When it comes to travel, it’s nice to have an insider’s perspective. Here at Blueprint, presented by CBRE, we are fortunate to have an expansive network of local colleagues around the globe who are not only real estate experts, but also local tastemakers. We have asked them to give an insider perspective to some of the best, most iconic cities across the globe. Today we explore Austin, Texas.
Country: United States
Nicknames: Live Music Capital of the World, Silicon Hills
What is your favorite public space? Why?
Zilker Park, Austin’s most-loved park. If you’ve heard of Austin, you may have also heard of Zilker Park, where the famous Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival takes place every fall. But you might not know that the park features a variety of recreational amenities year-round, like a nine-hole disc golf course and a hillside theater that hosts Shakespeare in the Park and other free events. Barton Springs Pool, Zilker Botanical Gardens, Umlauf Sculpture Garden and the Austin Nature and Science Center are just a few attractions within 350 acres of lush parkland in the heart of the city.
Where can you find the best view of the city?
If burning a few calories while sightseeing is your go-to, check out Austin’s beautiful skyline while walking, jogging or cycling on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. Stop off at Lou Neff Point for a picture perfect moment.
For a different perspective, cruise down Lady Bird Lake on a Lone Star Riverboat. From March to November, watch 750,000 to 1.5 million (depending on the time of year) Mexican free-tailed bats emerge at dusk as the sun sets on the skyline.
You are going for a bike ride. Where do you go?
The Veloway at Circle C Ranch Metropolitan Park. This 23-foot-wide, 3.1-mile-long paved loop dips and turns through natural, wooded Hill Country terrain. Constructed in the 90s, it was the first park of its kind in the U.S. and is only open to cyclists and skaters, meaning there is no foot traffic. The one-way loop is split into two lanes, allowing faster cyclists to easily navigate around casual cruisers.
What is the best place to discover local music?
Continental Club is arguably one of the most iconic—not to mention longest running—live music venues in Austin. Since opening as a private supper club in the 1950s, the venue has reinvented itself several times. It books a variety of local and regional acts in the genres of rockabilly, blues and more.
On any night of the week, in any part of town, you’re likely to stumble across live music. Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World, after all. And because of that, there are many other venues to check out, including Broken Spoke, C-Boy’s Heart & Soul, Spider House Patio Bar & Café, Saxon Pub and Carousel Lounge.
What is the “don’t judge a book by its cover” restaurant?
Texas Chili Parlor. A dive that serves good, down home Texas-style chili (no beans), among many other things. For another Texas favorite, try the Frito pie—Frito chips smothered in chili. Wash it all down with a margarita!
Favorite place to watch a game?
Dell Diamond, just a short drive north on Interstate 35 in neighboring Round Rock, Texas. During baseball season, you can catch a game played by the Round Rock Express, the AAA minor league baseball team under the Texas Rangers. A few insider tips: Every Friday night game ends with a fireworks show and, if you can, be sure to purchase tickets in the rocking chair section for a true southern experience. In the off-season, catch other events at the stadium like bull riding and monster truck racing.
Best public transportation experience?
Jump from one downtown district to another in a pedicab, a cross between a bicycle and a rickshaw. While many metropolitan cities have them, in Austin they are your best chance at a cost effective ride with insider perspectives from colorful locals on your way to dinner, drinks or a live music show.
Favorite place to unwind?
Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park. This 215-acre park in West Austin with access to Lake Austin is ideal for hiking, picnicking, fishing and sunning. Within the park, 40 acres have been restored to native prairie that bursts with colors in the spring and early summer when numerous wildflowers are in season—the perfect setting for bird watching! The park is also dog friendly and free to the public.
Favorite place to be inspired?
HOPE Outdoor Gallery, a community graffiti paint park. The park was established in 2011 as a temporary experiment to promote inspirational and positive messaging. Today, it’s a widely visited Austin icon thanks to the colorful, continuously changing and evolving murals.
Best place to be alone?
Texas State Cemetery. Established in 1851, it’s the final resting place for numerous individuals who have made significant contributions to Texan history—from European colonization to modern Texas politics—including the city’s namesake, Stephen F. Austin, as well as veterans, governors, judges and legislators.
Best place to feel like you’re not in your city?
Dry Creek Café and Boat Dock, one of Austin’s original watering holes, established in 1953. The cash-only, beer-only dive bar hasn’t changed much since the early days. And despite its name, the bar doesn’t serve food and there isn’t access to a boat dock (anymore).
Best insider place to take the kids?
Grab the kids, we’re going to feed some turtles and learn about tropical fish! That and more can be found at Austin Aqua-Dome, a unique tropical fish store in South Austin that’s housed inside, you guessed it, a dome. The shop has stacks of aquariums filled with all sorts of neon fish, coral and plants. During the spring and summer, you can feed the koi, goldfish and turtles in the backyard. After that, pop over to Radio Coffee & Beer for a pick-me-up beverage (you might even catch some live music).
Best independent shopping venues?
Austin embodies the “go local” vibe and you can find local and independent shops, restaurants and bars all over town. For the best thrifting and antique finds, head to Burnet Road. A few places to get started include Out of the Past Collectibles, Vin.Taj Vintage and Eclectic Furnishings, and Assistance League of Austin Thrift House.
Best hidden gem museum?
The South Austin Popular Culture Center, or SouthPop, pays homage to Austin’s live music history with a collection of vintage posters and music ephemera from the 1960s to today. Expect to find thematic exhibitions, including one that offers an inside look at the local punk music scene, and another that serves as outdoor memorial wall of late Austin musicians that sees new inductees every year during the museum’s Dias de los Muertos event.
Best place to get a local specialty?
Magnolia Cafe. This 24-hour diner with local flair—see the giant pterodactyl mobile hanging from the ceiling and the oilcloth-covered tables with flamingos, cowboys and owls—has just about any dish you’re craving, especially after a night on 6th Street. Always order the Magnolia Queso—or the pancakes!
23 March 2016 by Tony Sheehan