Here at Charity Dynamics, we’re excited for the upcoming P2P Forum in February. Not just because we get to talk shop with and learn from an incredibly passionate group of people in the nonprofit world, but also because, as hosts this year, we get to show off our hometown.
Austin, as you may have heard, is a pretty popular city (a lot of people keep moving here) and has become a center for innovative businesses and nonprofits, attracting many of the brightest and best in their industries. But it’s also long been known for its music and creative scene—that whole keeping it weird thing—and really, that’s still the main appeal because there’s just so much to do and see. So, to make sure you get to experience the Austin we love, we’ve put together a guide (by no means definitive!) to our favorite sites, hotspots and, of course, food recommendations. Welcome to Austin, y’all!
Tacos and Barbecue
You can’t visit Austin without partaking of the city’s two main food groups—and there are plenty of delicious options to choose from. Everyone has an opinion on which places are best. Just ask us and see how many different answers you get! The good news: You pretty much can’t go wrong. For tacos, mainstays Tacodeli and Torchy’s have numerous locations around town, and other popular spots include Veracruz All Natural, Pueblo Viejo and Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ.
It’s the same with barbecue. Want the full BBQ experience and don’t mind a short road trip? Head down to Driftwood for an evening at the Salt Lick (local tip: it’s cash only and BYOB, although they do have a winery next door). And if you can’t fit waiting in line at the legendary Franklin Barbecue into your schedule, no worries. Just check out Micklethwait Craft Meats, Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, La Barbecue, Black’s Barbecue…the list goes on and on.
We’re all about the mild winters here—you can actually enjoy being outdoors this time of year, so take advantage! Head down to Lady Bird Lake for a walk or jog along the hike-and-bike trail—or rent a bike and enjoy the downtown views.
Then you can cool off at famed Barton Springs Pool in nearby Zilker Park. The pool, which is filled entirely from an underground spring, maintains an average temp of 68-70 degrees. Best of all, it’s free to swim there through the end of February.
For a more Zen-like experience, take in the Zilker Botanical Garden and enjoy the interconnected themed gardens, streams, koi ponds and waterfalls.
As the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin can pretty much meet any musical taste with local venues and shows. But for the old school Austin experience, you don’t want to miss the Broken Spoke, one of the last true Texas dancehalls. Learn to two-step while listening to some true honky-tonk—and we hear they make a mean chicken fried steak too.
If your tastes run more to the rock side of things, you don’t want to pass up The Continental Club on South Congress. A historic Austin landmark, this intimate venue has hosted a who’s who of rock legends over the years—you’re always guaranteed a good show no matter who’s on stage. And if you’re a fan of the long-running PBS series, Austin City Limits, check out where it’s filmed at ACL Live at the Moody Theatre in the 2nd Street District. You can tour the facility (and check the calendar for upcoming shows) and take a selfie with Willie Nelson (his statue, that is).
History and Culture
If you enjoy taking in a little history or cultural hotspots in addition to all that food and music, the obvious first stop is the Texas State Capitol. You can’t miss it! While it no longer dominates Austin’s skyline, the capitol is still impressive—larger than the U.S. Capitol (everything is bigger here, you know) and dating to the late 1880s, it was constructed using pink granite hauled in from nearby Marble Falls. You can take a self-guided or free guided tour and be sure to take in the view of downtown from the capitol steps.
If you want to go all-in on Texas history, just a few blocks north of the capitol is the Bullock Texas State History Museum (and IMAX theatre). And right across the street from the Bullock, you can enter the University of Texas campus. Wander the Forty Acres, see the famed UT Tower and hit the Drag (Guadalupe Street) to pick up some burnt orange and white Texas Longhorns gear. You can also lap up a little culture at three top-class museums on campus: the Blanton Museum of Art, the Harry Ransom Center and the LBJ Presidential Library.
Then, head downtown to the historic Driskill Hotel at Brazos and 6th Street for a cocktail and some live music at the famed Driskill Bar.
Shopping and Dining
While these aren’t tourist spots per se, they’re still musts when visiting Austin: Whole Foods headquarters and Book People. And it’s easy to hit both since they’re just across the street from each other. Pick up some extra reading material at the award-winning indie bookseller and from there, pop over to Whole Foods and grab a bite to eat from one of the in-store eateries and bars (local tip: the barbecue is not to be missed).
Just west of Congress Avenue is the aforementioned 2nd Street District, where you can find an array of shops, boutiques and restaurants, as well as the Violet Crown Cinema if you’re in the mood for a movie and super-comfy seating.
And no trip to Austin is complete without a visit to iconic SoCo or South Congress Avenue. Check out the shops—perhaps pick up a new pair of boots at famed Allens Boots or discover international folk art in Tesoros Trading Company. Then grab a bite to eat, whether casual fare at Home Slice Pizza and Guero’s Taco Bar or more upscale dining at Vespaio or Perla’s, and take a photo in front of the famed “I Love You So Much” mural at Jo’s Coffee. Finish your day by relaxing with a cocktail and music at the chic Hotel San Jose lounge.