Austin is the Texas state capital and the Live Music Capital of the World, with more than 250 live music venues in this sprawling central Texas city. More than 2,300 recording artists call Austin home. Among them? Willie Nelson, who moved from Nashville to Austin in 1972 and never looked back.
Austin is a college town, home to the University of Texas, and it’s as big as you would expect the capital of Texas to be. The city limits cover 232 square miles encompassing more than 300 parks, including the nearly 360-acre Zilker Park. Austin is America’s 11th largest city and one of its fastest-growing.
They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and the state Capitol building—14 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. —is no exception. Neither is the bat colony that roosts under Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge from April through October. It’s the largest urban bat population in North America, home to between 750,000 and 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats.
Between the great outdoors, local art, music festivals, quirky neighborhoods, and a seemingly endless list of restaurants and bars, there’s plenty to do in Austin whatever your fancy and whatever your budget. This guide is designed to help you make the most of your time in Austin, an evolving city that’s successfully upholding its mantra to “Keep Austin Weird.”
Central Standard Time. Daylight Savings Time is observed seasonally.
Best Time to Go
March and October are particularly good times to catch live music in Austin. In March, the city hosts SXSW, a music and multimedia festival, and the Urban Music Festival, a celebration of R&B, jazz, funk and reggae. Austin City Limits, a two-weekend festival that brings more 130 acts to eight stages, happens each October. The Austin Rodeo, with nightly concerts, is held in March.
To wander down an iconic Austin street and get a feel for its bohemian roots, visit in May when the Pecan Street Festival takes over 6th Street. If you’re looking to skip out on snow and ice, Austin can make for a temperate winter escape, but beware if you head to town in July or August. Texas summers can sizzle.
Things to Know
In Austin, tacos are a breakfast item, and suits and ties are few and far in between. Flip-flops are acceptable footwear for many occasions, and there’s never really a need for stilettos.
Austin is among the most walkable cities in Texas, but you’ll want to take Uber or Lyft or rent a car to make the most of your time. Austin is big, and it’s going to take you longer than you think to get where you’re going.
Austin is an Instagrammer’s paradise. The city has public art you’ve probably seen on your social feeds, including an I Love You So Much wall on South Congress, a Greetings from Austin postcard mural on South 1st Street and an atx sculpture at 5th and Lamar.
Lady Bird Lake isn’t actually a lake. It’s a river-like reservoir on the Colorado River created by the city in 1960 as a cooling pond for a new power plant.
How to Get Around
Cap Metro is Austin’s public transit system serving a population of more than one million in its 535-square mile service area. More than 1,600 bus stops and 82 routes include MetroRail, MetroRapid, and High-Frequency Route Network. Weekend service may be limited.
Lyft, Uber, and an emerging light rail system (Cap Metro) have made it easier to get around. Austin is walkable and bikeable, but a rental car is a great convenience there.