City Spotlight: Austin, TX

by Tiffany Paul

When you think of Texas, you may instantly envision line-dancing, cowboy hats and southern drawls, but if you get a chance to visit Austin, the capital of Texas, I think you’ll get a whole new perspective. The city of Austin is the youngest big city in the US, with about 90,000 college and university students who reside there, so it’s jam PACKED full of exciting events, diverse social scenes and plenty of places to grab a good meal.

Don’t be surprised if the moment you get off the plane you’re greeted by live musicians performing outside your terminal. You’ll quickly realize that you have immersed yourself in a pool of culture and creativity. The city overflows with good vibes, hip crowds and tons of good music everywhere you go. After all, Austin is known as the “live music capital of the world.”

With so much to see and do in the city itself, you may feel like unwinding outside the city. Take some time to enjoy the natural beauty that exists in the scenery that surrounds Austin. Head twenty miles west and you’ll find one of my favorite spots, Hamilton Pool. This natural swimming pool was formed when the dome of an underground river collapsed. Here, you’ll find a ring of beautiful waterfalls, some as high as 50 feet! The limestone rock formations that surround and overhang the turquoise green water form a mossy, cave-like grotto. You’ll hardly believe this paradise is so close to the bustling city. 

Back in the city, here are my “Must Do” and “Must Eat” picks for visiting Austin:

Must Do:

Check out the music scene: Austin is famous for showcasing musical acts of all sorts, not just country. While you're there, be sure to check out some live music, whether it be at a local dive bar, club or historic Paramount Theatre (the city's oldest standing theatre). Learn about some of Austin's top rated music venues here. And let's not forget about South by Southwest held every year in March, where Austin plays host to a set of film, interactive and music festivals. Since the first SXSW event in 1987, the event has grown and attracted a wealth of talent and top-quality performers. Many people visit Austin JUST to experience this renowned event! 

Visit the SoCo District. This area is usually crowded with people taking in all there is to do and see! You’ll find glam boutiques, street performers and a variety of food to choose from (including a great selection from local food trucks). Make sure you stop outside of Jo’s Coffee, an Austin-area institution, to check out the iconic photo-op spot, where “I love you so much” has been tagged on the side of the building and now serves as a popular place for tourists and couples to get their photo snapped.

Catch a flick at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. If you’re a fan of dinner and a movie, this is the spot that combines the two! Watching a movie at the Drafthouse Cinema makes you feel as comfortable as sitting in your own living room, and it adds the convenience of someone waiting on you (so you don’t have to pause the movie to refresh your drink!). You can catch the latest Hollywood blockbusters or the occasional classic flick during special events. According to big fans like Quentin Tarantino and Elijah Wood (and pretty much the entire population of Austin), this IS the BEST movie theatre in the world!

Must Eat:  

Franklin Barbecue. Franklin Barbecue has some of the best barbecue in Texas (a state famed for its barbecue). It’s been popularly named Texas' top BBQ joint, and it’s made #5 on TripAdvisor’s list of 3,187 restaurants in Austin! You might get stuck in a long line getting into this popular spot, but have no fear! Staff members will pass by often with a variety of beverages to choose from while you wait, and you might even snag some free samples before you’re seated! The brisket is a MUST try.

Swift's Attic. If you’re looking for a good brunch spot where you and friends or colleagues can enjoy a chill atmosphere and pass around a variety of unique culinary treats, this is the spot for you! Think upscale bar food you’ve probably never tried before. Swift’s dishes out duck wings, grilled peaches and antelope steak frites to tantalize your taste buds!

Fonda San Miguel. This is not your typical TexMex fare. Fonda San Miguel is an Austin staple, and it has kept its classic charm throughout the years. You’ll go back in time when you enter the courtyard, and the hacienda-style interior enhances the experience of your meal. You’ll find a fabulous selection of wine and craft beer on their happy hour menu, and their small plate options let you sample more than one dish!

Make sure you look into these great little spots next time you plan a visit! Do you have other favorite spots in Austin?