The best things to do in Austin (in addition to Collabosphere)
Editor’s note: We couldn’t be more excited to bring Collabosphere to Austin this year! Our agenda is action-packed, and we’re making sure to serve up plenty of that famous local Austin flavor (BBQ dinner? Check! Drinks under the stars? Check! Great local music? Check!). But we understand you may not want to spend ALL of your time with us… so we checked in with the Austin Chronicle’s Neph Basedow to get her tips for the best things to do when you’re in town for an amazing work conference. Take it away, Neph…
Recently named by Forbes as the nation’s fastest-growing city, Austin gains roughly 150 new residents every day—an astonishing reflection of the city’s wide-ranging appeal. In other words, there’s more to Austin than music and tacos—though those are among its finest features.
Opened in February, the primely located JW Marriott stands steps away from Austin’s downtown action—though cabs, Uber, Lyft, car2go, and bike rentals are all readily available.
2nd Street shopping
A five-minute walk from the JW sits 2nd Street District. This six-block stretch offers plenty of retail, dining and nightlife options, including the Moody Theater (310 Willie Nelson Blvd.), new home to the legendary Austin City Limits tapings. On the same block is La Condesa, with its inviting outdoor patio and mouthwatering modern Mexican fare; their Margarita la Clásica is among the best margaritas in town.
* Locals’ tip: Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler hits ACL Live on Friday, Sept. 25.
Insatiable taste for BBQ? Time to spare? Hail a cab to Franklin Barbecue (900 E. 11th St.) for Austin’s hands-down best BBQ (lunch-only; closed Mondays). Lines may take several hours, so arrive early and considered yourself warned—but their slow-cooked brisket is undoubtedly worth the wait.
* Locals’ tip: Bring a collapsible lawn chair and kick back while in line.
The great outdoors
As prevalent in Austin as quality grub is an ardor for fitness and outdoors. Two miles from the JW lies a local favorite, Barton Springs (2201 Barton Springs Rd.). The crisp, man-made swimming pool maintains an average of 70 degrees year-round. Nearby is the pristine 10-mile lakefront Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail, and several kayak and standup paddle rentals to cruise Town Lake.
* Locals’ tip: Cool off with a sno-cone at Sno-Beach! (801 Barton Springs Rd.)
Whether your tastes run eclectic, country, or classic, you’ll find much to explore in Austin if you’re a museum-lover. The Blanton Museum of Art (200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.) typically boasts the best exhibits.
* Locals’ tip: A newly-opened Beatles exhibit is drawing big crowds at the LBJ Library, and will be running throughout the remainder of 2015.
Among the city’s most popular sightseeing locales is the Congress Avenue Bridge, home to hundreds of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats, which dwell under the bridge from spring to early fall. (Yep, you’re visiting the largest urban bat colony in North America. Welcome!)
* Locals’ tip: Post-up before dusk, the bats’ most active window.
Keeping weird on South Congress
Steps south from “bat central” is the retail and nightlife hub South Congress. This strip of several blocks boasts eclectic, local-owned boutiques, art galleries, and eateries, including Tex-Mex mecca Guero’s (1412 S. Congress) and unique antique retailer Uncommon Objects (1512 S. Congress). At the legendary Continental Club (1315 S. Congress), you’ll find local-centric blues and rock bands. “Keep Austin Weird” remains the city’s longtime motto, with much thanks to South Congress’ offbeat ethos.
* Locals’ tip: Snap a selfie at Jo’s Coffee’s “I love you so much” street art. (1300 S. Congress)
Clear eyes, full heart…
Come Saturday you’ll be wondering whether you missed the memo to wear burnt orange. The University of Texas’ football stadium holds over 100,000 patrons—the largest stadium in the Big 12 Conference. On Sept. 26th, the Longhorns face off against the Oklahoma City Cowboys. Roughly two miles northwest of the JW, your quickest route to Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is via cab/Uber. Remember to wear your burnt orange, and hook ’em Horns!
* Locals’ tip: For pre- or post-game beers, visit Crown & Anchor Pub, on UT’s North Campus. (2911 San Jacinto Blvd.)
The live music capital of the world
Lastly, Austin’s truest claim to fame is its enduring music core. On any given night and in every part of town, live music’s never hard to come by. Hit the Red River District—Mohawk (912 Red River), Stubb’s (801 Red River) and Cheer-Up Charlie’s (900 Red River)—for rockin’ indie shows, or the Broken Spoke (3201 S. Lamar) for some good old fashioned Texas honky-tonk.
*Locals’ tip: For an edgier, hipster-spun honky haven, grab a cab and visit The White Horse (500 Comal St.) on Austin’s East Side.
Welcome to Austin. We’re happy you’re here.