Austin's freshest outdoor dating trend has singles flocking to folk lyric walking tours in unprecedented numbers.
Is this the latest expression of pandemic fatigue? Is it spring fever? Or just another cheap date in Austin?
The home of Hyde Park founder Monroe Martin Shipe at magic hour*
There's only so many patios, porches, and decks in Austin. When you can't find an outdoor screening or paddle board availability, have you considered the date night potential of a folk lyric walking tour?
For example, let's take a look at Titanic on 43rd Street: A Folk Lyric Walking Tour Through Hyde Park, this Thursday (4/14) at 7:00 PM
In olden times, Austin couples used to walk around
For starters, the spring sunset stroll or promenade is one of the oldest date ideas in Austin. Over a decade before the University of Texas adopted the longhorn as its spirit animal, UT-backer George Littlefield made a lead gift to fund the construction of a campus peripatus, a walking path around the 40 Acres. Littlefield's contribution of $3000 in 1901 was not enough to pave and complete the path, but even before the peripatus was finished, campus co-eds were heard to remark, "Let's make the Perip," as in, let's walk around campus together.
According to UT historian Margaret Berry:
"The "Perip" was the ideal place for campus dates, for a walk after dinner, or for meeting friends. Promenade concerts by the University Band on Saturday nights in the spring were quite popular."
From Margaret Berry's UT Austin Traditions and Nostalgia (1975)
Dates, friends, music, spring: What's not to like? As an added bonus, because his Perip gift was insufficient to complete & pave the peripatus, Littlefield was not successful in making the Perip explicitly Confederate, as was his wont with every dollar he gave to UT or Austin. The Perip was even less Confederate than Littlefield Fountain. Sculptor Paul Cret had to trick Littlefield into accepting that his merfolk & merhorses in the fountain were implicitly Confederate.
So it turns out that the sunset stroll is a time-honored date activity once you're already strolling, but it doesn't sound like a date on the front end, unless you have something catchy to say like, Let's make the Perip.
You wanna go walk around for a while? doesn't resonate with mystique. But how about, There's a folk lyric walking tour through Hyde Park on Thursday at dusk. You wanna check it out? Now that hearkens back to old time romance.
How to skip out on Titanic on 43rd Street like a boss
So Titanic on 43rd Street starts at 43rd Street & Speedway at 7:00 PM. You've got some excellent pre-tour refreshment options near 43rd & Duval, but I would save Quacks for after you're playing hookie from the official tour group. Because that's the way to date on a folk lyric walking tour. Even though there's no test or worksheet at the end of the tour, it still feels like cutting class to leave a tour in progress. And cutting class is tied for the first-est of first places of springtime thrills.
Here's when to skip out:
The tour begins at the NE corner of 43rd Street & Speedway. When the tour begins to move east toward Avenue F from Speedway, you & your date split from the tour. Everyone else is going east on 43rd, and you're headed south on Speedway in the direction of the Moonlight Tower. You're heading south on Speedway looking for a good street to head east on your own. Allow me to suggest two options.
Option #1, East on 39th Street : The Tudor Revival Revival
Exit line: You call that a Tudor Revival? Shiver me half-timbers. Let's cut out of here. You wanna see some real Tudor Revival?
Then you keeping heading south on Speedway past Austin's first Moonlight Tower. Note how wide 40th Street looks compared to 41st. That's because 40th Street was the path of the old electric streetcar connecting Hyde Park to downtown.
Turn left/east on 39th Street. You'll know when you see it. The Mansbendel House is legit a different level Tudor Revival than the Tudor Revival on the Titanic tour (Firehouse #9). The Mansbendel House is way more Shakespeare-y. It's also a house in a cocoon of shade and landscaped privacy. The long shadows of late morning and dusk can maximize curiosity & spark Mansbendel magic.
Then wander away together while generally heading east and north. Head to Quacks for a snack and sit outside. If the tour's not over, you'll be able to audit its progress at a comfortable distance from beside Quacks.
Option #2, East on 42nd Street: Magnolia Monster
Exit line: Let's take a detour. The light is OK now, but there's something I want to show you before it gets dark. If we wait until the sun's down, it's too scary.
This exit line has the benefit of a dare. The fear factor in-play is the Magnolia Monster at 42nd & G.
So for this one you just head south on Speedway for a block and turn left/east on 42nd. In terms of home architecture and ornamentation, the northside of 42nd between Speedway and F is tough to beat. As you cross Avenue F headed east you will become aware of the outlines of an impossible magnolia on your left (on the NW corner lot of 42nd & G). Its dimensions can be overwhelming and more than a little frightening. It's actually a team of magnolias who have collaborated to form a Magnolia Voltron or Muppet Man-Magnolia formation.
Once you reach the intersection of of G and 42nd you can see behind the magnolia curtain, so to speak. It's for this reason I strongly recommend you approach from the west, heading east toward G maximizes the Magnolia Monster's awesome silhouette.
And, seriously, if you can't make it to the Magnolia Monster until after dark, just skip it. It's too scary for adults. Children seem less threatened by this kind of Southern Gothic horror, but it's really not suitable for grown-ups to see for the first time after sundown.
If you wander north on G from 42nd toward 43rd, you will be following the northern ghost tracks of the Hyde Park electric streetcar as they approach their westward turn onto 43rd Street. You won't have any trouble re-joining the tour if you choose. Most of the Titanic tour takes place adjacent to the intersection of 43rd Street & Avenue F. Then it has shorter stops near G and H. Opt back in or opt out. Head to Quacks for a snack.
Baller Bonus: Tipping is permitted
Titanic on 43rd Street is a free event, but there will be a couple performers. Tipping a performer is always a baller move on a date. Treat it like a wedding reception bartender tip. Make your first tip extravagant, then you've got great chemistry with your bartender & you make everyone else look like a chump. All the more baller to tip as you skip the rest of the tour. Attendees to folk lyric walking tours are unpredictable tippers, but if you drop Lincoln or Hamilton on your way out, you will look like a generous, powerful patron of the arts.
If you're not on a date, you don't have to tip a folk lyric walking tour performer or tour guide unless you experience an immersive kaleidoscopic swirl of melancholy, levity, and reckless historiography during the tour.
24-Hour Recap: What did you do last night?
Line: We caught the start of that Titanic folk lyric walking tour, but then we just kinda wandered off on our own. I guess there was part of it with music or something, but we took off pretty early. It was springfully delightful.
Whether you stay for the whole tour or cut class, Titanic on 43rd Street will be a chance to daydream and wander romantically.
NE corner of 43rd Street & Speedway
This will be a free outdoor event. The walking tour will weave together elements of Hyde Park history, Titanic anecdotes, homebuilding, shipbuilding, Tudor London, Texas trees, and nautical lore into a brand new story spanning centuries and oceans.
April 14 will mark the 110-year anniversary of Titanic’s final sunset. The ocean liner would sink beneath the surface of the North Atlantic in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. Austin Aloha has developed a novel way to commemorate the legendary ocean liner’s maiden voyage and her final sunset at sea.
*If you want to see Monroe Martin Shipe's home at sunset, you will have to wander away from Titanic on 43rd Street. It's worth the wander. It looks like an Easter Egg chalet steamboat.