Pack in Austin's Must Do Activities
This 2-day itinerary provides an overview of the city, plus plenty of cultural activities and Black-owned businesses to visit. Here, you’ll find a sampling of Austin's hits, with things to do, see and experience. Let our insider’s advice point you in the right direction for history and culture, as well as where to go for an amazing meal, a relaxing afternoon or a hot night out. Along the way, you'll get to support tons of local Black businesses, musicians, comedians, artists and more.
Rhapsody Mosaic. Credit Monet Hambrick.
Indulge in a decadent breakfast sandwich at the Manor Road location of Bird Bird Biscuit before spending the morning exploring nearby historic sites throughout Six Square, the city’s Black Cultural District. Walk the grounds of Austin’s Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Huston-Tillotson University opened in 1875 as the very first institution of higher learning in Austin. Learn more about the contributions of Austin's Black musicians throughout the decades at the Texas Music Museum, which showcases the artists and venues that made the Live Music Capital of the World® what it is today.
For lunch, try one of the many delicious combinations at Anything's Baked Potato, like the decadent Dirty Side (Andouille sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, cheese and Cajun cream sauces on a baked potato). Or fill up on some of Austin's famous barbecue at Sam’s Bar-B-Que where you can order smoked meats by the pound, or opt for a brisket sandwich and yummy sides like man 'n cheese or yams.
Kids and adults alike will enjoy the exhibits in the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural & Genealogy Center. Visit the well-curated gallery exhibits or stop by during one of the Museum's regular classes, movie screenings or genealogy workshops, focused on African-American history and culture. If you don't have time for a deeper dive but still want to learn more about Austin's Black history, take a tour of Austin with Six Square or locally-owned Black Austin Tours (they offer virtual tours too!). For a self-guided option, rent a bike in town and explore landmarks on the Black History Bike Ride (with two routes and regular social rides).
Black Austin Tours. Credit Nicole Renfro.
Make sure to leave time for a self-guided tour of Austin's murals and public art. While there are too many to list in one article, a few noteworthy pieces by local Black artists include:
- Rhapsody, constructed of gorgeous mosaic tiles that make up an animated tribute to East Austin’s musical past and located along East 11th Street.
- The Black Legacy Project, a collaboration between three female muralists which depicts local civil rights activist Dorothy Nell Turner (1935-2005) and American political activist Angela Davis (1944-present).
- The vibrant Chicon Mural, at the corner of 12th and Chicon Streets, which features Black icons like Muhammad Ali, James Brown and Texas native Beyoncé.
- Hard-to-miss "Black Artists Matter' mural, which covers a stretch of East 11th Street, organized by Capitol View Arts, the Austin Justice Coalition and dozens of local artists and volunteers.
- The mural of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., accompanied by the quote “We may have come on different ships but we’re in the same boat now,” painted on the side of Sam’s Bar-B-Que, an East Austin mainstay since the 1940s.
- Local visual artist Sade Lawson's Making Moves in the ATX, depicting eight noteworthy Black Austinites
- Chris Rogers' mural at Native Hostel which is dedicated to victims of police brutality that include George Floyd and Eric Garner.
- Voyage to Soulsville, painted on the side of the Austin Public Library’s Carver branch, illustrates the Black community’s journey from pre-Columbian times to present day.
Take a sunset cruise or rent a canoe to watch the millions of Mexican free-tailed bats under the Congress Avenue bridge take flight (late March through October). Make The Big Easy Bar and Grill your dinner destination (especially during crawfish season) for a laid-back experience. Or, get dressed up for a meal at new Caribbean restaurant Canje. The menu is based on Executive Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph’s favorite foods from his childhood in Guyana, as well as the cuisine of Puerto Rico and Jamaica.
After dinner, get ready for a night out with live music and dancing. Check out Encore ATX calendar for a lineup of live entertainment and social events, ranging from concerts and comedy to spoken word and trap yoga. Stop by Sahara Lounge for a house cocktail on the patio, along with live music ranging from African to folk, Brazilian to jazz, and more. Don't miss Africa Nights for dancing, music by house band Zoumountchi and a free buffet dinner! Iconic venue Antone’s is co-owned by Grammy-award winning musician Gary Clark Jr. and showcases live blues seven nights a week.
Black Pumas. Credit David Brendan Hall.
If you're on the north side of town, visit Pflugerville's Down South Cajjun Eats for a big brunch menu that includes dishes like chicken & deep fried French toast, bayou shrimp & grits and more. Or fuel up for the day with a Gullah Geechee breakfast from LE Meals. The Gullah brunch includes fried, wild-caught catfish with a chipotle kale aioli sauce over easy eggs and a bed of polenta grits with minced okra, red bell pepper and onion. Or, visit Fareground for brunch at Henbit, with upgraded classics like pancakes and breakfast sandwiches.
If you're itching to explore more history, head west to the Clarksville neighborhood. The area was once the location of quarters for some of the people who were enslaved by Texas Governor Elisha Pease. After emancipation, freedman Charles Clark purchased two acres and sold some his land to other freedmen in hopes of building a place where former slaves could reunite with family and friends. This new community was aptly named Clarksville, and was one of the first freedman’s towns established west of the Mississippi. Visit the Hezikiah Haskell House, a Clarksville historic landmark and former home of freedman Peter Tucker and his family, and later Hezikiah Haskell, a union soldier and a Buffalo Soldier.
Feeling some food-truck love? Check out the jerk chicken and fried plantain at Tony's Jamaican Food, try traditional Haitian delights at Kreyol Korner, or fill up on vegetarian comfort food at Sassy's Vegetarian Soul Food. If the weather is warm, grab your swimsuit and enjoy a splash in Barton Springs Pool, or go kayaking, canoeing or stand up paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake.
Barton Springs Pool. Credit Monet Hambrick.
If shopping beckons, check out some of the best Black-owned stores and products around town, including Altatudes, the first African-American owned high-end boutique in Austin; Black Butterfly Bath & Body (available at Royal Blue Grocery), offering handcrafted, natural body products blended with shea butter, authentic black soap, dead sea salts; Black Pearl Books, an indie bookstore promoting diversity, inclusion, equality and cultural awareness through literature; Hawkins Bucklew Jewelry, whose pieces celebrates the spirit of community and represent a collective voice for women.
Or, get a taste of Austin's sports action with a trip to the new Q2 Stadium, home of the city's new Major League Soccer team Austin FC. Visit the HEB Center at Cedar Park to watch the Austin Spurs, the NBA Gatorade League team owned and operated by the 5-time World Champions San Antonio Spurs. Hosting live action almost year 'round, the University of Texas at Austin Longhorns are guaranteed to bring the fun, from Big 12 football to men's and women's basketball, baseball, swimming & diving and more. Or, head to Downs Mabson Field, the historic baseball field that was once home of the Austin Black Senators and now the Huston-Tillotson Rams, and see the mosaics depicting iconic Black players.
Huston-Tillotson Rams at Downs Field. Courtesy of Austin Parks and Recreation.
Get dolled up for dinner at the new Grey Diner Bar at downtown's Thompson Austin hotel. The eatery is helmed by James Beard Award-winner Mashama Bailey and features sandwiches, charcuterie and cocktails. Take the family for a meal at Hoover's Cooking, helmed by Austin native Hoover Alexander who is a fierce advocate for urban gardens and balanced eating habits. Start with an order of Hoover's queso for the table then dig in to a plate of charbroiled catfish or a big New Orleans muffuletta.
The famous and historic Victory Grill was among one of the venues in the area and today remains one of the last remaining original Chitlin' Circuit juke joints, hosting live jazz and blues each week. Named after the manager of Austin’s legendary Rome Inn club, C-Boy’s Heart & Soul is a South Congress-area juke-joint featuring classic soul and R&B music onstage, a spacious and cool outdoor patio and an upstairs lounge called the “Jade Room,” a nod to a former legendary Austin venue. Looking for a place to dance? Stop by LGBTQ+ friendly club Highland, get sweaty after-hours at Barbarella, or check out Red River’s chillest hang spot Cheer Up Charlies for more of Austin’s best genre-bending dance music.