We want to make the conference weekend as enjoyable as possible for participants, and to that end we’ve put together a great program of speakers, refreshments, and, of course, a party. But we also want to encourage you to explore this fantastic city. If you can, take an extra day before or after the conference to see Austin. The public transport system is cheap and reliable. Or, if you like cycling, talk to the organizers, they might just loan you a bike.
Here are a few ideas to get you excited about a day out and about in the Capital of the Lone Star State:
(Honestly, this is probably the most exciting meal of the day in Austin, because it means BREAKFAST TACOS).
We recommend the following:
- Tacos Deliciosos (a food truck on the corner of Rosewood Ave and Angelina St) makes one of the best breakfast tacos in town. Try the egg and potato breakfast taco with the green salsa. It’s a family business and they make their own tortillas (this is kind of a big deal). The offerings are simple and very good, and the operators are lovely people: http://www.yelp.com/biz/tacos-deliciosos-austin
- Veracruz All Natural Tacos at 1704 E Cesar Chavez St is an absolute gem. The fish taco enjoys regular write-ups in food publications. Everyone loves the watermelon Agua Fresca. It’s a good place to go for breakfast or lunch. They have another truck on East Seventh St as well: http://www.yelp.com/biz/veracruz-all-natural-austin.
- The Vegan Nom produces creative and delicious vegan renditions of classic breakfast tacos: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-vegan-nom-austin
- El Chilito on Manor and Pueblo Viejo on East Sixth are also solid options:
2. Stroll up South Congress Avenue
Just across the river from the downtown, South Congress Avenue is a historic locus of Austin’s weirdness. While ‘SoCo’ has gentrified quite a lot in recent years, it is still home to some great independent shops. The vintage and antiques store, Uncommon Objects, is amazing, and warrants a meandering visit, but we also can’t say enough good things about the vintage options at St Vincent De Paul’s thrift store. If you’re hungry, Amy’s Ice Cream is an Austin institution, and you can’t go wrong with the burger and beer restaurant, Hopdoddy’s.
Texas barbecue is mind-blowingly good. The best places in town have huge lines on weekends (people start queueing at 6AM at Franklin’s). But you can get very good, very reasonably priced barbecue, without too much of a line, at Micklethwait Craft Meats: http://www.yelp.com/biz/micklethwait-craft-meats-austin.
4. Visit some museums
The Blanton Museum of Art and the Harry Ransom Center are both on the UT campus, and tend to have very enjoyable exhibitions. The Harry Ransom Center is particularly special: an archive, library and exhibition space that houses one of the best humanities collections in the world (admission is free): www.hrc.utexas.edu. The LBJ Presidential Library, also on the UT campus, is very highly regarded as well: www.lbjlibrary.org.
One of the best things about living in Austin is hanging out by the river, which is fed by a natural spring that rises up close to the downtown. The water at the spring is cool, clean and open to the public. Either pay admission to swim in the natural Barton Pool, or wander a few steps downriver from the pool, and swim for free instead. Barton Springs is part of a local park, Zilker park, which has great playing fields, walking trails and often hosts outdoor theater and film. Find out more about facilities and events at: zilkerpark.org.
Austin is often referred to as the Live Music Capital of the World. And the music is abundant (and frequently free) on East Sixth Street. The White Horse (always live music, always dancing), and Liberty Bar (a divey locale with a great food-truck out back), are two good options on East Sixth. There are also some great live music venues downtown. These include Mohawk, Cheer Up Charlies, and Antone’s. You can find out about live music events at: http://www.austinchronicle.com/calendar/music/.