A city without limits
Where meat feasts meet music treats
When the official strapline of a city is ‘Keep Austin Weird’ you know you’re in for a good time. This liberal enclave has an infectious community vibe that’ll make you feel right at home. It’s also a self-proclaimed music capital that’s swimming in cool venues and hosts both Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. The Texan capital has a refreshingly unpretentious food scene, too, plus opportunities for outdoor adventures.
Sample brunch at Launderette in the Holly ‘hood and see just why chef Rene Ortiz has been nominated for a James Beard Award four times over. Shop for quirky threads in the trendy South Congress (SoCo) area and sample a speciality margarita at Guero’s Taco Bar while you’re there. Live it up at the Continental Club whose stage has been graced by everyone, from the likes of Robert Plant to Link Wray. Take a leisurely stroll around Zilker Park – the venue for Austin City Limits and the Zilker Kite Festival is a popular spot for volleyball, soccer or just simply lounging. There’s a miniature train that runs around it if you’re low on energy. Book your flights to Austin today to get a piece of the action.
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Take the Austin Weird Homes Tour and peek into some of the city’s more eccentric homes, check out Weird Wednesday at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and catch some quirky exploitation flicks and cult curios, or join in the fun of Austin Bike Zoo and ride a giant butterfly, bat, owl or other wondrous animal creation fashioned from recycled materials.
What are the best things to do in Austin?
- Texans don’t do things by halves, even when it comes to swimming pools. Barton Springs Pool is a whopping three acres. An underground spring keeps it to a balmy 20 degrees year-round, while early birds and evening swimmers can do their lengths for free.
- Barbecue is a serious business here – local pitmasters have even snagged James Beard awards and hungry patrons start queuing around 11:00. Some of the best barbecue joints include the Salt Lick, whose family recipes stretch back to the mid-1800s wagon trains, and Franklin, with brisket that prompts block-round queues. Meanwhile, Black's originated in the nearby town of Lockhart, known as the 'smoked meat capital of Texas'.
- Lady Bird Lake is a sparkling jewel in the middle of town. Hire a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from one of the rental hubs that line the reservoir, get a fresh perspective on the city and look out for harmless water snakes. Swimming in the lake is outlawed though.
- Hike the 102 steps up Mount Bonnell at sunrise to take in a sublime view of downtown Austin when the city’s buildings shimmer in the rising sun. Mount Bonnell is one of Austin’s oldest attractions, drawing in visitors since the 1850s, and it’s also the tallest point within the city limits at 775 feet.
- Visit the Texas State Capitol. One of the country’s oldest surviving statehouses is an impressive structure inside and out. Stroll around the 22-acre grounds admiring the Renaissance Revival architecture before stepping inside to gaze at the intricately decorated rotunda. Free tours help bring it to life.
- Find out how Austin earned its rep as the Live Music Capital of the World and frequent some of the city’s 250 music joints, including the likes of Stubb’s, Emo’s, Antone’s and Parish, where you might discover the next big thing. At the weekend head over to Sixth Street and bar-hop in this raucous, music-filled pedestrians-only zone after 22:30.
Where are the best places to visit in Austin?
Barton Creek is a quiet, upmarket area in west Austin surrounded by nature. The district includes Zilker Park and the Barton Creek Habitat Preserve with over 4,000 acres of wilderness and 12 miles of trails to explore. There’s dining, shopping and nightlife around Barton Creek Square Mall.
Downtown is a lively hub thronged with commerce, cocktails and cuisine. Shop on fashionable Second Street, catch a show at the Paramount Theater and discover a museum or gallery on virtually every corner in the area that’s also home to the State Capitol building.
University of Texas at Austin’s vast campus is home to several leading museums including the LBJ Presidential Library, Harry Ransom Center and the Blanton Museum of Art. Catch a band at dive bar Hole in the Wall or the Ballroom at Spider House Cafe after devouring an old-school burger at Dirty Martin’s.
The Arboretum is a fun, park-like outdoor shopping centre packed with over 40 outlets. Chow down on family-style dishes at Juliet Italian Kitchen before popping over to Amy’s Ice Creams for a cooling scoop. Stock up on fancy oils at Con’ Olio and sample authentic Mexican fare at Manuel’s.
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