It seems like the whole world is heading down to Austin this week for SXSW. To be honest, I didn’t even know what SXSW was until two weeks ago, but now I’m officially jealous of all of you. So I thought now would be a good time to share what I’d absolutely do again if (when) I visit Austin another time: my Austin city guide! You’ve already heard the Franklin Barbecue story. You know that slow travel was my jam in Austin. But I hear you. What are the best things to do in Austin? Luckily this post is chock-full of goodies that I’d share with any best friend traveling to this beautiful city in Texas.
Your Best Friend’s Austin City Guide
How to Get Around Austin
I tweeted, Googled, and asked frantically before I left: “What is the best way to get around Austin?” And answers were pretty varied! The popular answer was a car rental. This would be the first time Paul and I went on a trip together and at least one of us was 25, so this was our plan. Until somehow we landed and found ourselves hopping in an Uber! Uber is a-plenty in Austin, and it was the perfect way to get to and from the airport.
Once you’re in the city? I definitely recommend finding a spot for bike rentals in Austin and renting a bike for the duration of your stay. Austin does have a bike share too, so depending on where you’re staying that would be a feasible option too. Our AirBnB was not by a station and we found it SO much more convenient to have a rental. Just make sure wherever you’re staying doesn’t mind you bringing a bike in!
I’ve recommended Streamline Cycles on here before, and I don’t hesitate to recommend them again! They’ll get you outfitted with everything you need (including a lock and helmet!). If you ARE staying in an AirBnB, they also give a discount!
Outdoor Spots in Austin
I’m sure the summers in Austin get hot, but in the Fall that sun feels especially good! And now that we’re rounding into Spring, I can only imagine how glorious that sun feels. Getting outdoors is something you want to make happen in Austin.
If you’re researching things to do in Austin, you’ll probably see Barton Springs pop up, but I actually had a really fun time at Zilker Park. Let me tell you my requirements for outdoor spaces: people watching, pretty view, and a million dogs. Zilker Park hits all of those requirements out of the park. I would move to Austin just for the dog population.
I didn’t just use my bike as transportation, but I got outside with it too. Austin has a pretty cool boardwalk around Lady Bird Lake, and once the boardwalk ends it seems like you can just find trails to bike around forever. It’s definitely a fun outing. We even found these chairs tucked out of the way along the lake. Buggy? Yes. Glorious? Also yes.
Just as a heads up: bring the sunscreen, no matter when you visit. That southern sun is STRONG.
Yes, I am one of those people that could sit in a coffee shop all day long. I’m not even ashamed. If you need to caffeine-up, relax a little, or experience tabletop s’mores…I’ve got an option for you: Halcyon. I am a big fan of coffee shops with good vibes, and this place is full of them. And comfortable seating just adds to my love of this place.
Looking for food recommendations? I put together a bunch of spots for you to check out here.
Street Art in Austin
It seems like the new thing to go hunting for street art in any city that you visit. Austin makes it less of a hunt and more of an attraction with Graffiti Park. I was checking out a couple of reviews and there were some mixed opinions. The whole thing with this park is that ANYBODY can bring a can of spray paint and put their mark on the walls. Some seem to think that that actually ruins the aspect of street art. I happen to think it makes it a really uniquely cool spot.
It doesn’t hurt that I’m obsessed with anatomically correct hearts.
Where to Find Austin Souvenirs
I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not a big shopping gal. But if you’re looking for a place to shop in Austin, I suggest you start with South Congress. That street is lined with quirky shops and you are bound to find at least five things you want. Two of my favorites to peruse were Uncommon Objects (out of my price range, but fun) and South Congress Books (sucker for a good bookstore!).
My souvenir preferences are tank tops and Christmas ornaments LINK, which I realize are totally opposite seasons. My tank top needs were taken care of at Austin Rocks. And you will definitely be able to find an ornament at Wild About Music (on Congress, but not South Congress). It also has a bunch of other music-themed gifts, so I definitely recommend stopping in.
Fun Night Out in Austin
On the whole, if you’re heading out for the night in Austin I would be more likely to suggest Rainey Street over the infamous Sixth Street. However, there is one spot on Sixth Street that I’m in love with: Alamo Drafthouse. And actually, there are a couple of locations throughout the city. It’s a move theater with food and drink. But they show a more unique variety of movies. For example, we saw Planes, Trains, & Automobiles when we visited. AND. It was a quote-along. They put fun and memorable quotes up on the screen and the whole audience quoted along, complete with fun props too. SERIOUSLY fun.
Another fun night was thanks to a suggestion from our AirBnB hosts. We totally embraced Texas and went two-stepping at White Horse. They have free two-stepping lessons there at night and it was so. freaking. fun. Everybody was having a blast and after the lesson, there’s dancing and bands the rest of the night. Even if dancing is not your thing, you’ve got to give it a try. It’s a boyfriend-approved excursion!
- Are you ready to head to Austin? Do you have anything you'd add to my Austin city guide?
- Have you been/are you going to SXSW? I’d love to hear more about it!