Down to earth yet sophisticated. Laid-back and cosmopolitan. Austin’s personality is often quirky; a mix of educated flair and a touch of Texas bravado. Over the past three decades, the small university town where Willie Nelson crafted his unique musical style has grown into a bustling capital city with world-renowned festivals, top-notch attractions, a glittering skyline and 1.9 million people in the metropolitan area.
Austin, Texas Highlights
Just south of downtown, South Congress (commonly known as SoCo), is an eclectic district lined with vintage shops, chic clothing and jewellery boutiques, cool coffee shops and unique dining. For shopping, check out Uncommon Objects, which carries any antique you can imagine; Mi Casa Gallery, a store which specialises in Latin American furnishings, art and its own potpourri; and Allens Boots, with a collection of Western accessories that will leave any visitor feeling like an authentic cowboy. For foodies, Guero’s Tex-Mex is a favourite. Their tacos el pastor are a specialty, and you can watch the staff as they make the fresh corn tortillas. Or try one of the neighbourhood’s newest additions—Hopdoddy Burger Bar, which makes gourmet burgers from locally grown ingredients.
Dont leave without tasting...
- The menu at Torchy’s Tacos is simple, straightforward and spicy (or not). We recommend the green chilli pork or the fried avocado
- For a refreshing adult beverage head to Lucy’s Fried Chicken for the Lucy Basilia, where blackberries and basil collide.
‘Keep Austin Weird’ is a slogan adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance in 2000 to promote small businesses, and ever since, the phrase has become the city’s unofficial motto. You’ll want to buy a T-shirt or mug with the famous phrase on it.
For your first visit...
You simply must check out Austin’s live music scene. The majority of the roughly 250 venues in the city are located either in the Sixth Street and Red River entertainment districts or the Warehouse District just west of the central business district. The dean of the country music scene, The Broken Spoke, survives as Austin’s premier honky-tonk original; the blues live on at Antone’s; Stubb’s provides a major venue for rock/alternative bands and also features a Sunday gospel brunch; Elysium caters to the goth/industrial crowd, while Headhunters and Emo’s grind out nightly punk rock and hip-hop. Even grocery stores Central Market and Whole Foods Market feature singer/songwriters and full bands seasonally. And don’t forget to check out Waterloo Records, one of the last comprehensive, independent record stores left in the nation.
If you want to fit in...
Every local knows that wherever you are in Austin, chances are you’re close to one of the city’s nearly 2,000 mobile food sellers. A ‘must-do’ for Austinites, this inexpensive movement means visitors can sample Mexi-Korean tacos, gourmet doughnuts (covered with fried chicken and honey butter), grilled romaine and rabbit salads and more—all from a fancy food truck. A few of our favourites: the Holy Cacao (cake balls and iced chocolate), Chi’lantro (Korean tacos), Gourdough’s (elaborate doughnuts), Lulu B’s (Vietnamese sandwiches), Flip Happy Crepes, Hey Cupcake and G’raj Mahal (Indian).
- The Bullock Texas State History Museum has three floors of dynamic exhibits and a special effects Texas Spirit Theater which creatively tells the story of Texas
- Galleries at the free Blanton Museum of Art, located on the University of Texas campus, feature contemporary Latin American, Renaissance and Western art.
One awe-inspiring building
The sunset-red Texas Capitol is the largest of America’s 50 statehouses—it’s even 14 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Free tours depart every 15 minutes from the south lobby.
In Austin’s 2ND Street District downtown, home to more than 50 (mostly locally owned) specialty shops, services and restaurants, you can go shopping, sit outside with a margarita and have your picture taken next to the bronze Willie Nelson statue.
Want to stay up late?
The granddaddy of all local music venues, the Continental Club has enjoyed a coast-to-coast reputation as the premier club for live music in Austin since 1957. After a late night listening to some Texas country, head over to Magnolia Café for breakfast. The eclectic restaurant plays good tunes and serves a wide array of dishes, including breakfast 24 hours a day. Try the gingerbread pancakes!
Where locals go to relax...
Nestled within Zilker Park’s 358 acres lies one of the crown jewels of Austin—Barton Springs Pool. This three-acre spring-fed pool, with an average water temperature of 68 degrees, is a popular place to cool off only minutes from the downtown district.