Once a laidback college town, Austin has since undergone a cultural awakening to become one of the most important hubs for music, film and food. Besides being home to a wealth of music venues, galleries and theatres, it also hosts many renowned festivals, such as South by Southwest, an annual film, art and music showcase which attracts an eclectic mix of devotees from all over the world.
It was at the elegant Paramount Theatre where Austin found its cultural roots. Since its establishment in 1915, it has remained downtown Austin’s entertainment hub. First constructed for vaudevillian acts and silent films, it is now a popular venue for plays, musicals or blues performances. From here, you are just a few blocks from the Texas State Capitol, a National Historic Landmark overlooking the city from one of its highest points.
Just north of downtown in the University of Texas, you’ll find interesting attractions that keep everyone in the family entertained. See dinosaur fossils and discover the natural history of Texas at the Texas Memorial Museum. Nature lovers will enjoy the thousands of native plants at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. See more than 17,000 pieces of art, including works from greats like Rubens, and admire one of the largest collections of Latin American art in the U.S. at the Blanton Museum of Art. Cross the street to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, where history buffs can learn the “Story of Texas” from engaging exhibits and artefacts.
Explore contemporary art by Texan artists at The Contemporary Austin, which is spread over two locations: the Jones Center in downtown Austin and Laguna Gloria located eight kilometres away.
Immerse yourself in nature right in the middle of the city at the Zilker Metropolitan Park, which sits on the banks of the Colorado River near downtown. Stop to smell the roses at the Zilker Botanical Garden, jump in for swim at the one-hectare Barton Springs Pool and paddle a canoe out on Town Lake.
Just outside the city are more options for outdoor enthusiasts to indulge in nature. Drive 20 minutes from downtown Austin and you can hike, picnic and fish to your heart's content at McKinney Falls State Park. Or get up close and personal with more than 300 animals at the Austin Zoo.
Downtown Austin is easily navigated on foot. Here, the streets are lined with many shops, bars, cafés and restaurants. Munch on some authentic Southern soul food at Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill, dig into a juicy burger at Hut’s Hamburgers or tuck into a heart-warming brunch at the Old Pecan Street Café. After the sun sets, enjoy some live music in intimate venues like Momo's and The Parish Room on the historic Sixth Street. For some great alternative music, head to one of the city's best-loved venues, Stubb's Bar-B-Q, on the corner of East 8th Street and Red River Street, where you can also savour some scrumptious barbequed ribs, fried green tomatoes and ice-cold beer.