Austin is one of those cities you'll visit and never want to leave. I know that's how I felt this past spring, during my stay there.
This city has everything you could want- amazing food/bars, tons of outdoor activities, and is extremely dog-friendly! Every time I visit downtown Austin, I feel a sense of home there (and believe me we'd move in a heartbeat if my fiancé's job was somewhat mobile). So, I can't wait to share what I love about this city with you all!
Where To Stay
Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt: I cannot rave enough about this boutique hotel; I am in love with every part of it. First off, the location is more than ideal- the hotel is directly next to Rainey Street. If you're into great food, outdoor bars and tons of dogs- this is the street you'll want to be near. To add to that, the staff is incredible- they even provided us with a complimentary upgrade. The rooms are modern, clean, and comforting. I recommend splurging a tad for one of the Spa Guestrooms so you can enjoy a free-standing soaking tub, with incredible city views. Hotel Van Zandt has some amazing perks for their guests like free PUBLIC bikes to take around town, a rooftop bar/pool and live music at their restaurant Geraldine's. If that isn't enough to convince you, HVS also has a "Social Hour" (free beer, wine and apps) from 6-7pm so guests can mingle while enjoying a beverage.
Where To Eat
Hillside Farmacy: By far, one of my favorite breakfast places ever. Hillside uses locally sourced fruits/veggies, farm fresh eggs and organic ingredients. I suggest getting the Fried Egg Sandwich and an iced "Dirty" Chai Latte- you won't regret it.
2. Jo's Coffee: There are a few locations for Jo's, but I recommend their iconic spot on South Congress. You can grab a coffee or in my case a dirty chai (I was really on a dirty chai kick as you can see), IMO one of the best in downtown Austin, and snap a picture along their infamous "i love you" green wall.
Elizabeth Street Café: This Vietnamese restaurant is one of the best places to get a hot, comforting bowl of pho and an authentic experience in a super cute, cafe environment. Located next door to Sway (a Modern Thai restaurant mentioned under the Dinner section). Pictured below are the Short Rib Bahn Mi (#25), the Spicy Vegetable Pho (#34A), and the Vietnamese Coffee (all are must tries!).
2. Homeslice Pizza: Great casual place to grab a quick, authentic NY slice of pizza in Austin! Our favorites were the Margherita, Eggplant Pie and the Pepperoni & Mushroom. This place is open late night too so you can grab a slice after the bars!
Sway: The BEST Thai food you will ever eat. I have gone back to Austin JUST to eat this food (I know I'm crazy lol), but it is beyond incredible. Sway is known for their in Modern Thai flare and has an open seating environment, including specialized dishes. My favorites include: Raw Oysters, Jungle Curry (the best thing I've ever eaten, but extremely spicy), Blue Crab Fried Rice, and the Thai Tea Affogato. If you only order two things make sure you get the Curry and the Affogato. They also have happy hour here, so come earlier for a drink!
G'raj Mahal: If you like Indian food, you have to check this place out! It's located at the end of Rainey Street and is a fun, casual take on Indian food. They have a great outdoor seating in their backyard and fun decor, including an authentic rickshaw (passenger cart) that you can take pics in! The also have a great happy hour everyday with cheap drinks and food. My favorites were the Samosas, Garlic & Butter Naan and anything in the Korma Curry.
3. Freedmen's: They are currently closed and moving to a new location, so hopefully you visit at a time it is back i business because it was some of the most incredible BBQ I've ever had. Most people have heard of Franklin's when it comes to Austin BBQ- I can't speak to it as I didn't go there, but will say that the line for it starts at 9AM (it opens at 11AM) and they usually run out of most items by 2PM.
*IMO: Sometimes the most "hyped" places are not worth the wait and if you can get yourself to Freedman's, you'd be doing yourself a HUGE favor. The food and service here is impeccable- they also have a happy hour that goes until 6PM with BBQ sandwiches and drinks for half the price!
Lucille: This is one of the many outdoor bars located on Rainey Street, but is definitely my favorite. Most people are flocking to Rainey Street for happy hours and drinks as it is rustic, modern and has young vibes (Bourbon Street has become a bit rundown and unsafe). My favorite part about all the bars on Rainey Street are the amount of dogs you will see, especially on the weekends. Lucille's is no exception- they have two bars (one inside and one in the back), and an awesome backyard with outdoor games and hammocks where you can lay! Don't skip this place!
2. Parlor Room: Another bar also located on Rainey Street, this bar has a fun backyard with a DRINK UP sign (photo ops, of course), good drink specials and live music on some nights. Definitely a great place to enjoy some outdoor, nighttime entertainment and dancing!
3. Easy Tiger: A fun Beer Garden you can come to for a good time. This Bake Shop/Beer Garden combo has great outdoor games, like ping pong and giant Jenga; while the indoors has darts and tons of local beers on tap. Since they're a Bake Shop as well, they make great pastries and have a good brunch menu as well. We loved this place for their happy hour specials and their delicious, homemade pretzels!
What To Do
Barton Springs: This natural, spring-fed pool maintains a temperature of 68ºF year-round with lifeguards on duty and is the best place to cool off in the Austin heat. Highly recommend visiting this place, there's nothing else like it!
*Note: The water is COLD, but definitely worth it on a hot day. We visited in April, and on the day pictured above, the temperature outside was already 90 degrees. I was a wimp and still found the water too cold, but my fiancé jumped in and said it was refreshing!
2. Austin Bats' Migration: Seen from the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, this is the largest urban bat colony in North America (1.5 million bats); and truly a sight to see. The bats emerge right around sunset, so be sure to get a good spot on the bridge before then, and it lasts for about 20 minutes. This can be seem anytime from March to October and is a really cool, free experience to witness in Austin. You can also do a sunset boat tour to have a view of the bats from the water.
3. Walk/bike South Congress Street: You can walk or bike up and down this infamous street that has cute, little shops, restaurants and bars.
4. Texas Capitol tour: If you like a bit of history mixed into your travels, you'll love this tour. The tour leaves every 30 minutes and is completely free (you can tip your guide at the end of the tour). Just meet in the front lobby of the capitol building and you'll see a board with a time of when the next tour will leave. It's a pretty cool experience where you'll learn the history of Austin and get to see the capitol building from the court rooms to the grand architecture.
This is just a tidbit of all that Austin has to offer, and only covers downtown Austin. But there's so much more to Austin, in and out of the downtown area; including tons of healthy food options and amazing outdoor activities!
If you are looking for a more curated travel experience based on something I haven't covered above, shoot me an email at email@example.com and I can create a personalized guide for you based on your preferences!
And if you liked my guide to Austin, share it with your friends and tag me on Instagram (@thetravelingcure) so I can see what you're up to in Austin!