Austin is Texas’s most creative city – and now it’s even easier to visit
Austin is Texas’s most creative city – and now it’s even easier to visit
Austin is Texas’s most creative city – and now it’s even easier to visit
Austin is Texas’s most creative city – and now it’s even easier to visit
Austin is Texas’s most creative city – and now it’s even easier to visit
Austin is Texas’s most creative city – and now it’s even easier to visit
Austin is Texas’s most creative city – and now it’s even easier to visit
Austin is Texas’s most creative city – and now it’s even easier to visit
Austin is Texas’s most creative city – and now it’s even easier to visit
Austin is Texas’s most creative city – and now it’s even easier to visit
Austin is Texas’s most creative city – and now it’s even easier to visit

Austin is Texas' most creative city — and now it's even easier to pay a visit
From Texas ribs to cool live music venues (Picture: Laura Millar / Getty)

It’s ten o’clock at night in downtown Austin and I’m about to get dirty.

Well, I’m about to explore the ‘Dirty Sixth’, a stretch of historic Sixth Street so-named for its profusion of live music venues, dive bars, food trucks and restaurants.

Crowds are milling around in the still-warm summer air, music drifts out of doorways and the general vibe is party central. My mates and I start queuing to get into a venue called the Cedar Room but change tack when we spot a man wearing a T-shirt proclaiming ‘Dirty Bills: The worst gay bar in Austin’.

He tells us that the joke is because it’s not a gay bar at all but our interest is piqued anyway and we head there for $8 margaritas and a 1980s soundtrack that somehow means we stay up, dancing, until the small hours.

Austin Texas
Welcome to Austin (Picture: Laura Millar)
Austin Texas Credit -Travel Texas
This fast-growing city also has a more modern side (Picture: Travel Texas)
Austin's sixth street at dusk.
But it’s still got that Texas charm (Picture: Alamy Stock Photo)

Austin has that vibrant effect. And it’s partly thanks to its unique mix of creatives and innovators that has seen it become the fastest growing city in the country.

Tech is a particular hot ticket – only last year, Elon Musk relocated his Tesla HQ here, while Facebook’s Meta is constructing the tallest building in the city, which will beat the one Google had built last year.

Even my hotel is swarming with tech bros, thanks to a major crypto conference being held here at the same time.

Five of the best music bars and venues in Austin

Moody Theatre

The venue for Austin City Limits, TV’s longest running music show (it began in 1976 after the pilot, shot in 1974, starred Willie Nelson). It’s seen acts such as Garth Brooks perform and, in 2002, it spawned the Austin City Limits Festival.

Broken Spoke

One of Austin’s famous honky-tonks, this Texan dance hall is where you can try your hand – or, more aptly, feet – at two-stepping to live country music. It holds dance lessons at 8pm from Wednesday to Sunday.


Known as the ‘Home of the Blues’, this live music venue was originally opened in 1975 by Clifford Antone, who also had his own record label. It’s played host to blues greats such as BB King, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.

The Mohawk

A grittier venue in the Red River District, it has three levels, with the stage on the ground floor and a rooftop patio. A relative newcomer to Austin’s live music scene – it opened in 2006 – it stages gigs featuring all kinds of genres.

The Continental Club

An intimate venue, it opened in 1955 and is recognised as one of the city’s landmarks. It began life as a swanky supper club, before morphing into Austin’s first burlesque club. Today, it’s one of the city’s premier musical locales.

Aside from the live music available 
on what seems like every street corner, Austin plays host to cool annual events such as SXSW, a film, music and tech festival, and Austin City Limits, another music festival. It also hosts Formula 1.

So it’s no wonder Virgin Atlantic chose the city as the place to launch its first new American route for five years.

The demand has been so high that it has already decided to increase flight availability from four days a week to daily from next spring.

Another part of Austin’s charm is the food scene. Everyone’s heard of Texas barbecue (grilled and smoked meats, from beef to brisket) and, from the heady aromas floating across the street every morning from Iron Works BBQ next to my hotel, to Terry Black’s BBQ, which boasts an industrial-sized smoking room, grease is the word. One of the most popular is Franklin’s, where people will happily wait in line for ribs, pulled pork and more, for nearly three hours.

Grease is the world at Terry Black’s BBQ (Picture: Shutterstock)
Terry Black's BBQ Austin Texas picture:
Just look at the size of those ribs (Picture: Facebook/ Terry Black’s BBQ)

‘People come here at 8 or 9am – it doesn’t open till 10.30am – with deck chairs and a six pack, just to ensure they get their fix,’ says Joel from AO Tours, who takes me on a whistlestop bus tour of the city (£34).

Within the next three hours, he points out some of the most interesting sights, including the Congress Avenue Bridge, from which flocks of the bats who live under it emerge at dusk in spectacular, and photogenic, fashion.

There’s the statue of Willie Nelson, who is largely credited with putting Austin on the music map; the Capitol building, whose dome stands taller than the one in DC; and a plethora of speakeasies that have played host to musical icons such as Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.

Three more Austin top spots

Barton Springs

Swimming at Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas, USA
A swimming spot not far from the city centre (Picture: Alamy Stock Photo)

Barton Springs is a set of four natural springs found at Barton Creek inside Zilker Park. Austin-dwellers make a beeline here on hot days for swims, picnics and beer blasts.

State Capitol

Texas State Capitol Austin USA
Everything sure is bigger in Texas… (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

With a dome taller than the one in Washington DC, the State Capitol building is situated among 22 acres of parkland and, by square footage, is the largest in the US.

Mount Bonnell

Mount Bonnell, Austin, Texas
Head up here for views across the city (Picture: Alamy Stock Photo)

One of the highest points in the city, Mount Bonnell, in Covert Park, stands at 781ft. Once you get to the top, you’re rewarded with views of downtown and the Percy V Pennybacker Jr Bridge.

Sculpture of Willie Nelson in Austin Texas.  He is a country music legend born i Abbot, Tx.
Country music legend Willie Nelson is commemorated here (Picture: Alamy Stock Photo)
Laura Millar Lone Star Ranch Austin Texas picture provided by Laura
Howdy cowboys… (Picture: Laura Millar)

But you can’t forget Austin’s cowboy culture. I spend a happy afternoon at the Lone Star Ranch, just 20 minutes outside the city centre, where I ride a not-so-lonesome trail through a nature reserve on a good-natured steed named Smokey (from £70).

I fall in love with ranch owner Tina’s beautiful turquoise cowboy boots, and she dispatches me to Allen’s Boots, on South Congress Avenue, where every self-respecting cowboy and cowgirl gets kitted out.

Their range of boots is legendary – they come in every colour, with intricate embroidery – and I say a hearty yee-haw to both them, and to Austin itself.

Want more American adventures? Try Motown magic

Detroit’s Motown Museum has just reopened after a $55million (£48million) expansion and its ready to tell visitors the story of the soulful sound that changed American music.

The Motown label had a clutch of the best names in the industry on its books, from Marvin Gaye to Smokey Robinson, The Supremes to Stevie Wonder.

Take a trip to Michigan to immerse yourself in its history, and don’t miss other highlights such as the Henry Ford museum, which charts the evolution of the car industry that dominated Detroit, and Mackinac Island, a charming islet where cars are banned.

Bon Voyage has a 12-day, tailor-made, fly-drivetrip including return flights, accommodation and car hire from £2,455pp.

Return flights from London to Austin start from £519 via Virgin Atlantic; rooms at Fairmont Austin from £145pn. For more information visit

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