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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Austinites love our local brews, wines and spirits.
And if you’ve ever cracked open a cold beer or sipped a hard seltzer and marveled at its quintessentially Austin can, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered the work of 31-year-old Sam O’Brien and his Austin-based design studio, SAMPLE.
“Austin is just such a unique place that these brands have one thing in common -- they want to tout their Austin roots,” said O’Brien, who moved here from New York when he was a toddler after his dad, acclaimed photographer Michael O’Brien, visited the city on assignment and fell in love with it. “I’ve been an Austin resident for 28 years and it kind of automatically comes through in my work. Some of it is intentional for the brand, but some of it is my personality coming through.”
Launched two years ago, O’Brien’s SAMPLE is responsible for the looks of local food and beverage brands such as Zilker Brewing Company, Cisco’s Restaurant, Bakery and Bar, Ranch Rider Spirits and Austin 101 Light Whiskey as well as beloved local businesses such as Criquet Shirts and Chubbies. (Fun fact: SAMPLE’s officemates, FugginHuggin, seemingly have the other half of Austin’s alcohol market covered, designing for brands such as Twisted X Brewing Co. and Hi Sign Brewing.)
From the hats O’Brien designed for Cisco’s that state, simply, “Migas” – a nod to one of the Austin institution’s signature dishes – to the festive merch he created for University of Texas football player Bijan Robinson’s new Dijon mustard brand, time and time again he encapsulates the city’s quirky, upbeat vibe. Perhaps most notable, however, is his work for Zilker Brewing Company, whose eye-catching cans incorporate a perfectly balanced blend of bright colors and throwback aesthetics.
“Our brand is centered around a retro-modern vibe that can be tricky to pull off at times but has been a natural fit for Sam since our first project together,” said Patrick Clark, co-founder of Zilker Brewing Company. “He designed a collaboration can for us several years ago that was so on-brand it eventually inspired the refresh of our core beer line-up.”
O’Brien, who attended Baylor University and interned and worked at Austin’s McGarrah Jessee before starting his own firm, said his early collaboration with Zilker Brewing was “every designer’s dream.”
“It was the first account that made me realize that SAMPLE was possible,” he said. “It was awesome, not only for the creative opportunities and beer labels we got to design and are still designing, but also my office is right down the street from them and I get the perks of free beer. You couldn’t really ask for more as an Austin-based designer.
O’Brien said in the future he’d love to add businesses like Howler Bros., Patagonia and heritage beer brands such as Anheuser-Busch to his client roster. Mostly, though, he simply wants to help spotlight and amplify Austin culture through his designs.
“The underlying spirit of Austin still exists, and it’s up to the native Austinites and the true Austinites to keep that,” he said. “Cisco’s, for example, who we’ve done work for, is the oldest Tex-Mex place in Austin. When I do work for them, it’s like we want to honor that heritage and that history and celebrate that. We’re able to keep the spirit alive through our work.”
Just weeks away from the start of production, a film starring Matthew McConaughey was canceled.
The film, “Dallas Sting,” is about a 1984 Dallas girl's soccer team that competed against some of the best women’s teams during a competition in China. The nearly fully cast drama was set to start production in six weeks, with McConaughey playing coach Bill Kinder who helped the team beat out Australia, Japan, China and Italy for a championship win.
The Hollywood Reporter heard from unnamed sources that Skydance and the producers of the film received disturbing allegations surrounding aspects of the true story the film is based on.
Aside from this role, McConaughey’s interest in soccer shows in his role as co-owner of MLS soccer club Austin FC. McConaughey has not yet commented on the project’s end.
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