If you’re headed to Austin this month for SXSW, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, a Longhorn game, or simply because it’s one of the best city getaways in the US, here’s a helpful list of hotels and restaurants to help you plan your trip.
I’ll be honest, I’m not an Austin expert, but I can give you solid spots I guarantee you’ll enjoy.
S – L – E – E – P
The boutique hotels and guest houses are what I love about Austin. My favorite one is The Hotel St. Cecelia. It combines rock star retro and contemporary style in a historical house on an unbelievably quiet property off the local hipster drag of restaurants and boutiques on South Congress. Right down the street is its older and more affordable sister The San Jose and another contemporary hideaway The Kimber Modern. But if you’d like the same artsy vibe as The Saint Cecilia, consider one of the two Casa Kenwood guesthouses which are really affordable.
Austin has the typical chain hotels all located in the middle of downtown near the capital and The University of Texas. The most notable and nicest is The Four Seasons, which is also home to one of the best bar scenes and brunches in town. Others hotels include The Omni and The Stephen F Austin Intercontinental both of which I’ve stayed in and enjoyed. There’s a Hyatt as well, but it’s not very nice. The Driskill is the epitome of southern and stuffy, but it’s a lovely place to stay.
E – A – T
When you ask someone who has lived in Austin where to go to eat, they will all recommend the same places. I’ve been to some, others I haven’t. Here’s a list that will keep you satisfied and entertained when you’re out and about.
The first thing tourists want to know is, “Where is the best bbq?”
The answer is simple; the journey to get there is not. Located 45 minutes outside of Austin, Salt Lick has the best bbq in Texas hands down. Your lips have never tasted brisket so tender and delicious. Want to see for yourself? Check out this TMIweekly episode I did with the owner who shows you his secret! It’s a beautiful drive out and once you get there, you’ll want to hang out for a while.
If you truly don’t have time to make the drive, try one of these restaurants downtown:
Do not waste your time at County Line or Opie’s.
Texas is famous for brisket NOT pork. Your best bet is always to order brisket, pulled beef, or ribs. We’re pretty good at sausage too.
Eddie V’s – THE steakhouse in Austin with great food and an even better bar scene. Fancy and expensive, but totally worth it. Skip the table and dine in the bar for good people watching.
Uchi – The trendy sushi joint that apparently delivers the scene and fresh fish.
Perla’s – Award-winning seafood and oyster bar with a contemporary American menu. Their pleasant patio looks out onto South Congress. Always packed, get a reservation.
Ranch 616 – The casual place for the wanna-be “cool kids” to hang out (that would be me). It’s small, crowded, and always yummy.
The Belmont – A younger, trendy scene that serves up steak what they call farm-to-table dishes. Most people eat somewhere else and then come here for the bar and live music later. It’s in the center of the action on West Sixth Street.
Maiko – Modern sushi spot next door to The Belmont with solid sushi. A good option if the Belmont is packed.
Max’s Wine Dive – Big portions of American food with a solid wine list downtown.
Guero’s – Famous taco bar on South Congress. Great place for lunch and ritas while you’re strolling the drag during the day.
Curra’s – Mexican voted the best in Texas by Texas Monthly and The Austin Journal.
Maudie’s – The favorite Mexican joint of UT alumni, but you couldn’t pay me to go back here again.
Home Slice – Supposedly the best pizza in Austin and I’ll attest it’s damn good. On South Congress.
South Congress Food Trailers – Lining the popular drag are tons of airstream trailers and huts selling everything from Mexican to Crepes, Thai and cupcakes, ice cream, you name it. It’s a great place to spend the afternoon and get a taste of the local culture.
No one wakes up early enough in Austin for breakfast so you’ll have to wait until at least 9 for brunch. Always expect to wait.
Four Season’s – The most popular and beautiful brunch on the lake in downtown.
Kerbey Lane – There are locations all over Austin. They look like greasy spoon hippie diners, but the food is really fresh. I’ve eaten here a million times and it always delivers. Open 24 hours.
Chez Z – Exactly what you would expect brunch to be WITH warm croissants and strawberry butter delivered as you sit down.
M – U – S – I – C
I wish I had more experience with the music scene in Austin because the local artists, which mostly perform rock, blues, and country, are true natural talents. If you’re in town, you must stop into a bar, grab a Lonestar or Shiner Bock, and listen to whoever is up on stage.
A few places I love:
The Continental Club – A historical landmark dive bar on South Congress, you can’t go wrong here any night of the week. There’s a blues band led by an old homeless guy who plays the guitar with his feet. I know it sounds weird but he’s awesome!
The Parish – On Sixth street downtown, this is more of a venue than a bar. Great bands you may or may not recognize here.
Emo’s – A smaller music venue with a reliable schedule.
311 – The live music dive bar on Sixth Street we all loved in college and still do.
Some of the restaurants I mentioned have live music sometimes as well: Salt Lick, Iron Works, Stubbs, Ranch 616, Max’s, and The Belmont.
B – A – R – S
Here’s where my guide gets a little shaky. I haven’t lit up Austin since college so I don’t really know where to send you. BUT, my friends love:
- Cheers Shot Bar (terrible name but fun)
- Any bar on Fourth Street (the new Sixth St.)
- Scholz Garden (sports bar near Memorial Stadium for pre-gaming)
- Four Seasons bar (for after the game)
- The Belmont
- Star Bar
T – H – E – O – U – T – D – O – O – R – S
Austin is located in the most scenic part of Texas – The Hill Country. You should plan to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Here are a list of activities to consider:
- Hiking around Barton Creek (click here for other hikes)
- Running the downtown path around Town Lake (which looks more like a river)
- Golfing (tons of courses!)
- Biking (rent road bikes or cruisers)
- Renting a boat to ski on Lake Travis
- Tubing down the Guadalupe river
- Strolling the University of Texas Campus
- Walking down South Congress and through the neighborhood
- Drinking ritas poolside or on a restaurant patio
If I missed a place you love, please add it in the comments! I’ll have some of my friends who went to UT contribute their two cents there as well.
For insight on what’s going on RIGHT NOW in Austin go to Austin360 or hit up a local blog called This Life In Austin.
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