After Landing: Austin - United Hub
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After Landing: Austin

By The Hub team

After Landing is a travel guide series dedicated to bringing you insider tips and local recommendations on what to see and do in some of our favorite cities. Check back often for new destinations.

For the second year in a row, Austin, Texas, was named the best place to live in the US, and it's easy to see why. While not everyone can live here, everyone can certainly visit. And when you do visit, you should reference this insider guide full of tips and recommendations from our employees aka our own travel experts who have explored Austin and know the city well.

Get to know the Live Music Capital of the World

Chosen as the state's capital in 1839, Austin was originally called Waterloo. Shortly afterward, the city was named Austin after the father of Texas, Stephen F. Austin, the republic's first secretary of state. Now a growing city with a small-town vibe, Austin combines some of America's most laid-back bars and music venues with incredible street art, Tex-Mex cuisine and outdoor beauty.

Your arrival

You'll fly into Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, eight miles south-west of downtown. Jump on the 100 bus and be downtown in 25 minutes. They run every 30 minutes, priced $1.25 one way.

Where to stay

To get your bearings, think of Austin as a city of two halves, divided by Lady Bird Lake. The Lake is a reservoir not a lake but it feels more like a river, dividing Austin into North and South.

To the north is downtown, home to the financial district, museums, upscale bars and restaurants, but also the iconic Dirty Sixth, a stretch of dive bars and gloriously grungy gig venues.

South of the Lake is South Congress Avenue, or what the locals call SoCo. This side of town boasts a mellower, laid-back vibe and an excellent mix of independent boutiques, restaurants, music and art venues, hip coffee houses and an ever-growing number of food trucks. While traffic and driving can present problems in Austin, both halves are easy to explore on foot.

While it's possible to find excellent hotel options to suit all budgets south of the river, you'll generally have more choices downtown.

What to see & do

"The locals always say, 'keep Austin weird,' and that's exactly what it is. So diverse and weird, from bats under the bridge on South Congress to fabulous Americana music by Dale Watson, to bingo at Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon to Lala's, a bar decorated like Christmas all year long," — Miriam S. San Francisco base supervisor.

Plan to spend a lot of time outdoors: Austin is home to more than 300 parks and more than 30 miles of urban trails, and they're full of healthy looking Austinites. When the sun's shining, a stroll through Zilker Park is hard to beat. But give it a try by hopping aboard the miniature retro train that winds along the river and through some of the park's 350 acres. It's also home to Barton Springs Pool, an outdoor pool with crystal-clear water with supposed healing properties.

Denver based flight attendant, Jera B., share her tips and recommendations on what to see and do in Austin

Head to Lady Bird Lake, and you can ride bikes, kayak, paddleboard or just stroll. The Ann & Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail & Boardwalk is a beautifully scenic 10-mile trail that loops around the Lake and can be shortened via several bridges. For a more elevated view, head to nearby Mount Bonnell. It's only 775ft, but it offers sweet views of Austin and beyond.

For history, head to the Texas Capitol and take a free tour or watch government in action – the visitors' balconies overlook the House of Representatives and Senate chamber galleries, open to the public when state legislature is in session.

"Austin has a special place in my heart. It was the place my husband and I moved in together and later got married. It is such a cool, hip and laid back area. One of my favorite things is Rainy street: it's where they have taken homes and turned them into bars and backyard hotspots. Very fun and trendy," says Denver based flight attendant, Jera B.

Austin's indie art scene is unmissable. Graffiti and murals adorn buildings throughout the city, from Bob Dylan and Bob Marley to friendly frogs and sausage dogs, you're essentially strolling through the city's open-air art gallery. Head for Hope Outdoor Gallery for the most remarkable collection. If you prefer a more 'conventional' set-up — i.e. a roof on your gallery – Austin Art Garage and Art On 5th are two of many worth visiting.

If you only visit one Austin store, make sure it's Uncommon Objects, a vast collection of curious oddities that has to be seen to be believed.

And don't leave town without watching Austin's bats. At dusk, between mid-March and early November, some 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats nest under Congress Avenue Bridge and emerge to feed on insects at dusk. Watch from the banks of the Colorado or hop aboard a bat boat.

What to eat & drink

While there's much more to Austin's food scene than tacos and BBQ, you'd be a fool to skip town without sampling both. For tacos, kick-start the day with breakfast tacos at the legendary Torchy's Tacos, Güero's or Juan In A Million, standouts in a city spoiled for choice. For drool-worthy BBQ, head to the legendary Franklin Barbeque (lunchtime only) and stand in line.

Brittany G. pictured with a friend outside of Salt Lick | Photo credit: Brittany G.

Whatever you eat, wash it down with craft beer. Few cities have embraced the craft beer movement more than Austin, with Easy Tiger, Craft Pride or Batch Craft Beer & Kolaches at the forefront.

"I went to Austin with a group of friends and had the ultimate day — we bought cowboy boots at Allen's Boots and then wore them to the Salt Lick. We bought local beer because the wait at Salt Lick is so long but were able to sit under the trees, eat amazing food and have a great time. I highly recommend for trips with friends as it provides good fun," says advertising manager, Brittany G.

Alternatively, for killer cocktails and the kudos that comes from finding a hip-but-hard-to-locate bar, head to Garage on Colorado. It's hidden inside a multi-story car park and though it has no sign, you'll know you're near when you see the My Name Is Joe coffee trailer parked out front.

"And for breakfast anytime head to Magnolia Café," says Miriam S. "Magnolia Café has an amazing and eclectic menu and is just up the hill (on South Congress) from the Continental Club which you should also add to your list for live music."

Austin focus: Live music

Thanks to the annual SXSW festival and a world famous live music scene, Austin proudly proclaims itself to be the Live Music Capital of the World'. Head to Geraldine's, Antone's or Paramount Theatre and you'll quickly see why. Check the Austin Chronicle, available everywhere, for live listings.

Best time to visit

Unless you enjoy sweat and almost unbearable humidity, avoid Austin in the summer — the temperature climbs into the mid and high-90s from June through August. September-November and March-May are more bearable (70s and 80s), while the winter months (December-February) stay mild and dry. But be aware that if you visit in March, the city is swamped with SXSW festival goers.

Getting there

United Airlines offers flights to Austin from many cities throughout the U.S. For more information and to book your Austin adventure, go to United.com or download our convenient United app. And while you're there, share your adventures on social media with the hashtag #UnitedJourney.


Discover more destinations in the After Landing series:

After Landing: San Francisco

After Landing: Denver

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