Austin, Texas, is an up-and-coming city because of its hipster vibes and the locals’ laidback lifestyle. I am lucky enough to call this wonderful place my home and I wanted to share some of its best parts with you. Included on my lists are some of Austin’s most iconic spots like Zilker Park, as well as its hidden gems, like the Cathedral of Junk.

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  1. South Congress Avenue

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Just over the Colorado River live some of Austin’s most famous locations. Spend half a day and you will fall in love with just a small part of what this city has to offer. Take a walk down SoCo and you will come across the famous Hotel San Jose, an “i love you so much” graffiti wall (perfect for you and your significant other), Big Top candy shop (soda fountain included), Hopdoddy burger bar and Homeslice, my personal favorite pizza shop. If you’re in a curious mood, there’s Uncommon Objects, just one of the many antique shops on SoCo and Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds, your 1-stop costume shop. Look for some new (or old) threads at the chic boutiques, hipster sidewalk booths or the eclectic thrift shops all one one street.

  1. Green Belt

    Photo Credit: Zac Franklin
    Photo Credit: Zac Franklin

Pull out your best adventure shoes and spend a day venturing the Green Belt of Austin. This 7.9-mile trail satisfies all of your hiking, swimming, rock climbing and cliff diving needs. As one of the best outdoor spots for Austinites, it is most accessible at the exit located off Loop 360. Hike your way around the trail and you will come across gorgeous views and countless swimming holes. If you are up for the drive, Hamilton Pool is an escape from the city located in Dripping Springs. This pool is surrounded by Texas limestone perfect for jumping, the water is warm and there is almost always a rushing waterfall.

  1. Zilker Park/Barton Springs

In the heart of downtown lies the 350-acre park that brings in thousands of visitors every year. As Austin’s most loved park, there is a 10-mile trail, Zilker Botanical Gardens and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden. The park is home to different events like the Trail of Lights, a free summer concert series called Blues on the Green and even Austin City Limits Music Festival. Just across Barton Springs Road is the Barton Springs Pool, open year-round for swimming at crisp 68 degrees. Grab your dog, pack a picnic and enjoy this recreational refuge amidst the skyscrapers of downtown.

  1. Spiderhouse Café

Living up to Austin’s notorious hipster reputation, Spiderhouse Café is a study spot adored by students and is every acoustic guitar player’s nirvana. Complete with free Wi-Fi and two outdoor stages, Spiderhouse puts a twist on the traditional coffee house. Since 1995, natives can enjoy a cup of coffee amongst a collection of garden statues and Christmas lights while also listening to live (local) music. Spiderhouse is open until 2 a.m. every night, events are always happening and the café can even be rented out for private parties.

  1. Castle Hill

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Is it really a trip to Austin if you didn’t visit the Outdoor Hope Art Gallery? Located on Baylor Street, concrete walls of graffiti are perched on a hill overlooking the city. Visitors constantly add new graffiti to the walls so the art never remains the same. It’s an evolving art piece that anyone is allowed to change. Detailed portraits are mixed in with written weddings proposals and the latest memes. Artists and musicians usually camp out at the park, selling their art or performing original music. Bring a can of spray paint and leave your mark or simply enjoy your view as art is created right before your eyes.

  1. The Drag

    Photo Credit: Haley Rodriguez
    Photo Credit: Haley Rodriguez

Adjacent to the University of Texas are shops and restaurants most popular to college students and younger locals. This part of Guadalupe Street started as the primary location for students to buy books and eat dinner. Now, the street has various clothing shops like Tyler’s and Urban Outfitters to sweet eats like Moojo’s, a gourmet ice cream sandwich shop. If you stay up late, grab some vegan pancakes at Kerbey Lane Café, open 24 hours and take a photo in front of the ‘Hi, How Are You’ frog on the side of the ‘Thai, How Are You?’ restaurant.

  1. Franklin BBQ

There’s something in the BBQ sauce in Austin. Whether it is brisket, ribs or pulled pork, carnivores are in for a special treat while eating in the 512. From Kerlin’s, Stubb’s or the most raved about, Franklin BBQ, natives and tourists will hardly be disappointed.  Major downfalls include lines sometimes up to a 5-hour waits. Don’t be pessimistic though, the owner, Aaron Franklin, has BBQ down to a science. If you have some extra time in your itinerary, Franklin’s will definitely not disappoint your taste buds.

  1. Cathedral of Junk

    Photo Credit: Eric Kotara
    Photo Credit: Eric Kotara

In the backyard of a house in south Austin, the Cathedral of Junk quietly sits, unnoticed from the street. Vince Hannemann began building the Cathedral in 1988 as nothing more than that it was something cool to look at. He has collected pieces of junk and has turned it into art for all to enjoy. Some of the many objects in his piles and towers include kitchen utensils, old bike parts, TV’s, metal scraps and broken furniture grown into the trees and vines in Vince’s backyard. All visits are made by appointment but with a $10 donation, Vince and his dog, Smokey, are more than happy to let you explore his handcrafted maze of garbage.