Austin, TX was the first of many places that I crossed off of my USA travel bucket list. I arrived early on a Saturday and left early on Monday morning, so I got two full days in the city of Austin. I would heavily recommend it to anyone- there is fun shopping, food, music, dancing, historic sites, outdoor adventures, family activities, art, potential day-trips to other towns, breweries, and more.
WHERE TO STAY
I stayed at an AirBnb about halfway between the city and the airport. Although it was only a $8 Uber drive from the airport, it was also an $8 Uber ride into the city one-way. I would recommend staying closer to town- potentially in walking distance. Although it may be a bit more expensive, it may be cheaper in the long run due to Uber-ing back and forth.
HOW TO GET AROUND
There is a new fad spreading across America called “Bird” and they were EVERYWHERE in Austin. Download the app, it costs $1 to ride, and $0.15/minute during use. I used Uber and mainly walked because I liked to stop at random taco dive restaurants or interesting shops. B-cycle is also a way to get around town. It is $12/day unlimited- there are bike stops all throughout the city with required check-ins every 30 minutes. This is also acquired via the app. I did not use the bike, because there was not a bike stop close to my AirBnb, therefore, I would have had to Uber anyways. I attempted to use the bus system, as I love public transportation and am a firm advocate. Unfortunately, it was very confusing and unreliable.
ORIENTATION OF THE CITY
There are three main parts of the city: West Austin, South Congress, and East Austin.
Also known as SoCo if you want to say it like a local. It is a long street full of shops, restaurants, and bars that leads to the State Capitol and University of Texas Campus. It also houses some famous murals (Jo’s Cafe, Austin Motel) and the bridge where you can watch 1,000’s of bats fly from underneath at dusk.
West Austin is the more up-scale area. This is where you can find the Whole Foods Market (with a restaurant, food court, juice bar, full bar with wine tasting), (sometimes free) yoga spots, amazing BookPeople bookstore, and high-end boutiques. This is also where the LadyBird Lake Trail and Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail is located, which connects the city to Barton Springs. Barton Springs is a public spring that is fun for floating, sunbathing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. There is a free public area and a $2 private area with lifeguards. The Greenbelt also has food truck parks and famous barbecue restaurants on the way. And don’t forget to check out the famous HOPE spray paint gallery for fun pictures and artistic inspiration.
East Austin is a more hipster, up-and-coming area of town. There is not much there now except for some local, newer restaurants (like Vegan Nom!).
WHERE TO EAT
There were a couple of recommendations that I received before going to Austin and some I added to this list:
- Torchy’s Taco – Yes, this is a chain, but I enjoyed a great vegetarian breakfast taco. One taco filled me up for over 6 hours of walking and site-seeing. It was crowded so I walked around to several murals on the South end of South Congress then my taco was ready by the time I got back.
- Veracruz – This is far from town, so I was unable to visit due to time constraints but heard a lot of good reviews from the locals.
- Vegan Nom – Another food truck but with a vegan flair. They had everything from vegan chicken to vegan cheese, nachos to quesadillas- and you couldn’t even tell it was vegan. It even looked like real meat and cheese!
- Homeslice – Best pizza on South Congress.
- HopDoddy – Good burger and fun place to watch sports.
- Fareground – A trendy foodcourt with outdoor area to hang out and play corn hole.
To start off, watch the bats fly out from underneath the bridge. It is lovely and a great way to rest before a night out!
It was actually my Uber driver that broke down how nightlife goes in Austin. Depending on what kind of night you are wanting to have determines where you want to go. You will mostly stay on the same road, Sixth Avenue, which is downtown.
Dirty 6th – This is where the college kids come out to party.
East 6th – This is where the hipsters and trendy people go.
West 6th – This is where you may want to dress a little nicer and have a bigger budget.
Domain – This is the fanciest place to go where you may need reservations.
Live Music Bars:
- The Continental Club – You MUST go here! This place is historically famous for great live music.
- ACL Live @ Moody Theater – I wish I would have known sooner of this place and bought tickets to a show. Moody Theater sells out quick and has some pretty big, famous names going through there.
- Yeti Flagship – They sell Yeti’s and all of the gadgets but also have an outdoor bar where you can watch the bats over the bridge and live music later in the evening. This is also a great place to watch sports.
- I enjoyed also local live music by bar hopping, and I loved watching couples swing dance in the front of the stage. There are some talented Austin natives!
IF I HAD AN EXTRA DAY IN AUSTIN
If I had stayed a few more days, here is a list of things I would have done:
- Hiked Mount Bonnell
- Paddle boarding along Colorado River
- Find great BBQ food.
Most food trucks close at 3 pm, so plan to stop by early.
Most shops close at 5 or 6 pm, so plan your evening accordingly.
Don’t forget to pack a portable charger. This helps when you are using your phone a lot for directions which consumes a lot of battery life.