Known to many as the city that longs to be kept weird, Austin Texas is an ideal travel destination for foodies, adventurers, and music-lovers alike. I spent four glorious days soaking up the Texas sun (and sunsets), exploring the quirky cultural corners, and eating more than my fair share of tacos. One thing to note: Austin is a driving city and not a walking one so it helps to map out the places you'd like to go in advance, that way you can hit multiple spots in the same neighborhoods. I used Lyft for my entire trip and had a fantastic experience, so I highly recommend it because it was the cheapest and most convenient option by far.
I jam-packed A LOT into my long weekend, so I've mapped out a guide that you too! There are so many incredible places to explore, eat and shop in the heart of Texas, but even with this list, there are still places I didn't get to. So if you’re planning a weekend trip to Austin, be sure to make it a long one!
Where to Stay:
I stayed at Hotel Indigo in Downtown Austin and had the best experience! It’s in a lively location central to a million places for food, drinks, music, you name it. It's right by 6th street, which is known for being a prime spot to find amazing live music and drinks at all hours! I really loved staying downtown because I instantly got a dose of the city’s vibe, which I don’t think I would have experienced as much on any other side of town.
The hotel itself is a boutique concept, a.k.a it has plenty of personality and color -- a direct reflection of Austin itself. The rooms were super spacious and modern, they even had a couch and desk for catching up on emails. The staff was over-the-top wonderful and attentive, too. Extra requests were met quickly and splurging on room service after a long day of walking was such a treat. The best part was absolutely the pool though. It was such a nice reprieve from the heat, especially with that poolside bar! One thing to keep in mind: its central location means it's bustling even pretty late at night, so you'll want to keep that in mind when planning your trip if you're a light sleeper.
You can check out their website to plan your next stay here.
Bonus: It’s a pet-friendly hotel. Dog lovers rejoice! :)
What To Do:
Kayak on Lady Bird Lake
Renting a kayak to float along Lady Bird Lake was one of my absolute favorite ways to start a morning in Austin. For just $15 at Congress Avenue Kayak, you can grab a double kayak for an hour to cruise through the water with 360 degree views of the city, and if you’re lucky, you might spot a turtle or two. There was also a dog park directly across of the kayak drop off, which equalled a lot of laughs watching dogs recklessly jump into the water. Also: keep an eye out for a public art piece that contains hundreds of metal bicycles right next door to the rental place.
Watch the Bats on Congress Bridge
My friend Stacie used to live in Austin and told me about this Austin-tradition to check out the bats at dusk. I would have never known about this otherwise, but I was so glad she told me. It was one of the strangest and most impressive things I’ve ever see! Around 8 or 8:30 every night, an estimated 1.5 million bats swarm out in uniform from underneath the congress bridge as the sun goes down. It’s an incredible sight to see. You can either take in the view from on the bridge itself, or if you’re feeling brave, there are boat tours where you can watch them soar over you.
Explore the Capitol
[bonus along the road directly to the capitol are tons of colorful murals!]
I love touring capitols and pretty much do so with the same excitement as a fourth grader on a field trip. The Texas state capitol was pretty majestic with level after level of gorgeous white spirals. Although I went during the weekend when business wasn’t being conducted, it was fun to explore the rooms and see a little piece of history. Bonus: The road directly to the capitol has tons of colorful murals along the way making for a rather colorful stroll.
Where to Eat
I put Arlo’s on my list because I was searching for vegetarian options close to my hotel after arriving. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it though! I ordered the BBQ burger and it was probably one of the best burgers I’ve ever had (and yeah, I’m included my pre-vegetarian burger days in there too). Not only was the food great, but you can pop over to the bar, Cheer up Charlie’s, which is right next door for popsicle cocktail or a local beer on their extra colorful patio. Win-win.
I lost track of the amount of people who told me to visit Torchy’s and I am SO glad I didn’t miss out! I had their breakfast tacos on my first full day of exploring Austin, and they did not disappoint. With soft flour tortillas, fluffy eggs, seasoned potatoes, black beans and flavorful salsa, I was pretty much in brunch heaven. I feel like breakfast burritos are classically Californian and breakfast tacos are quintessential Texas, so I instantly felt right at home. I regretted not being able to make it back their for their day time tacos, but I’ll just take that as yet another reason to go back to visit.
Zocalo Cafe is a great spot for a little healthier Mexican food, which can be the right kind of compromise if you’re feeling like you just might have consumed a little too much queso and beers earlier for lunch (I've heard). I also recommend grabbing the sangria on tap while you’re there and enjoy their shaded patios on the quiet, tree-lined streets. Perfect evening.
Home Slice Pizza
After a long day of shopping on South Congress and not wanting to wait in line for anything, pizza was the answer! I didn’t get a picture of the pizza, because it was quickly inhaled. Look at this cute tile floor there though!
Burrata Cheese Kitchen
For all the cheese lovers: Fancy grilled cheeses in a cute shady spot can be found at Burrata Cheese Kitchen. It’s also next door to a juice and smoothie truck. If that’s not enough to convince you: Thrillist voted it Austin’s best Grilled Cheese!
Blenders and Bowls
This is the go-to spot in Austin for tasty smoothie bowls! I ordered the "O.G." which had blended acai, strawberries, bananas, and apple juice, topped with hemp granola, strawberries, bananas, local honey! A refreshing way to beat the Texas heat for sure! Plus, the decor is so breezy and fun.
Elizabeth Street Cafe
I can literally eat Phở in any weather (another reason I think I’d really love Vietnam), so one afternoon I grabbed a giant bowl of phở at Elizabeth street cafe and it was sooo delicious despite the heat. Pair it with a blueberry iced tea and you’ve got yourself a lovely afternoon on their pretty pastel patio! So dreamy.
Where to Grab Dessert:
Amy’s Ice Cream
Best milkshake of my life definitely goes to Amy’s Ice Cream. It’s an Austin staple that’s been around since the 80’s and one taste of their sweet confections and it’s very easy to see why. Do yourself a favor try their Mexican Vanilla Milkshake (I got mine malted) and you’ll be in heaven. It’s definitely rich, so I recommend splitting!
Sustainably made and rich with unique flavors, Lick was such a treat. I ordered the Caramel Salt Lick and the Goat Cheese, Thyme and Honey for the ultimate explosion of sweet and savory.
Note: This ice cream shop is in North Texas and it’s not really near a lot of things, so keep that in mind. There is a hopping pizza spot next door though!
This bakery was absurdly cute and such a fun way to start off my birthday! It’s an explosion of hot pink and girly details without being tacky (a hard feat to accomplish - especially while playing 80's pop). More than just the fun ambiance is the house-made treats and tasty coffee that really make things memorable. I grabbed a coffee and a peach ginger poptart with sprinkles (!) and took a walk to explore the nearby water to watch the ducks. Can I start every morning like that??
Where to Grab a Drink:
Hotel San Jose
Frosé season, in all it’s refreshing and Instagrammable glory is in full-swing at Hotel San Jose! Also worth noting: their white wine sangria with tons of fresh fruit is an equally delectable choice. Enjoy them on their dreamy patio by the pool! #ilovesummer
To be totally honest, think I could have skipped Irene’s. I had a Lonestar on their patio and while it’s cute, the menu for drinks and food is pretty small. I’d opt to stay at one of the hotel locations near South Congress for drinks instead unless it's close to where you're at or you're in the mood for toast (that's their main thing).
The iconic coffee spot with the “I love you so much” mural has great coffee and snacks to fuel you before a day of shopping and cocktails in South Congress. Grab the Iced Turbo coffee if you need an extra jolt!
Living in California, we have a lot of health-conscious spots and I almost always take them for granted until I travel. Juiceland is one those gems with healthy smoothies and juices, which can be a nice change from the Tex-Mex pace. I opted for a green smoothie to enjoy by the pool one afternoon and it was much needed.
Where to shop:
South Congress St.
There are so many stores to visit it’s hard to name them all. It’s a good idea to set aside a whole day to spend on the street, because there’s a seemingly endless supply of shops, restaurants, coffee shops, and foodie trucks to stop by.
Some of my favorites: Costar, Tom’s Austin, The Gypsy Wagon, Warby Parker, and Uncommon Objects.
After trying to visit the Peached Tortilla only to find they were closed until 5pm, I opted to eat tacos and queso at the taco place next door. In an attempt to walk-off said queso, I found a few cute shops (from gifts to clothing to books), my favorite being A Town Boutique. It was full of quirky, but well curated gift and clothing items perfect for bringing back home. Bonus: There’s an Amy’s Ice Cream just down the street as well, so you can grab that Mexican Vanilla milkshake while you're at it!
How to Get Around:
I can’t stress this enough but Austin is NOT a walking city. I still walked quite a bit, but continually found myself needing a car to get to more than half the spots I wanted to go. That was the only part about Austin that I didn’t love. With how quickly they’ve been growing as a city, it’d be amazing to see some more investment in public transportation (although I could say the same about California).
That said, I was thankful for Lyft! if you’re planning to use Lyft on your next trip (wherever that may be) use the code Lindsay67008 for a $20 Lyft credit.
Have you been to Austin, Texas before? Any places I missed that are worth stopping next time?
P.S. Check out my Austin weekend on video!