We adore Austin and constantly boast that it is Texas’ best town. “Keep Austin Weird” is the official tagline of the quirky Texan capital and for good reason. The city gives off a hip, unique vibe with its incredibly down to earth atmosphere. It seems that everyone is active and healthy, constantly taking advantage of local organic restaurants and the great outdoors scene. There are plentiful parks, lakes, rivers, hiking and biking trails located throughout the city that are often put to good use.
Below we’ve recommended our favorite places to eat, where to catch some authentic live music, and other ways you can enjoy Austin, especially during the summer!
Oh the food in Austin. We could stay here forever just based on that reason alone. Below are some of our absolute favorites:
Kerbey Lane Cafe, an Austin original, has THE best queso we’ve ever had. It’s creamy, finger licking good and there’s rarely a time when the bowl doesn’t end up empty. Kerbey Lane is also widely known for their delicious pancakes, and even sell their pancake batter in HEB grocery stores throughout Texas! My favorite is the lemon poppyseed pancake but you really can’t go wrong with any of them. There are several Kerbey Lane locations throughout Austin and most are open 24 hours. More often than not I’ve been there past the 2am mark to a surprisingly busy crowd.
Torchy’s Tacos/Food Trucks
Over the past decade, food trucks have been exploding into the Austin scene. So much so, that a night out on the town can easily mean grabbing some crazy dinner concoction from a food truck, going to the next one for some drinks, then one food truck down for dessert. Torchy’s Tacos is definitely one of our favorites for authentic and insanely delicious Tex-Mex! They serve gourmet tacos and aren’t afraid to experiment with interesting ingredients to form some truly delicious and unexpected blends!
Home Slice Pizza is an Austin staple and a spot that locals and out-of-towners alike flock to. The atmosphere is charmingly Austin: casual and welcoming, music filling the room, and colorful, weird art covering the walls. The delicious New York style pizza has the perfect crust: thin and crispy, but not too thin. You know how some pizzas look great but when you go to pick it up it’s a soggy mess? That doesn’t happen here. The pizza dough is fresh and light and the crust is able to hold up the cheese and deliciousness on top with integrity. Also, one of the first things we noticed was how non-greasy this pizza was. And we didn’t feel as guilty about the indulgence because of it. Our absolute favorite pizza is pepperoni, basil, and garlic with ricotta cheese, though we’ve never had a pizza we didn’t like at Home Slice!
A few other notable Austin originals that shouldn’t be missed are Hopdoddy’s for an amazing hamburger and Franklin’s for legendary Texan BBQ. If you’re looking for more health conscious meals, Austin has plenty of amazing vegetarian and wholesome restaurants too. We especially like stopping at Whole Foods (a grocery store specializing in organic all-natural foods) for a quick lunch.
This club has the distinction of being one of the first music venues on Sixth Street. The founder, Clifford Antone, was considered a mentor to Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan. Since its inception in the 1975, the club has hosted such acts as Fats Domino, John Lee Hooker, BB King, Gary Clark Jr, and many other famous blues musicians. There is a ton of history at Antone’s, and if blues is your style then you have to make a pit stop here!
Cactus Café is located on the University of Texas campus and was opened in 1979. It has been named by Billboard Magazine as one of the top 15 clubs in the United States. They often have a variety of musicians, and in the past have seen the likes of Robert Earl Keen, Bob Schneider (a local favorite), Dixie Chicks, Brandi Carlisle, Jason Mraz, and the Black Crowes.
Stubb’s is one of the most popular venues in Austin. It is a barbecue restaurant with a large outdoor stage located on Red River in downtown. This place has hosted a vast array of musicians, such as James Brown, Snoop Dogg, Foo Fighters, Metallica and Willie Nelson. Fun fact, I saw my very first concert here: Sum 41! Since then I’ve gone to see a few more bands and have always had a fantastic time.
Since the Saxon Pub’s creation back in 1990, the venue has hosted well over 22,000 acts. This is an ideal place to check out the city’s local artists, and you may well be witnessing a band’s rise to fame here! They don’t contain themselves to a single genre, so on any given night you may be hearing acoustic, rock, country or blues.
If you’re more in to the punk rock or metal scene, you can probably find it here at Beerland. The club describes themselves as looking for “bands, fans, and hangers-on for all-out orgy of loud music and cheap beer.” Don’t expect to know many of the bands; they’re all local and there to put on a good show. The venue has pool and arcade games as well.
It’s difficult to narrow down a live music venue list. There are more than 250 venues within Austin, all with their own thing going on. In addition to the ones listed, notables include The Broken Spoke, Continental Club, La Zona Rosa, Auditorium Shores and Circuit of the Americas.
Lady Bird Lake (also known as Town Lake)
Paddle boarding and kayaking on Lady Bird Lake has become somewhat of a city pastime for its residents. Lady Bird Lake, also referred to as Town Lake, is a section of the Colorado River that flows right through Austin. On exceptionally nice days, lines for the rentals can be quite long, but getting out and enjoying the lake beneath the Austin skyline well makes up for it. This is definitely one of our personal favorite activities and we make sure to get at least an hour in every time we visit Austin!
Congress Street Bridge Bats
As the sun sets in the spring and summer, nearly 1.5 million bats fly out from underneath the Congress Street Bridge to feed on insects. It’s quite a spectacle, and worth a couple hours in the evening to witness. It is actually the largest urban bat colony in North America. We recommend renting a kayak and experiencing this from the lake itself!
Zilker Park and Barton Springs Pool
Austin is littered with great places to hang out during the day. Think of Zilker Park as New York’s Central Park, but with more hipsters and less museums (it’s also less than half the size.) Within Zilker Park lies the crown jewel, Barton Springs Pool. The Pool measures three acres in size and is fed from a natural underground spring that keeps temperatures between 68-70 degrees (F). When you’re melting from the 105-degree Texas summer, Barton Springs Pool is where everybody goes to beat the heat. You’ll most likely be serenaded by guitar players and musicians as you soak up the sun.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Austin without stepping foot on Austin’s legendary 6th Street for some live music and crisp beer. However, from a local’s perspective we much prefer a more low-key night out on Rainey Street. It has a more casual, laid-back ambience that we love. But if you’re an Austin newbie, it’s definitely worth experiencing at least one night out on 6th. We’d even recommend ending the night with the best drunk pizza one can get – Roppolos!
Visit a few of the local graffiti walls. They’re in pretty random locations but are fun to get some pictures in front of! Our favorites are the “Austin Postcard” mural, “I love you so much” at Jo’s Coffee and “You’re my butter half” located just east of UT campus across I-35.
Don’t spend all your time on 6th street. Instead, grab dinner at one of the many food trucks located on Rainey Street, and hit up a bar just steps away for a laid-back evening.
We mentioned earlier that Austin’s official slogan is “Keep Austin Weird” – be prepared to encounter hipsters, mohawks, cowboys, tattooed families and college frat boys all in the same day. Embrace it.
** all photos kindly provided by Norway to Nowhere or sourced from Creative Commons
Jimmie & Shelly are an American couple who quit their 9-5 jobs, sold their possessions, and began traveling around the world in 2014. Together they operate their travel blog, Norway to Nowhere, where they share travel tips, city guides, and tales recounting their crazy adventures and the equally crazy people they meet along the way.
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