People are moving to Austin at an incredible rate. Weather, jobs, quality of life … everyone has their reasons. Many move here thinking they will love it. Those of us who live here know they will. There are a million reasons to love the Austin area, so we decided to name a few.
Arianna Auber: beer, wine and spirits email@example.com, Twitter: @ariauber
Sipping on any one of the 24 thoughtfully curated craft beers on tap at Hi Hat Public House. This little eastside bar, with always friendly service and a menu of gourmet comfort food, helped develop my love of beer and discover the welcoming community surrounding it here. Try Hi Hat on a Tuesday, when you can get two tacos and a pint for $10. (hihatpublichouse.com) Hiking at Emma Long Metropolitan Park. The dog-friendly Turkey Creek Trail is especially a joy to explore during the quiet early morning hours when the world is waking up around you, the sun just beginning to peek through the trees and the birds starting to serenade you with their song. (austintexas.gov) Even on summer scorchers, dozens of people will cluster around the benches outside Jester King Brewery, in the Dripping Springs area, enjoying whatever new farmhouse ale (a peach sour? a gose-like beer with oyster mushrooms and alderwood smoked sea salt?) the inventive brewery has created. These always pair best with the wood-fired pies of Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza right next door. (jesterkingbrewery.com) Any one of the restaurants along Manor Road’s thriving row of eateries are a treat, but I like to visit School House Pub for a beer (or any one of their school-themed cocktails) with mac-and-cheese on weekdays or El Chile for a brunch of chilaquiles verdes and a spicy, salt-rimmed Bloody Mary on weekends. (schoolhousepub.com, elchilecafe.com) Zipping along RM 2222 between MoPac and Loop 360. This scenic drive reminds you to look up and enjoy the ride every now and then — a very fast one, that is. During rush hour, it’s also a breather from all the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the roads it connects. Visit Whisler’s on Thursday through Saturday nights and chances are Cesar Aguilar is there in a jaunty hat to show off the cozy tribute to Oaxaca and mezcal in the upstairs room. Mezcalaria Tobala is his pride and joy — and after sipping mezcal in clay copitas while music plays through vintage speakers, you’ll understand why. (whislersatx.com) Austin restaurants have plenty of outdoor patios, but one of my favorites is Blue Dahlia’s shady back patio, something of a secret garden that will transport you while you’re feasting on the bistro’s light French cuisine. (bluedahliabistro.com) Feel like rum? How about absinthe? The downtown bars Peche and Pleasant Storage Room both have their specialties, and best of all, they’re right next door to each other. (pecheaustin.com, pleasantrumbar.com) If you’re looking for a solid selection of craft beer — from the rare release to the comforting mainstay — the knowledgeable and cheerful Jody Reyes, Nic De La Rosa and Zach Flaten at WhichCraft Beer Store will help you find what you’re looking for and probably talk you into other treats, too. (whichcraftbeerstore.com) Although local brewers and bars constantly offer top-notch new brews, Austin Beer Week at the end of October is when they really show off, with events and tastings galore. From Oct. 24 through Nov. 2 this year, it’s also curiously timed with a lot of anniversary parties. Just be sure to pace yourself. (austinbeerweek.com)
Michael Barnes: people, places, culture and history firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @outandabout
Walking anywhere in Austin. Doesn’t matter where. Mostly, however, in the central city, where, thanks to the Great Streets program, pedestrians are safe, shaded, comfortable and happy. (austintexas.gov/page/great-streets) Sitting in sidewalk cafes such as Second Bar + Kitchen. There’s nothing more luxurious. And the pleasure can be had for the price of a cup of soup and a sandwich. The people-watching in Austin is priceless. (congressaustin.com/second) Reading anywhere. From the Texas Book Festival to BookPeople and, especially, South Congress Books. But especially on our front porch in the Bouldin neighborhood, where our attention is pleasantly interrupted by passing neighbors and strangers. (texasbookfestival.org, bookpeople.com, southcongressbooks.com) Parties at the W Austin, Driskill or Four Seasons hotels. Oh, any old place will do if the guests are right. But these three inns have been dishing out hospitality on a large scale for a long time. Some newcomers and old-timers are upping their games, too. (whotelaustin.com, driskillhotel.com, fourseasons.com/austin) Coffee at Jo’s, Seventh Flag, Caffe Medici or Houndstooth. There are more than 100 inviting, inventive and independent coffee shops in town. I end up at these candidates most often because their decaf is as good as the leaded, the wifi is strong and the people are pleasing. (joscoffee.com, seventhflagcoffee.com, caffemedici.com, houndstoothcoffee.com) Shopping at Trader Joe’s, Central Market, H-E-B or Farm to Market. I grew up in grocery stores. I visit them like landmarks when I travel. I’ll drop by any Austin market, including hometown giant, Whole Foods Market, but these other four take up the majority of my happy hunting and gathering time. (traderjoes.com, centralmarket.com, heb.com, fm1718.com, wholefoodsmarket.com) Researching at the Austin History Center, Briscoe Center for American History, etc. Austin is home to dozens of top-notch archives and libraries. In 2016, a new Central Library will open. I’ll be there Day 1. Meanwhile, these are blessed oases of insight into our past. (library.austintexas.gov/ahc, cah.utexas.edu) Any Longhorns sporting event. Lately, it’s been the volleyball team, whose play at Gregory Gym has been nothing less than electrifying. Still, the only two UT teams I haven’t seen in action are golf and cross country. (texassports.com) Any theater, live or otherwise. People sometimes forget that I spent more time in the theater than in the newspaper business. Really don’t mind seeing theater at any venue, but I’m grateful for Zach’s Topfer Theatre and the Long Center, in part because, yes, they are easy walking distance from our house. (zachtheatre.org, thelongcenter.org) The people. Every night, I go out. Not because I want to, but because it’s my job. As soon as I reach my destination, however, I’m delighted by the open, smart, kind, fit and fun folks that populate every strata of Austin life.
Peter Blackstock: music email@example.com, Twitter: @blackstock360
Weekly residencies at the Continental Club and Continental Gallery. We tend to take them for granted, but faraway fans of established artists such as James McMurtry, Alejandro Escovedo, Dale Watson and Jon Dee Graham are rightly amazed to learn that Austinites can hear them play most every week at the anchor of SoCo. (continentalclub.com) In-store performances at Waterloo Records. The shop is a treasure for the breadth and depth of its carefully curated inventory, but the icing on the cake is the frequent opportunity to catch acoustic performances by high-quality acts on the way home from work. You just can’t put a price on that. Wait, yes you can: They’re free! (waterloorecords.com) The outdoor concourse at ACL Live. Since opening in 2011, this space has become the city’s most important music venue. The crowning touch is being able to walk out of the world-class Moody Theater and onto a breezy big balcony overlooking downtown and Lady Bird Lake. (Bonus points for the Scott Newton photos on the indoor mezzanine level.) (acl-live.com) The beer garden at ABGB. It seems harder and harder to find spacious environs near the center of the city, which makes this South Austin haunt special for its sprawling, comfortable outdoor hangout area between the brewery and the railroad tracks. Inside, ABGB presents quality local music four nights a week, usually with no cover. (theabgb.com) Pretty much everything about the Old Settler’s Music Festival. Perhaps precisely because it’s not in the center of town like South by Southwest, the Austin City Limits Music Festival and Fun Fun Fun Fest, this annual gathering on the southwest outskirts is a breath of fresh air. The bookings, which lean toward the rootsy end of the spectrum, are consistently high-quality, while the vibe is delightfully devoid of hype and havoc. (oldsettlersmusicfest.org) Monday nights with Chris Gage at Donn’s Depot. Any visit to Donn’s is special, like a time-warp to 1970s Austin through a railroad-car trap door. But we’re especially partial to the weekly gathering of regulars and frequent special guests who join Gage, a local treasure on piano with an extraordinarily deep repertoire. (donnsdepot.com) The little “hall of fame” room at the Broken Spoke. Most folks come for the dancing (with optional lessons), and/or to hear some of the state’s top traditional country acts on a 50-year-old stage. But don’t forget to duck into that funky space across from the bar, where you’ll find such mementos as a cigar Bob Wills smoked and faded newspaper clippings of great moments in Spoke history. (brokenspokeaustintx.com) Sun Radio’s “Texas Radio Live” every Wednesday evening at Guero’s Oak Garden. The legacy of the late, great DJ Larry Monroe lives on in this showcase for local and regional acts. The garden is an idyllic small outdoor venue, with picnic tables and a taco bar underneath the welcome shade of giant oak trees. (guerostacosbar.com) Big-time arena concerts at the Erwin Center. Its days are numbered, and shows there are increasingly infrequent with so many venues in town nowadays. But for certain acts, it’s still just the right place, and the Drum’s long history brings back fond memories of youthful musical exultations. (uterwinecenter.com) Wee-hours walks across the Congress Avenue Bridge. Next time you venture out for a night on the town, park south of the river and revel in the walk back across the bridge, beneath the lights and above the water. Stand at the halfway point and marvel at being right smack in the center of our own little universe. You might find yourself inspired to raise your arms and shout, “I’m King of ATX!”
Addie Broyles: food firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @broylesa
With more than a dozen farmers markets taking place on just about every day of the week, it’s easy to find yourself sampling some of the most interesting locally produced food products Austin has to offer, from kimchi and kombucha to kolaches from a food truck and some of the best tamales in Central Texas. This thriving local food community wouldn’t exist without pillars, including Boggy Creek farmer Carol Ann Sayle and her urban farming brethren, market managers Suzanne Santos and Carla Jenkins and smiling Saint Arnold’s rep Frank Mancuso, Edible Austin publisher Marla Camp and indefatigable cheerleader Carla Crownover. Whole Foods’ flagship store downtown isn’t the only place you can sip on a beer while you shop, but it’s the most interesting. From blind dates taking place at the juice bar to sampling brisket from the barbecue restaurant in the back, it’s a spectacle that people who like to pop into grocery stores when they’re traveling should see. Just up Lamar, up on a hill behind the original, you’ll find the Baylor Street Art Wall, an unfinished construction site that has become a destination for graffiti artists, some who have created their work legally in partnership with the landowners, and countless others who have not. For now, it’s a popular place to explore, read, write, take photographs or, in a handful of cases, propose, but unclaimed views like that won’t last for long. Sipping on a Jack and Coke, otherwise known as a Freddie’s Crutch, under the live oaks at Freddie’s Place on South First Street, while all the kiddos in the neighborhood run around the playground and the best washer players in 78704 convene. The childlike joy housed within the gently loved toys, games, dolls, puzzles and figurines at Anna’s Toy Depot on South Lamar Boulevard. There’s no better place to buy a last-minute birthday present in South Austin. Betting — and maybe just winning — chicken (expletive) bingo at the Little Longhorn Saloon, formerly Ginny’s. Consider yourself lucky if it’s a slow Sunday and you can squeeze onto the dance floor for a two-step to Dale Watson. Getting a handshake from Juan in A Million’s Juan Meza. The smiling business owner likes to greet every guest who walks out of the restaurant, no matter how busy the breakfast service. Austin might be best known for its hot sauce contest, but there’s also Paella Lover’s United, Quesoff, Bacon Takedown and one of the longest running vegetarian chili cook-offs in the country. It’s a good place to be if you love food contests, and not the kind that challenge how fast you can eat something. The Mexican Martini. Go to Trudy’s, Opal Divine’s, Cedar Door or anywhere else that serves this briny beauty of an Austin twist on the traditional margarita. If you drink alcohol, you can’t call yourself in Austinite until you have.
Sharon Chapman: entertainment email@example.com, Twitter: @slctexas
Yappy hours, off-leash parks, day cares, parades and more rescue groups than you can name: Dog culture is alive and thriving in our pet-friendly city (this year even saw the first ever Austin Pittie Limits). My two wishes for my fellow Austin dog lovers: Everyone obey leash laws, and everyone pick up after their beloved four-legged pals. Speaking of dogs, file Barkitecture under “Keep Austin Weird.” The event combines sometimes cutting-edge architecture with canine housing, all benefiting a selection of dog nonprofits. People can bid on the creations, and the event (2014’s is noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Triangle Park) is dog- and kid-friendly. (Full disclosure: I’m a judge this year, and I cannot wait.) (austinbarkitecture.com) Austin’s dining scene has never been more diverse and delicious, but when I’m craving old school comfort in a bowl, you’ll find me at Baby Acapulco ordering the famous Chicken Tortilla Soup. I dump in all the fixins’ that come with it, roll up a tortilla and enjoy. I’m partial to the Barton Springs location (you always remember your first), but you can count on consistency with this dish at any Baby A’s outpost. (babyacapulco.com) I love taking out-of-towners to see the bats emerge from under the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. They inevitably have the same reactions I did before and after seeing the swarm: “What’s the big deal about a bunch of bats?” and then “Whoa! That’s amazing!” We are spoiled by the live music offerings and the many venues in which to hear them. It’s worth the drive south — an hour or so, depending on where you live and the traffic — for a show at Gruene Hall, which books everything from traditional dance hall bands to indie darlings like Jenny Lewis. A night, or weekend afternoon, there is pretty much guaranteed to be special, and you will feel transported to a less stressful time and place. (gruenehall.com) Free stuff! Yes, the cost of living has risen noticeably, particularly housing, but free entertainment abounds. Some of my favorites: the KGSR-sponsored summer music series, Blues on the Green and Unplugged at the Grove; the summer movies, with live music, on the lawn of the Long Center; the shows at Waterlooo Records and Jo’s on South Congress during South by Southwest; and the summer dance lessons followed by dance parties at the Long Center. (kgsr.com, thelongcenter.org, waterloorecords.com) All things LBJ and Lady Bird. Whatever your political leanings, it’s hard to deny the world-class content at President Johnson’s presidential library, another great destination to take visitors. A tour at his Hill Country ranch, which reveals more of his and the first lady’s personalities, is worth the beautiful drive, and if you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who can give you a peek at his post-term office in the federal building downtown, complete with presidential seal in the bathroom sink. “As long as I’ve lived in Austin, I’ve never …. (walked up Mount Bonnell, gone to the Pecan Street Festival, paddled a kayak on Lady Bird Lake ….).” I’ve said it, and I’ve heard just about everyone I know repeat it. Sometimes the biggest problem in Austin is there is too much to do (spoiler: It’s not really a problem). One of the best things about our city is that new things are constantly being debuted (witness: This weekend’s Pop Austin art sale) and beloved traditions are (mostly) kept alive (see: the Trail of Lights). Creativity begets creativity, and new and longtime Austinites can be some of the most enthusiastic, fun-loving and supportive folks around.
Nancy Flores: culture firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @latinoculture
Standing on the top step of the St. Edward’s University Main Building, which is perched on a hill with panoramic views of the Austin downtown skyline. When I first moved to Austin from the small town of Eagle Pass to attend St. Edward’s, looking out at the impressive view meant a world of possibilities ahead. (stedwards.edu) Conjunto Los Pinkys Sunday happy hours at the White Horse keep the spirit of old East Austin alive. It’s one of the few shows where Tejanos, hipsters and everyone in between converge. (home.earthlink.net/~lospinkys/) Zipping on a scooter during South by Southwest. There’s no better way to catch band after band scattered across downtown Austin than on two wheels. Fly through the streets and park pretty much anywhere you please even on the busiest nights. On opening night of the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival there’s a buzz in the air that cinephiles wait all year for. It’s not just the start of another local festival, but a chance to see the best hard-to-find films from Latin America, which might otherwise never make it to Austin. (cinelasamericas.org) Under the spinning ceiling fans and blinking Christmas lights in the darkened Sahara Lounge in East Austin you can find everything from African to Latin music. It’s got that eclectic Austin feeling that feels special and comforting.(saharalounge.com) Taking a blanket, picnic and book to the LBJ Library Lawn on weekends. With the soothing sounds of the fountain, grassy hills and plenty of shady spots, it’s my favorite place on campus to unplug. Evening stroll at Butler Park. I can get some exercise while watching turtles bask on rocks and children play in the splash pad. While I enjoy the sweeping views of the city from Doug Sahm Hill, I really love that my hometown is highlighted on a giant map that takes over the hilltop. (austinparks.org/our-parks.html?parkid=684) I feel transported to a cool open mic in a bohemian Latin American city when I check out the Café con Letras monthly showcases every third Sunday of the month at Casa de Luz. An added bonus is walking through the Casa de Luz garden, which at night features twinkling white lights wrapped around gnarled trees. (alianzacultural.net) There’s not a bad seat on the grassy hillside overlooking the Pan Am Recreation Center amphitheater, where you can not only catch good music but be amazed by the incredible murals. (austintexas.gov/department/oswaldo-ab-cantupan-american-recreation-center) Just when I think I’m in my own personal heaven catching bands I love, I run into practically everyone I know at the Pachanga Latino Music Festival. Half the day is spent dancing and the other half saying hello to old friends. (pachangafest.com)
Omar L. Gallaga: technology culture email@example.com, Twitter: @omarg
The incredible collection of cabinets and pinball machines at Pinballz Arcade make this North Austin institution a great place for a nerd party. With a castle-themed Pinballz Kingdom opening in Buda, South Central Texas is getting arcade love as well. (pinballzarcade.com) For those overloaded on barbecue, Mexican food and burgers, Leaf’s salads provide a green antidote to bloat. You can custom-build or order pre-selected standbys such as the Strawberry Fields or the Capitol City Cobb. (leafsalad.com) Whataburger is always perfect for a late-night Patty Melt or a load of drive-thru breakfast tacos. Great fries and great condiments, many of which are now available in bottled-up form at H-E-B. (whataburger.com) Art exhibits, theatrical and dance performances and cultural events are just a few reasons the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center has become an essential gathering spot for Latinos and all others. It neighbors Rainey Street, making pre-show drinks or food easy to access. (austintexas.gov/esbmacc) Trailers next to bars that bring food to you while you’re hanging out. East Side King is the best example, but there are plenty of others. (austin360.com/foodtrailers) The Visualization Laboratory at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (or “Viz lab” for short), a place where cool events are regularly put on to show off the remarkable display technology. (tacc.utexas.edu/resources/visualization) The nerd culture-meets-pop-culture explosion of ideas and personalities during South by Southwest Interactive. Fest director Hugh Forrest and his crew continue to manage a tricky balance between mainstream tech culture and a strong focus on community good. (sxsw.com/interactive) Consistently funny, entertaining and ahead of the curve, “The Rooster Teeth Podcast” is a good way to keep up with Rooster Teeth’s burgeoning media empire. You’ll laugh and learn more about gaming culture, animation and the art of slo-mo video. (roosterteeth.com/podcast) The spirit of poet founder Raul Salinas lives on in the relocated Resistencia Bookstore, focused on indigenous culture, bilingual literature and arts events. (resistenciabooks.com) Juanita Budd, the executive director of Austin Free-Net, an essential community organization. Free-Net has been helping bridge the digital divide here since the nonprofit was formed in 1995, providing technology tools to those in need. (austinfree.net)
Joe Gross: culture firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @joegross
The fact that if you are a geek of any conceivable stripe, boy howdy, is this the town for you. Let’s start with comics. Our very best comics shop, Austin Books and Comics, opens at 9 a.m. on new comics Wednesdays. Pick up your titles, talk shop, then head to work or class. (austinbooks.com) If you work south, you can stop at Houndstooth for a pour-over and Tacodeli for breakfast tacos (and a Doña sauce that will re-part your hair). (houndstoothcoffee.com) (tacodeli.com) Then again, if you work north of Austin Books and Comics, you stop at the North Lamar Half Price Books, one of the very best bookstores in the state. The wonderful thing about used book stores is their randomness, the chance you will find something you didn’t even know you wanted. Half Price Books does this as well as any place in Austin. (hpb.com/005) Speaking of books, everyone loves BookPeople, but I don’t think people appreciate just how good they are at bringing authors to Austin. Take a look at their calendar and marvel. (bookpeople.com) It has been glorious to see the record store End of an Ear, soon to celebrate its 10th year, surf the changing face of recorded music retail and become a must-visit for underground bands (either to shop or play), folks here for SXSW and record collectors from around the world. (endofanear.com) Is there another city this size as ridiculously excellent for cinephiles? There is an interesting screening literally every night of the week. Just check out Austin Film Society (where you can see everything from Polish art films to “Savage Gold,” a celebration of all things insane), the genre nights at the Alamo Drafthouse, not to mention screenings at the Paramount (espeically during their summer series). (austinfilm.org) (drafthouse.com/austin) (austintheatre.org) We can count four excellent filmmakers — Richard Linklater, Jeff Nichols, David Gordon Green and Robert Rodriguez — all completely different in style, tone and aesthetic goals, as local presences. Say what you will about the traffic and exhaustion of South By Southwest, but for two weeks or so in March, Austin gets to make taste in film and music. Period. (sxsw.com) Then there’s Max Meehan, who not only has a hand in “Savage Gold,” but also books Beerland, one of America’s essential punk rock clubs … (beerlandtexas.com) He also runs Inspire Pro Wrestling. Are you a wrestling fan? Over the past year, Inspire has put on well-conceived, well-executed matches once a month at the Marchesa. Long may they body slam.(inspireprowrestling.com)
Pamela LeBlanc: fitness and travel email@example.com, Twitter: @fitcityleblanc
Water skiing beneath the Pennybacker Bridge on Lake Austin as the sun comes up. (During the week, before work, when the water is glass.) Mountain biking at the Slaughter Creek Trail. Less crowded than Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park, it’s a roller coaster of shin-gobbling limestone and smooth dirt paths with just the right amount of challenge for a newbie. (austinparks.org) Running the American-Statesman Capitol 10,000 and hearing the band play the theme from Rocky as you make the turn from Enfield Boulevard onto the MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) access road. (cap10k.com) Riding a bike — or an electric bike! — up Lamar Boulevard, past cars stuck in traffic. Strolling the boardwalk, at night, with that fabulous new view of downtown. Frozen banana with peanut butter, chocolate and nuts from the Bananarchy trailer. (bananarchy.net) Breakfast tacos at Maudie’s on Lake Austin Boulevard on a weekend morning, when all the runners are there. (maudies.com) Secret Beach at Roy Guerrero Park. Swimming is officially illegal, but everyone does it. Just sayin’… (austinparks.org) Swimming from Red Bud Isle to Austin High during the Cap 2K swim race. (cap2k.com) Riding a road bike on the new separated, paved South Walnut Creek bike path that runs from U.S. 183 to Decker Lake. (austintexas.gov)
Melissa Martinez: online content producer and entertainment firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @melizzamartinez
Hanging out in the grass of the Capitol lawn enjoying a picnic, playing games and rolling down the hills. (tspb.state.tx.us) Sliding into a booth at Nau’s Enfield Drug, open since 1951, to enjoy a delicious bacon cheeseburger and a strawberry milkshake. (nausdrug.com) Lurking in one of the dark corners at the Draught House Pub enjoying a few brews from their excellent selection of drafts. (draughthouse.com). Walking over to Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop after dinner on Manor Road for a cupcake and beer. (sugarmamasbakeshop.com) Dipping warm chips in my favorite queso in Austin at Mi Madre’s. (mimadresrestaurant.com) Lining up at Casey’s New Orleans Snowballs for a snowball in any of their delicious pure cane sugar syrup flavors. (caseys-snowballs.com) Finding a new top or dress for unbeatably low prices at Treasure City Thrift. (treasurecitythrift.org)
Matthew Odam: restaurant and travel email@example.com, Twitter: @odam
He may not have been born here or started his career here, but Willie Nelson put Austin on the map musically. He is the Godfather of Austin, embodying the city’s spirit. His natural ease and Zen nature beautifully represent that to which many Austinites aspire. Some of my earliest memories are of hearing his music and going to his fun run. (willienelson.com) Fittingly, Nelson starred in the pilot episode of “Austin City Limits,” the greatest music television show ever created. Nelson is justifiably memorialized in bronze outside the beautiful new studio. The show has evolved over the years, and I’ve been lucky enough to see acts like Willie, Wilco, Jack White, Sufjan Stevens, Sarah Jarosz, Radiohead and many perform for tapings. The intimate old studio was the best live music experience in town, and the new one at ACL Live is even better. The show represents Austin to the world, and it does us proud. (acltv.com) David Bull, Shawn Cirkiel, Tyson Cole, Todd Duplechan, Ned Elliott, Bryce Gilmore, John Lewis, Aaron Franklin, Janina O’Leary, Vilma Mazaite, Rebecca Meeker, Rene Ortiz, Paul Qui, June Rodil, Laura Sawicki, Mark Sayre, Iliana de la Vega, and the hundreds of other chefs, restaurateurs, sous chefs, line cooks, bussers, servers, and front of house folks who nourish this town with their creativity and incredibly hard work. My favorite way to end any meal is the foie nigiri with a glass of sauternes at Uchi, a world-class restaurant that marked a turning point for Austin cuisine when it opened in 2003. They sear the foie gras, glaze it with fish caramel and top it with candied quinoa for a perfect blend of texture and flavor. It’s a sensual experience. (uchiaustin.com) Sipping a glass of bubbles while slurping down oysters on the patio at Perla’s feels like vacation in your own town. (perlasaustin.com) I can get quality New York (Home Slice), Detroit (Via 313), New Jersey (Little Deli), Connecticut (Salvation Pizza) and Neapolitan style (Bufalina) pizzas in this town. Tam Bui and her sister, Tran Ngoc, infuse Tam Deli with their ebullient spirits and treat diners like friends. They’ve also reinforced the idea that I must visit Vietnam before I die. Lions Municipal Golf Course is just three miles from the heart of downtown, tucked into residential West Austin. I love the layout, the old-school grill, the temptation to drive the green on number 9 and the fact that it hosts the greatest golf tournament in Texas, the Invitational. I’m gonna miss the old girl when the University of Texas comes to take it from us. (ausitntexas.gov) The Paramount Summer Classics Film Series transports me through time and space and reminds me why I love cinema. It also allows me an opportunity to interact with the charming red coat ushers like Flo Thompson. I love hearing their takes on music and movies, both classic and modern. You might be surprised by what some of them like. (austintheatre.org) Whether it’s for the Austin City Limits Music Festival, which I’ve never missed, walking my dog, playing soccer or tossing the Frisbee, I’m always happy to be out on Austin’s Great Lawn — Zilker Park. And the views of downtown are spectacular. (austintexas.gov) The camaraderie among aspiring and accomplished writers at the Driskill Bar during the Austin Film Festival inspires me. A decade ago I would walk through the bar, wishing in some way to be a part of the action at the festival. I’ve covered it for 10 years now and dig it every time. (driskillhotel.com, austinfilmfestival.com) The sky in Austin at twilight hums with the beauty and ache of the world. Taking it in as I walk across one of the bridges over Lady Bird Lake is an ethereal experience, and soaking it in as I walk through my neighborhood (be it Zilker, Hyde Park or Crestview) has always made me feel at home. Few Austin businesses capture the electric, spontaneous and harmonious spirit of Austin the way JuiceLand does. (juicelandaustin.com) With its rebellious yet inclusive nature, the Mohawk ushered in a new era of live music and nightlife in downtown Austin when it opened in 2006. I’ve communed with great friends and seen some amazing shows there. Some I even remember, like Miike Snow, Spoon, Dinosaur Jr., Ghostland Observatory, Bob Mould and Too Short. (mohawkaustin.com) Every time I visit the Four Seasons, whether it be for a meal, a drink, a visit to the spa or to interview a visiting celebrity, the staff makes me feel like I’m the one who’s special. They do that for everyone. (fourseasons.com/austin) Stay a night at the Hotel St. Cecilia or visit friends at the hotel’s bar or pool and you’ll feel like one of the many rock stars who have stayed there. (hotelsaintcecilia.com) Every great city should have a club that celebrates America’s great art form — jazz. I’m grateful every time I’m able to dip into the underground catacombs of the Elephant Room. (elephantroom.com) A great jukebox, ice cold beer (nothin’ fancy), shuffle board and pool tables, and the polished gravel of a bartender like Ms. Dixie, equal parts hospitable and no-nonsense, is everything you’d ever want in a dive bar. The Horseshoe Lounge endures. Thankfully. (horseshoeloungeaustin.com) When I can summon the funds or the gumption to be stylish, I go to Service Menswear. Cool threads, great staff. (servicemenswear.com) Matthew McConaughey. “Alright, alright, alright.” “You just gotta keep livin’ man, L-I-V-I-N.” More than 20 years on, the words from Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused” live on, thanks to the man who made (who is?) David Wooderson. His recent renaissance (“Mud,” “Magic Mike,” “Bernie,” “Killer Joe,” “The Dallas Buyers Club,” the sublime “True Detective,” and November’s “Interstellar”) has been a joy to watch. He’s Austin’s Spirit Animal. (jklivinfoundation.org)
Dale Roe: lifestyle firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @djroe
Watching a slow-moving Round Rock Express baseball game at the Dell Diamond while a cool breeze wafts through the third base side seats offers a welcome respite from the pressures of daily life. A cold beverage, delicious ballpark food, the crack of a bat and the roar of the crowd can make the rest of the world disappear for a few precious hours. There’s a lot of great java in the area, but Cianfrani Coffee Company, a coffeehouse and roaster up in Georgetown, has the friendliest baristas and best coffee in the greater Austin metropolitan area. Regulars of all ages hang out here, and it’s a great place to work year-round. Whether it’s at a dedicated venue such as the Velv Comedy Lounge and Cap City Comedy Club or any number of coffeehouses or other alternative venues, Austin’s homegrown (and transplanted) standups are perfecting their routines at comedy open mics in the midst of a scene has never been more robust. Catch our future stars somewhere in town almost any night of the week. Taylor fine artist Amber Cunningham is responsible for much of the crazy fun decor at the Halloween House in Round Rock, an amazing indoor and outdoor display at 23 Meandering Way. She designed and created most of the Disney and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”-themed sculptures and assorted oddities at the behest of her friend, Katherine Duff, the home’s owner. Drive by to musical accompaniment or walk through one of Duff’s open houses. It’s always fun to walk inside a Chuy’s and see what new, pop culture-inspired T-shirts are for sale (they make really fun gifts). Also, there are plenty of things I will miss when I’m eventually ridden out of Austin on a rail, but this Tex-Mex staple’s steak burrito and tortilla soup will be pretty high up on the list. Early in the morning or just a while before sunset, when it’s not too hot, the Round Rock Dog Depot at Lake Creek Park is a great facility for your canine companions to enjoy a workout and socialize or, if you’re my socially awkward dog, Apollo, just circle the perimeter, sniff a lot and mark your territory. It features different areas for dogs of different sizes, and you’ll meet other friendly dogs (and their owners) there, too. Fresh spinach, bacon crumbles, mushrooms and a generous helping of Swiss cheese wrapped up in a fluffy pillow of eggs is the perfect way to start a Saturday or Sunday. The Ironman Omelette at Cafe Java in Round Rock is my go-to dish. For a healthier meal, substitute beans for hash browns. Bonus: Their coffee beans are roasted by Cianfrani. From our spectacular, candy-colored sunsets to the giant, kitschy sculptures sitting atop local businesses, to the mouth-watering plates turned out at our amazing restaurants, I’ve never known a better city for filling up one’s Instagram feed with photo opportunities that make friends across the country jealous that they don’t live here. Austin is why camera phones were invented. When the weather is right, the gentle breezes coming off the lake and the background chatter from the interesting clientele can inspire one’s brain in surprising and inexplicable ways. Writing on the deck at Mozart’s Coffee Roasters is a great way to take advantage of that unique atmosphere. The bottomless coffee is good, too. OK, technically this is Mozart’s, too. But each Dec. 13, I try to pick a restaurant near to the Christmas light show at Oyster Landing. My family and I celebrate my birthday (the Hula Hut is convenient) and then head over to enjoy hot chocolate and watch the amazing every-hour-on-the-hour Christmas light show, timed to music that always ends with the University of Texas fight song. It’s like a 1.21-jigawatt kick into the holiday spirit.
Courtney Sebesta: online news and entertainment email@example.com, Twitter: @thebesta
Sailing a 30-foot sailboat on Lake Travis and spending long summer days swimming, grilling and watching the sun set with friends. Weekend brunching with friends at Taverna in the Second Street District. Chicken and waffles, eggs Benedict and free-flowing mimosas are key. (tavernabylombardi.com) Attending the semi-annual Le Garage Sale featuring a treasure trove of designer, one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories from independent boutiques. Fabulous finds with huge markdowns. (legaragesale.net) Walking into the Hotel San Jose always makes me feel like I’m on vacation. When I want to feel girly, I drink a Champassion near the swimming pool. (sanjosehotel.com) Conquering my fear of the road bike by navigating Austin’s bike lanes from North Austin to downtown has been one of the highlights of living in Austin. The best part? The kindness of fellow bikers. Riding my bike along the Rosedale stretch of Burnet Road to reward myself with a Milano pizza and Thirsty Goat brew at Pinthouse Pizza. A festive beerhall experience in my neighborhood. My favorite vintage clothing discoveries have been at Feathers on South Congress. Each purchase is guaranteed to elicit compliments from strangers. (feathersboutiquevintage.com) The views from the overlook near the Pennybacker Bridge on Loop 360 are amazing. It’s probably what prompted my husband to propose to me there. Getting lost in the maze of knickknacks, antiques and can’t-live-without weirdly unique décor at Uncommon Objects. It’s like sifting through your Granny’s attic without the mothball smell. (uncommonobjects.com) I conjure my inner “Dude” once I step into Highland Lanes on Burnet Road. There’s an old-school, nostalgic feeling for me when I walk into this bowling alley. That and the quest to beat a personal best score of 225. (highlandlanes.com)
Deborah Sengupta Stith: music firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @deborific
The city’s ethos is built on a spirit of individuality. I’ve walked around town with a shaved head and a giant nose ring and no one batted an eye. After growing up in a small town, I love being in a place where I feel free to follow my oddball muse wherever it might take me. The fact that almost every restaurant in town has appealing vegetarian options. Eclectic lineup, taco cannon and other oddball aesthetic elements of Fun Fun Fun Fest. (funfunfunfest.com) The east side part of the Lady Bird Lake trail. (austintexas.gov) Riders Against the Storm, League of Extraordinary Gz, LNS Crew, Austin Mic Exchange and the new sense of unity in the Austin hip-hop scene. Austin Reggae Fest, a celebration of spring with diverse crowds and positive vibes for a great cause. (austinreggaefest.com) Ballet Afrique, Creative Action and all the wonderful ways to introduce culture to my little Stiths. (balletafriqueaustin.com; creativeaction.org) Niños Rock Pachanga, the best way to get your kids groovin’. (pachangafest.com) Scoping underground and international artists at South by Southwest. (sxsw.com) The way HonkTX with its scrappy DIY vibe marches through town the week after SXSW providing a perfect antidote to any residual corporate crassness. (honktx.org)
Jeanne Claire van Ryzin: arts email@example.com, Twitter: @ArtsInAustin
Wandering in and around the 1916 Italianate mansion and lakeside gardens known as Laguna Gloria. (thecontemporaryaustin.org) Long before just about any museum outside Latin America even gave Latin American art a second-look, the Blanton Museum was buildings its collection. It still impresses. (blantonmuseum.org) Marveling that in 1893, German sculptor Elisabet Ney built the idiosyncratic limestone building with the crenulated top as a studio for herself, not as a residence. It’s now a museum of her work. (austintexas.gov/Elizabetney) Biking past the snazzy mid-century sleek Mueller Airport Tower, a reminder that air travel was once elegant and exciting. Guerilla urban arts and culture efforts like the Little Free Libraries, the Red Swing Project and the communal map-making of Austin’s Atlas. (austinsatlas.com) Austin is supposedly the only city in the world to still have its Moon Towers, once mighty, now quaint late 19th-century urban lighting. And we have 17 of them. Running my hand across the hail-pocked metal tiles that line the elevators at the Long Center. Once the distinctive roof tiles of the Palmer Auditorium, in a brilliant bit of architectural re-purposing, the tiles live on. (thelongcenter.org) Delighting in the sheer crazy DIY energy of the East Austin Studio Tour. (eastaustinstudiotour.com) Strolling the Bremond Block Historic District and delighting in the confection of Victorian architecture. (austintexas.org) A secret getaway spot: The stately two-story reading room in Battle Hall, the 1911 Cass Gilbert-designed University of Texas building, now the School of Architecture Library. (utexas.edu)
Nicole Villalpando: family firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @raisingaustin
The Thinkery, which opened last December, is finally the children’s museum Austin deserves. Get your tickets online in advance to guarantee entry and don’t forget to step across the street for one of the coolest playgrounds in Austin. (thinkeryaustin.com) Mayfield Park, with its peacocks and trails, is a hidden gem that lets kids wander around rustic pathways. It’s like your own “Bridge to Terabithia.” The peacocks also are eager to put on a show. (mayfieldpark.org) The trails behind the Austin Science & Nature Center is one area of the center that people often overlook. Find the entrance by the aviary, which is another often ignored spot. (austintexas.gov) The koi pond bridge at Zilker Botanical Garden is a great spot for photos but also for exploring. Kids love watching the giants surface and also seeing flowers that float. (zilkergarden.org) The Zilker Summer Musical remains a family tradition for its simplicity. Spread a blanket, open up the picnic basket and watch a fun musical as the sun sets. “Hairspray” is coming up next. (zilker.org) The playground and café at Central Market North is a great space for play groups. Everyone can grab some kid-friendly or adult-friendly food and then sit outside and play. (centralmarket.com) Amy’s Ice Creams provides a delicious treat as well as a show as you watch the folks behind the counter toss ice cream in the air. (amysicecreams.com) The intimate children’s theater shows at Zach Theatre allow kids to see quality theater they almost can reach out and touch. “A Year with Frog and Toad” is on stage now. (zachtheatre.org) Peter Pan Mini Golf is an Austin tradition. Who doesn’t love trying to get past the dinosaur and the storybook characters? Plus, you can get snowcones afterwards. Be sure to bring cash, not credit cards. (peterpanminigolf.com) BookPeople’s children’s book department is great for seeing finding quiet spaces to curl up with a book. Legendary children’s authors also stop by to do readings. (bookpeople.com)
Eric Webb: content audience producer and culture email@example.com, Twitter: @ericwebb89
Going where everybody knows your name at Cheer Up Charlie’s. Calling the über-chill LGBT haven a “scene” would sound contrived. But the truth is that there’s no better place to be young and breathing in Austin on any given night. Been sipping their kombucha cocktails since the bar was on East Sixth? Hankering East Side King trailer grub and live outdoor music (or a drag show)? Ready to get repulsively sweaty to a DJ set of exclusively Beyoncé songs? The pink and blue neon sign beckons. (cheerupcharlies.com) Winding down a summer weekend at Cinema East. Screening independent films for free on the lawn of the French Legation, the seasonal series ties a bow on many a balmy Sunday night. Spread a blanket, pop the cork on the cheapest wine you can find at Quickie Pickie, sit back and relax. But I like to get there early: The short films before the main feature are often the best part. (cinemaeastaustin.com) Moving and grooving at Barbarella. Whether it’s the Cure on ’80s night, James Brown on Grits & Gravy night or Grimes on TuezGayz, you’ll always find your personal soundtrack at Barbs. And when you’re feeling claustrophobic, the expansive patio is one of Austin’s great mingling spots. (twitter.com/BarbarellaATX) Walking through a graphic design wonderland at Flatstock. Hiding in the Austin Convention Center amid SXSW’s glut of music showcases is this gig poster art show, featuring a diverse lineup of artists selling some truly exciting prints. I’ve made strolling the show’s halls a birthday tradition for the past eight years. (There’s this one Death Cab For Cutie poster I’ve had my eye on forever. I’ll buy it one day.) (sxsw.com/exhibitions/flatstock) Howling at the moon at Barton Springs Pool’s night swim. If you think the water is cold during the day, wait until you take the plunge at 9 p.m., when free admission kicks in. For an hour of pure aquatic anarchy, there’s no better place to embrace your primal side under the night sky. (austintexas.gov) Christmas waffles from 24 Diner. One downside to the holidays: Everything is closed. Not so at this Lamar Boulevard eatery, which keeps the candle burning even when St. Nick is in town. Since Katz’s Deli klosed in 2011, my family has gotten our Christmas Eve chicken and waffle game on at this Central Austin eatery. It’s also the ideal place to meet your best friend for a roasted banana and brown sugar milkshake when you’re finished staring at unwrapped presents on Dec. 25. (24diner.com) 2 for 1 Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Vulcan Video. If you’re indecisive like me, Vulcan’s impressive catalog of movies on VHS and DVD can be daunting in all the right ways. Their rent-one-get-one deal on Tuesdays and Wednesdays doesn’t actually help alleviate that pressure — it just means you have to make two impossible decisions. (vulcanvideo.com) Slaying a 1 a.m. rendition of “Under Pressure” at Austin Karaoke. I’ve always said that if you’re going to tackle classics from the likes of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, you should make sure to set the scene appropriately. The scene at my favorite North Lamar karaoke joint: in a strip mall of Korean restaurants, with a cooler full of BYOB falsetto fuel, paired with incongruous K-pop videos on the TV screen. The tambourine is optional, but I like to think Freddie would use one. (austinkaraoke1.com) Getting my ears lowered at Birds Barbershop. Growing up in Austin, bargain haircutters saddled me with the best bowl cut money could buy. Then I went to Birds before my senior prom. I haven’t trusted my follicles with anyone else since. (birdsbarbershop.com) Rejuvenation tacos from the Taco-Mex window. The communal experience of huddling around Manor Road’s orange taco window on a Sunday morning helps heals the bruises from Saturday night. It’s science. Now shut up and pass me my chorizo and egg medicine. (2611 Manor Road)