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City slickers

8 things to do in Austin Texas

Clive Wedderburn June 9, 2017

Austin, Texas has a unique personality that is growing in popularity due to its live music scene, charming locals and perfect weather. We asked Isla, Austin aficionado, why Austin rocks.

“I’ve travelled all over the USA and it’s a country I love; it’s incredibly diverse. A great example of this is Austin. Many in the UK are still unaware of its charms but if I could recommend one place that should be on your USA wish-list, Austin would win – hands down.

They like being different. Their city motto – Keep Austin Weird – is more than a marketing slogan, it’s a clarion call for residents to support the local businesses and initiatives that give the city its attractive character. The locals see individuality as a key component of their success.

So here’s my top eight list of the best things to do in Austin.

1. Definitely worth a visit is Rainey Street, the historic quarter of Austin and one of its most vibrant neighbourhoods in downtown, a residential district transformed over time into the quirkiest bars and restaurants you’ll discover in America. I particularly adore the old clapboard houses with their verandas featuring those swing seats you see in the movies and the way every house/bar/restaurant has its own theme. Every music genre is represented on Rainey Street too, from hip-hop to rock, country to blues. It’s like you’ve been invited to a private street party lined with food trucks serving delicious snacks that will keep you energised late into the night.

2. Food – Texas is renowned for its outdoor dining scene and nowhere typifies this more than most than Austin. The difference in Austin is that almost every food joint I visited had food served with a side order of music. The bands are local and don’t charge to play, but play for tips. My tip is to visit a barbeque joint and try some Texas cuisine, especially the amazing beef brisket, or a rack of ribs and look out for the barbeque sauce – really, it’s the best I’ve ever tasted, but don’t be surprised if a band starts to rock out – that’s just Austin doing what Austin does best – entertaining visitors.

3. Sixth Street – again you’ll find this colourful neighbourhood in downtown. The neon signs lend themselves to the constant carnival atmosphere. Sixth Street is also the district that gained Austin its legend of being the live music capital of the world. America has such an amazing nightlife scene but for me, Austin is leagues ahead of anywhere else and the friendly locals have a lot to do with this. I suggest bar-hopping all along Sixth Street until you reach Dirty Sixth (from Congress Avenue to Red River Street) and pitch up at Buffalo Billiards for some Wild West themed fun before heading to the Parish, one of the most famous of the live music venues in the city.

4. Talking of live music, if you’re heading to Austin, try to get tickets for Austin City Limits Festival inspired by the televised music show of the same name that has seen everyone from Willie Nelson to the Foo Fighters perform here. The annual festival takes place in Zilker Park on two consecutive three-day weekends in October (Friday 6 October and ends on Sunday 15 October) and has made a huge contribution towards the city’s legendary music status.

5. While Austin is renowned for its nightlife, there’s plenty to do during the daytime. Of course, the mostly blue sky climate helps. A popular pastime here is kayaking on Lady Bird Lake, a dammed section of the Colorado River where you get to experience a quieter side of the city. Hike-and-bike trails take advantage of the tranquil setting and stand-up paddleboarding will offer a nice contrast to the night before. This is such a refreshing side to Austin so get out early and watch the sunrise over the lake – it’s a real treat.

6. Go shopping on SOCO (South Congress Avenue) to get those special pair of jeans and plaid shirt to remember your holidays. SOCO is a treat for lovers of independent boutique stores, but mainstream retailers can be found in the beautiful parkland setting of The Domain® (speak to our Destination Specialists and you can register for a free saving passport for great discounts).

7. You can also escape the crowds in Texas Hill Country and it’s a great place to channel your inner cowboy/girl, just a few minutes’ drive outside of the city limits, so why not add a stay at the Mayan Dude Ranch to your Texas itinerary and explore the spectacular landscape on horseback including shimmering lakes, meandering rives, plus quirky small towns such as Fredericksburg and Kerrville. Cool your heels in the waters of the Blue Hole or Hamilton Pool outside the town of Bee Cave or take a dip in Krause Springs in Spicewood for some rope swing action before hiking to Gorman Falls for complete relaxation.

8. Finally, if you’re lucky enough to visit Austin during the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) you’ll discover a city that is taken over by a series of fascinating multimedia events from live music to film seminars, trade shows and conferences with amazing keynote speakers of the calibre of Michelle Obama. SXSW is the largest festival of its kind in the world and features innovative start-ups that continue to inspire Austin to become one of the most enigmatic cities in the US.

Where to stay: Omni Austin

This is a city oasis featuring with an impressive glass design situated in the middle of downtown, so music is always on your doorstep. On hot days in the city, cool down with a few laps of the rooftop pool and enchanting city views.

Also, be sure to factor in the Mayan Dude Ranch for an authentic and contrasting Texan experience to your sparkling urban adventures, offering trail rides, fishing, swimming in rivers and spring pools, plus music and dancing and old school campfire barbeques.

So my secret’s out – Austin is my favourite city break destination in the USA. Visit it once and I dare you not to agree. Take a look at our Texas pages for more inspiration on travel to the Lone Star State.