Life After Brooklyn: The best things to do in Austin


Austin is often considered a liberal oasis in Texas, but it’s also a literal oasis, with lots of natural swimming holes like Barton Springs. Photo: Austin Convention Visitors Bureau

We interviewed former New Yorkers about their new lives in Austin and then asked them to share their favorite things to do, so you can enjoy them the next time you visit. A map of all these spots is below.

Photo: South Congress Cafe

Tamara Russell

1. South Congress Café: They make the best mojito for $3 during happy hour, and the carrot cake French toast and their crab cakes are so good!
2. The ABGB: Great beer selection, live music, and great food.
3. Zilker Park: Great trails along the river to go running or walking, you can go kayaking, play soccer or volleyball, sunbathe at Barton Springs Pool… overall it’s a great place to hang out and relax
4. Austin Central Library. I love the rooftop deck overlooking the river.
5. Sno-Beach: They make the best snow cones!
6. Mt. Bonnell: Amazing views of the river and the city skyline. It’s a great place to watch the sunset

The upstairs bar at Mattie’s. Photo: Nick Simonite

Jack McFadden

1. Mattie’s: A combination of old school and new school Austin and something that strangely reminds me of New England in a way. Service and drinks are fantastic, and the food is good too.
2. Indian Roller: A bar in a house with a huge yard in South Austin. Sometimes they have little flea markets or vendors there on weekends too. It’s super chill and feels very Austin.
3. Fonda San Miguel: In this crazy burgeoning restaurant scene, it’s cool to know Fonda is still doing amazing things (since 1975!) and it’s a great date night. I imagine this was the most expensive place to eat in town for a while, but it’s a total bargain now.
4. Matt’s El Rancho: On the flip side, in our neighborhood, we love taking the kids to Matt’s El Rancho. It’s touristy, but they have a great backyard, queso, and the kids love it so it turns into the easiest night of the week for us.
5. End Of An Ear: The best record shop in town. It’s a perfect way to spend a shitty weather day (few and far between but) and comb through the bins. You can even take your winnings across the street to Casino Southside Lounge and go through your new purchases over a Pearl Snap.

Photo: Kemuri Tatsu-ya

Jolene Bouchon

1. Walnut Creek Park is way north and lots of mountain bikers go there. You can be in the middle of that park and not hear or see any signs of city life. Going there is like my therapy.
2. Kemuri Tatsu-ya is a restaurant that I love, and I think it embodies the spirits of Austin: laid back, and drinking on patios.
3. Driving the 360 loop: When you’re driving west and you start seeing all the limestone and the rolling hills, it’s really pretty.
4. Natural Gardener: A big garden center with native plants. They have goats and free classes.
5. Northwest Park and municipal pool, because it’s convenient and communal, and you can go there on a Saturday in summer and see everyone in the neighborhood there.

A pulled pork sandwich at Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew. Photo: Stiles Switch

Jenny Davis

1. Patika Coffee for a good pour-over.
2. Barton Springs because it’s the soul of Austin.
3. Polvos because it’s old school Tex Mex, and their margaritas will knock you sideways.
4. Stiles Switch BBQ, because it doesn’t have the long lines of Franklin’s and is still delicious.

Deep Eddy Pool, which overlooks the Colorado River. Photo:

Erica Lies

1. Deep Eddy Pool: I’ll take it over Barton Springs any day.
2. Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors
3. Every improv theater in town.
4. The French Legation lawn, especially when Cinema East used to have outdoor movies there in summer.
5. I’ll always have a soft spot for many, many places on the UT Austin [campus]. I worked there almost ten years, and it’s what brought me here, after all.

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