One Great Weekend: 21 Tips for Your First Trip to Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas is one of the hottest cities in the country and for good reason. Whether you know it as the state capital of Texas, the Live Music Capital of the World, a growing tech hub or the home of the University of Texas; Austin has a little something for everyone. World class BBQ? Check. Miles of outdoor trails? Yup. One of the hottest music scenes in the country? You betcha. Simultaneously an oasis from the rest of Texas and proudly Texan, Austin is a city that marches to the beat of its own drum. Politicos and hippies, cowboys and musicians; there’s room at the bar for everyone. With so many options it can be hard to narrow down what to do in Austin.  Here are a few of my recommendations for things to do in Austin, Texas.

21 Tips for Your First Trip to Austin, Texas-www.casualtravelist.com

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  1.  To make the most of your time in Austin one of the first things you should do is take The Real Austin Tour with Austin Detours. This 2 hour tour is a great introduction to Austin’s major tourist draws as well as some of the eclectic, offbeat neighborhoods that “keep Austin Weird”.
  2.  Barbecue in Austin is practically a religion and in my opinion no other city even comes close when it comes to smoking meats. The notoriously long lines for both Michelin-starred Franklin Barbecue and La Barbecue are worth it, get up early and join the party-like atmosphere(La Barbecue offers free beer to those in line) while waiting for the best barbecue of your life. Masterfully cooked brisket and handcrafted smoked sausages are a revelation and will change your mind about just how good barbecue can be. Micklethwait Craft Meat and Kerlin BBQ are also solid BBQ choices in Austin while the Salt Lick and Louie Mueller Barbecue are worth the drive out to Texas Hill Country.La Barbecue-21 Tips for Your First Trip to Austin, Texas-www.casualtravelist.comThe Salt Lick Barbecue:21 Tips for Your First Trip to Austin, Texas-www.casualtravelist.com
  3. Get the full story of Texas at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. With over 5,000 artifacts spanning over 13,000 years you’re sure to find a side to Texas you didn’t know existed.
  4. Welcoming visitors since 1886 the Driskill Hotel is Austin’s premier historic hotel. Take a stroll through the lobby with its marble columns and magnificent glass dome or enjoy a drink at the Driskill Bar, recently named the best cocktail bar in Austin. I recommend the Batini, the Driskill’s signature cocktail, sweet from the hibiscus with a  spicy kick of ginger.The Driskill Hotel-21 Tips for Your First Trip to Austin, Texas-www.casualtravelist.com
  5. In recent years cheaper rents have attracted much of the creative class to East Austin. The result? A slightly hipper, edgier neighborhood with some of the city’s best restaurants that still is unabashedly Austin.
  6. As far as I’m concerned the some of the best tacos in the US can be found in Austin. Torchy’s tacos is a beloved Austin institution that is perfect for fueling up for (or recovering from) an evening of bar crawling; but if I had to choose one place to get tacos from for the rest of my life it would be Veracruz All Natural. Named as one of the top 5 tacos in the US by Food Network the migas breakfast tacos (an addictive combo of eggs, tortilla chips, avocado, pico de gallo and montery jack) with a mango agua fresca may be the best way to start your morning in Austin.Breakfast tacos at Veracruz All Natural-21 Tips for Your First Trip to Austin, Texas-www.casualtravelist.com
  7. Not only a seat of higher learning, the University of Texas is also home to 7 museums including the Blanton Art Museum which houses the largest art collection of any university. Sports more your thing? The Longhorns may be best known for their football program but their basketball (both men’s and women’s), baseball and softball teams also play a heck of a game. Hook em’!
  8. The pink granite dome of the Texas State Capitol is an iconic part of Austin’s rapidly changing skyline. Built in 1888 the Texas Capitol is the largest of all the state capitols and is open for self guided tours during normal operating hours.The Texas State Capitol-21 Tips for Your First Trip to Austin, Texas-www.casualtravelist.comThe Texas State Capitol-21 Tips for Your First Trip to Austin, Texas-www.casualtravelist.comThe Texas State Capitol-21 Tips for Your First Trip to Austin, Texas-www.casualtravelist.com
  9. Austin prides itself on being the live music capital of the world and no trip to Austin is complete without catching a show. The Continental Club on South Congress Avenue is host to some of the best rock, jazz and swing bands in the city while over in East Austin the White Horse, a hipster honkey-tonk  offers up live music, libations and dance lessons 7 nights a week. If you’re lucky you may even score tickets to….
  10. Austin City Limits. Both the long running show on PBS, which has hosted everyone from native son Willie Nelson to the Foo Fighters, and the often sold out music festival in October (showcasing national headliners and upcoming indie acts over the course of two weekends) are two of the best music draws in the country.Austin City Limits-21 Tips for Your First Trip to Austin, Texas-www.casualtravelist.com
  11. The same creativity that inspires Austin’s musicians can be seen in Austin’s vibrant street art. Nearly 100 murals grace the sides of everything from gas stations to Chinese restaurants.
  12. In the spring Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center for the field filled with bluebonnets.
  13. From April to October join the crowds gather at sunset along Austin’s South Congress bridge to watch a cloud of over 750,000 Mexican free-tail bats leave their roost under the bridge to fly into the night sky. You can also opt to view this sunset bat spectacle from the water on a boat cruise or SUP tour.From April to October crowds gather at sunset along Austin's South Congress bridge to watch a cloud of over 750,000 bats leave their roost under the bridge to fly into the night sky. www.casualtravelist.com
  14. When not serving as the site for the Austin City Limits Music Festival Zilker Park serves as a communal backyard for all of Austin. In addition to over 10 miles of trails and green space you can stroll through Zilker Botanical Gardens or engage in hands-on learning at the Austin Nature and Science Center.
  15.  Bring your swimsuit and stop by for a dip at Barton Springs Pool,  located with Zilker Park, this 3 acre natural spring fed pool remains at a constant temperature of 70 degrees F making it perfect for swimming year round.Barton Springs Pool-21 Tips for Your First Trip to Austin, Texas-www.casualtravelist.com
  16. Also located in Zilker Park, Lady Bird Lake is beloved by both locals and visitors alike. A popular spot for water sports of all kinds, on any given day you can find kayakers and paddle boarders sharing the water with boaters and fisherman.
  17. Looking for funky, eclectic shops, club and restaurants? Look no further than the South Congress Ave (SoCo) neighborhood. Here you can find everything from artisan jewelry to antique European thrones and everything in between.While perusing the shops of South Congress Avenue a stop at Allen Boots is a must. This mecca for all things western wear has cowboy boots in every color, size and style imaginable. If you can’t find your perfect pair of boots here, they don’t exist. Inevitably you’ll get hungry and South Congress has you covered here too; South Congress Cafe for brunch and Hopdoddy’s for ridiculously good burgers are a few of my personal favorites.
  18.   The Hope Outdoor Gallery, once an abandoned construction project, now invites anyone and everyone to leave their creative mark.The Hope Outdoor Gallery-21 Tips for Your First Trip to Austin, Texas-www.casualtravelist.com
  19. Have a car? Great. Get in, roll down the windows and throw on some Willie Nelson and explore the beautiful Texas Hill Country. About 30 minutes southwest of Austin the suburbs give way to rolling limestone and granite hills covered with sagebrush, cedar and Texas live oak. Winding past sprawling ranches stop at one of the state parks for some hiking then refuel with some BBQ at the famous Salt Lick in Dripping Springs. Hill Country is also home to several good wineries such as Duchman Family Winery and Driftwood Estate Winery.
  20.  While you’re out exploring Hill Country a stop at Hamilton Pool is a must. A quick hike leads you to the beautiful crescent shaped grotto, a waterfall feeding the emerald green pool below. Be sure to check the Hamilton Pool Preserve website prior to your visit to see if swimming is allowed that day.While you're out exploring Hill Country a stop at Hamilton Pool is a must. A quick hike leads you to the beautiful crescent shaped grotto, a waterfall feeding the emerald green pool below. www.casualtravelist.com
  21. Amy’s Ice Cream is an Austin institution. Whether you go with their famous Mexican Vanilla or one of their other 350 rotating flavors make sure to get a good bit of praline sauce (a gooey, butter caramel sauce spiked with pecans) on top. You can thank me later.

Where to stay in Austin

The Driskill Hotel is steeped in history and is blocks from the Texas State Capitol Building

Treat yourself at The Four Seasons Austin, this five star hotel boasts a prime location on Ladybird Lake and one of the top spas in the city.

The hip South Congress Hotel is where to rest your head after a night of partying like a rock star.

Austin Deals

  • Find flight deals to Austin here
Do you have any other suggestions for what to do in Austin? Please share with me in the comments!

76 Comments on “One Great Weekend: 21 Tips for Your First Trip to Austin, Texas

  1. So much to love about Austin! Tacos, BBQ, live music, and a road trip through the Hill Country sound right up my alley. I recognize Barton Springs Pool from the movie The Tree of Life with Brad Pitt, and I am almost positive Hamilton Pool Preserve was in it, too. You know I love natural water features! 🙂
    Howard @ Backroad Planet recently posted…Visit 3 Natural Waterfalls in FloridaMy Profile

  2. Brianna,
    Certainly glad you enjoyed my home town. You hit most of the highlights I would recommend. I actually have a pair of boots made at Allen Boots back in 1969. I would add Guero’s Mexican restaurant, as a foodie stop. Next time let me know you are coming to town.
    Mike

  3. So when I think of Austin, I definitely think of food, drink, and music (so I wasn’t surprised to see those references!) but DANCE LESSONS – so cool and a fun way to check out the music. Plus all the outdoor things… looks like a fun weekend getaway to me 🙂
    Becky recently posted…How to Visit Teotihuacan Without a TourMy Profile

    • Seriously, how can you not have a good time learning to two-step then refueling with some awesome BBQ?

    • Austin was a blast! It would have be dangerous for me to go to college there though, way too many distractions lol.

    • I so wanted to come back with a pair of cowboy boots; my bank account however, not such a fan. The boots were gorgeous though.

    • I didn’t get a chance to go to ACL, work got in the way. Did you have any favorite acts?

    • That was something I really wanted to do, looks like I have an excuse to go back!

  4. Austin is a really cool place! Great list to get started seeing the city that loves to be weird!! Enjoyed it!

  5. Brianna — glad you enjoyed our town. If you want two-step lessons, the Broken Spoke dance hall on S Lamar has them Wed-Sat 8:30 to 9:30 before the bands start. It is an iconic institution – 51 years old, still owned by the same family.

    But for the love of all that is good, please don’t go back to the Salt Lick. Unmistakable atmosphere, but some of the worst barbecue in all of Texas. There are dozens better, that don’t have a 3 hour line like Franklin, or an hour like LA.
    Scott recently posted…eBags TLS Mother Lode 29″ Wheeled Duffel Luggage ReviewMy Profile

    • I had a fantastic time in Austin and will definitely be back. I live in a BBQ black hole, I’d love to hear about your other BBQ recs!

    • thanks, I loved my time in Austin and can’t wait to go back!

  6. Dang, you had to mention ice cream. Time to look at flights. Austin has such amazing food, including the absolute BEST (and I rarely use the term best) donuts I have had in USA, outstanding food truck tacos (like everywhere), perhaps the best (not again) steak I have had.
    Charles McCool recently posted…8 Great Viking Cruises SecretsMy Profile

    • Donuts? Dang, I completely missed donuts! Looks like I need to head back.

    • Austin quickly became one of my favorite cities, I’m sure you’ll love it too!

  7. Austin is such a lovely city in Texas that a casual traveller should not miss it. OK. But how about vegetarian food that too South Indian type available and where to go for a south Indian traveller? That is what I required Brianna?.

  8. Austin looks like so much fun. I went for ACL last year, but I have been itching to go back to just explore the city. Thanks for sharing!

  9. NAILED IT. I’m constantly returning to Austin as it’s one of my favorite cities in the US. And if you liked it so much, then Nashville (obviously) needs to be your next trip—they’re so similar! =)

  10. Who knew? I’ve never been to Austin, but I’d go just for the food alone! Wow, that bbq looks killer! Hopefully my travels will take me to this part of Texas and SOON!

  11. Pingback: Lockhart Barbecue Fantasy in Lockhart Texas

  12. I have a cousin who lives there and they love it. I haven’t been to Austin, but it looks like a fun city to visit, and the capitol is beautiful! Looks like you stayed in a really nice hotel, too–beautiful architecture.

  13. I’ve never been to Austin (or anywhere else in Texas) but I’ve just put it on my list. That BBQ alone is reason enough!

  14. Great post on a great city! Love Austin and cannot stress enough how important a trip to Torchy’s is. Get the street corn! You won’t be disappointed!

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