The Best Things To Do In Austin, Texas

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. 

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Where to Stay

Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin

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! 

Hotel Ella

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!The best things to do in Austin, Texas. From where to eat, what to do, places to grab a drink, where to listen to music and more.


Traveling to Austin, Texas Soon?

Above are a few of my favorite places to stay in the Austin area.
Learn more about and book more fantastic hotels in Austin on  Priceline, and TripAdvisor.


My Favorite Eats

BBQ Joints

La Barbecue

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.

Saltlick

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.The best things to do in Austin, Texas. From where to eat, what to do, places to grab a drink, where to listen to music and more.

Freedman’s Bar & Smokehouse

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.

Banger’s Sausage House

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

Torchy’s 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.

Pueblo Viejo

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.Pueblo Viejo 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.

Tacodeli

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

Burn Pizza & Bar

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.

Gourdough’s Public House

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.

Eastside Café

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.The best things to do in Austin, Texas. From where to eat, what to do, places to grab a drink, where to listen to music and more.

Frank

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.

Hopdoddy Burger Bar

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.

Magnolia Cafe

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.

 Find more on why I love eating my way through Austin.

The Best Places to Grab Drinks

Rainey Street

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:

Lucille

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.

The Black Heart

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.

Craft Pride

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.The best things to do in Austin, Texas. From where to eat, what to do, places to grab a drink, where to listen to music and more.

 Other Great Spots Around Austin

Zilker Brewing Company

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.

Handlebar

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?

Stubbs BBQ

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.

Peche

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.

Rattle Inn

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

Mozart’s Coffee Roaster

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.The best things to do in Austin, Texas. From where to eat, what to do, places to grab a drink, where to listen to music and more.

Houndstooth 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.

Cuvee Coffee

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

Food Tour with Austin Eats

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.

Watch the Bats Fly – May through September

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.The best things to do in Austin, Texas. From where to eat, what to do, places to grab a drink, where to listen to music and more.

Music Tour with Austin Detours

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.

Read more about why I loved these three tours in Austin.

Take a dip in Barton Springs – May through October

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.

A few places to find out where someone is playing are Austin 360, Showlist Austin, and C3 Concerts.

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.The best things to do in Austin, Texas. From where to eat, what to do, places to grab a drink, where to listen to music and more.

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.

The Driscoll Hotel

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.

For more information about Austin check out these great books on Amazon including AUSTIN TX 55 SecretsTop 10 San Antonio and Austin, and Insiders’ Guide to Austin.

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The best things to do in Austin, Texas. From where to eat, what to do, places to grab a drink, where to listen to music and more.
The best things to do in Austin, Texas. From where to eat, what to do, places to grab a drink, where to listen to music and more.

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  • Some cool places listed to eat 🙂 Which are best for budget and high end/special night out?

    • The Driscoll Hotel would be a great stop for a high end/special night. But I have to say the best of Austin I’ve enjoyed it the food that gets your hands dirty. Saltlick is a bit of a drive but well worth. They also have a ton of food trucks that you can enjoy without breaking the bank.

      • Tara Marlow

        There’s also a Saltlick in the northern part of Austin – in Round Rock – but it doesn’t have the same ambiance as the Driftwood venue. There’s a number of high end places in Austin – mostly around The Domain and in the western side of downtown but you’re right, Austin is a great town for digging in.

  • Karla Ramos

    Mozart coffee roaster, that’s definitely one that I would visit. Love the view while having coffee.

    • That patio was so relaxing. Spent most of an afternoon there with friends.

  • I have friends who live there and they love Austin, now I know why 🙂 Definitely, I have to visit them one day!

    • Having a friend there is a perfect excuse to go explore the city!

  • Jenna

    Austin looks like such a cool city to explore–I’ve been wanting to take a road trip there for so long! I love the coffee shops you shared–they look awesome! The live music would be fantastic, too!

    • Hope you get to make a trip soon. One of my favorite cities.

  • Austin looks like a fun place- and I love the saying ‘Keep Austin Weird’. Weird and quirky are what make places interesting and unique.

    • It is all over the place and really gives you an idea of the city.

  • Megan Claire

    Awesome list – with all of your options for food and drinks, I’ve heard that cowboy boots these are acceptable just about everywhere. Is that true? Would love to pack a pair for a bit of local flair!

    • They are! I wore mine pretty much the whole time I was there. They are great for all the walking I put in on the trip. And you wouldn’t stand out in the hat either.

  • Serendipity Tess

    When I do visit Austin, I’ll make sure to access this helpful post! I really want to do go to a live music event 🙂

    • You should keep your eyes out for South By South West and Austin City Limits. Both amazing festivals if they ever fit into your schedule. If not there are always great shows going on.

  • Laura Lynch

    I’ve only been to Austin once, but we hit up at least half of this list while we were there, so we must have done something right! We really enjoyed Franks and Stubbs. Nothing fancy, but great food!

    • Sounds like you had a great trip. And agree, it definitely doesn’t need to be fancy to be great.

  • Jennifer @ Made all the Differ

    This is perfect, I am headed to Austin in a few weeks for work and was looking at things to do.

  • This is great, something for every mood. I would probably go for the coffee shops the most, but would never say no to good BBQ!

    • Mozart’s was a great spot but the BBQ is something I can’t find the same at home. A must do when you visit.

  • Tara Marlow

    Having lived in Austin for 20+ years, this is a great list that highlights some great stuff about Austin!!! If you’re into the outdoors, the Barton Creek greenbelt is great for hiking and biking, Ladybird Lake is great for SUP and rowing. April is the best time to visit because the gorgeous wildflowers are out and the Wildflower Center in South Austin is a great place to view them. Thanks for sharing!