Worth getting out of bed for...
- Climb the 99 steps that lead to Mount Bonnell, to survey the city and the sprawling Texas hill country from this 785-feet high vantage point.
- Arts and culture
- South by South West music festival (http://sxsw.com) is the foundation for Austin’s evergreen music scene and attracts top talent – The Killers, Amy Winehouse and The Fratellis have performed in recent years. It also screens indie films and celebrates advances in digital media (Twitter launched here in 2007). The Austin Museum of Art (www.amoa.org) boasts an interesting selection of portraiture and two different locations, one at 823 Congress Avenue and one in a recently restored Italianate-style villa, at 3809 West 35th Street. There’s also the Blanton Museum of Art (www.blantonmuseum.org).
- Something for nothing
- Tour Mexic-Arte Museum’s (+1 512 480 9373; www.mexic-artemuseum.org) fine art collection, at 419 Congress Avenue, for free on Sundays from 12pm to 5pm. Admission is free to the Austin Children’s Museum (+1 512 472 2499; www.austinkids.org), at 201 Colorado Street, between 4pm and 5 pm on Sundays.
- Westernise your wardrobe with a trip to Allen’s Boots (www.allensboots.com) at 1522 South Congress Avenue, for cowboy boots, plaid shirts and all things yeehah-fabulous. Just a few doors down, Uncommon Objects (www.uncommonobjects.com) stocks exactly that, with its selection of antler horns, tribal masks and retro bric-à-brac. In East Austin, browse arty tomes and admire exhibitions at Domy Books (www.domystore.com), at 913 East Cesar Chavez. The deliciously old-fashioned Avenue Barbershop (+1 512 441 2467), at 1710 South Congress Avenue, is perfect for men in need of a little polishing up. You’ll find an impressive array of bicycles to buy or rent, accessories and souvenirs at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop (www.mellowjohnnys.com), in the warehouse district at 400 Nueces Street. For beautiful jewellery and accessories crafted by local designers, visit Eliza Page (www.elizapage.com), at 229 West 2nd Street. Head to Austin fashion institution, By George for the latest designer duds (+1 512 472 5951; bygeorgeaustin.com). For well-edited vintage threads for Mrs Smith, stop by Feathers Boutique on South Congress (+1 512 912 9779; feathersboutiquevintage.blogspot.com).
- Make the 40-minute drive to Smitty’s Market, at 208 South Commerce Street (+1 512 398 9344). This eatery, tucked away in the tiny town of Lockhart, is one of the most popular barbecue restaurants in Texas, serving slow-cooked meat, plucked straight from the smoker. Sauces are frowned upon, since the 75-year-old smoker produces all the requisite flavour. Prices are low and Smitty’s only provides diners with plastic spoons and knives. The absence of forks is a throwback to the good ole days, when people weren’t too proud to eat with their hands. Napkins advisable.
- Perfect picnic
- To watch an ever-changing tableau of Austin daily life, head to Zilker Park (www.ci.austin.tx.us/zilker.com) at 2100 Barton Springs Road. The 351-acre expanse is home to prehistoric dinosaur tracks, Barton Springs, a rose garden and a Japanese collection. It’s also the venue for weekend rugby and American football games, along with locals doing laps in the spring-fed pool.
- Exercise off the ribs and brisket on the Lady Bird Lake Trail (www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks). This gravel path leads around the lake and is perfect for hiking, biking, running, or romantic promenades.
- With parks, lakes, outdoor pools, live music, ice-cream festivals and barbecues aplenty, little Smiths won’t be bored in this city. For a day’s adventure in the great outdoors, take them kayaking, canoeing or boating at Lady Bird Lake (www.rowingdock.com).
- Dust off your dance shoes and mosey on down to the Broken Spoke at 3201 South Lamar Boulevard (+1 512 442 6189). This Texan honky-tonk bar belts out live country music, to the delight of Stetson-wearing gents and their two-stepping southern belles. If you’re no Fred or Ginger, request a dance class with the owner’s daughter for just eight dollars. Indulge in some fowl play at Chicken Shit Bingo, at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon: 5434 Burnet Road (+1 512 458 1813). This thoroughly Texan form of entertainment involves buying a ticket, eating, drinking and making merry, while waiting for a chicken to poop on your number. What’s in it for the birds? Well, they get to eat seeds aplenty. For more conventional sporting entertainment, go to a University of Texas football match. The Texas Longhorns’ games are one of the most fan-frenzied activities on offer in Austin. The stadium holds more than 100,000 adrenaline-pumped spectators, and tickets are as popular as Tex-Mex tacos. Try to secure yours from www.ticketspot.com or www.stubhub.com.
- The Barton Springs Pool, at 2101 Barton Springs Road (+1 512 974 9331), is fed from underground springs and is kept at a constant 68 degrees, meaning you can brave a dip even in winter.
March Music festival South by South West (http://sxsw.com) has global stature, yet manages to stay low key thanks to its laid-back Austinite hosts. Over four days, more than 1,800 music acts descend on the city and there are plenty of unofficial gigs around the official nightly line-up. Where else can you catch Joss Stone singing barefoot in a teeny bar or The Boss rasping his finest, acoustic-style, in a honky tonk. April Feast upon Texan cuisine at the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival (www.texaswineandfood.org). Hear some of R&B and neo soul’s established and emerging talents at the Urban Music Festival (www.urbanmusicfest.com), held on the banks of Town Lake, at Auditorium Shores. August What better way to cool down in a hot city than with Austin’s Ice-Cream Festival (www.icecreamfestival.org)? Celebrate Austin’s winged residents with Bat Fest (www.roadwayevents.com). October Enjoy tunes in the park at the Austin City Limits Music Festival (www.aclfestival.com). Then swap music for movies at the Austin Film Festival (www.austinfilmfestival.com).