A Local’s List: The Best Places to Go in Austin for SXSW

Austin’s waiting for you. (Photo: Thinkstock) 

By Lindsay Taub

Heading to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest? I lived there for three years, and it’s one of my favorite cities. From the music scene to hill country, Austin is  small enough to still carry a small-town feel, yet large enough to feel the cosmopolitan culture. It also happens to be one of the most dog-friendly cities in the country, with tons of hiking trails and public parks with off-leash privileges for well-behaved pups. As the home to the Whole Foods flagship, Austin also has an eco-centric, green-friendly vitality that is, in many ways, leading the country into a more sustainable mindset. After all, the motto of the city is to support local, and, perhaps more importantly, to “keep Austin weird.”

My friend and Voyage Vixens co-founder Lanee Lee Neil loves Austin, too, so we came up with a list of our favorite spots for dining, drinking, staying, and playing. It goes on and on, but we know South by Southwest doesn’t last forever, so we kept it to the classic, can’t-miss-spots. Check them out if you can—and don’t forget to keep it weird.


Drink a couple of these bad boys, and you’ll definitely keep it weird. (Photo: Lindsay Taub/The Voyage Vixens)

Where to eat & drink:

Best sushi: Uchi
Best barbecue: The Salt Lick
Best TexMex fusion: La Condesa
Best Italian: Vespaio
Best food at 3 am and open 24 hours: Magnolia Cafe
Best interior Mexican: Polvo’s
Best fajitas: Maudie’s
Best mini grilled cheese: Parkside
Best crab enchiladas: South Congress Cafe
Best migas: Kerbey Lane
Best tacos on the go: Tacodeli
Best gourmet hot dog/sausage: Frank
Best vegan and vegetarian food: Mother’s Cafe & Garden
Best place to have a romantic, off-the-beaten-path, gourmet dinner: Hudson’s on the Bend
Best smoothies: Daily Juice
Best coffee: Jo’s
Best Margaritas: Malverde
Best ghost pepper tequila: Star Bar Texas
Best happy hour: Hotel San José  
Best “prohibition style” craft cocktails: Péché
Best hidden-gem craft cocktails: Firehouse Lounge & Hostel
Best “Ranch Water” (Topo Chico, tequila, and lime): Ranch 616

Related: No Taco Left Behind in Austin

Where to stay:

Hotel San José
Kimber Modern
Hotel St. Cecilia
in Hill Country: Travaasa Resort & Spa

Where to see the best live music:

The Continental Club
ACL Live
Shady Grove
The Lucky Lounge

Related: Weird, Wild Stuff to Be Found in Austin


Oh, you know, just floating down the river of dreams. (Photo: Lindsay Taub/The Voyage Vixens)

Other things to do:

Where to go two-stepping and line dancing: Midnight Rodeo
Where to go Paddleboarding: Rowing Dock at Town Lake
Where to go for a great hike or bike ride: Barton Creek Greenbelt, i.e. “The Greenbelt”
Best part of The Greenbelt: Trail’s End/Lost Creek
Where to take a swim: Barton Springs Pool
Where to take an off-the-beaten-track hike: Turkey Creek
Where to see a movie where you can eat good food and drink in the theatre: Alamo Drafthouse
Where to see dueling piano players: Pete’s Piano Bar
Where to catch a spectacular sunset over drinks: The Oasis
Where to float the river when the water’s high enough: The Guadalupe in New Braunfels
Where to go zip lining: Wimberly Zipline Adventure
Where to rent a kayak: Town Lake/Texas Rowing Center
Where to get a “green” facial treatment or massage: Viva Day Spa

Related: A Perfect Weekend in Austin

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