Austin, Texas, is one of the top places to live in the United States, according to US News and World Report’s 2019 ranking, and it boasts one of the highest rates of visitors turning into residents. Since the city’s development boom occurred after the advent of the car, the city is broken up into distant pockets; however, there are several walking routes visitors can take to experience the essence of the city.
Austin is home to the flagship campus of the University of Texas, and there is no better place to start a walking tour than at the heart that pumps the blood of the city – Darrell K Royal Stadium, home of the Texas Longhorns. Its seating capacity, which exceeds 100,000, has made it the eighth-largest football stadium in the United States.
Head west down 21st Street and you’ll see two of the campus’s prominent monuments: the Littlefield Fountain and, situated right behind it, the UT Clock Tower. Although a beautiful piece of architecture, the tower holds a bit of an eerie history: it’s where the gunman stationed himself before committing one of the country’s first mass shootings, in 1966.
From the Littlefield Fountain head down University Avenue and make a left on Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard and you will enter the city’s self-declared museum district. On your left, you’ll see the Blanton Museum of Art where there are unique pieces and exhibitions from around the world. Across the street, down Congress Avenue you will see the Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Continue straight down Congress Avenue and you will be greeted by the Texas State Capitol, a national historic landmark that sits right in the core of the city. Also known as the Pink Dome, it’s where the Texas legislature convenes every odd year. At 303 feet (92 meters) tall, it is taller than the United States Capitol in Washington DC and is the sixth-tallest state capitol in the country. The facility is open to the public, so feel free to head straight in, or enjoy the campus ground surrounding the building.
Continue through the Capitol and you will reach the mouth of Austin’s historic Congress Avenue. Just head south and check out the famous Paramount Theater, where A-list acts in music and comedy are often headlining. Next, stop at the Jones Center for Contemporary Art to see what the latest exhibition is.
At this point in the walk, you’re probably getting a little hungry, maybe a little thirsty. Well, off Congress Avenue make a left onto Sixth Street and introduce yourself to a litany of bars and restaurants in the city’s most electric entertainment district. Must-sees are the historic Driskill Hotel, where the back bar has the best local beers and handcrafted cocktails, and Easy Tiger, a bakery with amazing bread and an underground bar with one of the most niche beer selections you’ll find in the city.
After you leave Easy Tiger, continue in the same direction to Red River Street and check out the Red River Cultural District, an entire street dedicated to music venues. The Mohawk at 10th and Red River streets is saddled up right next to Cheer Up Charlie’s. A couple paces south you will see Stubb’s Amphitheater. You can stop into any of these places and check out the bar, or if there’s a show going on, grab some tickets and rock out.
Head back down Red River Street, make a right on Fourth Street and make your way back to Congress Avenue to head south along the South Congress Bridge. The bridge boasts one of the best views of the city against the Colorado River. If it’s around dusk, you may be able to catch Austin’s world-famous bat show, where some of the 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats that live under the bridge come out at once to eat insects. The congregation of bats under the bridge is the largest urban bat colony in the world.
If you continue south on South Congress Avenue, you will eventually touch the South Congress, an entertainment district where world-class restaurants, shopping and music venues converge. Near the north end of the neighborhood you can find the world-famous blues joint the Continental Club. Across the street is Jo’s Coffee, where you can snap a picture in front of the “I Love You So Much” graffiti mural. Right next door sits the very chic Hotel San Jose where Austin celebrities can often be found enjoying a drink. Up the hill, you can find June’s All Day, a French brunch spot. But no Austin tour is complete without some tacos. Touch the top of the hill and you will encounter Torchy’s Tacos, an institution inseparable from the city’s identity. Grab a breakfast taco and some of the beloved queso and call it a day.