A Long Weekend in Austin
Austin has become quite the tourist destination. According to a 2011 study from Brookings, Austin is the top city in the U.S. right now for recent college grads, and The Atlantic says it “could be America’s hottest city at the moment.”
Many visitors are traveling to Austin as I type this to participate in the SXSW interactive, film, and music conferences. Most of these folks are going to be attending just one conference, others will stay for longer. However, since we Americans are known for our limited vacation time, I thought it would be helpful to share my list of recommendations for how you should spend your limited calories while in our fair city.
I really like the New York Times “36 Hours in….” series, and while they have already covered Austin, and so has the Wall Street Journal in their “Take Monday Off” series, I wanted to share my own ideas with you. These will be organized as if I’m planning your itinerary. Feel free to mix and match.
- Arrive at our beautiful airport and take a deep, relaxing, breath. I hate air travel these days but landing at ABIA makes up for it. With the general lack of crowds, local food, and live music, it’s a great place to touch down and regroup. If you are already starving, there isn’t any shame in grabbing lunch at Salt Lick followed by an Amy’s ice cream sundae with their house made hot fudge. Browse the airport restaurant options here.
- Take a cab to your hotel. If you are staying in or around downtown, that should set you back less than $30.
- My hotel recommendations include The Four Seasons, the Omni, the W, or the Hyatt if you are looking for a well-known and trusted brand, and the Hotel Saint Cecilia or Hotel San Jose for something funky. You can also rent a home through Austin-based Home Away.
Some Fun and Comfy Dinner Options:
- Wake up early and take a walk/run around Lady Bird Lake.
- Grab a breakfast taco from Tacodeli, Mi Madre’s, or Maria’s Taco Xpress
- Pick up a cup of coffee at Jo’s on South Congress or on 2nd Street and walk around/shop
- Visit the LBJ Museum and be sure to check out the exhibit on the 60′s, the collection of personal letters between the Johnson’s, and the animatronic, joke-telling LBJ
- Try to build in time for a nap, or quiet reading in your room or at a cafe
Some fun, cutting edge and/or upscale dinner options:
- Check out the Eastside Austin bar scene. Some places you might want to swing by include East Side Show Room (if you haven’t been for dinner), the Grackle (East Side King has a food trailer on site if you have any room in your tummy), Rio Rita (get the bloody mary), Scoot Inn or the Longbranch Inn, and Takoba (great happy hour and great place to eat as well).
- If you end up at Foreign & Domestic, you MUST check out the adorable Tigress for a drink but I recommend you going early — they open at 4 p.m. — as the place is tiny and gets quite packed.
- This is the day for brunch and many of my favorite places are listed here. If I had to pick one, 24 Diner has my heart. And, they only serve real maple syrup and source locally. There pretty much isn’t anything I don’t love about this place.
- Other special options for breakfast/brunch/lunch that I would highly recommend include Flip Happy Crepes and Franklin Barbecue. Flip Happy is one of the first of the now-famous food trailers in Austin and Franklin is a former trailer that now has it’s own building. Get the brisket with burnt ends at Franklin and thank me later.
- While you’re in the area, go over to the Whole Foods Flagship store on 6th and Lamar. You don’t necessarily need to buy anything, but I do recommend checking out the cheese counter and doing some sampling, and maybe at the BBQ counter as well. You can sample anything you want in Whole Foods. Just ask.
- Spend the afternoon swimming and people-watching at Barton Springs Pool. It’s a must during a summer weekend when the naturally cool waters can feel like the only thing that will bring my body temperature down and help me literally chill out. The pool is sometimes closed for repairs and cleaning so check their website before you go.
- You may want to enjoy dinner AND a movie at the very same time at the Alamo Drafthouse. They have some really fun programming along with the latest offerings from Hollywood. I actually really like the food here — especially the milkshakes and desserts.
- If you don’t like to spend your vacation time in a movie theatre, you can swing by the Highball, owned by the same folks who opened the first Alamo Drafthouse. The Highball has some beautiful old bowling lanes, karaoke private rooms, and sometimes has bands on the main stage. I don’t think the food at the Highball is very good though so if you go here, I recommend eating somewhere else.
Some food trailers you might want to sample for dinner:
East Side King
El Naranjo and Cazamance (this could be part of a bar crawl on Rainey Street with stops at both of these trailers for eats)
Odd Duck Farm to Trailer (followed by dessert at Gourdoughs)
The Peached Tortilla
- Grab a breakfast taco in town, check out the Gingerbread pancakes at Magnolia or Kerbey Lane, or go straight to the airport for Salt Lick tacos.
- Head home, come back to visit often, but please don’t move here (unless your name is Linda or Andy and you have the same last name as me). There are enough transplants here — myself included!