Austin is one of those cities that keeps calling me back. I’ve recently visited again and added new highlights on the best things to do in Austin list below. From the food to the music to the outdoors it’s all worth exploring. Whether you’re in for a music festival or to just explore don’t miss out on these things to do, places to eat, where to explore and grab a drink.
Check out the map for my favorites and you’ll find more information on each location below. And read about why I love Austin!
Note: Some tours, passes, accommodations and meals were provided at no cost to the author. All opinions remain my own. You’ll find affiliate links in this post which allow me to continue to improve Traveling Nine to Fiver. I hope this article is useful for you.
Where to Stay
701 Congress Ave
A pretty perfect hotel in a pretty perfect location. Enjoy some four-star luxury right in the heart of Downtown Austin. Just a block away from Sixth Street and a short walk to the Capitol or South Congress. The rooms are a beautiful place to relax and crash after a busy day exploring the city. You can also grab a bite in their restaurant or a drink in the lounge. Book a night!
1900 Rio Grande St
An adorable boutique hotel up near the UT Austin Campus that feels more like an old plantation home than a hotel. You’ll find cozy rooms wrapped around a pool you can relax by and take a dip. Whether you’re coming for a football game, to visit the campus or just explore more of Austin it’s a unique place to stay that will get you out of some of the craziness you can find Downtown. And be sure to grab a bite at Goodall’s Kitchen during your stay. Book a night!
Traveling to Austin, Texas Soon?
906 E Cesar Chavez St
When I talked to locals this was the number one recommended BBQ spot in the city. While everyone loves Franklin’s you’ll likely have at least 2 hours in line and need to get there early. At La Barbecue the food is at least as good, some argue better, and you’ll be in line less than an hour. Plus, they won’t run out till mid-afternoon so you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn. It’s hard to choose but one of the best meals I had on my last trip.
18300 FM 1826
Driftwood, TX 78619
This was the best BBQ I had a chance to try. It’s a bit of a drive outside of Austin but worth it for the food and the experience. I had a great time with a new group of friends while enjoying ribs, sausage, potato salad and more. Just as a reminder it is BYOB and cash only.
2402 San Gabriel St
If you’re looking for good Austin BBQ but don’t want to stand in a long line Freedman’s is a great alternative. You instead can sit down and relax, enjoy a beer and wait for your food to be brought out. From the ribs to their brisket you’ll find it melting in your mouth and their sides were just as good. Up by the UT campus so a great spot if you’re planning on exploring or going to a game.
79 Rainey Street
This sausage house has a wide variety of option for their sausages and sides. They also have a very impressive beer list, including ciders and gluten free options. The inside is on the smaller side, as most of the places on Rainey Street are, but it has a large beer hall feel out back. It is a great spot for a snack or meal. They also have a small stage and hold a variety of events.
Tacos, Tacos, and Tacos
1822 S. Congress Ave.
If you talk about tacos in Austin you will get pointed directly to Torchy’s. There are a few places around that are worth talking about too, but this continues to be a classic spot. Try some of their crazy twists on tacos, including ones that have fried chicken in it or smoked brisket. This is a great spot to enjoy some of their sides as well. They have a top-notch queso and delicious Mexican street corn.
907 E 6th St
You should start every morning in Austin with a breakfast taco or two. Pueblo Viejo is one of the first places you should go to get one. At this food truck over in East Austin, you’ll have a selection of vegetarian and meat breakfast tacos that will not only satisfy your palette but fill you up for the rest of your morning.
1500 Spyglass Dr.
Some of the best tacos I’ve ever had, says the SoCal girl. Tacodeli has a wide range of options from the standards to creative vegetarian options. It was a tasty, low-key spot that you could tell was frequented by locals. If you enjoy Mexican food at all this place is well worth a trip.
Other Austin Must Eats
1802 E 6th St
I wouldn’t have thought a pizza place would make the perfect brunch spot but Burn Pizza really does. Whether it’s their breakfast pizza or eggs benedict you’ll fill yourself up on some delicious eats. On top of that, they have breakfast cocktails far more than just a mimosa and bloody mary worth giving a try.
209 W. 5th Street
After walking out of Gourdough’s I was asking myself why everything isn’t served on donuts. This is one of the best and most unique, spots in Austin. You can go sweet with crazy toppings or savory where you have a donut that instead of a glaze is given a garlicky finish. It makes the perfect bun for sandwiches, burgers and more. This is a can’t miss spot on any trip to Austin.
2113 Manor Road
I love restaurants built into old homes, where you have tiny separate rooms that feel all homey. And from my experience, the food matches! Eastside Cafe is one of these and I absolutely loved it. We ordered a few appetizers, including their amazing brie, and each of us got something a little different. It was elegant homestyle cooking. Worth going a little off the main track.
407 Colorado St
Now if you want a hot dog I would head to Frank. I enjoyed a great dog and chili fries with a good cold beer. Make sure you order their queso fries. They are amazing and a different twist on the class you won’t find elsewhere. The venue was great, staff was friendly and even though I was alone I enjoyed the atmosphere. On a Monday night, it was still pretty well filled but remained relaxed.
1400 S Congress Ave
These burgers are amazing. The Angus beef patties a held to the standard of Texas meat and come with a wide variety of creative flavor profiles. The also keep a hefty list of brews and since there is often a long line you can order a drink as you wait.
1920 S. Congress Ave.
A cozy at home diner that has just enough weird in it to be Austin and some delicious food. We went for a late breakfast during the weekend and while it was busy it was worth the wait. There was something for everyone but my favorite was the Texas Benedict, a tasty twist on an eggs benedict. The full menu looks good but try out the breakfast/brunch.
The Best Places to Grab Drinks
This is my favorite neighborhood in Austin. Here you have a bunch of old homes that have been turned into bars and restaurants. They have a great blend of indoor and outdoor space perfect for a night out on the town. You’ll get a mix of just about everything in this neighborhood. A few of my favorites so far:
77 Rainey St
Perfect for a warm evening where you can enjoy a craft cocktail while playing cornhole in the yard. A great place to go on Sunday nights as they have Happy Hour from 10pm to close.
86 Rainey St.
One of the must-visit stops on Rainey Street, which is a must in itself. Enjoying a late afternoon on their shady front porch is about as good as it gets. They specialize in Whiskey and have an extensive list, along with craft cocktails, but their beer choices are good as well. Like most of Rainey Street its got a great character on the inside, dive bar meets speakeasy and a great outdoor space.
61 Rainey St
This Rainey Street spot has a different vibe that is very much Texas with its country twang. The interior is full of beautiful wood and craftsman furniture. They carry over 50 beers on tap, all of which are from Texas and their bartenders are knowledgeable and friendly. If you’re looking for a place to learn a little about Texas beer and relax a bit, this is the place.
Other Great Spots Around Austin
1701 E 6th S
When I visit a new city I do my best to drink entirely local beers. Zilker Brewing helped make that a great experience. On top of delicious beers that will meet just about anyone’s palette they also have a great taproom to sit down and relax. With big open doors, it was a perfect way to hang out midday.
121 E 5th St
If you’re like me and Sixth street is fun but not your speed you might like Handlebar. It’s just enough away from the craziness but still brings a good crowd. The rooftop space was filled with fun people, cheap drinks, 90s music. What else do you need?
801 Red River St
Stubbs is a great place to enjoy a concert in a small venue and still enjoy tasty food. While the full menu is some good grub you also get a good selection of sandwiches when you go to see a concert here. The pulled pork sandwich was great and reasonably prices. As for the concert that backyard feel was great and while a good amount of people attended it still felt small.
208 W 4th Street
To change it up a bit swing on by Pesce, which offers exquisite prohibition style cocktails. If you are a gin fan like me this is the spot for you. They also offer a variety of absinthe cocktails if you’ve ever been curious to give them a try. The food its also worth a try but at least stop in for the drinks.
610 Nueces Street
The Rattle Inn is really a three in one, it is a music venue, a whiskey lounge, and a rooftop bar. All the spots are worth a visit but if it’s a nice day the rooftop bar gives you a quince Austin experience. With a good list of beers on tap, you’ve got a view of the skyline and a great place to sit and watch the game. And for all us Northern California kids it’s a Niner’s bar right in the center of Austin.
Top Cozy Coffee Spots
3825 Lake Austin Blvd
If you are looking for a quiet spot to relax on the river, this is it. This coffee shop and bakery is right on the river under beautiful trees with a giant patio. You could spend a whole morning here just relaxing with a book and a nice cup of coffee.
401 Congress Ave
If you’re looking for a satisfying coffee in downtown Austin this is it. While the location isn’t the coziest spot grab a tasty latte and take a walk around the nearby shops or up to the Capitol.
2000 E. 6th St.
A local roaster right in East Austin that provides a great stop on your way to get some of the delicious breakfast tacos you can find around East Austin.
Activities and adventures to try
You should be able to tell from above that one of the best things to explore in Austin is all the food. For cities where that’s true, food tours are a must. You have the chance to visit places you’d otherwise overlook and fit in a handful of places in one morning or afternoon. Austin Eats will make sure you head home full after exploring some of the best spots Austin has to offer. I took their brunch tour and enjoyed some BBQ, breakfast tacos and so much more.
One of those uniquely Austin things is visiting the bats under South Congress Bridge. Over 750,000 bats live under the bridge and you can watch them fly out nightly from May to September. You can see this by standing on the bridge or one of the small parks nearby. Or take a boat tour out onto the water for the best view with Lone Star Riverboats.
Find the local haunts for music with Austin Detours. You’ll have a friendly guide take you around to a few spots to explore the music scene. I enjoyed a country western bar, blues club, and rock show all in one night. This tour is a great way to get a feel for the venues around the city when you might not know where to start.
A river turned into a giant swimming pool is what you find at Barton Springs. This local Austin attraction is something you shouldn’t miss in the warm months. Bring out a towel and lay out on the grassy hill and when it gets toasty take a dip in the natural pool.
Go see some live music
If somehow this isn’t why you are visiting Austin you should fit it into your schedule. If you time it right making it to one of their two major music festivals, Austin City Limits and South by South West, is well worth the trip. If not you’re in the live music capitol of the world so don’t fret there will be music and it will be good. A few places to keep an eye out for are the Moody Theatre the home of Austin City Limits and Stubbs BBQ with its large outdoor venue.
Visit the State Capitol
Even if you aren’t a big history buff taking a walk around the Capitol is well worth it. Arguably the most beautiful in the country, and yes that comes from someone who has worked in two others, the Texas State Capitol is breathtaking and full of history. Guided tours run throughout the day and are about 40 minutes long, not taking up too much of your day but giving you a chance to see around the building. Find out more here, scroll to the bottom for guided tours.
Walking South Congress
Take a cab or a short walk straight south of the Capitol across the river and you will find what could be described as a hipster area but is full of both quirky and quality shops. Also a wide variety of tasty restaurants. Grab a burger at Hopdoddy and try on some hats at Goorin Bros., an old school haberdashery. You’ll also find out thrift and vintage shops, and you couldn’t leave Texas without trying on some good boot.
Unique Austin Shops
The saying is “Keep Austin Weird” and as you walk around you’ll see that it’s true. The great thing about it is there are many unique shops you can find around the city beyond your standard tourist stops. My favorite is Wild About Music where you can bring home some great artisan crafts, some beautiful art (we’ve got a painting in our living room) and some one-off music books and instruments. If you’re looking for music End of an Ear is one of many music shops worth checking out in town.
I don’t know about you but I enjoy exploring local fancy hotels, they each have a character of their own and even if they aren’t worth the money to stay there they are worth walking around or enjoying the lounge. The Driscoll is definitely one of these and the bar has a great lounge feel to it with a good wine and cocktail list. The bar also hosts live music a few nights a week. They also have a happy hour if you aren’t a fan of the regular prices.
This only breaks the ice on the area so check out these cool things to do in Austin.