Percona Live returns again to Austin May 16th through the 18th will find the city vibrant, charming, and weird. The semi-official motto for the city is ‘Keep Austin Weird’ and during your visit you will indeed see many of the residents working hard to do just that. Not in a bad way. Austin is at the intersection of so many cultural, artistic, and lifestyle modes that there are a fair amount of many different things happening at the same time to ensure that any dull moments you have will have to be an active choice on your part.
The following is a quick guide for those new to Austin or looking for activities for the days before or after the show
What To Wear?
Austin in May averages 86F/30C (which is better than the August 96F/35C) so shorts, t-shirts, and comfortable shoes are a must. Bring sunscreen and water if you plan to spend time outdoors.
What to Eat?
The two main choices are barbeque and Tex-Mex. But you will find any type of cuisine you desire either in the restaurants or the food trucks (mostly on South Congress Street but found throughout the city). You may see many celebrities but remember in Austin that Matthew McConaughey is just another professor at the University of Texas and that Elon Musk builds pickup trucks.
Barbecue is almost considered a religion in Texas and you will find many recommendations on where to go (see https://austin.eater.com/maps/best-barbecue-austin-restaurants) but everyone has their favorite. Major competitions are run each year to determine who is the best. My personal favorite is the Salt Lick has two locations that are sadly out of Austin proper and they are known for moderating the heat of their barbeque pits by using pecans which adds a unique flavor. And they do have a location at the airport too; the food is good but the ambience is lacking with all the flight announcements.
But the other places are pretty good too. Stubb’s, Franklin, Black’s are all excellent. If you do see a line at another place where salivating people are somewhat impatiently waiting to order, then join the queue. And it is okay to salivate too.
Big hint: If you are not used to Texas Sweet Tea start with half sweetened and half unsweetened until your gums and your dentist have time to adjust.
This style of food is a tasty combination of Chihuahuan Mexican food and frontier based ingredients with lots of cheese and chili. What started as simple staple foods for settlers on the frontier made from the available commodities has evolved into a tasty treat.
Chuy’s original restaurant is a top pick and features theme rooms. Sadly we have already missed the birthday of Elvis Presley where all who dress like the King or his wife Priscilla dine free in their Elvis room. For the less decor oriented try Matt’s El Rancho.
Big tip: You will generally get big portions, especially if you order fajitas or margaritas.
For breakfast, go to Snooze AM for the pineapple upside pancakes or an omelet.
The Bob Bullock Museum is at the state capital building and is the state’s official history museum. The Museum of the Weird is just as the name implies and, while not official, provides a look into the odder parts of Austin. Not too far away is the Alamo in San Antonio (nearby the Alamo is the Buckhorn Saloon which actually has two floors of oddities that are weirder than the Museum of the Weird). The Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg is a must for history fans. The Contemporary Austin is great for art fans while the Texas Toy museum will appeal to your inner child.
Swim in spring fed Barton Springs, ride the bike trails, and hike your feet off before you rent a paddleboard to tour Lake Austin. Lots of things for the physically active with appealing hikes and you may actually run into an Armadillo.
You can rent inner tubes to float the nearby Guadalupe or Comal Rivers. Rent another inner tube for your cooler of drinks. Or visit the Schlitterbahn water park. All three are a short drive away and worth an extra day on your trip for time to spend with family or friends.
Big hint: Stay hydrated as the heat is deceiving.
Gruene (pronounced ‘green’) Hall is the oldest dancehall in Texas and is the place where many top stars got their starts. Currently there are no acts scheduled during the time of Percona Live (well, I expect they will be at Percona Live learning about databases!) but fans of ZZ Top, George Strait, Willy Nelson, or Greg Allman will relish the history of the place before heading to the Grist Mill for a meal. The dance hall itself has not changed much since being built in 1878 and they will open the side flaps when the dancers need fresh air.
Sixth Street is the live music capital of Texas and you will find any genre there. This is where Stevie Ray Vaughn rose to fame and where Willie Nelson rebuilt his career after leaving Nashville.Ear plugs recommended but optional.
Yes, the bats do fly out from under the Congress Street bridge at sunset which is amazing when millions of them fly out. The last physical Percona Live they were shy and only a few appeared. I assume that they were intimidated by having so many DBAs nearby.
Austin is an awesome town and not just for Percona Live itself. I have only touched the proverbial iceberg tip on things to see and do there. If you have questions, find me at Percona Live or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and hopefully we can try one of the local craft brews together. ∎