Texas Travel

City Spotlight: A Day Trip to the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’

By Peter Simek 11.7.23

Texas’ capital, Austin, proudly touts the slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.” The last decade has seen incredible growth in the capital city as transplants from around the country flock to a town with a reputation for a music-loving, laid-back vibe and growing center of technology and innovation. The good news is there is still plenty of wonderful weirdness to be experienced in Austin, whose rich urban tapestry is a harmonious blend of its historic past, a thriving arts scene, and an eclectic mix of cultures. For those eager to explore, a day trip to Austin promises an unforgettable excursion into the heart of Texas.

Morning: South Congress Avenue

Begin your day on South Congress Avenue, or SoCo, as locals call it. This vibrant neighborhood is the city’s cultural hub. An eclectic blend of boutiques, eateries, and live music venues, it’s the perfect introduction to the city’s distinct flavor. Visit Jo’s Coffee for their famous “I Love You So Much” mural, and grab a coffee while you’re at it.

As you stroll, take in the art-deco architecture and pop into the boutiques that catch your eye. A must-visit is Heritage Boot Co., one of the country’s premier spots for finding one-of-a-kind, artisan boots.

Midmorning: Zilker Metropolitan Park

No visit to Austin is complete without basking in its natural beauty. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a kayaker, or simply someone who appreciates nature, Zilker Metropolitan Park is a sprawling 351-acre urban oasis that caters to all. Rent a paddleboard or kayak and follow Barton Creek into majestic Lady Bird Lake. With a full view of the downtown skyline, you can paddle under the bridges and take in the rich foliage that the lake’s namesake — former first lady Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnsonhelped restore and beautify.

As the midday sun starts to heat things up, dip in the nearby Barton Springs Pool. The natural, spring-fed pool’s temperatures hover around a refreshing 68-70 degrees year-round, which offers an unbeatable refreshing cool-off during Texas’ hot summers. Dive in, relax, and try to spot the rare salamander species native to the swimming spot.

Lunch: Food Trucks Galore

Austin boasts a rich culinary landscape, and its food trucks are legendary. The city is dotted with trucks that offer everything from gourmet donuts to spicy Tex-Mex. A few of the best food truck parks can be found a stone’s throw from Zilker Park on South 1st Street. If you’re looking for some sit-down options, Austin is a mecca for barbecue, Tex-Mex, and vegan food. Skip the long lines at Franklin Barbecue and try Terry Black’s, whose heritage traces back to the original Lockhart barbecue dynasty. Austinites swear by Veracruz All Natural’s tacos, and Arlo’s Curbside is one of the finest vegan eateries in the state.

Afternoon: Texas State Capitol & Sixth Street

Post-lunch, amble over to the Texas State Capitol. Resplendent in sunset red granite, it stands taller than the U.S. Capitol. Free tours provide insight into Texas’ intriguing political history and the architecture that houses it.

Later, take a historic turn down Sixth Street, Austin’s entertainment backbone. By day, it’s a hub for shopping and history. As evening nears, live music spills from the many venues that have earned Austin its title as the “Live Music Capital of the World.”

Late Afternoon: Mount Bonnell

For panoramic views of the city and the Colorado River, drive up to Mount Bonnell. The short climb up a stone staircase is well worth the effort. As the sun sets, you’ll be greeted with a mesmerizing view, the skyline tinged in hues of orange and pink.

Dinner: Rainey Street

As dusk turns to evening, Rainey Street beckons. Historic bungalows have been transformed into trendy eateries, with string lights casting a magical glow. Affectionately known by locals as Banger’s, the German-inspired communal dining establishment offers an array of artisan sausages. Just off Rainey Street, Geraldine’s provides a more upscale experience with a Texas ingredient-inspired menu.

Late Night: Live Music

Austin was considered home to legends like Janis Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughan and birthed the Cosmic Country scene that launched Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. That tradition lives on at classic venues like The Continental Club or the iconic Antone’s, which regularly book bands playing blues, rock, and country. If you want to see where Austin’s next generation of musicians is leading the scene today, swing by Mohawk, where emerging artists often perform.

From its historic landmarks to its gastronomic delights and spirited music scene, Austin is more than a city — it’s an experience. So, while a day might offer just a glimpse, it’s enough to leave an indelible mark on your traveler’s heart, beckoning you to return and delve deeper into its unique Texan rhythm.

While Austin is brimming with live music history and venues, there are plenty of other musical hot spots worth visiting across the state. Check them out on the ultimate Texas music venue road trip.

© 2023 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance