When you visit Austin, TX, USA not only will this eclectic and hipster city have introduced you to delicious foods, and shown you the beauty of the Texas Hill Country but it will open your eyes (and soul) to the incredibly weird and wacky things this place has to offer. Upon visiting this city, you will learn about the local communities deep satisfaction in Keeping Austin Weird. Once you truly explore this city, you’ll see what I mean.
Austin, TX is one of the only places in the world where you can get traditional (& delicious) breakfast tacos, paddleboard next to the city’s skyline, participate in a game of chicken shit bingo, and go two-stepping at a western dance hall – all in one day. This little capital of Texas is popular with the residents – and visitors – for a BIG reason.
This pool is about 3 acres and is naturally fed all year long from underground springs giving it a steady yearly temperature of about 68-70. When you have 110+ degree summer days, those temperatures are incredibly refreshing. The depth of this natural pool ranges from 0 to 18 feet with a diving board and grassy areas outside to lounge on when you need a break. So it’s a great place for the family, too.
Barton Springs is also home to an endangered Salamander, so if you catch the pool on a closed day, don’t be too bummed out, it’s for the animals! Just a heads up, the pool is closed every Thursday for maintenance (both for wildlife and guests visitors). So plan accordingly.
Entrance fees start around $8 for non-residents. If you are visiting Austin in the late fall to late winter months, Barton Springs Pool has free entry during this time.
This greenbelt is pretty much THE nature area for outdoor enthusiasts. If outdoor adventure is your thing, head here. You can enjoy hiking, biking, climbing, bouldering, swimming, or chilling out along Barton Creek. Side Note: depending on the time of year, that creek might be bone dry or flowing with clear water. With over 12 miles of rocky trails, you can access the green belt from over 7 trailheads scattered across southwest Austin.
If you want to go vertical, head to Mount Bonnell. Don’t worry, it’s not that high or that hard to get to the top (because technically you can drive there). At only 775 feet, you can easily hike that bad boy. The views up top will be impressive cityscapes, the red 360 Bridge, Town Lake, and the surrounding rolling hills of the Texas Hill Country.
If you just want a standard (but still very cool) urban park, head over to Zilker. Depending on what time of year that you head to Austin, you may catch Zilker in it’s more festive occasions since it’s the location of Austin City Limits (October), Blues on the Green (Summer), Austin Trail of Lights (December), and so much more.
South Congress is a pretty funky spot. If you want vintage shops, chic boutiques, trendy bars, and live music – head here. It has some of the best restaurants in Austin and in general, is a great reminder of why Austin is a pretty weird place.
There are plenty of paddleboarding companies that rent out gear so you can take your city tour on to Lady Bird Lake (also known as Town Lake) – basically the big river running through downtown. It’s a great way to see the city and the local bat colonies that park themselves under Congress Bridge. Plus you can work off all the delicious food by paddling around the lake. Just don’t forget your sunscreen!
Lake Travis is a local hang out during the hot summer months. Bring or rent a boat and spend your day on the lake. If you want to check out the state of Texas’s only public park that allows nudity, head to Hippie Hollow Park. Just another fun thing about Austin.
I won’t lie and pretend I know much about this, but they built a Formula 1 track not far outside of Austin. It’s also a concert venue when races are not going on. Either way, the activities it hosts should be destinations in and of themselves. Plus the track is supposed to be pretty nice.
This museum is a great place to start if you have love history or want to know more about the history of Texas. Usually a year-long course in grade school for Texan adolescents, Texas history is filled with exciting tales that are wonderfully told by this fabulous museum. It’s a great place to bring the family.
Ok, this place is one of my favorite go-to’s if you like vaudeville theatre filled with comedy, improv, juggling, singing, and more. This is a great place to get some belly-laughing entertainment before heading out to 6th street.
If you’ve heard of Austin, then you’ve probably heard of 6th Street. Also called Dirty 6th, this notorious entertainment district is filled with student-filled bars and nightclubs with little to no entrance fees, sticky floors, loud music, but a great time – if that’s your scene.
If you prefer a more chilled and laid-back drinking hangout, head over to Rainey St to drink craft beers in bungalow houses turned into trendy lounges and dive bars.
Austin is a well-known food hub with many statewide and nationwide restaurants that originated here. Places like Chuy’s, Pluckers, Maudie’s, Amy’s Ice Cream, and Kerbey Lane to name a few. But hands down, when you visit Austin, you absolutely need to try breakfast tacos, Tex-Mex, and Texas BBQ – and in that order. But in all seriousness, Austin is a great hub for memorable food that will make you want to move there. But don’t. The traffic is bad enough. Now, back to the food, because you will want to eat out for every meal while you are there (and maybe you should).
After you’ve finished your outdoor activities that I listed above, head into town for a much-needed food break. There are honestly too many options to count. From Gordo’s epic doughnuts to Franklin’s Barbecue and all the authentic Tex-Mex in between, Austin is THE foodie hub of Texas.
If you want the top 4 places you need to try in Austin are (and in no particular order):
Head here for some banging sushi. While this restaurant has spread to other cities, it will forever remain an Austin OG. It’s still the best sushi you’ll have in your life, I swear.
This is a great option for satisfying your classic Austin food truck grub and Mexican tacos. Remember how I told you to eat tacos in Austin? Here is your place. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner you’ve got plenty of taco options to keep you occupied.
This small shack is your go-to BBQ. Unfortunately, it’s extremely popular, requires you to stand in a queue, and there is no guarantee that you will even get the food you want (they sell out)! BUT, it’s that way for a reason – because it’s the best in town. Maybe the best in the state, who knows?
Gourdough’s doughnuts are your go-to sweet treats while in Austin. These doughnut’s give the decorators at Voodoo’s a run for their money. Plus, these doughnut’s come out of a food truck (a classic Austin scene). These will easily be one of the most memorable doughnuts of your life, so don’t miss out.
Texas, in general, isn’t an expensive place to travel to. Living costs are fairly standard if not slightly below the national average.
Saying that Austin is the more expensive city in the state. Probably because it’s awesome, but I’m biased. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still save money while visiting Austin.
Many of the activities I listed above are free to enjoy.
One of my favorite ways to save money is to skip a night out on 6th St and buy a six-pack and head to Peter Pan Golf with your crew.
An entrance fee of $8 (for 18 holes) and $12 (for 36 holes) plus the cost of your beer or wine can give you a unique and incredibly fun evening out with friends for less than a night out on the town.
Honestly, Austin has some pretty warm weather for the majority of the year. Sure, wintertime might give you a total of about 8 days of jacket weather, but other than that, you could probably rock shorts and a light jacket during autumn and spring.
During summer, you want to have that bathing suit handy. It gets pretty hot for about seven of the twelve months of the year. As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of watering holes to cool down and put that bathing suit to good use.
Pack to sweat, because you will be sweating. Also, don’t worry about your hair. No styling will make it past the summer humidity. Ponytails and buns are your new best friends.
Due to Austin’s public transportation restrictions, I would suggest staying closer to downtown. If you don’t mind a little walk, some places are fairly walkable, depending on the weather.
Some great places to stay include Native Hostel which sits on 4th St in downtown and the historic Driskill hotel on 6th St, which both give you close access to all of downtown’s sites.
If you wanted to stay in the more trendy, hipster East Austin, there are several good stays (and great restaurants and coffee shops, too). Hotel Eleven and the Heywood Hotel are both fun and cute spots that are walkable to all things East Austin.
Getting around to Austin’s more exciting locations does, in fact, require the use of a car. Renting one is easy if you arrive by airport. If using an Uber or Lyft is more your style, these are readily available around town and can get you to most places. There is public transportation available, but it isn’t the best, nor does it get you everywhere.
CapitalMetro has both MetroBus services and the MetroRail line which only goes north and south with a few stops.
Unfortunately, public transportation isn’t Texas’ strong suit, but Austin is more connected than most cities in the state.
Seeing as I just recommended what you should pack, I should probably mention the weather… Being impartial to cooler temperatures, I would say the best time to head to Austin is in the late fall, winter, and spring. You can still catch some warm weather to enjoy the local watering holes, and you can miss the sweltering Texas sun.
If you do visit during the heatwave that we call summer, don’t sweat it (get it?).
In the hot summer months, you can cool down at Barton Springs, Lake Travis, Hamilton Pool, or any of the other fantastic watering holes around town. No matter what time of year you visit Austin, there is plenty of outdoor recreation inside and outside the city. Zilker Park and the Greenbelt are short drives from downtown Austin, while Mt. Bonnell, Hippie Hollow, and McKinney Falls State Park are less than 30 minutes away.
If you are wondering how I know so much, it’s because I am Texan by birth, but traveler by choice.
I am one half of the two bloggers behind Impact Winder, an unconventional lifestyle blog that highlights slow travel, financial independence, and environmental impact. I have been traveling the world with my husband, Nick since 2015, with the purpose of impacting and encouraging others to push beyond the boundaries of ‘normal’ life.
You can find me at the nearest third-wave coffee house, writing away at my computer, or researching the next destination.More realistically you can find me at [email protected] or on Instagram @impact.winder.
A Walk In The Woods is Bill Bryson’s very entertaining guide to walking the Appalachian Trail. The trail which stretches from Georgia to Maine covers some of the most incredible landscapes in the United States. If you are a lover of the outdoors and are thinking of hiking any part of the trail you need to read this book. As well as being full of entertaining stories and personal reflections, it gives you an easy to digest introduction to the history and ecology of the trail.
If you are looking for some inspiration to help with the planning of your trip to the USA then this National Geographic book is it. It covers all of the 50 states and boasts 5000 thinks you can do in each of them. It’s a great resource to use in planning your US bucket list that’s for sure!
The book is beautifully illustrated and offers detailed information and facts about each state.
I couldn’t not put this classic book on the list. It’s one of the all-time greats and if you haven’t read it yet then there is no better time than now. The Color Purple is set between the two wars in the deep south of the United States. The story centers around a young African American girl born into a horrific family life during a time of segregation. The book followed Celie as she fights to free herself from her past.
I couldn’t put this book down once I got a few chapters into it. There is a reason this book is a New York Times Best Seller. It’s a novel about a young child left to fend for herself in the marshland of the North Carolina Coast. The book paints a rich picture of the landscape and the prejudices of small-town life in the 1960’s USA. Part ode to nature and part coming of age story, this mystery will grip you from start to finish.
Another one of my favorite books. The House on Mango Street has been printed in multiple languages and is taught in schools across the United States. It’s the story of a young Latina girl, Esperanza Cordero growing up in Chicago. The story is told in a series of moving vignettes. Some will move you to pure joy, others to tears. It’s the perfect companion for any USA vacation!