Not only does Austin, TX top the charts for "Best Places to Visit in the US" and "America's Fastest Growing Cities", but it also was recently named the "Best College Town in the U.S." Growing up, I never really thought Austin had that much to do. My family visited it a few times when I was younger, but it wasn't until I was older that I realized how cool the capital of Texas truly is. Here are 5 must-dos in the Live Music Capital:
1. Visit the Texas State Capitol
The Capitol is one of my favorite buildings in Austin! I've spent hours walking around and looking at all the rooms and the architecture. After the Capitol burned down in 1881, Texas built a new and grander one. This building, made of limestone and modeled after the U.S. Capitol in D.C., was finished in 1888. You can take a guided tour and learn all about history of Texas and the building or you can go on a self-guided tour. I always opt for the self-guided tour and explore on my own!
2. Go to a concert/music festival
You can't go to the Live Music Capital of the World without hearing some live music! There is always some kind of concert going on in Austin, even on weekdays. If you really want an Austin live music experience, go to Austin City Limits (ACL) in the Fall or SXSW in the Spring!
ACL is always the first two weekends in October and it features some of the best musicians around the world. They also have vendors selling amazing food from some of Austin's best restaurants! If you're a fan of a smaller band that's playing at ACL, check out the festival's late night shows that take place at different venues during the week. I went to one of ACL's late night shows to see Alice Merton and it was honestly one of the best concerts I've ever been to. The venue was small, I was right next to the stage, and the music was fantastic! One last thing about ACL: if you're a huge music fan like me, get the 3-day pass! I bought the 3-day pass the first year I went, but I only got a 1-day pass the second year and I totally regret not getting the weekend pass (I passed up an opportunity to see Paul McCartney!! :( ).
If you want to go to SXSW, which is in March, you can either pay (a somewhat hefty price) for a music festival pass or you can catch the free shows held every night. Most of the free shows during the week are 21+, so double check the age restrictions if you're not 21 yet. On the last weekend of SXSW there are larger free concerts featuring big name artists. I was able to see X Ambassadors for free!
3. Go outdoors!
Austin is all about nature! Go for a hike, a swim, or even just a walk. When Zilker isn't packed full of people, stages, and lighting & sound equipment, it is a wide open, grassy area perfect for playing fetch with your dog (the city is very dog-friendly :) ) or looking at the city skyline.
If it's warm outside and you'd like to take a dip somewhere, go to one of Austin's swimming holes. The city has many different places to swim: Barton Springs, Barton Creek Greenbelt, McKinney Falls State Park, and Hamilton Pool (just outside Austin in Dripping Springs).
Prefer to hike? Greenbelt and McKinney Falls are also good places to hike. River Place Nature Trail's Canyon Trail can be a bit difficult for some people, but it is an amazing place to hike!
There are so many other outdoor activities you can do, too! You can walk the Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake or stand up paddle board or kayak down the Colorado River.
4. Keep Austin Weird!
Austin is a very unique city! You can play Chicken S*** Bingo at the Little Longhorn Saloon, shop at Uncommon Objects, or visit the Cathedral of Junk. Nothing is too weird in Austin, so feel free to be as wacky as you'd like!
5. Eat delicious food!
You name any type of food, Austin has it! There is everything from BBQ to tacos, French food to Japanese food, and so much more. One of my favorite restaurants is Blue Dahlia Bistro! Blue Dahlia is a European style bistro offering entrees, like French meatloaf and ratatouille, and tartines (opened faced sandwiches), as well as salads. Don't forget to stop by Amy's Ice Cream and/or Lick for some of the best ice cream you'll ever put in your mouth!
Austin has something for everyone! Whether you're going for family vacation, a couple's weekend, or a girl's getaway, you are bound to have a great time!