Despite being in the South and predominantly Republican Texas, Austin has built up a reputation as one of America’s hippest cities, rivalling more glamorous locations such as Portland or New York.
After Linklater’s cult classic ‘Dazed and Confused’ inspired countless ‘Urban Outfitters’ in 1993, thousands of hipsters have moved over to Austin for its wealth of bars and live music venues; the city genuinely lays claim to the most live music venues in America and regularly hosts festivals such as Austin City Limits, Austin Psych Fest and South by South West. Austin is also the site of the first Alamo Drafthouse and possesses an intriguing filmic history with Matthew McConaughey, Richard Linklater and Terrence Malick all calling it home.
Due to the wealth of music venues and scorching temperatures, the city has emerged as a popular a college campus and is perfect for anyone travelling after Camp.
Beginning with Jo’s Coffee, South Congress is a 5 KM stretch of quirky alternative stores and eateries; you could search through all the kitsch ornamental souvenirs at Uncommon Objects, find a 1950s Levis denim jack in a vintage shop or purchase a paperback from South Congress Books for the next Greyhound journey.
After shopping, go and take a photo outside the above mural at Jo’s Coffee which Amy Cook spray painted as a sign of affection after an argument with her the girlfriend who was a manager at Jo’s Coffee. The mural has obviously become an Instagram staple and part of visiting South Congress.
Paramount Theatre is in the centre of Austin on Congress Avenue and one of the only remaining classical movie theatres in America. They regularly host 35MM screenings of classics such as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, ‘Casablanca’ and ‘Gone with the Wind.’ Whilst I had some time to kill, I watched James Dean’s last film ‘Giant’ and it was a perfect way to spend an afternoon for a film geek.
Zilker River Park & Ladybird Lake
One thing that I love about Austin is its close proximity of both culture and nature within the city. You can go to see an art exhibition with friends on Guadalupe St and five minutes later be out in the rural wilderness at Zilker River Park.
Whilst visiting the park – make sure to have a dip in Barton Springs Pool for just $3 to cool off after walking across the city all day.
Austin is regarded as the birthplace of food trucks and yes, I did travel across America just for authentic street food. There’s countless vendors across the city which provide everything from vegan burgers to smoothies to churros. Make sure to check out Harbour Springs Picnic after working up an appetite at Lady Bird Lake as it’s only 2KM down the road.
The Graffiti Murals
One of the most iconic and recognisable parts of Austin is the graffiti murals. During my visit, I booked onto the ‘Austin 2-Hour Small-Group’ tour priced at £28. The tour guide was really pleasant and showed us around various murals ranging from McConaughey in Dazed and Confused to anti-Trump and free love slogans. I would advise booking onto a tour as most of the murals are outside of the city and the trip even ended with a free cupcake and drink at a local truck.
Torchy’s Tacos first began as a food truck but has since developed into a food chain across Austin. The chain has developed a cult following across America and even Obama visited during his presidential visit. They’ve recently opened another branch in Portland and will be perfect if you like your TexMex snacks filled with chilli and jalapenos. Make sure to ask for the secret menu at the till for some more challenging alternatives with double the toppings. Later on, head down to Voodoo Doughnut for their mouth-watering and inventive desserts.
Texas State Capitol
Texas State Capitol is definitely worth visiting if you’re looking to indulge in some American history during your stay in Austin. Admission is free and the building includes photos of former presidents, the Texas mosaic and a picturesque garden. It also provides a really pleasant view of the Austin city centre if you leave through Congress Avenue.
A Longhorns Game
Austin University has one of the best college football teams in America and the Longhorns are currently fourth on the table for this year’s season. It’s definitely worth trying to visit the city during the weekend of a football game. The atmosphere is always electric and you can experience the American tradition of tailgating. Tailgating is where people without tickets host a party by hiring out a plasma television and watch it in the car park. This is alongside hundreds of other supporters with all the clichés of plastic red cups and barbecued meat. For more information – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tailgate_party.
Go to the Bars & See a Band
As you will have already guessed, Austin has plenty of cool bars and live music venues. Just think of Shoreditch stretched across an entire city. A tour guide also said that the six districts all represent a different music genre as Red River Street is the home of indie bars, Dirty Sixth is the home of metal bars and Comal St is for the country and honky tonk acts. If you’re of legal drinking age, definitely go and embrace Austin’s local music scene.
The South Congress Bridge Bats
From March to October, 1.5 million bats emerge nightly from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. They typically start to emerge from the bridge around 20 minutes before sundown. It’s definitely worth setting your alarm to indulge your inner-David Attenborough and take a photo of the natural wonder for your Instagram feed.
If you’re looking for a pit-stop on your Greyhound between New Orleans and California, definitely consider stopping off in Austin for several nights.