Austin, Texas was the first destination to which I traveled by myself. It was also the first destination to which I traveled a second time. Why? Austin is proud of its individuality and is happy to share it with visitors. The citizens I encountered during my visits were open-minded, creatively-inclined, and more than happy to strike up a conversation while waiting in line at a food truck. There’s plenty to do in Austin, from partying on 6th Street to hiking Barton Creek. However, below are my top 5 reasons to visit Austin, Texas:

Reasons to Visit Austin, Texas

1.  The Cathedral of Junk & Baylor Street Art Wall

I went to the city’s Mexic-Arte Museum and the Blanton Museum of Art, but the coolest art in Austin won’t be found hanging on a wall. No, to see some truly one-of-a-kind artistic expression of Austin’s “weird” personality, you must venture outdoors.

First, check out the Cathedral of Junk, a magnificent creation that feels like you’re exploring a hyper child’s imagination. Located in the backyard of the artist’s house, this large structure is comprised entirely of junk, from creepy doll heads to bicycle wheels to dented kitchen supplies. You can walk through multiple levels of the “cathedral,” look out from the balcony, sit in the throne, and even play with the artist’s dog, all the while absorbing a feast for the eyes.

Reasons to Visit Austin, Texas

Equally as cool as the Cathedral of Junk is the Baylor Street Art Wall. Based around the walls of a condominium project that was never completed, the structures display world-class graffiti art that consistently changes. It’s fun to hop about the grassy area to explore the various styles and messages. Chances are, you’ll even see some of the artists at work!

 2.  The Quirky Shops

As someone who usually is against shopping while traveling, I genuinely enjoyed the quirky offerings of Austin’s boutique shops.  Browse the many funky stores and art galleries of South Congress (SoCo) to encounter colorful cowboy boots, antique oddities, vintage threads, naughty costumes, classic candies, and more. Plus, there’s plenty of restaurants along this stretch that will keep your stomach full, thirst quenched, and taste buds satisfied.

Reasons to Visit Austin, Texas

3.  The Food

It seems like every American city has an iconic dish that every visitor must try at least once. Montreal has poutine, New Orleans has Po’boys, Baltimore has crab cakes, etc. Sometimes the dishes prove worthy of the hype, and other times the food leaves you feeling disappointed (as a Philadelphian, I’ll be to admit that our cheesesteaks don’t live up to the buzz). Let me reassure you that Austin’s BBQ is a truly religious experience!

My boyfriend and I went to Salt Lick BBQ at which we ate heaping amounts of moist brisket, pork ribs, sausage, and turkey. Each mouthful was heaven and fully justified the achingly full stomachs we endured for the rest of the evening.

Of course, no trip to Austin would be complete without authentic Tex-Mex. Some of the best tacos in the area can be found in lunch trucks. However, I encourage you to venture outside the traditionally Texan dishes to taste Austin’s youthfully progressive food scene.

Reasons to Visit Austin, Texas

4.  Enchanted Rock

Less than 2 hours outside the city is Enchanted Rock, a destination I’m surprised hasn’t garnered natural attention. Described by Texas Parks and Wildlife as a “massive pink granite dome rising above Central Texas,” it’s a mecca for rock climbers. The two of us had no previous experience but, with the help of our guide, conquered impressive heights and witnessed spectacular views. Even visitors who don’t climb will enjoy the hiking opportunities.

Reasons to Visit Austin, Texas

5.  The Music Scene

Are you a fan of all-American alternative rock? Or perhaps you prefer blues or country? Regardless of whether you’re visiting Austin on a Tuesday or a Saturday, the city will provide live music that suits your specific preferences.

I randomly ventured into many of the city’s bars and music halls in which musicians were playing, and was blown away by almost every single performer. Austin’s title as the “Live Music Capital of the World” is certainly hard-earned!

Both of my trips to Austin were during the wintertime, so I’m aware that I still have plenty of new things to see in this booming city. After all, I have yet to witness swarms of bats fly out from the Congress Avenue Bridge, or attend to the world-famous South by Southwest Music festival.  Have you been to Austin?  What do you think the top reason to visit Austin is?

Let me know in the comment section below what YOU think the top reasons to visit Austin are and which of the city’s highlights are your favorites!

This guest post was written by Rachel Lowe. A native-Pittsburgher who now calls Philadelphia home, she prides herself on her willingness to try new things, whether it’s eating termites right off a tree or swimming with sharks. Check out her travel blog to follow her latest adventures.  Header CC image from Flickr: Blue Hour Skyline, Austin by Dave Wilson

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