Photograph by Dave Wilson, Getty Images
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A statue stands guard on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol in Austin.

Photograph by Dave Wilson, Getty Images

Everything to Know About Austin

Here's how to plan the best possible trip to the capital of Texas.

Since 1987—the first year of South by Southwest—it’s undeniable that Austin’s creative spirit, largely influenced by its incredible live music scene and influx of entrepreneurs, has shifted the way the Texas capital is perceived around the world. The city is accepting, loud, proud, local, and hot—in both the average temperature and how hip it’s become.

When to Go

With more than 300 days of sunshine and an average temperature in the high 60s, there really is no bad time to visit Austin. July and August will be the hottest and stickiest, so plan to spend most of your time by the lakes, rivers, and springs. The fall and spring are great times to visit but can be very crowded with the University students and dozens of festivals. November and February will have the most comfortable weather and the fewest tourists. If you want to see the largest urban bat colony, plan your trip from March to October.

Celebrate

Unless you’re in the tech, music, or film world, skip SXSW and the entire month of March and visit Austin during one of these equally awesome festivals. In October, head to Zilker Park for Austin City Limits, two back-to-back weekends of more than 130 incredible A-list musicians and bands. Every April, throw on your apron, bring an empty stomach, and join local and celebrated chefs for an interactive food and drink experience at Austin Food and Wine. Pack a picnic and watch fireworks over Lady Bird Lake as you listen to the Fourth of July Fireworks and Symphony with Austin’s acclaimed symphony band.

What to Eat

To have really experienced Austin, you have to eat a few of its iconic dishes. Tacos, stuffed with everything from breakfast sausage and eggs to fried oysters and Korean BBQ, are a requirement. Traditional Texas BBQ joints with hour-long lines might seem like a rite of passage but are not completely necessary. There are plenty of savory BBQ food trucks and restaurants, especially in east Austin, that are finger-licking good without the wait. Beyond the typical and overhyped, the French and Asian culinary scene has spiked in recent years. Sunday brunch with a side of live music is also an itinerary must.

Souvenir to Take Home

Stop in Allens Boots on South Congress and try on a pair of cowboy boots—you are in Texas after all. This family-run shop has been in Austin since 1977 and has thousands of boots in every color and design. If digestible souvenirs are more your thing, bring home a bottle of Paula’s Texas Spirits, locally crafted liquors that sweetly enhance your everyday margarita. For the kids, stop in Big Top Candy Shop for the largest candy assortment you’ve ever seen—with more than 3,000 wrapped candies to stuff in your suitcase.

Sustainable Travel Tip

While most everything is bigger in Texas, Austin is actually one of its smaller cities. The downtown and surrounding areas are very bikeable and walkable, making it easy to explore all the major sightseeing spots—Barton Springs, The Greenbelt, South Congress, Sixth Street—without ever getting into a car.

Instagram-Worthy View

Climb 99 steps to the top of Mount Bonnell, where you can watch the sun rise or set over the Colorado River and the downtown skyscrapers. If murals populate your Insta-feed, you can’t leave without a shot in front of the iconic Welcome to Austin mural, or snap a photo in front of one of the more obscure but equally charming walls, from Don’t Mess With Texas at the corner of Sixth Street and the I-35 access road to You’re My Butter Half at 2000 East Martin Luther King Boulevard.