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Austin is a traveler’s town. Year after year, it boosts its reputation as the ideal resting place for expats from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and pretty much any other large North American city you can think of. It has managed to become more than the capital of Texas—it’s more a cultural fixture on the national stage.
Luckily, its central location makes Austin one of the easiest quick-trip cities in the states. Domestic flights are often inexpensive and the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is a smooth 20 minutes from downtown (oh, those Texas highways) if you don’t hit rush hour traffic. We recommend planning your departure and arrival for early morning or late evening.
If we have one other piece of advice for any traveler heading to Austin, whether for business or pleasure, it’s to come hungry. And we mean hungry. While Austin is a town full of unexpected and entertaining things to do (axe throwing, live music, paddle boarding––more on that below), it’s the eating that’ll really make your trip. Regardless of your dietary preferences, Austin has you covered—from innovative vegan fare to mouthwatering globally inspired small plates and, of course, barbecue galore.
Follow along, as we've planned out the perfect itinerary for the best things to do in Austin.
8 a.m.: Wake up at W Austin, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property and one of the locals’ favorite hotels. Overlooking Lady Bird Lake, the hotel is in the hip 2nd District. With an outdoor pool and luxurious AWAY Spa, W Austin is a respite from the bustle of the city. Book a suite with a balcony and take your morning coffee with sweeping views of the city.
10 a.m.: While Austin certainly does brunch (and does it well), it’s time for breakfast tacos. In the summer, head to Taco Joint. There are two Taco Joint locations, but you’ll head to the one on East Riverside Drive on the south side of the lake. Grab your tacos to go and continue to Barton Springs for a late morning nature stroll and swim. The joint itself is bare-bones and may even seem a little in the middle of nowhere, but the tacos will tell you why it’s one of the more well-known (not touristy) spots in the city.
11 a.m.: From Barton Springs, continue in pursuit of the best natural scenery in Austin and head to Campbell’s Hole. Because Barton Springs is quite the social spot on holidays and weekends, we recommend Campbell’s Hole for some peace and quiet; it’s just a short hike away from Barton. Spend some time in the late morning sun before heading back into town.
1 p.m.: Head to happening South Congress, just a short drive from the springs, for lunch at South Congress Hotel’s Café No Sé. The perfect introduction to Austin’s quirky approach to cuisine, this airy café is the best spot on Congress to enjoy all the micheladas and kouign amanns your heart desires. Important: save room for the oatmeal pancakes and the pork belly sweet potato hash.
3 p.m.: Take a load off after that boozy lunch at South Congress Hotel’s rooftop pool—a slightly hidden enclave of sun and trees. Never too crowded and just the right size, it’s the appropriate midday getaway spot from the bustle of SoCo. If, instead, you’d like to further explore the neighborhood, take a walk down South Congress Ave, popping into local shops (there are some great vintage clothing stores, like Maya Star and Feather’s Boutique) and grabbing an afternoon iced latte at Plaza Colombian Coffee Bar.
5:30 p.m.: Whether you worked up a sweat strolling down South Congress Ave or sunbathing by a rooftop pool, you deserve some barbeque. Stroll around Zilker Park toward the convention center to Terry Black’s Barbeque, where you’re guaranteed to have an authentically Texan experience. There’s even generous patio seating for sunny days. Alternately, if you’re ready to call it a night and head back to the hotel but don’t want to forgo an exceptional Austin dining experience, retreat to Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection, for their newly launched Greenhouse Dinners. The ticketed dinners feature a vegetable-forward, farm-to-table menu that diners will savor under tealights, surrounded by lush greenery.
7 p.m.: For those who had dinner at Terry’s Barbecue, make your way back around the park toward Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge––better known as “Bat Bridge.” A leisurely walk to the bridge should only take about 20 minutes, but you’ll want to be there at 7:30 (best to do a quick Google check day-of to make sure you know when the sun will be setting) to catch the thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats that fly east of the lake for sundown.
8 p.m.: Finish crossing the bridge if you haven’t already toward downtown Austin. Austin City Limits Live venue, which is just a few blocks off the bridge on Willie Nelson Boulevard, has incredible live music quite literally every night. From jazz to country, blues, and even ‘80s rock, ACL has the city covered with (actually great) cover bands, local artists, and legends.
10 p.m.: Before calling it a night, stop in on Rainey Street for a uniquely Austin experience: local brews and mixed drinks out of historic homes that have been converted into some of the liveliest bars in Austin.
Where to Stay
For a memorable stay after a packed day, Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection is the new “it” spot in Austin. A gorgeous 10-acre estate in the center of Austin, Commodore Perry Estate has a French Riviera-esque pool, luxe accommodations like the one or two-bedroom mansion suites (some as large as 1,575 square feet), and opulent gardens that make for a picture-perfect picnic spot. Come for the stunning architecture and impeccable green spaces, stay for the Southern hospitality.
You can also consider checking into the Four Seasons Hotel Austin, also an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property. The Austin Four Seasons offers beautiful views of Lady Bird Lake and two excellent Texan-inspired fine dining options on-site—Live Oak and Ciclo restaurants. For the Four Seasons Hotel Austin’s best accommodations, opt for one of their three speciality suites: the Congressional Suite, the Presidential Suite, or the Governor’s Suite.