10 convincing reasons to visit Austin

Live music, anyone?

Austin skyline.
Austin skyline. (Pixabay.)

We know there are so many people who are just itching to find new places to travel right now, following the last year or so.

There are so many great places, but Austin, Texas, is by far one of our favorite.

It isn’t just where the state’s officials meet, it’s also the Live Music Capital of the World, but we’re guessing there’s a good chance you already knew that.

Regardless, we’ve got 10 reasons we think will just add to the temptation to get away to the heart of the Lone Star State.


1. Live music

There’s a reason Austin has officially been named the Live Music Capital of the World. According to Visit Austin, there are roughly 250 live music venues in and around the Austin area, at which you can catch a show nearly any day at any time.

You might assume all you’re going to find is country music, but you would be wrong. You can hear almost any type of music flowing out venue doors as you walk the streets.

Go downtown, or find a hole-in-the-wall bar on the outskirts of town -- you’re going to find live music all over.

2. South Congress

Have you ever heard the phrase “Keep Austin Weird?” Stop through South Congress and you just might get a glimpse into what people mean when they say that.

South Congress is a spot I always take friends or family when they’re visiting. There are some great food spots, drink spots, shopping spots and music spots. I kid you not, I even had a visitor who got a really great tattoo on So Co.

Allen Boots -- oh, man. There are just rows and rows of boots. The smell of leather will knock you to your knees when you walk in. I will always do a walk-through when I’m in the area. I usually end up walking out empty-handed, but the beautiful sights and smell alone in the store are fulfilling. You know, if you’re in Austin, you’re kind of obligated to at least window shop some boots.

But boots aren’t the only shopping. There are dozens of other shops that offer very different things, including (retro) clothing, antiques, art, jewelry, furniture and so much more.

And then there are the eats and drinks on So Co. Restaurants, coffee spots, food trucks -- they’re all there for the taking, and they are good.

Make sure to take your picture in front of the iconic “I love you so much” mural. Even the locals take advantage of the opportunity when making a stop through South Congress.

And, of course, there are bars with live music. One of the most popular and well-known is the Continental Club. The self-proclaimed “granddaddy of live music venues” is a dimly lit, swanky club that can entertain the rockabilly, country, swing, rock and/or blues lovers every single night of the week.

3. The Broken Spoke

This has got to be one of the most well-known places in Austin, and it’s definitely a historical one. The owner of the Broken Spoke, James White, who died in January of 2021 at the age of 81, claimed the Broken Spoke was “the last of the true Texas dancehalls.”

It’s a pretty special place. Ask any one of the huge stars who have stopped in for a visit: Fergie, Harry Connick Jr., Willie Nelson, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, Claire Danes and President George W. Bush, to name a few. That’s not including all the big-name acts that have taken the stage. George Strait, anyone?

You can grab some grub, then listen to some traditional country music and dance the night away -- or just watch the others dance the night away. There’s also a room designated to showcase all its historical greatness.

You never know who’s going to stop in for a visit. Did you know Garth Brooks popped in and did a surprise acoustic show In 2017? Say what?! Yeah, this place is no joke.

4. Bats

I know what you’re thinking: What is so cool about bats? Really, you just have to see it for yourself.

According to Bats in Austin, nearly 1.5 million Brazilian free-tailed bats call the South Congress Bridge home between November and March.

Show up to the bridge before sundown and you can catch a pretty cool show. On summer nights, between about 8 and 9 p.m., the bats begin flying from underneath the bridge. While watching, you can’t help but think, “Where are they all coming from?” They just keep coming and coming, giving folks a show for almost an hour.

They fly about 2 miles high at 60-plus mph.

5. Hamilton Pool Preserve

Beautiful does not even begin to describe the Hamilton Pool Preserve. This place is so awesome and visited by so many people, that during the summer, all visitors are required to make a reservation.

There’s a 50-foot waterfall that never dries up, and the water level stays pretty consistent, even during drought periods. So when permitted, the swimming is pretty fantastic. And the water is so clear that you can see the fish swimming past you.

Did I mention how beautiful this place is? Really, you have just got to see it with your own eyes.

6. Sixth Street

Who would dare go to Austin and not visit Sixth Street, the heart of Austin’s live entertainment district?

I have three words for you: Music, food, drinks. OK, I’d have to add ambiance. There’s just a feel on Sixth Street. They close off the main area to the bars at night so that only foot traffic can get through.

If you get there a little early, I’d definitely recommend the Iron Cactus. With rooftop dining and some awesome drinks, you can kick back and watch the party start to take off from two stories up.

Fair warning: It can get a little crazy on Sixth Street, if you plan to be hanging until the wee hours of the morning.

On a side note, look into Rainey Street. It seems to be giving Sixth Street a run for its money. With a street full of historic houses that have been renovated and turned into bars -- oh, and let’s not forget the food trucks -- it’s a bit of a more laid-back area.

7. The food

Let’s be honest -- trying new food when you’re visiting somewhere is always a priority. Austin has so much to offer.

Barbecue? Check. Authentic Mexican food? Check. Vegan restaurants? Check. Burgers, wings? Check, check. Eat out every day for the entire year in Austin and you will never have to stop at the same place twice.

The just-as-great news is that (in true Austin form) you’ll often be able to listen to some great music while you eat, or you’re sure to have some amazing views -- at least, some interesting ones.

8. Zilker Park

I could make an entirely separate list with all that Zilker Park has to offer. It’s SO MUCH, y’all.

For starters, the Austin City Limits Music Festival happens here (of course, I’m kicking it off with the music). We are talking more than 100+ performances on eight stages over the course of two weekends in October. It’s actually family friendly, too, with a designated area for kid activities (unless you’re searching for some kid-free time -- I totally get that).

Then there’s Lady Bird Lake, which, ironically, is not a lake. The river stretches 416 acres in downtown, and it’s an amazing spot for kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding or anything else that floats.

The 10.1-mile trail that is the Lady Bird Hike and Bike Trail runs just along and over the river. When I stick my ear buds in and go for a jog on the trail, I am always overcome by the views -- the river, the city and high-rises, all the people -- it’s awesome.

This isn’t just a place for tourists. People who live all over the Austin area come here all the time. That should say something, right?

This list could not be made without Barton Springs Pool. This is an Austinite favorite spot. The spring-fed, 3-acre, usually-18-feet deep pool keeps an average temperature of 68-70 degrees year-round. There’s a large grassy area with plenty of shade, so swim, sunbathe or relax. Plus, there is a lifeguard most hours of the day. On a hot summer day (who am I kidding? This is Central Texas, so we’re talking spring or fall, too), it’s a perfect spot to chill.

I told you I could make an entire list dedicated to Zilker Park, but let me just give you a few more awesome things about it: there are fields with free sports on the weekends, the Zilker Botanical Garden, Sculpture Garden and Museum and more.

9. SXSW

The SXSW (South by Southwest) music festival is known to hit downtown Austin, and it brings nine days of entertainment from everywhere.

Things differed at this year’s event, due to COVID-19, but the city is already on track to be back in full swing for the event in 2022.

And it’s no joke -- everyone who lives around Austin knows when SXSW is going on, so unless you’re actually going, you’ll want to stay away from the area. The traffic is crazy because it is so incredibly packed! For those days, it is the place to be.

The music festival is the largest of its kind in the world, with more than 2,000 acts. It’s like the biggest smorgasbord of artists you can imagine. You can see big-name artists, or you can meet a band from a small town in Idaho that you’ve never heard of before.

Everyone is there. Musicians come from all over so that their music can be heard -- and it is.

10. The Capitol Building

In true “Everything is Bigger in Texas” form, the state Capitol building is the biggest, square-foot-wise, of all the state capitols in the U.S. And it’s accompanied by 22 acres of landscaped grounds that is scattered with statues and monuments.

For those who love history, you can do a self-guided tour and take your time in the massive red granite building. Not a history buff? You can get a free guided tour and be out in less than an hour.

While you are inside, stand in the center of the star on the floor of the first level of the rotunda and speak in a normal voice. What happens is, well -- we’re not going to spoil it for you. This one is usually fun for the kids, but pretty cool, really, for anyone.

There are also some cool, interactive exhibits in the Visitors Center that will help you understand a bit more about the building and its preservation.

Regardless of your interest in politics or history, the building and the grounds are beautiful and really just a must-see.


Have you been to Austin? Did we mention your favorite spot? Tell us what your favorite place in Austin is in the comments below. What are some of your other favorite cities to visit?


About the Author:

Dawn is a Digital Content Editor who has been with Graham Media Group since April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.