Austin is an outpost of alternative culture in the middle of Texas. It is the self-titled Live Music Capital of the World. In this college town, you’ll find an eclectic range of music venues, galleries and theaters. Austin also hosts plenty of festivals, such as South by Southwest, an annual film, art and music showcase attended by bohemian artists, techie geeks, and celebrities from around the world.
Austin’s cultural evolution began at the beautiful Paramount Theatre, which opened in 1915 and is still Downtown’s entertainment hub. It originally hosted vaudevillian acts and silent films, and today you can catch a play, musical or blues performance almost any day of the week. Walk a few blocks to the Texas State Capitol, a National Historic Landmark situated on one of Austin’s highest points.
A little further north of Downtown you’ll find a handful of great attractions at the University of Texas. Explore four floors of natural history at the Texas Memorial Museum, including fascinating fossil records. Learn about thousands of native plants at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The Blanton Museum of Art has more than 17,000 pieces, including works from masters like Rubens and one of the oldest and largest collections of Latin American art in the country. Across the street is the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum where artifacts and exhibits tell the “Story of Texas.”
The Austin Museum of Art has two locations: the Jones Center in Downtown Austin and five miles away is Laguna Gloria a 1916 villa set in beautiful grounds near Lake Austin.
There’s more green space in the heart of Austin at the Zilker Metropolitan Park on the banks of the Colorado River near Downtown. Here you can stroll through the Zilker Botanical Garden, swim in the three-acre (one-hectare) Barton Springs Pool and take a canoe out on Town Lake.
Other attractions for nature lovers lie just outside the city. Hike, picnic and fish at McKinney Falls State Park, a 20-minute drive from Downtown Austin. At the Austin Zoo, families can enjoy the antics of more than 300 animals.
Back in the city center, get to know Downtown Austin on foot. You’ll find dozens of boutiques, bars, cafes and restaurants. Dig into some traditional Southern soul food at Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill, a juicy burger at Hut’s Hamburgers, or brunch at the Old Pecan Street Cafe. In the evenings, wander down historic Sixth Street and settle in at one of the intimate live music venues like Momo's or The Parish Room. Close by, on the corner of East 8th Street and Red River Street, is one of the city’s most-loved venues, Stubb's Bar-B-Q. Not only will you hear cutting-edge alternative music, but there’s also mouth-watering barbequed ribs, fried green tomatoes and ice-cold beer.