The Perfect Day in Austin

A creative culture, laid-back charm, and array of activities make this Texan city a hot destination. Spend your time in Austin shopping at indie boutiques and record stores, tasting Texas cuisine at hot spots and food trucks, hearing some live music, checking out the scene at Lady Bird Lake or Barton Springs, hitting a happy hour, and eating dinner at one of the remarkable local restaurants. Are you sure you only have one day?

2201 Barton Springs Road
Texas summers are hot! When the heat hits, the people of Austin flock to the Barton Springs Pool to cool off and chill out. The $8 summer entrance fee (for nonresidents) buys you a whole day of fun. Get your hand stamped for reentry if you need to head out to hit one of the many restaurants along Barton Springs Road (food and drinks are not permitted at the springs). The pool is popular year-round because the water temperature remains a constant 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). The people-watching at the free-spirited pool is spectacular, and you can count on hearing acoustic music and drumming on the lawn.
200 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704, USA
It might be a part of the Colorado River—a man-made reservoir carved out of the river in 1960—but everyone calls the body of water bisecting Austin Lady Bird Lake. On hot summer days, scores of walkers and joggers move along the lakeside paths through nearby Zilker Park, but you can also take to the water by canoe, kayak, water bike, or stand-up paddleboard. You can’t swim here, but the left fork (heading west) in the river will take you to Barton Springs Pool, a popular Austin hangout, where you can splash in the water to your heart’s—and body temperature’s—delight.
915 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703, USA
Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon is an Austin-owned restaurant serving charcoal-grilled, locally raised chickens, freshly prepared tortas, salads, sides, homemade ice creams, aguas frescas, and a selection of beer and wine. The family-style meals feature the highest quality pasture-raised birds from Vital Farms. Either marinated in achiote and freshly squeezed citrus or rubbed with fresh oregano and cracked pepper, the chicken is grilled slowly over hardwood charcoal and served with house-made tortillas, rice, beans, and fresh salsas. Don’t leave without ordering the cajeta churros for dessert!
2313 Red River Street
This impressive modernist building, designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft, houses the legacy of the 36th president of the United States of America. Central Texas native Lyndon Baines Johnson was one of the most colorful and powerful men in the history of the state of Texas. This 10-story library was dedicated in 1971 and contains 45 million pages of historical documents, 650,000 photos, and 5,000 hours of recordings from President Johnson’s long political career, during which he was involved in highs and lows including landmark achievements in civil rights as well as U.S. military action in Southeast Asia. The library also features exhibits in collaboration with other institutions that touch on other parts of Texas and U.S. history.
1309 Rosewood Avenue
Find smoked meat worth waiting for at this Austin trailer and picnic table setup. While standing in line, keep your fingers crossed that there will be brisket left when you reach the counter, as each party in front seems to order pounds and pounds of barbecue. The pink smoke line runs deep in the brisket, and you can taste it in every bite. The pulled pork is also delicious. It’s hard to squeeze side dishes in, but the cheese grits are worth that extra effort, and if you have room for pie, order it.
600A North Lamar Boulevard
In this modern age of Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora, record stores often seem sad and bitter places. Not so Waterloo, where music lovers—both staff and customers—celebrate the art. Bands playing Austin come in for in-store performances and signings, and you may recognize a few famous faces browsing the new and vintage vinyl and CD sections. As expected at a record store, the staff have big opinions but are friendly, and can help you navigate the 6,400-square-foot space. A highly recommended, if dangerous (prices are very reasonable but the desired objects are many), shopping stop.
1400 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704, USA
Celebrated Austin restaurateur Larry McGuire (Jeffrey’s, Perla’s) turned his passion for style and design into a second career when he purchased this retail brand. With locations on hip South Congress and near the Whole Foods flagship, By George sells chic clothes for men and women (think brands like Our Legacy, Protagonist, and Jenni Kayne). The home-goods section of the store gives the chance to outfit your dining room (oak bowls, scented candles), pamper your four-legged best friend (plush, round dog beds), and, since it’s Austin, broadcast music anywhere in your house with a speaker designed to look like a classic Marshall amplifier. If you’re lucky, your visit might coincide with a pop-up from a local restaurant.
1100 S Lamar Blvd #1135, Austin, TX 78704, USA
Want to get that small-town-ice-cream-shop feeling in a big city? Head to Lick for fresh and unique seasonal ice cream. With each lick of your cone, a new complexity of flavor is revealed. Ice cream here is made with only wholesome ingredients, most locally sourced, and is free of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or flavors, and preservatives. A double scoop—Caramel Salt Lick atop Pecans & Cream—is highly recommended.
1610 San Antonio St, Austin, TX 78701, USA
You’d never know that the little house near the Texas State Capitol building was a restaurant, and its inside resembles a tony private residence. Chef-owner Michael Fojtasek—named one of Food & Wine‘s 2015 Best New Chefs in the restaurant’s first year of operation—has created a menu based on refined Southern dishes. Chilled melon gazpacho with crab salad, elevated ambrosia with granita, hoppin’ John, and grapefruit icebox pie are just a few of the dishes that blend Texas and the South to stunning results.
2115 Holly Street
Part of keeping Austin weird means you might end up eating a five-star meal in an old gas station and laundromat. The 10-foot paintings of speakers aren’t the only things that blow your mind. The food is delicious—especially the fried olives and pimento cheese to start. Brick chicken is a crispy and juicy specialty of the house, and anytime you throw a burger on challah we’re in. Don’t forget to pick up a six-pack of beer from the bodega that shares a parking lot: It offers a great selection and is open late!
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