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Eats and Beats in Austin

In the heart of Texas – one of the newest and coolest music meccas of the world – an explosion of soulful tunes and local flavor is attracting a hip new vibe. Here are some of the hottest cultural and culinary scenes to seek out.

Waterloo Records

Discover Jam Session Heaven

The incredible acts rocking the stages of Austin City Limits outdoor music festival (October) in Zilker Park, along with the always impressive South by Southwest music fest, have given the city a reputation as the place for top-tier artists to make waves. Lesser-known festivals such as Fun Fun Fun (November), situated in downtown Austin, and Sound on Sound (November), which is held in the acoustically sublime grounds of Sherwood Forest Faire, are hubs for emerging talents. Before getting to any gig, foodie fans hit the group of food trucks parked near the Rainey Street historic district (beside many live music venues). Close to all of the action is the gleaming new Fairmont Austin, a walk away from Rainey Street and just a short drive from Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, a live music must-visit that goes out of its way to book local bands.

Waterloo Records

Try A Southern Sound Check

Begin with a pilgrimage to Waterloo Records. Visible at a distance on North Lamar Boulevard by its neon red and blue bull’s-eye lifted from the London Underground logo, this independent superstore has been an integral part of the scene since 1982. Chances are you’ll stumble across one of the longtime music hub’s regular free live in-store performances, since both next-big-things and established headliners like Steve Earle play the bill when passing through town. Ask the clerks to point you to a favorite local act or to offer a personal recommendation for one of the city’s more than 250 venues that together make Austin the live music capital of the world.

Enter Americana Nirvana 

Serious music fans should save room in their suitcase for the most coveted Americana and exquisite music equipment around. Vintage stereo gear is what draws audiophiles to owner Marc Campbell’s Sound Gallery on South Congress, where the former frontman of punk band The Nails carefully refurbishes turntables, receivers and speakers. The ever-changing stock ranges from 8-tracks to old-school Pioneer, JBL, Thorens and Marantz turntables – and if mixtapes are more your jam, Campbell even has classic cassette decks. A killer shot of espresso from the back coffee bar powers you through as you ogle the groovy retro offerings of this stereophonic time capsule.

Kimchi pork belly from East Side King food truck

Go Riding And Dining

Rocket Electrics offers motorized bicycles for sale and rent, but the most coveted reservation is the daily foodie tour of Austin (there’s also a superb Sunday brunch ride; book in advance online). Groups saddle up with an expert guide at 4 p.m. for a leisurely ride around town on cruiser e-bikes, coasting along nearby Lady Bird Lake to the city’s best gastro-pubs and food trucks (a mix of popular and lesser-known haunts you’d never discover on your own). The package includes four courses and is flexibly à la carte since it’s customized to the adventurous palates of that day’s group.

The Bullock Museum

Tour The Texas Legends

Give your ears and stomach a break at art space staples such as The Blanton Museum of Art, The Bullock Museum and the super slick Contemporary Austin (which features some of the best artists from the South). One of the city’s golden nuggets of culture is The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin as it houses one of the world’s deepest and most eclectic archives, including rare books and manuscripts. Walk through the leafy campus grounds to the museum galleries, which host ongoing exhibitions (free and open daily) that highlight literary and cinematic cultural artifacts. There’s always something unexpectedly quirky on display at the Ransom that supports the city’s “Keep Austin Weird” motto.  


Written By: By Nathalie Atkinson


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