From pristine natural springs to two-stepping dance halls, Culture Trip has rounded up the must-visit attractions that make Austin what it is.Less
Franklin Barbecue, Austin’s legendary barbecue joint, has a major reputation – and the epically long three-hour lines to prove it. Nonetheless, head chef and much-loved local celebrity Aaron Franklin cooks up some of the most succulent sausages and beef ribs you’ve ever tasted, so the wait is well worth it. Bring a folding chair, a deck of cards and a cooler full of Lone Star tallboys to make the time pass faster.
The Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum offers a monthly after-dark program, with free admission after hours from 6pm to 8pm. The seasonal program takes place on the first Tuesday of the month, giving visitors a chance to experience the evening environment of the sculpture garden, featured gallery exhibitions, plus monthly themed activities, food and entertainment. It also has yoga classes in the garden.
Not only will a visit here put you in one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Texas – with some of the richest history – it’s also free to enter. You can take one of the Capitol tours that run every 20 to 30 minutes; the tour guides are incredibly knowledgable and will gladly answer questions related to the building or Texas history. If you don’t have time for one of those, you can also take a self-guided tour through the various rooms and halls that make up the stunning building.
As Austin’s premier art museum, the Blanton has an impressive, dizzyingly genre-spanning collection that includes more than 19,000 works, including Renaissance paintings, modern Native American art, a massive prints collection, Roman-era pottery and one of the best Latin American collections in the country. Don’t miss Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, a 2,715sq ft (252sq m) stone chapel with colored glass windows and black-and-white marble panels; it’s among his most notable works.
This little Texas dive bar advertises itself as the “last of the true Texas dance halls and damn sure proud of it!” For over 50 years, the Broken Spoke has offered live music and dancing, plus beer and classic chicken-fried steak. Join in the fun and learn the traditional two-step, western swing and the Cotton-Eyed Joe. Classes take place from Wednesday to Saturday so that you can learn the steps before rocking out to the live band.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin is great for exploring the beautiful flora and fauna native to the Lone Star State. It also offers family programs that allow children to get hands-on experience with gardening. Take your toddlers to Sprouts, an ongoing preschool program that leads you through its Family Garden, with each week focusing on a specific theme, such as “insect investigation.”
Since 1955, the Continental Club has enjoyed a reputation for being the premier music club in the region – so much so that there is now an outpost in Houston. Here, you will find a true mix of Americana and Texan traditions, making it a great spot to grab a drink and mingle with the local crowd, among the most diverse in the area, and where out-of-towners are welcomed with open arms.
Featured as the backdrop of a dramatic scene in Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life (2011), Austinites everywhere recognized Barton Springs in his homage to childhood in Texas. The site is a recreational outdoor swimming pool measuring three acres (1.2 hectares) and is filled with water from nearby natural springs, which keep it at a year-round temperature of between 68F and 70F (20C-21C).
Established in 1977, this landmark store on the South Congress corridor displays more than 4,000 boots, plus cowboy hats, clothing and accessories – it’s pretty much a one-stop shop for all things Texan. The big red boot sign is a city landmark, and the family-owned business helps customers find the perfect boot for any lifestyle.
Just down the street from Allens is the South Congress location of Magnolia Cafe, known for its “Sorry, We’re Open” neon sign and 24-hour diner service. The original restaurant opened as Omelettry West on Lake Austin Boulevard in 1979, and this beloved café has been an Austin favorite ever since. Barack Obama’s 2014 visit cemented the diner’s status as a local icon forever when he met a UT student here for coffee.