By Magalí Zaslabsky
I lived in Austin for a year when I first arrived to the United States. For people outside of the U.S., you probably know Austin as the Democratic island of Texas, but haven’t heard much about it. But inside the United States, the City of Austin has been growing and becoming a destination for many people. Known for being a culinary destination and as alive music capital, it is now a city where trendy young people want to live.
Today I want to share with you the things that I like to do when I go back to Austin as a tourist:
- Veracruz Tacos
You will be ruined after this one. Everyone eats tacos in Austin, probably every day. There are tons of options for all types of budgets and tastes, but without a doubt, my favorite tacos are Veracruz Tacos (and yours too after you try them!)
We discovered Veracruz All Natural food truck, located next to Radio Coffee & Beer, when a good friend of ours took us out for tacos. Being totally honest, I didn’t love tacos when I arrived to Austin. I found ones that I tolerated better than others, but Tex-Mex wasn’t blowing my mind. Until Veracruz. Their tacos are so good! All of them, although I personally recommend the “Fajita Steak” and their “Chips with Guacamole.” Everything tastes fresh, and is made right on the spot. The deal is that Veracruz food truck shares space with Radio Coffee & Beer, who sells the drinks. You can buy your tacos from Veracruz, and then order a Mexican Coke or Michelada from Radio Coffee & Beer while enjoying their (frequent) live music.
There are other locations, but we are loyal to the South Austin one, located on Manchaca Road.
- Visit the Texas Capitol
As many of you probably know, Austin is the capital of Texas. And as its capital, it has the Texas State Capitol that houses the offices and chambers of the Texas Legislatures and the Governor of Texas.
You can take a tour of the building for free and learn about the history of Texas. If you are not a guided-tour type of person, like me, you will also have the opportunity to do a self-guided tour, if that’s what you prefer. We did a self-guided tour when my sister visited.
But if you really want to have the ultimate Austin experience, I recommend that you drive at night (or sunset) up South Congress from South Austin towards the capitol and enjoy the views.
- Take a Selfie at the ATX sign / Sixth Street Mural
Next to the first Whole Foods – yes! Austin has the first Whole Foods in the country and you should probably check that out – is located the ATX sign, at Sixth and Lamar, which requires a touristy stop. Who doesn’t like iconic (cheesy) pictures?
And talking about iconic pictures, you probably should also check out the “Welcome to Historic Austin” mural located at Sixth Street and IH35. It’s great for a picture although it may be hard to park and take a photo because there is usually a lot of traffic over there.
- Book People
If you are close to the ATX sign, you may want to check out Book People, a locally owned bookstore that has everything you can possibly need (in terms of books and silly things). This place is huge, and is highly enjoyable for those of us who like books, merchandising and cute things. If you are looking for a gift or souvenir, you may want to check out this place. Plus, they sell coffee, too!
- Listen to Live Music
Another reason why Austin is well-known in the country is because of its live music. A visit to Austin isn’t complete until you have experienced live music. According to austintexas.org “there are more than 250 live music venues that feature everything from rock and blues to country and jazz every night of the week.” And this doesn’t surprise me. In Austin it’s easy to find a place to enjoy some music.
Sixth Street is a perfect place to do some downtown tourism and also to find a good place with live music and drinks. This famous Austin street is also the place where Pecan Street festival takes place twice a year in the spring and the fall. If you are looking for nightlife, Sixth Street is a safe bet.
For a classy music experience, I personally recommend Antone’s Nightclub, although you have to be over 21 to get in. The place is ideal for a cocktail and a concert, and the atmosphere won’t disappoint you.
Another option for live music and dance is The Broken Spoke. I haven’t been there yet, but everyone in Austin recommends it as the perfect cowboy experience. This dancehall is an Austin tradition and is known for its great live country music and Texan food. This is a place you should definitely consider to visit next time you go to Austin.
- Fonda San Miguel
This experience is probably not necessary, but highly enjoyable. First of all, it is important to understand that most places in Texas don’t serve Mexican food, but Tex-Mex, which has some significant differences. But Fonda San Miguel is a traditional Mexican restaurant, and a good one. If you want to try real and traditional Mexican dishes, this is the place to do it. Their Sunday brunch buffet is a unique experience where you can try all the dishes and desserts that you want. I think that the pictures say it all.
- Central Market
Austin is for foodies. Everyone knows that. This is why a visit to the Central Market supermarket is also a must in your visit to Austin. This place is food heaven. From ready-to-eat fancy food, freshly baked bread, baked goods, and all types of fruits and vegetables, I highly recommend a visit to Central Market for a real Austinite experience.
- Visit a coffee shop
Austin is also well-known for its coffee shops. There are many local ones and people love them. I will probably write a separate article about the places I recommend for a coffee in Austin in a future post, but, for now, if you like coffee, don’t hesitate to check out coffee shops in Austin. They will not disappoint you.
A coffee shop that I personally like for its views and desserts is Mozart’s. They are open until midnight (and 1 am on Friday and Saturday) and have many desserts to offer, which is a selling point for me.
- Vintage Shopping
Austin is also an ideal place to do vintage shopping. Growing up, thrift shopping and vintage shopping was something that wasn’t very common where I lived, but I have always liked to go to shops and find hidden treasures and things that I wasn’t expecting to find. For those who also like vintage shopping, Austin has many options that work for all budgets and needs. This list from Vintage Around Town Guide has every place you need to visit if you like vintage shopping while in Austin. I personally recommend Blue Velvet, which is located next to a great coffee shop, Epoch Coffee, and a record shop, Breakaway Records.