Step Right Up, Spring
Step Right Up, Spring at The Mockingbird In celebration of the onset of warmer weather and longer days, The Mockingbird will host a carnival-themed springtime late-night
This vibrant, booming city has about 200 live music venues, more than 3,000 restaurants—some of which are among the best in the nation—a hundred swimming holes, and an eclectic, laid-back community. All that weirdness? It goes hand-in-hand with the charm.
Southwest Airlines has direct flights to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Car2Go is an electric car rental service that’s affordable and easy for getting around town. If a road trip sounds exciting, it’s a 13-hour drive from Nashville, which can be broken up by stopping in Memphis, Little Rock, Texarkana, or Dallas along the way.
Where to stay:
The W Austin has one of the city’s swankiest hotel lounges and a late-night DJ scene. For its design along, book a stay at the Kimber Modern Hotel, where you’ll find artfully arranged rooms and a comfortable terrace.
Best weekends to go:
Spring brings some of Austin’s top festivals. SXSW Music, Film, Interactive Conference and Festival (March 7 to 16) is its biggest, but there’s also the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo (March 1 to 16) and an edible feast at the Austin Food & Wine Festival (April 25 to 27).
Downtown’s SFC Farmers’ Market boasts one of the city’s tastiest breakfasts since a number of local chefs show up on weekends to cook. Plus, there are food trucks on hand, like Bola Pizza, featuring breakfast pizzas made with raw milk, shaved cheddar, and local eggs, and Tacodeli, where you can build your own breakfast tacos. For a quick jolt, visit the privately owned Italian café Lavazza Expression for fresh, made-from-scratch pastries. Just a short walk away is the State Capitol Building, where you can take a free guided tour. South Congress Avenue, or “SoCo,” offers the best shopping scene, with a variety of stores like Uncommon Objects for antiques, Teseros for Mexican folk art, and Parts & Labour for exclusively Texas-made goods. Tip: On the first Thursday of every month, the shops of SoCo stay open late with live music and sidewalk activities.
For lunch, there are classic stops like Lamberts Downtown Barbecue for inventive ’cue and modern Texas fare or Güero’s Taco Bar, where you’ll find the freshest catch thanks to ingredients flown in daily from the Gulf. After lunch, take a 10-minute stroll through Zilker Park for the best view of the Austin skyline. There are plenty of ways to get on the water, including kayaking down Lady Bird Lake and taking a dip at Barton Springs Pool, a three-acre swimming hole with a year-round temperature of 68 degrees. Tip: Visit during a full moon to get in on the free Full Moon Swim party. The Continental Club opens at 3 p.m. on weekends with no cover. Considered the grandfather of Austin music venues, it’s famous for hosting icons like Robert Plant and Patti Smith.
Just like Nashville’s Lower Broadway, you have to experience the nightlife of 6th Street with stops at bars like The Jackalope or Easy Tiger, where you can soak up the patio atmosphere with housemade pretzels and craft beer. For music lovers, there are endless options, like Violet Crown Social Club or The Volstead Lounge, both of which are also great people-watching spots. Dine at Qui, the new eatery from Top Chef winner Paul Qui, and finish up the night at Clive Bar or the tiny Bar Illegal right behind it, where you’ll find a mezcal-only menu. Sip on tequila’s fierce cousin from jicama bowls garnished with a fried cricket.