How to Spend 24 Hours in Austin

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Get ready to tip your hat to the friendly locals, listen to some of the best music in the nation, and eat a whole lot of barbecue.

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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 capitol of Texas, but a destination apart from the state.

Luckily, its central location makes Austin one of the easiest quick-trip cities in the states. Domestic flights are often cheap and the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is a smooth 20 minutes from downtown (oh, those Texas highways) if you don’t hit rush hour. 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 needs or desires, Austin has it for you (and all of your friends).

Follow along as we've planned out the perfect itinerary for the best things to do in Austin.

Courtesy Hotel Van Zandt

8:00 a.m.: Wake to the sunrise over Lady Bird Lake at Hotel Van Zandt, a Kimpton spot downtown with a killer complimentary happy hour, an even better rooftop pool, and bathtubs with views that are guaranteed to hold you hostage in your suite for at least an extra hour. The W Austin, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, is also a local favorite.

10:00 a.m.: While Austin certainly does brunch (and does it well), it’s time for breakfast tacos. In the summer, head to Taco Joint on the south side of the lake en route 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.

11:00: Barton Springs is also quite the social spot on holidays and weekends, so if peace and quiet is more your speed we recommend Campbell’s Hole, just a short hike away from Barton. Spend some time in the late morning sun before heading back into town.

1:00 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.

3:00 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.

5:30 p.m.: Whether you worked up a sweat at the festival or sunbathed in the park, you deserve some barbeque. Stroll around Zilker Park towards 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.

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7:00 p.m.: After dinner, make your way back around the park (you’re going to want this short walk, trust us) towards Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge––better known as “Bat Bridge.” A leisurely walk to the bridge should only take about twenty 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.

8:00 p.m.: Finish crossing the bridge if you haven’t already towards 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, ACL has the city covered with (actually great) cover bands, local artists, and legends.

Whit Preston/Courtesy Hotel Van Zandt

10:00 p.m.: Head towards your hotel, just another few blocks east of ACL. Geraldine’s, the renowned restaurant, bar, and refined venue right within the Hotel Van Zandt, will provide solace, an incredible cocktail, and a continuation of great live music. Be sure to ask your bartender about the heartwarming history of the name. If your energy is a bit higher, stay on Rainey Street for a uniquely Austin experience: local brews and Tito’s mixed drinks out of historic homes that have been converted into some of the liveliest bars in Austin.