Austin, TX Travel Guide
Austin, Texas you never bore me.
This was the fourth time I was back in the funky city and it never gets old! So much to do, see, and drink. Let it be known, downtown Austin is not for the lightweights ;)
They call Austin the LA of the south and it totally makes sense. The people are so cool and relatively laid back, the weather is pristine, and it’s the perfect balance between outdoor activities and city nights out. And even a little better than LA – the Austin locals are SO nice and friendly. Huge plus!
I was visiting Austin for an end of semester check in with the JHP interns of UT Austin. They’re the best!!! Anyway, in my free time there I was able to explore a bit and with that comes this guide…
When to Go:
Read: don’t go in July you will hate yourself. However, in the winter it actually does get cold (like 35-45 degrees) despite it being so south. I’ve been there in September, January, and April and my fave time (weather wise) was April. I'd say try to book a springtime month in Austin so you can experience the warmth without it being too overbearingly hot. AND in the Spring the opportunity to see the bats fly from underneath the bridge is pretty cool. The weather while I was there (April 10th to the 13th) was so gorgeous – sunny and in the 70s every day.
Where I Stayed:
I stayed at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Austin on West 15th Street. It was in such an ideal location! 10 minute walk to the campus, 5 minute walk to the capitol building (which is a site in and of itself), and a 15 minute walk to east 6th where all the downtown happenings take place. You could also take a nice scenic 20 minute walk to the original whole foods and one of my favorite restaurants, Irene’s. The hotel itself was very well kept and despite the major construction going on in the lobby, the noise wasn’t a problem. The hotel has a pool, fitness room, florist, gift shop, and a nice lounge with plenty of seating and a fully stocked bar. The room itself was ginormous (since it is a double tree SUITES it makes sense) and very clean. The surrounding area seemed very safe – busy during the day and pretty desolate at night. The other times I’ve stayed in Austin were at Drury Inn and my favorite place of all, the Hyatt Regency. I booked this place when it was $120 a night and that must’ve been a mistake because this place is bougie AF. Aka book here if you can! Average rate per night is $390.
Where I Ate:
Now let’s get to the fun stuff. Austin, believe it or not, has one of the most up and coming food scenes in America. Safe to say, I’m a big fan of this town. They also are known as "food truck city" since they have more food trucks in their city, than any other town in America.
Squeezery– This place is my dream come true. If you don’t know – I have an obsession with matcha and acai (bowls). Well, this place has both plus tons more!! They don’t prepare a typical acai bowl, instead they make vegan gelato (in 3 DELISH flavors)!! One of the flavors is acai lime and it changed my life. I tried the $5 avococoa flavor first, and do NOT get me wrong, it was so good and really satisfied my need for that chocolate craving, but OH.MY.GD. the acai lime. It was the perfect amount of sweetness paired with sour. Mine was topped with bananas, goji berries, honey, and mint. The base of this treat is coconut milk and there is NO SUGAR. I REPEAT, NO SUGAR! All you health lovers out there, this is your shi*t. All of their vegan gelato is sweetened naturally with dates. (I personally hate dates on their own and couldn’t even tell it was in this concoction! So if you also don’t like them, don’t be skeptical to trying this.) Best part of these vegan gelatos? They are served in a mother freakin coconut! Talk about aesthetically pleasing. I also sampled their matcha latte which was wonderful. I also got to see what goes into making one of their signature food bowl’s, the “motherclucker.” It’s definitely the most popular, and is comprised of a ton of healthy foods to fill you up! The Squeezery also has lots of juices and smoothies. Actually, while I was waiting the couple of minutes for my vegan gelato to be ready I ran into an old friend from high school! Bri, who is actually opening her own health conscious foodery in D.C. this summer called, Toastique (shameless plus) ordered two of their juices and seemed to love both! Next time I go back I really want to try their “unbeetable” juice.
Forthright Cafe– I stopped into this cute place the day I landed because I wanted something light since it was in between lunch and dinner time. This was one of the first places that popped up on google for, “yummy bites in Austin” and I’m soooo glad it did! I got the wild mushroom toast with crème fraiche and chives and had to get my classic iced matcha latte (with almond milk). Both were really tasty and the waitress was soooo nice. Good service goes a long way. The all-white décor is so classy, the food was very good, and the pop of color with the pink flowers on top of all the tables was such a nice touch! The atmosphere was very laid back and chill – most people eating there were employees from nearby offices. They have both indoor and outdoor seating. (Note: the entrance was tricky because there is a ton of construction going on.)
Caffé Medici– I was there for hours during each day in Austin for my coffee dates with the JHP interns and although this is just a “regular coffee shop,” they make the best matcha drink I’ve ever had. Yeah I just said that (sorry Cha Cha Matcha). They call it the, “Matcha Freddo” and it’s matcha grade A, milk, simple syrup, and then shaken with ice to froth and then strained. I know it sounds basic, but it was so refreshing!!! 10/10 recommend. (It’s seasonal – only offered in spring and summer!)
Grizzeldas– This place takes the cake on atmosphere, but gets an F on service. I rarely badmouth establishments so for me to even say that, says a lot. The manager couldn’t care less about the customers or the quality of the food. In fact, he and the bar tender were gossiping about their upcoming photoshoot for the new restaurant website?? SO loudly I couldn’t even hear myself think. Cursing, complaining, moaning about work and the employees – real professional. And when I asked a question about one of the cocktails I was answered in an extremely condescending tone. I’ll never be going back. Food was whatever in my opinion. Overpriced for sure!
Irene’s– All hail Irene’s. I could probably talk about this restaurant for hours that’s how much I adore and love it. (In fact, I may actually make a blog post of JUST this restaurant for a review -- it was THAT good.) Think of quality food, with the kindest servers and staff, most original cocktails, and then the coolest, most unique atmosphere. BAM! You just envisioned Irene’s. I was at Irene’s once before with my boyfriend for brunch and we both got the avocado toasts and bloody’s. So amazing. This time around I was alone, but got to sample alllll sorts of great dishes! First course was Easy Tiger Oats toasts – avocado and Nutella. The Nutella was sweet af (as it should be) and the crushed hazelnut topping was perfect, and the avo with cherry tomatos is such a classic I would get that every time. Then they brought out the pimento cheese with crackers – mm mmmm. Perfect combo of spice and cheesy goodness. Pulled chicken and avocado sandwich came next with smashed black beans, spicy cabbage slaw, pickled jalepenos, all on a milk bun. This looked (and smelled) SOO good, I couldn’t unfortunately taste it because #KosherProbz, but boy did I want to! To make up for it (not that he had to, though!) the manager sent over veggie chili and it was amazing. The coolest part of the dish was that it was topped with popcorn! Now let me tell you about the dessertttttt. UGH. Strawberry cake with cream cheese icing and strawberries throughout. So moist and yummy. I also indulged in some draaaanks. Champagne to start, the waterloo with a distinct tequila taste (yum), and I enjoyed the honey slider with my cake. I personally don’t care for gin, but this gin-based drink was actually great and it felt like a spiced lemon tea! This place is great for couples, bachelorettes, girls night out, or just a bunch of friends looking for a chill place to catch up.
Austin speakeasy – I was able to have a fun night out with one of my friends from Austin, Susie and she told me we HAD to go to this cool speakeasy – I LOVED it! I wish I could tell you more about it, but if you’re longing to know, email or text me and I’ll share more info privately :)
Yeti Bar– Such a fun place!! Seems random, and maybe it is, but the Yeti Bar was oozing good vibes left and right. I’m really glad I went. I loved that it was outdoors (patio bar), it’s in a great area, the bartender was so friendly, and the bar itself is connected to the flagship Yeti store which was cool to walk through! They also serve mighty swell which I loooove. Fave flavor is the peach. By the way, an entire group of guys to my right were from Philly and everyone to my left was from Ohio and NY so it seemed to be a travelers bar!
Bananarchy– Custom chocolate covered bananas. Need I say more? Made to order and perfectly frozen. This is from a cute little truck and the price is quite reasonable! Definitely check it out if you’re strolling through UT’s campus.
Café No Se – this place is extremely well known (among the Austin foodie scene) and voted one of the best restaurants in all of Texas! This place is not some hole in the wall find. It’s quite elaborate and attracts a similar crowd. It’s located in South Congress Hotel ($$$) and is an all-day café featuring seasonal breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as weekend brunch. When I was there for there wasn’t one table there that didn’t have a Gucci or Louie bag hanging off the chair. While there I sampled their grav lox (made in-house) bagel and beet toast. Mmm mmm beet toast for the win! This place is a perfect spot for a fun girl gang to hang for brunch!! They also have featured Rosé bottles 25% off daily! Don’t miss out!!
Hanks– Brand new and so cool. This place literally just opened one month ago and has so much going for it! The menu has plenty of delicious options, the cocktail list is to die for, and the ambiance is clean, clear, crisp. The location is a tad weird (literally in a strip mall with a parking lot out front), but ignore that and enjoy everything else!! One part of Hanks is a coffee shop operating early morning to mid-afternoon, then the main part is a huge restaurant with indoor and PLENTYYY of outdoor seating. Picture an old home in Charleston, SC with big white beams, and huge fans from the ceiling. So glorious. Then the other part of this huge establishment is a fully operating (and super cute) bar! Let the liquor flow JI would recommend Hank’s to anyone, honestly. Singles, couples, girl nights, bro Saturdays, family’s, and everyone else! P.S. Their happy hour is killer. I ordered the frosé and was really impressed.
HopDoddy– A staple to Austin. This place is like a Shake Shack or an In n’ Out burger but 100x better. They have a fully operating bar at all locations, indoor and outdoor seating, happy hour specials (both food and drink) daily, and the friendliest staff. GET THE TRUFFLE FRIES. They’re $5 during happy hour, a huge portion, and the tastiest things, eva!!! I also don’t eat their burgers #KosherProbz, but their seared tuna burger is out of this world. I dream about it. And I’ve had their salads before too – really good and very filling. This is the best place for quality food for your buck (and time) in Austin.
Jo’s– Known for their coffee, Jo’s opened on South Congress Avenue in 1999 and has been serving coffee, tacos, sandwiches and prime people watching ever since! A hub of community activity, Jo's regularly hosts fundraisers, concerts and other reasons to gather. They are also extremely pet friendly as dogs are always welcome. A great place for an afternoon pick me up! They have 3 locations in total, but their South Congress spot is most known. It’s also attached to the signature “I love you so much” mural. Expect to wait anywhere between 5-15 minutes for a photo in front of this wall. It’s an Austin classic.
Amy’s Ice Cream– Directly across the street from Jo’s on South Congress you’ll find Amy’s Ice Cream. Established in 1984, Amy's handcrafts artisan super premium ice creams, dairy-free fruit ices and frozen yogurt! They are home of the world famous Mexican Vanilla Ice Cream and it’s sooo good. You can have them mix in any toppings too! I always go with crushed heath bars. Definitely affordable and extremely popular! But don’t worry, the line moves fast!
VooDoo Donuts– this place has its original store in Oregon, but the Austin location is just as good. Really funky atmosphere, and I’m talking almost freaky interior design, but it’s what makes it unique! Delicious doughnuts and in a good location – what else could you ask for?! My fave is “Old Dirty Bastard.” It’s a raised yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting, oreo cookies, and peanut butter.
Eberly - A bit of a drive, but a gorgeous restaurant with such ornate decor. Their happy hour is killer. I have no other words for this place other than try it yourself! I don't think anyone can go there and be disappointed. Definitely a little on the pricy side though, and not kid friendly. Swanky and sophisticated!
Things to do:
S Congress – this is THEE charm of Austin, Texas. I suppose you could say it’s touristy, but it’s truly the mecca of all cute, fun, and classic Austin places! It’s male and female friendly – cool barber shops, menswear stores, and bars for the guys plus unique boutiques, cupcake food trucks, and darling shops to get cowgirl boots for the ladies.
My favorite places along the street are Co-Star, The Impeccable Pig (where I got my huge “mom bag” from), Jo’s (take pic in front of the I love you so much mural (like I mentioned above!), and the Continental Club which opened in 1957 as a swanky private supper club, but in the decades since, it's transformed into a mecca for roots, rockabilly, country and swing music!
If you’re looking to spend $1k in one swipe at one store walk into and peruse the shelves of By George. This is Austin’s most fashion-forward shopping destination since 1979. The South Congress store offer an impeccably curated mix of apparel, accessories and housewares from European and American designers including Celine, Isabel Marant, Saint Laurent, Rosie Assoulin, Nak Armtrong and Brunello Cucinelli.
I know it sounds lame to stop in a Toms Shoe Store, but this location is soo unique! Not only do they sell most of their products in-store, they also have a Café serving TOMS Roasting Co. Coffee plus a gorgeous front and back patio to sit and lounge in. I only had 10 minutes or so in this store while waiting for a meeting, but next time I’m in Austin I’m definitely working this place into my schedule!
Graffiti Park - A great spot for a photoshoot, or even one quick snap! A tad out of the way (nothing else worthy is super close by), but the place is filled with tourists and visitors any hour of the day when it's light out. The graffiti is always changing which makes this place very special.
East 6th Street – Party Town, USA! This is a wild street and a must for anyone under the age of 25. It’s a really fun time with bar after bar after bar. Buckshot is one of my favorites on that strip. Super cheap drinks and a very fun atmosphere. They are known to have over 50 shot concoctions all $6 or less! Try their $3 pickle shot!
Capitol Building– a worthy site to see! It’s gorgeous from the outside and even more so on the inside. It’s free admittance and a quick breeze through security to get inside this architectural masterpiece. If you want a nice walk start here and walk all the way to Forthright café for a bite to eat! That’s what I did and it was a scenic (and safe) route.
Kendra Scott – not sure if this is something “to do,” but definitely a must if you’re a jewelry fanatic. Kendra Scott moved to Austin when she was just 19 years old and that is where she opened the very first Kendra Scott store on South Congress Ave (in 2010)! It’s an adorable little store and all of the staff are overly nice and accommodating. Kendra Scott jewelry is a must in Austin – EVERYONE wears her design!
Rainey Street– A great alternative if you’re not in the girls gone wild mood. This street is filled with renovated houses that have turned into unique bars and restaurants. It really only comes alive at night and some places on weekends for brunch! One of the most popular is Banger’s Sausage House.
Things I didn’t have time to do but wanted to:
Lady Bird Lake – The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail is over 10 miles long and makes a complete circuit around Lady Bird Lake. In fact, it is one of the oldest urban hike and bike paths in Texas. I wanted to go early in the morning when the sunrise is reflecting off the lake, but that just didn’t happen. You can also go canoeing and kayaking! One that I’ve heard great things about is Texas Rowing Center. There is paddle boarding opportunites too, and fun river cruises!
Zilker Park – You may have heard of this place because of Austin City Limits Festival which is as fun as it looks (says my interns – I’ve personally never been!) But throughout the year this is a hot spot for relaxation and gorgeous views. Check out all it has to offer!
Barton Springs Pool – A recreational outdoor swimming pool that is filled entirely with water from nearby natural springs! Perfect spot for a hot spring/summer day. It’s actually within Zilker Park.
Floppy Disc Bar– I walked in this place before opening hour (on my way to a meeting) and the interior is so cool. Don’t be misled by the name – they do NOT fix floppy discs (or any electronics for that matter). They do however serve strong cocktails in a cool way. If you have the chance to go, go early because the bartender there told me it gets packed! And definitely try to snag one of the swings – it makes your experience that much more fun!
Perlas– an outdoor (and indoor) restaurant straight out of a magazine. This picturesque restaurant is too cute for words and I’ve always wanted to dine here! It’s a seafood restaurant right on South Congress – great for people watching!
I say this about so many places, but I swear this time I mean it, Austin is one of my favorite cities in the US!! I think what makes it so special is the combination of culture, hospitality, (normally) good weather, and things to do. I also really appreciate that it’s a walkable city (for the most part).
Hope you enjoyed the travel guide and please share with anyone you know heading to Austin!