It’s a place where Western spirit meets Southern heart, and where cowboy country combines with extraordinary nature. It’s true what they say – there’s no place quite as weird or wonderful as Austin, Texas. Here we explore the must-dos to take your trip to the next level.
Discover the Live Music Capital of the World®…
From honky tonks and swanky speakeasies to trance-thumping clubs and soulful jazz bars, Austin is the rhythmic heart of American music. Don your cowboy boots for some two-stepping at Broken Spoke, frequented by local legends like Willie Nelson, or brush up on your blues at The Continental Club, or check out the warehouse party atmosphere at Empire Control Room and Garage. While if it’s rock music that gets you moving, you can get your fix at the iconic no-frills dive bar, the Mohawk.
Lose yourself in the artistry
The Austin art scene is a nod to the city’s creative spirit. Every year South by Southwest (SXSW) brings together musicians, filmmakers and professionals from all over the world in celebration of creativity and tech. Film fanatics will recognise locations from blockbuster movies and television shows – from Dazed and Confused and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Friday Night Lights and Fear the Walking Dead. It’s also home to world-renowned museums like the Blanton Museum of Art, housing a collection of over 21,000 works from ancient Greek pottery to contemporary American art.
Eat like an Austinite
Breakfast tacos, tender beef brisket, farm-to-table fare, and locally crafted beer, wine and spirits – you might want to factor in a day (or three) dedicated solely to eating. Franklin BBQ has made a name for itself over the years as a standout star on the Texan smoked meat scene, but be prepared to queue if you want to get your mitts on their succulent slabs of meat. There’s also a Tex-Mex scene here unlike any other (queso and margaritas, anyone?), and it’s basically illegal to leave the city without having wolfed down a breakfast taco or 10. They come hot and cheesy off the griddle at Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, or The Vegan Nom serves plant-based and gluten-free options so that everyone can get their quick fix. Drinks-wise, enjoy a side order of quirk with your cocktail at the Honey Moon Spirit Lounge, a bar in a converted bungalow complete with brocade wallpaper, chandeliers and red velvet banquettes.
Embrace the weird, wacky and wonderful
Austin is known for its unconventional activities and experiences, which is hardly surprising given its creative and quirky local culture. In the spring and summer months, 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats reside under the Congress Avenue Bridge and have long been a source of local pride. Park up on the bridge and wait for the colony to emerge into the summer sky for their nightly feed. If you want an even better look, kayaking tours place you right in the middle of the action on Lady Bird Lake and offer excellent views of the swarm. Another must is Austin’s variety of thrift and vintage stores. While away the hours going from shop to shop, each a purveyor of unique treasures.
Experience the city’s sporting scene
The Formula 1 US Grand Prix is held every autumn in Austin, when you can catch Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and other speed demons as they cruise Circuit of The Americas’ purpose-built track at over 200mph. If you want a real slice of America, go to a college football game at the 100,000-seat Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, where the University of Texas Longhorns play each fall. Want to catch some Major League Soccer action in the States? Austin’s first professional team, Austin FC, is already making waves in the MLS world. And the fan experience at Q2 Stadium is unmatched, providing a mix of Latin American football culture and passion with the welcoming attitude and musicality that Austinites are known for.
Enjoy R&R Austin-style
With seven central Texas reservoirs and plenty of natural, spring-fed pools to enjoy, the water-based activities in Austin are an excellent way to cool off from the hot Texas temperatures. Take a dip in Barton Springs Pool or hop on a kayak and paddle Lady Bird Lake through downtown Austin. If you’d rather stick to dry land, then there are plenty of hiking loops that provide a lovely way to see the state’s natural beauty away from the busy city. Spend the day hiking, biking, swimming or even rock-climbing through Austin’s Barton Creek Greenbelt. Or follow trails through McKinney Falls State Park.
Find out more about incredible sights to see, places to stay and the best nights out in Austin here