Lou Neff Point at Zilker Park overlooking Lady Bird Lake and Downtown Austin.
If you were to name your top cities in the world…what would you say? Tokyo? New York City? San Francisco? Sydney? Barcelona? Florence? Queenstown?
What if I told you that Austin is a top-3 city in the world, and yes I said world. Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World”. Austin boasts a beautifully blended mix of city and nature. Austin is a dog-lover’s paradise. Austin is a foodie’s heaven and a recreationalist’s utopia. Rep your cowboy hat and boots or your long-hair and tat sleeve, it doesn’t matter in this structured, yet free-spirited land. It’s no wonder why Austin is booming right now as a tech hub and the fastest growing city in the States. Situated in the hill country of Texas, Austin is home to numerous lakes, swimming holes, parks, and overlooking scenery. Austin has recently been ranked as the No. 1 place to live in the US by both Forbes and US News and World Report. Austinites, as the locals are known, are a unique blend of government officials and employees, musicians, college students, tech industry professionals, and hippies that all support the city slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.” The slogan is rooted in the desire to preserve small businesses and promote a culture conducive to their success. The heart of this city will leave you with a lasting impression of the impact and difference every individual on this planet can make.
The people of Austin are very friendly and love to talk about their passions. Whether at the brewery or the park, don’t be afraid to engage with so-called ‘Austinites’. Everyone loves talking about Austin.
There are no limits or even suggestions on what to wear in this city as you will find every single person rocks their own style. From high-end fashion to the best thrift-shops in the country, now’s the time to wear those things in your closet you’ve never been bold enough to wear.
South Congress - South Congress street is really all you need to fill your shopping desires in Austin, but regardless if you’re a shopper or not, SoCo is a major highlight of Austin and should not be missed. All of the shops and restaurants lined along the avenue sum up the essence of Austin…unique small businesses putting a stand against homogeneous, larger outfits. First Thursday of the month? Shops stay open late and are host to multiple events, activities, and live music. For more, you can also visit Doing The Streets post!
Buffalo Exchange - Located in West Campus, a bustling neighborhood near the University of Texas along ‘Guad’, is Buffalo Exchange which offers trading, selling, and buying of clothes. The buyers here are selective and thus the store is always rotating in-season unique items.
Flamingo’s Vintage Pound - Directly across the street from Buffalo Exchange sits Flamingo’s Vintage Pound. Flamingo’s specializes in genuinely American-vintage clothing. They also have a different pricing philosophy of weighing each item to get it’s worth rather than just a price tag. This lends to a different fashion and shopping experience which people have come to love as Flamingo’s is expanding now worldwide.
The Domain - The Domain is an urban planned development that includes numerous upscale and traditional retail shops, restaurants, bars, luxury-apartments, hotels and office space all throughout a park-like setting. The Domain is a great place to shop all-day and then enjoy some of the culinary treasures the area has to offer in the evening.
Texas State Capitol – Everything’s bigger in Texas? Yup. This Capitol building opened in 1888 and stands 14’ taller than the nation’s Capitol building in Washington, D.C. If you want to learn a little bit about Texas history, free and guided tours are offered at the Capitol.
Bullock Texas State History Museum – A well organized museum, locals and visitor’s alike enjoy this museum that depicts the Lone Star State’s past. Take a break from the heat and enjoy a stroll through this museum to better understand how the Lone Star State came to be and why Texan’s are so proud of their homeland.
Austin Murals – Iconic Austin murals for a fun photo. While you’re walking down South Congress street don’t miss the “I love you so much” mural. The other fun mural is the “Greetings from Austin” mural nearby on South 1st street.
We recommend doing anything you can to find a friend of a friend to stay with to enjoy Austin that much more and to minimize accommodation cost. But if you want some space and want to splurge you will absolutely love staying anywhere downtown. Everything that is desirable about Austin is within range from downtown and you’ll be able to experience the bar scene on 6th street by walking!
Unique hostels: Drifter Jack’s Hostel in West Campus area, HK Hostel in East Austin, and Native Hostel Austin next to Downtown are all great options for the budget traveler.
Barton Springs – Summertime in Texas? You’d better find a pool. Barton Springs is a massive, natural limestone pool that is fed by underground springs that keep it at a refreshingly cool temperature year-round. Barton Springs also offers plenty of grass and trees to sit out and tan or hold a picnic with your friends. This is a classic Austin tradition. Admission is priced extremely reasonably, however, if you’re on a budget…Barton Springs feeds into Barton Creek which can be accessed freely just downstream.
Zilker Park – This has to be one of Footy’s favorite parks in the world. The park is a large space of flat and rolling grass with a gorgeous view of downtown Austin right behind you. Austin is home to more dogs than you thought existed and you will surely get to hang out with some awesome pups. If you don’t believe us, check out @zilkerbark on social media…an entire movement dedicated to awesome dogs at Zilker. Spend the afternoon outside doing park things at Zilker. Swing down to Lou Neff Point at the north shoreline of Zilker for a great view of Lady Bird Lake and the Austin skyline. In October of every year, Austin City Limits music festival is hosted in Zilker. During the summer months, Blues on the Green is a free summer concert hosted once per month. And around Christmas, the Trail of Lights is a Christmas light display in the park.
Barton Creek Greenbelt – Downstream of the Barton Springs pool is what is commonly referred to as the ‘Greenbelt’. The Greenbelt consists of 7.5-miles of trails along the creek and offers walking trails, biking trails, rock-climbing, and swimming holes throughout. Pack a lunch, bring some tunes, go for a walk, and hang out in a swimming hole…this is another Austin classic.
Mount Bonnell – You’re in the Texas hill country after-all…might as well see some hills from one of the highest points in Austin. Go to Mount Bonnell to watch the sunset overlooking the Austin skyline, the Colorado River, and some hill country. An easy 10-minute stair hike gets you to this overlook area that is surprisingly not very crowded.
24 Diner – Had yourself a time out at the bars last night and now you’re wondering what’s for brunch. Call as soon as possible, get on the waitlist, and wait for some of the best brunch you’ll find in Austin. We’ve heard that bottomless mimosas can cure a hangover.
Baby Acapulco’s – Referred to as Baby A’s, this is some classic tex-mex dining. The patio at the Barton Springs location is our favorite, but the real kryptonite of Baby A’s is their famous “Purple Rita”. This purple margarita is everything you’ve ever wanted out of a margarita. Strong, but not overpowering the taste of the margarita…Baby A’s limits each diner to only 2 of these delicious margs. Be ready to hail a ride because these margs creep up on you fast.
Without a doubt, Footy’s favorite category! We surely hope you weren’t planning on visiting Texas without trying some real, Texas ‘cue. During the mid-1800’s, German and Czech settlers arrived in the Central Texas region and began opening meat markets. In order to preserve the leftover meats, the settlers would smoke the meat to store longer without being spoiled. And just like that, over time these smoked meat markets have turned into a beautiful method of cooking distinct to Texas. Being the food hub that Austin is, in combination with its’ Central Texas roots yields plenty of BBQ competing for best in the state…and best in the state really means best in the world because nobody does BBQ better than Texas. Plain and simple.
Franklin’s BBQ – The holy grail of BBQ. Often times when people hear that waiting in line for this BBQ routinely lasts ~5 hours, people become disinterested in Franklin’s. But, think about it this way. If you went to Vatican City to see Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, you would likely plan your whole day around it because it truly is the best painting this world has to offer. So, do not waver in the face of a long wait because you will walk away with an amazing experience and confidently saying that you have tried the best BBQ this world has to offer. The approved Footy method of doing Franklin’s is as follows: 5:15am alarm, quick shower, pack up cheap lawn chairs, blankets, and pillows into the car, pack up a couple beers, a small speaker, and even a card game, arrive at Franklin’s at 6:00am sharp, passengers immediately hop out to secure spots in line, driver parks the car to unload your things to make your wait enjoyable, driver takes down everyone’s breakfast order, traditionally due to the early morning hour we have gone to a McDonald’s nearby and picked up coffee and breakfast, driver brings it back, everyone shares coffee and breakfast together, post-breakfast some may snooze back asleep in their chairs, others may play a game, it is a wonderful tailgating experience which allows you all to hang-out together and get to know the others in line with you, if you’re keeping an eye-out you may be able to discreetly ask an employee if you might see their smokers where they smoke the meat and normally they are happy to do so, at some point a staff member will come around and ask for your ‘estimated order’, it does not have to be precise as they are just trying to understand when they will run out of food for the day to tell the others at the end of the line, you will boldly and confidently tell them (for a group of 4 example) 2 pounds of brisket, 1 pound of pulled pork, 1 pound of turkey, 2 links of sausage, and a couple pork ribs for anyone who desires, the excitement is mounting and finally 11am comes and you’re glad you were the first ones in line because well…you’re first!, and so the butcher slices and dices you up the best meat you’ve ever seen and all of you eat happily together, lastly you go back and take an afternoon nap and you’ve had yourself a true Franklin’s experience!
Sliced brisket, sausage, pulled pork, turkey, a beef rib (Saturday special), and a brisket sandwich from Franklin's BBQ.
Terry Black’s BBQ – For the more casual BBQ experience, Footy highly recommends Terry Black’s. Terry Black was born and raised in Lockhart, Texas, the BBQ Capital of Texas, and operates Black’s BBQ in Lockhart. His twin sons took their knowledge and opened up Terry Black’s BBQ in Austin, so you know this place checks out. With great meats and array of sides, this is some dang good ‘cue that is available with a short wait, if any.
Texas Chili Parlor…spend the day at the Texas State Capitol (or walk the grounds at night) and then walk over to this cowboy-esque chili parlor. Venison chili is the best.
Ranch 616 – This is a Footy favorite in Austin. Very seldomly does our adventurous and non-planning lifestyle lend to us snagging a reservation here, but when we do…we always seem to order one too many Cactus margaritas. Great food, great patio, and close by to 6th street for your after-dinner fun.
Home Slice Pizza – What started as a local Austin pizzeria serving some New York-style pies has turned into an iconic South Congress destination. They keep their menu traditional to New York-style roots which hail from the pizza making principles of Naples, Italy. We aren’t going to make this difficult, if you’re in the mood for some pizza…don’t hesitate and go. That simple.
Gourdough’s – A bold stance on some Texas-sized donuts and toppings. They offer so many different combinations of toppings it is overwhelming, but you will surely find something to enjoy. You may look at the menu questioning how bacon and maple syrup icing go with a donut, but for some reason in Austin it feels right to be different. Tempering your wild side? Grab the ‘Miss Shortcake’ with cream cheese icing and strawberries.
Amy’s Ice Cream – Premium ice cream served with a variety of deliciously-funky flavors. If you’re wanting some ice cream on a hot day…do not miss out on treating yourself to Amy’s in Austin, it just feels right.
Beer Gardens & Breweries
Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden – Fantastically located in the Rainey St. district, Banger’s offers over 30-house made sausages and over 100 beers on tap. Outdoor patio seating under big trees, string lights, and long communal tables makes for a great atmosphere. Start here and then bounce around the Rainey St. district.
Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company – ABGB is host to plenty of fun events and live music. Great indoor and outdoor seating, dog-friendly, and good brews make it a great place to enjoy one another’s company. They also do pizza quite well.
Cosmic Coffee & Beer Garden - Cosmic is an excellent local spot off of South Congress in souther Austin. Whether you want a unique take on a traditional coffee or a pint of your favorite brew, the large outdoor coffee & beer garden is well-prepared to suit your needs.
Founders' Pick for Best IPA
Electric Jellyfish brewed at Pinthouse Pizza
If you have a car, you are golden. There should be parking available everywhere, even street parking downtown at reasonable rates, unless you must settle for a parking garage downtown. In which case, try to plan your day around a downtown activity (dinner or a movie at the Violet Crown for example) to utilize garage parking validation opportunities.
If not, Lyft and Uber are your best-friends.
While traveling in Austin, you likely will see or encounter some questionable homeless activity. Crime is not rampant, however, if you are downtown or on 6th street at night, appropriate social awareness and safeguarding measures should always be practiced.
- Kerbey Lane Café queso & Torchy’s Taco’s queso…both originals from Austin competing for the best queso in town
- Texas Rowing Center…rent a paddleboard or kayak and hangout on Lady Bird Lake under the Austin skyline during the day
- Black Swan Yoga…donation-based yoga virtually any time of day
- Austin Bouldering Project…indoor bouldering gym (rock-climbing without the rope to safe heights) over in East Austin