By Charles Brown, MD, MBA, FACOG
Keep Austin Weird.
This unofficial slogan puts the city’s spirit into words, giving Austin—a state capital, home to a major public university, and thriving business center—something special that endears itself to residents and visitors. Austin has a special place in its heart for odd, but fun, events, some of which take place during ACOG’s Annual Clinical and Scientific Meeting. In addition, there are plenty of longtime popular places that have differing degrees of weirdness, but all are wonderful.
On Saturday, April 28, the 55th annual Eeyore’s Birthday Party (Pease District Park; www.eeyores.org) takes place. What started as hippies spending a day in the park has evolved into a family event that raises money for charities, with costumes, games, music and Maypoles. Be aware—the hippies and their herbs are still present.
The 20th Annual Austin Dragon Boat Festival (www.atxdragonboat.com) takes place Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29, on Lady Bird Lake near downtown. Watch the colorfully decorated boats race and enjoy the festival on the shore.
The town of Buda, Texas, just south of Austin, will hold the 21st Annual Buda Weiner Dog Races April 28-29 (budalions.com). The two days of races also include a barbecue cook-off and many other festival events.
Live Music Capital
From the moment you step off the airplane, you’ll see what makes Austin go. There’s a music venue in the airport and signs naming Austin the live music capital of the world.
There also happens to be a music festival taking place while we’re in town for ACOG— Levitation, a psychedelic music festival celebrating its 10th year (www.levitation-austin.com). Many of the venues used for this festival — Mohawk Austin, Cheer Up Charlies, Barracuda, to name a few — are near the Austin Convention Center and some of the Annual Meeting hotels, so be prepared for a lot of tie-dye.
If you’ve never been to Austin and you want to experience what makes it special, visit the Broken Spoke (3201 S. Lamar Blvd.; www.brokenspokeaustintx.net). When it was built, the Broken Spoke was kind of on the outskirts of town. It’s a Texas country music place with food, a little museum and a dancehall with two-step lessons, Wednesday through Saturday, starting at 8:30. Then, the band starts after the lessons! Wear your boots, if you have them.
Another place that speaks to the roots of the city is the Hole in the Wall (2538 Guadalupe St.; www.holeinthewallaustin.com) next to the University of Texas campus. Many musicians played here before they became famous, and many come back to sit in unannounced.
Out and about
In Zilker Park is one of Austin’s most iconic places, the Barton Springs Memorial Pool. It’s a spring-fed municipal pool right in the middle of a big city. There’s no place like it and it’s a must-do experience for visitors. If you didn’t bring a swimsuit, go buy one! Zilker Park also has trails that lead back to Lady Bird Lake and downtown Austin, kayak and paddleboard rentals and the Zilker Botanical Garden. The Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum (605 Robert E. Lee Rd. www.umlaufsculpture.org) is in the area and is wonderful. Not too far from Zilker Park is the coolest mini golf course, Peter Pan Mini Golf (1207 Barton springs Rd.; http://peterpanminigolf.com), loved by both locals and tourists.
Another place that I would take visitors to is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (4801 La Crosse Ave.; www.wildflower.org). It’s a little bit out of town, but in the spring, it’s a lovely place.
Many of the standard tourist sites, like the Texas State Capitol, LBJ Presidential Library and the Texas State History Museum are all within 15 blocks of the ACOG hotels, and they’re great.
Between the capitol and the University of Texas is Women & Their Work (1710 Lavaca St.; www.womenandtheirwork.org), a nonprofit visual and performing arts organization that isn’t on most people’s tour lists, but should be. While in the area, visit the Blanton Museum of Art and their recently opened monumental work, Austin, by the late Ellsworth Kelly (200 E. MLK Jr. Blvd.; blantonmuseum.org/exhibition/ellsworth-kellys-austin)
Food and drink
Many Texas musicians have written songs about the food and drink in Austin — e.g., the Mad Dog Margaritas at the Texas Chili Parlor (1409 Lavaca St.).
The Rainey Street Historic District is a super-hot area right now for restaurants and nightlife. It’s just south of the convention center, heading toward Lady Bird Lake. There’s probably every kind of restaurant you could imagine and every kind of a bar scene, too, from bikers to folks in coats and ties. You’ll find a place that will make you comfortable. It’s the same story for the South Congress Street and East Austin areas. South Congress also has great shopping.
We have great breweries, but maybe the most interesting is Jester King Craft Brewery, a 2018 James Beard Award semi-finalist, which is west of Austin. It has unique, limited-quantity brews that beer aficionados from around the world seek out. It’s in Texas Hill Country… not that easy to get to, but beer and brewing fans will love it.