Right smack bang in the heart of Texas hill country is Austin, a city full of culture, food and outdoor sports. It’s the live music capital of the world, one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., and home to some of the best BBQ, Tex Mex and movie theatres in the country, but that means there is much to discover (besides just the bars and piercing parlors of Sixth Street). So if you have limited time or just want the best of the best, here are 12 essential experiences to have in Austin.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
1. Take a few bottles of spray paint to Hope Gallery and make your mark.
They are walls made for graffiti. No, really, that’s all they are there for. So grab your favorite colors and spray away. But remember to keep to the code and don’t cover up any art that you couldn’t do better yourself. #free #gallery #streetart
2. Go line Dancing at The Broken Spoke.
Everybody’s got to do it. Put on your cowboy hat and step to it. Feel free to start with a pint of liquid courage at the bar and a famous chicken fried steak. #country #food #dancing #livemusic
3. See a flick at the Alamo Drafthouse.
But don’t just see a movie; buy tickets to a Master Pancake and laugh as comedians poke fun at popular movies, Mystery Science Theater 3000 style. And don’t forget dinner and drinks, too, and have them delivered right to your seat. Try the buffalo cauliflower; it’s delicious. #movies #dinnerandamovie
4. Wait in line for the country’s best BBQ.
The line doesn’t lie. People travel from near and far to get a taste of Franklin’s BBQ, which has been called the best in the nation. But you better get there early. And bring a chair. A four to six hour wait isn’t uncommon and if you’re not at the head of the line all that’s left by the time you get to the counter might be turkey. #texasbbq #bbq
5. Meet the author at Austin’s favorite bookstore.
With two stories of books and quirky gifts, Book People is THE go-to indie bookstore in Austin. And there are special events and book signings ranging from local authors to literary big shots all. The. Time. #books #bookstore
6. See free Shakespeare on the top of the flagship Whole Foods Market.
There’s nothing better than outdoor theatre in Austin. Except free outdoor theatre. And free outdoor theatre that involves fresh pizza and kombucha from Whole Foods. Plus, Present Company does Shakespeare right! #free #shakespeare #theatre
7. Listen to live music in an underground jazz club.
The Elephant Room is something straight out of prohibition-era Texas, but without the ban on booze. And if the music and no cover charge on weekdays isn’t enough, you’re sure to get some extra entertainment out of all the dollar bills scribbled over with strange quotes and slang on the walls. #club #casual #livemusic #jazz #musicvenue
8. Watch the bats take flight.
There’s nothing quite like standing in the Austin-American Statesman Park under the South Congress Bridge at dusk and watching several hundred-thousand resident bats take flight every evening. It’s basically a prerequisite for calling yourself an Austinite. #free #bats
9. Take a (cool) dip.
At a bracing 70 degrees year-round, Barton Springs Pool is a refreshing spot to while away the blazing summer afternoons in Austin. Plus you get a great view of the city from the water. You’ll be swimming in a natural spring with a natural bottom, so watch your step; those rocks can just disappear right under your feet. #swimminghole #zilkerpark
10. Watch the Scoops get fancy.
It’s what they call the folks serving up ice cream at Amy’s Ice Cream, an Austin original. But they’re not just chucking your favorite flavors (or one’s you’ve never heard of) into a cone. Oh, no. Watch them toss it, flip it, catch it, even chuck it across the street on occasion. It’s dessert and a show. Try the jalepeno lime or Mexican vanilla. #cheap-eats #icecream
11. Catch a flick on the (outdoor) big screen.
There aren’t many drive-in movie theatres still around these days. But there’s one in Austin! And it’s a great place to re-live your childhood with classics like “The Never Ending Story” or “The Goonies.” They offer old school speakers and do their part to keep Austin weird by hosting drag nights, sing-alongs, you name it! #drivein #movies #casual
12. Get a damn good taco. Or four.
At Torchy’s Tacos, of course, Austin’s favorite taco joint. Show your political affiliation with the Democrat, Republican or Independent, or stick with the Fried Avocado or Dirty Sanchez. And because Texans love their tacos at any time of the day, order a few for breakfast, too. And make sure to taste test the hot sauces and salsa. All of them. #cheap-eats #tacos #texmex #open-late