Photo courtesy of Sarah Brightman

Now an annual tradition, and in celebration of Christmas, Grammy Award-nominated artist Sarah Brightman brings her A Christmas Symphony tour to Austin.

Accompanied by orchestra, choir, and special guests, this magical holiday show will feature Brightman performing many of her holiday classics and greatest hits.

Photo courtesy of Lil Wayne

Here are the top 6 things to do in Austin this weekend

Weekend Event Guide

The city is brimming with so many can’t-miss happenings these days, we would be remiss if we didn’t make room for at least one more on our agenda. Catch award-winning rapper Lil Wayne live in concert, discover the works of several local artists within the 78704 neighborhood on a self-guided tour, or taste open-flame food offerings. Check out the top six things to do in Austin this weekend. For a full list of events, visit our calendar.

Thursday, May 4

Lil Wayne in concert
Grammy award-winning rapper Lil Wayne returns to Austin in support of his national tour, Welcome To Tha Carter. He rose to hip-hop stardom at 16, and has released 14 albums in his career, while amassed a dozen hits with songs like “Bling Bling,” “A Milli,” and “Lollipop.” For ticketing availability, check stubbsaustin.com.

Maie Day x First Thursdays
South Congress Hotel hosts a lavish evening of food, spirits, and merrymaking in honor of Maie Day’s one-year anniversary. Tickets include private bar access, early entry to the hotel’s popular First Thursday festivities, and a variety of bites inspired by the Maie Day menu. Get tickets to this special night of celebration on Tock.

Friday, May 5

Council on American Islamic Relations presents its Eid Celebration
Spend the day on the Texas Capitol grounds celebrating all things Eid at this event hosted by the Austin chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relation (CAIR-TX). Highlights of the day’s programming include keynotes from community leaders and officials, Islamic art showcases, free henna designs, authentic food, and more. Eid Celebration admission is free and open to the public.

Saturday, May 6

Art04 Studio Tour
The artistic talents of residents from the 78704 neighborhoods are on display at Fireseed Clay Arts Studios this weekend. The two-day, self-guided tour to various studios is free and allows guests to explore the creative processes of local artists, discover newfound pieces, and add works to their collections. Expect a firsthand experience of the art scenes in neighborhoods including Zilker, Boudin Creek, South River City, Travis Heights, Barton Hills, South Lamar, and more. Visit the art04studiotour.com for a full list of tour stops.

Austin Gay Men’s Chorus presents Ascending Colour
Musical compositions arranged and curated by people of color and LGBTQIA+ community members fill the auditorium at First Baptist Church of Austin. This special concert seeks to uplift and celebrate transgender and BIPOC artists through the art of music. Ascending Colour will include songs from new composers and a selection from Songs of the Phoenix, a new work curated by Andrew Lippa. Tickets for both Saturday and Sunday shows are available for purchase at atxgmc.org.

Sunday, May 7

a21 presents Heritage Fire Austin
Star Hill Ranch opens its gates to foodies near and far during this afternoon of outdoor culinary exploration. The live-fire event features more than 20 local chefs and brands who will each contribute their own fare to the open-flame feast. Tickets include access to unlimited food alcoholic beverages, and live entertainment. For ticketing options and a full schedule of events, go to the heritagefiretour.com.

Lil Wayne
Photo courtesy of Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne performs at Stubb's Bar-B-Q on May 4.

Photo courtesy of Bulevar Mexican Kitchen

10 Austin places to enjoy Cinco de Mayo with a margarita in your hand


If you’ve been yearning for more ways to drink through Austin after National Margarita Day, CultureMap’s got you covered. While most of these events take place on May 5, we’ve sprinkled a few fun ones leading up to the day and throughout the weekend. From margarita-making classes, to slushies, to churros, we’ve explored the many ways you can enjoy Cinco de Mayo in Austin with (or without) a drink in your hand.

Tuesday, May 2

Moxy Austin
Austinites wanting to learn mixology techniques can find their teacher at Moxy YOUniversity with the make-your-own margarita class at the Guadalupe Street location from 6:30-8:30 pm. In partnership with Socorro Tequila, attendees will get to participate in a tequila tasting with complimentary chips and salsa provided by Zombie Taco, and then dive right into the process of making their own specialty margarita. Tickets ($35 for adults and $15 for 21+ students with valid ID) can be purchased on Eventbrite.

Friday, May 5

Bulevar Mexican Kitchen
ATX Cocina’s sister concept Bulevar is offering a special lunch service for Cinco de Mayo, inviting patrons to enjoy its killer signature cocktails and mouth-watering duck carnitas huarache much earlier in the day. The lunch menu begins service at 11:30 am and the happy hour specials will also begin early at 3 pm. Reserve on OpenTable.

La Popular
This Mexico City-based restaurant group recently opened its second U.S. location right here in Southwest Austin. Known for their authentic Mexican cuisine and their brilliant cocktails, they'll be serving all-day food and drink specials on Cinco de Mayo starting with their signature LP margaritas ($10), al pastor tacos ($5), and Corona beers ($5). Reservations can be made on their website.

Blue Owl Brewing
“Slushie de Mayo” is the theme for this year’s celebration at Blue Owl Brewing, featuring two delicious flavors that will keep you wanting more: paloma and spicy beer-rita. The slushie machines will be working double time to keep the drinks flowing for guests from noon to 5 pm. Take them to-go, or stay awhile to enjoy locally-made empanadas from Mmmpanadas with complimentary chips and dip. More information can be found at blueowlbrewing.com.

La Condesa
This James Beard-nominated Mexican restaurant in downtown Austin will provide six drink and food specials for diners, curated by Chef Rick Lopez. Drink specials include mezcal-oriented La Batalla and tequila-based El Soldado, and La Bandera, which is a flight of Carabuena Blanco tequila served between red and green sangrita. Guests can also take their pick of holiday food specials like the fish tacos, tostadas de chapulines, or grilled skirt steak. Reserve on OpenTable.

De Nada Cantina
East Austin's favorite cantina is going all out for Cinco de Mayo with a pig roast, giveaways, cornhole, face painting, and an outdoor bar in their parking lot tent. Live mariachi is scheduled from 6-8 pm, and a DJ will take over from 8-10 pm. Keep an eye out for a special edition release for their margarita cups. Reservations are fully booked, but walk-ins will be accepted.

Bar Peached
Who doesn’t love sipping on a marg while lounging on a beautiful downtown Austin patio? You can’t go wrong at Bar Peached, with beverage director Kevin Kok’s specially-made mixed berry margarita. Don’t forget to pair your cocktail with one of the unique food offerings like the bánh mì or miso garlic sweet potato tacos. And if you time your visit during the social hour from 5-6:30 pm, you can also enjoy fan faves like the margarita de peached, paloma, and more for $7. Reservations can be made via OpenTable.

The Salty
It’s not a holiday without a special treat. The Salty’s signature brioche dough is getting a Cinco de Mayo treatment for this one-day-only special all day on May 5. The bite-size mini churros will be sold in a set of three ($3.25), and guests can add The Salty’s indulgent homemade salted caramel or chocolate sauces ($2 each). Orders can be made in-person or online, to-go, and for delivery via saltydonut.com.

Saturday, May 6

Fiesta Austin
The city’s premiere Cinco de Mayo celebration will host an array of musical acts, cultural dances, arts, and food on May 6 from 10 am to 11 pm. Scheduled performers include Grammy-nominated group Houston’s Powerhouse, all-female mariachi band Las Valquirias, Chris Castaneda Band, and more. Presale tickets are $5, with no cover charge until noon ($7). Admission for children 12 and under is free. More information is available at fiestaaustin.org.

Sunday, May 7

All Tequila, All Shade Drag Brunch with DJ Eriq Stylez at La Condesa
La Condesa is bringing back its popular drag brunch for the Cinco de Mayo weekend with several of its well-loved brunch staples and themed cocktails beginning at 11 am. Indulge in rich flavors with the tostada de atún or a themed cocktail while Texas-based queens Nazareth, Joselyn Breezy, and Celia Light perform at 12:15 pm. A portion of all drink special proceeds will be donated to The Equality Alliance Texas. Reservations ($25) can be made via OpenTable.


New "passport" tracks your tour of Austin's AAPI food scene with deals, matched donations, and a prize

Continental meals

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and we do mean month. Not just a day to eat dumplings, this is a 31-day opportunity to think about and support our AAPI neighbors, and one organization is extending that with a year-round initiative. We may need an official document to keep track of all that. Thankfully, this "passport" doesn't take much to obtain.

In addition to providing a great resource for figuring out where to eat (off Google Maps, for once), the Family Style: Austin Asian Restaurant Passport also organizes coupons from 30 local restaurants for more than $300 in deals. The $45 book encourages local foodie support at AAPI-owned businesses while also supporting the Austin Asian Community Health Initiative (AACHI), which uses proceeds from the sales to improve healthcare access to its community in Central Texas.

This is the inaugural year for the annual initiative, and it will stretch all the way to April 30, 2024, when this passport expires. Since deals start on May 1, there are never any gaps — this passport just became the new normal for local diners who love a deal.

It's also a good bit of padding to make sure diners have time to get all their stamps for a prize, but it is still a race. The first person to finish their book will win a 10-person, three-course meal at Qi Austin, an upscale farm-to-table Chinese restaurant. (Chef Ling Qi Wu started Ling Kitchen, a current Tastemaker Awards semi-finalist in the fan-voted Best New Restaurant category, on a similar 10-person dining idea.)

Just this month, a few of the participants have opted in for an additional challenge: specialty cocktails made with Tito's Handmade Vodka. The Peached Tortilla, Sazan Ramen, and Oseyo are mixing up their contributions, and Tito’s is pledging $1 from every cocktail to AACHI, up to $2,500.

"When we think about public health and healthy lives for everyone, community comes to mind," said AACHI executive director Hailey Easley in a press release. "One of the biggest ways that communities come together is through food and culture. While the passport holder tastes what some of Austin's Asian businesses have to offer, proceeds from the sales of the passport go toward keeping AACHI's life-saving programs alive and growing so we can continue our work and help more clients receive equitable healthcare in all the ways that impact their well-being.”

The diversity that makes the passport and this food scene interesting also sometimes complicates the community support AAPI organizations need to offer, with different languages, immigration histories, and social structures to uphold. That's even before issues with transportation access and income. AACHI has a broad job that includes logistical problem solving within its Community Health Navigation (CHN) Program, as well as a therapist directory and a reporting system for racism related to COVID-19, among other initiatives.

Passports ($45), which will be delivered by mail, are available at familystyleatx.com.

Participating Restaurants:

  • Asahi Imports
  • Bisous
  • Carabao Express
  • Chinatown Restaurant
  • Cho Sushi Japanese Fusion
  • Dosa Shack
  • East Side King
  • Epic Poke
  • Fierce Whiskers Distillery
  • Fil N’ Viet
  • Hotpot Alley
  • House of Three Gorges
  • Komé Sushi Kitchen
  • NG Cafe
  • Oseyo Restaurant
  • Pokeatery
  • Pho Craft
  • Pho Thaison
  • Pho Yes
  • Sa-Tén Coffee and Eats
  • Sazan Ramen
  • Sharetea Austin
  • Steamies Dumplings
  • SXSE Food Co
  • Texas Sushiko
  • Thai Fresh
  • The Peached Tortilla
  • Tso Chinese Takeout & Delivery
  • Yeni's Fusion
Photo by Shelley Neuman

Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic

Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic will feature performances by Willie Nelson & Family, Tyler Childers, Dwight Yoakam, Shakey Graves, Shane Smith & the Saints, Sierra Ferrell, Asleep at the Wheel, and Particle Kid.

Fans can also expect food, drinks, and post-show fireworks to celebrate the national holiday.

Photo courtesy of Earlybird CBD

Get to know these Austin cannabis brands at their 420 celebrations

Blaze it, vape it, etc.

Lots of holidays come with cumbersome traditions, but there's one that encourages doing whatever you want to do — especially if it's fun. Although many cannabis lovers plan to stay home on April 20 — or 420 — some Austin organizers are putting on more intensively curated events.

The weird and youthful capital is already a growing destination for the cannabis industry including hemp products and cannabinoids (like CBD, CBG, and delta-9). Especially in communities like Austin with a strong wellness culture, brands have started taking a more thoughtful approach to something that used to be best advertised through irreverence and mystery.

There's no better time or place to get started on a cannabis journey, whether the goal is to get high or stay grounded. Here are four events by some of Austin's top cannabis brands this 420.

Earlybird CBD
This cannabis company partners often with local businesses, making it an easily recognizable cornerstone of the Austin market. There are tons of places to buy Earlybird CBD products, but the lineup itself is small, keeping things simple with full-spectrum CBD tinctures and gummies. These products contain all the natural compounds of the plant, including a very low level of THC (likely imperceptibly so, but worth noting for people who may take drug tests).

Earlybird has curated a big party and show at Fairweather Cider with KOOP, Austin's adventurous community radio station. Kind Keith and a special guest will play tunes live, alongside DJ Sets by Art Baker of Jamaican Gold and Honest John of Voyager. Spicy Boys Fried Chicken and Tastemaker Awards nominee Bad Larry Burger Club will offer indulgent snacks while Earlybird hands out treats from the "gummy ball machine" to guests age 21 and up.

The free show is open to the public without an RSVP. Check Instagram for more information. 4-10 pm.

Restart CBD
Perhaps the best-known CBD store in town, Restart CBD earns its great reputation with almost impossibly detailed advice both online and taped to in-store display cases. The huge selection offers lots of versatility from gummies, to oils, to pre-rolls, pet treats, baked goods, and more. A scroll through the website preps a CBD user with science, legislation, and more readable anecdotal tips. It even maintains a partnership with a CBD hotline.

Cannabis, pizza, and a movie are a timeless combination, so Restart and Salvation Pizza have teamed up to host "Dosed and Infused." The pizza party includes a showing of a famous Austin movie (Dazed and Confused) with $4.20 slices and a delta-8 infused ranch dipping sauce. (If you think dipping pizza in ranch is weird, consider that you'll be in an altered mental state.) The first 30 guests will receive a goodie bag with Restart products.

This showing is free and open to guests 21 and up. Reserve on Eventbrite. 6-8 pm.

The Happy Cactus Apothecary
This store is Austin to its core. The pink trailer is like a food truck for CBD products, and a new brick-and-mortar shops expands the good vibes in the same hue. The store is known for its high-quality selections that the founders have "researched and tested" across the country, as well as its welcoming atmosphere. The Happy Cactus makes its own gummies alongside the teas, salves, and more it carries from other brands.

This 420 celebration doubles as a birthday party for the shop. Starting at 4:20 pm, of course, there will be free beer, a live DJ, goodie bags, and more. A raffle will be available to any visitor who spends $50, and will be active both at the party at the trailer at 5700 Menchaca Rd. and at the brick-and-mortar at 3414 E. 7th St. Prizes are not listed, but they'll total $420 worth of products. That $50 should be easy to hit given the "dope deals" teased.

RSVP on Eventbrite. 4:20-6 pm.

Austinite Cannabis Co.
This smaller company is known for its knowledgeable and friendly staff, and a storefront that brings together a wide range of products by many brands, including non-CBD products like books, merch, and creative smoking accessories. It embraces more of the stoner culture that cannabis shops were known for before the legalization of CBD and whitewashing of hemp products. The team also hosts a round table podcast for stories from within the industry.

Austinite Cannabis Co. hosts a recurring event called Cannabis Combat Club that surely won't be anything like other brands' celebrations — not to mention, it celebrates two days late on April 22, so visitors can make this event in addition to their prior 420 commitments. The store will host an open mat jiu-jitsu spar in the back with "light refreshments" and standing and sitting room for spectators.

RSVPs (via Eventbrite) are not required, but requested for an estimated headcount. 11 am to 2 pm.

Readers should note that cannabis legislation and industry practices are evolving very quickly on a state-by-state basis. The FDA has not approved any cannabis products without a prescription. Lack of FDA approval does not mean that a substance is definitively unsafe — the agency simply has not conducted enough studies to make a recommendation.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Charming Austin suburb is the fastest-growing city in the country, plus more top stories

hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From Georgetown to Brenham, and of course inside Austin proper, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Charming Austin suburb is the fastest-growing city in the country, with neighbors close behind. Georgetown had a 14.4-percent population increase from 2021 to 2022, bringing the city's total population to more than 86,500 residents.

2. Austin dethroned from top spot in new ranking of top summer travel destinations for 2023. Some Austinites are happy to hear the summer will be less crowded, but tourist revenue may suffer.

3. Lengendary Texas ranch resort makes waves on the market with $15 million price tag. It's a stretch to call it rustic, but this resort for sale includes horse stables, wildflowers, and an organic farm.

4. This is how big Austin apartments get for $1,500 a month. Unsurprisingly, it's not as much square footage as you can get elsewhere in Texas, but it's still not even close to Manhattan.

5. Here are the top 7 things to do in Austin this holiday weekend. The Memorial Day weekend brings chances to try great barbecue, take a walk with faeries, and hear lots of live music.

Dip your toes into these 7 Austin pools with passes, snacks, and summer events

Wet Hot Austin Summer

Memorial Day is here, which means so are the days of sitting in a lounge chair and sweating while looking unreasonably fabulous. Whether it's to beat the summer heat or to show off a new swimsuit, Austinites may have more options than they think to take a swim at the many pools around town. Even if you haven't committed to an overnight stay, most hotels offer day passes, and some even offer other deals or poolside programming.

One great way to find passes not just to pools around town, but also to spas and other hotel amenities, is to browse ResortPass. (Not sponsored, just cool.) There are 26 Austin options on the site right now.

But we wanted to let you know what's going on beyond the pass — who will set you up for a great meal, who lets you drink out of a coconut, and whose views (or lack thereof) provide the best ambiance for your day off. Some of our choices aren't even on the platform.

Go grab your sandals, and save us a towel.

Greater Austin YMCA
Let's start with the less glamorous before we break out the poolside fashion. The YMCA is a family staple for a reason, and if your goal is just to get in the water regularly throughout the summer, especially with kids, it's a great place to start. There are "interactive hours" at the outdoor pools (more fun than swimming laps) at the East Communities, Hays Communities, Northwest Family, Southwest Family, and Springs Family YMCAs, as well as the YMCA at Camp Moody. The Y is semi-affordable; It would probably be cheaper to visit a hotel pool once or twice, but a Y membership includes a month of access, guest passes, and much more, and may replace your gym membership for the summer. $69 per month, with age and household discounts. austinymca.org

Hotel Van Zandt
If your pool visit doesn't include spritz and giggles, why are you even there? Hotel Van Zandt is opening up its stylish rooftop pool for the "Spritz & Giggles Poolside Happy Hour & Sunset Swim" event series. Every Monday through Thursday, visitors can enjoy $8 frozen Aperol spritzes, $8 specialty cocktails, and a special pool menu with items like a refreshing green salad, pork belly al pastor tacos, and a spicy fried chicken sandwich. Geraldine's, the main restaurant, is right inside for even better drinks, expanded bites, and sometimes live music. Starting at $48 per day for adults, $15 for kids. hotelvanzandt.com

Carpenter Hotel
If one day at the Carpenter Hotel pool is just not enough, the hotel has now added monthly passes. In addition to unlimited access to the secluded pool in the Zilker neighborhood, a pass gets a $30 discount for the new monthly BBQ Pool Parties (bringing attendance down to $25). That will include a great spread of less commonly seen barbecue items like grilled bay scallops, mushroom skewers, elotes, deviled potato salad, and more. Monthly pass holders also get to bring one child under 8 for free. $40 daily, $200 monthly. Both Monday through Thursday. carpenterhotel.com

South Congress Hotel
The South Congress Hotel is right in the middle of where many Austinites want to be on a summer day, if it weren't so dang hot. This rooftop pool solves that problem in style, with daily pool passes every day of the week, as well as cabana rentals. Café No Sé supplies poolside drinks and snacks, and downstairs, Austin's Best New Restaurant Maie Day offers a hearty meal after a day of napping in the sun. Cabanas can be rented for four people and include self-parking, bottled water, and a bottle of champagne or bucket of High Noon. Days for $40 and cabanas for $300 on weekdays; days for $75 and cabanas for $400 on weekends. southcongresshotel.com

Hotel Viata
Hotel Viata is a bit of a sleeper hotel among Austin boutiques, as it's located a little beyond West Lake Hills. Still, if you want a taste of Italy, the drive to this retreat will be worth it. Not to mention, with the extra room these downtown hotels can't offer, a pool pass includes access to a hot tub, fire pits, and great views of the hills around the city. Pool passes are available, but if you want to see it for free before you spend, wait for June 10; The hotel invites guests 21 and up to check out the pool for free at the "Summer Festa in Piscina" party, with a "Taste of Italy" add-on ($55) for Aperol Spritz, limoncello lemon drops, and negronis all day. $45 per day for adults, $25 for children. resortpass.com

Wax Myrtle's
This rooftop bar and pool is known for its never-ending events calendar, and of course that energy extends to poolside entertainment. There will be live music on the weekends, plus live DJ sets on Saturday nights, alongside whatever other programming happens to be going on inside. Even if it's a do-nothing day, these large, over-the-top drinks will give you a delicious challenge. The "Boot Scootin Fruity" mixes rum, an aperitivo, hibiscus, and lime in a cowboy hat punch bowl ($90); the luxe "Mojito 75" combines Moët & Chandon with rum and mojito must-haves in a disco ball ($230); and an unnamed cocktail is worth trying just to enjoy it from a real coconut. Starting at $15 for adults, $10 for children, and more for daybeds and cabanas. waxmyrtles.com

Austin Motel
Perhaps one of the best known pools in Austin for its retro vibes, fun events, and accessibility to on-foot wanderers is the Austin Motel. This is a great, less expensive choice that's probably more fun for casual pool revelers who would feel a little put out by having to dress up and behave in a more luxe hotel setting. There are also frequent poolside events at this motel, like the free "Bounce Motel" series with live DJs, or the body-positive "Chunky Dunk." The pool is offers daily passes every day, even when there's nothing on the calendar. $25 on weekdays, $45 on weekends, or $600 in three-and-a-half-month "waves." austinmotel.com

Carpenter Hotel pool

Photo by Andrea Calo

Austinites don't need to stay at a hotel to be invited to the pool. (Pictured: The Carpenter Hotel)

6 Austin museums are offering free admission for military families all summer long

spread the museum love

Half a dozen Austin museums are honoring active-duty military personnel and their families with free admission through the Blue Star Museums initiative, May 20 through September 4, 2023.

Established by the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the U.S. Department of Defense, the Blue Star Museums program annually provides military families free access to 2,000 museums nationwide throughout the summer. The program begins yearly on Armed Forces Day in May and ends on Labor Day.

Free admission is extended to personnel currently serving in the U.S Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard (including those in the Reserve), and all National Guardsman. Members of the U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps and NOAA Commissioned Corps are also included in the program.

Those who qualify can use their military ID to bring up to five family members – including relatives of those currently deployed. More information about qualifications can be found here.

There is no limit on the number of participating museums that qualifying families may visit. Admission for non-active military veterans, however, is not included.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts website, the initiative was created to help "improve the quality of life for active duty military families" with a specific focus on children. The site states two million have had a parent deployed since 2001.

"Blue Star Museums was created to show support for military families who have faced multiple deployments and the challenges of reintegration," the website says. "This program offers these families a chance to visit museums this summer when many will have limited resources and limited time to be together."

Among Austin's participating museums, the Blanton Museum of Art recently held its grand opening celebration to debut their new grounds, complete with a new large mural by Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera.

“As a museum that has long been at the forefront of collecting work by artists of Latin American descent, as well as the place where Ellsworth Kelly realized his last great work of art, entering the collection at this moment marks a high point in my long career," Herrera said.

Here's a look at all the museums in Austin that participate in the Blue Star Museums initiative.

For those looking to take a drive around Central Texas, the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum and Taylor's Moody Museum are also participants in the Blue Star Museums initiative.

More information about Blue Star Museums and a full list of participants can be found on arts.gov.