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ESCAPE PLAN: Austin, Texas

by Keith langston
Austin Texas skyline

There's tons to see, do, eat, and drink in Austin, Texas. It's not only the coolest city in Texas, but many argue it's one of the coolest in the entire country.

Image: Roschetzky Photography

This is your Escape Plan to Austin, Texas, giving you insider knowledge of everything the city has to offer!

“Keep Austin Weird” became a slogan so popular and impactful that it was famously copied by Portland, Oregon, and other cities around the nation. Is Austin weird? Yes, in a wonderful way. It’s a college town, a liberal hippie hideout, a tech-industry magnet, and an outdoorsman’s paradise. And, despite being super liberal, Austin is also the capital city of one of America’s reddest Red States. So yes, Austin is f*****g weird, and that’s exactly why people love it. Here is your escape plan to the weirdest, wildest town in the west, showing you all the best things to do, see, eat, and more!

STAY

Austin Marriott pool

Rooftop pool at the Austin Marriott Downtown (Photo Courtesy of Marriott)

There is no shortage of hotels in Austin. Since the city started booming in popularity 15 years ago, it’s attracted literally hundreds of new properties. From the Fairmont to the Four Seasons, you can find every major hotel brand in Austin now. One of the newest properties is the Marriott located downtown. While there are other Marriott properties nearby – with a W and JW Marriott literally just blocks away – the best bang for your buck is the Austin Marriott Downtown.

Austin Motel

 

A brand new building, floor-to-ceiling windows, a luscious rooftop pool, and a bustling and stylish lobby that’s complete with a bar and restaurant, this is a whole new Marriott, one that proves the brand’s commitment to the transformative power of travel. It’s a surprisingly stylish and chic hotel that’s quickly become one of the city’s hottest properties.

For a bit of Austin’s eclectic and retro past, a stay at the uber-LGBTQ friendly Austin Motel in South Congress is a must! Adorned with a classic neon sign, a funky pool area, and guestrooms that perfectly blend nostalgia, kitsch, and funky fun, this is the place to stay for those who love a good time.

Plus, the lobby comes adorned with a giant pride flag and the phrase “Y’ALL MEANS ALL!”, so how could you possibly resist a visit?

 

EAT

Terry Black's BBQ

Smoked turkey platter at Terry Black’s (Photo: Keith Langston)

You can’t visit Austin without eating barbeque, and the city has tons of famous spots, like Black’s and Franklin BBQ. But many say the best place to go is Terry Black’s. Yes, there is a line that goes out the door and into the parking lot, however it is totally worth it. From brisket to ribs, homemade sausage, and even turkey, there are tons of options for your bbq pleasure. But that’s not all, Terry Black’s also has a smorgasbord of fantastic sides and desserts, like mac-n-cheese, green beans, peach cobbler, and pecan pie. To top it all off, every table comes complete with three bbq sauces: Original, Sweet, and Spicy!

Veracrus tacos

Ordering at Veracruz (Photo Courtesy of Veracruz All Natural)

 

But being so close to the border, you’re also going to find fantastic Mexican food. Veracruz became an Austin staple and is so beloved that it now has six locations around the city (some of which are food trucks).

 

They serve delicious and unique tacos, like the Dona Reyna’s, which is served with chicken, house-made mole sauce, onion, and queso fresco. On top of the tacos, their fresh-made juices and agua frescas are sweet, delicious, and hydrating. It’s the perfect remedy for a hot Texas afternoon!

DRINK

Cidercade Austin

Playing pinball at Cidercade (Image courtesy of Bishop Cidercade)

If normal bars are too boring for you, it’s time to head over to Cidercade! The name is a portmanteau of cider + arcade because it’s an arcade that specializes in hard cider. Owned by the Bishop company, it serves all of Bishop’s excellent brews, from dry ciders to sweet ciders, and even hard kombuchas. And for those who don’t drink, their fountain is stocked with excellent beverages from Maine Root, including Vanilla Crème soda, Cactus Lemonade, and even iced Honey Ginseng Green Tea. When visiting, be sure to check out their wide selection of pinball machines, as well as their arcade versions of classic games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Crazy Taxi, Donkey Kong, and more. Better yet, they have an outdoor patio overlooking Lady Bird Lake!

Zanzibar in the Austin Marriott

Crafting the perfect cocktail at Zanzibar (Image courtesy of Zanzibar at the downtown Marriott)

Surprisingly, one of the city’s hottest establishments is located at the new downtown Marriott. Offering up stunning skyline views from the hotel’s rooftop is Zanzibar. Lush with plants and palms, the lounge serves up excellent tropical cocktails so delicious that even the locals are showing up in droves.

The best part about Zanzibar though is that, even though it’s crowded, it’s incredibly chill. This isn’t a pretentious and judgey club, it’s more like a relaxing trip to the beach. Even better is that it’s located right next to the hotel’s outdoor pool, amplifying its beachy feel.

 

DO

South Congress Ave

Shops along South Congress Ave (Photo: Alfie Photography)

One of the coolest things to do in Austin is to walk down South Congress Avenue. Located south of the river, the street and same-named neighborhood are filled with tons to see and do. Often abbreviated as SoCo, the street is lined with big-name shops like YETI and Lululemon along with local institutions like Allens, which sells authentic cowboy boots, hats, and belts. Also along SoCo is Amy’s Ice Cream, a local favorite ice cream shop that dishes out flavors like sweet cream, cold press vanilla, Texas dirt cake, and more. And don’t forget to grab a coffee or tea at Jo’s, which is famous for its Insta-perfect “I Love You So Much” graffiti mural.

Concert at Subbs BBQ

Grizzle Bear performs at Stubb’s (Photo: Ismael Quintanilla)

No visit to Austin would be complete without seeing some live music. There are tons of venues, both big and small, for seeing shows; from the massive and new Moody Center to The Continental Club, one of the city’s historic locales. But Stubb’s is easily one of Austin’s most famous live music spots. With tons of great bbq, cocktails, and local beer on the menu, plus an endless line-up of performances (including big names like Sum 41, Three Days Grace, Bleachers, and more), and an incredibly famous gospel brunch on the weekends, there’s no better spot in the city to combine food, drinks, and music.

UNWIND

Barton Creek

Swimmers at Barton Creek (Photo: Roschetzky Photography)

It’s also important to get outside. Austin is constantly ranked as one of the best outdoors cities in America, and for good reason. Between Zilker Nature Preserve, Barton Springs, Barton Creek, Lady Bird Lake, Zilker Botanical Garden, and nearby Lake Travis and the Texas Hill Country, the city and region are literally loaded with opportunities for hiking, jogging, biking, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and swimming, among virtually every other outdoor activity imaginable.

Austin bats

Congress Ave. bats at sunset (Photo: Kusha; Bose)

Austin is very much a young, active town, so it’s important to check out that side of the city when visiting, otherwise, you’ll be missing out on a huge part of the city’s culture.

Also, one other great outdoor activity to do in Austin is one you might not expect…check out the bats! Living within the Congress Avenue Bridge is (depending on the season) between 700,000 and 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. Each night at sunset, the bats emerge in search of food, creating a truly stunning show for onlookers.


For more info on everything there is to see and do in Austin, check out the Visit Austin website.

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