A Creative Retreat in Austin, Texas


This has been the year of girl groups and retreats for me, and I’m so grateful for it! At the beginning of the month, a bunch of us headed to Austin for a retreat headed by Stephanie and Nikki. It was actually an extension of Stephanie’s Cocktail Collective that she normally does here in the Bay– take some creative entrepreneurs and explore a different happy hour spot each month. November’s Cocktail Collective just happened to be in Austin, Texas!

Here are all the bossladies on our trip: Chelsea, Eileen, me, Nikki, Kristin, Stephanie, and Amy.

Texas is really into their lone star motif. This was the door of our airbnb. And Stephanie made us some retreat swag! The logo of the trip: cacti with cocktails in hand. I’ll show you what’s inside in a little bit.

We picked up Nikki and Chelsea for our airport carpool and this is how they were dressed. No prior coordination. Hahaha.

We had Fresa’s Chicken as takeout the first night, and it was delicious. And then we opened the retreat with a new moon intention-setting ceremony led by Stephanie.

Featuring Steph’s homemade sage bundle and her Fleurot tarot deck she designed.

I drew three cards for past, present, and future and set an intention for the month.

Then we wrapped our intentions around our adventurine stones and put them in a water bath as our water ritual. :)

Looking at the stones as if they’re going to transform, haha.

It was a lovely way to kick off the week.

Day one: some browsing on South Congress (Soco), which was near where we stayed.

Lunch at Hillside Farmacy.

Next, we headed to Craft, which is a space where they provide all the art supplies you could want, and you can just pay by the hour to come and make something! I mean, it sounds like something I should love but I kind of found it overwhelming  with too many possibilities and not enough time.

I mean, SO MANY supplies. All the supplies. I coined the term panic crafting.

So here’s a look at everything that was inside our swag bag, and one of the items being a blank Moleskine notebook that we then decorated at craft. After a couple false starts I decided to play with a bunch wood veneer samples and go with a cactus theme.

I wasn’t the only one on the cactus train!

Such beautiful and creative designs!

Some more twinning moments.

And then, happy hour at the South Congress Hotel.

Beautiful space!

Then we headed to Mindful Moments featuring yoga and acupuncture for self care. In hindsight I wish I had taken a selfie with a needle sticking out of my forehead, but alas here’s a before photo!

And after!

A couple of us visited the University of Texas’ Blanton Museum of Art, which is free every Thursday.

Cord Painting 14 by Regina Bogat. And Sonya Clark’s portrait of Madam C.J. Walker made entirely of plastic hair combs. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove in 1867 shortly after the end of slavery and is said to be the nation’s first self-made female millionaire. She earned her fortune by building a prosperous beauty empire.

Cildo Meireles’ installation titled Missão/Missôes (How to Build Cathedrals). Commentary on the history of Jesuits in southern Brazil. It includes symbolic elements revealing the complicit relationship between material power (coins), spiritual power (communion wafers), and tragedy (bones. The chandelier above is made of cattle bones.

On the way out, I noticed these little baskets. They’re activity baskets for use in the museum! I love when museums provide interactive options.

Outside is a separate building designed by the artist Ellsworth Kelly. It was a very grey day, but I imagine this would be extra cool in the sun.

Then I went to meet up with Hanna, whom I haven’t seen in years! She does really inspiring work with the Asian American community in Austin. And she introduced me to the very delicious Sour Duck Market.

Since I toured the Rhode Island state house back in August, I decided to make visiting state capitols and collecting their pins a thing! So here I am visiting the Texas state capitol.

Such a pretty dome. If you look very closely you might be able to see the letters T-E-X-A-S spaced around the star in the center.

More stars.

You can’t really see in this photo but even the ceiling lights actually say TEXAS spelled out in a star shape.

Afterwards, I walked all the way over to the new Austin Central Library, with a quick pit stop at Walton’s Fancy and Staple, a cute coffee/flower shop.

So, I love a good library to begin with, but the new Austin Central Library (which just turned one) is now my new model of what a modern library can be. First of all, they have a very cute cookbook-themed cafe and a full gift shop!

And then there are six expansive floors of thoughtfully designed spaces. Common work areas, lots of natural light, of course stacks of books.

You can see one of my favorite areas if you look closely at the top left of the first image below… there’s a roof garden which looks more like a swanky hotel roof lounge than like a library.

A technology petting zoo including a 3D printer! And a whole collection of zines for use in the library.

There are also all sorts of conference rooms just like you would find at a fancy startup, and you can book them for free. I would totally do my client meetings here! I am very much wishing we had something like this in the Bay.

So basically, the library is a wonderland, and I would be there all the time if I lived in Austin.

That evening, our next round of happy hour. This time, Whisler’s.

They had a photobooth at Whisler’s! And Amy found herself in cocktail form at our dinner spot, The Hightower.


Then dancing! Eileen was two-stepping the night away at The White Horse.

Finally, we cap off the night at The Continental Club.

Final brunch before we split! Sweet potato beignets, shrimp & grits, and migas.

There were four of us who were the last ones standing while everyone else left for their next destinations, so we stashed our bags down at the visitor’s center and went for one more afternoon of lounging around Austin.

The Mexic-Arte Museum.

A walk back to… the library!

I had to show everyone else how great the library was.

They even have two full aisles of board games you can use while in the library !!

Recharging on the library roof.

And one final meal in Austin: Black’s Barbecue. Yum.

Thank you Steph & Nikki for planning and the rest of you ladies for a fun time in Austin!

Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco. She creates beautiful, soft, and timeless imagery while capturing the most fleeting of moments. View her work at annawu.com, follow her daily adventures on instagram, and contact her to book your own session today.