The South By Southwest (SXSW) festivals bring in thousands of tourists to Austin, Texas, and the local businesses can’t complain. For newcomers to SXSW and Austin, deciding where to go for the most interesting shopping and eating experiences may be somewhat difficult, as each small business in Austin has its own unique story to tell.
To help SXSW travelers and first-timers to the city, here are ten unique businesses that are worth a visit:
1) The Herb Bar - Owner Twila Dawn Willis creates many of the products found on the shelves of her natural health and body care business. The shop carries dried herbs, essential oils, teas, soaps, incense, regionally made sunscreen, and much more. Also, it may be hard to find the The Herb Bar, as it’s completely covered in ivy.
2) Draught House Pub & Brewery – This Austin pub offers 30 ice cold original recipe brews on tap. Also, bring your appetite, because they serve nachos and calzones.
3) Amy’s Ice Creams – The Texas sun and body heat from the SXSW crowds can be draining. Luckily, Amy Simmons opened up several ice cream shops in downtown Austin that offer original flavors and entertaining tricks from the cone-tossing staff.
4) Waterloo Records & Video – After discovering a new favorite act at SXSW, support the artist and Austin by purchasing the album locally. Waterloo, which has remained an independent record store since 1982, also hosts its own mini-SXSW festival in front of the store.
5) BookPeople – If you’re looking for a quiet place to get away from the noise of the percussion and electric guitars of SXSW, check out Texas’s largest independent bookstore and enjoy a cappuccino at the cafe or rest your muscles in one of the in-store massage chairs.
6) Capital Cruises – For some real out-there entertainment, take a night cruise tour of Austin and enjoy bat watching near the Congress Avenue Bridge, which is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America.
7) Casino el Camino - This offbeat restaurant and bar is a Food Network honoree, known for its famous “big Texan” burgers. The establishment’s jukebox is also a well-known local, carrying the title of “Best Jukebox” since 1995 by the Austin Chronicle for its eclectic mix.
8) Oat Willie’s – A cross between a tobacco shop and an old general store with a bohemian twist, Doug and Judy Brown have owned Oat Willie’s since 1969. The name of the business comes from an Austin-based comic character drawn by well-known artist Gilbert Shelton, who has illustrated several comic books and drawings about Oat Willie’s over the decades.
9) Juan In A Million – Owner Juan Meza serves up heaping portions of traditional Mexican dishes that will cure any SXSW morning hangover. If you have the guts, tackle the famous Don Juan Taco challenge by consuming eight of the big boys; a task that Adam Richman of Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food couldn’t handle.
10) Stubb’s Bar-B-Q - There are no acceptable reasons to go to SXSW, or the entire state of Texas for that matter, if you’re not going to have true Texan barbecue from Stubb’s. Stubb’s even features a popular music venue that brings in famous acts year-round. Can you really go wrong with baby back ribs and live entertainment? Not in Austin, you can’t.