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#Around Town

Locals We Love: Paramount Theatre’s Jim Ritts

Jim Ritts, CEO and executive director of Austin's Paramount Theatre, inside the historic building

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

Facade and sign of Austin's historic Paramount Theatre
The Paramount blade was recreated in 2015 for the 100th birthday of Austin’s historic theatre.

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

Jim Ritts, CEO and executive director of Austin's Paramount Theatre, inside the historic building
Jim Ritts, CEO and executive director of Austin’s Paramount Theatre. Photo Credit: Paramount Theatre

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.

Sidewalk star at Austin's Paramount Theatre honoring singer Lyle Lovett
In addition to honorary sidewalk stars, performers are encouraged to sign the backstage “Artist Wall.” Photo Credit: Paramount Theatre

Engaging Austin’s Theatre Community Beyond the Show

Classic seats in Austin's historic Paramount Theatre
35mm and 70mm film exhibition make the Paramount a must for classic screen lovers. Photo Credit: Paramount Theatre

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).

 

Top Trips’ Paramount Picks

The Paramount Theatre’s “Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival” is as unique as those iconic Austin light towers. During the festival, a wealth of comedic genius graces stages around ATX with more than 100 live performances.

Be sure to take a look at the Paramount Theatre’s current list of events (films, shows, performances) when you plan your next night out. When you book a stay at Littlefield Lofts on Austin’s signature 6th St., you’re just a short walk from the Paramount and State Theatre (between 7th and 8th St.), Congress Avenue, and the stately Texas Capitol grounds.

Interior view of Austin's historic Paramount Theatre
Classic architecture and details, such as the original 1920s fire curtain, add period glamor to the Paramount. Photo Credit: Paramount Theatre

 

#goplaystay

Logo for the Paramount TheatreWhether you went Paramount or Stateside, we want to know about your ATX cultural night out.

What’d you see? What did you wear? Was your night special? Did you make a Paramount connection?

Tag us at @TopTripRentals so we can feel the magic.

 

 

August 22, 2017

On the Town with Parkside, Mattie’s

top-trip-rentals_play

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.”

Top Trip Rentals cards showing Shawn Cirkiel of Parkside ProjectsParkside is noted chef Shawn Cirkiel’s flagship restaurant project, and the series was created to share “adventurous, upscale bar food and specialty cocktails” served on their rooftop patio overlooking downtown Austin, within walking distance from Top Trip Rentals vacation homes property, Littlefield Lofts.

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). 

Collage of cocktail and food from Parkside Summer Social in July 2017

“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

Dinner and cocktail menu from Mattie's at Green Pasture
Menus (dinner and cocktail) with the Green Pastures Julep. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

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

Plate of cornbread with flavored butter at Mattie's at Green Pastures in Austin.
Cornbread with flavored butter for the table, at Mattie’s in Austin. Photo Credit: Cara Thibodeaux

“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.

Want to stay close by? Top Trip Rentals’ Downtown Bungalow is in the Mattie’s at Green Pasture’s neighborhood.

 

 

 

 

 

July 30, 2017

Make Dripping Springs Your Hill Country Day Trip

Postcard that says "Go Play Stay" and #toptripping for Top Trip Rentals

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.

The festival takes place at the Dripping Springs Ranch Park & Event Center, located on Ranch Road (RR) 12 (see the map on this website link for the Event Center). 

Happy trails and #toptripping to you!

September 9, 2016

Live like a local at our SOCO home

Remodeled 1930s bungalow front door view

Where in Texas is the BEST place to visit according to Conde Nast Traveler magazine? Right here, South Congress Avenue shopping. Our updated 1930s era SOCO bungalow is one block off of Austin’s famous South Congress Avenue and right in the heart of all that this incredibly cool, fun and weird. You are moments from Big Top Candy, the Continental Club, Perla Restaurant and so 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.

Top Trip Rental's Soco Bungalow
Top Trip Rental’s Soco Bungalow

July 23, 2016

Now How Do I Get Around Austin?

Postcard that says "Go Play Stay" and #toptripping for Top Trip Rentals

Have you heard? Uber and Lyft suspended operations in Austin after voters weighed in on Proposition 1. As a result, the Austin City Council is proceeding 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 without Uber and Lyft?

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 newer ride hailing service (like GetMe and RideFare;  Wingz goes to and from the airport only)
  • Pedicabs work well in the general downtown area (there are several companies)
  • 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)

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.

June 30, 2016

Seaholm Development Brings New Shops, Restaurants to Downtown Austin

View of the decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant

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.

View of the decommissioned Seaholm Power PlantEstablished 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.

Austin Central Library sign lit up in early morning.
Austin’s new Central Library waits behind construction fences for new patrons. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Once the dust has settled, the Seaholm District will be an amazing gem of a destination for locals and travelers alike.

 

April 28, 2016

Stroll the West Sixth Street Shopping District

Interior view of Jonathan Adler boutique in Austin TX

Twenty years ago, shopping was pretty basic in Austin. If you wanted to go camping or backpacking, then there were plenty of choices for buying water purifiers and tents. Not exactly a spot for high fashion and design. Well, that my friends has changed. The last five years has really seen the growth of shopping options explode, from the newly and constantly expanding Domain Shopping area north of town, to small boutiques around downtown, there’s something for everyone now. And some of the most interesting and unexpected shopping can be found a short distance from our Littlefield Lofts vacation rentals at Sixth and Brazos. For a leisurely stroll from the LL building, start off with a pedicab or long walk heading west on Sixth Street toward the intersection of Lamar and Sixth Street. This is an area near a shopping region known as West End or West Sixth Street.

For a nice way to spend a few hours, we at Top Trip Rentals highly recommend taking in a few boutiques and shops along this expanding downtown shopping corridor. Never one to preach what I don’t practice, I spent a leisurely breakfast recently at Walton’s Fancy and Staple on Sixth Street with a friend before heading out for a few stores on West Sixth Street. Walton’s is housed in a historic building and has a little of everything–food, pastries, coffee, antiques for sale, garden supplies and other curios. Not having eaten yet that day, I ordered the breakfast tacos, but once my friend’s shrimp and grits arrived, I knew I’d made a mistake. Get some Southern Comfort food at Walton’s…it seems to be their speciality.

After filling up on cappuccino (the coffee here is good!), I was ready to walk toward my ultimate destination–birthday shopping for a friend at the Jonathan Adler Boutique on West 5th Street near the Lamar intersection. As my companion was headed on to BookPeople after breakfast, together we strolled down West Sixth by not-yet-open bars and not-yet-finished condo construction to make our way to the intersection of Sixth and Lamar.

Around this busy pedestrian and traffic-filled crossing, there are a few women’s clothing stores, like Antropologie and Title Nine where I stopped in to see if anything caught my eye (it didn’t) and then finally headed over to 5th and Lamar, making a quick dash into West Elm and then onto the shiny explosion of cool that is Jonathan Adler’s Austin store. How I want to buy everything in here! From subversively messaged cross-stitch pillows to candles that smell like Vodka, Jonathan Adler has everything that a downtown Austin loft needs to shine the brightest. Not much in the way of camping supplies, but this Austin outpost of JA has everything a downtown loft craves–sparkly, modern and clever furniture and accessories.

And if you are still in the market for camping supplies, never fear, REI is housed a block away in between BookPeople and Anthropologie. So, now, Austin’s got you covered from the outdoors to the outlandish! Shop On!

Shopping in Austin at the gorgeous Jonathan Adler boutique.
Shopping in Austin at the gorgeous Jonathan Adler boutique.

May 2, 2016