Hit the Road
Music lovers and foodies: Cruise to Austin for these can’t-miss summer experiences
If the Live Music Capital of the World isn’t at the top of the list for your next road trip, you’re surely missing out.
With nearly 300 days of sunshine year-round, plenty of live music to keep you movin’ all night, and countless dining options, Austin always has more to discover.
After your first visit, you’ll want to come back for more — especially to avoid the FOMO (fear of missing out) on all these upcoming summertime events.
Live music to my ears
The music scene in Austin is unforgettable, with hundreds of live music venues all over the city.
Legendary icons like Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin, and Gary Clark Jr. all have their roots in the Live Music Capital of the World. Historic experiences are alive and well in one of Austin's oldest and most famed dance halls, the Broken Spoke, and don't forget Victory Grill, a staple on the historic Chitlin' Circuit where W. C. Clark and B. B. King once played.
Gear up for the week-long takeovers of free music across tons of Austin venues during Hot Summer Nights every summer, and Austin City Limits Music Festival in the fall.
For your first summer trip tradition, make sure you pack an extra picnic blanket to catch Austin’s largest free concert series: Blues on the Green at Zilker Park in June and July. The city’s top local bands perform to hundreds of attendees every year.
And if you can’t get enough of the park, make plans to visit the free Zilker Summer Musical by the Zilker Hillside Theatre. This outdoor troupe hosts performances Thursday through Sunday in July and August starting at 8:15 pm.
Festivities for the foodies
You shouldn’t visit Austin without trying what they're most known for: barbecue and Tex-Mex. For those who don't eat meat, don’t worry — many iconic restaurants around town serve up a selection of vegetarian and vegan options. Austin is also known for its unique food trucks, which can be found all over town.
Several James Beard award-winning chefs grace Austin with their culinary creations, such as Iliana De La Vega of El Naranjo, Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria (who was also named Austin's Chef of the Year at the 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards), and Mashama Bailey of Diner Bar, who made it onto Texas Monthly’s list of best new restaurants of 2023. Bailey is also the executive chef of Grey Market.
Better Half Coffee & Cocktails also recently won CultureMap’s Tastemaker Award for Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year.
And you can’t say you had a true Central Texas experience without trying its signature cuisine. Franklin Barbecue is the most recognized name in town — and was even declared the best Texas barbecue by Southern Living — but others would put LeRoy and Lewis BBQ in the top spot after it was recognized by Texas Monthly in their list of best barbecue in the state.
Veracruz All Natural has been lauded by Food Network as one of the top taco shops in America, featured in the New York Times and winner of People’s Choice Best Food Truck and Best Tacos in the Austin Chronicle’s Best of Austin awards
If you're looking for a beautiful fusion of live music and food that hits deep in the soul, the Hot Luck Festival May 25-28, 2023, is your ticket to a picnic-and-party experience that spotlights culinary knowledge and music.
Can’t-miss summer experiences
The capital of Texas is a year-round outdoor enthusiast’s playground, and summer is the peak time to try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking on Lady Bird Lake.
Go for a stroll along the Butler Hike and Bike Trail, then dip your toes into the eternally chilly waters of the spring-fed Barton Springs Pool, which was recently deemed the “most Instagrammable” pool in America. But before that great honor, the historic pool was once a sacred site for the Tonkawa people and later used as a mission site by Spanish explorers in the 17th century.
If you’re looking for an urban wildlife adventure, you won’t have to travel far. Austin is home to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats, which is the largest urban bat colony in the entirety of North America.
The bats call the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge their home, and you can watch them fly out for their nightly meal while lined up on the bridge or from a bat cruise or kayak on the river below.
Bat Fest in August is the city’s annual family-friendly celebration of the mammals’ nightly flights with live music, children's activities, a costume contest, and more.
Seek out the iconic murals and spectacular street art scene by exploring any of the city's neighborhoods. Look for iconic pieces like the "Greetings from Austin" mural, "I Love You So Much," or "You’re My Butter Half," along with hundreds of new and evolving pieces on nearly every corner.
Besides its endless music presence, Austin is also known as a film buff’s paradise. SXSW Conference & Festivals has a hand in that, but we can’t forget to give thanks to the Paramount Summer Classic Film Series at the historic Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin. From May through September, watch flicks that date back to the 1930s and go all the way up to the modern-day blockbuster. New films are announced every month, so you’ll be able to catch a classic or find your new underground favorite (to brag to your non-film friends about, of course).
Another can't-miss event, the Austin Pride Parade & Festival is celebrated every August (which is also Austin Pride Month) and is the largest annual LGBTQ+ advocacy and fundraising event in Central Texas. Gather with thousands of folks to show off your pride.
Whether you’re a painter or poet, musician or muse, tech guru or business icon, Austin is a city that will welcome you, engage you, and inspire you. Find more to do, eat, and see in Austin here.