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Avoid the traffic: When to shop during the holiday season, according to Google Maps

(Pexels)

Though Austin's temperate weather may not show it, the holiday season is right around the corner. Black Friday may have been awash in 2020 but now, it's time to prepare for the city's comeback traffic.

Google Maps' wealth of information narrows down the best and worst times to do your holiday duties.


This year, some of the top-searched attractions include the Museum of Weird, the Bullock Texas State History Museum, the Blanton Museum of Art, the Thinkery and the Austin Aquarium, so expect lines over the holidays. Depending on where you're coming from, you might hit high traffic at the most-crowded intersection of Burnet Road and S. Lamar Blvd.

If you're ordering takeout for the holidays (we won't tell), try ordering anything other than Chinese food on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve for the fastest service. On Jan. 1, Chinese food is greenlit since Mexican is the most popular option of the New Year.

As we roll into such a busy time of year, stay one step ahead of the traffic with these insights.

Bakeries

Whichever bakery is your favorite in the city, stay away from it on Sunday afternoons. Google Maps found that bakeries are at their busiest at 3 p.m. on Sundays, though you might want to steer clear on Saturdays too for good measure. Head to the bakery around 2 p.m. on Fridays for the shortest wait.

Bars

Surprisingly, the busiest time of the week for bars isn't on Friday or Saturday nights. Instead, bars are at their most busy at midnight on Sundays and the least busy time clocks in at 7 p.m. on Saturdays. You can get to bars early, avoid having to fight for a drink and stay until dawn, or leave as the crowd trickles in.

Department stores and outlets

The dreaded holiday shopping season is nigh, so start shopping early for the best bet on avoiding crowds. The best and worst shopping times fall on Saturdays: most crowds flock to shop in the mid-afternoon around 2 p.m. but will have died down by 6 p.m.

Grocery stores

Your best bet is to avoid grocery stores like the plague on days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, but if you must, avoid Sunday afternoons. The best time to get your grub is Saturday evenings, specifically around 5 p.m.

Hair and nail salons

While a day at the spa sounds nice, an evening at the spa will prove more tranquil. Getting your hair and nails done after 11 a.m. on Saturday will result in the longest wait. Wait until 5 p.m. and the salon will have emptied out.

Movie theaters

A Friday night at the movies is a classic way to spend your weekend but according to Google, 8 p.m. at the start of the weekend is the busiest time to go. Movie theaters are at their emptiest at 3 p.m. on Saturday—if you can stand seeing a movie in the daytime.

Post offices

For those of us with family and friends outside the great state of Texas, the holiday season is the busiest time of year for our USPS friends. A very narrow window separates the post offices' busiest from least busy: Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively. Opt for later if you can!

Restaurants

Restaurants tend to be busiest at—you guessed it—dinnertime, so if you want to avoid the rush, sneak in just a few minutes early. Restaurants hit their busiest time at 7 p.m. on Fridays, meaning arriving at 5 p.m. makes all the difference.


Take that, traffic!

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‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.

As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.

“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”

Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.

“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”

Actually, a purr-fect idea.

Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.

At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”

Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.

“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”

Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.

“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”

Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.

“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”

Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.

“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”

And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.

“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”

Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.

“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”

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