Known as one of the most charming cities in the United States, Austin has earned its reputation as a warm – and weird – mecca of creativity and collaboration. Not only is it the “Live Music Capital of the World,” but the Texas capital’s welcoming atmosphere and laid-back pace make it a fun and easy city to explore.
There are plenty of direct flights to Austin from all over the USA, making it a quick and easy getaway from almost anywhere. If you’re visiting over a spring or summer weekend, you’ll be spoiled for ways to enjoy the sun and escape the heat. Read on for the top things to do in Austin this spring and summer.
Lake culture is a big part of Austin life, so come prepared to do some canoeing or paddle boarding atop Lady Bird Lake in the heart of the city, or kick back at the legendary Barton Springs Pool inside the popular greenbelt of the same name. Learn to surf on a manmade lake at NLand Surf Park, throw a frisbee around Zilker Park, and treat yourself to a picnic in the shade before a calming botanical garden visit. Later on, you can zip through downtown on a Segway tour or hop aboard an amphibious tour bus with Austin Duck Adventures, which will show you around by way of Lake Austin and the city streets.
Indulging in some world-class BBQ and Tex Mex is expected while you’re in town (Franklin BBQ and Matt’s El Rancho are beloved by locals and visitors alike). But the food scene in Austin ventures far beyond that, from ample vegan and vegetarian options (Veggie Heaven, Bouldin Creek Cafe) to Southern comfort food (Hoover’s, Moonshine), sushi (Uchi, Uchiko) and everything in between. For a taste of local ales and spirits, check out breweries and distilleries like Live Oak Brewing Company and the Deep Eddy distillery, which offer production facility tours and tasting rooms where you can sample flights or full pours of whatever’s being made in-house. Of course, it’s not a trip to Austin without a stop at a food truck – The Picnic on Barton Springs Road has a variety of local favorites to choose from.
A quintessential Austin visit also requires live music and, luckily, it’s never in short supply around town. For the ultimate live-music experience in a city whose identity is synonymous with it, the Red River entertainment district is a must, and it’s just one block from the Hilton Austin downtown. To continue your musical journey through Austin, stop into storied venues like Antone’s for rock and blues, The Continental Club for roots and Americana, and ACL Live at the Moody Theater for every genre under the sun. And if you want to take a true deep-dive into Austin’s musical roots, stop into historic bars like Skylark Lounge and Victory Grill on the eastside, where legendary performers like B.B. King, Billie Holiday, and James Brown used to perform.
In Austin, it’s easy to fill your days with creative exploration fit for kids and kids at heart. Family-friendly fun abounds in places like the Austin Zoo – populated by big cats, reptiles, and primates – and Thinkery, a state-of-the-art children’s museum with a light lab, a spark shop, innovation stations, and a universally accessible play space. Weekend festivals are a year-round constant, featuring everything from pet parades and fun-runs to costume contests and carnival games. (To find one while you’re visiting, check out the events section of the Austin Chronicle.)
Ever since the local small business community came up with the phrase “Keep Austin Weird” in the 90s, the sentiment has been embraced all over town. To that end, the one-of-a-kind Cathedral of Junk has to be seen to be believed, as does the quirky South Austin Museum of Popular Culture. To get in on the action and let your hair down a little, feel free to sing, shout, or dance along to your favorite music and movies at an Alamo Drafthouse singalong or quote-along. And before you head out of town, spend an hour or two strolling down South Congress Avenue for souvenirs and a farewell Turbo (for the uninitiated, that’s a sweet and creamy iced chocolate coffee) from Jo’s. Before you leave, don’t forget to take a selfie in front of its iconic green “I Love You So Much” wall – a perfect memento of your time spent in the warm and welcoming heart of the Lone Star State.