Top 10 Austin Experiences

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Austin can easily be described as one of the most entertaining, eccentric hot spots around. But when out-of-town friends and family come to visit, the mind goes blank – where can you take them to best show off your fair city? Here are a few suggestions to help you and yours enjoy the Austin landscape.

10. Kerbey Lane Café. A classic Austin restaurant, Kerbey stays open 24/7, specializing in house pancakes and seasonal dishes. Their menu includes extensive vegetarian fare as well as meat-heavy cuisine, such as the Cuban sandwich, La Habana, toasted and stuffed with various meats. Their success has led them to become an Austin chain, springing up multiple Kerbey’s around town, including one on the Drag.

9. Festivals. Check The Austin Chronicle before your guests arrive; Austin hosts continuous festivals, no matter what time of year it is. Film festivals, such as the recent Fantastic Fest, take second place only to music festivals like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. Some of the more unique festivals include Pecan Street Festival, with not only live music but various vendors and local crafts. The Hot Sauce Festival lets Texas spice take center stage. Eeyore’s Birthday Party offers a full day of costumes, people-watching and kids’ amusements. The Out-of-Bounds Comedy Festival attracts local and global improv, sketch and stand-up comedians.

8. 6th Street. This stretch of road hosts teems of bars and clubs, making it a 5-star destination to pass a weekend evening, particularly for UT students. However, not everyone’s a bar-hopper. To enjoy 6th Street without drinking your liver away, consider Iron Cactus Mexican Grill & Margarita Bar for a Sunday brunch. For some laughs, check out Esther’s Follies, an equally famous comedy club.

7. South Congress Avenue. Lined with oddball shops, South Congress meanderings can easily take up a full day. Some gems include the costume store Lucy in Disguise and the old-timey Big Top Candy Shop. For music and people-watching while you peruse, go on a weekend or enjoy a festival-feel at First Thursday; during the first Thursday of every month, South Congress gathers vendors, musicians and extra-late hours starting around 5pm. If you’re feeling political, just keep walking down to the Capitol building to soak in the governmental glow.

6. The Drag. Located on a specific section of Guadalupe Street, the Drag caters to UT students since it borders the UT campus on the westward side. For architectural enthusiasts, strolling through the UT campus can be quite rewarding. To simply enjoy the Drag, come with an appetite. Some hot spots include Cornucopia for unique popcorn flavors (think Cajun, Birthday Cake and Pesto), Coco’s Café II for bubble tea and The Hole in the Wall for music and drinks. Toy Joy, a toy store at the end of the Drag, is worthwhile for kids and adults alike, filled with childhood nostalgia and gag gifts galore.

5. Lady Bird Lake. A day on the lake can involve any number of activities. Canoe rental is available, letting singles or pairs get a unique perspective of the Austin skyline. For a brisk walk with the family pet, Lady Bird Lake (previously called Town Lake) is lined with a jogging path. For more exquisite tastes and a unique Austin experience, consider renting a houseboat like Relax’n with full amenities. For the truly adventurous, Hippie’s Hollow is designated as a nudist section of the lake, harboring Austin’s free spirits.

4. The Greenbelt. This huge expanse of greenery is great for hikers, bikers and trekkers alike. It provides a nice getaway for your furry friends. It’s also a popular locale for photographers, taking pictures of nature or models.

3. Barton Springs. A huge, freezing, spring-fed pool – where else would someone want to be on a Texas summer day? Right next to Zilker Park, it’s a convenient hop from a child’s dreamscape. After an afternoon of heat, recuperate by walking down the street to a stretch of renowned restaurants. For a sweet refreshment, consider Yum Yum Frozen Yogurt where you can make your own creation. For a full meal, Chuy’s Restaurant remains an Austin tex-mex classic.

2. The Bats. Austin’s South Congress bridge houses North America’s largest urban bat colony, counting approximately 1.5 million bats. If your guests come between March and November, claim a spot early and enjoy the sunset as you wait for the swooshing of mini wings.

1. Music. Austin is both self-proclaimed and generally hailed as the Live Music Capital of the World. If you visit Austin without seeing any live music, no matter how fabulous your experience, the time’s been wasted. The Chronicle can provide a complete listing of all the bands playing around town. Many restaurants have bands play during peak dining hours. For pure country, hop on down to The Broken Spoke on South Lamar. For salsa, consider Ruta Maya. For folksy, rocky, local tunes, enjoy a late night at The Continental Club on South Congress. And, of course, there’s always ACL and SXSW.