Austin, Texas is a rapidly growing city with a young population, and it's also a musical city, with year-round performances from top blues, jazz, and country artists. Downtown Austin's 6th Street is a hub of exciting restaurants, bars, and musical venues, and with live music festivals nearly every month of the year, it's easy to see why Austin is referred to as the live music capital of the world.
Austin is also an ideal destination for outdoor adventures, with plenty of rivers, natural springs, and caverns to explore. The Colorado River winds through downtown Austin, and you can enjoy the view from the greenbelts running along each side. Further afield, Austin is surrounded by the hills of Texas wine country, with over a dozen wineries to explore.
Austin has a reputation as a hub for quality live music, and ACL Live, the site of the popular PBS show Austin City Limits, is one reason why. At the 2,750-person Moody Theater, you'll see and hear from top musical performers like Billie Ellish, Mandy Moore, and Blues Traveler, along with exciting up-and-coming performers of all genres. Be sure and buy your tickets well in advance for good seats.
A walkable 4 square miles, downtown Austin, is home to some unique museums, including the Mexic-Arte Museum, featuring art from Texas, Mexico and Latin America, and the Museum of the Weird, a truly original venue of shrunken heads, mummies and other oddities. If you're craving a snack, try a bacon maple bar at Voodoo Donut, and at night, dance to music from the 80s and 90s at Cedar Creek Courtyard or go barhopping on 6th Street.
Sampling local wines in Austin tasting rooms is a treat for your palate, and it's also worthwhile to spend the day touring some of the hill country wineries in nearby Driftwood, Texas. Falls Creek Vineyards, Dutchman Family Winery, and Driftwood Estate Winery cluster together about a 40-minute drive from downtown Austin. The Dutchman offers a food menu four days a week, including freshly baked pretzels with cheese fondue, and the Driftwood has a weekend bistro that serves small plates, entrees, and homemade desserts.
You'll come across a picture like this one of Hamilton Pool pretty often in articles about the outdoor beauty of Austin. At Dripping Springs, fifteen minutes from Austin, a short hike down a rocky slope brings you to this natural rock formation. A blue pool with sandy banks sparkles in the sunlight, and it flows into a beautiful cavern several stories high. You can borrow a stout branch to use as a walking stick from a stand near the summit, then make your way down the quarter-mile path to the grotto below. Reservations are required on weekends.
If you're on a budget, go sightseeing and get some exercise at the same time by renting a bike for the day for less than the cost of an Uber. Head to the hiking/biking trail at Lady Bird Lake, and while you're exploring, stop at the Austin Nature and Science Center and Zilker Botanical Gardens, both free to the public. Just across the Congress Avenue Bridge, Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que is a great place to stop for lunch and a brew. In the summer months, the bridge is also the spot to view over a million bats taking wing at sunset.
Talented performers in Austin have perfected the art of drag, and we recommend you catch a performance at Esther's Follies on 6th Street or at the Elysium Nightclub in the Red River District. Enjoy skits and performances that riff on Texas politics and culture, and even a drag queen magic act at Esther's. Elysium offers drag variety shows and musical showcases, all for a reasonable cover charge. Esther's has a full menu and Elysium doubles as a dance club between engagements.
It's a straight shot down I-35 from Austin to San Antonio, and you can be there in less than 2 hours. Take a free tour of historic missions along the San Antonio River, including the famed Alamo. At the nearby San Antonio Riverwalk, you can sightsee, shop and dine along the 15-mile path, or take a river barge tour. Admission to the San Antonio Zoo is reasonable and, if you get there at the right time, you'll get the chance to feed some of the animals.
If you're a foodie, you won't be disappointed in Austin's culinary scene. Check out the Japanese restaurant DipDipDip Tatsu-ya, where you'll dip raw beef, dumplings, and vegetables in a bubbling hot broth pot at your table. Or enjoy the Tex-Mex comfort food restaurant Vamonos, and revel in carne asada, roasted chiles poblano, and smooth queso. You can also dine al fresco at The Vegan Nom food truck, home of "rockin' vegan tacos."
Whether you prefer a dance club, a rooftop lounge, or a pop-up bar, you'll find what you're looking for in Austin's 6th Street, the hub of everything from dollar shot dives to the western-themed Driskill Hotel, an upscale edifice rumored to be haunted. Try an Indian Paintbrush made with vodka, grapefruit, and rosemary, or sip on a classic salt-rimmed margarita. Maggie Mae's has it all, with live music every night, a rooftop bar and a series of lounges featuring Gibson and Les Paul guitar memorabilia.
You can sing, dance, and clap along with the rest of the piano bar crowd at Pete's, a popular dueling piano bar that also features guest performers. Pianists face off across two baby grand pianos for a night of revelry that includes rock, oldies, and a touch of comedy. If you want to have a wild and crazy time, Pete's is the place to let it all hang out. Toss your song requests on one of the pianos, and enjoy an expertly crafted signature cocktail while you belt out a few tunes.