Photographed by Stuart Seeger
This Southwest capital is weird and wonderful
Not only is Austin a progressive haven in the red-state of Texas, but it’s also an eclectic and vibrant enclave for music, art, and eats, with mouth-watering barbecue and Tex-Mex joints around every corner. “Keep Austin Weird” is the local mantra, and this offbeat city’s managed to do just that while also preserving its Southern warmth.
SHOPPING, ARTS, & ?CULTURE?
BookWoman (5501 N. Lamar Blvd.) is a local feminist bookstore that has been around for 39 years. Beware, you might get lost for hours perusing their diverse and unique selection (and check their calendar for feminist literary events). Vintage hunters should skip the overpriced stores on South Congress, and head to Treasure City Thrift (2142 E. 7th St.), which is full of Southwestern fashion favorites. With a bit of searching, you can find a unique pair of cowboy boots or some uncommon relics.
Once a part of Mexico, Austin is rich in Mexican history, art, and culture. The Mexic-Arte Museum (419 Congress Ave.), featuring work from young Latino artists on issues of migration, border control, and religion, is worth a visit. Check out the Hope Outdoor Gallery (11th & Baylor St.)—a collection of concrete walls from a failed condo development turned secret graffiti spot turned protected park—for amazing street art. Want to contribute? Pick up a paint pass from the onsite trailer and leave a Krylon memento of your trip.
Hope Outdoor Gallery
EAT & DRINK
Austin is a food lover’s paradise filled with all kinds of gourmet delights. To get a true taste of the town, bypass the hip brunch spots and head instead to neighborhood favorite, Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop (referred to locally as Joe’s Mexican Restaurant—2305 E. 7th St.) for a breakfast taco and traditional Tex-Mex migas (eggs scrambled with crispy tortilla strips) with jalapeno and cheese. For the best barbecue in town, don’t miss La BBQ food truck (1906 E. Cesar Chavez). Try the impossibly perfect brisket sandwich and a side of potato salad and enjoy them in one of Austin’s many outdoor eating spaces. Yes, the line sucks—I sometimes wait an hour!—but free beer on tap makes it way less painful. For veggie lovers, head south to Whip In (1950 S. Interstate Hwy. 35), an Indian restaurant, corner store, bar, and event space all rolled into one—the vegan samosas are an absolute must.
There is no shortage of places to drink in this craft beer hub. To skip the crowds, head north to the hidden Adelbert’s Brewery (2314 Rutland Dr.) for glorious, handcrafted Belgian-style ales. Cozy up under the hanging lights outside and try the Lobster Melt from the on-site food truck (expensive, but totally worth it!). For a more upscale option, try Peche (208 W. 4th St.), which serves up craft cocktails (many with absinthe) in a New Orleans-styled space.
Live music is everywhere in Austin. Attending the city’s famous South By Southwest Music and Film Festival (March 10–19) is a trip on its own. But for a wild night of dancing every other week of the year, don’t miss TuezGayz on Tuesdays at Barbarella (615 Red River St.) where you’ll catch the city’s best drag show. Also check out SpiderHouse Cafe & Ballroom (2908 Fruth St.), a coffee shop by day and a laidback event space by night, hosting everything from comedy shows and poetry slams to burlesque performances and punk rock. A trip to Austin wouldn’t be complete without a Sunday visit to The Little Longhorn Saloon (5434 Burnet Rd.) for “Chicken Shit Bingo,” which is exactly what it sounds like; roll in, grab a local beer, listen to country tunes, and bet on where a chicken is going to shit on a bingo board at this legendary bar!
The Little Longhorn Saloon
The Southwest is home to some of the country’s most pristine natural pools and intricate rivers, and Austin’s no exception. Local favorite Barton Springs (2201 Barton Springs Rd.) is a natural pool that’s 67 degrees all year round. This city gem is a glorious escape for everyone from local councilmen to bare-breasted free spirits. The springs cradle the lush Zilker Park, perfect for hiking or a bicycle ride (B-Cycle stations, Austin’s bike share program, are all over the city). To escape the crowds and for a bit of adventure, head to Krause Springs (404 Krause Spring Rd., Spicewood) less than an hour away, which is home to more than 30 natural pools and jaw-dropping waterfalls.
Photographed by Sarah Ellison Lewis
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