When you think of Texas, you probably think of a sprawling desert that’s nearly half the size of Europe, cowboys, horses and tumble weeds. This image doesn’t really put the lone star state at the top of your “to travel” list, but in the midst of this hot and dusty state, there’s a wasteland that people are traveling far and wide for: Austin. Austin has become a major attraction for people in their 20s and 30s due to its lively culture, nightslife and plethora of outdoor activities. Since the Texas economy is thriving, Austin gets something ridiculous like 10,000 people moving there A DAY. If a city is that popular for people to relocate to, imagine how nice it is for a holiday.
Conveniently, Austin is an easy place to reach. The main airport Austin-Bergstrom, located just outside the city, has now gone international. The airport was designed with travelers in mind and is easy to navigate, full of food from local restaurants like Amy’s Ice Cream and SaltLick BBQ and often has a band playing live music – nothing like getting a taste of Texas the second you step off the plane! It takes about 15-20 minutes to get from the airport to anywhere in downtown, so after landing you can head right on out for a day of exploring.
When you think of the U.S., you probably think of massive portions of food and since everything is bigger in Texas, there are a few things you have to try! Austin is home to plenty mom and pop shops (the origin of the slogan “Keep Austin Weird”) and food trucks, so you can find some really unique cuisine.
Franklin’s BBQ is arguably the most famous BBQ joint in all of the U.S. – that’s why there’s a line forms every morning at 7 AM. Don’t worry, you can’t get BBQ that early, the actual store opens around 10, but Franklin only makes a set amount of meat a day so you have to be there early to be sure you can get some! People bring lawn chairs, beer and games so the wait is actually pretty fun.
If you’re looking to try some Mexican food – Gloria’s is a great cantina that has locations scattered throughout the city and on Thursday nights, there’s always salsa dancing. If you find yourself strolling down South Congress, or SoCo as the locals call it, stop by Guero’s and sit on their patio to try their amazing nachos and fajitas.
If you’re in the mood for a massive burger, the only place to go is Hopdoddy – a local gourmet burger bar with staples like The Magic ‘Shroom, which is loaded with mushrooms and dripping with goat cheese.
If you feel like getting dressed up in this casual city, the only place to see and be seen is Uchi, my personal favorite. Tyson Cole, a world renowned chef, started this sushi shop that has the most interesting flavor pairings like fried yucca chips, yellow tail, pear and marcona almond NACHOS. Yes, that’s sushi that has been turned into a nacho, but don’t worry, there isn’t any cheese on it.
Once you’ve finished stuffing your face at all the local delicacies, you can find somewhere to get fit. Austinites love to be outdoors on the weekend. In fact, at any given time of the day, you can find hundreds of paddle boarders out on Lady Bird Lake – it’s almost as if no one in the city actually works…
If you like water, check out Lady Bird Lake where you can rent kayaks and stand up paddleboards by the hour. The lake is huge so it’s nice to take a picnic with you and make an afternoon out of exploring.
There’s also plenty of water at the greenbelt. The greenbelt is, as you can guess, a belt of trees that runs throughout the city. It’s a bit lower than the rest of the city’s elevation so water collects here and forms a river and tons of waterfalls. The best waterfalls are at the entrance a bit past Barton Creek Mall.
If you like to look at water, but not actually get wet, go to the 360 bridge. You’ll get an amazing view of the city and the river. There’s also a running trail that circles Lady Bird Lake (about 13 miles), which is always full of people walking, biking and running!
The Domain is a great outdoor shopping mall with lots of cute restaurants – try NoRTH, Cru Wine Bar or Sushi Zushi when you get tired of shopping.
Austin might best be known for Austin City Limits (ACL) that happens at the end of September and beginning of October and South by Southwest, which happens in March. ACL is a 3 day music festival that happens in Zilker Park where some 100 artists perform. Local eateries are present throughout. Tickets go on sale in May and sell out in days, so be sure to book early if you plan to go!
SxSW is a multi-faceted event that brings in people from all over the world. Southby is organized into film, music and interactive sections that allr equire their own badges, which go for a couple hundred. Venues all over the city host free concerts and give away free food so most locals opt for exploring the city for the freebies instead of paying for the actual badges. I’ve known people who forgo grocery shopping for this week since they’re able to get so much free food!
And of course, what would the Live Music Capitol of the world be without a little nightlife. On any given night, you can find 75 different things going on from s’mores tasting to gay bars to glow in the dark parties. Music venues like Emo’s or Stubb’s are great places to check for concerts in an intimate setting.
If you like outdoor bars, Rainey Street is the place for you. This 8 block street is filled with bars with massive outdoor seating areas that offer unique food. Banger’s is a beer garden-esque place that only serves sausages; well, and a laundry list of beer. Parking here can be challenging, so it’s easiest to take a cab.
If you like a bit more club-style bars, West 6th is perfect. Here you can find bar after bar playing music with people dancing. This isn’t a place to eat, but it’s right by Whole Foods (which has about 8 restaurants inside, it’s the flagship after all) so you can grab something there before heading to The Ranch or Pop.
If you’re looking to party like you’re still a frat boy in college, Dirty 6th is the place. Walk about 15 minutes east of West 6th (yeah, these are some great street names) and you’ll know you’re on Dirty by the screaming college kids. Even though they’ve taken residence here, there are some cool places like Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar and Buckshots (a bar that serves crazy shots). A local drunk favorite, Ropollo’s Pizza is here – it’s perfect for a post-drinking snack. There are also plenty of food trucks around so if you’re in the mood for some Indian or Mediterranean cuisine, you can easily find it.
If you go, just be sure to KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD.