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If you think you know Austin because you’ve spent some time in Texas, think again.
It might be the state capital and the fourth largest Texan city with just under a million residents, but thanks to the University of Texas campus and the city’s unique music scene, it’s full of undeniable charm. If you’re moving to Austin, be prepared to enter a cultural hub that feels more like a sister city to Portland or Seattle. In fact, you can’t travel far in Austin without encountering signs that implore you to “Keep Austin weird.”
There’s so much character in the city that you need a guide to help you learn how to become a native. Here are some of the essentials to help you start exploring.
There’s nothing hidden about Sixth Street, and it should be the first spot on your list. Whether you’re moving to Austin or just visiting, stop at Sixth Street on a Friday or Saturday night, when the streets between Congress and Interstate 35 are closed to traffic, and transform into a festival atmosphere. This is where you need to be to experience live, local music that defines the city.
After being rebuilt in 2018, Franklin Barbecue has remained as the place to go if you want to consider yourself an Austinite. And there’s no question about it — you’ve got to try the brisket.
Austin is abuzz with artists, and one of the best ways to tap into the soul of the city is to experience its art. The Hope Outdoor Gallery was originally launched by renowned artist Shepard Fairey as a collection of murals painted on a failed condo development in downtown Austin, but now you can see it in its new, larger location near the Austin-Bergstrom airport.
Austin is known for its BBQ, and there are hundreds of BBQ options in the city. But one is considered one of the best in the city: Franklin Barbecue. Before renovation, it was hard to even get a meal there, since the line was routinely hours-long. After being rebuilt in 2018, Franklin Barbecue has remained as the place to go if you want to consider yourself an Austinite. And there’s no question about it — you’ve got to try the brisket.
Austin is home to one of the largest populations of bats in the United States. Just how many? Austin is home to less than a million people, but about 1.5 million bats call the Congress Bridge home. Any night of the week, you can visit the bridge and see the bats fly out en masse to find their dinner.
Austin might not have New York’s MOMA or Guggenheim, but the Blanton Museum of Art is a must-visit for any art lover. Located on the University of Texas at Austin campus, it’s home to 18,000 pieces of art spanning centuries, with notable pieces highlighting ancient art, the Renaissance, Latin America, modern art, and more.
For a city in the heart of Texas, Austin is awash in water (literally). The Colorado River flows through town, and there are countless lakes and ponds to canoe and kayak in. In fact, you can get a unique perspective on the city by renting a kayak and paddling around Lady Bird Lake. And that’s just scratching the water’s surface, with Zilker Park, Lake Bastrop, Tom Miller Dam, and many other gorgeous sites to experience.
Mayfield Park’s 23 acres of ponds, landscapes, walking trails, and wildlife built around a historic white cottage has been on the National Register of Historic Places for about 80 years. Perhaps the park’s star attraction is the several dozen free-roaming India Blue and Black-Shoulder peacocks.
Austin City Limits (ACL) is a true institution. The longest-running music program in TV history, it has won countless awards and helped to make the city the cultural center it is today. You can get tickets and attend the show yourself at The Moody Theater after moving to Austin. What you might not realize is that ACL has its own annual music festival as well, usually in the fall, packed with bands you know and many you don’t, waiting to be discovered.