Austin Essentials

In Austin, the music never stops, politics and education take center stage, and year-round sunshine brings people outdoors.
By: Beverly Burmeier
Related To:
Austin Texas Skyline Mid Day blue sky with Greenbelt

Austin Texas Skyline Mid Day blue sky with Greenbelt

Austin Texas Skyline Mid Day blue sky with Greenbelt

Photo by: RoschetzkyIstockPhoto


Discover Austin’s indelible characteristics: Music never stops, politics and education take center stage, and year-round sunshine brings people outdoors.


Auditorium Shores 
920 Riverside Drive, 512-974-6700

Fido can run free to his heart’s content in the expansive off-leash area of this outdoor concert venue. Located on the banks of Lady Bird Lake, Auditorium Shores is the hub of Austin’s most popular hike-and-bike trail, so you both will get plenty of exercise.

Shady Grove 
1624 Barton Springs Road, 512-474-9991

Dogs are welcome on the huge outdoor patio of this laid-back restaurant just minutes from downtown. Sample Tortilla Fried Queso Catfish, a house favorite, while sipping a cool margarita under the shade of tall pecan trees. The relaxed atmosphere gets jazzed with free live seasonal performances by local musicians.


Round Rock Express Baseball Field 
3400 East Palm Valley Blvd., Round Rock, 512-225-2255

The AAA affiliate of the Houston Astros baseball team is as close as Austin gets to a pro athletic team, but it’s even more fun to watch. Nosh on your mustard hot dog and an icy drink while taking in the action at close range on the grassy berm behind the outfield.

Austin Zoo 
10807 Rawhide Trail, 512-288-1490

Yes, Austin has a zoo, although many locals overlook this goat-ranch-turned-animal-sanctuary. Perfect for little ones, this small zoo emphasizes education while providing a safe and healthy home for unwanted and rescued animals, from big cats, exotic birds and tortoises to domestic species like goats, sheep and llamas.


1100 to 1700 blocks of South Congress Avenue

Sure, Austin has plenty of upscale shopping venues, some featuring local designers with national reputations, but if you want something unique, stroll this colorful South Congress strip to find slightly offbeat items. Vintage shops attract youthful buyers looking for a shawl or handbag just like your grandma owned.

The Drag

Walk along The Drag, otherwise known as Guadalupe Street, to glimpse kooky characters for which Austin is known. The closest shopping strip to the university, it offers both hip and chic styles, including secondhand shops that are popular with students and other bargain-seekers.


Whole Foods Market, Inc. 
550 Bowie Street, 512-477-4455

This specialty store helped Austin launch the health-food movement and support for environmentally sustainable agriculture. Do go hungry: Multiple sample stations provide a bounty of cheese, bread, chocolate and seasonal produce that can substitute for a meal.

Central Market 
4001 N. Lamar St., 512-206-1000

The flagship store of the prominent Texas H-E-B chain of groceries, Central Market encourages a sense of community with meeting rooms, cooking classes, live music and outdoor dining. Take a break from shopping for fresh organic and locally grown products to visit with friends on the patio while the kids romp on the playground.


Umlauf Sculpture Garden 
605 Robert E. Lee Rd., 512-445-5582

More than 130 pieces of art by Charles Umlauf, world-renowned sculptor and former UT professor, are displayed in natural outdoor settings as well as indoors. Wander leisurely through this beautifully landscaped urban sanctuary while admiring carved and sculpted figures of children, animals and religious icons.

Laguna Gloria 
3809 W. 35th Street, 512-323-6380

Part of the Austin Museum of Art, Laguna Gloria is an art center and school, beautiful park land, and historic site all rolled into one. Perched on a peaceful bluff overlooking Lake Austin, the 12-acre site boasts romantic pathways, outdoor sculptures and a wedding-perfect gazebo along its shoreline. The Mediterranean-style villa, built in 1916 by Clara Driscoll, the woman who saved the Alamo, houses revolving art exhibits.

Mount Bonnell 
3800 Mt. Bonnell Drive

Scanning the skyline from Mount Bonnell is like seeing Austin with a wide-angle lens. After climbing 99 steps to one of the highest spots in the city, you’ll view the Pennybacker Bridge, University of Texas tower, the Capitol, a panorama of luxury mansions on Lake Austin and gorgeous vistas of surrounding hills. Bring a bottle of wine and sip through sunset.


Harry Ransom Center

Browse through archives including 30 million literary manuscripts, five million photographs (including the first), a rare Gutenberg Bible and the infamous Watergate papers at the Harry Ransom Center, located on the University of Texas campus.

Bass Concert Hall 
S. 23rd St. and Robert Dedman Dr., 512-471-1444

The flagship venue of The University of Texas Performing Arts Center, the 3,000-seat Bass Theater was recently renovated to the tune of $14.7 million. Outstanding international cultural experiences and entertainment are brought to central Texas through the university’s sponsorship.


Texas State Capitol 
Congress and 11th Streets, 512-463-5495

When the state legislature is in session, the gallery of the Capitol building buzzes with politicians, tourists, students and curious locals. Take a tour of the building, an imposing pink granite structure that stands 14 feet taller than the Capitol in Washington D.C. Its grand rotunda, symbolic terrazzo tile floors and life-size statues of Stephen F. Austin, “Father of Texas,” and Sam Houston, famous general and statesman, grab your attention.


801 Red River St., 512-480-8341

Indie spirits are alive and well at Stubb’s, one of the best known of the Red River district pubs and clubs. Known for barbecue, cold beer and live music, Stubb’s is a great supporter of local musicians.

Threadgill’s World Headquarters 
301 W. Riverside Dr., 512-472-9303

A legend in the South Austin district, Threadgill’s proudly links old Austin to the new city ambiance. It has been serving up comfort food and great music (think Janis Joplin, Jimmy Buffett and Ray Charles) for more than 75 years.

213 W. 5th Street, 512-320-8424

The heart of Austin’s music scene is found in the Warehouse and Downtown Districts, and Antone’s is one of the best places there to enjoy live tunes nightly. Local musicians feel they have it made when they play this legendary blues and funk landmark. Despite its modest size, this club hosts many big-name acts.

Paramount Theater 
713 Congress Avenue, 512-472-5470

Located in the heart of downtown for nearly 100 years, the Paramount is a cultural icon and historic structure featuring elaborate neo-classical architecture. With a past that includes housing political offices and a hotel, Austin’s oldest surviving theater has moved beyond its vaudeville roots to host a variety of music and entertainment productions.


Scholz Garten 
1607 San Jacinto, 512-474-1958

Located just two blocks from the university, it’s only natural that the histories of the two are inextricably intertwined. Celebrating victories is still an honored tradition at this iconic German restaurant, the oldest business in Texas. The atmosphere is always lively with an eclectic mixture of local celebrities, students, government officials and business people imbibing food and drink while enjoying music and conversation.


The Onion 
116 W. Fifth St., 512-476-6466

Kill those midnight hunger pangs at this small, pizza-by-the-slice, no-frills pizzeria. The Onion serves zesty, traditional New York-style slices and other fast-food items popular with the flip-flop crowd.

Magnolia Cafe 
2304 Lake Austin Blvd., 512-478-8645

The homey cooking of this beloved Old Austin-style diner brings in all ages. Friendly staff, a comfortable atmosphere and generous portions (including vegetarian fare) appeal to almost everyone. Love breakfast? It’s served 24 hours, so go ahead and order the gingerbread pancakes at midnight.

Chez Zee American Bistro 
5406 Balcones Dr., 512-454-2666

Great place to drop in after a concert, theater performance or night on the town. Linger over coffee and award-winning desserts like warm apple pie and lemon rosemary or chocolate decadence cake.

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