Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse: South Austin funk, vegetarian dishes, great coffee, and beer and wine. The soul of old South Austin. 1501 S. 1st St.
Chuy’s: Tex-Mex via New Mexico. As the Chuy’s folks say, “Velvet paintings. Texas Martinis. Keep Austin Weird. We don’t take anything seriously…except our food.” Go early or late to avoid a long wait. 1728 Barton Springs Rd.
Fonda San Miguel: Fine interior Mexican dining in a beautiful hacienda-style building in the midtown area. Deservedly famous for their buffet-style Mexican breakfast brunch. Reservations recommended. 2330 W North Loop Blvd. (512) 459-4121.
Hut’s: Delicious hamburgers. 807 W. Sixth St.
Jo’s Coffee: Where South Austin gets its java fix. Great people-watching too. 1300 S. Congress Ave.
Kerbey Lane Café: Healthy sandwiches and salads, plus a great breakfast/brunch menu, served 24 hours a day in a colorful, old house. Brunch can be crowded, so go early. 3704 Kerbey Ln.
Magnolia Café: Very popular diner, good for people-watching and famous for its pancakes. Open 24 hours. Can get crowded. Two locations near downtown. South Austin: 1920 S. Congress Ave. West Austin: 2304 Lake Austin Blvd.
Manuel’s: Interior Mexican cuisine, nice happy hour. Downtown at 310 Congress Ave.
Mozart’s: Late-night spot for coffee and dessert served on a deck overlooking Lake Austin. 3826 Lake Austin Blvd.
Shady Grove: The perfect spot for a lazy lunch under hundred-year-old pecan trees. Casual Austin ambience. Sandwiches, burgers, vegetarian options. 1624 Barton Springs Rd.
Starlite: Fine dining in the lively Warehouse District. Reservations recommended. 407 Colorado St. (512) 374-9012.
Threadgill’s World Headquarters: Down-home cooking served downtown with a big slice of Austin music history. 301 W Riverside Dr.
Wink: Incredible wine list, great food, intimate dining room. One of the best restaurants in Austin. Reservations recommended. 1014 N. Lamar Blvd. (512) 482-8868.
South Congress Avenue: Once a seedy area just south of the Capitol, this strip of funky shops, eclectic resale, and folk-art galleries grows increasingly trendy and upscale, as reflected in its oft-mocked moniker So-Co. You won’t find chain stores here. This is pure South Austin, baby, and you won’t want to miss it. Be sure to visit Uncommon Objects, Yard Dog, Big Top Candy Shop, Allens Boots, and Turquoise Door. Pop your head into the courtyard of the Zen-like Hotel San José to see the gardens, or stop by the lounge in the evening on your way to Guero’s or Vespaio for dinner.
2nd Street District: With condos above and street-level shopping below, 2nd Street is a new, chic, downtown destination. Interesting boutiques and cafe-style restaurants give you plenty to do. Just down the street, Austin’s unique City Hall, with its music plaza, native landscaping, and planetary-like rock garden, are worth a visit.
The Arboretum: Lushly landscaped outdoor shopping center on the northwest side of town. Chain stores like Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, and Banana Republic, plus several small boutiques.
The Domain: Austin’s newest, most-upscale shopping mecca. This outdoor mall in north Austin, anchored by Neiman Marcus, offers upscale chain boutiques, plenty of restaurants, and a surprisingly fun mix of public art. Popular in the evenings with outdoor dining areas and live music.
Clubs, Bars, and Live-Music Venues
Welcome to the live music capital of the world.
Antone’s: Home of the Blues, downtown at 213 W. 5th St.
Broken Spoke: Old-timey, boot-scootin’ dance hall in South Austin. Don’t miss it. 3201 S. Lamar Blvd.
Continental Club: Perhaps Austin’s most beloved club, just south of downtown. 1315 S. Congress Ave.
Driskill Bar: Indulge your inner cattle baron by kicking back on one of the leather sofas next to the cowboy bronzes. Elegant, old-style Austin. And the Driskill Hotel, built in 1886 and beautifully restored, is worth a look too. Downtown at 604 Brazos Street.
The Oasis: With several levels of decks built on a cliffside overlooking Lake Austin, the Oasis is the place to sit, enjoy a margarita, and watch the sunset. As the sun extinguishes itself in the lake, lighting up the sky in striations of color, the staff rings a bell and everyone applauds and cheers. Be aware that the Oasis isn’t known for its food, but the view can’t be beat. A must-see for visitors. 6550 Comanche Trail.
Saxon Pub: Intimate spot in South Austin to see great local bands. 1320 S. Lamar Blvd.
Stubb’s: Popular outdoor venue in their big back yard, on the east side of downtown. 801 Red River St.
Public Gardens and Green Spaces
AMOA-Laguna Gloria: Mediterranean villa overlooking Lake Austin. Beautiful grounds include sculptures by Charles Umlauf and a Temple of Love. 3809 West 35th St.
Barton Creek Greenbelt: Hike along scenic Barton Creek on the popular greenbelt trails.
Barton Springs at Zilker Park: Swim year-round in the chilly, spring-fed waters that are the heart and soul of Austin.
Mayfield Park: Next door to Laguna Gloria, this small nature preserve surrounds several ponds. Peacocks strut their stuff around the park. 3808 West 35th St.
Town Lake Hike & Bike Trail: Here’s where Austin walks or runs off all those margaritas and enchiladas. A wide, gravel trail leads you around Lady Bird Lake on scenic 3- or 4-mile walks in downtown Austin.
Umlauf Sculpture Garden: More than 130 sculptures and other art by Charles Umlauf in a peaceful garden near downtown. 605 Robert E. Lee Rd.
Zilker Botanical Garden: Visit the beloved Japanese garden or unique prehistoric garden. Just south of downtown at 2220 Barton Springs Rd.
Bat colony under Congress Avenue bridge: Stand on the east side of the bridge at sunset to watch the Mexican freetail bats emerge over Lady Bird Lake. Austin houses the largest urban bat colony in North America.
Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum: Immerse yourself in Texas’s bigger-than-life stories. IMAX theatre. 1800 N. Congress Ave.
Cathedral of Junk: Winner of a Best of Austin Award 2006 and featured in Jill Nokes’s Yard Art and Handmade Places, the Cathedral of Junk is approximately 60 tons of junk wired together to form intricate rooms and towers. Sundays, 11am-2pm, or by appt. at (512) 299-7413. 4422 Lareina.
South Austin Museum of Popular Culture: Art gallery South Austin style, featuring a museum of Austin pop culture from the 1960s through today. 1516 S. Lamar.
Texas State Capitol building: Taller than the U.S. Capitol! Definitely worth a tour.
University of Texas Tower: The observation deck offers a great view of downtown, but you must have a reservation. (512) 475-6633 or toll free at 1-877-475-6633.