24 hours in Austin

Jacquie Byron finds tortilla, ribs and honky tonk in the Texan capital.

The live-music capital of the United States and the spot Lance Armstrong calls home, Austin is a city for lovers of tattoos, Tex-Mex and triathlons.


Austin is a fit city - just ask the joggers along Town Lake - but if you're holidaying then late nights and slow starts are on the cards.

Kick off with a coffee at Jo's in South Congress Avenue, where you'll get the closest thing to an Australian-style latte in the US, before heading up the road to Magnolia Cafe. Breakfast is served all day: the pancakes are a must, or settle for a breakfast taco.

Jo's Hot Coffee and Good Food, 1300 S Congress Avenue, Austin, see joscoffee.com. Magnolia Cafe, 1920 S Congress Avenue, Austin, see cafemagnolia.com.


Not many towns can offer stand-alone travel guides to vintage clothing, homeware and ephemera stores. Austin can.

Quirky stores go hand-in-hand with the city's official slogan: Keep Austin Weird. -You'll see it on T-shirts and bumper stickers everywhere. It was adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance in about 2003 to promote small businesses in the area.


Don't miss Uncommon Objects and Tesoros Trading Company in South Congress and Hog Wild Texas Vintage in the northern part of town.

Uncommon Objects, 1512 S Congress Ave, see uncommonobjects.com. Tesoros Trading Company, 1500 S Congress Avenue, see tesoros.com. Hog Wild Texas Vintage, 100 E North Loop Boulevard.


Austin's sizeable Mexican population means it's easy to find authentic dishes. A "sopa" (tortilla soup) at Tacodeli features fresh chicken broth, shredded chicken, onion, tomatoes, jalapenos, coriander and tortilla strips. If that doesn't suit, try the thing Texas is famous for - barbecue.

At Ruby's BBQ, with its low ceilings, autograph-covered tables and generous servings of sliced white bread, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better serve of brisket, ribs or chopped beef. And don't miss the Dang Pie - a fabulous mix of tinned pineapple and coconut that could come directly from a CWA cookbook.

Tacodeli South Austin at 1500 Spyglass Road or North Austin at 12001 Burnet Road, see tacodeli.com. Ruby's BBQ, 512 West 29th Street, just off Guadalupe, see rubysbbq.com.


Work off the food with a walk along what locals call Town Lake, a stretch of the Colorado River that winds through downtown and gives you lots of different views of Austin. The vegetation is lush but heed the warnings about poison ivy and don't miss the turtles sunning themselves on the rocks.

On the south shore of the lake is a life-size statue of Austin guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan. If you prefer politics to ponds you can walk into town and visit the Texas State Capitol, an opulent 1883 building, and the Capitol Visitor Centre in a restored 1856-57 building.

See texasoutside.com/townlake.htm; texasrowingcenter.com.


By now you'll need a drink. The Belmont has indoor and outdoor drinking and dining. Its decor is based on Las Vegas and Palm Springs of the 1960s and once you snuggle into one of the dark-green leather booths you may never want to leave. Make sure you try the Belmontini, an unexpectedly delicious mix of vodka, champagne and pineapple juice.

For some old-world southern charm, don't miss the Driskill Hotel. Built in 1886 by a cattle baron, this place is all marble floors, stained-glass domes and cowhide sofas.

The Belmont, 305 West 6th Street, see thebelmontaustin.com. The Driskill Hotel, 604 Brazos Street, see driskillhotel.com.


Austin is the home of North America's largest bat population. About 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats roost under Congress Avenue Bridge from March to October. At sunset they take off en masse in search of dinner. Take in the view from the Lone Star River Boat.

See lonestarriverboat.com.


Austin is billed as the live-music capital of the world and on any night you will find great bands, especially in the roots, country and blues genres, firing up amplifiers in 200 or so venues. Make sure you pick up a copy of The Austin Chronicle (out every Thursday).

South Congress has some classic venues such as the Continental Club (country, blues, burlesque) and Trophy's (beer only). Take a taxi downtown to Antone's, which over the years has Muddy Waters, B. B. King, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Junior Brown and Jimmie Vaughan.

The Continental Club, 1315 S Congress Avenue, see www.continentalclub.com. Trophy's, 2008 S Congress Avenue, see myspace.com/trophystx. Antone's, 213 West 5th Street, see antones.net.


No one sees just one band in a night in Austin and it's important you get a feel for the kind of venue Texans call honky tonks. Take a taxi to Ginny's Little Longhorn, where shows go from 9pm to 1am. This place is tiny but it doesn't stop folk from dancing. And if you really want to see Texan two-stepping, head to The Broken Spoke. An old-school Texan dance hall, the floor here fills with steppers aged 21 to 80. Buy your beer by the pitcher, try some chicken fried steak or just soak up the atmosphere.

Ginny's Little Longhorn, 5434 Burnet Road, see ginnyslittlelonghorn.com. The Broken Spoke, 3201 S Lamar, see brokenspokeaustintx.com.

For $1433 Qantas flies non-stop to Los Angeles, then a non-stop American Airlines flight to Austin (low-season return fare from Melbourne and Sydney, excluding tax). Australians require approval to enter the US before departure; register online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov.