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Austin: In Two Days

Think of this itinerary as a cultural exploration. The idea is less about accomplishing a set of tasks than it is about blending into Austin's easy-going culture. This trip should be done in midweek, otherwise you'll have to work your way through the crowd of workaday wage slaves who only come out on the weekends. I've included a lot of stops to give you options. Should you linger at one place longer than most, you can pick up the trail as you see fit. I've not included any places to take a break because, in practice, this whole day amounts to taking a break.

1. Hike-and-Bike Trail

The first activity is a leisurely stroll along the hike-and-bike trail, unless you're a late riser, in which case move on to the second activity. One of the most interesting sections of the path is the loop from Congress Avenue west to the pedestrian bridge next to the Lamar Bridge.

2. Las Manitas

This stop assumes that Las Manitas is still here when you get to town. The best time to show up is around 9:30am, after the 9-to-5ers have left. Take a table or a place at the counter. You should have a newspaper with you, either the daily rag or the weekly alternative. While enjoying your leisurely breakfast, see what bands are playing at the clubs for both happy hour and later in the evening. At 11am the early-lunch crowd starts arriving so take your leave.

Stroll up Congress a couple of blocks to:

3. Mexic-Arte Museum

Mexic-Arte has an engaging but small permanent collection and gets some interesting shows. As an alternative, next door to Las Manitas is Tesoros (again, if it's still there). Stop here and you can browse around for a little bit.

4. Barton Springs Pool

By now, if it's gotten warm enough, it's time to relax at Barton Springs. A lot of folks show up at night in summer to cool off for free, but why not enjoy it during the hottest hours of the day? Catch some rays, cool off in the water, repeat.

5. Whole Foods

Explore the flagship store of the chain of natural and organic foods. Whole Foods sells a lot besides food and is worth checking out. It's also a great place to have a light lunch as you can browse through all the steam tables and prepared food counters and pick up exactly what you want and just the right amount of it. There's a nice outdoor seating area.

6. Waterloo Records

This is Austin's favorite music store. The staff is knowledgeable and can help you find what you didn't know you were missing.

7. Continental Club

By now it should be time for happy hour, and if reading the entertainment section of the paper didn't provide any guidance, make the Continental Club your default choice. Sometimes you get really lucky.

8. Castle Hill Cafȳ

Castle Hill is a kind of microcosm of Austin in its informal and laid-back ambience, and its menu that mixes up New World and Old World dishes, with just the barest hint of New Age zeitgeist. There's nothing flashy or glitzy about it. For a less expensive experience of Austin dining, you could try Curra's, which is like Castle Hill in its informality and lack of pretension. And, of course, the food is good in both places.

9. Live Music

This stop is where your morning research should really be paying off. The clubs to pay special attention to are Antone's, Stubb's, The Elephant Room, and The Continental Club. Alternatively, you can decide to stroll through the downtown entertainment districts looking for the music that fits your taste. The entire area is compact enough to walk through it easily.

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