/ On The Road
On The Road — By Andy Hayes on March 26, 2010 at 11:22 am
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Five Reasons Why Your Next Road Trip Should Be to Austin

If you’re reading this, then you probably love a good road trip.  But you also probably know that the best destinations are always worth the effort – after all, who doesn’t like the windows down and the wind in your  hair as you cruise down the highway?  Well, my top suggestion for your next road trip is in Texas – perhaps an unlikely spot, but I’ve found the perfect place that combines cosmopolitan culture with good ol’ fashioned cowboy values.  Where is this Texan paradise, you ask?  Austin, Live Music Capital of the World and America’s Original Weird City.  Here are five reasons why Austin should be on your next road trip itinerary.

Music

Austin is the live music capital, after all, so where better to start than by jamming out to some rocking tunes.  You don’t have to come for SXSW Music, though if you do you will not be disappointed.  But there is tons of great stuff playing year-round.  Some suggestions for hot local music venues:

  • Stubb’s:  Stubb’s is a classic Austin music hotspot.  I mean, where else in the world do you get BBQ and a great outdoor atmosphere alongside the top music lineup?  Stubb’s is by no means a secret, which means it can get crowded. (map)
  • Maggie Mae’s: Some friends of mine swear by this place, and you can see why: it’s smack in the middle of 6th street, which is the epicentre of Austin nightlife.  The throngs head to 6th for cheap drinks, decent food, and plenty of people watching, so if you don’t fancy who is playing at Maggie Mae’s, you’ll have plenty of other options. (map)
  • Mohawk: As a local for a recommendation on where to see some music, and most likely they’ll say Mohawk.  They have cheap beer and top-notch sound quality, so what’s not to like?   It’s a unique horseshoe-shaped facility at the north end of the area called the Red River District (on the similarly named street). (map)

Austin also has a lot of local talent.  My personal favourite is Carolyn Wonderland (pictured above), a name I bumped into a few times during my visit.  She reminds me of a mix between a Norah Jones and a Michelle Branch, with a light splash of country thrown in.  Just wonderfulland.

Be sure to check out the Visit Austin Interactive Music Venue Map – it’s nifty.

Food

Oh, Austin, how I love thee tasty temptations!  Seriously, folks, I was blown away by the quality and diversity of the Austin food scene.  I’ve been to Texas before and had always considered the state’s crowning culinary achievement to be TexMex.  While that’s true, Austin has taken things to a far more serious level.  Everything is good, from the breakfast tacos to dessert.  Where to go?  That’s a tough question.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Breakfast:  Jo’s on 2nd.  Have the migas.  You’ll be a happy traveller, guaranteed. (map)
  • Lunch:  Go for tacos.  You have two choices; you can do the traditional sit-down dining at Gueros or head for the trailer park-style dining of Torchy’s (although Torchy’s also has sit-down restaurant venues too).  Both equally popular, and both delicious.
  • Happy Hour:  The best happy hour in Austin is Trio at the Four Seasons, without question.  The food is tasty (our table couldn’t agree on the best entrée, so you’ll have to work your way through the menu I’m afraid) and their wine list is one of the best in the city. (map)
  • Dinner: Go for BBQ.  Salt Lick and County Line are two good choices, but I enjoyed the nice beer and relaxed atmosphere at Uncle Billy’s.  (map) Can you believe there is an entire Squidoo page about Austin BBQ?
  • Dessert: This one is easy – Amy’s Ice Cream.  Multiple venues, and a bazillion flavour combinations.  Ask the staff to do tricks with your ice cream.  Yes, really.

Outdoors

Austin can be blazing hot in the summer and rainy at other times, but when you get a clear day, go and enjoy the outdoors.  Run or bike around Lady Bird Lake, which wraps around downtown Austin and is a good 10 minutes for theh full route, depending on which twists and turns you take.  Even if you just do a short stroll from Congress Avenue to the pedestrian bridge, be sure to check out this outdoor wonder.

Austin is also a very bike-friendly city and is trying to be even more so.  There’s even a whole website with a list of the bike paths in Austin.

Photos by thisisit2

Weirdos

Austin is full of weirdos.  But that’s not a bad thing – in fact, the city’s small business alliance has embraced the movement with their Keep Austin Weird campaign.   The list of weird things is endless, but some top suggestions:

  • The Cathedral of Junk:  this place is just not describable – you have to see it.  And then walk around inside of it.  And then walk up to the top of it.  Don’t worry; despite being made of leftover car parts and other pieces of junk it seems pretty sturdy.
  • Leslie:  He’s not been well, but you’ll know it when you meet Austin’s unofficial mayor, Leslie.  He’ll be the one usually surrounded by an entourage of photographers – and he’ll be the one dressed in little more than a pearl necklace and some lingerie.  Yup.  Weird.
  • Tattoo Parlours:  Austin is full of them.  If you have been thinking about getting one, hold off and have a professional do it here in Austin, where per capita you’ll find more tattoos than anywhere else in the world.  (I didn’t ask who counted all of them.)

Hospitality

I could spend all day with suggestions and tips for things to do while you hang out in Austin.  But honestly, the real draw is just a cosy city that is very liveable and full of hospitality.  I don’t live in the States and so I think most Americans are pretty over-friendly, but in Austin it actually seems like people really do care if you’re enjoying your meal or if you’d like a second cup of coffee.  Whether you’re just mingling with the local entrepreneurs at Jo’s or relaxing waterside at Lady Bird Lake, you’ll be treated with respect and welcome arms.  And after all, isn’t that why you went road tripping in the first place?

Stay a Little Longer

When you visit, why not stick around awhile?  The countryside is beautiful and there’s of course plenty to do in town.  If you’re looking for places to stay in Austin, can I suggest two central spots?

  • Embassy Suites: I stayed here and loved it – free breakfast and my office was bigger than the one I have at home! (map)
  • Four Seasons:  You can just stumble to your room after Happy Hour.  Or to the bars on 6th street, just a few blocks away. (map)

Be sure to visit the official Visit Austin website where you can listen to sample music clips, download interactive maps, and get loads of other local recommendations for your Austin road trip!

Disclosure:  Portions of the author’s trip to Austin were sponsored by the Austin CVB.  This sponsorship in no way affects the editorial content.

Photos by thisisit2athomson, Shane Pope, cote, stereogab

Related places:
  1. A
    Stubbs BBQ Catering
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  2. B
    Maggie Mae's
    View Details and Book
  3. C
  4. D
    Jo's Coffee Downtown
    View Details and Book
  5. E
    Four Seasons Hotel Austin
    View Details and Book
  6. F
    Uncle Billy's
    View Details and Book
  7. G
    Embassy Suites Hotel Austin-Downtown/Town Lake
    View Details and Book
  8. H
    Four Seasons Hotel Austin
    View Details and Book
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