27 Sep 5 Days in Austin
I’m embarking on the ultimate itinerary challenge here by cramming four years of living in and deeply loving Austin, Texas into five doable days. Aidan and I both have a serious affection for this place and as we near our departure for our next chapter in Ireland, we’re still attempting to check some boxes on our ATX bucket lists. The thing about an Austin bucket list is that it never shortens. The harder you work at it, driven by constant FOMO, the quicker more things get added. A hundred people move to Austin every day and I swear at least five new bars and restaurants pop up every hour. Even though the traffic is an absolute nightmare and locals rock t-shirts that say there’s no room for you, we encourage you to move to Austin. If you can’t pack up right this minute and move, here is a five-day itinerary filled with our absolute favorite things. Get ready to eat, drink, and two-step.
When to visit: If you can’t take much heat, come in March/April or September/October. If you heart the sun and want to ensure you’ll wind up in all the swimming holes, visit May – July. August is just too damn hot.
Where to stay: East Austin as far north as 38 ½ Street (the Cherrywood neighborhood,) around South 1st Street, near South Congress, and off of Barton Springs Road are great neighborhoods with easy access to downtown, or the far less “Austin-y” Riverside area is your cheapest bet near town and the airport. You’ll find airstreams, tiny houses, and all sorts of funky little pads when you start searching.
The Best Parts **
In advance of your trip: Peruse Do512 for shows and events on the days you’ll be here. There’s so much good music happening every damn day, and popular venues like Antone’s, The Mohawk, The Parish, and Cheer Up Charlies are right downtown.
Thursday: Arrive in ATX
Land at our quaint airport, rent a car and drive to your Airbnb to check in. Drive to the nearest Spec’s for lots of provisions. These liquor stores are a wonderland of local booze, drink mixes, and snacks. You’ll need beers and bloody mary fixings for one early morning. Tito’s and Deep Eddy are both great local vodkas to try, East Austin Cider is divine, and you’ll find tons of local beer cans, even at the gas stations.
Walk, bus, or Lyft to Rainey Street for dinner and drinks. For grub, there’s a food truck park, delicious sausages and a mind-blowing beer selection at Banger’s, or great Indian at G’Raj Mahal. This iconic street is jam-packed with little houses-turned-bars.
Friday: A Sunny Day
Pack a bag with drinks, swimsuits, a blanket or towels, and lounging activities. Hit your nearest Torchy’s or Tacodeli (important to have both and decide for yourself which is better,) for breakfast tacos.
Head to Barton Springs.
It’s a three-acre natural pool fed by underground springs and the water stays at 68 degrees F all year round. On a hot Texas day it’s heaven and on a warm day, it’s an exhilarating penguin plunge. It’s great to go to Barton on a weekday when it isn’t quite as crowded, and it’s embedded within glorious Zilker Park (where Austin City Limits is in October).**
Walk up Barton Springs Road for drinks at Shady Grove or Uncle Billy’s Brewery. You’ll pass a cluster of delicious food trucks on this walk including Holla Mode Thai ice cream if you’re on a mission to eat as much truck food as possible. If you’re seeking a slightly pricier but well-worth-every-penny lunch, head to Odd Duck on South Lamar.
Return to your pad to freshen up, then make your way to Zilker Brewing to kick off your evening on East 6th Street. Happy hour is of extreme importance in ATX and all of these spots will be buzzing at or any time after 5. From Zilker, Easy Tiger (great pretzels and sammies on homemade bread,) The Liberty (with the infamous East Side King food truck out back,) Violet Crown (with Via 313 pizza truck, insane gourmet pizza that is 90% cheese,) Whisler’s, Shangri-La and Yellow Jacket Social Club are all favorites spots of ours within walking distance.**
If you haven’t already stuffed yourself at food trucks, grab burgers at Sputnik. Then, make your way to our favorite bar in Austin: The White Horse. A famous establishment (featured in this Kacey Musgraves music video w/ Willie,) you can go for free two-step lessons at 7 on Friday or Saturday evening, or get here anytime after for fabulous live funk or honkytonk music and two-steppers who know what they’re doing with your jaw dropped.
Ladies, you’ll likely get pulled in by a cowboy for a dance.** If you need to counterbalance the hipster-country vibe before heading home, pop in next door at the Eastern for a deliciously grimy 90’s dance session.
Saturday: A Sunny Day
Float the river in San Marcos. We prefer floating the San Marcos river over the Comal, and there are a few different companies to choose from. Invest in a bus there and back unless you have a true, 100% sober DD. This is a full day affair, a recipe for a sunburn, and an all-around glorious time.
Get back, take a nap, and head out to a delicious dinner. You can make reservations in advance at Salty Sow for their awesome 4:30 – 6:30 happy hour, get great Mexican at Matt’s El Rancho, delicious Thai made with all locally sourced ingredients at Thai Fresh, or pick another from our list.
Head out to experience central 6th Street AKA “Dirty 6th” around 10. It doesn’t matter where you go so long as you end up dancing your ass off at Barbarella.
Sunday: Any Kind of Day
Shop your way up and down South Congress! You will find cowboy boots galore, great boutiques, and some solid thrifting. If you’re more into history than shopping, visit the Capitol and the Bullock Museum downtown instead. Then,
If it’s a nice day hit a brewery like Austin Beerworks or go paddleboarding/kayaking on the river.
If it’s a crappy day still hit a brewery like Austin Beerworks or see a movie at the infamous Alamo Drafthouse. This funky Austin-based movie theater chain has amazing food and booze served during the flicks. Best adult milkshakes ever. Cash it in early, because tomorrow you will rise with the sun to eat meat.
Monday: Any Kind of Day
Franklin Barbecue lives up to all the hype. Arrive equipped with the provisions you bought at the liquor store by 7:30 (yes, AM,) to snag spare folding chairs and ensure you will be fed. You will wait/drink in line for four hours and then you will be graced with the most buttery brisket, pork ribs, and sausage you will ever eat until you go there again.
Then turn your day around with a class at Practice Yoga or embrace the pace and hit up The Draught House for more beer.
If you can’t bear to eat another bite of solid food, cure yourself with JuiceLand. If you can eat something light and you were wise enough to make a reservation, Uchi’s sake social hour from 5-6:30 makes this sushi heaven way more affordable, and it’s divine.
Right across the road from Uchi, dance the night away at Highball on South Lamar for Motown Monday, a free event with an awesome cover band from 9-11! If bluegrass is more your scene, Radio’s Bluegrass Night every Monday is also a blast.
Tuesday: Departure Day
Get in one last sweet round of breakfast tacos or a bangin’ farewell brunch at Kerbey Lane. If you didn’t gain a few pounds in Austin you probably didn’t do it right.
Check out the Austin Tripsheet here.
Other Favorite Restaurants:
La Barbecue $$ (a very close second to Franklin. Get here by 9 and you’ll get fed. Closed Monday and Tuesday.)
HopDoddy $$ (slammin’ burgers with all local ingredients)
Pueblo Viejo $ (tacos)
Veracruz $$ (tacos)
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ $
Elizabeth Street Cafe $$$
Patrizi’s pasta truck $$
Cherrywood Café $ (this breakfast sandwich will cure most hangovers)
Ramen Tatsu-Ya $$
Bouldin Creek Café $$ (breakfast & lunch with lots of GF and vegan options)
Polvo’s $$ (authentic Mexican & great margaritas)
Whataburger $ (your right of passage if it’s your first time in Texas)
Other Favorite Bars
Lala’s Christmas Bar $ (t’is always the season)
Buzzmill $ (great outdoor space, live music most nights, and housemade booze infusions)
Pharrah’s $ (BYOB Mediterranean spot with bellydancers and outdoor hookah rentals)
Stay Gold $$ (hipster paradise)
Spiderhouse Cafe $ (super eclectic with a great outdoor area)