Austin Texas in two words: eclectic and cool.
Equal parts cowboy and hipster, boasting both craft cocktails and some of the best BBQ in the world. There is no shortage of outdoor dining and lounging options, complete with games like corn hole or darts and live music. Austin Texas is sure to please.
We highly recommend checking out this city for a long weekend or a whole week. Here is a local's list of things to do in Austin Texas.
Food & Drink
Where: Craft Pride on Rainey Street
Why: Best selection of Texas craft beer on tap. Located at the end of Rainey Street, there is an amazing food truck in the back called Via 33 that makes Detroit style deep dish pizza with the best selection of Texas craft beers on tap. You can't come here without splitting a pizza in the back patio, seriously some of the best pizza! Try the Belgium style ale called Devil's Backbone and the Omnivore pizza! They sometimes have live music on the back patio.
What's Rainey Street you ask? Rainey Street is a street of homes turned into bars. A neighborhood of comfortable and approachable bars with lots of indoor and outdoor living space, music, drinks and a nearby lot for food trucks. This is my favorite spot to go out in Austin, Texas!
Where: House Wine
Why: Hidden gem on the south side of town that has a great happy hour specials every day of the week! You heard right weekend warriors! It's a quaint house with a great front patio. A perfect place for a get together! Incredible cute and charming. Parking is offered in the back of the house, but street parking is pretty easy to find right in front.
Where: Walton's Fancy & Staple
Why: Breakfast meets world-renowned neighborhood florist. Housed in a historic building in the famed Sixth Street, this deli/floral/bakery shop seems to be set in the 1800's with the most lavish and modern twists. Try the open faced ham, egg, arugula and sharp cheddar sandwich!
Where: Alta's Cafe
Why: This little wine bar boasts a deck overlooking Lady Bird Lake. Only access off the trail that circle's the lake, so it's usually not too crowded. Truly a hidden gem! Go there at sunset for a nice bottle of wine accompanied by a delectable cheese board. It's casual enough for workout clothes, yet fancy enough it makes an incredible proposal spot!
Where: Franklin's BBQ
Why: Best BBQ in town. Period. Franklin's is a half day commitment, at least! People start to form a line outside of the restaurant as early as 6am (especially on the weekend), and the line will wrap around the building through the parking lot by about 8am. So bring a chair and beer! It's BYOB in line! Personal favorite is the smoked beef brisket. Once the food runs out, they close. I am a personal believer that you want to go where it's busy, a long line even. There is (usually) a reason why it's so busy, every day, and they cannot keep up with demand. It's that good. However, if you only have a few days in Austin, my personal opinion is to skip it. There is too much to do and see to spend almost one full day in line. If you have the time, by all means, this is life changing BBQ.
traveler’s tip: Franklins is closed for vacation for 10 days every summer. This year they'll be closed July 29 - August 8, 2019.
Where: Salt Lick
Why: Great BBQ that's BOYB. Salt Lick is located south west of the main part of the city, so it's quite a drive but definitely worth the trip! It's BYOB, so load up a cooler of beers to take with you. The restaurant is huge with multiple banquet type rooms filled with long wooden tables and a great outdoor seating area in front with live bands sometimes play on the weekends. It can get very crowded, but tables turn quickly. Make a reservation if you can though!
Other Top Recommended BBQ Options: Freedmans, Ironworks, Micklethwait Craft Meats.
Where: Midnight Cowboy
Why: It's a Hidden Speakeasy, need I say more? Located on "Dirty" 6th Street. You have to make reservations for a table here since it’s pretty small and they want to keep up the “speakeasy” vibe and not let it get too crowded. It’s a very intimate and quiet setting - perfect for a pre-dinner drink with a date. The bartenders come to your table with a bar cart to mix your cocktails right in front of you. The drinks are on the pricier side, but oh so worth it.
Why: Live Music, Dogs & Sangria. Located in the middle of Rainey Street. It's the place to be on "Sunday Funday" because Austin's best cover bank, The Nightowls, play here every Sunday afternoon. The place goes off in their back patio an everyone is dancing within their first set. Dogs are allowed to roam free inside and out, and they are know for their large sangria jugs. Yum!
Where: Justine's Brasserie
Why: Late night food & drinks. Ultra hip French bistro in the very East part of town, with an amazing bar and lavish outdoor tents decorated with chandeliers, channeling Versailles.
Where: Salty Sow
Why: Amazing Happy Hour. Their Happy Hour is from 4:30 (starts right when it opens) until 6:30pm. They have the best cocktails and small plates on the HH menu! Favorites are the sparkling sangria and pork belly tacos. Get there early so you can sit on the back patio - it fills up very quickly! Easy parking in the lot right next to the restaurant (free) or street parking the neighborhood behind.
Where: Ramen Tatsuya
Why: Mighty delicious ramen. Japanese noodle bar with a cool vibe and hip-hop tunes. Walk up and order before you get seated. There's usually a line out the door, but don't let that deter you, it moves pretty quickly. Try the Mi-So-Not with added brussels sprouts or stick with the classic Ol' Skool.
Where: Crown and Anchor
Why: Sports bar. Located just north of University of Texas campus, Crown and Anchor Pub is a sports bar with a great beer list, pool tables and decent sized outdoor patio. It's a fun place to go watch shorts and have a laid back night.
Where: The Ginger Man
Why: Approachable bar for a sure good time. This bar is located in the heart of downtown Austin. It has a great beer selection on tap, a nice outdoor patio space in the back, and dart boards in a library themed room in the front. Great place for a laid back night.
Where: Garage Bar
Why: Unassuming bar with craft cocktails in a parking garage. Also located in the heart of downtown. This place is a hard place to spot unless your specifically look for it because it's located underneath a public parking garage overhang. Once inside, the ambiance changed completely into a cool, dark lounge with inventive cocktails, including their signature drink called the Indian Paintbrush - highly recommended! It's pretty small inside, so it gets crowded on the weekends and sometimes theres a line out the door. Bets to go early for pre-dinner drinks or late for a nightcap.
Where: KungFu Saloon
Why: Retro bar and arcade. Large, open bar located right off West 6th, KungFu has arcade games like skeeball, giant jenga, and usually a DJ on the weekends. It gets loud and crazy in here on the party nights, but is really fun to go with a group of people. They are known for their pickle back shots!
Why: Breakfast tacos. Yes, breakfast tacos is a thing and it's delicious! There's a few joints in Austin serving up breakfast tacos, but my favorite breakfast taco is The Wrangler - scrambled eggs topped with beef brisket. You can make any Torchy's "trashy" style and get queso added on top! Torchy's also services regular lunch or dinner tacos, but no matter what time you go you've got to order the queso.
TIP: Breakfast tacos are a staple in Austin, Texas. Other breakfast tacos recommendations: Taco Deli and Taco Joint.
Why: Coffee, ridiculously strong coffee. Jo's gives you two options, a restaurant located downtown, and a walk-up to order stand on South Congress. Known for their "Turbo" iced coffee drink - super good and will definitely give you a jolt of caffeine!
Where: Spider House
Why: Hip spot with a huge patio and games. The Spider House is and old house with a huge outdoor patio covered in light-up signs and Christmas lights. Such a cook place to go at dusk and grab a pitcher of beer. They have a decent food menu, but also a few rotating food trucks that post up in the back. They have Mario Kart hooked up to an old TV in the back, trivia nights, and other game nights throughout the week. The crowd is very hipster, but everyone feels welcome. It's really close to University of Texas campus, students come here during the day to study over coffee.
Where: Amy's Ice Cream
Why: Great quality ice cream. With multiple locations throughout the city you're sure to find your fix of ice cream. It’s similar to Marble Slab or Cold Stone in the way that they prepare the ice cream and mix in the toppings, but the quality and flavors of the ice cream are so good. I highly recommend the Belgian Chocolate or Mexican Vanilla.
What: Hike Enchanted Rock
Why: Stunning views. Located west of downtown Austin, this is a great day hike that is pretty easy to get to You can climb up a side of a giant curved rock and the views are lovely once you reach the top!
What: Hamilton Natural Pools
Why: Swim in this natural pool. Located outside of downtown Austin, but it's pretty easy to get to and makes for a great day trip! Check online before you go, sometimes they close the preserve due to rain or trail conditions. Note that people are often turned away due to overcrowding, especially on weekends, so get here early!
What: See a Show at Stubbs
Why: BBQ and music in an intimate setting. Stubbs is a small outside venue in the heart of downtown. You can usually find some pretty good musicians or banks (like Young the Giant and St. Paul and the Broken Bones) playing here throughout the year! It's a fun, intimate setting serving up BBQ. Plus tickets are fairly cheap and easy to get!
What: Barton Springs
Why: Spend the afternoon in the sun. Barton Springs is a pool roughly three acres, and is filled entirely from underground springs with an average temperature of 68-70 degrees. Ideal for swimming year-round! Located within Zilker Park. It gets pretty crowded during the summer, especially on weekends so if you can go on a weekday I recommend that! Open daily from 5am to 10pm. Admission charged from 8am to 9pm. Lifeguard on duty from 8am to 10pm.
What: Walk Ladybird Boardwalk
Why: Serene walk and amazing skyline. Walk the lake that runs through the heart of downtown Austin, and see amazing views of the city skyline from every point along the trail! The trail looks around the lake, about 10 miles, and there are so many places you can park on the north or south side to hop on the trail. Bikes and dogs are allowed!
What: Chill in Zilker Park
Why: Sunshine . Huge open grass field on the Southwest side of the city with amazing views of the city skyline. Bring a blanket and food for a nice picnic on a sunny day. Dogs can also run free here! This is where they host Austin City Limits Music Festival.
What: Kayak or Paddle board in Ladybird Lake
Why: Water sports! You can kayak and paddle board in Ladybird Kale. There are a few places you can rent equipment, but I think the most convenient place is right next to Alta's Cafe.
What: Visit Austin's Capitol Building
Why: Largest Capitol Building in the United States. Everything is bigger in Texas! The Texas Capitol is widely recognized as one of the nation's most distinguished state capitols. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The grounds around it are beautiful to walk around in, and you can go inside and check out the massive dome and surrounding rooms anytime you want (until 8 or 10 pm). Tours are offered daily.
What: See a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse
Why: Residence's favorite movie theatre. You can order food and drinks from your seat throughout the movie, and the ticket and food prices aren't much more that what you would find going to a regular theater. The 6th Street location is older with only two screens, and the one on South Lamar is newer with lots of moving playing at once and easy parking in the garage next to it.
Why: Cute boutiques with unique and local items. South Congress and 2nd Street both have great vintage, home goods, and clothing boutiques perfect to find gifts or purchase local and authentic souvenirs.
What: Go to a University of Texas Game
Why: Southern Football. The South takes football very seriously. Coming from California this was such a fun shock to see the turn out for a college football game! The stadium is amazing, and tailgating on campus is so much fun! It gets really hot during the first few months of the season, so if you can go to a night game or are in Austin in November, you're definitely better off.
Special thanks to my wonderful friend, Jessica who lived in Austin for years for helping me put this list together!
visit Austin, texas
Do you think Austin just might be the perfect city your next getaway?
At Sapphire & Elm Travel Co. I’m proud to have been to the destinations I plan trips to. I don’t plan my clients’ vacations based on vague, outdated, impersonal, or incomplete internet searches, but on personal experience and knowledge.
By traveling to the country ahead of my clients I am able to research and gather insight into the cities, activities, hotels, transportation, what to see, what to miss, and more. This often means I make mistakes in order to save my clients precious time, energy, money and hassle while you’re abroad.