Visiting Austin With a Dog – Texas, USA

When a city has the motto “Keep Austin Weird,” you get the feeling that the people who live there don’t take themselves too seriously.   The motto is plastered all over the place: greeting you when you land at the airport; in gift shops; on t-shirts, bumper stickers and mugs; and so many more places. There it is, like a neon sign over top of the city: “Keep Austin Weird!”

Visiting Austin With a Dog - Texas, USA

Outside the Capitol Building!

What does it mean?

Turns out, “Keep Austin Weird” is meant to be a warning against commercialism and over-development. The motto is to bolster pride in a community that aims to be as diverse as possible to the point of being eccentric. Austinites see this as valuable.  They believe that this form of diversity promotes creativity and makes the city more interesting.

Because of all of this, we had high expectations for our visit.  Sadly, we did not fall in love with the city. We wanted to, but it just never happened.  We did, however, fall in love with certain parts of the city and we did have a lovely day out.

The Capitol Building:

With only one day to spend in Austin proper, the bipeds honed in on the major historic and architectural wonder the city has to offer: the Capitol Building, the beating heart of Texas.

Visiting Austin With a Dog - Texas, USA

The stunning pink granite, Italian Renaissance Revival style building, is surrounded by 22 acres of grounds and monuments. The grounds offer a wonderful walk with your dog on a nice warm fall day.  We enjoyed the 17 monuments that surround the Capitol Building, as well as the “Great Walk,” a black and white diamond-patterned paved area shaded by majestic trees.  We stopped in front of the Heroes of the Alamo, the Volunteer Firemen, the Confederate Soldiers and the Terry’s Texas Rangers and many other smaller and wonderfully detailed works.  There were canons, and old fountains, yet none were more majestic than the Capitol Building itself.


Unfortunately, dogs (even in carriers) are not allowed inside the building. (Service dogs are welcome.)  Don’t try sneaking your pet in either, because there is airport-like security to enter. So if you are traveling with your pet and you do want to go inside, visit as a pair and take turns. It is absolutely worth it.

Welcoming you inside the building are two large white marble statues, one of David Crockett and one of General Santa Anna.  As you walk further inside, the rotunda takes all the glory.  There, portraits line the walls: stoic likenesses of every person who has either served as president of the Republic of Texas or later (and today) as governor of the State of Texas.  It is beautiful.

What Mom loved most though was outside. Something I could see! The State Capitol Extension.

Visiting Austin With a Dog - Texas, USA

The Extension (photo from Flickr)

Some fun facts I picked up for you:

  • The Texas State Capitol Extension is 65 feet deep.
  • The Capitol Extension was built to add additional space that was badly needed. The building was built below ground on the North side of the Capitol so it wouldn’t interfere with the historical Capitol and the look of the Capitol grounds.
  • The building is connected to the original 1888 Capitol by 3 underground pedestrian walkways. The Capitol Extension is open to the public and is accessible by elevators in the main Capitol Building.
  • There is a 350 seat auditorium, which is the largest room in the Capitol Extension.
  • There is an open-air rotunda which is the same size as the rotunda in the Main Capitol Building. It’s 60 feet in diameter and features a star and the word “Texas” around it. It is similar to the star on the ceiling of the dome of the Texas State Capitol … that a friend of the family of our hosts made!

After all that wonderful sightseeing, which also included the visitors’ centre, we were all getting hungry. And where do you go for some amazing burgers in Austin that cost almost nothing? Dirty Martin’s of course.

Dirty Martin’s:

Visiting Austin With a Dog - Texas, USA

Still Standing!

Around since 1926, the place can’t be beat. It has it all: history, fun decor and the really down to earth weirdness you expect from Austin.  Inside, a bunch of students sat next to tourists who in turn were sitting next to some business folk on break. No one cares where you are from, and no one is expecting any fancy china.  But the food … Oh the food!

Dirty Martin’s makes one promise: your meat has never been frozen. The French fries and onion rings are homemade from scratch every day. Lime-aid and lemonade are squeezed by hand and the shakes and malts are made to order. The employees stay for years and treated like family. It shows in their smiling faces. Don’t believe me?  Then let me tell you the story of Doc Mallard who was loved by all.  “Doc” started working at Dirty Martin’s in 1947 as a car hop.  He eventually worked as the Head of Public Relations until six months before his death in 1993.  Wesley – in the kitchen – has been around since 1957!

It’s still the same old building and sure, some things are new – I was told the ceiling was raised to accommodate the flat screen TV’s – and they’ve added some things to the menu to reflect the wants and needs of their clients, such as veggie burgers, a cheeseburger salad, and chili.  But you can feel the years here. It’s cozy. It’s unpretentious. It feels like home.

We recommend it. Come on over and sit at the bar to eat, or in the back or on the back patio and listen to music and watch people. If you are with your dog, there are some tables out front that you can sit at to share a burger and fries with man’s best friend.

There were some things we wanted to see in Austin and never did. One was some of the famed live music the city is known for and the other is an area of Austin known as Soco.  It’s a shopping district that we hear is home to many a coffee shop, a bunch a fun stores, restaurants, festivals and … something we have yet to enjoy … food  trucks! Apparently that is where the real dog friendly dining in Austin occurs!


So although we never enjoyed Austin as the “Live Music Capitol of the World,” we did enjoy the city. The skyline with the Frost Bank Tower looking like something out of Star-trek. The Farmers Market that was so huge it overwhelmed the bipeds with its variety. (Not dog friendly.) Austin was fun. It was weird. And yet, we did not fall in love. Maybe it was because we had to press the “pause” button to get from one fun activity to the next.  Austin’s sites, like those in so many North American cities, are not centralized. This means having to return to your car and drive to the next activity. For us, it was comparable to watching a really good movie with too many commercial breaks.

Or perhaps we just need to go back.

Have you ever really liked a place and yet not fallen in love with it, not knowing for sure why?

10 Comments on “Visiting Austin With a Dog – Texas, USA

  1. Great post about Austin. We enjoyed visiting there with you!! I wish there had been more time to see everything you wanted to see. Here is hoping you can return and we can spend a couple of days seeing all the sights! Thanks for saying all those nice things about my home town!! 😉

    • It was a fun fun day for sure! not to be forgotten anytime soon! And it is nice that there is something to see waiting for our return! Thanks for being such amazing hosts!

  2. Enjoyed the reading as always, we have the same place like Dirty Matin’s not far from our flat, it is chinese kitchen runned by chinese people, who didn’t even speak ukrainian or russian language few years ago and had their menue written in chinese only, the furniture and surrounding is very simple, but the food!!!!!!!!!! Even Forbes magazine have listed them on the first place among chinese restaurants in Kiev, though the place looks like students cafeteria! The chinese family live in this small house and have the restaurant which they run all by themselves: mother, father, 3 girls and 1 son. Have been with my friend at the very expencive chinese restaurant stuffed with antique furniture few days ago, and have realised that they don’t know how to cook chinese food, really!!!

    • Sounds like a place we must go to! I love discovering little places like this. Decor is important sometimes but not as important as the food! I have been to a few places where I just LOVED the decor… but the food was … meh. I agree that any restaurant should focus on food. Both is ideal but very very rare.

  3. Austin is the type of city that can’t be enjoyed in a day. You have to let it grow on you but, sadly, it seems the seed didn’t set. There is nothing that says you are required to fall in love with a place, so don’t feel bad. If you knew someone who lived there, you would have a different perspective. That’s the beauty of travel – there will be places that won’t resonate with you. It makes those places that do resonate even more. Thank you for sharing your adventures!

    • We struggle with a lot of North American cities … the lack of a real “downtown” with the sites centralized, a square with restaurants and boutiques … being able to wonder on foot and take it in. We really believe that it is the obsession with building along long straight roads and having to jump in a car and location hop that messes with the mojo for us.

      This is true of so many of the places we would “love to love” but just can’t. A location needs to have more than one thing to see. Why isn’t the Capitol surrounded by quaint restaurants and boutiques? It makes no sense to us. Even Miami – where you do have to drive to get from one site to the next – has more than one thing on offer at each location once you get there – Rodeo drive has the art deco, the restaurants and the beach with its boardwalk. I think that being car dependant is what made Austin so bizarre for us. Total disconnect. We know people there – it is why we were there! Marlene is from Austin! Like I said, we loved all the bits … just not the having to press “pause” in between.

  4. While I can’t disagree that it would be nice if Austin’s sites were closer together, I still love this town! We travel 9 months a year, and spend our winters in Austin and I just can’t get enough of this place. It’s definitely difficult to see it all in a day, but imagine being able to take your time, mosey though the city, seeing one or two locations per day over a couple of weeks – that’s when you fall in love with this place. Because the “in-between” places also add to the experience. Having the luxury of time really makes all the difference.

    • Thanks Amy … It is why we added that at the end of our post. That perhaps we just need to go back. To give it time. Often that can be the downside to a quick visit. Better than nothing … certainly. But you always miss out. Where would you send us?

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