Our guide on a bike tour of the capital had recorded an album and actively wrote songs. Her experience as a singer / songwriter stood out. As she led us along the perfect Ann and Roy Butler hiking and biking trail on e-bikes and then diverted us through the downtown streets, she sprinkled her discovery tour of Austin with a in-depth knowledge of the historical and current music scene. .
We heard about the city’s past and present while viewing the skyline from the south shore of Lady Bird Lake, a reservoir on the Colorado River. The trail, known locally as Lady Bird Lake Trail or Town Lake Trail, loops 14.5 miles around the lake. One of my favorite sections was the 1.3 mile walk, where the railings included an art installation. Belt is a collection of 36 cast bronze western-style belts adorned with song lyrics from well-known Texas singers and songwriters, including “She Needs The Great Outdoors” by The Chicks and “Watching the bubbles in my beer” by Willie Nelson.
The boardwalk, comprising a series of bridges directly over the water on the south side of the trail, connects the east and west halves of the trail. As we traveled the loop, we passed some of Austin’s famous landmarks, from the memorial statue of blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who resided in Austin when he died in 1990, to Barton Springs Pool, a three-acre spring in 68 degrees – a powered pool inside the 351-acre Zilker Metropolitan Park, which was preparing to host the Austin City Limits music festival over two weekends.
We also cycled through neighborhoods, skyscrapers and our hotel. Austin is a city where it was easier to get around without a car. The population of the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area topped 2.2 million in 2019. Simply choose a hotel in one of the downtown neighborhoods or near the south.
The two closest airports to downtown are Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and Austin Executive Airport.
We stayed on the south shore of the lake and could walk or hire a carpool to reach whatever we wanted to do.
We were a five minute walk to the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, better known as the Bat Bridge, where most nights from March through November you can see the largest urban bat colony. North America soar under the bridge. The first bats begin to emerge at sunset, and then soon after, hundreds or even thousands of bats fly in droves. If it’s something on your must-see list, be sure to try it out at the start of your stay and give yourself a few nights to catch it. The only night we were able to get there at sunset, the bats did not emerge. Also be careful where you choose to stand to avoid the risk of bat guano.
Walking on South Congress Avenue is another experience not to be missed. You’ll understand the tagline ‘Keep Austin Weird’ after awhile here, stopping by a few stores – ranging from Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds, which sells vintage costumes and clothing, to classics Allens Boots – and taking photos outside. of murals proclaiming “Willie Nelson for President” and “I love you so much”. The SoCo district is also home to live music, bars, and restaurants, many of which combine all three.
Austin’s food scene rivals its fantastic assortment of concert halls. If you’re a meat eater, you can’t come to Texas without tasting the barbecue. You’ll be hard-pressed to decide which one to try: Austin has seven restaurants that have been nominated for Texas monthlyThe highly regarded list of the 50 best barbecue grills in the state. Franklin Barbecue is the hottest place to line up, apparently until three o’clock, thanks to Aaron Franklin who became the first pitmaster to win a James Beard award for best chef in the area. We went to Terry Black’s Barbecue just south of downtown, and although brisket is known to be queen in Texas, we had to try the prime rib. It passed the test: it was so tasty that our Kansas City barbecue eaters table wouldn’t add any sauce.
There is a lot to try beyond the barbecue, however. Guero’s Taco Bar in the SoCo neighborhood plays live American and blues music on Wednesdays and weekends in the Oak Garden, and serves indoor Mexican cuisine with a touch of Tex-Mex. We also had some of the best pizzas we have ever tasted, even though they were imported. Via 313 has several restaurants and food trailers throughout town to serve its Detroit Style Pizza. The pizza is rectangular and the sauce is spread over the top. The best part might be the caramelized cheese crust.
You’ll find the 250 concert halls that make Austin the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World” throughout the city, but head downtown to find the highest concentration of iconic venues, from the Antone Nightclub at the Paramount Theater built in 1915 and Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater.
Austin city limits is recorded on ACL Live, and is the longest-running musical series in American television history (aired since 1976). Nelson was on the 1974 pilot for the series which focused on original Texas music, and there’s a bronze statue of him in front. Born in Texas, Nelson moved to Austin in 1971 after finding success in Nashville. He is credited with helping to boost Austin’s music scene through the contacts he made in the industry.
Nelson, who owns a house and land about 45 minutes from Austin in the Texas Hill Country, hosts an event most years adjacent to the South by Southwest conference and festivals, commonly referred to as South By or SXSW.
Launched in 1987 with 700 participants, SXSW has grown to 10 days and to over 280,000 people. The March event now features side festivals of music, film and interaction, as well as a conference featuring 22 tracks and exhibits that connect creatives from all walks of life.
Austin hosts events throughout the year, with October being a month to attend four of the city’s biggest annual events: the Circuit Grand Prix of the Americas, the Austin Film Festival, the Texas Book Festival, and the Austin City. Limits Music Festival.
No matter what time of year you go, Austin will be interesting, if not a little quirky.