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Photograph: Visit Austin
Photograph: Visit Austin

Here’s why you need to put Austin, Texas at the top of your travel bucket list

Eight reasons why the Texan capital is at the frontier of live music, culture, food and more

Written by James Wong (Time Out). Paid for by Visit Austin

Planning your next international adventure? Austin, Texas deserves your attention – and not just because its frozen margaritas are banging. You see, this buzzing town’s got it all, and it’s grown up without losing a button off its quirky old cardigan. Whether you’re into Sixth Street dive bars or high-end cocktail lounges, dazzling performing arts or casual country strings, swimming at creeks or networking with tech entrepreneurs, you’re guaranteed to fall bat-wings in love with ATX. It’s no wonder both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways run nonstop services daily from London. Ready to be inspired? Here’s what you’ll discover the moment you step off the plane...

There’s live music everywhere, every single day
Photograph: David Brendan Hall

1. There’s live music everywhere, every single day

Austin’s not hailed the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ for nothing. Here, you’ll feel live vibrations everywhere, from the streets to the park to the bars. First-timers must add two of Austin’s legends on their agenda: The Continental Club on South Congress and downtown’s home of blues, Antone’s. Zilker Park also becomes a stage during festival season, when Austin City Limits Music Festival and Blues on the Green land. Meanwhile, restaurant Geraldine’s and fun time nightclub Cheer Up Charlie’s strum nightly sounds to dine or get your groove on to.

You’ll feast on every kind of cuisine
Photograph: Jody Horton

2. You’ll feast on every kind of cuisine

Fresh, innovative cuisine meets tasty tradition here in Austin. Start the morning with cheesy breakfast tacos at Veracruz All Natural or a super-fresh brunch at Picnik. For lunch, choose from over a thousand food trucks, including Leroy and Lewis’ mouthwatering barbecue. Looking to impress a date at some upscale digs? Try local sensations Sushi Bar ATX for omakase nigiri paired with sake, or Chef Jakub Czyszczon’s famous Texas Post Oak flame-grilled steaks at Garrison

And have the greatest bar hop ever
Photograph: Visit Austin

3. And have the greatest bar hop ever

Austinites are full of small-town charm and big-city inclusivity. In Austin, “y’all” means all; come see for yourself. Bask in the Texas sunshine on patios such as Eastside’s Sunny’s Backyard and Kinda Tropical, or get dressed up and relax in the comfort of air-conditioning at The Roosevelt Room downtown. When you’ve found some buddies go for a hair-raising time, either on Sixth Street, known for its wild dive bars, or the rainbow-lined Fourth Street, home to awesome queer bars that are super welcoming to everyone.

The outdoor spaces are gorgeous
Photograph: Tomek Baginski

4. The outdoor spaces are gorgeous

Nature right in the heart of downtown? This too-good-to-be-true feature is what makes Austin so special. From your downtown hotel, you need only walk a few steps south and you’re on Lady Bird Lake. Come between March and October and witness thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from under the bridge to feed at sunset. Visitors from all over the world come to see the spectacle. Since they’re only active during the summer months, you’ll need to cool off too. Barton Springs Pool is just the ticket: fed with cool water from underground springs, temperatures here hover around 20 degrees celsius year-round, so no matter how brutal the heat you’re guaranteed a refreshing paddle .

There are endless ways to get active outdoors
Photograph: Nick Simonite

5. There are endless ways to get active outdoors

With so much wide open space, you wouldn’t want to leave Austin without raising that heart rate a bit. Put on your trainers and hit the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, either on foot or by rented bicycle. Fancy getting wet? Austin Rowing Club offers paddle boarding and kayaking so you can enjoy those downtown skyline views on Ladybird Lake. Venture further out west and you can sign up for a day at Lake Travis Zip Line Adventures, the longest and fastest zip line in the entire state.

Austin’s one big party
Photograph: Visit Austin

6. Austin’s one big party

There are a number of big events that draw in crowds and transform the entire city into a massive fiesta. South by Southwest (SXSW) needs little introduction; the world-renowned festival of film, interactive media and music takes place here every March. Formula 1 sees the likes of Lewis Hamilton take to Austin’s glorious Circuit of the Americas. Sports fans may also want to catch a game with the Texas Longhorns at the Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium or with Austin FC at the Q2 Stadium (fact: Austin-based actor Matthew McConaughey is co-owner of the football club). Other noteworthy festivities include Pride, Austin Food and Wine Festival and ABC Kite Fest.

It’s where art comes alive
Photograph: Monet Hambrick

7. It’s where art comes alive

Austin’s one of the premier cities in Texas for art, and where creativity in all mediums is embraced. For modern works, check out The Contemporary Austin made up of the Jones Center, which has two floors of indoor exhibition space and a stunning rooftop deck, and Laguna Gloria, a garden filled with awe-inspiring monumental sculptures. Also worth a gander is the Cathedral of Junk (located in the backyard of the artist who created it), and the fascinating Mexic-Arte Museum, dedicated to Mexican and Latino art and culture.

Awesome accommodation is par for the course
Photograph: Visit Austin

8. Awesome accommodation is par for the course

If you thought Texas was all ranches and dusty motels, think again. Austin has something to suit all travel styles and budgets. Backpackers will have a hoot at the Firehouse Hostel, which has its own speakeasy lounge tucked behind a bookshelf. Chic hotel Fairmont Austin is downtown’s skyline icon and hosts some of the most incredible parties up on their rooftop deck. For R&R, take a drive out west to the lakeside spa resorts. Miraval Austin and Lake Austin are where the city’s elite get pampered.

Start planning your Austin adventure today.

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