This past May, we decided to do free stuff for a month so our budget could recuperate from overspending in April. Because we weren’t spending money, I learned to appreciate other aspects of our outings.

One Saturday, we went to downtown Austin for the Farmers’ Market on 400 West Guadalupe Street. The produce was beautiful, the succulents juicy, and the street guitar playing calming. The market is in an L shape, wrapping around a beautiful tree and shaded sitting area, which I highly recommend for morning coffee and reading. After seeing truly fresh food, we unpacked our lunch and fed pigeons.

Once we’d experienced the local farmer’s market, we headed over to the flagship store of Whole Foods Market, located on 525 N Lamar Blvd. The Austin community is very proud to be the genesis of this revolutionary grocery store chain. So much so that Whole Foods is featured in our fave children’s book – Good Night Austinas well as Texas Got it Right, a book I find hilarious and so…well, Texan. Naturally, both books were given to us by Austinites when we moved here.

I didn’t want to explore Whole Foods for the food factor as much as to see what all the hype was about. Word on the street is  there’s an incredible roof-top playground, which is a commodity this family-friendly town really loves. When we arrived, I made the mistake of wanting to rush up to the playground, while my husband Steve was set on perusing every aisle. I kind of felt like, “Whole Foods isn’t new. So what’s there to see?” Turns out, on Saturdays at the downtown Austin Whole Foods, quite a lot!

It’s not just a grocery store chain. It’s a community. Between the samples of wine and gluten-free cupcakes being launched by health entrepreneurs, people were connecting. Workers and shoppers were catching up on weekly gossip. Old friends were introducing new ones, while sipping bubbly at high-top tables. I saw at least five eating areas, more than at any other location I’ve ever been to. Outside, bikers could use free bike tools to tune up their rides. And, yes, families were sitting on the roof top, getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D, while their children played for free.

I’ve been to Whole Foods stores in Chicago, California, Florida, Colorado, and New York, but none of them felt quite like the Downtown Austin one. I’m starting to see why Austin brags about it. Which is why, I can’t wait to come back when we’re not pinching pennies. I’ll sit down with a glass of red wine, let my husband peruse as long as he wants, and trust other parents to help me watch our kid on the playground.