Want to spend a weekend in Austin? Here’s our local’s guide to the best food, drinks, and things to do in Austin! Ready to eat and explore one of our favorite cities? Keep on reading!
Both Adam and I have spent most of our lives living in Texas. Adam is a born and raised Texan that grew up in Houston and went to school in Austin, while I moved to Austin when I was 8 and lived there for 16 years before moving to Seattle.
While we no longer call Austin “home,” we absolutely love visiting the city whenever we can, except in those 100 degree summers ;). From the amazing food (Austin is an incredible food city–especially the BBQ and tacos!) to the outdoor lifestyle to the quirky and boutique shops to the music and bar scene, it’s such a diverse city that has something to offer to everyone.
It’s so incredibly hard to make a guide for a place we lived in for so many years–we want to include every single spot we love! With that said, this weekend in Austin guide definitely includes more options than some of our other guides, simply because we have so many places we recommend.
To help us narrow our focus, we decided to highlight our must-do spots if it’s your first time to the city, which includes some well known, classic spots, as well as some newer, trendier spots.
We try to go to most of these spots every single time we visit. And since there’s so much we can’t include in the main itinerary, make sure to check out the “if you have extra time” section! It’s loaded with tons of suggestions!
Whether it’s your first time to Austin, or you live nearby and want some new ideas, we hope this weekend in Austin itinerary and guide helps you enjoy this weird, fun, and amazing city!
Want more ideas of things to do in Texas? Check out our Texas guides and vlogs!
- 2 Days in Houston
- 3 Days in West Texas: Marfa and Big Bend
- 5 Things to do at Guadalupe Mountains National Park
When to Visit Austin
After almost 20 years of living in and visiting Austin, we have seen Austin in all sorts of weather, from the brutal heat, to the torrential downpours, to the rare snow, to the perfect 60-70 degree weather. Sometimes all within the same week! We are half kidding, but there are the occasional weeks in Austin where it’s 80 degrees one day and then snowing the next, so make sure to check the forecast before your visit so you pack the right clothes!
While Austin is one of those cities you could visit year round due to having mild weather most of the year, the summers can be pretty dang toasty (and humid!). If the heat isn’t your thing, we’d highly suggest not visiting in the summer. Although there are some great pools to cool off in if you do!
The best time to visit Austin, in our opinion, is in the spring or fall when weather isn’t too hot. March-May and September-October have much more bearable temperatures, but beware of some of the music festivals during these months (SXSW and ACL), as prices will be a lot higher and the city will be a lot busier during this time.
Winter can also be a good time to visit, as sometimes the temps can reach the 70s or 80s, but it is more of a gamble, as Austin does occasionally get freezing temperatures. But that just means more hot bowls of queso, right?
While our Austin itinerary is definitely geared towards warmer weather and includes lots of outdoor and water activities, there is still a lot to do during the colder months in Austin. Check out our “if you have extra time” section for some seasonal ideas!
Getting to Austin
Austin is home to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), also known as ABIA, which is one of our favorite airports ever! The airport is relatively small (although has expanded a bit) and is full of local restaurants, vendors, and even has live music, giving it a super Austin vibe.
ABIA is about 10 miles from downtown Austin, which can be anywhere from a 15-35 minute drive, depending on traffic (Austin has horrible traffic!). We’ll cover more about how to get around Austin in a bit, but if you’re not renting a car, we’d suggest taking an Uber or Lyft from the airport, which will cost around $30.
To get an Uber or Lyft, you will exit the airport terminal and enter the parking garage across from the arrivals area. Your driver will pick you up on Level G.
Austin is also a relatively quick drive from the other three major cities in Texas. It’s around 1.5 hours from San Antonio and around 3 hours from both Houston and Dallas. We highly suggest adding Austin to your itinerary if you’re doing a Texas road trip!
Getting around Austin
As Austin locals, we have always explored the city by car, especially because outside of the downtown area, Austin isn’t a super walkable city. While renting a car and parking downtown is definitely doable, it may be more of a hassle and cost a good amount of money (especially if you cannot park for free at your hotel/Airbnb).
Austin does also have a public transportation system, which is helpful around downtown (and affordable!), but not the best option if you plan to leave downtown.
For the majority of the items on this Austin itinerary, you could get away with a combination of Uber or Lyft, walking, and busses to get around town. There are a few spots that are a bit farther away, so they may cost a bit more to get to (which we will note on the guide), or you can decide to skip those.
We recommend looking at the Uber and Lyft fare estimator tools to see how much you’d expect to spend, as well as check rental car prices to decide what option is the best for you and your budget.
Where to stay in Austin
Austin is the perfect Airbnb city! The trendy and quirky culture in Austin is what makes it special and there tons of super cool, budget-friendly places to stay near downtown where you’ll really get the true Austin experience. Here are some good Airbnb options:
- Option 1: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom modern garden apartment close to Zilker Park
- Option 2: A super cool South Austin studio
- Option 3: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom guest suite in East Austin
- Option 4: A charming East Austin studio casita
- Option 5: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom house on the East side and close to Rainey Street
If you’re new to Airbnb, use our code to get $40 off your first stay!
Hotels are pricier in Austin than Airbnbs, but here are some of our recommendations in downtown Austin that are close to many attractions and won’t break the bank too much:
- ARRIVE East Austin
- Heywood Hotel
- Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt
- Fairmont Austin
- The Driskill (it’s haunted!)
- JW Marriott
- Hyatt Regency
Weekend in Austin Itinerary
While this Austin itinerary is for a weekend in Austin, you could use this itinerary for whichever days of the week you’d like! So whether you want to explore on a Monday and Tuesday or a Saturday and Sunday, we’ve gotcha covered!
Looking for more ideas of things to do in Austin? Check out our “if you have extra time” section at the end of this guide!
- Have breakfast at Kerbey Lane Café, an Austin classic! Make sure to get their pancakes and their Kerbey queso. Phoebe’s Diner is another good breakfast spot OR we suggest grabbing breakfast tacos at one of the spots in our “If you have extra time section!”
- Spend the rest of the morning exploring downtown Austin. Visit the Texas State Capitol, look for ghosts at the haunted Driskill Hotel, snap a photo in front of the Historic 6th Street Mural, and walk along Congress Ave.
- Grab coffee at Picnik (the trailer), which has the BEST butter coffee or Summermoon, which has this amazing thing called moon milk! We recommend a 1/4 moon though if you don’t like things overly sweet or just getting a side of it for your coffee.
- Get BBQ for lunch! Our absolute favorite is Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, which is a little bit of a drive from downtown, but it’s absolutely incredible! You can get straight up BBQ or get Tex Mex inspired BBQ tacos. No joke, Adam gets emotional when he thinks and talks about it because he loves it so much haha.
La Barbecue and Micklethwait Craft Meats are some other options closer to downtown.
- Spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing at Barton Springs Pool, a large spring fed pool. Warning–it’s ice cold!
- After soaking up the sun, cool off with some shave ice at Sno-Beach or a smoothie from Juiceland.
- Head to Mount Bonnell for sunset, one of the best views in Austin. This is a bit of a drive from downtown, but totally worth it!
- Dinner at one of our favorite spots in town:
- Chuy’s–their creamy jalapeño is to die for!
- Fresa’s–the vibe and decor here is on point! Everything is so cute and the chimichurri skirt steak and chicken are delicious.
- Jack Allen’s Kitchen–a little bit out of town, but this is our go-to spot for a nicer dinner. The food is always amazing and the outdoor patio area is really nice.
- Get drinks and explore Rainey Street, a cool street full of old craftsman houses that have turned into bars. This area has gained a ton of popularity and is a must-visit spot when going out in Austin. Here are some of the top spots:
- Breakfast in East Austin. Some great spots to check out:
- Veracruz All Natural—Known for their bomb breakfast tacos!
- Cenote—Order at the counter spot with an awesome outdoor patio. Get the breakfast tacos!
- Paperboy—A food truck with sandwiches, hashes, toast, and more!
- Bird Bird Biscuit—This new-ish, but super loved spot is servin’ up delicious biscuit sandwiches!
- After breakfast, grab coffee at one of East Austin’s coffee shops. Cuvée Coffee Bar, Flat Track Coffee, and Greater Goods Coffee Roasters are some of our favorites!
- Snap a photo in front of the “You’re My Butter Half” mural.
- Rent kayaks or SUP on Lady Bird Lake, which has awesome views of downtown Austin!
- Get tacos for lunch! Some of our favorite taco spots in town are Vaquero Taquero, La Tunita 512 (birria tacos), Granny’s Tacos, and Torchy’s Tacos (mostly because they have the BEST queso ever).
We also have a huge list of other taco spots in our “if you have extra time” section of this guide or watch our Austin taco tour! There are so many good taco spots in Austin and our ideal weekend in Austin would include tacos every meal.
- Explore the shops on South Congress (SoCo). We love Uncommon Objects, Allens Boots, Parts & Labour, South Congress Books, and Leighelena.
- Get more coffee at Mañana, a super cute spot at the South Congress Hotel or at Jo’s Coffee (get their Iced Turbo coffee).
- Take photos in front of Austin’s famous murals. Some of our favorites:
- Greetings from Austin—1st and Annie
- I love you so much—Jo’s Coffee on SoCo
- Love from Austin—Prima Dora on SoCo
- While walking around SoCo, make sure to get some Amy’s Ice Cream, which is an Austin staple. They also do tricks with the ice cream!
- Watch the bats at sunset from the Congress Ave Bridge. (April-October)
- Grab dinner at one Austin’s popular restaurants:
- Hopdoddy Burger Bar–Amazing burgers, although a bit pricey. Their green chile queso fries are also the bomb!
- Home Slice Pizza–We love their pizza! The wait can be long here, so be prepared!
- Bar Peached–Asian inspired food + tacos!
- Suerte–A delicious upscale Mexican restaurant!
- Or choose a spot from our “If you have extra time list” below!
- Go out on 6th Street. 6th Street is probably one of the most famous things about Austin, but the experience can vary depending on which area you go to. There are three different sections of 6th street: West, Dirty, and East. Dirty is known for being a rowdier, younger crowd, while West caters more towards professionals, and East is a mix of trendy spots and dive bars. It’s easy to get around and we recommend checking out the different areas. Here are a handful of spots to check out:
- Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar (Dirty 6th)–Listen to awesome music while you watch piano players duel!
- Midnight Cowboy (Dirty 6th)–A super cool reservations-only speakeasy.
- Esther’s Follies (Dirty 6th)–A famous and hilarious comedy theatrical performance. Make sure to buy tickets in advance!
- Firehouse Lounge (Dirty 6th)–A speakeasy near Dirty 6th, but technically on Brazos.
- The Roosevelt Room (West 5th, but close enough)–A bar with a Roaring 20’s vibe.
- Kung Fu Saloon (West 6th)–A bar with arcade games, skee ball, and more!
- Parlor and Yard (West 6th)–Awesome space with cornhole, foosball, and ping pong.
- Whisler’s (East 6th)–A trendy spot with a really unique interior.
If you have extra time…
Have more than a weekend in Austin? Here are more food, drink, and activity ideas!
- Bouldin Creek Cafe–this is a vegetarian and vegan spot that serves breakfast all day!
- Juan in a Million
- South Congress Cafe
- Walton’s Fancy and Staple–fun fact: Sandra Bullock owns this place!
- Café No Se
- Magnolia Cafe
- Elizabeth Street Cafe
- Tiny Boxwood’s
- Picnik (the restaurant, not the trailer)
- TacoDeli (Only open until 3 PM)
- Las Trancas
- Papalote Taco House
- Taco Bronco
- Taco Joint
- Pueblo Viejo
- Taco Flats
- El Primo
- Franklin’s BBQ–this place is world famous and has a crazy line! We waited in line once and it was an awesome experience. Get there super early and be prepared to wait hours to get BBQ before they run out!
- Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart–Lockhart is just outside of Austin and is home to many BBQ spots, but Black’s is our favorite one there.
- Snow’s BBQ in Lexington–It’s only open on Saturdays and sells out, so get there early!
- Rollin Smoke BBQ–a BBQ truck that is only open certain days of the week, so make sure to check their schedule!
- Kerlin BBQ
- The Peached Tortilla
- Odd Duck
- Ramen Tatsu-Ya
- Sa-Ten Canopy
- Honest Mary’s
- Uchi ($$$$ but if you want to splurge, this place is extremely famous)
- Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill
- Blenders and Bowls
- Austin Daily Press
- Abo Youssef
- East Side King
- Via 313
- Cow Tipping Creamery—we love their stackers and unique toppings!
- Churro Co—Churros + ice cream = heaven
- Dolce Bacio
- Dolce Neve
- Sweet Ritual—delicious vegan ice cream!
- NadaMoo—another delicious vegan ice cream spot
- Anti Social Ice Cream—far from downtown, but amazing vegan ice cream!
- Mozart’s Coffee Roasters–our college study spot! Not the world’s greatest coffee, but it’s right on the water and has amazing views.
- Fleet Coffee
- Radio Coffee & Beer
- Stouthaus Coffee Pub
- Merit Coffee
- Civil Goat Coffee Co
- Revival Coffee
- Check out the Cathedral of Junk! This super unique art installation is made up of 60+ tons of “junk” and is located in the artist’s backyard. To visit the Cathedral of Junk, you need to call Vince at (512) 299-7413 to make a reservation (it may take a few calls). It’s a $5 cash donation per person to visit, so make sure to have some cash handy.
- Visit The University of Texas—our alma mater! The campus is really pretty and Guadalupe Street (aka: The Drag) is fun to walk around.
- Explore the Barton Creek Greenbelt or hike the River Place Nature Trail.
- Head out to the Texas Hill Country to hike at the state parks. Some our favorite state parks are Enchanted Rock, McKinney Falls (close to downtown), and Pedernales Falls State Park.
- Explore the cute town and wineries in Fredericksburg. Duchman Family Winery is a popular choice!
- Visit breweries and distilleries. For breweries, a lot of our friends love Jester King Brewery, which is about 30 minutes outside of town. For distilleries, Deep Eddy Vodka is a local Austin brand with tours and a tasting room out in the hill country. There are a ton of other breweries and distilleries closer to town too!
- Make the short hike up to the 360 Overlook, which overlooks the Pennybacker (360) bridge.
- Visit the beautiful Hamilton Pool Preserve, a natural pool with a grotto about 45 minutes from downtown. Make sure to make a reservation in advance!
- Rent a boat and spend an afternoon on Lake Travis.
- Wander around the Rock Rose area of The Domain. This is a large high end shopping area with tons of restaurants and bars.
- Indoor Activities: Blanton Museum of Art, Bob Bullock Museum, and the Alamo Drafthouse, an AWESOME dine-in movie theater. They do fun evening events, like sing-alongs, movie parties, and this fun movie mocking event called Master Pancake.
- Seasonal ideas: SXSW (March). Blues on the Green (Summer). ACL (October). Trail of Lights (December). Christmas Light Show at Mozart’s Coffee (December)
Ready for a fun Austin getaway?
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