Like a lot of people, I got my driver’s license when I was 16. But unlike a lot of people, I’ve barely used it since.
See, I grew up in a suburban area of Michigan, in the kind of town where you need a car to get quite literally anywhere—high school, Target, the town’s only Starbucks (which is located inside said Target). But then I went to college in Boston, where I got *very* familiar with the MBTA. My dorm’s Walk Score? 95, a “Walker’s Paradise.” Then a few months after graduation, I moved to Brooklyn, where I’ve lived ever since. My current apartment’s walk score? 92, also a “Walker’s Paradise.” I’m a subway, bus, and occasional Uber kinda girl now, and have been for the past decade-plus. Yes, I’ve kept my driver’s license up-to-date, and I even did some remedial driving practice with my dad during Season One of the pandemic (aka winter 2020), but I haven’t been behind the wheel solo since.
But then I got an invitation to go to the Austin City Limits festival with Honda, which has been a sponsor of the festival for the past 13 years. As a former emo kid (on the inside; I played the clarinet in marching band on the outside), how could I say no to the opportunity to watch Paramore bring “Misery Business” out of retirement? After confessing my lack of credentials, Honda was still willing to put me in the driver’s seat. So to Austin I went.
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After an evening watching SZA croon her greatest hits in an inflatable raft, I got some sleep and then it was time to get behind the wheel of a car. Specifically, Honda’s new 2023 Honda HR-V in Nordic Forest Pearl. My nerves started to calm as soon as I (very, very slowly) pulled out onto the streets, which were luckily pretty empty because it was 8 a.m. on a Saturday. The 2023 Honda HR-V is a great car for beginning and returning drivers like me: a super-responsive engine, a high-tech interior with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility so you can play your fave Spotify playlists as you drive, and independent rear suspension that made for a very smooth, not-at-all bumpy ride. My plus-one’s review: “You were a much better driver than I expected!”
I drove around for a couple hours, with plenty of stops for food and shopping, but I did not crash, I did not get lost, and the one time I made a wrong turn, I realized it and immediately rerouted. It turns out that breakfast tacos are a great motivator for conquering your driving nerves—but I confess that I did go out of my way to avoid tricky parking situations. I may be long out of high school, but just like Olivia Rodrigo, I still can’t even parallel park.
Full disclosure: The writer received comped travel, hotel accommodations, meals, and experiences in order to write this story.
Taking your own trip to Austin? Here’s some inspo.
- Hotel ZaZa Downtown Austin: This funky boutique hotel speaks to Austin’s status as one of the best cities for music in the U.S. There’s abstract pop art and black-and-white photos of famous musicians everywhere. Make sure you order a cocktail at the in-house bar, Group Therapy, and take some time to chill by the gorgeous rooftop pool.
- See Austin’s famous murals: Drive around and see murals of Austin icons like Willie Nelson, Angela Davis, and Selena, as well as the famous “Welcome to Austin” sign. You can find a self-guided tour here.
- Browse vinyl records at Waterloo Records: This gigantic record store is a haven for anyone who loves music. Even if you’re not into vinyl, there’s all kinds of merch to shop.
- Find your next favorite book at BookPeople: Texas’s largest independent bookstore has every kind of book you could think of, from romance to astrology.
- Smash ATX: Snack on chips and queso or a grilled pimento cheese sandwich in between rounds of ping-pong.
- Cosmic Coffee and Beer Garden: This local fave offers beer and (boozy or non-boozy) coffee inside and hosts food trucks in its large garden outside; I recommend the breakfast tacos. Plus, it’s dog-friendly.