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If you’re gonna play in Texas, Austin should top your itinerary. Don’t let the laid-back vibe fool you, high-energy hangouts abound in this town. Ready to see some storied stages, taste a few global flavors, and rollick in the great outdoors? Let’s go!
By Amanda Gleason
Check out the video of Amanda's adventures here!
The Driskill The setting for Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson’s first date, this historic hotel on Sixth Street invites guests to kick back in elegant guest rooms designed in early 20th-century style.
Hotel San Jose Unwind in the peaceful courtyard at this bungalow-style abode, located in the hip enclave of SoCo (South Congress Ave.).
Lake Austin Spa Resort Dive in to the heated “pool barn” at this idyllic spread’s 25,000-square-foot spa, which offers more than 100 relaxing treatments to choose from.
Get to know LBJ even more as you…
Politics are in the air, and we’re not talking about the inauguration. The LBJ Presidential Library, which houses documents, photos, and recordings from the Texas native’s career, completed a $10 million redesign on December 22—what would have been Lady Bird’s 100th birthday. Located on The University of Texas campus, this super pac-ked scene now sports 17 new galleries filled with impressive artifacts, including recordings of phone calls between the 36th president and notables like Martin Luther King Jr. Want your chance as commander in chief? Step up to the interactive touch-screen panel that presents details of the Vietnam War and allows guests to choose a course of action, just as LBJ did. To get the most of your visit, download the library’s smartphone app, which offers five themed audio guides. We know what we’re doing this Presidents Day.
The Blanton Museum of Art The extensive collection of European paintings is especially strong in Italian Renaissance and Baroque styles, and includes works by the lauded French painter Claude Lorrain.
Peter Pan Mini Golf Sculptures of the beloved fairy tale’s characters have been welcoming guests to this family-friendly hangout since 1946.
Outdoor enthusiasts will be stoked to…
Scale the Trails
Whether you prefer to break a sweat or bask in the sun, you’ll find an open-air thrill that suits your style at Barton Creek Greenbelt, a nearly eight-mile expanse of parkland traversed by biking and hiking trails and studded with swimming holes, limestone cliffs, and lush vegetation. Beginning in Zilker Park, site of the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival, and extending southward to “The Hill of Life,” a rocky stretch that’s a boon for mountain bikers, this urban escape offers five access points, making navigation a breeze. If foot traffic is more your forte, meander along the soil paths lined with juniper and rare Heller’s marbleseed plants. No matter how strenuous your stay, locals recommend capping it with a Shiner Bock, the unofficial beer of Austin. Now that’s an exercise we can handle.
Be sure to eat a meal at…
Uchi Savor the unagi (freshwater eel) foie gras, a dish created by this upscale eatery’s James Beard Award–winning chef, or try its sister restaurant, Uchiko, which accepts reservations.
Franklin Barbecue This meat lover’s mecca has sold out of its famed brisket every day since its establishment in 2009. Get there early: The line starts forming hours before the doors open at 11 a.m.
El Primo Breakfast tacos are king at this kaleidoscopic food trailer on South First Street. If you like it hot, try the red sauce—and consider this your warning.
Then follow the sounds of the city as you...
Rock This Way
Starting your tour of the live music capital of the world is easy: Just look for Willie Nelson. A bronze statue of the Red Headed Stranger himself greets guests outside Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater, the two-year-old home of the long-running PBS series. Step behind the scenes with a guided tour, then stick around for a show: Past performers include Styx, The Gipsy Kings, and Diana Ross. Continue the good vibrations at the Continental Club, the legendary dive where Stevie Ray Vaughan got his start, or Antone’s Nightclub, which opened in 1975 as the first club on Sixth Street. (It’s now located at Fifth and Lavaca.) No trip to Texas would be complete without visiting a honky-tonk: We suggest two-stepping to the dance floor at The White Horse. Bet you’ll leave with Austin always on your mind.
Set your sights on…
Alamo Drafthouse Cinephiles give two thumbs up to this dinner-and-a-movie theater, which hosts events like Quote-Along nights, where guests are encouraged to shout out the lines.
The Blackheart A sizable whiskey list draws crowds to this watering hole on Rainey Street, a burgeoning locale where residential bungalows have been converted into bars with backyards and porches.
Waterloo Records A key player in the city’s music scene since 1982, this Austin institution sells new and used records and CDs, and allows you to listen to tunes before buying.
This town’s no. 1 food rule: don’t forget to...
Eat Your Veggies
We know where some of Austin’s most celebrated chefs go on Wednesday and Saturday mornings: Boggy Creek Farm. Situated about two miles east of downtown, this urban purveyor’s twice-weekly market days draw in locavores by the herds. As you wander beneath the live oaks and sift through arugula and red Russian kale, you’ll likely spot the owners—married couple Larry Butler and Carol Ann Sayle—mingling with customers, tending to the hens, or bustling in and out of their white 1840s farmhouse, one of the oldest homes in town. “Austin is a progressive city and has always been considered laid-back and hippie,” says Butler. “Organic farming fell into that category in the early ’90s when Boggy Creek was established, but now everybody is doing it.” We’re just glad they paved the way.
Getting There Fly into Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), about 10 miles southeast of downtown.
Getting Around Capital Metro, the city’s bus system, operates 50 routes ($2 for a local day pass) to get you around town.
Getting Out Every Saturday, sprinters of all skill levels dash to the Texas 5K Beer Run, a fun run with planned stops at some of the city’s best bars.
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