Austin & Piñatas: Why it Pays to Wander

The Gadling team was in Austin, TX last weekend for our annual meet-up. I was the first to arrive in town and decided to take a walk to a taquería that a friend had recommended. It was located in East Austin, a predominantly Mexican neighborhood tucked away on the other side of I-35 from 6th Street and the clubs and restaurants that keep Austin hopping into the morning hours. East Austin is a sleepier part of town filled with one-story houses on small plots of land and authentic Mexican restaurants and cantinas. It’s the part of town where you don’t encounter as many people walking along the streets, but the ones that you do nod, say hello and make you feel welcome in the neighborhood. It’s also home to a Ruth’s Piñata Land, a store that ended up being the highlight of my Austin weekend.

%Gallery-92280%Why, in a weekend filled with amazing Mexican food, mouthwatering barbecue and a street fair bigger than some carnivals, would I remember a piñata more than anything else? Well, it’s not the piñata in and of itself. It’s what it represents. It was happenstance that I found that shop. It was because I was acting on a recommendation from a friend, chose to walk rather than take a cab on a hot Spring day and meandered down that street because of the timing of the street lights. It was an unplanned trip to a business that most tourists and travelers would walk by without much of a thought. For me, it became a story and a running joke over the weekend.

I stopped into Ruth’s Piñata Land purely for giggles but left with so much more. I had hysterical photos (see gallery), a good story and, yes, a piñata (of the Hello Kitty variety).

As the rest of the Gadling crew arrived in Austin, we began to engage in more traditional activities in the busier parts of Austin. We dined on 6th Street, shopped in SoCo and checked out the Capitol Building. But something kept drawing me to East Austin. Some of us took a field trip back there for another fantastic breakfast at Joe’s Bakery (which we highly recommend) and a quick shopping experience at Mustang Jewelry & Pawn. Not your typical tourist fare, but an experience that we all enjoyed thoroughly.

So, is my point that you should all go to piñata stores and pawn shops? Not exactly. All I’m saying is that you should keep your eyes and minds open. If you see something quirky, interesting or just plain weird, take a closer look. You never know what you’ll find if you wander around with no agenda, no schedule and no preconceived notions. We should all find our own piñata shop in whatever form it takes.

Note: Sadly, I left the Hello Kitty piñata in the back Andrew Evans’ rental car…which was towed…and never recovered due to time restraints. We hope that she found a good home in the impound lot.