The spirited Texas capital city, Austin, is already beloved for its live music and festivals, including SXSW and Austin City Limits, is also known for its smaller eclectic venues for tunes. Hungry? There’s nourishment beyond those famed smoky barbecue pits—a home to global gems of dim sum, Mediterranean and American classics. As for the great outdoors, there’s a dense, tranquil backyard of nature for a range of activities (biking, hiking, swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, and kayaking —Austin has you covered). Below, we suggest a diversity of ways to see city whose slogan still reads, “Keep Austin Weird.”
The Beat Goes On: Live Venues from Indie Rock to Jazz and Famed Festivals
Music in this town reaches pinnacle levels with a variety of venues ranging from classic to eclectic to downright dive-y – so there’s something for everyone. The indie bands fill Scoot Inn with broad beats and ample room to dance, while the late-night party commences at Rattle Inn with live jams and a whiskey lounge. The Rainey Street venue Blackheart represents an eclectic mix of Central Texas musicians.
For larger venues, the Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater series caters to names from Band of Horses to Cyndi Lauper. Drop by the subterranean Elephant Room for nightly jazz jams and 20 brews on tap. For all genres from blues to folky crooners, make a trip to the alluring, candlelit Geraldine’s.
It’s no secret – Austin is the town for music festivals. The revered film, interactive and music festival South by Southwest (March) includes the latest in tech innovations and up-and-coming international artists. The diverse lineup at Austin City Limits (late Sept-early Oct) has featured past artists from Radiohead to Kendrick Lamar to LCD Soundsystem. In late spring, the laid-back Kerrville Folk Festival (May) features well-known folk artists like Willie Nelson who take their folksy craft seriously.
“Texas-Sized” Comfort Food, Dim Sum, Whiskey Cocktails and Baked Ice Cream
Sure, eating barbeque in the heart of Texas is a rite of passage—there’s also an unsuspecting range of cuisines. Just off Rainey Street, the hip, grown-up Geraldine’s at Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt is known for Chef Stephen Bonin’s New American paired with a “Texas-sized” library of American whiskeys. In West Campus, the causal gastropub Hopsfield invites with burgers, house pickles and craft beers. There’s Japanese soul food at the red-flared Ramen Tatsuya where warm authentic bowls like thick tonkotsu reign. Chef Rene Ortiz hailed Launderette presents Mediterranean-style dishes like tandoori prawns (oh, save room for pastry chef Sawicki’s baked ice cream sandwiches). The light-filled Wu Chow serves shareable dim sum offerings alongside Dan Dan noodles and “My-tie” cocktails. For an all-American meat-centric meal, Dai Due brings the best of Texas’ artisan farmers, wine makers, and brewers, Irene’s has a sleepy dive bar feel with blue-plate specials and grilled cheese sandwiches.
All Terrain: Hiking, Hanging, Swimming and Wildflowers
With mild temperatures and ideal year-round weather, Austin is the perfect hub for outdoor activity (there’s over 200 parks in town and 300+ days of sunshine). Spread over 300-acres, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center gives a firsthand look at native Texas plants and ongoing conservation efforts.
Mayfield Park, immediately adjacent to Laguna Gloria-The Contemporary Austin, gives you a chance to mix art, nature, and Austin history. For rowing, downtown’s serene waters of Lady Bird Lake also make for great core-busting paddle boarding. Enjoy a brisk walk or run along the well-traversed, beautiful “Trail” (Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail). Moments from downtown, hikers hit the myriad of trails at Barton Creek Greenbelt (also endowed with lovely waterfalls and limestone cliffs). For generally hanging out, drop by Zilker Metropolitan Park, which also hosts local theatre, and the famed Austin City Limits. Swimming holes are popular, so take the plunge at the natural spring-fed Barton Springs Pool. Spread over 300-acres, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center gives a firsthand look at native Texas plants and ongoing conservation efforts. Mayfield Park, immediately adjacent to Contemporary Austin- Laguna Gloria, gives you a chance to mix art, nature, and Austin history.