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Austin: The Hitlist
3-Day Jaunt that covers all the "can't miss" spots in the city.
The elevator pitch: this city has it all. It’s outdoorsy, artistic, trendy, divey and food forward - there’s something here for everyone.
When to go: visit in the fall (September through November) or the Spring (March through May) for warm temperatures and lots of sunshine.
Where to stay: there are plenty of cute boutique hotels around the city. Our favorites are the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt near Rainey, the Colton House Hotel in SoCo, and the Heywood Hotel in East Austin. Or, splurge and stay downtown at the Austin Proper. If you prefer an Airbnb, we’d recommend checking out the options in East Austin for a home-away-from-home vibe.
How to get around: for a first time trip focusing on the main spots, you are fine with rideshare apps (Uber and Lyft are back after their hiatus), walking, and public transit (if needed).
Odds and ends: like any other busy city, traffic can get bad, so plan accordingly.
TRIP OVERVIEW: Austin
What this is: all the best spots to eat, drink and play.
What this isn’t: a drunken party weekend on Dirty 6th.
Day 1: Friday
Morning & afternoon in SoCo and Lady Bird Lake
Evening on 6th St and Red River St
Day 2: Saturday
Morning & afternoon in East Austin
Evening on Rainey Street
Day 3: Sunday
Morning in East Cesar Chavez
Afternoon outside and evening on Colorado Street
THE DETAILED GUIDE
Day 1: Friday
Cafe No Se
Bright and airy. Fuel up at this super cute cafe with a seasonal, all-day menu that we promise will not disappoint. They only take reservations for dinner!
Another all-day cafe we love on South Congress is Magnolia Cafe.
Lady Bird Lake
Epic and delicious. This is the flagship location and a true Austin tradition that you can’t miss. Get the Trailer Park taco, and make sure you get it “trashy” (swaps the lettuce for queso).
South Congress Ave
Stroll & Shop on South Congress
Casual and friendly. Grab some coffee to keep your day moving and snap a pic at the iconic “I Love You So Much” mural painted on the side of this shop.
Chic and breezy. Weekday happy hour goes from 3-5pm with drinks, burger and oyster specials.
Cozy and casual. Southern comfort food in one of the oldest buildings in Austin. You can’t make a reservation so get there early or plan for a wait during dinner.
Hilarious and fun. Buckle up for a wild ride of political satire and comedy sketches. You’ll get singing, dancing, magic, juggling and hot takes on current events.
The Driskill Bar
Stately and Texan. Located in The Driskill Hotel, an Austin landmark that has been around for over a century. Catch some live music from 8-10pm. Thursday through Saturday.
Sophisticated and upscale. One of the first real speakeasies in Austin, enter through the door at 313 E. 6th St (ring the doorbell labeled Harry Craddock). Reservations only.
Day 2: Saturday
Chic and unpretentious. Located in the old Hillside Drugstore, the building is now a Texas Historical Landmark. Serves local farm to table food, and doesn’t take reservations for weekend brunch.
If you’re not a fan of waiting, try making a “just in case” reservation at Paperboy nearby. If you’re itching for some BBQ, try the famous Franklin Barbecue (there will be a long wait) or Micklethwait Craft Meats (a shorter wait than Franklin).
Unique and festive. Grab your 21+ crew and go throw some axes. Public walk-ins start at 11am on the weekend. BYOB (beer and wine only).
Contemporary and vibrant. An award-winning chef and restaurant, the food at Suerte is a delicious blend of traditional Mexico cooking and local Texas ingredients.
Hip and chill. Beer garden and bakery - a truly epic combo. This location has a huge lawn, perfect for sunning and relaxing with friends and family.
Emmer & Rye
Inventive and modern. The seasonal menu changes daily. It’s pricey, but a great meal with awesome cocktails. The menu feels very “American” but with lots of unique flavors, and we definitely recommend the tasting menu.
Homey and relaxed. Located in a renovated house, this is a fun and relatively low-key spot to kick off a night out on Rainey street (which will inevitably get a little crazy).
Trendy and charming. Two bars, a huge outdoor patio, hammocks, fruit-infused drinks and cozy booth. You can’t go wrong here.
If you’re ready to kick it up a notch and go hard after this, just head out onto Rainey street and pop into wherever calls your name. There are plenty of bars and people to be found!
Unique and addictive. Started by two brothers from Detroit out of a trailer on East 6th, you’ll get real Detroit-style pizza made from fresh ingredients. Real talk, this is high end drunk food and you’re going to love it.
Day 3: Sunday
Charming and fresh. Kick off the morning with some caffeine and maybe a light bite to hold you over until brunch at this neighborhood patio cafe.
Epic and authentic. Classic Central Texas Barbecue. There will inevitably be a line so just mentally prepare yourself. This spot competes with powerhouse Austin BBQ joint Franklin Barbecue. We love both, the debate around which is better will likely never end.
Don’t want to wait in a long line or not interested in barbecue? Make a reservation at Launderette nearby, another one of our Austin favs.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
Scenic and fresh. This area has plenty of hikes for all fitness levels. We recommend using this guide to find the right access point for you!
Lively and fun. An epic swimming hole that can get pretty crowded in the summer heat. Cool off, chill out, and people watch at this quintessential Austin spot.
Want a pool instead? Head to Kitty Cohen’s patio pool bar.
Industrial and striking. Modern Mexican cuisine by esteemed Chef Philip Speer, in a space designed by architect Tom Kundig. Put on your fancy pants and step into foodie heaven.
If you can’t snag a reservation here, try Aba, another trendy spot we love (but be forewarned, it’s a scene).
Relaxed and intimate. A speakeasy that is literally inside of a parking garage, known for its beautifully concocted cocktails. We’d make a reservation just to be safe.
What didn’t make the list?
Not everything made this itinerary. Here are some of our runner up favorites:
The nightly bat migration at the Congress Ave Bridge in March through October.
Snack and shopping at Fareground, Austin’s first food hall and special retail marketplace showcasing local artisans and vendors