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Top Things to Do in Austin and Austin411

I’ve been obsessed with doing a video about the top Austin must-sees ever since a memorable trip our family did to Disney World in Orland to celebrate my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.

We stayed in the beautiful Port Orleans hotel, part of Disney Resorts, and on one of the channels they had a looping video on the “Top 7 Must Sees” of Disney World.  I thought this was just a boring hotel marketing video, the one you just pass by when looking for CNN or Nickelodeon.

Not on your life.  My kids, who were 9 to 14 at the time, were glued to the TV, watching this channel instead of their standard fare. You can see it here:

As you can see, it had a cute, spunky, corny hostess with a little bit of an annoying but endearing personality, great b-roll of everything Disney, quick cuts, varied shots, great script and suspense: what’s going to be the number 1 must-see at Disney World?

Then we went to Panama City Beach for a beautiful beach wedding and found they had a 24×7 station called BeachTV, where hyper, partying, spike-haired, ex-bungee jumping guy was the host of the “Club Hour” segment.  This was one I couldn’t stop watching. This guy was always working the wildest parties at the hottest night clubs!

I had to do my own!  I partnered with an indie filmmaker, Jay Galvan, and we launched Austin411, a hotel channel targeted at visitors to Austin.  We were shown in 6 Austin hotels, including the Hilton Austin, the Renaissance, and the Hyatt Regency. Our goal was to put together video with high production values and launch it as a vehicle for local Austin businesses to advertise to Austin visitors.

Finally, my dream of doing my own version of “Disney’s Top 7 Must Sees” would be made reality.  We hired a spunky, energetic, corny, and in this case beautiful, hostess, Anya Cherkasova. Jay wrote a great script and shot beautiful video with great b-roll, varied shots, and fantastic music provided by Tony Scalzo, See for yourself:

However, we started receiving interesting feedback, “where’s her Texas accent?” “Isn’t she Russian?’

Anya IS Russian (well, actually from Kyrghystan, an ex-Soviet republic), and we never thought about the dichotomy of having a foreign-sounding hostess on a video about Austin.  Apparently there are people out there who still cannot get past that. Or maybe they have a point.  What do you think?

I still think it’s the best video on what to do while you’re visiting Austin, and Anya is a true professional who really engages the viewer.

We had a competitor, CityView TV (they have now merged with Celebrate Austin Magazine).  If you see their videos here: http://www.celebrate-austin.com, the video is ok, but it  just seems boring.  No suspense, no hostess to keep your attention, although there’s some good video work and there are lots of advertisers, such as prominent night clubs Lucky Lounge, the Chuggin’ Monkey, Red Fez. Overall, a B+ effort.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to keep our doors open, and they’ve expanded into a force to be reckoned with. They have all of Austin’s hotels sewn up.

What would I do different?  I think we focused too much on providing a “perfect” product, and now I would offer a quick, guaranteed turn around.  I would adopt the GTD mantra: Getting Things Done, a book by David Allen about executing.  This has been expressed perfectly by Chris Johnson over at GenuineChris, who I first learned about GTD from.

GTD is essentially that: just getting s@&% done! We spent too much time worrying about the product and not enough time delivering.

There are some other videos being made about Austin, such as Show Me Your Taco, as well as these, these and these, as well as countless others on the web or soon to be launched on local TV.

I still think the definitive Austin “what to do” video has yet to be made. Maybe a top 10 with a countdown, like the Disney video.  But who determines what’s in the Top 10? That’s a subjective matter.

Here’s my top 10:

1. Walk around the UT Campus and The Drag, my old stomping grounds when I was a student and dating Yami.

2. Go to SoCo to visit the cool quirky funky shops with my kids. Just discovered the Big Top Candy Shop the other day.

3. Catch a live band every now and then when my wife and I can get somebody to take care of Eduardo; we’ve been to see Nakia and his Southern Cousins recently, as well as Fastball at Momo’s, and I went to see The Lions and Scorpion Child at Emo’s with my two middle kids not too long ago.

4. Go to Zilker Park and ride the train with Eduardo, or go to any number of fun events such as the Trail of Lights, Kite Festival, or ACL Fest.

5. Go to The Warehouse District, including the new expanded West 5th Street extension of the Warehouse District (need to check out J. Black’s as I’ve heard it’s pretty cool). For some reason we always seem to end up at Cedar Street, and Qua’s kind of fun with the poor tiger sharks in the subterranean tank.

6. Eat Austin Hamburgers at Huts, Jo’s Hot Coffee, and Casino El Camino, and of course old UT stomping grounds Player’s where I spent many a late-night eating after “studying.” By the way, I like the Jo’s Hot Coffee on 2nd Street as that’s more kid friendly than the one on SoCo.

7. Hanging out at Whole Foods on W. 6th. A veritable cornucopia of goodness. I like the little birds that have snuck in and fly back and forth over the tables towards the front.

8. I like eating at the Zen on Anderson Lane, and the one on 30th Street is pretty good too.

9. Going to Amy’s Ice Cream. The one on West 6th tried to throw an ice cream scoop at my daughter for her to catch it in a bowl, and when she dropped the whole thing they tried again, she caught it and it they let her and her friend have ice cream for free.

10. Eating Pho Vietnamese soup at Kim Phung.

What’s your top 5, or 4, or 7 or 10 must-sees in Austin?  Comment below or email me at fernando@labastida.com with your suggestions. I received a bunch of responses when I asked my friends on Facebook what their favorite things to do in Austin were.  I will be posting them over the next few days when I have their permission.

Enjoy Austin!

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