Summers are hot in Austin, and it’s not just the temperature. Indoor and outdoor venues sizzle with live music year-round. In fact, Austin has more live music venues per capita than any other American city. If sports are more your thing, find out what team spirit really means during a University of Texas Longhorns game.
When you think of Texas, you probably think wide open terrain, high school football, and cowboys. In recent years, Texas has grown massively in population in major cities like Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
However, there is one city that is perhaps the most unique, dare I say “strangest” of them all: Austin.
Austin thrives off its growing tech culture as Californians (and people from all over) flock to this fun city. Housing prices have exploded in recent years, due to the superb job opportunities, outdoor culture, and lack of state income taxes.
Spending one weekend in this fantastic town may not be enough to experience absolutely everything. However, there are some must-see and must-do activities that can be done easily in just a couple days. What follows is a personally crafted list of the top restaurants, art showcases, and venues to visit during your short trip.
Before moving to Latin America to get fluent in Spanish I had previously been living in Austin for the past 7+ years. Check out this quick guide to achieving the perfect weekend trip to the fantastic city of Austin.
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7 Things to do in Austin, Texas
1. Eat BBQ
What’s Texas without southern barbecue? This is certainly not hard to come by in the Texas state capital. Grab some excellent BBQ at local food truck favorite Kerlin BBQ (food trucks are all the rage) for some fantastic brisket.
If you are looking for a quick value trip with the family, my recommendation is to check out Rudy’s, which is a Texas chain restaurant. They do a superb job to ensure great quality every time you stop in. They have some tasty ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and my personal underrated favorite, turkey. There’s no better way to remember a trip to the south than remembering what kind of amazing food you ate!
Finally, if you want to go to my personal favorite BBQ joint (and a favorite of many), head about 30 minutes outside the city and check out Salt Lick BBQ.
Salt Lick has achieved cult-like status in recent years with its expertly marinated and cooked BBQ. All BBQ is curated with a slathering of BBQ sauce and roasted over a pecan covered pit. It is truly the best BBQ sauce I have ever tried. It is such a unique experience that I make sure to always bring family and friends every time they come into town. You can even take pictures in the pit with the BBQ.
Arguably, there is no better city to get some excellent BBQ than Austin, Texas. Make sure you get some on your trip!
2. The Texas State Capitol
Because of the Capitol View Corridor law, it’s hard to get lost in Austin. Just look for the Texas State Capitol Building, which is visible from most parts of Austin. Guided and self-guided tours of this National Historic Landmark are open to the general public. At night, the Moonlight Towers gently flood the city with artificial moonlight.
The State Capitol is where all the legislation for the state is written and the governor’s office is located. However, it is much more than that as it is an ornately decorated capital building on the inside. Plus, if you’re on a budget, it’s free to go and see and take pictures.
However, it is much more than that as it is an ornately decorated capital building on the inside. Plus, if you’re on a budget, it’s free to go and see and take pictures. While this may sound like a perfect place to visit if you’re a middle school student, the State Capitol is quite a sight to behold.
While this may sound like a perfect place to visit if you’re a middle school student, the State Capitol is quite a sight to behold. The architecture is a Renaissance Revival type and if anything is impressive to walk around and see the important people that helped shape this country to be what it is today.
For Texas natives, it is important to know where your representatives reside and where state business begins.
For out-of-staters, hopefully this inspires you to know a little bit more about Texas and the unique history of how it came about. There is quite a bit to tell.
3. 6th Street
A lot of times when you think of Austin you think of weird people and of course, the somewhat famous (infamous?) 6th Street.
It’s far from a “party” scene that some people seek out in a big city (although it does have the party scene).
6th Street is easy an easy place to get lost. The bar scene and restaurants along 6th Street are world-renowned for their fun vibes and live music.
Just take a casual stroll and you are sure to find a bar of your liking with the music you want to hear.
It’s a great place to take out-of-towners.
You can spend an entire night sitting on a rooftop patio having dinner, casually drinking with friends, and listening to some live tunes.
My personal recommendation is to check out East 6th Street is you’re looking for a wild night with cheap drinks. It’s the dirty side of 6th Street so keep that in mind unless you are looking for a “Hangover” experience.
West 6th Street is great for the young and old business types that come to socialize and dance with friends, as it offers a slew of great outdoor bars to check out.
You won’t be disappointed by the lively atmosphere that encourages a relaxing hangout.
4. Eat Tex-Mex Food
Here I go again, recommending more food. What can I say? Austin is famous for its food, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Tex-Mex.
Those who enjoy Tex-Mex, the Texas version of Mexican food, can find top-notch places in and around the capital city of Austin.
Chuy’s is a famous place that serves up large portions for a fair price. They’re spread out all around town. In case you’re around for a weekday, their happy hour during the week is superb with free chips and queso. Show up early!
Isalia’s Tex-Mex restaurant is highly rated and located on the exciting campus of the University of Texas’s west side.
Torchy’s Tacos is now a chain but this quirky taco shop started in Austin!
After the barbeque, Tex-Mex comes in as Austin’s top food attraction for locals and tourists and a must-eat for anyone heading south.
5. Austin Art Garage
The Austin Art Garage is a local retailer selling fun and unique local art. Potential buyers can shop online.
However, if you make it to this wonderful town, visit their art exhibit to see the art in person. Hey, you don’t even need to buy anything.
It is also a great way to see the weirdness of Austin at first hand and without even paying a penny (unless you’d like to do some spending).
Also, I’ve noticed you can get some great art pieces without breaking the bank. Use the Austin Art Garage as an opportunity to take a little piece of Austin home with you for you or your loved ones.
This art shop is a great way to see the talent shown by local artists receiving support from near and far by locals and visitors to the city.
6. Barton Springs and Zilker Park
Austin has long been known for its outdoor activities and fun, free-spirited culture.
During mornings and nice days, it’s common to Austinites flocking the local parks and hiking and biking trails to get in some great outdoor fitness.
Personally, I try and make use of the wonderful walking trails in and around Austin at least once or twice a week. Hiking in Austin’s beautiful nature is sure to bring a smile to your face.
There are many benefits from hiking that I think you would be silly to not make it a part of your weekly routine.
Barton Springs is right across the street (walking distance) from Zilker Park. Zilker is one of the most visited spots by locals as it is a beautiful city park with volleyball courts, plenty of room to run, and ample space to let your dog loose.
If you have a dog, make sure to bring him or her to Zilker.
Barton Springs is a natural spring-fed pool that can be swum in for a low cost (a couple dollars). The whole scenery is quite majestic.
And if the weather is hot, it’s a must to jump in and cool off. If not, go in at your own risk as the water is ice cold all year-round.
That doesn’t seem to stop the locals though.
7. Bougie Brunch
Find a fun place like P6 to have an upscale brunch. There’s an endless supply of places to eat like P6 shown above with killer views or the super pink Taqueria Mucho shown below.
Pheobe’s Dinner isn’t really scenic but the food is so good! I think they may have a second location as well.
For a foodie brunch head to South Congress to Aba restaurant to have Mediterranean food.
Having A True Austin Experience
Visiting Austin for the weekend is a wild ride. The city is still relatively small, so you can pack a lot into your short weekend trip.
The list above is brief, but hopefully highlights some of the numerous worthwhile attractions that are sure to make for a special weekend in Texas’ capital city.
Once you arrive, you will see how prominent the culture is and how the city buzzes with positive energy and active people.
If you are wondering where to stay we recommend JW Marriott in downtown Austin. That’s where I stay recently and it was great. Loved the rooftop pool.
In addition, there are other major cities in Texas you’ll want to visit if your travels carry you on further. Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Houston are among the other major cities that draw in hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. All of them make great weekend trips from Austin.
All that to say, if you could pick just one, my recommendation would be Austin. Have a great trip!
BIO: Nate Alger hiking aficionado that writes killer hiking tips, and gear recommendations at his website Live Outdoorsy. He spent 7+ years living and loving the great city of Austin, Texas.