AcademicWorks Guide to Austin, TX

Photo by Ed Schipul

Photo by Ed Schipul

It’s no secret that Austin is the place to be. With the legendary live music, thriving restaurant scene, and a culture all its own, Austin has people talking and visitors coming back again and again. While there are plenty of ways to enjoy Austin, there’s nothing quite like seeing our beautiful city through the eyes of a local and the AcademicWorks team has worked together to give you just that. Below are a few of our favorite things to do, places to eat, and sights to see in Austin. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

See the Sights

Whether you have been to Austin before or this is your first visit, there’s a ton to see and do here. From shopping, to hiking, to digging through old records, you’ll easily find fun things to fill your days in the state capital. Our team pulled together our favorite things to do so you won’t miss anything:

Uniquely Austin

  • Mt. Bonnell: Some say Mount Bonnell has the best views in town and it’s easy to see why when you get to the top! It boasts gorgeous views of the Colorado River and the Austin skyline and is only about a 5 minute hike up some steep stairs.
  • Graffiti Park at Castle Hill: The Austin Graffiti Park is a unique outdoor graffiti gallery with local artists continually updating the site. It’s a fun spot to take photos and you may even catch an artist at work.
  • South Congress Avenue: South Congress Ave. is a great place to eat, drink, shop, and experience what makes Austin weird. It is full of local restaurants and fun shops like Big Top Candy Shop and the famous Allen’s Boots.
  • Waterloo Records: Waterloo has been named one of Buzzfeed’s “27 Breathtaking Record Stores You Have to Shop at Before You Die”. If you are a record or music fan, “You do not want to miss this!” says Michael T.
  • South Congress Bridge Bats: It may surprise you to hear that Austin is home to the largest urban bat population in North America. Millions of bats live under the South Congress Bridge, one of Austin’s busiest bridges located just minutes from the capitol building. You can see the bats by standing on or near the bridge or by taking an evening boat tour on Town Lake. Whichever you choose, the AcademicWorks team agrees that it’s a must-see!
  • The Oasis at Sunset: The Oasis is a restaurant located high above Lake Travis that has some of the best sunset views in Texas. Enjoy the Texas hill country on your drive out there and watch the sun set over the lake with a cold drink in hand.

Austin Outdoors

  • Barton Springs Pool: Located in Zilker Park, this 3 acre-sized pool is an all natural spring-fed body of water located in the heart of Austin. It is a constant 68-70 degrees making it ideal for year round swimming. The pool has been a local favorite for many years.
  • Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail: This trail provides an active way to see a bit of the city. Rent a bike and check out the full 10 miles of lakeside trail or take a stroll down to Auditorium Shores to check out the Stevie Ray Vaughn tribute.
  • Barton Creek Green Belt, Bull Creek Preserve, or Walnut Creek: If you are looking for an outdoor adventure you won’t want to miss the hiking opportunities in Austin’s gorgeous green spaces. Rolling hills, rocky cliffs, and bubbly springs are what you’ll find in the Austin Green Belt, Bull Creek Preserve, and Walnut Creek Preserve. Bring your hiking shoes and enjoy the natural beauty of the Texas Hill Country.
  • Lady Bird Lake: Lady Bird Lake, also known as Town Lake, is located in the heart of Austin and provides a great opportunity for water recreation. Rent a kayak, canoe, or paddle board and spend some time enjoying the Texas sunshine and the gorgeous views of the city.

capitol

History and Culture

  • The State Capitol: Texas is a proud state and Texans are proud people. Dive into the history and culture of the Lone Star State by taking a trip to the capitol building located in the heart of the city. Take a free guided tour or just wander the old halls on your own, taking in the history, architecture, and state pride found in the building.
  • Bob Bullock Texas History Museum: If you just can’t get enough of our great state, the Bob Bullock museum is a good option for you. It has many stories to tell, from those of the Native Americans who lived here pre-settlement, to Spindletop and the great oil boom in the early 1900’s. It won’t disappoint.
  • Blanton Museum of Art: The Blanton boasts one of the most comprehensive art collections in Central Texas, featuring more than 17,000 works. It is most recognized for its European paintings, an encyclopedic collection of prints and drawings, and modern and contemporary American and Latin American art. 

 

Grab a Bite

The food scene in Austin has made a name for itself over the past few years, with new restaurants popping up all the time boasting their own Austin vibe and unique foods. We don’t want you to go hungry during your stay so we’ve provided a few of our favorites:

Breakfast Tacos

You almost can’t pass through ATX without eating a breakfast taco or two. We take them very seriously here and everyone has their favorite, which is why we’ve dedicated a whole section to them in our guide. Check out which one’s our team prefers!

  • Torchy’s Tacos: Torchy’s is an Austin favorite with multiple locations across the city. Our team recommends the #4 with jalapeno, sausage, egg, and cheese, the vegetarian and gluten-free taco with egg, avocado, and cilantro on a corn tortilla, and The Ranch Hand, a beef fajita taco with eggs, cheese and Torchy’s diablo sauce.
  • Taco Deli: Taco Deli is another Austin staple with locations around the city. Team favorites include The Jess Special with migas, jack cheese and avocado and The Otto, with refried black beans, bacon, avocado, and cheese.
  • Taco Shack: Located right next to campus, Taco Shack has been a favorite of UT students for years. Our team likes the egg and avocado on a corn tortilla, the sausage (or bacon), egg, and cheese, and the carne guisada tacos.
  • Fresa’s: Brooke G. loves Fresa’s and recommends The Tomas, a bacon, potato, egg, chorizo, avocado, pico de gallo, and cheese taco served on a flour tortilla.
  • El Primo: Brooke B. says her favorite breakfast taco is chorizo, egg, and cheese, and although you can get them almost anywhere here, the best one comes from the El Primo food trailer on S. 1st street. She says “it’s the real deal!”
  • El ChilitoSeth recommends The Vaquero at El Chilito, a taco filled with farm eggs, carne asada, and jack cheese.

Tex-Mex

  • Z Tejas: Mary recomends the Blackened Catfish Tacos. They are on the appetizer menu but she recommends ordering them as your entree.
  • Polvo’s Mexican Restaurant: Brooke G. says she loves Mexican food and Polvo’s is her go-to for fajitas and margaritas, both Texas staples.
  • Chuy’s: Chuy’s is an Austin original that has quickly expanded across the state! Michael says to make sure you ask for their Creamy Jalapeno Dip with your chips. It will change your life!
  • Torchy’s Tacos: Matt is a fan of The Democrat, The Independent, and Mr. Pink tacos. He also recommends trying the guacamole and queso!

Barbecue

  • Black’s BBQ: Seth loves the brisket and sausage with Black’s original sauce, and the mac and cheese.
  • Franklin Barbecue: The line start’s forming very early outside of the lunch-only Austin staple, but Bo insists it’s worth the wait. He’s a fan of their brisket.
Photo by Tadson Bussey

Photo by Tadson Bussey

Uniquely Austin Cuisine

  • Chi’Lantro: This Korean BBQ restaurant started as a food truck and has quickly expanded to include 3 brick and mortars. Joe recomends the burrito with spicy chicken and guacamole while Jason enjoys the pork tacos and famous Kimchi Fries.
  • Snack Bar: Suzanne takes the Gluten-Free route with the Avocado Quinoa Salad. The restaurant features numerous gluten-free and vegan-friendly options.
  • Pho Thaison: Cammy never passes up a good Pho and she really loves the Beef Pho at Pho Thaison.
  • Uchiko: This Japanese farmhouse dining and sushi restaurant is a local favorite. Khanh says you have to try the Maguro Sashimi and goat cheese as well as the Ham and Eggs roll.
  • Salt & Time: Salt and Time is a full-service butcher shop, salumeria, and restaurant featuring fresh cuts of meat from Texas ranches. Khanh says the charcuterie plates are the best!
  • Galaxy Cafe: Ian enjoys the Italian Burger at this local diner that features delicious spins on classic dishes.
  • Magnolia Cafe: This local favorite is open 24/7 365 days a year and features an array of menu items from queso to pancakes. Chanille goes for the Tropical Turkey Tacos and Morgan says you can’t miss out on the Mag Mud: black beans with queso, avocado and pico de gallo. It’s what queso dreams are made of!
  • Juliet Ristorante: This locally-sourced Italian restaurant is new to Austin and features a constantly evolving menu based on the time of year, but Nora says the Pesce Crudo, an appetizer featuring raw salmon and fried capers, is amazing!
  • Clark’s Oyster Bar: Clark’s features 18 oyster options from locations all across the country and Aaron says you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, especially the fresh oysters!
  • VIA 313: It may seem odd for us to refer you to a pizza place in Texas, but Milad swears by the Cadillac Pizza which features fig preserves, gorgonzola cheese, prosciutto, and a sweetened balsamic glaze. He says “It sounds funky, but it will change your life.”
  • Ramen Tatsu-Ya: You will often find a line outside of this local favorite but the wait is worth it. Josh’s dish of choice is the Tsukemen dipping ramen.

 

cocktail

Have a Drink

Our team appreciates a good craft beer or cocktail every now and then and there are plenty to be found in ATX. Whether you’re on famous 6th St., Rainey St., or at a local restaurant, there is something for everyone! Check out our favorite bars below:

  • Stephen F. Austin Hotel: Located only 5 minutes from the state capitol and on the heart of Congress Ave., Stephen F. Austin’s Bar and Terrace features great views of downtown served with handcrafted, cocktails, craft beer, and a fantastic wine selection.
  • Alta’s Cafe: Alta’s Cafe is the only restaurant located on Town Lake and features local beer and wine, fine foods, and a fantastic view of the South Congress Bridge bats at sunset.
  • Stay Gold: Located on the East side, Stay Gold features live music almost every night and craft cocktails that change seasonally. It has a laid back vibe with both indoor and outdoor seating.
  • The Dogwood: The Dogwood is located on West 6th St. and has a great indoor and outdoor atmosphere that never feels overcrowded. They are known for their burgers and Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka on tap.
  • Lucille Patio Lounge: Lucille’s is located on Rainey St., a previously residential street turned craft bar and food truck oasis. Lucille’s features a spacious outdoor patio with yard games and plenty of seating. They proudly serve craft cocktails featuring local ingredients and Michael T. swears they have the best Moscow Mules in Austin!
  • The Draught House: The Draught House prides itself on its great selection of draft beers and its laid back atmosphere with tons of outdoor seating. They also host rotating food trucks in their lot throughout the week.
  • Radio: Radio provides the perfect combination of coffee and beer. They feature local craft beers on tap and serve freshly brewed Stumptown Coffee. With a great outdoor patio, this is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a cold (or hot) beverage.
  • Crow Bar: After you get done shopping on South Congress, be sure to grab a drink at Crow Bar. They have a great atmosphere, plenty of outdoor seating, and tons of mixed drink options.
  • Uncle Billy’s: Are you a fan of barbecue and local craft beer? Uncle Billy’s is the place for you. They have their own line of beers brewed in house and feature daily specials served up with freshly smoked barbecue. Matt highly recommends The Green Room IPA!
  • Driskill Hotel Lobby: The Driskill Hotel is the picture of Texas hospitality. Located on Austin’s famous 6th street, the lobby bar features tons of casual seating as well as hand crafted cocktails and fine wines. Khanh says they have “great drinks, great people-watching, and a great ambiance!”
  • The Black Heart: Located in one of the cozy, old houses on Rainey Street, The Black Heart features an extensive selection of fine whiskeys and craft cocktails made with local ingredients. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy time with friends.
  • Austin Beer Garden Brewing: This restaurant and brewery features local beers on tap and a locally sourced menu that changes with the seasons. From stuffed quail to hand-tossed pizzas, their menu has something for everyone. If you’re going for the beer, Ian recommends the Hell Yes and the Superliner.
  • Swift’s Attic: Swift’s features 14 local beers on tap and just as many bottled, over 24 by-the-glass wine options, and innovative craft cocktails, not to mention their farm-to-table menu options. Chanille says “they have great tapas and an outstanding brunch menu!”
  • Iron Cactus Rooftop: Located on 6th Street, Iron Cactus’ upstairs patio is a great place to grab a bite of Mexican food and a margarita before you hit the town.
  • Tacos & Tequila: This Tex-Mex themed restaurant brings together two of our favorite things: tacos and tequila. Nora recommends the Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita!
  • Icenhauers: Our team agrees that Rainey Street is the place to go for delicious craft cocktails and Icenhauer’s is one of the reasons why. Their lady-named cocktails are some you don’t want to miss and the outdoor patio is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon.
  • Garage Bar: Located on the corner of Colorado and 6th St., Garage Bar is literally tucked away inside a parking garage and is one of Austin’s hidden gems. Featuring an atmosphere straight out of Mad Men, they serve craft cocktails made with locally sourced ingredients and not-so-common liquors.
  • El Meson’s: This local Mexican restaurant has the “best ‘rita in Austin” according to Tim. They serve up delicious Mexican food that goes perfectly with a little tequila, salt, and lime.
  • Adelbert’s Brewery: Crafting great local beer, Adelbert’s offers tours of their brewery, tastings, and souvenir glasses. Its a fun place to hangout, enjoy the Texas weather on their patio, and try some new beer.
  • Hopfield’s: Hopfield’s is known for it’s extensive craft beer selection and French-inspired food. There are few better ways to spend an evening than with delicious snacks and a glass of French wine or a craft beer.

 

Photo by Ralph Averson

Photo by Ralph Arvesen

Enjoy the Music

Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World and we are not short on our live music venues. Everyone has their favorite and below are a few of ours:

  • Continental Club: Having opened its doors in 1955, The Continental Club is a historical landmark in Austin. The club was renovated to match its original 1950’s decor and features live music every night of the week. It’s a great place to hang out, enjoy a show, and transport yourself back to the good ole days.
  • Moody Theatre: The Moody Theatre is one of Austin’s most popular venues, hosting artists from Willie Nelson to Florence + the Machine. It is considered one of the best live music venues in Austin and has great acoustics. It’s also where PBS films their Austin City Limits show.
  • The Broken Spoke: If you are looking for a true Texas honky-tonk, The Broken Spoke is your place. Start your evening off in their restaurant with a delicious chicken fried steak and end it with two-step lessons and live country music on their old dance floor. Be sure to check out the tons of pictures of country legends who have played there.
  • Stubbs: Stubbs serves up delicious barbecue, cold beer, and live music. It doesn’t get much better than that. Their outdoor venue features artists of all genres. Be sure to check out their calendar and order your tickets in advance!
  • Mohawk: Opened in 2006, The Mohawk features nightly live music, local cold beer, small batch spirits, and great drink specials. Located only a few blocks from 6th St., it’s a great place to listen to music and enjoy the Austin culture.
  • Cedar Street: Cedar Street features live music seven nights a week. From local talent to national groups to cover bands, Cedar Street has something for everyone. Located on 4th St., it is just a short walk from Austin’s nightlife.
  • Sherlocks: This local pub features delicious food, local craft beer, and live music every weekend. The AW team is a fan of the Friday happy hour and we all agree it’s a great place to hang out and hear some tunes.
  • The Backyard: The Backyard opened its doors in 1993 and has featured artists such as Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and David Bowie. Nestled in the heart of the Texas hill country, this open-air venue creates a fun and comfortable space for artists and attendees.
  • Emo’s: Emo’s is one of our favorite rock n’ roll venues and probably the most popular in Austin! They are proud to be a little rough around the edges and feature local and traveling artists.
  • The Parish: This multi-genre venue features legends as well as up-and-coming artists in its intimate space located in the heart of downtown. Check out their calendar for who’s playing next!

We hope you enjoy your stay in Austin and that some of these suggestions become your new favorites. Feel free to ask us for more suggestions when you see us in October. We love sharing our city with you!

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