Omni Views welcomes TravelUpdate.com blogger Barbara Delollis this week as she shares her 3 part series on why travelers choose Austin, TX for live music and food trucks. For information on accommodations, please explore our Omni Austin Hotels.
It’s impossible to come to Austin and not fall in love with the city’s jumble of striking contradictions. It’s a cultural adventure with endless opportunities for new experiences and memories. You can enjoy yourself in Austin regardless of your passion, be it hiking and biking, catching a performance by a local songwriter or investigating the city’s best barbecue joint.
When it comes contrast, just consider the city’s unofficial motto “Keep Austin Weird.” The motto reflects Austin’s famously countercultural mentality and liberal leanings. Austin, however, means business. It’s the state capitol, a serious academic town that’s home to the University of Texas’s main campus and it has a burgeoning tech start-up scene reminiscent of Silicon Valley’s early days.
The city’s eclectic culture shapes its increasingly famous food scenes, which boast everything from high-end sushi restaurants like Uchi from James Beard Award winning chef Tyson Cole to inexpensive taco shops and coffeehouses. In July, the President of the United States made one of the barbecue joints more famous than it already was with locals – Franklin Barbecue in the emerging East Side, where the wait for a table is often more than an hour. The next month (August 2014), Bon Appetit magazine named an Austin establishment as one of its top 10 best new restaurants in the USA for 2014. The restaurant that won the coveted title, however, isn’t a restaurant at all: it’s one of Austin’s many food trucks.
First and foremost, though, Austin’s legendary for its live music, so any visit wouldn’t be complete unless you incorporated music into your stay. It’s not hard to do since Austin clearly lives up to its official motto, “Live Music Capitol of the World.” Austin has more than 250 live music venues ranging from the legendary Continental Club famed for its blues and Americana bands to honky tonks that cater to diverse crowds. Music fans know Austin as the home of blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, but it’s also known as the spring for edgy alt country acts like Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The anchor of Austin’s claim to fame in today’s music world? The world-famous South by Southwest music festival, which has grown to encompass film and technology.
So, to make the most of your Austin stay, here are a few recommendations…
Stroll through historic downtown
You can’t miss experiencing Austin’s Sixth Street, Austin’s funky historic street and entertainment district with its colorful mix of modern and 19th Century architecture, bars, murals and people everywhere. But take your time before popping into one of the many bars, craft cocktail lounges or gastropubs. First, take in a piece of Texas history by strolling over to the State Capitol (112 East 11th St). You could take a tour or just eye the 22 acres of the manicured grounds, depending on your time and mood.
Grab pre-dinner drinks
After your stroll, meander back to Sixth Street to find a watering hole. On any given evening, you’ll find open mic nights or concerts. Follow your ear, and try one out. This area’s more popular with tourists than with locals but it’s still a must-see.
Dinner befitting of the Southwest
Since you’re in the Southwest, go for Mexican food- with a contemporary twist – at La Condesa (400A West 2nd St.) located in the 2nd Street District. La Condesa was recently nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for “Best New Restaurant.” Housed in a building from the 1860s, the restaurant’s ground floor is modern and filled with colorful art but the basement contains a cave-like dining area that’s worth seeing.
Shop and listen to live music
Austin’s so dedicated to music that it erected a larger-than-life bronze statue on the outskirts of downtown of the late blues great Stevie Ray Vaughan. So with music in your hearts, head over to the trendy South Congress district for an evening of boutiques and music. Before going to the iconic Continental Club (1315 South Congress Ave.) to hear blues and Americana acts such as Marshall Crenshaw, first make a pit stop at Jo’s Hot Coffee (1300 South Congress Ave.) for caffeine. Not property clad in rock-and-roll attire? South Congress is lined with imaginative boutiques that embrace a mix of Texas and Los Angeles sensibility. One example is Stag (1423 S. Congress Ave.), a combination of upscale men’s boutique and apothecary that upholds Steve McQueen and Keith Richards as style icons; expect pricey designer jeans galore.
Enjoy the outside
Make time first thing in the morning to experience the picturesque Lady Bird Lake to beat the heat. It’s a great spot regardless you’re training for a marathon or just want to start your day with a brisk walk. The lake has 10 miles of hike and bike trails that cut in and out of woodlands and overlook the glistening lake. If you’re looking to prolong your experience on the water, consider going for a paddleboard or kayak adventure. Several companies have rental locations at different spots on the lake. One option is Rowing Dock, about a 15-minute drive from downtown, which rents kayaks, canoes, paddleboats and paddleboards.
Go off-the-beaten path
Take time to explore the city’s still-emerging East Side before everyone else knows about it. Expect a vibrant scene filled with cafes, an iconic vinyl store for record shopping and what many people consider to be Austin’s best barbecue spot – Franklin’s Barbecue (900 E. 11th St.) – recently deemed worthy of POTUS. It’s worth going early since the wait may be significant – an hour or longer. Another option is to stop by to buy a fully cooked, vacuum-packed brisket that’s chilled and packed for travel, and go somewhere else for lunch. (Last month (July), Franklin’s began experimenting with selling the to-go briskets.)
If you’ve got your brisket to go and/or you’re with a vegetarian, walk to Whole Earth Foods, which is the flagship store in today’s well-known Whole Foods chain. Encompassing an entire block, this location has an expansive deli with prepared salads and other vegetarian friendly choices It’s been part of band manager Faith Radle’s Austin routine for years whenever she accompanies one of the bands she managers – Girl in a Coma – to perform across the street at Waterloo Records (600A N. Lamar Blvd.). Radles notes that music lovers won’t want to miss Waterloo for vinyl, but also for the free, intimate concerts held regularly. It’s worth checking Waterloo’s website to see if a band that interests you is appearing during your visit.
|About Barbara Delollis
An accomplished newspaper journalist, Barbara Delollis has extensive experience in the travel industry (USA TODAY staff 2002-2013) covering topics like the opening of new hotels, pet peeves of consumers and business travelers, the impact of Millennials, and the growing influence of social media marketing. Now, Delollis is the founder of the Travel Update with Barb Delollis blog, which officially launched in May 2014. In July, Travel Update partnered with BoardingArea.com, the leading content platform for frequent travelers, to expand reach and improve content. As an expert storyteller, Delollis has a track record of creating engaging stories/photo galleries/videos for a sophisticated audience.