Austin’s iconic image is that of a bat. Why? Underneath South Congress Bridge lives nearly 1.5 million Mexican Free-Tailed bats. Pictured above are a few of the hundreds of people that come out every day before sunset, lined along the bridge or gathered underneath it, to watch the bats emerge.

After living in Austin for five years, there are many places in the city that I will miss while I’m abroad. I compiled a list of my top five favorite gems in the south / central area.

Town Lake
The Colorado River runs straight through the center of Austin. The stretch in front of downtown is referred to as Town Lake. My favorite thing to do is rent a kayak or paddleboard (Texas Rowing Center is my favorite shop) and explore the water with some friends. In addition, the city of Austin just completed the boardwalk, a multi-million dollar project for a beautiful trail that goes around the lake. The trails are perfect for walking your dogs, jogging, biking, or just to admire the panoramic views of the city.

El Tacorrido
Growing up in south central Texas, I’ve often sustained myself on tacos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. El Tacorrido is, hands down, my favorite taco place in the city. It’s a quick and very inexpensive drive-thru with authentic street style tacos. The menu greets you with warm ¡Bienvenidos! along with an image of the restaurants’ iconic pig. I always choose between the carnitas, barbacoa, and al pastor tacos on corn tortillas. Also, the green salsa is pure heaven. Another must-try: the El Equinox, which is a fantastic blend of horchata and espresso.

Honorable mention: Papalote, another authentic street taco restaurant with a wide menu selection – it’s a little pricier, but it has a dine-in option (unlike El Tacorrido).

Patika Coffee
I used to walk through downtown every morning when I rode the bus and I always saw a long line for a tiny coffee trailer. My philosophy has always been that if there’s a line, it must be good, so I tried it out. I’m glad I did. Patika Coffee is everything I want in a coffee shop; the menu is simple and to the point, the service is quick, the staff is very friendly, and I always get an awesome design in my lattes. Try the rosemary & sea salt bagel.
Honorable mention: Summermoon Coffee Bar, my go-to place to study because the long hours are flexible with my schedule.

The Great Outdoors
The Great Outdoors is a plant nursery that sprawls across two acres of land in the middle of South Congress. I used to walk past this place every day on my way to work and sometimes pick up smoothies or sandwiches from the little cafe at the front of the property. The Great Outdoors is a nice place to take a stroll and feel away from the city despite the fact that you are so close to downtown.

Blenders and Bowls
Blenders and Bowls is a small health food restaurant located inside Wanderlust Yoga ( a great studio that I was a member of for a few months – I would recommend it to anyone). When I’m craving something healthy, this is my go-to place. Finding parking is a bit difficult, but it’s worth it. Pictured above is the Sesher, which is a blend of açai, blueberries, banana, peanut butter, topped with chocolate hemp milk with hemp granola, banana, crushed cashews, raisins, cacao nibs, and honey.