Fill your social calendar with even more exciting places to eat, drink and explore the arts around Austin. Check out our hot list of what’s new, plus see who recently won awards and accolades.

Arts Scene

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The independently owned First Light Books is housed in a former Hyde Park post office. Order coffee or wine and browse the shelves filled with books. Comfy outdoor seating offers the perfect place to enjoy pastry or a sandwich from the on-site cafe. On select days, meet a featured author or bring the kids to story time.

At the Blanton Museum of Art, visitors are flocking to the fully transformed park grounds that connect The University of Texas at Austin campus to the Texas Capitol Mall. Gorgeous landscaping features public art (such as the 12-foot-tall “petals” that provide shade), patios and awesome views of the Texas Capitol. Inside the Blanton, two new gallery spaces are dedicated to Latino art. The museum recently purchased over 5,000 pieces from the private collection of Gilberto Cardenas and Dolores Garcia.

Devoted to showcasing Latino art and culture, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center is closed until 2025 as it renovates and expands. Exciting changes include the addition of a teaching kitchen, a gallery for community artists and a youth education wing. Until then, its many cultural programs are offered at other Austin locations. Check the Center’s social media for updates.

You’ll encounter mind-boggling sights and sounds at the interactive Museum of Illusions Austin, located at The Domain. Marvel at the optical illusions, where things might appear upside down or you’ll discover that you’ve grown or shrunk to epic proportions. How did the museum clone you or swap your nose with someone else’s? Find out during an afternoon of fun for all ages.

Bars & Drinking Spots

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The Violet Crown opens at 7 a.m. for coffee connoisseurs and keeps its doors open late for oenophiles. The coffee and natural wine bar strives to support small producers and farmers. Stop by in the morning for a flat white or cold brew paired with a pastry, donut or kolache. While sipping wine in the evening, choose small bites like a cheese board or potato chips with herbed dip. 

The whimsical decor of Lovebirds embodies its slogan “Light Heart – Heavy Pours.” Drinks here have cute names, such as the Ball & Chain whiskey cocktail, the gin-focused Head Over Heels and the Old Flame blood orange margarita. Perch on one of the blue velvet barstools inside or head outdoors to a picnic table on the dog-friendly patio. Check the schedule for special events like trivia night.

Take a trip through Austin’s past at Sign Bar. Inside and outside of this East Austin bar, loads of retro neon signs hearken back to long-closed local bars and restaurants. Sip a beer or craft cocktail while you drink in the history. When you get hungry, visit the on-site food truck. 

Sports lovers will feel right at home at Victory Lap, located near The University of Texas at Austin campus. Fans will love the splashes of Longhorns burnt orange and memorabilia throughout the indoor-outdoor space. Watch sports on a big screen on the lawn while drinking a frozen cocktail or cold beer.   

Swig champagne or classy cocktails at daydreamer. Original drinks include the Kentucky Kick, with Maker’s Mark bourbon and Grand Marnier, and the Gemini Rising, mixed with Tromba Tequila, Union Mezcal and passion fruit juice. Snack on sardines and caviar on the deck.

Food Trucks

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Order an espresso or iced horchata latte and you’ll immediately taste the difference at Cenizo, which uses Talisman Coffee’s locally roasted beans. Cookies, cinnamon rolls and croissants are served from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Sip and eat at a picnic table or under a leafy tree. The food truck is parked in southeast Austin, minutes from Circuit of The Americas.

A University of Texas at Austin athlete’s desire to bring homemade turkey dishes to the food truck scene resulted in Jive Turkey. The menu features three mains: The Jive burger; a cornbread bowl with slow-roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, gravy and cranberry sauce; and OG Jive, a deep-fried turkey taco. Jive Turkey is closed during Saturday UT football games. 

Austhentico specializes in made-from-scratch, gourmet Spanish fare. Chef Luis Felez, who attended culinary school in Barcelona, offers paellas, tapas, bombas, and noodle dishes with seafood or chicken. Five- and 10-inch sandwiches range from chorizo to a pepperoni-and-cheese melt for kids. 

Restaurants & Cafes

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You’ll find a delightful fusion of Japanese and Mexican fare at Ramen Del Barrio inside Hana World Market. Choose a cut of meat – shoulder, belly, buche or cuertios – topped with your choice of salsa, including a fire-roasted habanero version blended with classic Japanese burnt garlic oil. Traditional tacos, carnitas and tostadas join a variety of ramen on the menu. 

Cantonese tradition fuels the family-owned Soupleaf Hot Pot. Diners cook their own ingredients in a pot of simmering broth stationed in the center of their table. Choose from an array of meats, along with seafood, greens, root vegetables and noodles. Special sauces for dipping range from savory to sweet. 

You’ll find a Mediterranean, seafood-forward menu and extensive wine list at Gracia in Austin’s Rosedale neighborhood. The food and wine menus change frequently for perfect pairings. A sample dinner might include oysters of the day, crispy potatoes, halloumi and a swordfish skewer, followed by bay leaf gelato topped with baklava crumble for dessert. 

During the day, Community Garden creates smiley face acai bowls filled with fruit, granola and coconut water, offered with refreshing teas and kombucha. When the clock strikes 4 p.m., it’s time for happy hour, with local wines and brews, plus snack plates piled with crackers, pickles, olives and more. Enjoy it all on the shaded patio.

A neighborhood spot established in 1949 has been refreshed for its next chapter on busy East Sixth Street. Uptown Sports Club, open from 8 a.m. through 2 a.m. Wednesday to Monday, serves breakfast early and Louisiana-inspired fare like po’boys, grilled redfish, and red beans and rice late into the night. Drink options range from the Freeze! (made with ice cream) to mimosas and draft beers.

An executive chef who trained at Le Cordon Bleu helped create the namesake dish at Muzzy’s Bagels. Try bagel sandwiches like the spicy Italian sausage topped with a scrambled egg or a veggie lover’s dream, stuffed with cashew ricotta, arugula and oyster mushrooms. In the mood for Muzzy’s Bagels late night? You’ll find them from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. outside Outer Heaven Disco Club a few blocks away. 

Top Chef contestant Jo Chan teamed up with Tiny Grocer owner Steph Steele to open Bureau de Poste, a French bistro tucked inside the Tiny Grocer at 43rd and Speedway. Crepes, omelets and steak frites are delish for brunch. For dinner, start with ocean trout tartare before savoring the duck leg cassoulet. End your meal with crème brulee or the dark chocolate mousse. 

Awards & Accolades

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Hotel Magdalena earned the honor of being named Best City Hotel, Austin in the 2023 edition of Travel + Leisure‘s World’s Best Awards. The South Congress hotel features a fabulous restaurant — Summer House on Music Lane — in addition to a swimming pool in park-like surroundings, wellness activities and a boutique that stocks Texas items.

Kudos to Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop for receiving a James Beard America’s Classic Restaurant Award. Owners Joe and Paul Avila opened their Mexican restaurant in 1962. Today, daughters Rose and Carolina, along with granddaughter Regina, manage the local favorite. Joe’s serves breakfast and lunch from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

Forbes magazine recognized The Loren at Lady Bird Lake as the Best Hotel in Austin. The luxurious property features views of the lake and Zilker Park, the Milk + Honey Spa, retail stores, a cafe and Nido’s bar. 

Two Austin establishments received mentions in Yelp’s Top 100 US Restaurants 2023 list. Owned by Kevin and Lynn Le, 1618 Asian Fusion was ranked No. 22. Coming in at No. 99 was Thai restaurant Kiin Di on South Lamar Boulevard.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Austin City Limits Music Festival was one of the Best Music Festivals of 2023. This popular event, which features over 100 performances and a range of music genres, will return for two weekends in October 2024.

Wee’s Cozy Kitchen, founded by Malaysian native Weefong, was one of 50 places in the U.S. to make The Restaurant List for 2023, compiled by The New York Times. Don’t let the location fool you — you’ll find Weefong busily cooking her comfort food inside a Shell gas station.

Have you checked out any of these new spots? Share your adventures with us on Instagram by tagging @visitaustintx and using the hashtag #trueaustin.