Have y’all visited Austin, TX? Well you should! This was a long weekend get away with friends. Our criteria was, easy to get to, warmer temps than New England, good food and nightlife.
Austin ticked all the boxes, so off we went! JetBlue offered direct flights from Boston at very reasonable prices making the trip easy and affordable.
We rented a condo unit through AirBnB that was perfectly situated on 3rd St within easy walking distance of most of downtown.
Because we had limited time, we chose to pre book a few small group tours to make the most of our 3.5 days. If you’ve read my blog before you know that I’m a huge fan of TripAdvisor for research, planning and booking. What you may not know is that AirBnB also has suggested activities for the area you’re staying with links to reviews and booking. Between the two sites, we booked 3 activities that we really enjoyed!
You may have heard the slogan “ Keep Austin Weird” right? I love that sentiment because it speaks to the city’s creative soul. But did you know the Official motto of Austin is the “ Live Music Capital of the World” ? On any given night, one can find over one hundred venues showcasing live music.
What better way to kick off our stay than with a Live Music Crawl ? This tour was run by Austin Detours. With over 270 music venues within Austin, this tour promised to show us some of the real authentic venues and skip the cover bands. And boy did they deliver! The meeting point inside a hotel lobby was an easy walk from our condo. There we met our guide and the other guests. I believe there were 12 of us total. We piled into a clean, comfortable van and off we went.
Our guide for the night was Brent and he kept us entertained with lots of fun facts about the history of the Austin Music scene. The first stop was C-Boy’s . A really cool venue with a dive bar sort of atmosphere complete with disco ball.
We spent about an hour rocking out to a great local band. Loved the vibe here and would definitely recommend it as a cool music venue.
Next stop was the Saxon Pub. This venue was larger, and had a bit more of a club vibe..reminded me of places we’d visit during our college years to hear good rock and roll.
We met some really nice locals that were kind enough to share their corner table. The band here was not too memorable except for the fantastic keyboard player…who actually played with the previous band at C-Boys, then made a hasty exit to play his next gig at Saxon Pub! Not my favorite spot of the night but we certainly enjoyed ourselves.
Saving the best for last…our guide Brent made a last minute itinerary change when he heard that “ Birdlegg” was playing at The Skylark Lounge. This spot was definitely a bit off the beaten path. As their website says “ if we didn’t tell you where it was, you’d never find it”
Don’t be put off by its outward appearance and location…this lounge…part dive bar, part blues venue was 100% legit and our hands down favorite venue and music of the night! We were so fortunate to see legendary ( if he’s not, he should be) blues man Gene “Birdlegg” Pittman.
This amazing entertainer does it all, singer, songwriter, absolutely incredible harmonica player and story teller. If you have the chance to see him…anywhere…it’s worth the trip/ticket!
On top of that, the crowd was lively and friendly and the staff went out of their way to please…the chicken sandwiches out back were great too.
Another notable music venue was The Continental Club. The Continental has been a staple in the Austin music scene since 1955 when it opened as a swanky supper club. It later became a burlesque club and eventually became one of the premier live music venues in the area. This club is the real deal with past performers such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Junior Brown and even Robert Plant. We greatly enjoyed the Latin style sound of The Iguanas, a New Orleans based band, on the night we visited. Located centrally on South Congress St, there are typically multiple shows a day/ night.
Another iconic club in Austin is The Elephant Room. Predominantly a jazz venue with music nightly it’s located on Congress St. Unfortunately we did not have time for a visit…all the more reason to go back!
In addition to it’s music scene, Austin also has a number of really cool secret speakeasys. If you’re into prohibition history and cocktails or just want something different and fun to do, I can recommend this great Secret Speakeasy Tour that you can find at Goodtrip tours. Our guide Ryan was really knowledgeable about the history of speakeasys in Austin. We visited 4 different venues, each with it’s own individual vibe and character. Ryan was great to hang out with and we had a fantastic time with the 3 other guests on our tour…exchanging our emails and numbers by the end of the night. In addition to the tour, Ryan will provide you with a map of speakeasy locations and instructions to get past the door… so you can visit on your own if time permits. I’ve already had 2 friends visit some of the bars that we enjoyed the best.
The clear favorite of this night was J. Stephens, also known as Austin’s haunted speakeasy. We loved the atmosphere and the bartender was friendly , entertaining and served up some very creative cocktails!
Rainey Street Historic District is another popular area for nightlife in Austin. This neighborhood close to the convention center began as a residential area consisting mainly of small bungalow style homes. The homes have now been converted into a plethora of bars and restaurants. You can find everything from upscale, inventive dishes at Emmer & Rye, to 50+ Texas draft beers at Craft Pride, to food trucks serving grilled cheese and frozen bananas. In addition to food and drink you will find plenty of live music happening most evenings.
Awesome cocktails at The Half Step bar on Rainey St
And I can’t talk about Austin nightlife without mentioning the notorious Dirty Sixth St. This section of the long Sixth St stretches from Congress Ave to I-35 and is closed to automobile traffic each night, essentially becoming one large party. If you’ve been to Bourbon St in NOLA, Dirty Sixth is tame by comparison. It is home to many bars and restaurants catering to the party hearty crowd. You’ll find plenty of $1 & $2 shots, street entertainers and live music. Despite its name and reputation, you’ll also find some really great places..notably the Parkside ( 301 E 6th) which offers a great happy hour and The Parish ( 214 E 6th) which might be one of the best music venues at the best price in town!
Austin is home to some AMAZING food! I’m just putting that out there!!
To get a good taste of the city’s food offerings in our short stay, we once again opted for a tour. We booked the Food Truck Tour with Austin Eats . Our guide was the very personable Scott, and when he promised that we would not go hungry…he was not lying! We thoroughly enjoyed our time eating our way through the city. The term “ food truck tour” was a bit misleading as most of the venues were actual brick and mortar restaurants..though some began as food trucks.
The first stop was a truck, where we sampled a treat called Kolaches for the first time. Who knew that Austin had a large Czech population?? These savory meat pastries are worth the line at Kerlin’s BBQ truck!
Our next stop was my fave of the day…La Barbecue . If you’ve researched barbecue in Austin, you’ve most likely heard of Franklin Barbecue. Well, the owner of La Barbecue is a former employee of Franklin’s.
We feasted on huge platters of pulled pork, ribs, pickles and cole slaw. Scott even provided us with take out bags and encouraged us to fill them up for later! Did I mention that all food an beverage was included? This included a cooler on board the bus that was stocked with beer, ciders and water.
Other stops for food and drink were Kebabalicious which was a nice break from barbecue..try the falafel, and Craft Pride on Rainey St. Craft Pride focuses on..you guessed it…craft beer with 54 taps of Texas beer. They also make some very creative pizzas…the Reuben pizza was a hit with our group.
I’m realizing now that I may have jumped the gun on declaring La Barbecue my favorite stop….that was before we got to the Churro Co. This little food truck was the bomb!!
Before moving on I need to also mention how very accommodating Austin Eats and our guide Scott were. We had mentioned my lactose intolerance when booking, and Scott went above and beyond in providing me with suitable choices..he even got me my own entire pizza made with dairy free cheese! Thank you Scott and Bravo to Austin Eats!
In addition to the food tour, we had several other great restaurant experiences in Austin. We enjoyed happy hour at La Condesa
And to continue the Mexican theme, we had great meals at Guero’s Taco Bar on So. Congress St.
If you’re thinking that our trip revolved around eating and drinking…well you might be right. However, we did get to see some other sides to Austin.
Austin is known for having a very artistic and creative population. You will see evidence of this in the variety of murals and street art throughout the city. On our next visit, I would love to do an actual street art tour. This time, I really enjoyed the element of surprise whenever we came across something special!
Austin is also a very green city. There are plenty of open and green spaces to enjoy, especially around Lake Austin, Lady Bird Lake and the Colorado River which flows through the city. You can hike or bike along the River, rent kayaks or floats, or just stroll and stop for a drink at Alta’s Cafe. Zilker Park and Auditorium Shores are lively spots for games and outdoor concerts.
If you’re fortunate to visit Austin between late July and early November, you will have the chance to see one of Texas’ top tourist attractions..the Austin Bats. During this time period an average of 1.5 million bats , the largest urban bat colony in the world, reside under the So. Congress St bridge. The bats emerge nightly from crevices under the bridge and go out in search of food. You can join the huge crowds that gather before sundown to watch this spectacular event.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief trip to Austin! It’s such a vibrant place with so much to offer …I’ve barely scratched the surface here. This is a city that most certainly warrants multiple visits. I’m confident that we will be back.
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