Things to Do In Austin In May
Diverse, fun and infused with culture, Austin is the capital of Texas and home to a prosperous community and a wide variety of culture, from the world class cuisine in the many fine restaurants, the growing population of infamous tech companies, the summer festivals and creative atmosphere, to the magnificent country music in what is also referred to as the Live music capital of the world (although Nashville, Athens, and other cities might have some arguing of that point).
Here are some great things to do when you visit Austin:
- Austin City Limits
I grew up seeing acts including Willie Nelson, Little Feat, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Lyle Lovett, Merle Haggard, George Strait, REM, and everyone who was anyone play at Austin City Limits. The same is true today. It’s like playing at the Grand Ole Opry, but open to acts that today include the Arctic Monkeys, Lumineers, Alabama Shakes, Bon Iver, and this year Robert Plant even played. I put this as number on on my Austin list. If you never come back, you have to do this. Even if you’re a vegetarian (‘cause yup, #2 is eat BBQ).
You should also check out the Paramount theatre. But not until you’ve seen a show at Austin City Limits.
- Enjoy some of the best BBQ food in the world
Smokey Denmark’s, Valentinas Tex Mex, Lamberts and Rollin Smoke BBQ; Austin is overflowing with amazing restaurants serving the most succulent meats, steaks, ribs and barbecue delights. While the town may be synonymous with live music, this is certainly the case when it comes to food and in particular, barbecued food. You would be hard pushed to find a better selection of barbecue restaurants anywhere in the US, or the world for that matter.
Freedman’s, Blacks and Kerlin all have an incredible menu on offer although they can also be a little expensive depending on your budget. However, if you make it to Ruby’s BBQ in the early evening, you can join the many students taking advantage of special promotions.
If you’re a vegetarian, go to Veggie Heaven instead
- Sample the infamous Austin nightlife
Often referred to as the “Live music capital of the world”, a night out on 6th Street in Austin is simply unforgettable and little wonder given how there are more than 150 live music venues offering a sublime mix of blues, jazz, rock, hip-hop and more. Some of the most famous of these venues are Club DeVille and The Mowhawk, while the Continental Club is renowned for being the birthplace of the music venue scene. And then there are the traditional dance halls where visitors can learn Texas Two Step, the Broken Spoke is arguably the most popular dance hall in Texas. Regardless of your interest, when you visit Texas in May, there will be no end of amazing experiences to sample after dark.
- Have food and nightlife
And for a fusion food/nightlife moment, check out the calendar for Stubbs and see if there’s a show you’d like gorge yourself by: http://www.stubbsaustin.com
- Explore the attractions in Zilker Park
Across the river in Austin, an enormous park is waiting to be explored, where you can hike, swim, climb of follow on of the many trails through stunning scenery. Zilker Park offers a quick escape from the bustling city and it is not only a leafy or scenic place to enjoy, but also home to several attractions including the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum, the Botanical Gardens and a Nature and Science Center which gives you the opportunity to unearth some dinosaur fossils.
- Take a cultural tour of the State Capitol
Restored in the 1980’s, the State Capitol is a prime example of the many cultural buildings still standing in Austin today. Originally opened to the public in 1888, the unusual pink color gives the architecture a unique identity and the exterior makes for an awe inspiring sight.
Visitors can take a fascinating tour of the interior of the building which includes the original hall chamber and the governor’s receiving room, while a self guided brochure will explain the background of each monument or room, and most of the grounds are also open for the public to explore.
- Get your hike on at Lady Bird Lake
Bike, hike, or just take a picnic to a beautiful spot, that is sure to delight. How much more Texas do you get when Longhorn Dam makes Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin? Apparently, the former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson was integral to the creation of this lake, and so it was later named after her. It’s like many lakes throughout downtown areas of major cities, with the addition that teams from the University of Texas can be seen here pretty much year round. I’ve seen people fishing here and while there are obviously polluted lakes around cities, this isn’t one of them. I might swim in it, but I certainly wouldn’t eat fish out of it. And if you happen to be there wen there are fireworks, it’s seriously amaze amaze amazing.
- Hike Some more
Mount Bonnell has a great view and a bit more expansive. Earlier in the summer is way prettier, before the dust makes everything a bit tan/reddish. It’s like Camelback in Phoenix.
- Check Out LBJ’s Presidential Library
From Monticello to the Carter Presidential Library, most former presidents have some kind of tribute to their time in office. And these offer a candid snapshot not only to the person who served that role, but also to the world they were in, and how that shaped their candidacy and presidency. LBJ was one of the more interesting presidents, serving in the House of Representatives from 1937-1949, as a US Senator from 1949 to 1961, as Vice President under Kennedy from 1961-1963 and then as President from 1963 to 1969. He served as president during Vietnam, civil rights turmoil, Medicare, immigration reform, reforms to social security, and so much more. But perhaps the most important thing about LBJ that I learned from visiting his library was just how much of a political machine he built, and how he could have run for another term, but had basically lost control of the party by the race in 1968. I love going to these kinds of places!
- Breakfast Tacos
Get your Torchy’s breakfast tacos. Seriously, almost as good as the breakfast burritos on that spot on Main Street in Santa Monica that I don’t think has a name. Crazy noms. Speaking of breakfast tacos, Polvos has the best guac in town in my opinion. I realize that might be fighting words for some. But rather than fight about it, I’d prefer to be proven wrong. J
- Keep getting your museums on
OK, so the Bullock Texas State History Museum, dozens of museums around the campus at the University of Texas, etc. Like mot capital cities, this one has no shortage of publicly funded places to see political, art (The Blanton Museum of Art), and other museums. Most importantly though, all things Texas. The Harry Ransom Center, and the list goes on and on.
- Circuit of the Americas
F1 racing. No need to say more! I think one of only 3 F1 tracks I’ve been to. Fun times and very different from other kinds of racing! And when you’re done, head over to K1 Speed of Austin for some racing of your own!
- Festivals in Austin, Texas
As with much of the summer months, Austin is a hive of activity in the month of May (e.g. if you’re there for www.acesconf.com
with a large number of festivals taking place. For anyone interested in film, the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival covers a variety of films from the Americas, the Caribbean and even the Iberia Peninsula. Most of these movies are of Latin origin, although some are based on other natives in the regions. The Old Pecan Street Spring Arts Festival is an enormous art festival which is most ideal for families and then the West Austin Studio Tour is a festival of a more general nature, showcasing the creative talent in the are through art galleries and exhibitions. Regardless of which one you choose, the festivals in Texas make for a great time to visit. Of course, there’s www.sxsw.com
as well, although I think Aces will be a little more fun. 😉
All college towns (and yes, Austin, I’m lookin’ at you as a college town) have decent to fair karaoke. Never great, never awful. Sing your heart out at Karaoke Underground. I did Public Image Limited. I was sober. OK, no, I did Sex Pistols and wasn’t…
- Learn to Two Step
Hit the Broken Stpoke or another bar to see people dancing the night away, the same way they’ve done since the 30s. Cowboy hats, boots, belt buckles, and a disposition that’s the only thing sweeter than the tea in these parts.
- Have great coffee
I like Dominican Joe. But like all the coffee shops in all the college towns in all the universes, I really don’t think you can go wrong… For example, Spiderhouse doesn’t have great anything, except peoplewatching.
I love me some sportsball. Especially football. And few places sport better fans than the University of Texas at Austin. People here bleed Burnt Orange. Not all, but most. This article is more for visiting in the spring (e.g. for Aces), but you know, even if you can’t see a game that time of the year, you can still ask a local “What do you think of Coach Strong?” Even if you don’t know anything about foosball (yes, that’s another pop culture reference), it’s still the right thing to do.
- Check out a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse
It’s one of those “Keep Austin Weird” kinda’ places. It’s an amazing theatre, where you can enjoy cult classic movies with a beer. Similar to the State Theater in Athens, Georgia. Big, cheep, usually crappy beer pairs very, very well with movie marathons.
- Buy weird stuffs
So much awesome. Such happy. Stop by the City Wide Garage Sale, Uncommon Objects, Charm School, and Monkies Vintage. And then head to the Cathedral of Junk so you don’t buy too much of it!