Austin, Texas Travel Guide: Top Things to Do and See in Austin
Austin is the state capital of Texas. Austin is known for its eclectic live-music scene centered around country, blues and rock. Its many parks and lakes are popular for hiking, biking, swimming and boating. AND you can’t forget about Austin’s incredible BBQ and Tacos!
Where to Eat in Austin, texas
Justine’s is located in the heart of East Austin. The atmosphere and inside decor are what makes this place so special. The wooden tables, string lights, French cuisine, and great wine list attracts a unique Austinite. This place never fails to deliver.
Franklin’s BBQ is hands down the best BBQ in Texas. People will wake up early and wait for hours to try just a taste of this incredible food. The restaurant has sold out of brisket every day since its establishment. I highly recommend.
Bufalina is the Best Pizza in Austin. Every pizza is made carefully with high quality, fresh ingredients. The servers are very knowledgeable and provide great recommendations on both the food and wine list. No matter what you order, you won’t be disappointed. The line is typically long so plan accordingly.
Elizabeth Street Cafe I love this place for the adorable interior as well as the amazing Vietnamese food and French pastries. The dishes are creative and delicious. The lemongrass PHO is my go-to.
Jeffrey’s: This chic and swanky restaurant is located the heart of Clarksville and has been going strong for the past 37 years. I do warn you that this place is pricey, but all the meals are exceptionally made. This is my favorite “treat yourself” spot.
Clark’s Oyster Bar: This chic little spot has the tastiest oysters, martinis and clam chowder in town. The sunny and nautical vibe ties it all together and the sourdough bread is to die for.
Uchi: is a sophisticated sushi restaurant with delicious Japanese cuisine. This place isn’t cheap so I recommend the “Sake Socials” menu on weekday evenings, where you can try some of the best things from the kitchen for almost half the original price.
Salt and Time: Salt and Time is a rustic-chic butcher shop serving meat-centric farm-to-table American fare, beer & wine.
Kemuri Tatsu-Ya: is located in the heart of East Austin. This casual “izakaya” serves cocktails, meat-centric dishes and shareable plates with Japanese & Texan influences.
Gueros is the Tex-Mex Austin Experience. Gueros is set in an old landmark building which adds to its quirky, fun vibe. The handshake margaritas, salsa bar, and food make for a great time.
Mattie’s Austin is located inside a 19th-century home. The inside looks as though it came straight out of a movie with antique-chic lounge, bar & patio areas. The fried chicken and biscuits are out of this world. The best part, beautiful peacocks walk around the property.
Suerte has a thoughtfully crafted menu that combines local ingredients, thoughtful cooking techniques and the flavors of Mexico. Amazing cocktails + atmosphere
Austin Photo Opportunities/ Can’t Miss Local Specialties
#1 Austin Motel
This historic, quirky motel dates back to 1938 and is located right off of South Congress. This spot has a ton of photo opportunities, my favorite being the iconic Austin Motel Sign that always has a great motto.
#2 "I Love You So Much" Mural
This mural covers the green wall on the side of Jo’s Coffee on a popular corner of South Congress Avenue. The mural appeared in 2010 as a spray-paint love letter from local musician Amy Cook to her partner Liz Lambert, majority owner at Jo’s. You will always find cute couples, friends, and families taking pictures in front of this wall.
#3 Willie for President Mural
This mural is located on Elizabeth Street, right off of South Congress by Home Slice. Everyone in Austin loves Willie so I feel like this mural really speaks to Austin's culture.
#4 Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake is a river-like reservoir on the Colorado River. It's absolutely beautiful and a great hub for outdoor activities. You can run along the boardwalk and trails, go paddle boarding, rowing and more.
#5 Barton Creek Greenbelt
The Barton Creek Greenbelt covers 12.85 miles and is a great place to hike, climb and take your pups. It is beautiful and scenic which makes for awesome photo opportunities.
#6 Graffiti Wall
This once concrete wasteland is now an outdoor gallery for Austin's street artists. Constantly updated art makes it the perfect place for photo opportunities. (UPDATE: This wall is being demolished for condos, so visit while it's still up)
#7 Mount Bonnell
Although it is a hefty climb up stairs, Mount Bonnell's peak is worth every step. It is a beautiful spot to see the sun go down, enjoy views and be in nature. If you want to come for sunset, plan ahead this place is very popular during peak season.
#8 Texas State Capitol
The massive three-story Sunset Red Texas Granite structure is the largest capitol building in the United States, standing 14 feet higher than the U.S. Capitol building. (They offer Free Tours, I recommend it)
#9 UT Austin Campus
I may be biased because I went to UT, but the campus is stunning. The statuesque tower is right smack dab in the middle of the University of Texas and such a great photo opportunity.
#10 The Austin 360 Bridge
This is one of my favorite spots in Austin. The bridge has a weathered steel arch that provides scenic views for drivers, bikers & pedestrians.
Unique things to do in Austin, Texas
Cathedral of Junk: The Cathedral of Junk is set in an artist's backyard whose name is Vince Hannemann. The “cathedral” is incredible. The artist molded trashed objects into a structure, which is now visited by many. It's amazing the kinds of pieces you find inside and every time you go, you discover something different.
Uncommon Objects: Best way to take home a piece of Austin’s oddness is to visit the uncommon objects store. It used to be located off of South Congress, but now has a new location (1602 Fortview Rd. Austin, TX 78704) The store, is like a maze of unique vintage/antique pieces. You can find just about anything here from jewelry, furniture, skulls and creepy dolls from the 1800s.
Watch the Congress Bridge Bats: You can't miss this Austin tradition. If you're not from Austin, you may not know that there are over 1.5 million bats who live underneath one of the most popular roads in the city connecting South Austin to Downtown. At sunset, you will see people gathering around the bridge to watch them all fly out at once. It's an incredible sight to see.
Chicken Sh*t Bingo: Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like. Every Sunday from 4 to 8 at the Little Longhorn Saloon, Austinites gather and hover around a chicken pen filled with seeds and a numbered grid. For $2, you receive a number, and if the chicken takes a sh*t on your square, you win a cash prize.
Celebrate Christmas in June at Lala's Little Nugget: Austinites LOVE dive bars and only the really weird ones last in this town. At Lala’s, every day is Christmas (but a trashy kind of Christmas). You will see string lights and ornaments, Christmas trees, an old-school jukebox, elves everywhere you look and more. It's cash only so come with money in hand.
Museum of the Weird: If you love anything considered "weird" then, the Museum of the Weird is for you. The entire museum is dedicated to showcasing the weirdest stuff (i.e. wax figures, king kong, medical oddities and more). It costs about $12, but worth it if you're in town to see some weirdness.
Throw an ax: Urban Axes is a place that allows you to bring out your inner Viking and throw an ax at a target...just for fun. All you do is drink beer and throw a 1.5 lb. hatchet at a large wooden bullseye. You can even join a league if this happens to be your calling.
Weird Wednesday at Alamo Drafthouse: Weird Wednesdays at the Alamo Drafthouse is something I used to really enjoy in college and a great way to discover very strange films. Alamo Drafthouse says: "Weird Wednesday is a weekly celebration of movies that are too outrageous for prime time. This is a head-first dive into an ocean of genre oddities, a one-way ticket to the edges of reality where imagination and commercial excess dance on the graves of common sense and decency. No decade or sub-genre is off-limits, so expect girl gangs, mutant punks, lesbian vampires, pimp ghosts, post-apocalyptic barbarian queens, and karate-chopping nuns. Every ticket to Weird Wednesday is a chance to see something wild, wonderful, and fun."
Midnight Cowboy Cocktail Lounge: Midnight Cowboy is located on 6th street (aka "dirty 6th") but is not like any other bar on that street. It's hidden and only those who know it's there would notice the entrance. It used to be a brothel but now, it serves as a new aged/ old-school style speakeasy which requires customers to ring a buzzer to enter. No pictures allowed inside.
Party it up at Tuezgayz: TuezGayz at Barbarella is a weekly gay-friendly dance party, but everyone is welcome to dance and have the time of their life. This was one of my favorite things to do in college.
Go Skinny Dipping at Hippie Hollow: If the weather is right and you feel like hanging out in the nude, then head over to Hippie Hollow. Do 512 said it well: "The fact that it's the only clothing-optional public park in the entire state of Texas actually makes it legally weird." People have been strutting in their birthday suits here since the 1960s.
Where to shop
South First Street. If you’re looking for smaller local shops, then south first is the place to go. Shops I recommend checking out are Flashback Vintage, Jack & Lola and Mana Culture, and art galleries like Art for the People.
Waterloo Records. If you’re a record junkie, you won’t be disappointed. Waterloo is a mecca where music lovers come together. It regularly hosts events featuring live performances by both local and nationally-known artists. It has been awarded "Best Record Store" awards nearly every year since it opened. In addition to local acclaim, Waterloo Records is often listed alongside similarly iconic music stores as one of the best record stores in the US.
SoCo is where you will get the Austin Texas experience. Historic spots such as Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds and Electric Ladyland are located along the street. Now this area of Austin offers everything from vintage clothing to upscale, Austin chic boutiques such as Kendra Scott Jewelry, By George, Blackmail and Creatures. The street is also famous for shops like Allen's Boots, where they offer thousands of different styles of Texas cowboy boots
Where to go out (that isn’t 6th street)
Rainey Street: If you want a unique going out experience, go out on Rainey. It's a strip of old houses that have been flipped into bars and restaurants. My favorites are container bar and craft pride.
East 6th Street. The east side is where a lot of locals go. It has an old-school Austin feel, with hole-in-the-wall bars that have been around forever and are well-established. My favorite spot is Whisler’s.
Currency: USD $
Tipping:15 - 20%
Austin has the largest urban bat colony in North America. During the spring and summer, about 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats migrate to Austin and emerge from under the Congress Avenue Bridge every night.
Austin is one of the sunniest cities in America. Out of 365 days, Austin gets an average of 300 days of sunshine
Austin celebrates Eeyore’s birthday. Austin has celebrated the birthday of the fictional character from Winnie the Pooh since 1963. Eeyore’s Birthday Party usually happens on the last Saturday of April. Attendees arrive in colorful costumes and are entertained by live music and very large drum circles.
Austin has tons of museums, including one dedicated to ‘junk.’ The Cathedral of Junk is a favorite of residents and tourists. It’s located in the backyard of a small house on the south side of Austin. It’s made up of what you might consider junk, from ladders to bicycle parts to clocks. The best part about this museum is that there is something new to see during each visit.