You’re on for your Texas tour. After a long weekend in Dallas tasting local delicacies, you’re heading south. You’ve just landed in Austin, and tales of this town’s BBQ, music and tacos are forefronts in your mind. So you’re ready to throw on cowboy boots, a crop top and get weird with this town for the weekend.
But wait: do you really know what to do in Austin? As a visitor to the Live Music Capital of the World, you’re running off tips from BuzzFeed and the New York Times. So will you let your weekend get swallowed by waiting in lines and looking like a Yankee? Of course not. I’ve got your back. No matter how short your trip to Austin is, there are plenty of great things to do!
Tacos in Austin
First things first. Let’s get you a taco. Austin is a taco town, and tacos are acceptable breakfast and dinner fare. The two biggest names are Taco Deli and Torchy’s, for very good reason. Both are delicious in their own ways. Torch has all fried everything and queso to die for. As your local friend, I recommend the Independent and the Trailer Park. The Independent haunts my dreams; it’s so good. At Taco Deli, you’ll find less fried food. Try Frontera Fundido Portobello or the Puerco Verde for a local delight. Star Seeds is a delightful diner right off I -5 (traffic’s brutal here, btw) and a great spot to grab an out of the way dinner. Butterfly Bar is a beautiful and expansive outdoor bar a few blocks away. Strings of lights are a bar staple in Austin, but Butterfly Bar opts for both coloured strings and the classic white. You can even catch a movie by a local artist here in the spring!
Walking around Austin
You’ll definitely want to walk around after eating your weight in tacos/diner food, so we’ll head to South Congress. The cutest street in town, you can spend a few hours popping in and out of the boutiques and stores.
Parts & Labour is a store whose catchphrase is ‘All Texas, all the time.’ Since 2004 they’ve showcased Texas artists. Inside you’ll find a beautiful array of clothing, jewellery, coasters, and cards. If you need a souvenir, this is your store. The Gypsy Wagon is like Pinterest come alive. Notebooks, jewellery, room decor, furniture, dream catchers…All your Instagram needs will be definitely be met inside. South Congress is also home to some hidden street art gems, and I don’t just mean the super famous ‘I love you so much wall.’ (Though that’s great too!).
Behind Homeslice Pizza is a whole wall of some great art. I personally love the cowgirl. Scattered around the city are other displays of Austin art. Check behind Buffalo Exchange on Guadalupe or Wahoo’s Fish Tacos.
Austinites are very into being outside
With so much greenery in the city, a hike is a must. Sunday mornings are made for brunch, and Sunday afternoons are made for hikes. Anyplace on the Greenbelt will work up a sweat and provide some nature time. I like the Hill of Life for a nice elevation change and a chance to walk by some water.
Zilker Park is the site of ACL, so it’s enormous and has plenty to offer. You can catch a game of frisbee golf (bring your own disc) or relax on the hill with a good book. The Zilker Botanical Gardens are also inside the park and definitely worth an hour or two of your time. If you’re feeling a little more outdoorsy, head to McKinney Falls State Park. You can hike, swim, camp, and even fish here.
Ready to get a drink?
I’m sure you’ve heard all about the shenanigans on Dirty 6th, but let’s get your feet wet before we throw you into the deep end. The Tiniest Bar in Texas is on W 5th and next to three different food trucks. Head north one block to 6th, and make your way east. Star Bar on 6th is a fun spot for a few drinks and people watching. You’ll find any bar’s a good bar on Dirty 6th. Library Bar, Maggie Mae’s and Cheers Shot bar are all classics. Keep heading East, though, and go one block south back to 5th. Keep going until it feels like you’re a little lost and headed out of the bar area. You’ve just found Yellow Jacket Social Club. Yellow Jacket has a front area filled with trees and picnic tables. The perfect spot to enjoy a Sunday brunch in the shade with friends. It’s got all the hipster credit of the Eastside with way less noise than anywhere on E 6th. Plus those trees.
What to do in Austin: Live Music!
No trip to Austin is complete without some live music. There are over 200 venues here, so you’re bound to find something you like. Saturday night will be spent of Red River, taking in a show. Or any number of shows, really. The Mohawk, Stubb’s, Empire Control Room, Cheer Up Charlies, or Elysium will have a live performance. The music ranges from EDM to punk. So pick a sound you like and walk towards it! Head downtown for some big acts at the ACL Live or Stubb’s BBQ. Empire Control Room is a good mix of indoor and outdoor stages for people to watch. If you’re unsure what to see, Cheer Up Charlies always has something going on. Cactus Cafe is a great place to catch an intimate show, and The White Horse is perfect for two-stepping the night away.
Sunday, we’ll head to Zilker Park for a day of music, food, and friends at ACL. What started as a small Austin City Limits Music Festival has turned into a two-weekend event that takes over the city. So if you can’t make it out to see live music, check out some local talent around town.
You can’t leave Austin without seeing a show at the Continental Club. You never know who you might see. The club has been around since 1955, and it’s hosted everyone from Stevie Ray Vaughan to Muddy Waters.
Enjoy your ice cream
Finally, let’s wrap up your trip to Austin with something sweet. It’s hot eight months of the year here, which means it’s always time for ice cream. Sweet Ritual on 45th and Duval has some of the best in town, and a bonus: it’s all vegan. If you’re feeling less adventurous, Lick Honest Ice Creams on South Lamar always has long lines. My personal favourite is Peanut Butter Cup, with homemade peanut butter cups in a creamy peanut butter ice cream. Mint Chip is also incredible. They’re all fantastic! Top it with some vegan sprinkles, and sit outside to people watch in the residential neighbourhood.
There you have it! A quick guide to Austin for anyone with 48 hours to spare. Be sure to eat lots of tacos, wander around South Congress, and take in some live music. And don’t forget the ice cream!