Austin, Texas is also known as the “ATX” and the “live music capital of the world.” It is home to the annual South by Southwest Music, Film & Interactive festival (SXSW) and the long running Austin City Limits music show, studio and festival. Celebrities who live here include Matthew McConaughey and Willie Nelson, to name a few. Austin is also a high tech hub with many large companies located in the area. Food trucks abound, and it is definitely a “foodie” city. It is also an active city with a beautiful bike path around Lady Bird Lake in the center of town. It has several entertainment districts – Downtown, Sixth Street, SOCO (South on Congress), Rainey Street District, East Austin and Red River. Students and hipsters are everywhere, but there is also a large population of musicians of all ages in town.
When you first fly in to the Austin airport, you notice a flat, patchwork of Texas countryside surrounding the city. The city, as cities go, is on the small side – well-planned in predicable blocks surrounding the Colorado River and Lady Bird Lake. The city is very residential, with most people living in town instead of commuting from the suburbs. The University of Texas at Austin has a large presence here. Austin gets a lot of sunshine and the weather is generally on the warm side most of of the year.
Music is central to Austin. We took the Austin Music Heritage Tour, meeting our guide at the Wild About Music store on Congress. We spent over two hours walking by the clubs on 6th street, visiting statues of famous musicians and the former site of the World Armadillo Headquarters across the river. Our tour guide Richard, who is also a local musician, explained local music history, played music samples and showed us retro poster art. The most famous Austin musicians are Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Christopher Cross and Velvet Underground. We wanted to listen to some blues so we went to SOCO (South on Congress) to go to the Continental Club and the Saxon Pub. We were very impressed by Eric Tessmer at the Saxon Pub.
Since we were there at Christmas, we also went to the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar – a high end Christmas craft show at the convention center with live music and holiday spirit. It used to be at the Armadillo but after it was torn down it is now at the center. We found a few interesting pieces to purchase. The historic Driscoll hotel was also nicely decorated for the season.
Rocket Bike Foodie Tour
The other tour we took was the Rocket Bike Foodie Tour, rated #1 on TripAdvisor. The tour utilized electric or “rocket” bikes – you could either pedal or use the automatic function like a scooter. The tour started by riding around the lake, then we went to four foodie destinations – both food trucks and restaurants. Our guide was a friendly Austin-ite who told us all about the food scene and Austin in general. We were also accompanied by a couple of friendly Australians.
Lake Travis & Hill Country
In the mood for a hike, we went west to Lake Travis at the Pace Bend State Park. We followed some trails and enjoyed the scenery by the lake.
SOCO – South on Congress
One of our favorite spots was SOCO, a trendy, somewhat retro neighborhood on the way out of the city. Eclectic stores, restaurants, food trucks and music clubs filled its main street.
Austin has been called hipster heaven, and many examples can be seen around town – from the Steampunk Saloon below to the import of VooDoo Donuts from Portland. Austin has even borrowed Portland’s motto: Keep Austin Weird. At some point you will be asked not to move there, as it is one of the fastest growing cities in the US, with skyrocketing rents to prove it. A weekend is the perfect amount of time to investigate Austin, but you can add San Antonio and make a week of it.