“Keep Austin Weird” – well, not you in particular, but I figured it appropriate to start my list with the slogan that has been passed around every hipster bar across the capitol city of Texas since it was coined in 2000.
Austin has always been a vibrant mix of personalities. On Guadalupe Street (known as the ‘The Drag’), which runs alongside University of Texas campus, you’re bound to see an eclectic mix of hipsters, artists, soccer moms, old tie-dye wearing hippies, and Land-Rover-driving frat guys. In fact, you’ll find this mix almost anywhere you go in Austin. Also named ‘The Live Music Capital of the World’, Austin is a town with endless character, beautiful scenery, and top-notch people watching.
As a former Austin college student and resident, I’ve compiled a list of 5 of the best things to do during your stay:
- Eat Tex-Mex – Seriously, the food is to die for. Do not, I repeat, do not come to this city on a diet. Bring an empty belly, ready to be filled with chips and salsa, cheesy enchiladas, and sizzling beef fajitas. Try Maudie’s for brunch, a divey local favorite, or Guero’s on South Congress for dinner. Be sure to wash down the food with a margarita on the rocks, and then catch a rickshaw into downtown for after-dinner drinks.
- Barton Springs – Located just outside of downtown on the grounds of Zilker Park, this natural water spring is a recreational favorite on the weekends for all crowds. Bring a towel, a book, and your bathing suit. If you decide to hop in for a swim, beware – the temperature of the Springs usually hovers around a chilly 70 degrees!
- University of Texas Campus – In particular, visit the UT Tower – the most recognized landmark on campus and often lit up in a burnt orange color for sporting and university events. Observation deck tours are available (reservations recommended). Be sure to throw a penny into Littlefield Fountain on the South Mall and if you’re there in the fall, don’t miss a football game at Darrell K. Royal Stadium. (Wear burnt orange and white, the university colors, if you want to participate in the fun as the locals do).
- Historic 6th Street – A must-see at night if you’re feeling lively. Lined with bars, music venues, restaurants, and late-night pizza joints, the heart of this entertainment district is closed off to cars on the weekends and fills up elbow-to-elbow with party-goers after the sun goes down. If you’re looking for a bit more ‘mature’ crowd, head over a few blocks to 4th Street. I’d recommend a drink at Cedar Street Courtyard near 4th and Lavaca where you’ll often be able to catch a local singer-songwriter on the patio.
- West Austin “The Hill Country” – A short drive away (20-30 minutes) from the cities’ hustle and bustle lies the Texas Hill Country, a true gem of the Texas landscape. This area west of Austin is comprised of rolling hills, rivers, mansions, and country clubs. Make your way to Mount Bonnell lookout point for amazing panoramic views of Lake Austin and 360 Bridge, best seen at sunset. Then, head over to County Line Bar-B-Q to feast on a platter of ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and sausage.
I realize I may be a bit biased, but Austin is the type of city that truly has it all. A place that’s classy and funky, edgy and artsy, laid-back while at the same time bustling with character. It’s weird and amazing, and I’d encourage any of you to give it a whirl for your next vacation.