This Austin, Texas travel guide covers where to stay, the best time to visit, things to do, packing essentials, where to eat and more!
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Austin, Texas Travel Guide
There’s a reason Austin, Texas is the fastest-growing metro in the United States — this vibrant city is brimming with live music, food trucks, art, nature and of course the best Tex Mex you’ve ever tasted!
This haven for the young and young-at-heart is a year-round destination (thanks to its notably favorable weather), and one absolutely worth a visit!
The Best Time To Visit Austin, Texas
What is the best month to visit Austin, Texas? Two words: AVOID SUMMER.
There is a reason the city’s most popular events occur in early spring or late fall — the humid Texas summers are not for the faint of heart! Not only will you curb the predictable summer tourist crowds, but you’ll find the climate to be much more enjoyable in the off season.
This said, I would also suggest saving your trip for before or after February, as late January and February has consistently brought sudden severe winter weather that can shut the entire city down for a day or two.
The famed Austin City Limits music festival occurs in early/mid-October, so note that — while weather is typical warm and balmy — you’ll find hotel and Uber prices to be sky high during these few weeks (not to mention nonexistent parking and traffic frenzies!).
Weather and crowds considered, the best time to visit Austin is late October to December, or March to early May.
Read more: Travel Guide to Tucson, Arizona in a Weekend
How many days should you spend in Austin?
While there’s easily enough going on in this youthful city to keep you occupied and entertained indefinitely, I’d recommend staying for at least four days. This will give you enough time to enjoy the outdoors, explore the local hangouts and hopefully see a show or two.
Is Austin safe?
YES — in fact, a recent report created by AdvisorSmith indicates Austin ranks higher in safety than major metropolitans like Portland, Seattle, Phoenix, Nashville and all three other major Texas cities (San Antonio, Houston and Dallas).
Statistics aside, there’s been fewer cities (especially in the U.S.) I’ve felt more comfortable and safe in as a solo female traveler.
This said, be sure to keep standard safety precautions in mind. It is not recommended to leave valuables in your car or in plain sight. There have been some car break ins — especially at a few of the popular hiking trails.
Read more: Sedona Travel Guide & The Best Hiking Trails
Where To Stay In Austin
Often featured in photography for its notable neon sign, the Austin Motel is everything you’d expect from a funky, revamped motel in the heart of the city. Located in the South Congress neighborhood, you’re a short walk over the Congress Ave. Bridge to everything downtown has to offer.
The Carpenter Hotel
Ideally situated in South Austin between downtown and Zilker Park (a local favorite), The Carpenter Hotel is modern, minimalistic and earthy — a perfect serene getaway right in the middle of the city. This is an awesome choice if you do decide to bring your fur baby along, considering the close proximity to the park!
The chic hotel in the heart of the Red River District, Hotel Indigo, has three major selling points: location, affordably priced (under $200/night) and heated rooftop pool with a bar and city skyline view.
This is the perfect spot for night owls who plan to enjoy some music in the city, given it’s directly across the street from Stubb’s BBQ — one of the city’s most popular live music venues! The Red River District is known for its nightlife, good food and great times, so if you don’t mind the noise this is a great option in the middle of all the action.
Canopy By Hilton Austin Downtown
On W. 6th street, you’ll have access to all the expected downtown attractions plus some! This neighborhood is a historic entertainment district with variety, ranging from casual fine dining to mechanical bull riding at Bull & Bowl. Canopy by Hilton is the perfect embodiment of Austin — modern and chic, but not pretentious.
If you’d prefer a more traditional southern experience to the hipster vibe, there isn’t a single hotel that beats The Driskill; this refined historic hotel screams “old money” luxury and practically transports you back in time! Located on E. 6th in downtown, you’re just a few short blocks from the State Capitol.
Read more: The Best Weekend Getaways in the USA
Where To Eat & Drink In Austin
Austin is known as a food haven — not only will you find high-quality food from unexpected places, but you’ll find plenty of dietary restriction-friendly options at that! No matter your taste, you’re bound to find a new favorite restaurant that gets your taste buds tingling.
Paperboy and Better Half have been hailed by locals as the best brunch spots, but you can likely expect a line during peak hours. Not up for the wait? Make a reservation at Hillside Farmacy. Breakfast tacos at Tacodeli are also a true Austin staple!
In E. Austin is a small cluster of vegan and vegetarian food trucks, some of the best veggie bites in the city. The beer-battered cauliflower tacos at Velvet Taco will have you coming back for more, as will the Frito Pie burger from Arlo’s. I have yet to try a solely vegan/vegetarian eatery in the city that has disappointed.
Downtown you have your pick of rooftop bars, from tiki-themed Zanzibar and Asian-inspired P6 to the laidback Upstairs at Caroline and lively Maggie Mae’s. You can get out of the city for an awesome skyline view at Sway, which also serves up some of the best non-alcoholic mocktails in the area.
Franklin’s is easily the most well-known BBQ joint in the city (even the state!), but you’ll pay the price of standing in line for hours — if you’d rather not waste precious time, Sam’s BBQ, LeRoy & Lewis, and Terry Black’s BBQ are great alternatives.
There’s something for everyone when it comes to Tex Mex, which you can find on every corner in Austin; just a few favorites are Torchy’s Tacos, Matt’s El Rancho, Iron Cactus, and Pelon’s.
Rainey Street bars
An absolute must for a night-out in Austin is Rainey Street — a street of historic bungalow-style homes converted into bars. You can’t miss on Rainey, though favorites are Container Bar, The Alibi and Parlor Room.
Best Things To Do In Austin
Lady Bird Lake
Austin has a few different lakes, though Lady Bird Lake in the middle of the city is easily the most accessible and tourist-friendly.
The 10-mile trail around the lake offers the perfect scenic opportunity to see downtown by foot or bike, or you can rent a kayak or paddle boat and get on the lake yourself! If you’re up for a little splurge, opt for a private dinner cruise with Capital Cruises.
It wouldn’t be a trip to the live music capital of the world without seeing a show, would it?!
The Continental, Broken Spoke and White Horse offer a true honky-tonk-esque vibe and fun, casual atmosphere, while Stubb’s BBQ and Hole In The Wall offer some bigger names year-round. If jazz is your scene, check out Antone’s and The Elephant Room.
Read more: 18 Best Weekend Getaways in Texas
Mount Bonnell/Covert Park
If you haven’t visited the area before, you might be surprised by some of the awesome scenery and viewpoints — Mount Bonnell included. At one of the highest points overlooking Austin, you’ll get a beautiful view of the river and a bit of a workout on the short hike.
The Domain in N. Austin is a one-stop location for everything from — you can go straight from luxury shopping at designer stores like Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany’s to casual rooftop appetizers and a trip to the Instagram-worthy Museum of Ice Cream.
While you’re in there, try an edible cocktail at Somersault Innovative Cocktails, treat yourself at Viva Day Spa or get a hands-on cooking experience at Second Bar + Kitchen.
Barton Springs Pool
If you’re visiting during warm weather, enjoy the afternoon at Zilker Park and then take a dip at the natural pool! Feeling adventurous? Go night swimming — locals are known for adding to the fun by howling on nights of the full moon, but any night spent at this widely-loved swimming hole is bound to make memories.
What To Pack For A Trip To Austin, Texas
I don’t think there’s anything more fickle than Texas weather, so bring layers for every (yes, every) weather — you may see sunny, warm weather one day and thunderstorms the next.
I’d recommend accounting for three layers (t-shirt/tank, sweater and jacket) for each day, unless you’re visiting in summer — in summer, the only thing you’ll need to layer is sunscreen!
It also gets very humid in summer months, so consider packing an extra shirt and pair of underwear for each day; you may find yourself more comfortable if you have the opportunity to change midday.
Rarely will you find a dress code anywhere in Austin, as even in cocktail bars you’ll find people in jeans. Skip the heels and flashy dresses — or don’t, but you’ll probably the only one in the room wearing them! Casual clothing passes pretty much anywhere in Austin, so pack your favorite staples (like a sundress, your favorite leggings, jeans and a couple of casual loose fit tops).
Unless you plan on fine dining, you can realistically get away with a pair of comfortable, versatile sneakers (these are my favorite and I wear them with sundresses!) being the only shoes you’ll need your entire trip. Be sure you can dress them up or down as needed.
Hat or beanie
If you’re like me and hate hair whipping in your face in the wind, pack a hat or beanie as wind gusts can pop up unexpectedly!
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