We’ve got the intel on Austin’s greatest icons: sights, sounds, shops and eats that have come to symbolize this amazing city. Whether you’re looking for a top Austin restaurant, a hot nightclub or some cool shops, here’s a list to get you started.
You won’t have a hard time finding Allens Boots; just look for the Bunyanesque red boot on the 1500 block of South Congress Avenue. Even if you’re not a cowboy-boot aficionado, it’s fun to gaze at the seemingly endless rows of boots in a kaleidoscope of colors. Take a look at cowboy hats, apparel, jewelry and belts, too; Allens has everything you need to outfit yourself head-to-toe in Western garb.
Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge
You simply must do this when you’re in Austin: Set up camp near the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge and watch Austin’s bats leave their berths under the bridge en masse to devour insects while unknowingly entertaining scores of onlookers. You can witness this phenomenon daily after dusk from March through November.
There are many reasons Austin is called the “Live Music Capital of the World” and Antone’s is one of them. This esteemed venue is nothing short of legendary, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more authentic blues club. Opened by avid blues aficionado Clifford Antone in 1975, who also founded an eponymous record label and record store, the bare-bones club hosts talented local acts as well as touring artists. Recent names on the marquee of this Austin nightclub include Robert Cray, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Barton Springs Pool at Zilker Metropolitan Park
When the Texas heat begins to take its toll, head to Barton Springs Pool for a refreshing dip; it’s one of the best things to do in Austin. Located in the 358-acre Zilker Metropolitan Park, the 3-acre spring-fed pool’s temperature hovers at a crisp 68-70 degrees year-round. Bring a towel to toss on the surrounding grass and a few bucks for the concession stand, since coolers aren’t allowed.
The Continental Club
Marked by a restored 1950s neon sign that oozes cool, The Continental Club began its life as an upscale supper club in 1957, morphing into a 1960s burlesque club, then hosting punk bands in the 1980s. These days, the stage is graced by musicians playing roots rock, rockabilly and country for your listening, dancing, head-bobbing and toe-tapping pleasure. Restored 1950s-era murals on the walls recall this revered Austin classic’s earlier days.
The Driskill Grill
Whether it’s a special occasion or you’re just feeling a little spendy, make your way to AAA Four Diamond Rated® The Driskill Grill. This swanky fine-dining establishment inside The Driskill Hotel is reminiscent of an old-school gentleman’s club, from leather, nail-studded chairs and a pressed-tin ceiling to plush burgundy carpet dotted with gold stars. Creative menus incorporate locally sourced organic ingredients and change daily, but you’ll find dishes like wild boar chops, fire-grilled lamb loin, roasted cauliflower steak or pumpkin-tanariva chocolate custard, complemented by a well-rounded wine list.
Order up a heaping plate of some of Austin’s best BBQ at this AAA One Diamond restaurant that’s only open for lunch (its hours are “11-Sold Out!”). There’s at least a 2-hour wait, but this eatery is highly rated and well-known; Anthony Bourdain has said “It is the best. It is the finest brisket I’ve ever had.” The brisket, ribs and pulled pork are smoked for 22 hours; you can also choose turkey and sausage. Keep in mind that seating is outdoors only. Those in the know bring lawn chairs, umbrellas and coolers to make the waiting easier.
Radisson Hotel & Suites Downtown Austin
You’ll need a place to crash at the end of long days exploring the city. The AAA Three Diamond Radisson Hotel & Suites Downtown Austin, a AAA Inspector Pick, is not only close to the Congress Avenue Bridge, where you can catch the nightly bat show, but it’s a quick walk to downtown. What’s more, this Austin hotel has free Wi-Fi and breakfast, an infinity-edge pool, modern furnishings, an in-room fridge and microwave, and iHome docking stations.
If you’re craving some tasty barbecue, but don’t have the time to wait at Franklin Barbecue, stride over to Stubbs’s Bar-B-Q, a AAA Two Diamond property. This top-notch eatery has been satisfying carnivorous Austinites since 1968, and if you want a side of live music with your brisket, head outside to the outdoor amphitheater, which earns rave reviews from music fans. Bands also perform on an indoor stage. Texas post oak and house-made dry rubs flavor the slowly smoked meats, and you can have your meal served family style.
In case you haven’t heard, people are buying records again. Actually, they never stopped, and Waterloo Records can testify to that. This Austin favorite has supplied audiophiles with its immense collection of vinyl (and CDs) since 1982. You also can’t beat the free in-store shows for all ages, which are usually followed by record signings in the shop’s 6,400-square-foot space. Waterloo also puts up a stage in the parking lot during the annual South by Southwest (aka SXSW) festival.