It’s the capital of Texas and home of the University of Texas. It’s the live music capital of the world, a renowned foodie destination, and a recruiting paradise for high-tech companies. Oh, and it’s also the fastest-growing major urban area in the United States.
Yes, folks, Austin is a city on the move. With so many things going on, you might be wondering how to navigate your way through this vibrant metropolis. That’s where this Austin Texas travel guide comes in.
Whether you want to chow down at funky food trucks, drink up at the coolest bars and music venues, or explore the natural beauty of its parks and lakes, there’s no better time to visit Austin and enjoy all that it has to offer.
Where to Eat and Drink in Austin
Sure, the Lone Star state is known for incredible barbecue, but the food scene in the state’s capital goes well beyond brisket and pulled pork. (Although there’s plenty of that, too.)
Breakfast tacos are pretty much Austin’s spirit animal, and you can find these Mexican delights on virtually every corner of the city. For some authentic bites, stop by Maria’s Taco Express, Vaquero Taquero, or Veracruz All Natural. And don’t forget Torchy’s Tacos, where you’ll find dozens of tacos and the most killer queso you’ve ever had.
When you have a hankering for some good ol’ Texan smoked meats, it doesn’t get any better than Franklin Barbecue. (Just be prepared to wait in line, even if you show up early.) There’s also the “new school BBQ” of Leroy and Lewis, creative fixings from Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ food trailer, and the Sunday gospel brunch you’ll only find at Stubb’s BBQ.
Feel like slurping your meal? Take a trip to Ramen Tatsu-ya, a local favorite with locations in North, South, and East Austin. For the finest sushi in town (or anywhere for that matter), Uchi in South Austin should not be missed. Its sister location Uchiko is also where to get the freshest catch of the day.
Along with its major food and music scene, Austin is a drinking town. That means fine wine, cold brews, and creative cocktails. Pucker up for the sour beers on tap at Blue Owl Brewing, sip on international vintages paired with tasty tapas at Winebelly, raise a glass any night of the week at Cru Food & Wine Bar, or just stroll along the bungalow bars of Rainey Street and grab a drink wherever the spirit moves you.
Where to Shake, Rattle, and Roll in Austin
New York might be the city that never sleeps, but Austin holds its own with a dynamic music scene. Hitting up the city during South by Southwest (SXSW) or Austin City Limits is a great (albeit insanely crowded) time to see live music, but Austin’s nightlife goes year-round.
The Continental Club is an oldie but goodie, offering live music and dancing Thursday-Sunday nights. For nightly honky-tonk fun, you can’t go wrong with Broken Spoke, the city’s legendary dance hall that’s been trapping tourists and big-name acts — like Willie Nelson — for decades. The iconic Antone’s Nightclub is where to get down(town) with the blues. When you want a raucous night of live music, head to Hole in the Wall — this gritty Austin gem is where homegrown heroes like Spoon and Shakey Graves cut their musical teeth.
Looking to immerse yourself in Texas history? Check out the Bullock Texas State History Museum or take a guided tour at the Texas State Capitol. Tours here include an insiders look at the capitol building and you’ll even catch a glimpse of the original desks in the Senate. For more historical sightseeing, head over to the Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) Presidential Library located on the longhorn campus at the University of Texas at Austin. Feeling artsy? The Blanton Museum of Art is the place to go next time you’re in ATX.
Where to Play in Austin
Hiking, biking, swimming, boating, kayaking… when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors, Austin is a nature seeker’s wonderland. Start your adventure with a sunset hike up Mount Bonnell for gorgeous views of the Austin skyline or check out the Lady Bird Johnson hike and bike trail.
When the heat is on (translation: summer and most of the year), you’ll want to cool off at one of the local swimming holes like Barton Springs Pool or the Colorado River. Located within the sprawling Zilker Park (don’t miss the Zilker Botanical Garden), this gathering spot is a must for Austinites and tourists alike. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is packed with swimming pool options and opportunities to become one with nature. You can also take a plunge into Lake Austin, Lake Travis, or stroll through the shaded grounds of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which includes the exquisite Umlauf Sculpture gardens.
Speaking of Zilker Park, this 358-acre green space is a playground — have a picnic, peruse the botanical garden, catch a show at the Zilker Hillside Theater, ride the adorable mini train, or head to Lady Bird Lake where you can canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or grab a seat on a sight-seeing — and bat-seeing — boat. Yes, you read that right. You can’t visit Austin without saying hello to the bat colony of Congress Avenue Bridge. The Congress Bridge is home to the largest colony of Mexican free-tailed bats in North America, which take flight every evening from spring through summer.
If your idea of play also involves spending some green, then you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of places for retail therapy in Austin.
Whether you’re on the prowl for a new pair of cowboy boots, locally made jewelry, or a hard-to-find book, take a stroll through the city’s shopping districts along South Congress Ave, Sixth Street, 2nd Street, and South 1st Street.
From the vintage shops and quirky boutiques to mainstream chains and local pop-ups, you’ll get to see firsthand that the “Keep Austin Weird” ethos is alive and well.
Want a truly authentic Austin experience? Plan for a night at the Alamo Drafthouse. This movie theater serves up more than B films and greasy popcorn. The theater offers a full-service menu, delivered right to your movie seat. Choose from an excellent craft beer selection, main courses, and even desserts like ice cream, while enjoying the latest releases.
Where to Stay in Austin
Trendy boutique hotels, low-key getaways, high-end havens, retro motels, and even a hostel or two. There’s no shortage of options when it comes to having a restful stay in ATX.
Downtown Austin is where you’ll find historic hotels like The Driskill mixed in with sky-high newcomers like the Fairmont and JW Marriott. There’s also the cooler-than-thou Austin Motel, Hotel San Jose, and Hotel Cecilia, all just a hop, skip, and a jump away on South Congress Avenue.
For a little more edge (with a palpable hipster vibe), consider a stay on the east side of town at the East Austin Hotel. There’s also Hostel 512 for those who truly want to do Austin on the cheap. If you want to get away, consider a mini road trip to the Texas Hill Country. The scenic drive is just over an hour-long, but you’ll feel as though you’re a world away amid the charming towns and rolling hills. For more travel tips and ideas on where to stay, be sure to check out the best Austin hotels for every budget.
And if you’re thinking of a more permanent situation in ATX (and really, why wouldn’t you?), you’re in luck. This list of the best places to live in Austin will have you scoping out your new home, apartment, or condo in no time. Naturally, you’ll also need a good job to keep you afloat in your new abode, so here are the top 10 companies to work for in Austin.
Get On the Road With This Austin Texas Travel Guide
Now that you have a better lay of the land with this Austin travel guide, it’s time to get out and explore what the city has to offer. From boat rentals on Lady Bird Lake to drinks on dirty 6th street, you’re in for a delightfully weird adventure when you’re in ATX. Whether you’re in for a day, a week, or even a more permanent stay, this thriving metropolitan is where you can go full-steam ahead or take it easy at your own pace. From the food and music to the tech scene and eclectic culture, Austin is a city that has no limits.