When you visit Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, you'll notice the places and names that make the Live Music Capital of the World famous displayed for all travelers to see. This is no mistake—ABIA is designed to make you feel as though you are right in the heart of Austin proper.
In fact, it might even be best to plan out your airport excursion ahead of time. So while you visit this mini Austin of sorts, whether it's for the first time or the 50th time, soak it all in—it's likely to have changed by the next time you travel.
Know before you go
Don't miss your flight by not planning ahead. Peak travel times are 5-8 a.m., 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m. The airport recommends travelers during those times arrive up to 2.5 hours before.
You won't find any free parking here, whether you're hopping on a plane or picking someone up, so plan ahead. If you're heading out on a trip, you're probably better off hitching a ride with a friend or grabbing an Uber rather than paying to park, which can be quite pricey but takes advance reservations.
However, here are how airport lots stack up from closest to furthest away:
- Red garage and short term lot: $5 per hour, $27 per day
- Blue garage: $5 per hour, $17 per day
- Economy lot (green): $5 per hour, $8 per day
If you want to have the most bean juice options to choose from, try and get to the airport early. If you waltz into the airport at 1 p.m. looking for coffee, like I did on my most recent trip, you're going to have limited options. Yes, there is a Starbucks on deck, but with so many local options in one place, why not branch out?
Caffe Medici, near gate 9, open 4:30 a.m.-12 p.m. daily
A petite version of the Austin-based cafe is tucked on the far east end of the Barbara Jordan terminal, so get there early and be ready to walk. Caffe Medici, named for the arts patron Medici family of Florentine history, sells traditional coffee that has come to be a favorite among locals and is enjoyed at its six other Austin locations. This location often has long lines so plan accordingly!
Jo's Coffee, near gate 19, open 5 a.m.-5 p.m.
Yes, that Jo's Coffee is available at the airport, minus the "I love you so much" wall. However, this coffee joint is easy to see with its signature red bubble in the middle of the terminal. Not only can you get your coffee at Jo's, it's also a great place to score some breakfast tacos.
High Brew vending machine, near gate 23, always open
Austin's local canned coffee favorite High Brew is available via vending machine, so you can stock up on caffeine when you're inevitably jonesing for it during a connecting flight. Try the Toasted Coconut or the Bourbon Vanilla Nitro Latte, some of High Brew's best sellers.
Fewer options than coffee drinks, to be sure, but you can still find your green juice or acai bowl when you visit ABIA.
Juiceland, near gate 17, open 5 a.m.-1 p.m.
No trip to the airport is complete without a Juiceland visit—if you can make it before it closes. Though you'll find a smaller menu here, like many of the airport versions of local favorites, you can still find a selection of cold-pressed juices, shots, fruit bowls and more vegetarian snacks.
Jugo, near gate 10, temporarily closed
For your local farm-to-table green juices, Jugo is temporarily closed as of Aug. 11 but normally serves juice combinations like carrot, orange, ginger, lemon and turmeric; and pineapple, beet and jalapeno. Jugo is also a great stop for coffee drinks, tea and fresh, healthy snacks.
ABIA really shines when it comes to regional cuisine, packing in as many local franchises as possible.
The Peached Tortilla, near gate 17, open 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
You'll find a much more limited menu at the airport than you would at a standalone location but these tacos are worth it. The restaurant offers only three options, I recommend the Chinese BBQ Chicken, to be served either in tortilla or bowl form and are all made fresh to order.
Tacodeli, near gate 23, open 5 a.m.-1 p.m.
A warning: this Tacodeli's line is not for the faint of heart, so make sure you have time to spare before you commit to a taco. That said, Tacodeli's breakfast tacos are about as "Austin" as you can get—especially if you order with the burn-your-face-off Salsa Doña.
Hut's Hamburgers, near gate 14, open 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
While you can find most of ABIA's grub options outside the airport, Hut's Hamburgers is a special exception. The former West 6th location closed in 2019 and left the airport location behind as its sole successor, so ABIA is the last place you can get one of its famous burgers, which are all available with buffalo or chicken, onion rings or milkshakes.
The Salt Lick BBQ, near gate 22, open 5 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
Haven't even left Texas and already missing that smoky Hill Country BBQ? Look no further than gate 22, where a tiny version of the BBQ favorite will sell you brisket, sandwiches, baked potatoes and sides for dine-in or to take on your flight. The next best thing to the real thing, The Salt Lick was voted fourth place in the World's Best Airport Restaurants by the Daily Meal.
🍴Best dine-in restaurant
Parkside, near gate 3, open 5 a.m.-1 p.m.
This open-air pavilion is a sophisticated choice for those looking to grab a quality bite to eat before jet-setting away. Serving upscale American sandwiches, salads and cocktails, the restaurant is located in the international wing and tends to be a quieter place to sit down and chat. Don't forget to check out the airport's hidden sky deck located right nearby!
The Saxon Pub, near gate 19, open Monday-Saturday 7 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Like its South Lamar counterpart, The ABIA Saxon Pub is carrying on the tradition of keeping live music alive. The bar is perfectly centered in the terminal and right next to the Asleep at the Wheel stage, which is the biggest stage at the airport. While you're there, enjoy a seat in the bleacher-style seating and listen to the band while appetizers and a full bar await at The Saxon Pub.
Amy’s Ice Creams, near gate 21, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
If you're from Austin, you already know what Amy's is all about, but if you're visiting and you haven't tried her ice creams yet—let's just say you're going to get some weird looks. Look up to find Amy's stand because it is located directly underneath a gigantic paper airplane.
Toy Joy & Yummi Joy, near gate 11, 6 a.m.-6 p.m.
Toys, games and candy, oh my! The whimsical kiosk, where you'll find artisan homemade candy and playthings galore, is impossible to miss with its unmistakable pink cat mascot staring down the hallway. It's easy to lose track of time while wandering this child-like wonderland—keep an eye on the clock!
Forget to grab your loved ones an Austin memento before make it through security. Not to worry, there are so many gifts to choose from that the recipient will be none the wiser of its airport origins.
Taste ATX, near gate 15, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Because the taste of Austin is so paramount to the experience, you can't leave without taking some of the smoky, savory palate with you. With one of Austin's most prominent murals adorning the back wall, some of Taste ATX's inventory includes a wide variety of Texas-shaped cutting boards, Salt Lick BBQ sauces, salsas and Siete hot sauces.
Tyler's Austin Warehouse, near gate 18, 1 a.m.-6 p.m.
For all your cowboy-hat-wearing, Texas-flag-donning, "Keep Austin Weird" needs, Tyler's Austin Warehouse is the spot to visit. The industrial, high-ceilinged store is a one-stop shop for the souvenirs you might have missed while exploring the city.
The Scoreboard, near gate 15, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
...but if you're looking for that classic burnt orange attire, trek no further than The Scoreboard, located just outside the security checkpoint. While the shop carries mostly Longhorns merchandise, including a Swarovski crystal-encrusted football, you can also find items for the Houston Texans fan in your life.
Live music is normally abundant at Austin's airport, with nine stages all around the terminal for performers. Music has been paused again for safety due to the pandemic but not for too long—an ABIA spokesperson said the airport "will continue to monitor the situation and guidance from Austin Public Health in anticipation for its eventual return." The musicians are Austin locals and in its peak, the airport hosts around 30 shows per week.
But for future reference, you can see live music at the Asleep at the Wheel stage near gate 19, the largest stage sandwiched between The Saxon Pub and the airport's only food truck, Earl Campbell's Taco Truck.
Also worth noting are the 24 Diner stage, the Haymaker stage, the tiny Tacodeli stage and the Austin City Market stage, so be on the lookout for a live music resurgence in the near future!
You'll find only one duty-free store in the airport, EJE Travel Retail, which is located near gate 11 and open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., selling perfumes and luxury goods from brands like Givenchy, Tommy Hilfiger, Chanel and Cartier tax-free.
Book People, near gate 20, open 5 a.m.-6 p.m.
This well-known gem, also the catalyst behind the city's ultra-famous "Keep Austin Weird" slogan, is making sure you are well-read when you fly. We've all forgotten to bring along a book in the face of a long flight, so stop by not only for the Book People clout, but to buy one (or two or three) books.
Sky deck, near gate 3
Feeling cooped up while waiting for your flight? Head to the far east end of the terminal, past Parkside and up the stairs and you'll find an open-air sky deck that is open to all passengers. This hidden gem is a great place to go for some fresh air and a relaxing atmosphere. This spacious deck opened in 2019 and is not well known among travelers, and combined with the sweltering heat, it is also pretty quiet most of the time.
Endless art galleries
ABIA is so filled with local art, the whole thing is practically a gallery. Though most of the pieces you'll encounter around the terminal are permanent fixtures, there are 10 galleries to peruse with plenty of pieces for sale. The exhibits change often and frequently sell out, according to an ABIA spokesperson, but you can peruse the dozens of fixed exhibits if you run into empty glass cases.
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If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.
Giga Texas, the massive Tesla factory in southeast Travis County is getting even bigger.
The company filed with the city of Austin this week to expand its headquarters with a new 500,000-square-foot building. The permit application notes “GA 2 and 3 expansion,” which indicates the company will make two general assembly lines in the building.
More details about the plans for the building are unclear. The gigafactory has been focused on Model Y production since it opened in April, but the company is also aiming for Cybertruck production to kick off in mid-2023.
While there is room for expansion on the 3.3 square miles of land Tesla has, this move comes after CEO Elon Musk’s recent comments about the state of the economy and its impact on Tesla.
In a May interview with Tesla Owners Silicon Valley, Musk said the gigafactories in Berlin and Austin are “gigantic money furnaces” and said Giga Texas had manufactured only a small number of cars.
And in June, Musk sent a company wide email saying Tesla will be reducing salaried headcount by 10%, then later tweeted salaried headcount should be fairly flat.
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