I may have just moved to Austin in December (and I may have spent half of that month out of town for the holidays) but I am a native Texan that knows the ins and outs of my capital city. (Probably because I was one of those people that took the Segway tour of the city. But it was only one time! Forgive me.)
I’ve learned a few things about the city over the years and I want to document them for any other newbies to Austin that may be less familiar with the city than I am. Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in America, with somewhere between 110-157 new people moving to the city every day, so there are bound to be a few of you that need pointers.
With six locations in Austin, it is a local favorite movie theater. It’s even started expanding outside of Texas. The Drafthouse changes the way you watch movies, and not just because you can watch while eating dinner. Rather than play the ads you would typically see in a movie theater, Alamo Drafthouse curates a special playlist of music and short clips that are relevant to the movie you’re about to watch. The food is also delicious, and the themed foods they’ll occasionally have make it even more exciting.
If there’s no new movies in theaters that you have any interest in, chances are that the Drafthouse will be hosting showings of old movies that you know and love, or a new take on an old movie, such as having comedians doing a live commentary over it. There’s something for everyone at Alamo Drafthouse.
Austin Bat Boat
Austin, more than any other city in Texas that I know of, is famous for its bats. This massive urban colony lives under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue bridge in the summer and they come out to feed every night at dusk. The best view of the bats flying out is from something appropriately called a “bat boat” which at the time I took it, had a large bat on it as if it belonged to Batman. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that every Austinite has to experience at least once.
Peter Pan Mini Golf
This classic course at 1207 Barton Springs Road has been here for more than 70 years. It’s a tradition for mini golf lovers young and old to come and putt golf balls through the giant T-Rex, the windmill, and the whale.
Greenbelt & Lady Bird Lake
One of the greatest things about Austin is that there is no shortage of things to do both indoors and outdoors. The Greenbelt offers all manner of outdoor activities: swimming, hiking, rock climbing, or just finding a private spot to relax in nature and snap some pictures of gorgeous views. If you’re looking for a place in Austin to kayak or canoe, Lady Bird Lake is the perfect spot.
I can’t talk about the best things in Austin without mentioning the food. Austin prides itself on being “weird,” otherwise known as friendly to small and local businesses or Mom and Pop shops. That means you can find food here that you can’t find anywhere else, like the kimchi fries at Chi’lantro. A lot of these shops get their start as food trucks, which means Austin is full of them. My favorite, which has since spread to many brick and mortar locations throughout Texas, is Torchy’s Tacos. Most tacos in Austin are good, but Torchy’s are a must-have.
Last but not least is the iconic South Congress Avenue. The first time I went about 10 years ago I was amazed at the wide variety of places and it has only grown since. The costume shop Lucy in Disguise has more costumes in one place than I’ve ever seen and something to wear for every costume occasion you can possibly think of. Uncommon Objects is more than just your average antique store, with objects so uncommon you’ll definitely find yourself saying “what an uncommon object!” Stop by Home Slice for some quick pizza and the Hey Cupcake! trailer for dessert. Or try chocolate covered bacon at Big Top Candy Shop. There’s an endless amount of things to do on South Congress and they should all be on your Austin bucket list.
While there are many more wonderful things to do and foods to eat in Austin, this is just a short list of basics to get you started. Once you’ve completed this list, you can officially be called an Austinite (after living here for 13+ years 😛 ).