So you are headed to Austin for vacation, huh? Get ready for tons of food and drinks mixed perfectly with outdoor adventure and exceptional city views.
Austin has so much to offer for every type of person and family. Because of that, this guide got pretty big, pretty fast. I scrolled through my Instagram feed and pulled out all my personal favorites, along with all the “classic Austin” stuff. My hope is that you’ll use it as a starting point to tailor a vacation that’s perfect for you, whatever that may be. I’ve broken it up by sections, including BBQ, food in general, drinks, coffee, nature/outdoor exploration, breakfast, shopping, sports, views, day trips, parking info, and the airport.
Everything is hyperlinked! If you see something you like, click the linked name to go to their website and learn more. Or, click the photo. The caption on the bottom will tell you the location.
Last update: September 2023
I’ll be updating this guide every few months, but before you visit anywhere, do a quick google search to make sure the spot is still open (the restaurant biz is RUTHLESS out here), and is open at the day and time you want to go. With labor shortages the way they are, businesses are adjusting hours left and right! If you have Instagram and can search the restaurant/bar, that’s the best place to check for last minute closures or hours changes. With that little PSA, let’s dive in!
This is just scratching the surface, people. There’s good BBQ everywhere you look in Texas. I can honestly say, the only BBQ I ate in Austin that I genuinely was like… I didn’t like that… was at Stubbs (sorry Stubbs). The prices range widely depending on where you go, so make sure you view some menus before visiting to avoid any surprises! Most of the BBQ places (especially the trucks) only serve until they’re sold out, so the earlier in the day you can get there the better.
- Terry Blacks on Barton Springs Road: This is my favorite BBQ in Austin. Whenever friends or family visit Austin, I always take them here. My go-to order is quarter pound of brisket, quarter pound of sausage, single serving of Mac and cheese, single serving of banana pudding. If the line is long when you’re there, don’t worry! It moves pretty quickly and if it’s hot, they’ll sell beers and other drinks at different points in the line.
- Blacks BBQ: Not the same as Terry Blacks! It’s a (messy…) family affair. You can read about it here. Just know the original Black’s BBQ’s location (owned by Uncle Kent Black) is in Lockhart, TX, but they now have an Austin location as well. Twin nephews, Mike and Mark Black used their father’s name to open Terry Blacks. Black’s BBQ is good, but something about Terry Black’s is… better. It’s hard to describe. Blacks BBQ does have excellent vanilla ice cream, though.
- Franklin BBQ: This is my TL;DR on Franklin BBQ. My full write-up is HERE if you want to read more. Brisket is exceptional, sausages are excellent, everything else is in the ‘good’ category. Weekdays during the off-season are the time to go. We arrived Wednesday at 9:30 in January and were eating by 11:30am. If you’re going on the weekend, I’d plan to be in line by 8am. If it’s the spring or summer, I’d arrive even earlier. I’ve heard people showing up as early as 6am. Bring a chair, bring a beverage, bring your social personality (people in line like to chat with one another). If you can go off-season during the week, waiting 2 hours is worth it.
- Leroy and Lewis (for those staying south): This truck is located at Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden and was rated the number 5 best BBQ spot in TEXAS by Texas Monthly Magazine. They have a pretty great meat plate deal where you can get 1 meat and 2 sides for $15. Their entrees are also pretty excellent, including a BBQ sandwich, Frito pie, a smoked brisket patty burger, and more. Read more about Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden below. It’s an awesome place to hang out any time of the day.
- InterStellar (for those staying north): InterStellar was recently rated the #2 BBQ Joint in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine and its popularity has skyrocketed since! If possible, visit on a weekday to avoid crowds. If you must visit on the weekend, I’d say be prepared to wait in line for an hour-ish. My favorite thing from InterStellar is their Peach Tea Glazed Pork Belly. Dang, is it good!
- County Line: I prefer their location on the lake off 2222. The views are great and it’s so spacious! You can sit on their patio deck and watch the river go by. County Line is much more low-key, family oriented, reasonably priced, and is set up more like a regular restaurant. They also have a more robust menu, including non-BBQ items, and a Kids’ Menu.
- Slab BBQ: They have a couple locations around, including up in Cedar Park. Slab BBQ is more for a fast-casual BBQ. Personally, I love getting their brisket slices on top of a salad. Their prices are reasonable and this is definitely where I go when I want BBQ after work or something like that. If you have a larger group (or are just feeling ambitious!) I’d recommend their nachos. It’s a MASSIVE plate of delicious, brisket topped nachos.
- Rollin’ Smoke BBQ: This truck is located in the Arbor Food Truck park at 1108 E. 12th Street. Their brisket sandwich is my go-to, but they’ve got all kinds of sandwiches, Frito Pies, Mac and Cheese with meats, meats by the pound, and so much more. They’ve even got a veggie option! Smoked Portobello mushrooms with crunchy spicy slaw, pickles, and onions.
There are an absurd amount of foodie spots in Austin. I’m just going to highlight a few of my personal favorites. These are places I’d take people if they were visiting me, or places I visit frequently on my own. I’m thinking of these as easy, casual spots you could hit up after a long day of exploring in Austin.
- Pinthouse Pizza: They have several locations around Austin. I’ve been to 3 of the 4 of them and have loved them all. The interiors are super spacious and beautiful. If you’re an IPA fan, Pinthouse’s Electric Jellyfish is a pretty popular Austin beer! My suggestion is to get the lunch special which comes with 10” personal pizza, salad, and a drink (or upgrade to a beer and get $1.25 off the beer list price). If you’re visiting Monday – Friday from 11AM – 3PM, highly recommend the lunch special.
- Homeslice: If you’re hanging out on South Congress and need a quick lunch, this is where you should eat. They serve NY style pizza by the slice, in addition to your other usual pizzeria items – salads, garlic knots, calzones, and hot and cold subs.
- El Alma: This is one of my favorite Mexican food spots. Chef Alma blends her classical training with her Mexico City roots to create menu favorites that include crema de elote, roasted duck relleno and specialty margaritas. Their restaurant is small and often crowded, but if you have the option, I would sit on the rooftop. The interior of El Alma is cozy and colorful. As you make your way to the back, there’s a stone wall that leads to the rooftop patio stairway. It feels very “rainforest-y” and I love it! They have a pretty good happy hour every day 3-6 and offer Bruch on Saturday and Sunday from 10-3. This restaurant is a Barton Springs staple and is perfect for relaxing at after a day at Zilker Park or Barton Springs Pool.
- Kinda Tropical: Is a super casual counter service spot on the east side. They have everything – small bites, large plates, cocktails, beers, frozen drinks, wine, a great happy hour and a full brunch Saturday and Sunday complete with wonderful brunch cocktails. Most of their seating is patio tables outside in their dirt lot. They do have a few tables inside as well. When you drive by, you can’t miss it – it’s a converted gas station that still has the pump station overhang on the corner.
- Juliet: Juliet is a bit more upscale Italian (compared to the rest of the spots on this list). It’s a personal favorite of mine. I’ve had their pizza, pasta, chicken parm, and more and it’s all super tasty. Their drinks are also exceptional. Both locations are really beautiful inside, but if you want patio dining, I’d recommend their Barton Springs location.
- Ski Shores: Ski shores has been around since 1954! It was recently bought by a large Austin hospitality group and because of that, many things changed, but one thing that didn’t change? The incredible lake views. Couldn’t get closer to the lake if you tried! Overall, Ski Shores is a spot I’ll take people when the visit from out of town. Beautiful location, good eats, but a little more special occasion feeling with the prices.
- Arbor Food Truck park: Off of East 12th St. in Austin, there’s a great little food truck spot called the Arbor Food Truck Park. The park has been around since 2020 and has had some really awesome trucks cycle through. Right now, my favorite are Ensenada (amazing fish tacos, Magic Matcha (get the Pink Drink), Cuantos Tacos (delicious street tacos), and Rollin’ Smoke (BBQ). In addition to these great trucks, Arbor Food Truck park has a little parking lot, tons of picnic tables, and twinkly lights that really set the vibes at night.
- Thicket Food truck park: Thicket Food Park in South Austin is SUCH a gem. Adam, the developer of the food park, lives just a mile away. He wanted somewhere South Austinites could gather, build community, and enjoy great food. He imagines families meeting for playdates, teachers doing BYOB happy hour hangouts, and friendly picnics under the string lights. Thicket has a wide variety of food and right now, my favorites are Brooklyn Breakfast Co., Corndog Co., Artipasta, and The Celia Jacobs Cheesecake Experience.
- Hanks: Hanks has made themselves into an Austin classic (and they’re in a shopping center, which means they have nice parking, so that doesn’t hurt). I’ve been to Hanks for happy hour celebrations, dinners with my family, brunch with friends, independent work time at their cafe next door… basically everything. There’s never a bad time to visit Hanks.
- Gabriela group: Oh, Gabriela Group. Take a look at Taquerio Mucho real quick. You’ll know immediately if it’s your vibe or not. It’s an instagramer’s paradise! If you’re like, YES, this is ME! Then take your pick: Taquerio Mucho serves lunch and pink tacos, Gabriela’s serves an epic brunch spread, Revival serves coffee, Churro Co. makes handmade churros, and Seareinas focuses on sea food. I have never been super impressed with the food at any of these locations, but the VIBES make it worth it, honestly. It’s so fun and lively. Drag brunch, anyone?
- Bouldin Creek Cafe (vegetarian): Bouldin Creek Cafe is an epic vegetarian/vegan restaurant. They have a massive drink list (with one of the best matcha lattes I’ve ever had), serve breakfast all day, and lunch salads, entrees, and sandwiches after 10am. They also serve dessert… it’s all so good. I’m not a vegetarian and I still eat here happily!
- Lou’s (Barton Springs for inside dinning, east side for outdoor): I always get the half chicken with Parmesan fries. I haven’t really done a happy hour with drinks thing here yet, but I definitely plan to. Unlike their east side location, Barton Springs has lots of indoor seating. Perfect for those HOT Austin summer days. If you’re like me, though, there’s only one thing you need to know about Lou’s on Barton Springs – they have a PARKING GARAGE and validate for 4 hours.
- Ramen Tatsu-ya: Another incredible restaurant group. They’re serving up my favorite ramen in Austin at Ramen Tatsu-ya (several locations). In addition to their original ramen restaurants, they have Domo Alley Gato. The outdoor patio is located right next to the east 6th Ramen Tatsu-ya. It is all outdoors, but honestly, with all the misters and shade, it was totally manageable. As you walk in, you’re greeted with a giant lucky cat, in addition to many, many smaller ones. The patio space is small and intimate, modeled after what you’d see in Japanese alleyway bars. They have excellent drinks and good little snacks. But the vibes of this outdoor bar space is really what sells me. There’s also BBQ Ramen Tatsu-ya. It’s a different take on their traditional Ramen Tatsu-ya, a BBQ take. Tiki Tatsu-ya is a tiki bar with some outrageously cool drinks. I’ve never been (it’s just been SO popular and crowded!) – reservations are a must! Then there’s Dipdipdip Ice cream and Dipdipdip Tatsu-ya. Their ice cream spot is just a walk up window next to their most elegant dining experience – Dipdipdip Tatsu-ya. It’s an omakase shabu-shabu restaurant where you cook meats and other entree items in simmering broth at your table.
- Ice cream in general: I have a whole blog specifically for this, if you’re a real ice cream fanatic, but if you’re looking for a quick Austin sweet treat, Amy’s Ice Creams is the most recognizable. They have locations everywhere, but their Guadalupe location has a giant ice cream cup on the roof which is kind of cool. Other exceptional ice cream includes Lick, Jeni’s, Dolce Neve, Milky Way Shakes (vegan), and Besame (food truck).
- OMG Squee: Ever since Queer Eye featured OMG Squee, their popularity has been through the roof. This cute cute CUTE little shop serves up the tastiest mochi donuts around. They also bake macarons and seasonally sell soft serve. If you’re a fan of instagram-able, cute desserts, this spot is for you.
- Tamale House: Tamale House has served the Austin community fresh, authentic Mexican food from scratch since 1958. Yeah, 1958! Patio dining is super easy – find a table, scan and order from the QR code, food is delivered quickly to your table. I highly recommend their Tamale’s (obviously) and some of their Mexi Iced cold brew horchata iced coffee.
- Fresas: Fresa’s is SO GOOD. They serve up some pretty incredible wood-grilled half chickens meals. I went with one of their Power Bols, which has agave-lime chicken, power greens, sweet potato, avocado, adobo chickpeas, roasted cauliflower, pickled red onion w/ sherry shallot vinaigrette. Although they do have a small indoor seating area, most of the restaurant is outdoors under incredibly large trees draped with lights. It’s the perfect place to hang out, drink, and eat food you can feel good about. If a healthy meal leaves you craving dessert, they have some blueberry cheesecake ice cream that has actual cheesecake chunks. Can’t say enough about this super delicious spot.
- Kome: My favorite sushi in Austin. The rolls are where Kome really shines. The tempura fried “Midnight Sun” (smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado, candied jalapeño, topped with sunflower seeds and go-go sauce) is my favorite. Their classic rolls are mostly between $7-10 dollars and the specialty rolls are anywhere from $11-17. I feel like these are pretty good prices for such delicious sushi!
- Sweet Memes: Matcha lovers REJOICE because Sweet Memes has arrived. Sweet Memes is a fun, beautiful tea and dessert shop with several matcha dessert options. I landed on matcha tiramisu, a matcha soufflé pancake, and the matcha mille crepe. I’ll have to go back for the matcha fruit Shibuya toast. Once you finally make your dessert choice, you can photograph it next to all their cute interior décor. It’s really the perfect foodie spot!
- Mum Foods makes everything in house themselves, “from the mustard to the bacon” and DANG is it good. They have all kinds of sandwiches, soups, salads, sweets, and barbecue. I had The Rachel, a hot carved 1/2 pound pastrami sandwich on grilled sourdough rye with slaw, Russian dressing, and Swiss. It’s perhaps my favorite sandwich in Austin.
- Teaspoon Austin: This is my favorite boba spot in town. No powders or flavored syrups over here. I’m talking guava puree in the Guava Sunset, passion fruit juice complete with deliciously crunchy passion fruit seeds in the Lady Bug, and REAL strawberry chunks in the Strawberry Matcha Royale. And the boba. The BOBA! It’s made every 2-3 hours. This ensures it’s always the perfect amount of chewiness.
- Birdie’s was just named Food & Wine’s 2023 Restaurant of the Year! That’s pretty wild. I’ve never actually been, but I’ve heard good things! It’s counter service, so a line often forms before opening. Plates are small and are meant to be shared. They’re also know for having a pretty wonderful staff culture – health care, paid family leave, and a general, non-toxic restaurant working environment (wow!).
There’s no shortage of places to drink in Austin. These are some of my favorite and are definitely more on the chiller side. I’m not the kind of person who’s out til 2am drinking wildly. I’m more of an afternoon brewery person or the occasional after dinner cocktail drinker.
- Breweries are my favorite places to grab drinks in Austin, personally. They’re just so low-key and that’s my kind of vibe.
- Ones with good food – Austin Beerworks, Easy Tiger, Meanwhile, Hold Out Brewing, Zilker Brewing
- Ones with beautiful spaces – Central machine works (also great food, it’s overall one of my faves), Brewtorium, Lazarus Brewing (their Airport Blvd. location, in particular)
- Super chill and approachable – Hopsquad, Hi Sign, Celis Brewing
- Incredible view – Oasis Texas Brewing Co. (not The Oasis Restaurant)
- Dumonts: If I feel like going out a little later and drinking cocktails, but still want a relaxed, approachable environment, I’d go to Dumonts Down Low. It’s a basement level speakeasy (that’s supposedly haunted??) in downtown. The bartenders are cocktail artists and are mixing up some super interesting stuff. Their old fashioned is the best in town and their lavender bees knees is perfection.
- Domo Alley Gato: From the Tatsu-ya team, Domo Alley Gato is a small outdoor bar area off the side of their Ramen Tatsu-ya E. 6th location. It resembles a small Japanese alleyway. They’ve got frozen foam topped beers and exceptionally tasty small bits.
- Nickel City: No frills, excellent drinks. This classic Austin east side spot is where you’ll find the locals drinking. Delrey Cafe is also an excellent truck to grab bar food from.
- Wanderlust Wine: This is one of those pay-by-the-ounce places! You get a little card, put the card over the tap you want, then you’re charged by the oz. Don’t worry – you can set it to automatically do specific size pours too. They also have a new wine cave experience at their Barton Springs location. Definitely an interesting thing to check out!
- The Yard is a whole complex full of places to drink! Still Austin is a distillery (the only distillery in Austin’s city limits). They also have an awesome food truck called Huckleberry. St. Elmo brewing has a tap room here and they brew up one of my favorite Austin beers – the Carl Kolche. Texas Saké co has a space at the yard, as does The Austin Winery. Finally, Spokesman Coffee is roasting beans at The Yard and has a great, chill little cafe space.
- Sign Bar: Newly opened on the east side, Sign Bar is home to tons neon signs from institutions (some gone, some still truckin’ along) all over Austin. My first question was… “Where did all these signs come from?” Here’s what their website has to say – “What started as a passion project of collecting deserted yet legendary bar and restaurant signs evolved into a desire to preserve the history of an Austin forgotten. In collaboration with local artists, sign makers, interior designers and fabricators, we created a concept not only unique to Austin and Texas, but the country as a whole which memorializes our beautifully weird city’s foundational roots.”
- Edge Rooftop Bar: This rooftop bar is located inside the JW Marriott downtown. It’s super approachable and easy to access – just walk into the hotel make a right towards the elevators, go up Elevator C to the fifth floor, and exit through the doors by the pool! It’s that easy! No reservation needed.
- WHOLE AREA: East Cesar Chavez is perhaps my favorite location to grab drinks. Unfortunately… it’s not a walkable area, so Ubering will be your best friend. However, if you do drive, I’d recommend parking on 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th streets, depending on where you want to go. Some of the spots do have larger lots. Along E. Cesar Chavez, you’ll find…
- De Nada: Food’s not bad, vibe is cute, margaritas are a 10/10 and are deadly.
- Central Machine Works: My overall favorite spot on E. Cesar Chavez. Excellent food, huge indoor and outdoor space, chic industrial style, good mix of drinks, big parking lot.
- Sawyer and Co.: More of a restaurant than anything, but they serve delicious cajun food, a tasty brunch, and a fun happy hour.
- Jacoby’s: Again, more of a restaurant. Excellent food, excellent brunch, and good drinks.
- Grizzeldas: Their Grizz Mizz is absolutely delicious (and deliciously PINK). They also run a pretty good happy hour all night Wed, and 5-6 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
- Tillery Kitchen and Bar: Located on the river! Beautiful outdoor patio space.
- WHOLE AREA: East Austin really exploded with new bars over the summer. While I haven’t been to these yet, I’ve heard great things about Small Victory (classic cocktails bar), Seven Spirits (chill house bar vibes), Elementary (dinner and drinks), Daydreamer (cocktails and champagne) Equipment Room (speakeasy), Lucky’s (high-end cocktail bar), Holiday (cute, bright, airy), Marlow (a good time bar), and Lovebirds (fun and colorful) just to name a few.
- WHOLE AREA: Rainey Street: But Kelly, what about Rainey Street? When I hear about Austin, I hear about how hip and cool Rainey Street is. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but Rainey Street has just about been fully taken over by high-rise condo buildings. What used to be a small street lined with bars in cute little houses is no more. There are a few spots still hanging in there though! Some of my Rainey Street favorites include Bangers, Lustre Pearl, Anthem, Stay Put Brewing.
- WHOLE AREA: E. 6th St. But Kelly, what about 6th Street? When I hear about Austin, I hear about how crazy the parties are on 6th street! Honestly – just skip it. If you want to see it, then go when it’s still bright out. At night, it just becomes a drunken, dangerous mess. Not like a fun, party animal mess, just… a mess.
Personally, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I tried to make note of which are more sit-down restaurant types and which are fast-casual, take back to your hotel kind of types. Hope that’s helpful!
- Bird Bird Biscuit: Epic biscuit sandwiches. This is one of my favorite fast-casual breakfast spots in Austin. Snag a sandwich (the Queen Beak is my favorite), so donut holes, an orange juice, and have yourself a wonderful little breakfast. Their location on Koenig has some outdoor tables under a covered patio space, their Manor location has a few seats inside. It’s really a perfect spot to pick up and take back to your hotel!
- Teal House Coffee & Bakery: This is another fast-causal spot that has the perfect mix of sweet and savory treats. The interior space is a bit larger with maybe 6-8 small tables. They have everything from sweet and savory Kolaches to sweet and savory croissants, but the real show stopper is their cinnamon rolls. They’re the best in Austin, if you ask me. Their coffee selection is also pretty good!
- Kirby Lane: This is a classic Austin breakfast spot. It’s your typical sit-down restaurant. It’s colorful, causal, and perfect for families. All day breakfast for the win! They have several locations around Austin, so odds are, no matter where you’re staying you’ll have one near you. If you want a spot that offers ALL THINGS breakfast, Kirby Lane is the spot.
- Nervous Charlies: This is my favorite bagel spot! They are just so good. You can get them loaded up, breakfast sandwich style, or you can just get them with smear. Again, this is a prefect breakfast to pick up and take back to your hotel. Their Cedar Park location is ALMOST OPEN!
- Paperboy: They started as a successful breakfast food truck and evolved into a hip and mega popular brick and mortar on the east side. They have one of my favorite breakfast sandwiches, the BEC – bacon, egg, pimento cheese. They’re a sit-down restaurant, but they also have a take-away window, which is super convenient! They’re definitely more upscale (and cuter) than something like Kirby Lane. Highly recommend!
- Josephine House: Looking for somewhere fancier to celebrate your vacation to Austin? I like Josephine House! It’s SO cute and cozy. Definitely more upscale (to me, personally) but I went here for a birthday brunch and loved it. They have a citrus cured lox dish that’s served on a hash brown and it is so good. Breakfast is served daily from 9am-3pm.
- Batch: Batch is a perfect place to chill and eat sweet and savory kolache if you want a slow start to your day. You can also just walk up the counter, snag some kolache and go! They have a beer garden-type patio in the back, perfect for sitting and chilling.
- Little Olas Biscuits: Incredible, buttery biscuits. Devour them on their own, or get them with jam, honey, sausage egg and cheese, or fried chicken. A perfect quick counter service spot!
- Corinne: Corinne is a classic, polished brunch spot downtown. Located in the Marriott downtown, the patio has a few cozy seats, a small outdoor bar, and lots of tables lining the side of the building under massive fans. Perfect for people watching and admiring the beautiful mural. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 7am – 4pm. Go sweet with the Pecan Praline French Toast or savory with the Sweet Corn Cake Eggs Benedict. You really can’t go wrong.
- Lynny’s: I haven’t been here yet, but photos of the incredible, diner-style breakfasts that have been coming out of this food truck are insane. Coffee, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, fried eggs… it all looks amazing.
A lot of restaurants in Austin are serving up some delicious coffee. These are a few of the coffee shops that I love and think would make perfect caffeine pit-stops for those visiting!
- Summer Moon: While they don’t have any downtown locations, they do have one in north Austin, one in south Austin, and one one the far west side. If you’re as far north as Cedar Park, they have two locations up there! They’re my favorite chain coffee shop in Austin, for sure. They use “moon milk” to sweeten their drinks, which is a kind of sweet cream. I usually get a Quarter Moon, which is 1/4 moon milk, 3/4 half and half. It adds the perfect amount of flavor and sweetness.
- Mozarts: Mozarts is a cute coffee shop on the lake. An Austin staple for sure. They have a huge pastry case for you to browse. Pick a pastry, get a coffee, and then enjoy the best part of Mozarts – the lakeside view. They have a huge, free parking lot across the street. If you’re hungry and want more lakeside dinning, Hula Hut is right next door (not the best food, but again, you’re there for the lake vibes).
- Meteor Cafe: Ever thought to yourself – Man, what I really want right now is a cafe, wine shop, and boutique bike shop all in one. Well, you’re in luck. Meteor Cafe is a counter service spot on South Congress that serves up excellent coffee and pastries, pizza, sandwiches, and a ton of different drink options. You can also pick up a bottle of wine and that bike tire you’ve been needing.
- Maha Coffee: This small coffee shop serves up some exceptional coffee, ceremonial grade matcha, cold-pressed juice, and stretch made gluten-free baked goods. Their cafe spaces opens up into a shared lounge with their sister yoga studio, Sukha Yoga.
- Try Hard Coffee: This little coffee shop serves incredible espresso and really good matcha, along with some of my favorite breakfast tacos. They have a few seats inside, in addition to a small backyard oasis patio.
- Desnudo Coffee: Similar to Lynny’s, this truck is POPPIN’ OFF right now. It’s incredibly popular. I haven’t been yet, but I’ve heard exceptional things about their miso and brown sugar oat milk latte. It’s all over the ‘gram!
Because this is Austin, there are many places that serve coffee, cocktails, and everything in between at all hours!
- Ani’s Day And Night: Day and Night says it all. Visit here at any time of day and you’ll find something to satisfy your cravings. There are a few food trucks parked on their lot as well, providing plenty of snacks while you hang out. Ani’s Day and Night has a small parking lot right behind the house, but don’t fear! If you drive through that small lot, there’s a really big dirt lot behind it.
- Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden: Cosmic now has two amazing beer gardens – one southwest and one right downtown. They have great coffee and great cocktails, making it a fun spot to chill any time of day.
- Radio Coffee and Beer: Similar vibes as Cosmic Coffee + Beer. Awesome outdoor space, great food trucks (Briskits 512 is EPIC), good coffee and good beer. Be warned – their parking is atrocious. Like, so bad I’ve actually abandoned my visit all together because I couldn’t find parking. Definitely visit on off hours.
With all that eating and drinking, you should try to get out a bit. Luckily, there are plenty of outdoor adventure-type things to do in Austin!
- Wildflower Center: The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is 284 acres of scenic gardens and trails. Bring your binoculars, your walking shoes, your water bottle, and some sun screen (because not all the trails are covered) They also have a small cafe! I wrote more about experiencing the Wildflower Center here.
- Zilker park: Zilker is “Austin’s most-loved park.” It’s 351 acres along the river and is a wonderful place to throw out a blanket and chill with your dog. The vast majority of it is uncovered, so plan accordingly if you’re visiting during the summer! If you want good views of the city, I highly recommend checking the park out.
- Barton Springs: Within Zilker park is Barton Springs Pool. It’s a natural spring-fed pool fed by the St. Edwards aquifer with a year-round average temperature of 68 degrees (it’s cold!). There is plenty of space to layout a towel and tan up! The only downfall is that there’s no food allowed. I actually had a small bag of snacks that I started eating sneakily and a lifeguard quickly told me to put it away. So no food! The only drinks allowed are non-alcoholic drinks in a plastic container with a resealable lid.
- Botanical Garden: Also within Zilker is the 28 acre Botanical Garden. If you visit any of the nature spots I’ve mentioned, make it this one. Theme gardens include the Taniguchi Japanese Garden, The Riparian Streambed, The Hartman Prehistoric Garden, and The Mabel Davis Rose Garden. These and other gardens are woven together with pathways, streams, and Koi-filled ponds, creating an urban oasis full of shaded hideaways, sunny lawn areas, and thousands of native and cultivated plants. There are also incredible views of the city from here too!
- Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail (aka, Town Lake trail, aka Lady Bird Lake trail…): This trail makes a 10 mile loop around the lake. This is by far the best way to see the city skyline. There’s also a boardwalk on the south portion that extends over the water for a portion of the loop. Don’t worry! You don’t need to do all 10 miles. You can cut off at various spots and make 3, 5, and 7 mile loops by walking across the bridges.
- The Congress Avenue Bridge is known for the nightly flight of the Austin bats! The bats migrate during the winter, but during the warmer months, thousands of bats flood out from under the bridge as they hunt for the night.
- While swimming isn’t allowed in the lake, you’ll see plenty of people kayaking and stand-up-paddle boarding. A quick google search will bring up all the places you can rent gear from!
- Domain: The Domain is actually an area made up of three different sections: The Domain, Northside, and Rockrose. They all merge together and make up what I consider, “The Domain”. There’s high end shopping (Tiffany’s, etc.), everyday shopping (H&M, Macy’s, Forever 21), tons of food, fun activities (Top golf, Punch bowl social), and drinks. Rockrose, specifically, has quite the nightlife when the sun goes down. I like Dogwood for it’s rooftop views!
- South Congress (SoCo): Where do I even begin with South Congress Ave.? You could spend one whole day here. You could snag an early morning coffee at Two Hands Coffee as you walk to brunch at the eclectic Magnolia Cafe. Then do some shopping (keep it local with Triple Z Threadz or get fancy with Hermes). At lunch time, get pizza from Homeslice, sushi from Lucky Robot, or seafood from Perla’s. After lunch grab afternoon ice cream at Jeni’s or Amy’s, then walk with it down to the South Congress Ave. bridge (depending on your walking preferences, that might be a stretch. It’s about a mile.), come back from fancy drinks at Aba on their EPIC patio, take a photo in front of the “I love you so much” mural, then run down a few blocks and take another photo at the colorful “Greetings from Austin” mural. Since you’ve been walking so much, reward yourself with candy from Big Top Candy Shop. After dinner at June’s (my fave), snag drinks at the South Congress Hotel lobby or White Tiger, or listen to live music at The Continental Club.
- 2nd Street District: 2nd Street is a small shopping district in downtown Austin. There is a good mix of fancy boutiques, snacks and cafes (Jo’s Coffee, Sweetgreen, and Yummi Joy are my favorites), and Austin souvenir shops. It’s very walkable and nice. Kind of like a promenade, but cars still drive down the middle.
- Farmers’ Markets: My two favorite farmers’ markets the Texas Farmers’ Markets at Lakeline (Saturdays) and Mueller (Sundays). Mueller is a whole complex – there’s a park, a lake, shopping, dining, a children’s museum (The Thinkery), an Alamo Draft House theatre… so much. Both of these markets have grown incredibly over the years and there are SO many amazing vendors. Parking is easy – use the structure next to the Thinkery!
- Asahi Imports: Yes, Asahi Imports deserves their own little feature! I absolutely love this Japanese groceries and gift store. They have lots of packaged Japanese food and snacks and adorable little gifts. At their Burnet location, they also sell freshly made onigiri (I’d call to double check they have some in stock! It goes fast). They also sell bento boxes, delicious soft serve, and other tasty times on set days until sold out. Check the website to see what’s offered each day!
- Bookstores: Austin has several great books stores, including…
- An epic public library. The interior is absolutely beautiful. There’s a cafe on the top floor that opens up to a beautiful rooftop lounging area.
- Vintage Books and Wine is equal parts books store and wine bar. Yep, you heard that right. Inside the historic Handel building, Vintage books offers several cute reading nooks in addition to a full wine bar.
- When I think of indie bookstore shopping, I think of Book People. This three story bookstore is where Austinites go to shop local books. Check their calendar for author talks! I once saw Nick Offerman talk about his book, “Paddle Your Own Canoe” at Book People. They also have a pretty good size parking lot.
- First Light Books is a brand new addition to the Hyde Park neighborhood! It’s got a small café inside with coffee, beer, wine, and (pretty great) snack menu.
Texas is known for its sports and Austin certainly does its part!
- Round Rock Express: The Round Rock Express are the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Their stadium, Dell Diamond, is just north of Austin in Round Rock, Texas. Games here are super fun and the stadium is incredibly nice. I did a whole blog on their food and outfield bar. I highly recommend attending on one of their “Bring your Pup” nights. The outfield grass is littered with dogs and it’s awesome!
- Texas Stars: The Texas Stars are a professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League based in Cedar Park, Texas (just north of Austin) with home games at the H-E-B Center. Tickets are fairly inexpensive and easy to get!
- Austin FC: Perhaps my favorite sporting events to attend are the Austin FC matches. They’re incredibly popular and Q2 Stadium is awesome (and NEW!). In traditional Austin fashion, there are tons of food and drink options. If you’re the kind of person that wants to stand and chant the whole time, the Supporter Section is the place to be. If you’re like me and want to have a more relaxed viewing experience, I’d snag a regular ticket. There are no bad seats in the stadium! As far as getting to the stadium, I’d recommend taking the Metro to Kramer station and walking from there (.4 miles). If you’re a pre-game type person, you can park around Hopsquad. There are big pre-game parties at those breweries, and then everyone walks to the game in a big herd. If it’s still available, you can purchase parking through Seat Geek ahead of time. Check out the Q2 website for info!
- With the University of Texas smack dab in the middle of downtown, there are tons of great sports to see. UT Baseball is a hit, UT Basketball is a blast, and, of course, UT Football games get wild!
- The UT Campus in general is a beautiful place to walk. There are huge oaks, large ornate fountains, a turtle pond, the iconic bell tower and so much more. My two favorite museums on the campus are the Texas Memorial Museum (devoted to the natural sciences, exhibiting the university’s stunning biological and geological collections) and the Blanton Museum of Art, but I’ve also heard amazing things about the LBJ Presidential Library.
If you’ve been researching Austin long, you’ve definitely come across photos of some of it’s amazing views.
- The Pennybacker Bridge is an Austin landmark. Driving across it on the Capital of Texas Hwy (360) is cool in itself, giving you amazing views of the river and the rolling hills that surround it. If you want to get that instagram photo, however, it’s easier than you think! The access point to the lookout is on the southeast side of the bridge. Park along 360 (a little dicey for sure! Especially if it’s summer… every tourist is going to be trying to see the view) and walk to the left, towards the river. You’ll see a clearly marked trail up to the lookout. It’s not very far! If you’re bringing little kids, please be aware there are no railings. Also do NOT leave anything in your car around here. Unfortunately, cars get broken into all the time in this area.
- Mount Bonnell is a scenic outlook point above the Colorado River, located at Covert Park. To reach the view though, you have to climb just over 100 stone steps. It’s a hike, but totally doable.
- The Capitol building is an incredible piece of architecture. It’s the tallest Capitol building in the US, even taller than the US Capitol building in Washington, DC! Inside, you can wander the halls with the self-guided tour pamphlet, or you can tag along on one of the free guided tours that happen daily. If you walk around to the back side, there’s a “reverse rotunda,” which is a four-level underground, open air structure. Currently, there’s a new 3.5-acre mall being constructed that will stretch from 11th Street to 26th Street, providing easy accessibility from the Capitol grounds to the museum district and the University of Texas.
- I mentioned them above in the hike and bike trail section, but the downtown bridges all have excellent views of the lake and city! The James D. Pfluger Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge is off limits to cars, so this is a perfect one to sit and chill for a bit. Drink your iced coffee, eat some snacks, and take some pictures of the beautiful lake and Austin skyline.
- Auditorium Shores: A part of Zilker Park, Auditorium Shores is a beautiful spot to throw out a blanket and soak in the views. When there’s not a massive festival on the grounds, of course! If you do go, make sure you get a photo at the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial statue.
Parking in Austin can be tricky. I’ve definitely had my car hit in a packed parking lot before. Just be open to street parking. There’s a good app called Park ATX that makes it super easy to pay for metered parking on your phone. You can add time as needed right from the app! If you find a convenient lot, just accept the cost and move on with your day.
- Uber is probably your best bet for getting around. If not Uber, then renting a car. Austin does have a metro system, but if it’s not going exactly where you need it to, then it’s not very helpful.
- When driving, here are some of my go-to parking spots around town:
- Music Lane parking structure or the streets around Lively Middle School (E. Mary St.) for the South Congress area.
- Zilker Park is a bit tricky. I’d definitely recommend off hours (during the week, as opposed to a weekend) and parking in the lots around the park.
- Palmer Events Center for anything on Barton Springs Road (Terry Blacks and El Alma, for example).
- Convention Center Parking is good for anything downtown. That’s also where I park when I visit Rainey Street.
- Neighborhood parking is usually your best bet if you’re on the west side Clarksville Area (W. Lynn is usually a good hit).
- Capitol Visitors Parking Garage is perfect if you’re visiting the Capitol grounds. It’s at (1201 San Jacinto St.).
- There’s a parking structure at 2nd and Brazos that is $10 for 1-6 hours of parking. I really like this one because I don’t have to worry about every second I spend downtown. I can basically stay all day for $10!
- The east side (east of I-35) is pretty much metered street parking everywhere. Some of the spots on the Far East side managed to snag up large lots, so a few of the restaurants and breweries have pretty good sized lots.
Feeling like a drive? Here are some fun day-trip adventures!
- Basically, anything on Fitzhugh Road between Hwy 12 and 290 is a good hit. Treaty Oak Distilling is probably my favorite spot on this road (with Abby Jane Bakeshop in the back and Alice’s restaurant on the property), but Jester King, Beerburg, and Fitzhugh Brewing are also great!
- Driftwood is a good foodie destination as well. In addition to picturesque Texas Hill Country landscape, Driftwood is home to the iconic Salt Lick BBQ. Their BBQ is pretty good, their BBQ pit is a fun photo op, and they even have a winery, Salt Lick Cellars, on the property now!
- Fredericksburg is about an hour/hour and half west of Austin. Drive along 290 and you’ll pass about 6 million wineries. If you’re into wine and into visiting wineries, you should dedicate a day of your Austin trip for that. Fredericksburg itself has a cute, walkable downtown with lots of shops, food, and drinks. It’s German heritage really makes it a unique destination. I did a three-part reel on my day trip over on @discoveringATX. PART 1 — PART 2 — PART 3
- Georgetown is just a few minutes outside of Austin but feels worlds away. It boasts the “Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas,” natural wonders such as Blue Hole and Inner Space Caverns, and a delicious mix of classic food establishments alongside hip new spaces.
Your foodie adventure doesn’t have to wait until you arrive downtown. You can start enjoying Austin classics at the airport! There are tons of food options at ABIA, so I’d recommend walking a lap first (the airport isn’t that big) before deciding. My favorites are…
- Cafe Medici or anywhere serving Ruta Maya for your caffeine fix.
- If you’re in a big rush, put some dollar bills in the Jos Honor Coffee drop box.
- Hatcreek burger is perfect for small burgers.
- Haymaker is a great spot to grab a beer.
- Flyrite Chicken is where I always eat. Love those chicken sandwiches!
- The Peached Tortilla tacos (cauliflower, in particular) are also exceptional.
- Juiceland is perfect for when you wanna start off on a healthy foot. It’s an Austin classic.
- Amy’s Ice Creams – the place to get a sweet treat.
- Yummi Joy (/toy joy) is a fun spot to get cute little toys and sugary snacks.
- If you couldn’t make it out to Driftwood, you can actually eat at the Salt Lick location in the airport! Kinda weird, if you ask me, but hey! It’s there!
That’s a wrap! I hope you’re able to pick and choose from the spots above and craft your own perfect Austin vacation. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask! You can comment below or better yet, hit me up on Instagram @discoveringATX.
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