Home to the University of Texas and the state capital, Austin is a hot spot to visit in the state of Texas. The South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Conference helped put it on the map, and visitors and locals flock to the city for the Tex-Mex food and unique vibe. If you’re in Austin for 48 hours, here’s what to do.
History and Culture
Lyndon B. Johnson grew up in Texas and was a Texas senator before he became John F. Kennedy’s vice president. A trip through the LBJ Presidential Library gives you a peek at his re-created Oval Office as well as his actual 1968 limousine — not bulletproof or armored, but it does have a television. The exhibits focus on issues related to his presidency, including Vietnam, his legislative victories, and civil rights.
It’s the state capital, so you almost have to learn about the state when you visit Austin. The huge star outside of the Bullock Texas State History Museum lets you know you’re in the right place. Inside, the three floors cover the state’s oil industry, NASA mission control, the Alamo, Texas/Mexican shared history, Sam Houston, Stephen Austin, and more.
Bob Bullock was Texas’ 38th lieutenant governor and is known as an architect of modern Texas government. The Bullock Texas State History Museum is adjacent to the University of Texas, Austin. Be sure to walk through while you’re in the area.
The HOPE Outdoor Gallery takes street art to a whole new level. The downtown Austin location is a giant, unruly space for murals and artistic graffiti. The nonprofit paint park holds classes and lets community groups create their vision on walls. You gotta love legal graffiti, right?
You’ve heard of the Austin bats, right? From March to November, the Mexican free-tailed bats live under the South Congress Bridge. And at sunset — it’s feeding time. Hordes of bats flock out at 60 miles per hour to snap up insects for about an hour. Stake out a spot on the bridge or on the riverbank below to enjoy the show. You’ll be in good company. And don’t worry — the bats are hungry, but they aren’t interested in you.
If you like the water, you can see Austin from a different vantage point on the Colorado River or Lady Bird Lake — really a reservoir, but that name just isn’t as catchy. Whether you want to kayak or use a stand-up paddleboard, you can do it in Austin without driving out of the city limits. Rent equipment from the Rowing Dock or SUP ATX.
Grab a Bite
Two words: FOOD TRUCKS. Austin has four food trucks for every 100,000 residents — making it the fastest growing food truck city in the country. So, line up quick to get yourself some good eats.
For Korean-fusion food, check out Chi’Lantro BBQ, with its Kimchi fries and sweet potato noodle bowls — on top of Korean barbecue, of course. The restaurant now has five locations.
Meat is a big thing in Texas, and Austin is known for its award-winning barbecue. One way to get your BBQ fix is at Micklethwait Craft Meats. Try the brisket Frito pie, the beef ribs, and the lemon poppy slaw — with a side of extra napkins, please.
Don’t even think of ending your visit without digging in to some breakfast tacos. El Primo serves up egg, bean, meat, and cheese tacos out of the cutest truck ever.
For a rooftop where you can watch Austin’s great sunsets, head to the Hangar Lounge. There’s a definite retro airplane/airport vibe scattered across three floors to explore, including the second floor Admiral’s Club. Maybe you can’t get into the airport lounge, but you can certainly get into this one.
From the delicious Tex-Mex, the Texas-sized history, and Austin-famous eccentricity and culture, there’s plenty to do in this beloved southern state capital. If you’re having trouble fitting in all your top activities in one weekend, you’ll just have to “saddle up” and visit ATX another time soon.
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