Headed to Texas and looking for the best way to spend a weekend in Austin?! Expect spring-fed watering holes. Live music. Iconic murals. Oh, and you can’t forget about that mouthwatering smoky barbecue brisket. The perfect Austin weekend getaway guide, coming right up!
Austin, Texas: Home to the Texas Longhorns, University of Texas, popular music and film festivals (like SXSW and Austin City Limits), and yes, all those delicious food trucks. Plus breakfast tacos, fuzzy little bats, and just general weirdness. You could visit Austin time and time again and never get bored. But if it’s your first time, you wanna make sure you plan the best Austin weekend trip possible!
If you’re looking for a colorful city full of vibrant culture, eclectic energy, and all the art and instagram spots you could want, you’ll be pleasantly pleased with all that Austin has to offer. All my (wildly high) expectations were met and then some. There’s a reason it’s recently become a popular spot for young professionals to move to, and a great Austin weekend getaway for couples, bachelorette parties, and girls trips!
I first spent a weekend in Austin in 2015, and loved every minute of it. So when my friends and I recently scored cheap tickets for a long weekend in Austin, we jumped on that chance and booked them right up! I mean, the city is constantly evolving and changing, so there’s always something new to see and do, and especially eat!
Before we get into the weekend in Austin itinerary, here’s a bunch of planning tools and logistics to keep in mind before you book that ticket!
Weekend in Austin Logistics
Where is Austin and How to Get There
First of all, where exactly is Austin anyways?! The city is kinda smack-dab in the middle of Central Texas right on the Colorado River. It’s about 80 miles northeast of San Antonio, 200 miles southwest of Dallas, and about 160 miles west of Houston.
And get this — it’s the southernmost state capital in the contiguous 48 states and the 13th most populous city in the United States.
Flying: When you fly into Austin, you’ll be heading to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, sometimes referred to as ABIA (airport code AUS). ABIA serves the Greater Austin metropolitan area, and thankfully is located only ~5 miles southeast of Downtown Austin! The airport has recently been expanded with a second terminal, meaning more and more nonstop flights from around the country!
Unfortunately, airfare to Austin is usually pretty pricey. Coming from the West Coast (specifically San Francisco), expect to pay at least $400 to $500 round trip. And these are typically with stops.
BUT if you are super flexible, you may be able to score a sweet deal. I was recently able to fly to Austin for under $150 roundtrip NONSTOP! Practically unheard of — so I knew it was fate and had to go! Always be on the lookout for airfare deals (signing up for your preferred airlines’ emails usually helps you get notified of special discounts going on).
Trains and Buses: Coming from elsewhere in Texas (or from a nearby state)? Check out Amtrak’s train schedule and/or Megabus or Greyhound buses. But if you only have a weekend in Austin, it may not be worth it to spend half the time on a train or bus!
How to Get to Downtown Austin from the Airport
Uber: Ubers are quick and easy from ABIA, with rides to downtown taking less than 20 minutes. Depending on timing though, beware of surge pricing, as they can get kinda pricey (especially if it’s raining).
Capital Metro Bus: Since Ubers can be kinda expensive (especially if you’re traveling to/from the airport solo), consider taking the bus! Capital Metro runs buses to downtown Austin, UT, and Mueller every 15 minutes from the airport along Route 20 Manor Road/Riverside! Just make sure to factor in some extra time since it takes about 45 minutes or so (compared to the short 15 minutes via car).
But at only $1.25 (yes one dollar, 25 cents), it’s by far the cheapest way to get downtown from the airport (or vice versa). Two of my friends took the bus and they said it was super easy and efficient, as well as crazy cheap! Find more information and bus routes here and here. If you’re at the airport, just look for the spectacular neon guitar bus stop!
When to Visit Austin
Austin is a year-round destination with short mild winters (it rarely gets below 50F!) and super pleasant springs and falls. The good news? With more than 300 days of sun each year, there’s no horrible time to visit the city (…but keep reading).
The bad news? The summers are long, hot, and downright scorching. If you’re not a fan of temps in the triple digits, avoid July through August, and steer clear of September and June too. October to May are absolutely beautiful, but come with the occasional rainstorm in some months.
A few other things to keep in mind when deciding when to plan your Austin weekend getaway:
- Rain: The wettest months of the year are May, October, and June (in that order). Definitely bring an umbrella and/or rain jacket. Thunderstorms do happen, but pretty rarely and when they do happen, they seldom last all day.
- Bats: The famous bats only fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge from March to October. If this is on your Austin itinerary, visit then!
- Festivals: Hoping to come for one of Austin’s big festivals (like SXSW or Austin City Limits)? Promise me you’ll book your hotel way in advance — room rates skyrocket and get sold out months beforehand. Not looking to partake in all the fun? Don’t accidentally come during a major conference/festival — check to see what’s going on in the city before booking your flights!
Spring/Fall: March – May, September – October (High Season)
The spring and fall are peak seasons for visiting Austin, and for good reason! There’s picture-perfect weather, the kids are in school, and the temps are just right (the scorching temps of the summer haven’t arrived just yet, and the winter chill is gone). Expect bright blue skies, pleasant temps of mid-70s to low-80s°F, and even wildflowers if you come in early spring (late March to April).
But because of this, you’ll see the most crowds and hotel rates are at their highest. You’ll wanna plan in advance.
Also — this is when Austin hosts it’s most popular festivals, like South by Southwest (in March) and Austin City Limits (in late September/early October). So… if you’re not looking to visit during these world-famous festivals (trust me, the city’s absolutely wild during these times), plan your travel around these dates.
For reference, we planned our Austin weekend getaway for late October/early November, and had beautiful weather (although a tad hotter than we were expecting), and crowds seemed average to minimal.
Summer: late June — August (Low Season)
Summer in Austin is more than a little toasty – it’s absolutely sizzling! If you don’t love triple digit temps, stay away. Temperatures are SCORCHING, and just a short walk down the street can be hot and miserable (make sure you stay hydrated). With that being said, unless you really love super hot weather (who are you, haha?!), you probably don’t wanna plan your weekend in Austin during the summer. I warned you!
August is the hottest month in Austin, so I’d stay away from the city if you’re not used to scorching temps (with an average temp of around 96°F and loads of humidity, you’ll be dripping constantly). If you do find yourself with a long weekend in Austin during summer, make sure to include a few watering holes into your Austin itinerary! You might end up staying in your bathing suit all day!
The good news is that since it’s the low season, hotel rates will be at their lowest and crowds will be minimal. Just be prepared for a hot and sweaty summer! And keep hydrated!
Winter: November — February (Shoulder Season)
Winters in Austin are much more tolerable than the scorching summers. And this season is considered shoulder season in the sense that most visitors have left and hotels are less expensive. Score!
Although it’s the chillest time of year here, the temps are still warmer than most places in the US (making it one of the best winter trips in the USA!). And chilly is all relative, because low-to-mid 60s°F is hardly cold, especially if you’re coming from the snowy Northeast, haha.
But winter in Texas can be finicky. Austin see’s snow on occasion while the next week may reach highs of 70°F, so you kinda never know what you’re gonna get until you go. Packing layers is an absolute must! Winter nights can dip into the 40s, so if you’re planning on going out to experience Austin’s nightlife, make sure to bring a warm jacket.
Popular Festivals and Conferences in Austin
I normally don’t include festivals in my weekend city guides, but since there’s SO many and they will undoubtedly affect your weekend trip to Austin, here you go! I’m sure you’ve heard of the most popular festivals in Austin, but there’s actually way more than those! Here’s just a small sampling of them:
- The Austin Marathon: This race draws more than 20,000 runners from around the world. Hmm.. I should convince my husband to run it so I can spend another weekend in Austin soon, haha. (February)
- South by Southwest (SXSW): A massive conference and arts festival and easily one of Austin’s biggest events of the year with the latest and greatest in the music and film industries. And you can’t forget about all the performances — more than 1,000 bands perform! (March)
- Austin City Limits Music Festival: Come party with 70,000 of your closest friends in Zilker Park with performances by more than 100 bands plus lots of local eats. On my USA bucket list! (October)
- Old Settler’s Music Festival: Come celebrate the best of Americana, bluegrass, and roots music — you know it’s good when it’s been going on for more than 30 years. (October)
- Austin Food + Wine Festival: Showcases the best innovative cuisine from renowned chefs and top-rated restaurants – from Central Texas and across the country. A must for any foodie! (November)
If you’re not visiting Austin for a festival, I highly advise you to google your Austin dates to see if there’s any major conferences/festivals going on. Because if there are, well, things will be more than a tad crazy (my advice – pick a different weekend in Austin to visit).
How to Get Around Austin
Walking: Downtown Austin is very walkable, as is South Congress/Lamar and the UT Campus. But you’ll need a way to get from neighborhood to neighborhood. We typically walked as much as we could, and relied on ride shares when it was too hot to walk long distances or when the walk was just far too long in general.
Ride shares: Uber and Lyft are all around Austin, so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a car. We found most rides to be under $10, and drivers were very friendly with lots of local tips.
Do note that there’s been a lot of controversy around Uber and other ride sharing in Austin, and ride shares were actually on a year long hiatus due to strict regulations not too long ago. With this being said, always have a back-up plan during your weekend in Austin just in case!
Public transit — Capital Metro: Thankfully, Austin’s got a pretty decent public transit system (unlike the rest of Texas). The Capital Metro (usually called Cap-Metro by locals) has lines operating all around the city, even to and from the airport — all for $1.25. Think you’ll be using the bus at least twice a day? Grab a day pass for only $2.50 (less than the price of a single subway ride in New York City)!
Find all bus routes here; the high-frequency lines have service every 15 minutes or sooner.
Scooters and bikes: Just like in San Diego, we saw scooters everywhere around Austin. Currently Lime, Bird, and Wheels operate in Austin, but we primarily saw Bird scooters. Make sure to download the app beforehand.
But if you don’t trust yourself on a scooter (maybe you’re clumsy like me…), check out Austin B-Cycle, Austin’s bike-share program. With over 70 stations in Central Austin, you can easily pick up and drop off bikes all around the city.
Renting a car: Honestly, I think the cons of having a car far outweigh any pros. If you’re following my Austin weekend getaway itinerary to a T, public transit and ride shares (and walking!) will suffice. Parking is difficult in the buzzy neighborhoods, traffic is bad, and hotels charge an arm and a leg for overnight parking.
But there’s one silver lining — gas is dirt cheap (and commonly less than half the price on the West Coast). Unless you’re planning on making a few day trips from Austin, I wouldn’t bother with renting a car. Save that money for more barbecue!
Where to Stay in Austin
- Downtown Austin: The downtown area has a rich sense of history and a thriving entertainment scene. It’s buzzing with activity both day and night, so you can always expect something going on here! First time visiting? Stay here — you won’t be terribly far from anything.
- South Congress (SOCO): SoCo is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Austin, with tons of hip boutiques, Austin-original eats, and lots of live music shows. I kinda wanna stay in this area on my next weekend trip to Austin!
- Rainey Street Historic District: Stay here if you’re looking for a more laid-back tone, but don’t wanna be too far from all the action. Think bungalow bars and historic homes — Rainey Street is actually listed on the National Register of Historic Places!
Is a Long Weekend in Austin Enough?
Personally, I felt pretty satisfied with our long weekend in Austin. It was the perfect amount of time to see the main attractions of the city, eat a bunch of barbecue, watch a few sunsets, spend ample time on South Congress Ave, and even venture off to some more obscure photo spots in Austin.
However, if you wanna take any day trips from Austin, to say the Hamilton Pool (on my bucket list for next time), Hill Country (definitely see the bluebonnets in the spring), and/or Lockhart (for what’s considered the best bbq in all of Texas), you’ll wanna tack on an extra day or two.
A Note on Austin BBQ
Austin is known for its barbecue – we all knew that. Meaning you’ve gotta have at least one stuff-yourself-silly meal full of brisket and ribs.
But not all barbecue is created equal. You’ll wanna do your research ahead of time (thankfully I already did it for you). 🙂 While nothing is necessarily bad here, if you’ve only got a weekend in Austin (or 3 days), you wanna make sure what you’re eating is the best of the best.
Franklin BBQ is by far the most popular, but with lines literally snaking around the block, you don’t wanna spend half your day waiting for bbq. If you do, come prepared with a fold-up chair and lots of games, because the line easily takes 3-4 hours on a good day.
Now let’s get what you’ve actually come here for – an absolutely perfect weekend in Austin itinerary, crafted by yours truly. <3
3 Days in Austin Itinerary
While you of course can’t see and do it all with only a long weekend in Austin, you’ll still be able to go shopping and have a bite to eat on trendy South Congress Ave, watch the fuzzy little bats fly out at dusk, and visit a museum or two! And of course eat a few pounds of bbq and visit a bunch of murals in Austin!
Weekend in Austin Itinerary Day 1
Morning and Afternoon: South Congress Neighborhood
Start off your weekend in Austin with a few hours on trendy South Congress Ave, known as SOCO by locals.
First stop: Jo’s Coffee in South Congress (there’s a few locations, so make sure you come here)! Stop for some caffeine and a few of their breakfast tacos. The tacos do run out, which is why I’m telling you to make Jo’s your first stop of the day in SoCo. Try the migas tacos (with crunchy tortilla chips), the hashbrown taco, and bean and cheese taco (my favorite).
The Iced Turbo is their signature drink (a sweet and creamy coffee drink with coffee and hazelnut), but I always get the Belgium Bomber (the famous Iced Turbo mixed with cold brew, making it not as sweet and creamy). And don’t miss a photo with the iconic “I love you so much” mural on the side of the building (you can’t miss it!) – it’s easily one of the best murals in Austin (in my opinion).
Once you’re all fueled up, it’s time for some shopping (and more) in the vibrant neighborhood of South Congress. Think funky vintage shops, chic boutiques, iconic murals, and cool bars. We could have easily spent all day here, but if you’re only spending a weekend in Austin and tight on time, you can still see a lot in a few hours.
To make it super easy, here’s my favorite spots in South Congress:
- Allens Boots: Walk in and smell that leather, then stroll down the aisles full of cowboy boots in every style and color imaginable (there’s over 4,000 pairs of boots here). It’s such an iconic shop in SOCO, and it’s fun, too! Try on as many boots as you want — some of them costing over $900! Don’t be surprised if an hour goes by and you’re still mesmerized by all the boots!
- Parts & Labor: This shop in SoCo is so unique and special — everything in the store is designed exclusively by Texas artists! Not only will you find creative T-shirts, jewelry, handmade cards & other quirky gifts, but there’s literally always something new. The inventory changes on the regular, and you really never know what you’ll find! How fun is that?! A great place to pick up an Austin souvenir.
- Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds: This shop is so totally Austin. There’s wild costumes and outrageous clothing, and a huge assortment of accessories (think colorful wigs, outlandish jewelry, full-on face masks, long gloves, etc). The store is over 8,000 square feet, so you can definitely peruse for a while if this stuff’s your jam.
- Go mural hunting: Some of my favorite murals in Austin can be found on South Congress. You’ve already seen the famous red script “I Love You So Much” on Jo’s, but make sure to check out Love from Austin, Willie for President, and of course the Legendary Memories SoCo mural. Check out this post if you’re looking for more Austin photo spots.
- Tesoros Trading Company: A funky shop with tons of folk art, furniture, jewelry & curios from around the globe. Such eye popping colors. It’s kinda pricey here, but everything’s authentic and well-made.
- Big Top Candy Shop: Exactly what all your old-school colorful candy shop dreams are made of. I especially loved the old-school jelly bean dispenser, as well as all the circus themed sweets. If you’re thirsty, try an Italian cream soda from the old-fashioned soda fountain – they’re really delicious and super sweet!
Lunch and dessert in South Congress:
You’re most likely pretty hungry by now, and thankfully there’s lots of great restaurants right here in South Congress. You can either grab a decent sized meal at one spot, or share a few things with friends like I did on my last Austin weekend getaway (it’s more fun that way)!
- Home Slice Pizza: Craving pizza? Home Slice is such an iconic Austin landmark — you’ve gotta try a slice of their New York-style pizza. With so many toppings to choose from, you’ll wanna grab a white slice as well as red!
- Gourdoughs Big. Fat. Donuts.: Ohhh Gourdough’s. I’ve been dreaming about these decadent donuts since my first visit to Austin in 2015. They’re absolutely huge and ridiculously insane, so plan to share if you’re eating elsewhere as well. The menu’s huge, but my favorites are Miss Shortcake, The Baby Rattler, and the Motherclucker!
- Elizabeth Street Cafe: Such a cute spot if you want something a bit different than your usual Texas fare — the cafe specializes in French and Vietnamese cuisine.
- Amy’s Ice Creams: Have you really been to Austin if you haven’t had a few scoops of Amy’s?! It’s the OG of ice creams in Austin afterall! Try some of their inventive flavors in a handmade cone — so delicious. Psst — there’s a few around town, so if you don’t make it to the location on South Congress, you’re bound to see another one later on.
- South Congress Cafe: Any place that’s known for their Bloody Marys and carrot-cake French toast gets 5-stars in my book. And psst — there’s also beignets and croque madame. Don’t miss the great happy hour out on their patio!
Late-afternoon: Before leaving buzzy South Congress, make sure to stop by the famous “Greetings From Austin” Mural! Just note you may need to wait in line as it’s a super popular spot!
With it’s 40’s postcard vibe and colorful vintage letters, it’s easily the most photographed work of art in all of Austin. And I just LOVE it! Head across the street for another of the best murals in Austin — “You Belong Among the Wildflowers”.
Night: Bat Watching from the South Congress Bridge
Did you know that Austin’s got the largest urban bat colony in the world (yes, the world!)? Time to partake in all that fun! From March to October, people line up on the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch the 1.5 MILLION Mexican free-tailed bats fly out from under the bridge.
While the bats emerge nightly around dusk, plan to get there about 30 minutes before sunset because you never know the exact moment they’ll fly out.
Do note that some bat shows will be better than others — you may see an insane surreal dark cloud of them all at once, or they may exit the bridge only a few at a time (making for a not-so-spectacular show).
And even if you don’t get a spectacular bat viewing (like us), the sunset is so gorgeous over Lady Bird Lake! Pro Tip: Go to P6 (at the Line Hotel) to watch the bats fly out with a cocktail in hand – I so wish we had done that! We got HUGE agua frescas from Veracruz All Natural (where we’re grabbing breakfast tacos tomorrow morning), and they were delicious.
Austin Weekend Trip Day 2
Morning: Start off day 2 of your Austin weekend getaway with more breakfast tacos! This time, from Veracruz All Natural. We loved their signature Migas Taco (with tortilla chips stuffed inside), the El Traditional Taco, and the green juice. Everything is authentic with all-natural ingredients and homemade (even the salsas), so you know you’re getting good stuff.
Late-Morning: Get out on the water!
Once you’re fueled up for the morning, it’s time to experience some of Austin’s outdoor fun! And if you’re visiting when it’s hot out, you’ll definitely wanna get out on the water for a bit. One of the best ways to beat the heat by far. Since Austin’s located right on the Colorado River, there’s a bunch of options to choose from:
Option 1: Stand-up paddle boarding/canoeing on Lady Bird Lake: Take part in Austin’s large outdoor lifestyle (absolutely essential to any weekend in Austin) and try some stand-up paddling or canoeing on the lake! Lady Bird Lake is actually part of the Colorado River, separating North and South Austin with great city skyline views while paddling! Rent SUPs or kayaks/canoes at Rowing Dock, Live Love Paddle, or the Austin Paddle Shack.
Option 2: Walk over the Barton Creek Pedestrian Bridge and along Barton Creek: This is what we did! We loved following the dirt path along Barton Creek, filled with tons of views and cute little turtles sunning themselves on the rocks! And if you’re one of the brave ones, throw on your bathing suit and jump on the many rope swings!
If you’re up for it, you can rent a stand-up paddle or canoe at Zilker Park Boat Rentals. Note that blue-green algae toxins have been detected in the creek, so don’t plan on going swimming here. You’ll see signs along the creek reminding you of that little detail if it’s not safe.
Option 3: Take a dip in Barton Springs Pool: Super hot day? Cool off in the refreshing waters of the Barton Springs pool, a year-round swimming pool with temps of 68 degrees no matter the month. Yes, it’s man-made, but the waters are spring-fed! Do note there’s a fee to enter (although it’s pretty reasonable for under $10 per person for a day pass), so plan to spend a few hours here.
Afternoon: Lunch and Zilker Park
Lunch: Time for lunch after a busy morning at the water. If you want something close by, I highly recommend checking out Barton Springs Picnic — an iconic food truck park right near Barton Springs.
Such a classic Austin experience with an iconic “old Austin” vibe. I had a fried chicken and avocado cone from The Mighty Cone, and boy did it fill me up. My friends had some Thai food, and they loved theirs, while another had a gyro and that was great as well! Seems like you can’t go wrong. There’s even a “Dog Treat Truck” with all things for dogs — how fun!
If you want something a bit different, Chuy’s is super close by as well! They serve up authentic Tex-Mex food in an eclectic spot full of color and lots of kitschy personality with tons of Elvis touches. Super hungry? Try the “big as yo’ face” burrito!
Zilker Park and Zilker Botanical Garden: The park is so close to Barton Springs and the food truck park, so it’d be a shame to miss it! If you come in the spring, you’ll see lots of butterflies everywhere and all the flowers blooming. Zilker Park is over 350 acres, so you obviously won’t see all of it, but it’s still worth a quick visit.
You can check out the Zilker Botanical Garden (with lots of streams, waterfalls and Koi-filled ponds,) and the Austin Nature and Science Center (don’t miss the hands-on nature exhibits), or simply hang out on the grass and relax for a bit. The Umlauf Sculpture Garden is nearby so make sure you check that out too!
This weekend in Austin itinerary wouldn’t be complete without a good old Texas barbecue joint. Smoky, melt-in-your-mouth brisket (that’s perfectly pink and juicy on the inside), chipotle slaw, cheesy mac n cheese, and alllll the pickles you could want.
And since Franklin’s BBQ frequently sells out by noon, I’ve got some other (almost equally as good) options for you. Both spots have your iconic Texas bbq, all served on a silver tray. Get about a ½ pound of meat per person (give or take depending on how hungry everyone is), and share a few sides.
Terry Black’s Barbecue: Traditional Texas barbecue at it’s best. Definitely get at least a bit of brisket — I couldn’t believe just how tender it was! There’s even a mural reading “brisket is king” inside and outside. We were mesmerized as our pitmaster cut our slabs of meat. Everything is made from scratch, and all the meat is smoked in-house, low and slow. Don’t miss the banana pudding – it’s my absolute favorite!
La Barbecue: One of the best bbq spots in all of Austin. Many people consider it a backup when Franklin’s runs out, so you know it’s good. They specialize in Central Texas-style barbecue, slathering the meats with salty, savory rubs. Think pork ribs falling off the bone, spicy sausage, mouth watering brisket, and mustard and dill flavored potato salad. I unfortunately haven’t made it here just yet, but I hear it’s outta this world. Psst – La Barbecue has small cups of free beer, you just have to ask for it (and give a tip).
Night: Experience Austin’s Nightlife Scene
It’s time to get out on the town! Austin does have the reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World afterall! And thankfully, there’s tons of nightlife options in Austin – really something for everyone.
Option 1: Dirty Sixth (aka East Sixth Street)
Come here if you’re looking for wild-and-touristy party vibes. And a whole lotta shenanigans (as well as questionable late night pizza and unruly chaos). It’s the original entertainment section of Austin, with tons of eclectic dive bars, lots of live music, and delicious food trucks.
It’s a long stretch of eternally hopping bars, and they don’t die down until the wee hours of the morning. They don’t call it Dirty Sixth for nothing! It’s basically the Austin equivalent of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street and San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, with a little bit of the Las Vegas strip thrown in there for good measure. What a combo, right?!
Technically, Dirty Sixth stretches from Congress Avenue (to the west) to I-35 (to the east). If this sounds like your kinda scene, here’s a few spots to check out:
- The Jackalope: Don’t miss one of their specialty sake bombs and a photo with the giant rabbit-antelope statue
- Casino El Camino: Try the Bloody Mary — the garnishes are wild! Yes, chicken nuggets and corn dogs hanging off the side of your glass (great to help the impounding hangover).
- Shakespeare’s Pub: Feel like you’re back in your college days with $5 pitchers! An Austin staple.
- Midnight Cowboy: Fancy cocktails in a secret-speakeasy kinda place (with no screaming college kids) — just be sure to make a reservation in advance. A bit different than your typical Dirty 6th experience.
Option 2: Rainey Street
Dirty 6th not your thing? I totally get it — the wild shenanigans aren’t mine either. Instead, head on over to Rainey Street, which caters to a slightly older, more laid-back clientele. The whole area is full of old craftsman houses that have since turned into bungalow bars and upscale eateries. It’s one of Austin’s newest nightlife districts, just blocks away from Dirty 6th, and it’s so cute! A great option if you want something a tad more low-key but still poppin’.
I went here on my first visit to Austin in 2015, but since learned it’s gotten way more popular and touristy than it used to be. Still super fun though! There’s still string-light covered patios, food trucks, and all the craft cocktails you could want. All in the adorable little bungalow houses!
A few spots to check out on Rainey Street (although you could just walk up and down the street and still have a great time!):
- Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden: It’s always busy here, and for good reason — everyone’s grabbing a spicy andouille sausage and choosing from the 100+ beers on tap (no hard liquor here).
- Clive Bar: Come here for the mezcal! And then find the semi-secret bar in a small shack out back — I kinda wanna go next time!
- Parlor Room: As instagrammable as it gets on Rainey Street. There’s a hot pink living room, a black and white tiled bar, and a giant DRINK UP sign out on the patio.
- Lucille: Hammocks, lots of outdoor seating, and cozy indoor booths. There’s also fancy drinks!
- The Container Bar: Yes, it’s exactly as it sounds — a bunch of shipping containers stacked together with lots of outdoor patio space.
Option 3: Country Bars and Honky-Tonks!
You’re here in Texas — why not get back to it’s legendary country roots?! You know you wanna dust off those boots and bust out the cowboy hat — it’s time to get immersed in some honky tonk culture! A great option for any weekend in Austin if you wanna check out the famous, longstanding honky-tonks and country music!
A few legendary dance halls where you can work on your two-steppin’ skills:
- The White Horse: Try out your Texas two-step and get in on the boot-scootin’! This space is absolutely legendary, boasting live country jams and some of the best two-steppers around. No joke — you’ll wonder how they move that fast. Take a lesson for only $5 on Saturdays (and check out their famous Lone Star beer/whiskey deal). It’s hip and upbeat, and there’s even a taco truck outside.
- Broken Spoke: As old-fashioned as they come! And known to be one of the best two-steppin’ spots since 1964. They’ve got boot-scootin’ dance lessons here too (Wednesday to Saturday nights). But whatever you do, don’t miss the chicken fried steak — it’s legendary for a reason!
- The Little Longhorn Saloon: An authentically old-school honky tonk beer joint and as Austin as it gets. Come for free chili dogs (did we say FREE?!) and Chicken Sh*t Bingo every Sunday from 4 to 8pm — yes, you read that right (the chickens poop on a huge bingo board). Kinda like what I saw in Belize; absolutely wild!
Austin Weekend Getaway Day 3
Morning: You’ve Got Options!
Option 1: You’re My Butter Half Mural and Surroundings
After a potentially wild night out on the town, take it slow and head north to a different part of town. The main reason we ventured over here — for the super iconic and cheery “You’re My Butter Half” mural! Considering my friends and I were kinda matching — unintentionally I might add — this mural was just perfect for us! It’s easily one of the most instagrammable spots in Austin, and one I couldn’t wait to see in person after missing it on my last visit.
While you’re over here, grab some breakfast at Bird Bird Biscuit for some buttery buttermilk breakfast sandwiches and some ice cream at Amy’s if you want something sweet.
Option 2: Guided Tour
If you had a low-key night (or murals just aren’t your thing), head out on a tour this morning! There’s quite a few to choose from, including these favorites:
- Austin Art Walk: The art scene is constantly changing here in Austin, and this guided walking tour takes you to all the best spots in East Austin! You’ll learn about the artists and their artwork, and of course have plenty of time to take all those Austin instagram photos!
- Best of Austin: This tour is literally what it seems – all the best spots in Austin! The 2-hour adventure gives you an excellent overview of the major landmarks, parks, and hidden gems. And you’ll even take a guided Capitol tour before stopping at Austin’s favorite food trucks.
- Electric Bike Sightseeing Tour: Have you ever been on an electric bike? All the easaility of getting around without any work (my kinda exercise, haha). This electric bike sightseeing tour takes you to Austin’s favorite murals, landmarks, and history including the Austin skyline, State Capitol Building, Rainey Street and 6th Street, Barton Springs, and the University of Texas campus.
- Double Decker Sightseeing Tour: Travel on a loop around the city that passes by top landmarks in Austin’s downtown area, including 6th Street, The Museum of the Weird, The Driskill Hotel, Texas State Capitol, and the Texas Governor’s Mansion.
Option 3: Franklin BBQ
Wait in line for Franklin BBQ – it’s famous for a reason and a true Austin experience. Franklin is known for its succulent wood-smoked brisket, and it’s easily the most popular bbq spot in all of Austin. There’s really nothing better than brisket at Franklin’s.
But because of this, be prepared to wait in line for no joke, 3-4 hours — and yes, I’m dead serious. Either bring your own lawn chair or rent one out, bring a deck of cards to play with friends (or people you meet on the line), and lots of water to keep hydrated (especially in the heat of the summer). The wait will undoubtedly be a little longer on the weekends, so plan to come during the week if you can.
And once it’s your turn to order, don’t be shy — get some brisket, pulled pork, and whatever other smoked meats tickle your fancy. Come early because once the meats sell out, there’s no more for the day.
Is Franklin BBQ worth the wait? I think it’s worth doing once, but I wouldn’t wait on every visit or if you only have a day or two. The wait alone will easily take up at least half the day, and there’s so many other things to do on an Austin weekend getaway!
Afternoon: Texas State Capitol Building, Museums, and 6th Street
If you haven’t already seen the Texas State Capitol Building on one of the tours above, it’s time to head over there!
We just walked around the perimeter of the building, but there’s actually free 30-minute guided tours (M-F 9:30-3:30, and weekends 12:30-3:30). Although the tour is pretty short, expect to learn lots about the building (it’s made almost entirely of granite and marble!), Texas history, and the legislature. Did you know the building is almost 15 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol building?!
The park surrounding the capitol is absolutely gorgeous, with lots of sculptures and plaques outside for learning too. So if you end up visiting outside of tour hours (like we did), don’t fret — the capitol building is still worth some time!
Next up, a museum or two! The most popular ones around here are the Blanton Museum of Art and Bullock Texas State History Museum, and you can easily walk to both right from the capitol building.
We chose to visit the Blanton Museum of Art (Austin’s largest art museum) and absolutely loved the colors and art pieces. But whatever you do, don’t miss “Austin” by Ellsworth Kelly. It’s basically a rainbow-bright Austin sanctuary! Just look at those colorful stained glass windows and smooth architectural elements.
Psst — if you’ve got a teacher or student ID, make sure to bring it! I flashed my coveted school staff ID and got completely free entry! I love when museums recognize our hard work! Active military also receive free admission as well.
If history’s more your thing, head over to The Bullock Texas State History Museum instead. It’s the state’s official history museum, with three floors of exhibition galleries and even an IMAX theater. Basically everything you could ever want to know about Texas history — a complete historical overload!
Downtown/6th Street: You may have hung out on 6th Street at night, but there’s a whole bunch of things to do here during the day as well! Hungry? Definitely check out Taquero Mucho (for pink tortillas and loads of IG worthy corners) and Torchy’s Tacos (order the fried avocado tacos and spicy queso). We actually went to both and shared a few things!
Once you’re all filled up, you’ve got a lot to choose from! Here’s my top picks;
- Historic 6th Street Mural: Don’t mess with Texas! This mural pays homage to Austin as the “Live Music Capital of the World”, and you’ll see all the things that make it great on the mural itself. From its history to it’s rockin’ music scene. The mural is massive — with bold typography and color blocking; it’s literally hard to miss! One of my favorite murals in Austin, and a must for anyone looking for the best photo spots.
- The Contemporary Austin – Jones Center: If you haven’t had your fill of art yet, here’s another art museum for ya! This one focuses on contemporary art, and since the exhibitions change a few times a year, you never know what you’ll see!
- Tau Ceti Rainbow Mural: Josef Kristo Foletti, you are a technicolor, multi-dimensional marvel! Just look at this thing! I especially love all the gradients; it’s just so cool and oh so colorful! And it’s even Austin’s tallest public artwork at over 10 stories high!
- Here Nor There: Did someone say secret speakeasy?! Here Nor There was easily a highlight during our weekend in Austin, and we LOVED our globally inspired cocktails. You need to make a reservation in advance, so be sure to head to their website and follow all the directions!
- Museum of the Weird: To say Austin is weird is a huge understatement. Here at Museum of the Weird, you’ll learn about the famous haunted hotel in Austin (The Driskill, where you can still stay the night today), see “live” models of two headed pigs and other weird animals, and even witness a pretty weird show! If you’ve been, you know what I mean. Not everyone can handle an electric pulse on their tongue… We visited the museum on our first weekend in Austin and it’s definitely pretty memorable… haha.
- Mexic-Arte Museum: The museum showcases Mexican and Latino art — so much color and vibrancy here! It’s pretty small (and only $7), but they pack a lot of art into the small space so you can really see a lot in just an hour or so.
- Voodoo Doughnut – 6th Street: Originally from Portland, if you love creative (and quirky) donuts and pink decor, definitely make a stop here! Don’t miss the original Bacon Maple Bar — it’s absolutely delicious!
Night: Sunset at Mount Bonnell
Throw on your sneakers — it’s time to watch the famous sunset at Mount Bonnell. Yes, you’ll need to climb up about 100 steps, but I promise it’s well worth it for the stunning sunset views! Mount Bonnell is one of the highest points in Austin at 781 feet, and you’ll get sweeping views of Lake Austin, the city of Austin, and the surrounding hills.
On my first visit we went during the day AND for sunset later on — we just loved it so much we had to return for all the pastel colors.
Psst — Take the short path on the RIGHT to get clear views of the lake/river (the left still has a great view but there’s a big fence blocking part of it).
Mount Bonnell is a little ways away from Downtown Austin, so if you don’t have a car, you’ll need to call an Uber and ask to get dropped off at the bottom of the steps. If I remember correctly we simply put in “Mount Bonnell” and ended up in the right spot!
Late-night: Ghost Tour
If you’re still rearing to go (and are intrigued by Austin’s haunted paranormal history), sign up for a late-night ghost walking tour! The tours explore Downtown Austin’s most haunted places, from the “Museum of Weird” to the haunted streets of South Congress.
So there ya have it – my ultimate weekend in Austin itinerary! What are you most excited to do (and of course eat!) in this quirky city?!