A liberal sanctuary in the Lone Star State, Austin is said to be the blueberry in the tomato soup of Texas.
The university city has become a tech hub to compete with Silicon Valley, and its growing youth population keeps it vibrant and fresh. Promoting itself as the ‘Live music capital of the World’, the state capital attracts international attention with the annual SXSW, Austin City Limits and Austin Film Festival. It’s said of Austin that the city’s real historic landmarks are in its bars and dance halls, not its monuments or statues. If you need any inducement to visit, the city slogan, “Keep Austin weird”, is surely reason enough.
Things to do
Don orange and white to cheer on the Longhorns. The University of Texas’s football team’s home is the 100,000-seater Darrell K. Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium home and it’s a place of worship for many Austinites. If you miss a game day, take one of the daily 75-minute stadium tours for a fascinating glimpse inside the press box and trophy room. If American football isn’t for you, escape the boulevards thronging with football fans with a ride down to Austin’s grand Lady Bird Lake (named after the much loved First Lady, the Texas-born “Lady Bird” Johnson, wife of Lyndon B Johnson) that snakes right through Downtown. Single and double kayaks are available to rent for a charmed afternoon rowing past some of Austin’s urban landmarks – just one of our recommendations for an afternoon in Austin.
Eat and drink
Franklin Barbecue is an Austin institution, a smokehouse where queues are a constant feature and the award-winning brisket often sells out before mid-afternoon. Food trucks and casual eats have created a revolution in the Austin food scene. Foreign & Domestic on East 53rd Street captures that revolutionary buzz with its farm-to-table ethos and relaxed, funky interior. It’s one of our recommended Austin eateries, among a hand-picked selection of establishments that offer something for every palate and budget.
Austin might not be a luxury shopping destination but its craft fairs and boutique shopping streets draw out-of-towners from across the state. The 131,000-square-foot Palmer Events Center in the Boulder Creek neighbourhood hosts a monthly vintage market, the ’City-Wide Garage Sale’, which has been taking place in Austin since 1977. Pound the sidewalks of South Congress Avenue, or ‘SoCo’ as it’s known locally, for the best local independent shops, including Allens Boots, Uncommon Objects and Electric Ladyland – where Dylan has been known to shop for his stage outfits. For the quintessential luggage-friendly souvenir from the city, pick up a ‘Keep Austin Weird’ bumper sticker and wear with pride. Visit our Austin city guide for more city shopping tips.
The offbeat nightlife of the warehouse district is the fastest growing locale in downtown, focused largely on Sixth Street – a neon-lit strip of bars and clubs to rival NOLA’s Bourbon Street and Memphis’s Beale Street. Try one of our Austin nightlife recommendations, the “reservation-only” Midnight Cowboy bar with it speakeasy vibe and classy cocktail menu. Looking for something a little more hip? Make a beeline for Austin’s East Riverside neighbourhood, south of Lady Bird Lake, where creative types, dive bars and hole-in-the-wall clubs converge. Not in Austin for SXSW or Austin City Limits? The 1,700 capacity Emo’s is a venue that serves the up-and-coming district with a busy schedule of touring artists, most recently Local Natives, Foals and Robyn Hitchcock.