WHERE? Capital of the Southern cowboy state of Texas – Art, Music and BBQ for the soul
Largely known for its eclectic live music scene, fusing country, blues and rock Austin is of course home to industry festival SXSW, something the city both celebrates and hates (cele-hates?) in equal measure. Austin has an old hippie soul in all parts and pockets and when you’re home to country singing legend, Willie Nelson that should really come as no surprise.
Other frankly amazing Austinites have included/include Janis Joplin, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray can usually be found crashing parties during SXSW. Now there’s actually much more to Austin than music and famous residents so here’s the SDD edit to the must see, eat and shop in the knowingly cool, if somewhat hipster but totally laid back city of Austin.
A MUST IN AUSTIN
If you happen to be in town during the annual music/film/tech industry festival you don’t have to suddenly set yourself up as a talent scout or similar, to access any events because there’s loads of public goings on across the city. 6th Street and South Congress Avenue both host a number of gigs and are definitely worth hanging around to catch some of the free unsigned bands, mojitos and fried chicken. We missed The Kills that year but caught the Big Pink, albeit briefly passing through SoCo (as the locals call it)Barton Springs,
Austin gets hot, really hot. There’s no better way to cool off than a jump in Barton Springs. A natural but commercialised (concrete bottom) pool surrounded by old pecan trees and water temperatures stay at around 20 degrees so you’ll soon cool down. Watch out for the little newts too.
KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD
The cities famous tag line and popular bumper sticker championing all of the eccentricities that make up the Austin cultural scene and there are LOTS of them - people, places and things.
Museum of Weird, 6th Street
If you’re curious for curiosities then Austin’s Museum of the Weird is a must hit, as is 6th street in general – a great mix of bikers and locals, bars and head-shops. 6th street loses some of the hipster vibes of SoCo and instead serves up some realness. The attractions at the Museum of Weird though questionable in their ‘realness’, don’t let that put you off. The team that run the venue are the nicest gang, special shout out to the guy that let me electrocute him on stage simply for having a great smile.
Street art is everywhere in Austin, you’ve seen the photos I’m sure. As a city that artist Daniel Johnston calls home it seems only right that Austin champion this. Top spots to look out for below but go early to avoid the instagram queues. Yep, you read right.
I Love You So Much by Amy Cook – Jo’s Coffee, South Congress Avenue
Greetings from Austin By Todd Sanders – 1st Street
Til Death Do Us Part by Federico Archuleta – East 7th Street
Some of the best artists in the industry have set up shop in Austin. If you’re in Austin and want more of a permanent souvenir check out these guys, even just for a t-shirt, patch or to check out the shop.
Rock of Ages, South Lamar Blvd With my personal favourite Thomas Hooper in residence (black and grey intricate mandalas and geometric designs) also check out Steve Byrne and Tony Hundal, total kings of American Traditional tattoos.
Great Wave Tattoo, Burnet Street
As a tattoo widow I got to spend a lot of time around Burnet Street. Great artists and equally great juice spots.
EAT IN AUSTIN
BBQ You can’t go to Austin and not BBQ. Texan BBQ is a religious experience.First on the list was Opie’s, much to do with Marc Maron’s WTF recommendation but unfortunately when we arrived Opie’s were out of everything and closed. So, go EARLY and be prepared to queue.Fortunately, in Austin there’s always an equally great back-up-BBQ and The Saltlick was no second. Based out in Driftwood with a laid-back rustic vibe with lots of out-door space and live music. Expect a wait but you won’t be disappointed. I still dream about their brisket even now. Sunset there is also a real treat.
If BBQ is a religious experience then Austin’s taco offering is nirvana.We followed Tacodeli with Torchy’s and then reached the highest of taco heights with Pueblo Viejo. A food truck offering breakfast heaven in a wrap. Try the Mi Madre (spinach, egg, jalapeño, mushroom and cheese) along with the Viejo (chorizo, egg, potato and beans)
My favourite food. Hands down. When I find a great sandwich it’s worth writing home about and Royal Blue Grocery’s Cuban Sandwich was one of them. I wasn’t that hungry so I split it with my boyfriend. Big mistake. This sandwich was conversation stopping, the kind you need to stop, sit down and give it the attention it deserves.
SHOP IN AUSTIN
There’s huge community support in Austin for shopping local and building local brands which I can wholly get behind. The shopping districts below celebrate this in their entirety so if you want to avoid the big chains then these are for you.
Probably the most popular indie shopping street in the city. In amongst the bars and boutique hotels are some of the favourite stores I’ve visited to date. If you love vintage and classic Americana this is the spot for you.
The name says it all. This store is a brilliantly merchandised treasure trove of vintage home-ware. Think old science class room posters, taxidermy ducks and all sorts of random loved and lost items from 20th century Americana. Nostalgia can be found in every nook and cranny and its all for sale.
You know those stores that have you totally nailed, this was feathers for me. Vintage at its best – 60’s and 70’s American dream Wranglers and Afghan coats through to Studio 54 glam, 80’s rock and 90’s grunge. The selection is clearly handpicked (whoever she is I need to be her friend, like yesterday) Style that up with new brand tees, natural skincare and a few crystals and I’m handing over my credit card like there’s no tomorrow.Oh and the dream Wranglers were high waisted kick flare psychedelic print. HEAVEN
No trip to Austin would be complete without a stop at Allens Boots (brand name is sans apostrophe, shocked face) First opening its doors in 1977 (you can’t miss the huge red boot sign) the store is now apparently home to the biggest selection of cowboy boots in the US. Noting could be more Texan than that right?
Other’s to check out:
North Lamar – West of downtown this area has some great music, book and grocery stores. Also where you can find Whole Food’s flagship store.
The Drag – Student central, think tie dye and beads.
Guadeloupe St – A whole mix of vintage.
SLEEP IN AUSTIN
There are heaps of hotels, corporate and boutique. My advice, Air BnB it.Meet some locals and stay in an actual neighborhood. We met some of the nicest people.