Most people think of downtown Austin as a nighttime destination, and it is. But there’s much more to do than drink on Sixth Street. This part of town can be just as fun — if not more fun — during the day as it is at night. Plus, you don’t have to share the sidewalk with over-served college kids and the messes they leave behind.
If you have the itch to go somewhere, downtown is an easy drive away where a walkable day trip awaits you. Here are five reasons to make your next day trip in town rather than out of town.
1. A dive immortalized in a Guy Clark song
Guy Clark’s lamenting song “Dublin Blues” begins and ends with these lyrics:
I wish I was in Austin,
In the Chili Parlor bar,
Drinkin’ Mad Dog Margaritas,
And not carin’ where you are.
You don’t have to be heartbroken to long for this place. You just need to love good chili. And you can have your chili in countless ways at Texas Chili Parlor and in varying degrees of spiciness. Start on the low end on the heat and work your way up. Otherwise, you’ll be chugging your Mad Dog Margarita to soothe the heat you weren’t ready to face.
This little dive is on Lavaca Street between 14th and 15th Streets.
2. A giant pink building
If you ask most Texas schoolchildren what color the Texas Capitol is, most of them will tell you gray, white or brown. But that’s totally wrong. As Austinites know, the building is made of pink granite.
In addition to admiring the architecture, grounds and monuments, you can take a free tour on the half hour during these time slots:
Monday through Friday – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Saturday – 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Sunday – 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
You’ll learn about the building and the people who make Texas politics notorious around the world!
3. Places to inject a little culture into your life
As you may know, Austin boasts an eclectic mix of museums, and many of them are downtown or within a few blocks of downtown. You won’t be able to take them all in in one day, so you’re going to have to choose.
Do you want to complement your Texas Capitol visit with more Lone Star State exhibitions? You’ll need to walk a three blocks north of the Capitol grounds to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Maybe historic homes are more your speed. Try the Susanna Dickinson Museum. This is the only surviving home once live in by Susanna Dickinson who survived the Battle of the Alamo and brought the news of the loss to General Sam Houston. This museum is right next to the O. Henry Museum and the Austin Fire Museum.
4. The best cocktail bar in Austin
According to readers of The Austin Chronicle, the best cocktail bar in town is The Driskill Bar. This swanky and stylish place inside The Driskill Hotel has ample elbow room and soft leather couches for you to kick back and relax with one of their signature cocktails like the Driskill Julep (Kooper Family Rye, simple syrup, mint) or the Texas Revival (TX Whiskey, St. Germaine, lemon, simple syrup). And you can order what The Driskill calls the official cocktail of Austin — The Batini (Tito’s Handmade Vodka, hibiscus & ginger simple syrup, agave sweet & sour).
5. A larger than life representation of Willie and Trigger
Austin’s most famous resident is probably Willie Nelson. This country music icon has a catalogue and career spanning more than a half century. An eight-foot tall statue of Willie with his famous acoustic guitar Trigger smiles to the intersection of 2nd and Lavaca Streets.
If you’ve never been to a Willie Nelson show, you need to buy your tickets now. He’s still in great shape, but an 83-year-old man only has so many 4th of July and New Year’s Eve shows left in him. See the statue, and see the real thing as soon as you can.