Austin may be the Texas state capital, but the city also declares itself the live music capital of the world, hosting nightly acts across town as well as the famed annual South by Southwest and Austin City Limits festivals. The city’s vibrant, eclectic food scene is justifiably celebrated, where edgy, upmarket bistros complement fleets of food trucks serving up everything from barbecued brisket to fresh fish tacos. Despite being touted as an emerging tech hub and one of America’s fastest-growing cities, Austin’s vibe remains laid back and casual; citizens proudly uphold their motto: Keep Austin Weird.
Live Music: There’s no shortage of live music venues in Austin -- just name your genre. The Broken Spoke bills itself as the last of Texas’s true honky-tonk dancehalls, and features nightly country music acts, while the stalwart Continental Club clings to its mid-century roots as the area’s premier rock and blues destination. If you’re looking for a more lyrical evening, head to the Elephant Room, one of Austin’s only dedicated jazz bars.
Barbecue: The Texan tradition of smoking beef for long hours over a low, indirect fire goes as far back as the Alamo. For the city’s most renowned smoked fare, head to Franklin Barbecue, where the ribs and brisket are so good, patrons line up for seats at the lunch-only spot starting at 9am. Less patient foodies can hunt down one of Austin’s many renowned food trucks like Micklethwait Craft Meats and La Barbecue, most often stationed in one of the city’s many food truck parks like The Picnic, The Midway Food Park and Aztec Food Park.
Outdoors: Austin’s favorable weather means outdoor activities are a year-round pursuit. Lady Bird Lake Trail, which runs along its namesake lake in downtown Austin, features 10 miles of trails for bikers, runners and walkers. When summer temperatures rise, seek respite at Barton Springs Pool, a man-made natural spring swimming pool within Zilker Park. The waters are fed from the Main Barton Spring and range from a comfortable 68 to 71 degrees year-round.
Shopping: Not only do Austinites keep it weird, but with shopping, they like to keep it local, too. Austin Country Inns & Suites hotel guests often visit South Congress Avenue (SoCo) which offers a selection of eclectic shops, including Allens Boots, Austin’s landmark cowboy boot shop, and Feathers Boutique, a vintage clothing and jewelry store. 2nd Street District serves up local and international fashion and decor shopping, while West 6th Street is a haven for books, music, art and antiques.
Austin Attractions: The State Capitol building features nearly 400 rooms built in elaborate Italian Renaissance Revival style as well as sweeping landscaped grounds. City views from the dome are breathtaking. The 43-acre Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is perpetually awash in color, though spring is when bluebonnets and other native flowers are at their finest. For a chillingly romantic (or spooky) scene, watch thousands of bats take flight at dusk from their roosts under the Congress Avenue Bridge.
When to Visit Austin
With close to 300 days of sunshine, Austin makes an appealing destination year-round. Weather is temperate in fall and spring, with temperatures hovering in the 70s and 80s. If you’re planning a trip in March, book your flight and Austin Country Inns & Suites hotel well in advance; this coincides with the annual South by Southwest music festival, and prices bump up considerably.
Austin Travel Tip
If you’re staying in downtown Austin, getting around on foot or by public transportation is your best bet. Capitol Metro transit system is clean and punctual and links to commuter rail lines.