We had a lovely time in Austin last week, so I thought I’d share with you some of my favorites if you plan on going in the future! While we were there for four days, I feel like we saw and did so much! We didn’t do any formal tours, but I got some great recommendations on tours and felt like we covered a good amount of ground on our feet.
So…some things you should do…
WALK INTO ALLEN’S BOOTS
Just walk in and smell the leather. They have a wide selection of leather boots, and it’s fun to go see how delicately each pair has been crafted and decorated. Some of the boots were upwards of $1,000!
EXPLORE “SOCO” (SOUTH CONGRESS STREET)
SOCO is just South of the downtown area. The Ladybird lake and Congress Bridge separates North from South Austin. We spent a few afternoons just gallivanting along SoCo. We grabbed Torchy’s Tacos (you MUST eat them!) one day, stopped in the little Saturday market, ate at South Congress Café (known for the 3rd best bloody mary in America and their carrot cake french toast!), and visited the famous “I love you so much” mural.
RUN, WALK OR BIKE ALONG THE LADYBIRD LAKE
This ended up being our go to. We stayed at the Radisson, which backed right up to the Ladybird Lake. There is a 10 mile trail that borders the lake, filled with runners, walkers, and bikers. At any time of day, you’ll find lots of people out and about. You can even rent canoes and kayaks at spots throughout the trail if you’re itching to get in some water activity. The trail is well maintained and it’s a pretty way to see views of Austin from different angles.
WALK ALONG EAST 6TH STREET AND LISTEN TO LIVE MUSIC
There are endless bars to walk in and out of to check out the live music. Some spots are more eclectic and divey than others, but it’s a great mix of foods, fusion and atmospheres. We spent the afternoon walking along 6th street, stopping in a few happy hours and trying some new cocktails. At night, there are a bunch of homeless people, so you’ll just have to be aware of that.
GET BRUNCH AT MOONSHINE GRILL (ALL YOU CAN EAT)
You can usually expect to wait 1-2 hours here. Fortunately, it’s a beautiful building connected to an old house, with a front porch and back porch area where you can have coffee, bloody mary’s or mimosa while you wait for brunch. We got lucky and found a spot at the bar right away. The all you can eat brunch was just what we were looking for after the half marathon. They had things ranging from French toast and cinnamon buns, to muffins, bagels, fruit platters, fish, sausage, bacon, 3 types of egg scrambles and more. They also have $5 bloody marys and mimosa’s on Sundays, so get your money’s worth!
CATCH A FEW HAPPY HOURS
Do I need say more? Anywhere that celebrates happy hour is a good find in my book. Like Portland, there are so many options for happy hour snacks and drinks daily.
HEAD TO THE WHOLE FOODS’ HEADQUARTERS
This is a cool place to check out if you’re a WF nerd like me. They even offer free fitness classes throughout the week there – barre, cycling, yoga, etc. They have a few mini restaurants inside the Whole Foods, and a bar/lounge area where you can watch sports games.
GET ICE CREAM AT AMY’S
I learned that Amy’s has a pretty good reputation throughout Austin. It’s a cute, eclectic local chain. The insides are very colorful and kid-friendly. You can get crunchy “add in’s” mixed into your ice cream (kinda like they do in Coldstone). I liked that they offer a Mystery option, where they pick the ice cream choice and toppings for you! I don’t think I’d be brave enough to do that though because I pretty much always need a cookie dough/cookies and cream/chocolate base. Fruity ice creams don’t do it for me.
HANG OUT AT RAINEY STREET AND EAT AT THE FOOD TRUCKS
Rainey Street was such a cool area. I’d describe it as very hip and trendy, and the spot where younger professionals hang out. Rainey Street is a street of bars that are in old houses. These houses have been transformed to fun hang outs (the Container Bar is made out of containers!), with open areas, front porch hangouts, and backyard patios with games. Most of the bungelows had food trucks behind them, too! We loved hanging out here.
GRAB TEXAS BBQ
The BBQ places recommended to us were Saltlick, Franklin’s and Stiles Switch. We didn’t make it to any of them, unfortunately. But, next time! And if you like barbeque, you should definitely aim to hit up one of these.
WATCH THE BATS FLY OUT FROM UNDER THE CONGRESS BRIDGE AT DUSK
We actually found out about this “attraction” while at the Marathon Expo on Saturday morning. It comes up on Travel Advisor and Yelp as one of the top things to do in Austin. It is actually really neat! Since we were staying right near the Congress Bridge, we walked out back and grabbed a seat, noticing that many other people were out there for the same reason. Just as the sun was setting, we saw crowds and crowds of bats fly out from underneath the bridge into the sky. It was crazy how many of them there were!
CHECK OUT LANCE ARMSTRONG’S BIKE SHOP
It’s called Mellow Johnny’s and it’s attached to a coffee shop. Ed wanted to see it, so we did. It was cool, but you would never know Lance owned it.
DO A DOUBLE DECKER TOUR OR TOUR THE CAPITAL
We did not do either of these, but they both have amazing reviews. Apparently, the State Capitol is taller than the US Capital, but not the tallest. And the Double Decker tours have great reviews. If we ever go back, I do want to do this tour to learn a little bit more about the history. We also heard good things about the Duck Tours.
HEAD TO THE VISITOR’S CENTER FOR A LISTING OF THE LIVE MUSIC BANDS
They have a great listing of all the bands playing each night and at what venue. It was very helpful to have an organized list. You can’t come to Austin without checking out some live music!
CHECK OUT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS CAMPUS
We sort of had an “in” with this one, since we know an athletic coach there. We got an inside tour of the athletic facilities and locker rooms. They have an underwater treadmill they can use – amazing!
We didn’t explore too much else on campus, but just seeing the athletic facilities was quite stunning.
There were so many places on my list that we didn’t get to make it to. But here are some of the recommendations, and some of my favorite dishes!
- Frank’s hot dogs
- Salty Sow
- Easy Tiger
- Perla’s (seafood)
- Hop Doddy’s (burgers)
- The Grove
- The Domain
- Barley Swine
- Vox Table
- 24 Diner
- Odd Duck
- Jack Allen’s
- Pinthouse Pizza
- Free Birds (burritos)
- Saundersalt (cocktails)
- Garage Bar
- Ginger man (100 beers on tap)
- Firehouse lounge
- Vox Table
- Anywhere on Rainey Street
- Seventh Flag
- Jo’s Coffee
I definitely recommend walking around the city to explore. Our vacations always seem to be pretty active. We didn’t rent a car and just walked everywhere. Our daily steps were upwards of 15,000 from all of the walking and active exploring. Plus, you get to see so many more hidden, secret areas when walking, not to mention restaurants and happy hours!
I hope you find this helpful if you ever get a chance to explore Austin. I definitely plan on going back some day!
Do you prefer relaxed or active vacations?