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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Six days a week, thousands of onlookers tune in to live streams to watch the pros rake it all in at high-stakes poker tournaments. The big-name poker players aren't in Las Vegas or even Oklahoma's finest casinos—instead, they're where Texas Hold 'Em gets its name.
Gambling may be illegal in Texas, but over a hundred poker houses are using a loophole to open up shop across the state, especially in Austin and Dallas.
The classic poker game is finally getting played for real cash around the Lone Star State thanks to an exception in Texas' gambling ban that allows poker games to be played in private residences. Instead of taking a cut from the pot like traditional gambling ventures, private poker houses don't make money from the results of a game; instead, they get their revenue from membership and hourly fees.
It's a business strategy that's gone (mostly) unchallenged by Texas politicians, especially as the industry begins to heat up.
Austin may now have around 20 poker houses around town, but it wasn't long ago that one stood alone like a small town saloon. The city's premiere poker house, Texas Card House, was founded in 2015 and has since grown to include a YouTube channel with over 30,000 subscribers, a wide range of gameplay and regular visits from big-name poker gurus like Brad Owen and Doug Pope.
David Lagana, a content creator who has worked in college sports and Hollywood, was brought into the scene in May as the house's live streams began to blow up. He said the live streaming battleground is only beginning.
"The space is ever-growing," Lagana said. "It's been interesting to try and find a lane that everybody can succeed. It's all about finding something that people want to watch on a nightly basis."
Can Player BLUFF Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen on LIVE Stream?
Watch now - https://t.co/4Wt4s5Z0V7@TheBradOwen @andrewneeme pic.twitter.com/Yg4R0c0sj2
— Texas Card House (@texascardhouse) August 25, 2021
Carolyn Hapgood, who has worked for Texas Card House for three years, has made a name for herself as a live stream producer, dealer and player herself with the company. She's seen Texas Card House grow from a two-room card house to the most well-known poker venue in Austin with another branch in Dallas.
"It was a teeny tiny little house with five tables, and that was the first legal card house in the state," Hapgood said. "And since then it's blown up."
Texas Card House dealer Carolyn Hapgood has been working with Austin's premier poker house since 2018. (Texas Poker House Austin/Facebook)
From $100 pots to buy-ins of $15,000 or more, Texas Card House has it all, especially as in-state players learn more about the game. Hapgood said there isn't really a typical poker player at the house—instead, the poker table forms an "interesting little ecosystem" that includes college students, a 93-year old Vietnam War veteran, online gamblers, old-school players and everyone in between. The diversity at the table has been enhanced even further by COVID as people clamor to return to in-person events.
But Texas Card House no longer holds a "royal flush" in Austin's poker culture. The Lodge, based in Round Rock, is now expanding to over 60 tables, the largest in Texas, while Palms Social Club, owned by Texas Card Houses' original owner Sam Von Kennel, brought service staff and a refined atmosphere to the Austin scene.
Hapgood said the base of poker players is very large and continues to grow, forming a community as players form friendships on and off the table.
"My favorite part of the poker community is how much fun we have," Hapgood said. "You sit at a table with eight of your friends, everyone's kind of just having a good time. There's a lot of players who will, you know, call or text each other after they're done playing, and they end up inviting each other barbecues, and going out to dinner with their families and stuff like that... those are my favorite people to hang out with."
Getting involved in the poker scene is as easy as tuning into a live stream, and Lagana hopes to see more outsiders like himself get inspired by poker in the future.
"It's kind of like life," Lagana said. "Life isn't just one hand to play... you're only in control of sort of what's in your hand (and) you can't play the card that you weren't dealt with. So it's really been a fascinating life lesson for me."
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From four-time Grammy-nominee turned big-screen actor, Black Pumas frontman Eric Burton will debut in the sci-fi short film "Devexity," which is written, directed by and stars Austinites.
The film, brought to life by Austin-based filmmaker Luke Lidell, will premiere on Oct. 7 at the Native Hostel while Burton is in town for Austin City Limits Fest. Then, "Devexity" will head off to film festival screenings, according to a report by The Austin Chronicle.
Following Burton as the film's protagonist, named Jean, "Devexity" takes place across several different settings and surfaces an existential response from the watcher. Burton stars alongside fellow Austinites Ali Pentecost, Dominique Pitts and New Yorker Madison Murrah in the partially black-and-white film.
The film was shot over the course of four days in October 2020, which Lidell said was a challenge of "focus" and "trust" to create. With a variety of scenes and intertwining narratives, the film dives into the topic of virtual reality.
A musician in addition to a filmmaker, Lidell previously directed the film "Telekinetic" in 2018. The script for "Devexity" was written by Lidell with Burton in mind for the lead after meeting him during a music video project in 2017—Lidell said Burton helped him shape the characters along the way.
Now that the door has been opened for work between Burton and Lidell, you're likely to see the pair collaborate again—a Black Pumas documentary is being rumored.
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The University of Texas at Austin welcomed more incoming freshmen than ever before, with 9,060 new Longhorns, thanks to the rise of on-time graduations allowing the university to admit more undergraduates.
The count was taken on the 12th day of class, Sept. 10, beating out the previous high of 8,960 from 2018. The new class is also setting records for its diversity, citing a rise of Black, Hispanic and Asian undergrads.
@UTAustin is serving more first-generation and historically underrepresented groups than ever, while raising grad rates for all, including our growing population of Pell-eligible students pic.twitter.com/qYQPEfUXG4
— Jay Hartzell (@JCHartzell) September 20, 2021
"People all across the UT community have been working hard to recruit, attract, retain and support even more talented and diverse students, staff members and faculty members who can change the world," UT President Jay Hartzell said. "I'm proud that our combined enrollment of historically underrepresented groups has reached record levels for the second year in a row."
A 3% enrollment rise can be attributed to UT's all-time high graduation rates: the four-year graduation rate rose from 72.2% to 72.7%, while the six-year student rate rose from 87.6% to 87.7%.
Of the 51,992 students on UT's campus, 13,366, or 29.6%, come from historically underrepresented groups—including Black, Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander—one of the highest totals out of the Association of American Universities and a record-breaking percentage.
With this new class, the university is also serving more first-generation students and Hispanic students than ever before, making up 22.9% and 27.1% of the undergrad student body, respectively. Last year, UT hit a quota of 25% Hispanic students to qualify as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and received the Seal of Excelencia for its commitment to the success of Latin students.
Black students fell just a bit, from 5.3% to 5.2% university-wide, though the actual enrollment amount is up, from 2,193 to 2,219.
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