10. See the Bats — Sure, it’s the touristy thing to do, but believe me, if you want to witness one of the most unique events in nature, make your way to the Congress Bridge downtown just before sunset. I felt as though I had been mysteriously transported to Gotham City and summoned to don my cape and utility belt.
9. Blanton Museum of Art — A world class museum in the heart of downtown Austin. Great exhibitions and a stunning staircase are just a few of the sensory delights that await you in this extraordinary space.
8. Stand in Line and Eat at Franklin’s Bar-B-Que — Everybody thinks their state and town has the best barbecue in the world, but don’t just take my word for it, Bon Appetit Magazine has declared it so. If that isn’t enough, I heard Tony Bourdain vehemently and enthusiastically say it in person.
Get there early (10:30am at the latest) if you don’t want to miss out. When the meat is gone, the doors close. And don’t let the line deter you, hearing the barbecue stories and bragging later about how long you stood in line is part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
7. Take A Stroll Down South Congress — This district running south of the Congress Bridge is affectionately called “SoCo,” and provides a glimpse of the weirdness that Austin is so proud of. Brightly painted shops offer a plethora of paraphernalia and provide a wonderful strolling experience.
But don’t be fooled, some of Austin’s best awaits you here as well. Our finest Italian food can be found at Enoteca (casual) and her sister restaurant Vespaio (fine dining). One of the best burgers in the world can be found at HopDaddy’s and if you are a cowboy at heart, you will find heaven at Allen’s Boots.
6. Go To Highball on Monday Night And See the Matchmaker Band — Austin has been dubbed the Live Music Capital of the World and you only need travel to the Highball Club (a weird but affecting mixture of nightclub and bowling alley) on Monday evenings around 10pm to hear some our best. Say hi to my friend Chase Gassaway and dance to the sounds of MoTown with his excellent ten member band called Matchmaker.
Tell them you heard it through the grapevine.
5. Go To the Elephant Room And Listen To Jazz — For another live music treat, head to Congress Avenue downtown, slip down the nondescript steps to the joy that is the Elephant Room. Better still, go on Monday after you’ve danced with Matchmaker and witness open mic night for the finest jazz Austin has to offer. Be sure to find the trombonist named Mike with the black glove. He directs traffic on stage and is the man behind the jazz scene here in Austin. Tell him Randy Elrod sent you.
4. Have Beignets on the Sidewalk at Annie’s on Congress — They are served only Sunday mornings, but for the best beignet experience this side of Nawlins, Annie’s is the place. Low humidity mornings, shady trees and people watching combined with melt in your mouth french doughnuts make this a sublime sidewalk experience.
3. Have a Vintage Cocktail at Peche — If you know the Savoy Book of Cocktails, you will be right at home. If you are a fan of Manhattans and Sazeracs, then you will be right at home. If you are a fan of absinthe in all its iterations, you will be right at home. If you are a fan of beautiful bars and beautiful people, you will be right at home. You get the idea… if Rob is around (he’s the owner,) be sure and have a chat, and oh yeah, twist his arm to mix you up a Final Say. It’s my favorite cocktail of all-time. At least, until tomorrow.
2. Take In A Movie At Violet Crown — This classy home of great celluloid is quietly tucked away on the second floor of a building on 2nd and San Antonio. It is an artistic and peaceful respite from the din of the city. Think acoustic treatments, soft leather recliners, ottomans, a delectable cocktail and a concierge to escort you to a tiny and immaculately decorated theatre. Beware, you will never view the noisy, ugly conglomerates that Carmike calls “theaters” the same way again.
1. (Tie) Run, Walk or Bike the Town Lake Trail — This paradise tucked in the middle of downtown Austin gracing the banks of the Colorado River would make Frederick Olmsted proud. Imagine hundreds of people banging out calories on a picturesque trail any time of the day all the while passing crystal clear springs, a guy strumming guitar at Woody’s Point saying “good for you,” kayaks, paddle boards, swans, majestic cypress trees, and if you are lucky, Austin’s patron saint of exercise and goodwill, Lance Armstrong.
1. (Tie) Go to Central Market — Never in my wildest imagining would I have picked a grocery store as my #1 pick for a city’s best thing to do. Especially a city as interesting as Austin. But then, I had never been to Central Market. If you haven’t been there, just go ahead and do it before you die. Imagine a grocery with more produce than a typical store has in its entire stock. Imagine 112 different types of greens. Imagine the glistening produce looking as if they were modeling for a photo shoot in Paris. Imagine a meat counter that stretches for miles with all prime comestibles, and fishmongers that would earn Thomas Keller’s respect for their oceanic knowledge. Imagine bakers rolling fresh bread and sixty types of prosciutto. Imagine a grocery store where the answer to all your needs is yes!
Even if you could conjur up all this imagining, you will have managed only a few seconds of a foodie’s wildest dreams. And oh yeah, the best breakfast taco in town. Period.
Question: What one spot would be in your top ten of Austin, Texas?