What We’re Looking Forward to in Austin in 2022
SXSW returns, Austin FC paints the city green and black, and Rodeo Austin bucks into town.
Even though it feels like we’ve been living in a matrix simulation since 2020, it is, in fact, a new year. And, if there is one thing you can count on besides Keanu Reeves’ eternal, ageless beauty, it is that the next 12 months in Austin will deliver an endless amount of ridiculously enjoyable activities. To kick things off, we’ve rounded up a list of celebrations, openings, and undertakings that already have us on the edge of our seats with excitement. From more live music than any one person could possibly handle to the return of some of the city’s landmark events, the only way 2022 could get any better is if Mr. Reeves himself showed up at one of the hotly anticipated happenings. Here’s everything we’re looking forward to doing, seeing, eating, and drinking in Austin this coming year.
It’s been two long years since the last time we saw South by Southwest in person. Throughout all the sourdough-making and Tiger King binges, we’ve held out for the day when this beacon of music, film, tech, and more could make its local comeback. Thankfully, come March, it finally does—and are they ever making up for lost time. From keynote speeches by Reggie Fils-Aimé, former President and COO of Nintendo of America, to the debut showing of highly anticipated sci-fi film Everything Everywhere All at Once, to sets from rising artists like Sunflower Bean, there’s already enough on the schedule to prompt an immediate PTO request. But it wouldn’t be SXSW without surprise performances, appearances, and pop-ups, so newcomers should expect plenty of that, as well. In other words, now’s the time to start sweet talking that friend with the hook-up for passes.
Everyone knows you can’t consider yourself a full-on Texan until you score a killer pair of vintage cowboy boots—and, for you shoeless wonders, Austin is the perfect city to hunt them down. This year, it seems like the amount of single-stitch tees and ‘70s-era Levis are hitting a fever pitch with all the great second-hand markets and pop-ups proliferating around the city. First off, there’s the seemingly never-ending treasure trove that is the City-Wide Vintage Sale. With dates slated throughout the year starting in January, this massive vendor-palooza fills the Palmer Events Center with enough quality clothing, footwear, home goods, and various chachkis to warrant at least half a Saturday’s worth of browsing. Elsewhere, there’s Uncommon Flea, a wickedly popular monthly flea market run by Austin antique institution Uncommon Objects. The event goes down on the last Sunday of every month, when dozens of vendors from across Texas descend on Uncommon Object’s backyard equipped with a true doozy of deals. And with food and drink options available for purchase, that third ice-cold Lone Star will inevitably answer the question, “Do you really need another hand-painted teapot?”
There’s no doubt that one of 2021’s major high points was the opening of Waterloo Park, Austin’s newest green space featuring hiking and biking trails, lush gardens, and playgrounds galore. And at the center of this urban masterpiece lies Moody Amphitheater, an outdoor entertainment venue that serves to further support Austin’s bragging rights as the Live Music Capital of the World. And while a select few got to experience this hotspot last year, 2022 marks the venue’s official opening, complete with a roster of springtime heavy-hitters including Beach House, Bon Iver, Haim, and Olivia Rodrigo. And the mighty amphitheater hasn’t been the only Moody on our minds—UT Austin’s Moody Center Arena is also slated for an April debut. The state-of-the-art theater’s grand opening celebration promises to be as big as Texas, with two hometown music legends—none other than George Strait and Willie Nelson—on hand to christen the impressive stage.
Get ready to pull out the black and green again as the city’s beloved Austin FC returns to monstrous Q2 Stadium for their second official season. For those who haven’t yet had the chance to scream “Verde! Listos!” at the top of their lungs, believe us when we say you don't want to miss the chance to join in on the green smoke-fueled celebration that occurs when the home team scores a goal. Luckily for our inner Ted Lassos, the season stretches from the end of February through October, giving everyone plenty of chances to catch the Beautiful Game in action. And even if you can’t tell a touchdown from a touch-line, there’s still lots to do in and around Q2 Stadium that won’t reveal your lack of soccer knowledge to the general population, such as chowing down on choice brisket from the Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ stand.
We should all be looking to add some extra “om” to our incredibly hectic schedules, and there are few better ways to do that than getting out into the natural world. Austin’s mild winter and spring weather makes the coming season ideal for outdoor excursions—not to mention, the ability to gloat to all your friends in New York that you’re not freezing your toes off all February long. But where should you head when the Greenbelt and Enchanted Rock feel very “been-there, done-that?” Lace up your boots and trek over to the Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center. Don't be fooled by the slightly theme park-esque name—this 76-acre preserve is teeming with hidden grottos and gorgeous greenery stashed throughout the serene expanse. Just be sure to make a reservation ahead of time, as their trail walks are led by guides to ensure the sanctuary’s environment is protected. For more of a choose-your-own-adventure situation, set your sights on Hill Country’s Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. You still need to make a reservation, but, once you do, you’re free to traverse the many waterfalls and plant life spanning its 227 acres. Don't leave without stopping by the preserver’s overlook, a picture-perfect place for some “new year, new you” meditation.
There are few things as essential to Texas as the cultural phenomenon that is the rodeo. Ready yourself for a dusty sea of belt buckles, Coors Banquets, and bucking broncos by the dozen as Rodeo Austin returns this March. Not only do you get to see the main event—AKA cowboys holding on for dear life to some seriously perturbed cattle—but there’s also live music, a stock show, and a carnival to entertain the crowds between man-vs-animal takedowns. The roster also lists some great one-off events, including BBQ Austin on March 4 and 5, when the state’s most talented ‘cue specialists engage in a delicious cookout. And if your East Coast-born eyes have never witnessed a bout of mutton-busting, well, hold onto your butts.
If you haven’t already noticed, there’s a familiar thread snaking through this article—as well as throughout all activities in Austin—and that’s, of course, live music. And grabbing tickets to a Sofar Sounds show allows you to experience the scene here with a completely new set of eyes, thanks to its secretive surprise performer format. Sofar first launched in London and now hosts unique concerts in cities around the world, including our very own Bat City. When you buy a ticket, all you know is the general neighborhood—the exact location is announced the day of, and the artists aren’t revealed until they step onto the stage. It’s the perfect activity for anything from a group hang to a first date. And, with most locations being both BYOB and pet-friendly, you can even invite Fido and a growler from your favorite local brewery along for the ride.
If you’re anything like us, you spent New Year’s Day glued to your couch binging the new season of Queer Eye, which takes place in Austin. And it probably struck you at some point, between all the tear-jerking backstories and JVN’s amazing maxi-dresses, that most of the places visited on the show are only a quick drive away. In chronological order, start off at honky-tonk haven the Broken Spoke from episode one for a night of two-stepping and whiskey shooting guaranteed to make you feel like a real country outlaw. For those looking to get out of the city, cruise over to Canyon Lake’s Plookys Canjun Boilin Pot and fill up on Crawzaddy Crawfish and Antoni’s take on gumbo (which probably has about a 50/50 chance of being up to true Southern standards). Finally, grab your best beret and march on over to East Austin’s gluten-free smash hit OMG Squee to indulge in their trademark Corgi Macaroons and Butter Mochi Donuts.