here are a few pics from the Capitol One Spark Small Business House they set up for SXSW Interactive 2016. Hope to see everyone again next year!
In 10 days, our city is going to be bursting at the seams with musicians, techies, film buffs, actors, travelers, fans, geeks, and more. All will converge on our humble city and turn it into the place to be in the universe for 10 days in March.
There are so many amazing people in town for this extended week’s programming. Two panels that I would love to see are Daniel Pink on Friday, March 13 and the Bill Gurley and Malcolm Gladwell’s featured session on Sunday, March 15. For all other offerings, here is a panel summary for SXSW 2016. Get planning!
Every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m.- 1 p.m., you can buy yummy, healthy and local food brought to you by local farmers and one of Austin’s best non-profits the Sustainable Food Center. The SFC/Downtown’s Farmer’s Market is at Republic Square at 4th and Guadalupe.
Former 19th Century Saloon and 20th Century Architect’s Private Home now 21st Century Private Rental Available through Top Trip Rentals
March 5, 2014, Austin, Texas—For the first time in more than 60 years, this tucked-away private residence on Austin’s 6th Street is available for over-night rentals and special events. Top Trip Rentals, an Austin-based vacation rental company, represents the property.
Graeber House History
The 19th century limestone building at 410 E. 6th Street began life as the rough-and-tumble Shamrock Saloon. More recently, it was the private residence of David Graeber, Austin architect, urban planner, and founder of GSC Architects.
An LA-based digital media company became its first guests after reserving for this week’s SXSW Interactive Conference. Chereen Fisher, owner of Top Trip Rentals, explained why this was such a perfect fit for the client:
“Space plays an important role in the creative process. Our SXSW guests were interested in the house’s unique character, history, and location. These stand-out characteristics gave them a chance to connect with business partners and entertain clients in a memorable space right on 6th Street.”
Location, Location, Location
The Graeber House has all the feel of a small boutique hotel. Yet this protected Austin Historic Landmark is located in the heart of Austin’s famed 6th Street Entertainment District.
Within its 4,623 sq. ft., there are 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, 2 separate wings, an indoor pool facing the 19th century structure, and 2 kitchens, all spread across two floors of living space. Walls are decorated with original art provided by IEI Austin.
Fisher spoke fondly of this uniquely special Austin home:
“The building at 410 E. 6th Street is a time capsule, with references to times and lives lived over 130 years in this one location. When guests stay with us, they too add to this home’s story, so we hope they have a great time and make it a good story.”
My personal favorite account? Pinterest. Why? Choose any Austin experience you want, scroll through those images, and see what catches your eye.
Also, the Top Trip Rentals website blog has a ton of information. You can wander through the posts to discover whether anything we’ve written about strikes your fancy. The blog is where you’ll also find good-to-know updates on everyday (but important) items, like where to park in downtown Austin, festival tips, and all kinds of local “insider” information.
Top Trip Recommends
We regularly compile lists of our favorite things: these are written on our “Top 5″ cards.
You’ll definitely want to try, visit, or experience these while you’re in ATX.
And you know what? We’d love for you to share YOUR “Top 5” with us once your visit is complete. Tag your post with #goplaystay on any of our Top Trip Rentals social media sites.
Need More Info?
So, once you’ve taken a look at these resources, do you still want more ideas or need to know something about Austin? Post your questions to our Facebook page. We’re happy to investigate and find an answer for you.
At Top Trip Rentals, we strive to provide our guests with the most amazing stay possible. We know that time away from life is limited and that vacations are precious opportunities to reconnect with friends and loved ones or simply to unwind from the stress of life.
To enhance your stay, we have partnered with KEY Concierge. They not only handle the essentials…pre-arrival grocery + stocked bar, transportation, food delivered in, etc…they also deliver five-star experiences curated by local concierge. Whether it’s a customized taste of Austin, guided hill country hike + picnic, live music crawl, breakfast taco + bloody marys delivered to your door or waiting in a five-hour line for the infamous Franklin BBQ, the sky’s the limit. To make your trip seamless and experience the best of Austin, let their local concierge team handle the details so you can arrive + relax. email@example.com | 512.640.4888.
“We are excited to provide concierge services for guests staying at Top Trip Rental vacation homes,” says Erin Kotzur, KEY Concierge Director of Business Development. “We make stays memorable by crafting the perfect itinerary and handling the details so guests don’t have to,” she added.
Top Trip Rentals will continue to provide guests with Austintacious ways of enjoying their stay through information found on our blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest boards and Instagram. “At Top Trip Rentals, we continue our commitment to giving each guest personal assistance, so we’re always just a phone call away to help you, but for more elaborate requests, we wanted to be able to give guests additional services, like access to KEY Concierge, that will improve their stay,” says Chereen Fisher, Founder of Top Trip Rentals.