Austin, the capital of Texas, is a charming and thriving small city that has become one of the cultural centers of the Southwest. Famous for its historic buildings and rich arts scene, you can always find plenty to do here. It’s the home of several major music and film festivals, great restaurants of every description, museums and many parks for hiking, boating and other outdoor activities.
Highlights of Austin
Austin is an interesting mix of old and new. It has a rich history as the state capital and is today one of the centers of contemporary music and independent film. Here are some of the attractions you’ll want to see when in Austin.
- State Capitol –If you want to learn about the history of Austin and Texas in general, you should take a free tour at the Capitol. The building and grounds are quite beautiful and a nice place to explore. Inside you can learn all about how the state government operates.
- South Congress –South Congress or SoCo is a neighborhood that’s worth exploring for its trendy shops, restaurants, art galleries and cafes. It’s also a good place to sample some of Austin’s famous food trucks, which sell everything from burritos to falafel.
- Zilker Park and Barton Springs Pool – Zilker Metropolitan Park is a park of more than 400 acres that has trails, playgrounds, sports fields and more. One of its best loved attractions is Barton Springs Pool, a spot for swimming and cooling off on hot days. When you’re in the park, you might also want to explore Zilker Botanical Gardens, which has an amazing display of native Southwestern plants.
- LBJ Presidential Library –If you’re a fan of history, politics or any kind of knowledge, this is a must-see stop on your trip to Austin. This library and museum contains literally millions of pages of historical documents, books and periodicals, along with many hours of recorded conversations of President Lyndon Johnson. There are also special exhibits and events throughout the year.
- The Blanton Museum of Art –A museum with an extensive collection of modern art. It’s known for having the nation’s largest collection of Latin American art.
Dining and Nightlife
When it comes to food, Austin is a combination of traditional Tex-Mex influences and contemporary foodie culture. Great seafood and barbecue places are also easy to find. This results in a diverse and unique dining scene that provides you with limitless options.
- If you want to experience some of area’s best seafood, Truluck’s Seafood –Austin Downtown is one of your best choices. Like many Austin restaurants, this place also has a great bar and often features live music.
- One of the great things about Austin is the number of casual, reasonable yet high quality eateries you can find. For example, Torchy’s Tacos-Trailer Park is the place to come for casual yet delicious Mexican food, featuring traditional favorites and unique taco creations.
- HopDoddy on W. Anderson Lane is famous for having some of the city’s best burgers and fries. For some of the best Neopolitan style pizza, one of the best rated places is Pieous on US-290.
- When you’re in the mood for a more elegant dining experience, Uchi on S. Lamar Boulevard is great for sushi and other Japanese specialties. Jack Allen’s Kitchen, which has two locations in the Austin area, has everything from seafood to Mexican to vegetarian entrees.
Many visitors come to Austin to experience the incredible live music scene. You can catch some headlining acts at venues such as Austin City Limits Live, The Paramount Theatre, The Moody Theater and many others. However, you can also sample many of the area’s best music by stopping into some local bars and nightclubs. Some popular clubs include Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar, Esther’s Follies and The Broken Spoke.
Every weekend there’s a large block party at 6th Street that features a Mardis Gras type party atmosphere that lasts well into the night. This is a fun area in which to go bar hopping and catching some local bands. Rainey Street is another lively street where you can find lots of nightlife.
Where to Stay
Austin provides a good variety of accommodations, from the casual to the luxurious. The Hampton Inn & Suites Austin at the University/Capitol is a good choice if you want to be in a convenient location near the Capitol as well as downtown. The Omni Austin Hotel Downtown is another high end hotel with a modern look and great views of the city.
Staybridge Suites Ausin Airport is a popular choice among business travelers and others who want to be close to the airport. This hotel provides mini kitchens in rooms for travelers who want the convenience of doing their own cooking.
If you prefer smaller, trendier hotels, you might like the Hotel San Jose in SoCo. Some good quality budget hotels in Austin include Sleep Inn & Suites, Habitat Suites Hotel and Casulo Hotel.