Since attending The University of Texas, I am proud to say that Austin has been a place I call home for over 4 years. This city is growing fast by the day and it’s easy to see why. It truly has a place for everyone within every nook and cranny in this live music capitol of the world. Whether you consider yourself a hipster or a cowboy, you’ll fall in love with Austin.
Here I want to share with you how you can best experience all that Austin has to offer. From the great outdoors to it’s eclectic nightlife, there is so much to see and I’ll be honest, you’ll likely have to return to do and see everything. But once you depart, I’m sure it won’t be long before you’re ready to come back.
This guide starts on a Wednesday, but no matter what days of the week you plan to visit, all of these great places(with the exception of a few) can be enjoyed at any time.
WELCOME TO TEXAS! If you’ve arrived earlier in the day, assuming it’s nice out, head on over to the Barton Springs area of Austin and enjoy a few cocktails, and a meal if you’re hungry, on Shady Grove’s outdoor patio! From here, you’re only a few minutes walk down to aquatic and nature parks such as Barton Springs, Zilker Park, and Austin’s very own Lady Bird Lake.
At Barton Springs, you can lay out by this pool made from nearby natural springs. If you’re feeling more adventurous, head on over to Lady Bird Lake where you can Stand Up Paddle board, kayak, canoe, etc. through boat rental companies such as Live Love Paddle and Rowing Dock (I’ve been to both and they’re both great, though you’d have to drive to Live Love Paddle). Also, you can bring dogs with you on the lake, so take advantage of this opportunity to meet cute little doggies!
(Our little guy Gimley enjoying his afternoon kayak)
After enjoying the day being near the water, you can take either of two courses of action:
1. Enjoy some good ole’ fashion TexMex at Chuy’s right next door to Shady Grove! Instead of your typical salsa, which they do serve, you’ll also get their “liquid crack,” which you can enjoy with your chips! Be warned: it’s addicting, hence its nickname!
After your delicious TexMex meal, if you’re visiting Austin in the summer months, then return to Zilker park! On select Wednesday evenings during the summer, Zilker hosts a series of FREE musical concerts called Blues on the Green! So grab a blanket and a cooler, and lounge on the grass to relax while enjoying the music. Shows normally start at 8, but I recommend getting there early so you can grab the perfect spot; it gets pretty crowded.
2. Retreat from the Barton Springs area and head on over to 4th and Lavaca Street in downtown! Dinner can be had at Fado’s, a unique Irish pub and grill with an earthy, exotic interior.
If Irish food isn’t your thing, dine at Peche, a French style restaurant with a prohibition era feel, also best known for its vintage absinthe drinks!
Once you’re done eating, bar crawl around the local bars, starting with The Ginger Man, which is one of my personal Texas faves! From there check out the Hangar Lounge, which is a vintage airport themed bar, and across the street is The Market & Tap Room, a bar & lounge with an old school vibe.
After bar crawling, finish your night off at Cedar Street Courtyard to watch The Spazmatics play their weekly Wednesday night shows from 9:30pm-1am! For those not familiar, The Spazmatics are a chain band with different cast members in each band that perform 80’s cover songs in various cities! There is a cover charge for the show, so be prepared.
Since you’re in Texas, you have to have breakfast tacos at least once! Begin your day on South Congress at Guero’s Taco Bar where they serve breakfast all day, so you don’t have to worry about breakfast cut off times.
From there, YOU HAVE TO stroll down the South Congress street. There are so many quirky shops to see and look at!
You’ll definitely want to peruse through the store Uncommon Objects, a vintage store filled with literally its name, uncommon objects.
Don’t forgot to stop into Allen Boots, a landmark store with over 4,000 pairs of cowboy boots! Maybe you’ll even find a pair to take home as a Texas souvenir.
Also, note that the first Thursday of every month, South Congress hosts an event full of vendors where local artists showcase their work and talents!
After visiting the shops, you can make your way to Amy’s Ice Creams if you’re in the mood for something sweet! Amy’s is a privately owned Austin company that adds a unique spin on typical ice cream flavors. Some of them are even alcohol-infused.
If you’re feeling the desire for some actual alcohol, stop at the San Jose Hotel, a gardenesque bungalow where you can stop for drinks, regardless of whether or not you have a room key. Their garden lounge area is not to be missed and sometimes they even have DJ’s play for your enjoyment. But be aware that no liquor is served here, only beer, wine, and sake.
If you’re getting hungry for lunch, what better way to satisfy your cravings then tasting Austin’s spin on New York style pizza at Homeslice Pizza!
On South Congress, there are two different spots to grab Homeslice pizza, but whether you go for the actual sit-down restaurant or opt for the fast service, curbside window, you’ll get the same delicious pizza and you won’t regret your decision.
When you’ve seen and done all there is to do on South Congress, it’s time to get ready for the evening festivities. Once you’re ready for dinner, you have two choices for restaurants:
1. Venture over to South Lamar and enjoy Austin’s Live Band Karaoke at Baker St Pub & Grill starting at 9:30 pm. Enjoy a list of awesome songs to choose from and sing away with an actual band behind you! Or, if you’re not into singing, it’s still just as fun to watch people! But after a few drinks, you may change your mind. 😉
2. If you want more of an authentic meal at a privately owned restaurant that Austin is booming with, head downtown to The Russian House. Once you’ve been seated at your table, enjoy a free vodka shot given to you by your waitress. This intimate Russian house has over 100 infused-vodkas, so choose your favorite, or even mix and match flavors to create the perfect vodka cocktail. Just pace yourself, folks. Things can go real south, real quick!
Once you’ve consumed your delightful eats, it’s time to get crazy on 6th street, a.k.a. “Dirty 6th.” There are so many bars to hop around and choose from so just go with the flow! If you’d like some more direction, I’d begin down by the Driskill hotel and work your way down the street, ultimately ending at Cheers Shot Bar. Make sure you go up the stairs to the outside back patio!
Enjoy sleeping in this morning and hit up the restaurant Snooze for breakfast. Although it’s not solely an Austin-based company, they serve breakfast and cocktails all day, so what better way to begin your next adventure!
When you’ve finished eating, Austin’s HOPE Outdoor Gallery is next on your list. This gallery is an outdoor graffiti park where those looking to exploit their creativity can do so without repercussions!
After walking through this hidden gem of Austin, enjoy a nice hike and even sunset views on Mount Bonnell, the highest point in Austin.
You can even find hidden entrances to the Green Belt if hiking and biking is more your thing. The entrance I am most familiar with is 3755-B Capital of Texas Hwy (Loop 360), which looks like you’re heading into an office complex, but don’t be fooled! There’s also an entrance at 2201 Barton Springs Road, and plenty more if you do some further research!
Mount Bonnell Photo via
With a full day spent outdoors, the hunger is sure to creep up. Since you’re in cowboy country (Texas), you should get your two-step on at the Broken Spoke, a dance hall/restaurant with live music that’s been operating since 1964! Even if you can’t dance, or have no idea what on earth I mean by two-step, don’t worry! They have lessons from 8-9pm every Wednesday through Saturday.
If the whole boot scootin’ boogie idea is freaking you out a little bit, retreat to downtown where one of my all time favorite Chinese restaurants, Chinatown, is awaiting. This is great for those who really enjoyed the karaoke from the night before. Although Chinatown doesn’t offer live band karaoke, they offer pretty much every song you can think of! Add that with sake bombs and you’ve got yourself a great start to a great night.
For those looking for something a little more casual and less “musically inclined,” check out Polvo’s, a Mexican grill with dangerous margaritas!
After dinner, make your way over to West 6th street, Dirty 6th’s classy counterpart, though just as crazy! These bars have a little bit more of a unique flare. My personal favorites are Kung Fu Saloon, known for its ample amount of arcade games, and Brew Exchange, a stock-exchange themed bar with over 100 beers on tap. The more demand for a beer, the higher the price. You can see how expensive the beers are via their 1960’s style ticker above the bar. Their motto: buy low, drink up!
And don’t forget to visit Green Light Social, notorious for its rooftop views and alcohol-infused capri suns.
It’s Saturday brunch time!! Kick off brunch on East 6th street at Yellow Jacket Social Club. I personally recommend the Amy’s Breakfast, and you can enjoy it with mimosas or a spicy bloody mary!
After brunch, stay on East 6th if you’d like to continue exploring this hipster-style neighborhood.
I really like The Craftsman for day-drinking. This cute, bungalow style bar is perfect for drinks and bar games! Have fun with giant Jenga and if you’re feeling daring, do the dares that other patrons have written on the back of the pieces as you play!
When you’re hungry for lunch, you MUST get BBQ at Micklethwaits! You are in Texas after all, right? The line may be long, as are most BBQ joints around town, so hang in there; it’s worth the wait.
Looking for a fun activity? Head back to the Barton Springs area and play some mini golf at Peter Pan where the mini golf scenery is up to par! Just know it’s cash only.
Continue the fun down on Rainey Street, a bungalow-style neighborhood where the houses are actually bars! Begin eating at Bangers, a sausage house and beer garden that has over 104 beers on tap, and perfectly crafted sausages all cooked in a unique fashion! My personal favorite is definitely the Duck, Bacon, and Fig sausage. If you happen to come back on Sunday, enjoy their Manmosa, basically an entire bottle of champagne with orange juice served on their brunch menu! Also, it’s dog friendly, so be prepared to be licked and greeted by furry friends.
Once you’ve finished eating and enjoying your craft beer, finish walking down the street, stopping at the various bars along the way. For newcomers, the only stop I highly recommend is The Container Bar, a bar literally made out of shipping containers.
Start off your last day in Austin at Geraldine’s where they have Jazz Brunch every Sunday at 11am.
I’ll be honest that this place is a little more pricey, so if you’re looking for something a little less expensive, try brunch at Forthright. This place is not only dainty, but the food is delicious! I am a huge fan of pork belly, and their pork belly hash is top notch, but you can definitely opt for avocado toast if you want something a little lighter. Finish off your meal with a peppermint white Russian, the perfect dessert cocktail.
After brunch, head downtown where you can see the Capitol of Texas, The University of Texas campus, and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. The Capitol of Texas is the largest capitol in the country, second to the U.S Capitol. The University of Texas is also one of the largest universities with over 50,000 students. As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas!
If you start to get hungry for lunch, I recommend grabbing tacos at Torchy’s Tacos. There is one pretty close to campus!
After your day of sightseeing, if you have time for dinner, feast on some good ole’ ranch-style meals at Contigo’s in East Austin. This is where I had rabbit for the first time and I don’t regret it one bit.
If you’re craving more BBQ, though it’s a little out of the way, drive out to Salt Lick BBQ where you can drink from your BYOB cooler and, often times, there will be live music while you wait for your table!
If you have time this evening, you MUST see a film at either Alamo Drafthouse or the Paramount downtown. Alamo Drafthouse, a quirky brand of cinema, is great place to catch a movie! I highly recommend their Guinness milkshake! Paramount, on the other hand, is Austin’s most historic theatre having been built in 1915! Here, you can escape the mainstream and catch some classic flicks!
Hotels: I won’t recommend hotels unless I stayed somewhere and really enjoyed it, or it served as a unique part of our trip, simply because I believe everyone has their own taste and a lot of the time it just comes down to price. While I won’t recommend hotels for this particular blog post, I will recommend websites that do facilitate hotel/private stay bookings such a Airbnb and booking.com.
If there’s anything you think I’m missing, please let me know! I am always open to try new places! I hope you enjoy Austin just as much as I do. 🙂