Things to Do in Austin, Texas
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Austin twice – once for a bachelorette and once for a mom and daughter trip. Both trips were fairly low-key but I had a great time and really fell in love with Austin! Since I’ve been there twice and the trips were pretty different, I’ve broken my recommendations down for the city a little differently. Instead of me giving you a ready-made itinerary, I’ve listed out all the options for where to stay, what to eat and things to do, so you can craft your own itinerary of the perfect trip to Austin!
So, let’s dive right in!
Where to Stay
There are tons of places to stay in Austin, and familiarizing yourself with the area and what all you’re going to do is key to determining where you want to stay. Budget of course will play a roll, too. Both times I’ve been, we stayed south of the river in the South Congress area, which is probably my favorite part of Austin. There’s also stuff closer to the Rainey St. and 6th St. area if you’re there for more of the party scene. And, there are upscale hotel options in the downtown area if you’re there for luxury or work.
Budget-friendly is a subjective term to every person, and it’s also totally dependent on location, too. I would say that if you want to stay anywhere in downtown Austin or the SoCo area, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a budget-friendly hotel.
North of downtown, try the Embassy Suites Austin Central or the Sonesta Select Austin North Central. For an option closer to South Congress, there’s a Red Roof Inn PLUS+ in South Austin. Your most wallet-friendly options intown are going to be around the UT campus, like the Hampton Inn & Suites and Moxy – which feels like a much more expensive hotel than it is, especially if you’re looking for a trendy spot. And, it’s the only thing on this budget list that offers something more unique than your standard hotel.
Your best bet for budget-friendly accommodations, especially if you have a larger group, is probably going to be Airbnb or Vrbo!
There are lots of hotels in the $200-350 per night range in Austin, which is honestly the average or norm for this area. On our last visit, we stayed at the Embassy Suites on S. Congress, and I loved the location. We were only a few minutes from everything! The Carpenter Hotel is also located south of the river and close to some of the best parks and greenspace in the city, as is the Hyatt Regency. For a cool Austin vibe and a major party scene at the pool, Austin Motel can sometimes be in the affordable category depending on the season. The Kimber Modern and Hotel Indigo are other great hip yet affordable options.
If you want to be downtown, there are several options:
- Aloft Austin Downtown
- OMNI Austin
- Fairmont Austin
- Arrive Austin
- The LINE Austin
- Stephen F. Austin Royal Sonesta
It’s easy to splurge on a hotel in Austin because there are plenty of high-end, expensive places to stay! There are several really unique hotels on South Congress that have a true Austin vibe that are on my bucket list of places to stay. Hotel Magdalena has such a cool vibe, Hotel Saint Cecilia is a very upscale boutique spot, and the Hotel San Jose is a little hidden paradise.
For high-end luxury downtown, you have plenty of options:
- Austin Proper
- W Austin
- Hyatt House Austin
- Hilton Austin
- Austin Marriott
- Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt
- Four Seasons
- Hotel ZaZa
Things to Do
- Girls day at the spa – I highly recommend Viva Day Spa! I’ve been to the Lamar location twice, and had some of the best massages I’ve ever had there! Definitely book in advance, because they fill up.
- Shop on South Congress – This is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon! Shop the Kendra Scott flagship store, stop into Allen’s Boots for an impressive array of cowboy boots, see the coolest hats at Goorin Bros., shop a number of vintage and secondhand stores, or shop some of the upscale options like lululemon, Warby Parker and Madewell.
- Shop the 2nd Street District – If you plan to spend more of your time downtown, don’t miss the main shopping spots along 2nd Street. Here, you’ll find everything from jewelry and clothes to guitars.
- Visit one of Austin’s many impressive green spaces! Zilker Park is massive and includes botanical gardens, a science center, outdoor theatre and more. Plus, it’s home to Barton Springs pool, a natural spring-fed pool with a year-round temperature averaging 68 degrees. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is a great place for hiking, swimming, mountain biking, rock climbing, and even bird watching. Lady Bird Lake is essentially the Colorado River running through Austin and if you’ve ever been, you know there are people out there constantly! You can boat, paddle and float on Lady Bird Lake right through the heart of Austin.
- The Continental Club – No trip to Austin is complete without a stop at the famous live music venue on S. Congress.
- Visit the bar districts – Sixth Street in Austin is the main drag for bars and nightlife in the heart of downtown Austin, especially the infamous Dirty 6th. At night, the street is open to pedestrian traffic only and it’s truly a nonstop party. You also can’t miss Rainey Street, the coolest row of homes turned into bars. There’s even a container bar here!
- South Congress Bats – South Congress Bridge is home to…bats. Yes, bats. And apparently, it’s super cool to watch thousands of them all leave the bridge and fly out into the night. This generally happens around sunset from early March through late September.
- Find the many instagrammable murals – Austin seems to be covered in murals, many of which make great spots for picture taking! Find a list of many of the murals here.
- Oasis on Lake Travis – Just outside of town is this famous spot with stunning views of Lake Travis. It was honestly a little overwhelming at first because there is so much here! Definitely make a reservation if you want to eat, or stop in for a quick drink and snack on the top level of this massive place.
What to Eat
- Café No Sé – I’ve eaten brunch here on both trips to Austin and loved it. There’s usually a wait if you don’t have reservations, but the wait happens at the connected hotel bar, which is not a bad way to wait if you ask me!
- South Congress Café
- Foreign and Domestic
- Walton’s Fancy and Staple
- Snooze – I’ve eaten at a Snooze in Denver, so yes this is a chain, but it’s so good that I decided to include it!
- Jo’s Coffee
- Josephine House – We had brunch here on our first day in Austin for the bachelorette party and it was so cute, and so good!
- Bird and Biscuit – Order in advance, then grab and go!
- Tiny Boxwoods – Fancy weekend brunch spot.
- Elizabeth Street Café – Another weekend-only brunch spot.
- Better Half
- Corinne – We popped in here for brunch on our last day in Austin. We didn’t have reservations so we didn’t know if we would get in since it’s so popular, but luckily, a spot opened up at the bar so we could enjoy their delicious biscuits!
Food-wise, Austin is probably most well-known for two things – tacos and barbecue. I’ve broken those two categories down below, and then everything else is in its own category!
- la Barbecue
- Franklin Barbecue – Legendary food from Aaron Franklin himself. The dining room is still closed, so make sure to order in advance for pickup!
- Stubb’s Bar-B-Q – Yes, this is the same as the sauce and yes, it’s good! Enjoy oversized glasses of sweet tea, platters of tasty food and some of my favorite barbecue sauce all in a cool old building that is also a legendary music venue.
- Veracruz All Natural
- Torchy’s Tacos – This is an Austin institution and I still have dreams about these tacos. It’s nothing fancy – order at the counter and they’ll bring your food out – but they have some of the best taco combos. I love their breakfast tacos, and you can’t sleep on the street corn!
- Emmer and Rye
- Food truck parks on Barton Springs and S. Congress
- Ramen Tatsu-Ya
- Truluck’s – This is somewhat of a chain steakhouse restaurant but we don’t have one anywhere near us, so I am including it as a fancy dinner option if you don’t have one near you! We did our nicest dinner here on the bachelorette trip I was in Austin for, and it was so fun. We requested seats with a view and they did not disappoint. The whole vibe of the place, from the lounge singer downstairs to swapping out their typically white cloth napkins for black ones since we were all wearing all black, was top notch. And the food was delicious, too!
- Moonshine Grill
- Jak Allen’s Kitchen
- Via 313
- Las Perlas
- Mean Eyed Cat
- Upstairs at Caroline
- The Living Room at the W Hotel
- Driskell Hotel Bar
- Midnight Cowboy
- Peche – THE best espresso martini I’ve ever had. Need I say more?!
- Amy’s Ice Cream – Endorsed by Austin resident and influencer Courtney Shields herself!
- Lick Ice Cream
- Cold Cookie Company
- Churro Co.
- VooDoo Doughnut
Get ready for a great time in beautiful Austin, Texas! If you’ve visited or live there and have any recommendations to add to this list, share them in the comments below!