Experiencing Austin during SXSW
In addition to all SXSW has planned, perhaps take an extra day or just an hour on a sunny afternoon to explore like a local. Join the early morning joggers around Lady Bird Lake, go on a search for the best breakfast taco or Mexican Martini, or walk around the South Congress/South First neighborhoods and shops. Below are a few ideas, as well as a link to a Google map for specific recommendations.
I'll also be attending the SXSW Interactive portion of the festival and would love to connect with you on SXSW Social!
Sips & savory bites
Coffee: Austin has no shortage of great coffee shops and for that, we all are grateful. Sip some joe in the morning light near the dam at Mozart’s or head south to Radio for a wakeup on the patio.
Breakfast tacos: You can buy these from any taco truck, many gas stations, and most normal breakfast places. They are corn or flour tortillas with scrambled eggs plus a never ending list of possible mix-ins. My favorite is egg-potato-chorizo with salsa on homemade corn tortillas!
Tex-mex: Yes. Just yes. This is one of the biggest things I miss in New York. My favorite, other than fajitas at Matt’s El Rancho (they make their own tortillas), is the Huaraches at Papalote. Though you can’t dine-in there, you can take your order to go and eat while sitting on the rocks at Zilker Park, just sayin…
Drinks: The Mexican Martini is an Austin original and not really found outside the city. It’s generally a sort of martini/margarita combo and has as many variations as places that serve it, but it’s always a treat. If you’re looking for an old timey cocktail, head to drink.well. or East Side Showroom, where you can also get a glass of the rare Pappy van Winkle.
See & do
Sights: Take advantage of great weather with an early morning lap around Lady Bird Lake or try stand-up paddleboarding. Walk through the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, visit peacocks at Mayfield Park, or head south to Lady Bird Johnson’s Wildflower Center. Take a hike along the Green Belt and up Mount Bonnell. There's so much nature!
Learn about Texas and US history at the Bullock Texas State History Museum and the LBJ Presidential Library. I love walking around the Capitol and standing on the star in the center.
Two-stepping: This dance is rarely found outside of Texas—and no, it isn’t line dancing. Austin has a large dancing community keeps The Broken Spoke, Donn’s Depot, and Continental Club lively (just to name a few staple venues). With the friendly people here, you will have fun with friend or on your own—and don’t be surprised when a stranger asks you to join them on the dance floor!
Activities: If you want to get in a round of golf, but not sacrifice a ton of time, try out Butler Pitch & Putt for short range fun or grab some new friends for Peter Pan Putt Putt. Pete's Piano Bar is my favorite place to sing along to staple songs of every genre, but the Spazmatics are my favorite for 80s and 90s pop.
"Keep Austin Weird:" Austin's slogan is rooted in the idea of supporting local businesses. Many craft fairs come through here because of the healthy artisan community. Stop by the 23rd Street Artists' Market or connect with a local vendor via Etsy—it's so rewarding to buy in person from the artist.
Reading material: Head to a Half Price Books for an interesting selection of second hand books. What I've enjoyed sharing most are copies of Texas Monthly and Austin Monthly magazines.
Burnt orange: I may be a little partial, but a UT shirt (or Austin-themed anything) is always welcome on my gift list. If you do want to buy any longhorn gear for friends or family, head to the University Co-op for the proper experience.