Cannabis is very illegal in Texas—shoot, you can get years in prison just for possession. That cool little vape cartridge you’re thinking about bringing with you? That’s a felony in the Lone Star State.
But it’s a testament to cannabis’ power that even Texas-sized prohibition can’t keep the culture down. That’s especially true in the state capital of Austin, where cannabis-adjacent events and culture thrive in the relatively liberal college town.
Couple that vibe with copious barbecue, Tex-Mex, more than 250 live music spots, countless cool bars and idyllic parks—and you suddenly start seeing the charm of this red state enclave.
Pack some walking shoes and that old, clandestine sneak-a-toke—we’re riding deep into the heart of Texas in this cannabis fan’s guide to touring Austin.
Austin Marijuana Laws
- Possession of less than two ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. In some jurisdictions, first-time offenders may qualify for a program to avoid jail time.
- Texas reported more than 63,000 marijuana-related arrests in 2016. Austin Police issue about 1,000 marijuana misdemeanor citations a year. That works out to a rough average of three people cited per day. Don’t be that person.
- For more, check out Leafly’s full guide to Texas cannabis laws.
Austin Cannabis Etiquette
It’s very illegal to smoke in public. Violators risk a ticket or arrest. However, you’ll smell cannabis a lot in Austin, especially during annual festivals. We don’t encourage law-breaking, but if you choose to partake, don’t light up in places where kids and families congregate. Keep an eye out for police. Veterans recommend being smart, staying out of sight, consuming discreetly, and always, always, always staying on the move.
Trending Cannabis Strains of Texas
Obviously, there are no official sales statistics in a prohibition state. But people in Texas are very interested in cannabis strains, and this is what they’re searching for in Leafly’s strain database:
Top Austin Attractions
- Sixth Street—Relive your college years with a huge strip of bars blasting a cacophony of different music genres. Bar hop. People watch. Don’t get puked on or arrested!
- Rainey Street—Sixth Street’s mature older sister. Food trucks are over there. More bars to hop. Everyone is wearing a sky blue button-down shirt.
- Sunset Bat-Watching Cruise on Ladybird Lake—Get on the lake for some gorgeous vistas of the downtown skyline, and witness several million bats take flight.
Austin Cannabis Pairings
Cannabis at SXSW
Each spring, Austin hosts hundreds of thousands of attendees for South by Southwest (SXSW), a mega-festival of music, film, and culture centered around the Austin Convention Center, and spilling over into more than 50 venues around town. Leafly’s 2019 Cannabusiness track at SXSW includes 44 talks and events. Check out:
- A talk on the future of cannabis by Leafly chief scientist Nick Jikomes, with happy hour to follow
- A live taping of Leafly’s “What Are You Smoking?” podcast
- Tasty beverages and great conversation at the Leafly Lounge
- Other scheduled events include a taping of the Queens of the Stoned Age podcast; comedian Doug Benson’s “Doug Loves Movies” podcast taping; the 420 Show with Matt Besser; the “Broad City” series finale screening; and the world premiere of Matthew McConaughey’s stoney new film, “The Beach Bum.”
Happy Clouds Festival
The motto of Austin’s beloved head shop Happy Clouds is “Keep Austin Cloudy.” Join the community at the annual Happy Clouds Festival April 20, 2019 with music, food, drink, and games.
Cannabis can make you giggle. Pair it with live comedy at Sure Thing, where local and national comedians perform at the Fallout Theater every Friday night at 9:30 p.m. Of course, you can’t smoke in the theater. But people do pre-game on their own time.
Save yourself the stress and let someone else take you around Austin on one of over 100 popular tours. Some best bets:
- Food Is My Best Friend Tour; Life Is Brew-tiful Tour; Stay Weird Brewery Tour; The Brunch Bus; Marble Falls Wine Tasting And Disc Golf
The capital of Texas shines with museums and street art. Drink in the visual stimulation at these top picks:
- Blanton Museum of Art; Harry Ransom Center; West Sixth Street galleries; George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural and Genealogy Center; The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center
Downtown Austin has the highest number of bars per zip code in the entire United States. Check out legendary spots like:
Where to Commune With Nature
Austin features a multi-faceted urban-wildland interface along the Colorado River (yes, there are two Colorado Rivers in America) and in the nearby hill country, all of which make for phenomenal chill-out zones. Top spots include:
- Mount Bonnell; Mayfield Park; Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail; Pedernales Falls State Park; Zilker Botanical Garden; Hippy Hollow Park; Barton Creek Greenbelt (aka ”The Greenbelt”)
Places to Stay
The Hilton Austin Downtown is ground zero for festivals like SXSW. Things are more laid back in West Austin and more hip in East Austin. You’ll find world-class digs at:
Allow us to recommend Hotel Eleven, a new 14-room boutique hotel in the East 11th District, about a block away from the barbecue line at Franklin (see below). This isn’t one of those “boutiques” opened by a global chain. This is a true craft-scale hotel, built and operated by a local couple, Mark Vornberg and Shelly Leibham. The lobby and rooms are extremely hip but not in an obnoxious Brooklyn-does-Texas kind of way. Plus, the staff at Hotel Eleven (including Louie the hotel cat) are so warm and welcoming that it’s like staying at a hotel your friends happen to run.
Relatively flat downtown Austin has many bikeshare, rideshare, and scootershare options.
- Bird scooters are so ubiquitous that local comedians craft jokes around them
- JUMP bikes are similarly available everywhere
- Uber and Lyft also stand ready to pick you up
Pro tip: Do yourself a favor and load all the apps before you arrive in Austin so you can just grab an option and go. Nobody wants to wait for you to tap in your credit card number there on the sidewalk.
Best Austin Munchies
Austin is a world-class city to eat your way through—from the requisite barbecue and Tex-Mex to amazing brunches and munchies. Bring a big appetite, and maybe some antacids!
- Franklin Barbecue; Sam’s BBQ (open till 3 a.m. on weekends); Dirty Gloves Midwest BBQ; Micklethwait Craft Meats; La Barbecue; Stiles Switch BBQ
Pro tip: Keep in mind that Texas barbecue joints don’t always operate like your typical restaurant. Many open in the late morning, around 11 a.m., and close once the goods are sold out. This makes for some epically long lines and borderline unbearable wait times. Plan to wait multiple hours—literally—for a seat at Franklin Barbecue in East Austin. Bring a chair, maybe even a cooler of Shiner Bock.
Austin has a crazy cheese or “queso” food culture, so make sure to try all of it. Beyond that, check out:
- Uncle Julio’s; Juan in a Million; Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop
ProTip: Breakfast tacos! There are tacos galore in Austin, and most will do you right. If you’re looking for a local favorite, though, grab a breakfast taco or three. (Go super local and get one with smoked brisket.) Why aren’t these more popular on the West Coast?
Austin food truck culture mirrors other national exemplars like Portland, OR. Go with the flow and snack on lots of small meals to soak up the booze. Be on the lookout for these gems:
- Krab Kingz Seafood Austin; Emojis Grilled Cheese; Chi’Lantro BBQ; Paperboy; DEE DEE; Tony’s Jamaican Food (those jerk chicken wings…)
About 10% of all Texas breweries are based in Austin, making for a robust craft beer drinking culture. Top spots include:
- Austin Beerworks; Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co.; Black Star Co-op; Lazarus Brewing Company; Craft Pride
- Austin Eastciders; Texas Keeper Cider; Fairweather Cider Co; Argus Cidery
- Little Lucy’s; Big Top Candy Shop; Gourdough’s Donuts
- New Fortune; Wu Chow; Old Thousand
Pro tip: Old Thousand (1000 East 11th St.) isn’t well known to visitors, thought it should be. A friend and I wandered into Old Thousand on a late Thursday night in February, hungry as hell, not expecting much. We started ordering, almost at random, from the menu: Mala fried chicken, Char Siu with extra steamed buns, Silk Road ribs, smoked brisket fried rice. We dug in, and ten minutes into our meal we looked at each other like, “WTF?!?” We couldn’t stuff it into our greedy maws fast enough. It was as if we had the munchies without having partaken.
- Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza; Via 313; The Backspace; Home Slice Pizza
- Maria’s Taco Xpress; Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden; Better Half Coffee & Cocktails; Fonda San Miguel; Suerte; Pitchfork Pretty; Launderette; Contigo; Holy Roller; Cenote; Hillside Farmacy
Cowboy up with a pair of new boots or a hat. More realistically, load up on rare vinyl and books commensurate with this robust college town. The hot spots:
- West Sixth Street District: BookPeople; Waterloo Records; The Domain
With cannabis law reform advancing in the nearby statehouse, Austin promises to get even better in the years to come. See you on Sixth Street!