Austin. A blue dot in a Republican state. It’s the capital of Texas, but people would rather vote a country singer for president than any actual politician. This is where the city motto is literally “Keep Austin weird.” Where there’s a public celebration for Eeyore’s birthday (yes, from the cartoon Winnie the Pooh). Where the entire city mourned when Leslie “The Thong Guy” passed away. (He made his mark by running around town in a leopard thong and high-heeled shoes advocating for tolerance. He ran for mayor 3 times, actually getting 2nd place.) As you can see, Austin is a place where everyone is welcome, and the stranger you are the better.
Guest post by Kiona
What’s the best time to visit?
There are a few major events in Austin: Austin City Limits, Formula One Race, South by Southwest, and Texas Relays. Unless you’re attending these events, avoid the city completely. This is when Austinites get out of town because the traffic congestion is insane.
While Austin’s weather is wholly unpredictable, the most bankable times to come are spring and fall. Summer is incredibly hot, and if you’re not used to the Texas sun, you may feel like it’s similar to being in a microwave. However, summer is the time for Blues on the Green, an outdoor free concert series where the entire city comes out for a giant picnic in Zilker Park. And after that, you can catch a free outdoor movie with summer series Movies in the Park right outside of the symphony center. The winters aren’t terrible, but you’ll subject yourself to dead trees and gray skies. Austin is 100% an outdoors city where most of our cafes, restaurants, bars, and shopping malls are, so it is best to come when the weather is nice.
If you’re a football fan, football season is always a good time should you be in town for a Texas Longhorn win.
What’s good to know about Austin?
– The entirety of Eastern Europe can fit inside of the state of Texas. It takes 24 hours to drive from the tip of the panhandle to the border of Mexico. The point of telling you this is: you’re going to need a car. The sites of Austin, as with everything in Texas, are spread out. But if you don’t believe me, below you’ll find an itinerary for one day with a car and one day without a car.
– If you insist on not renting a car (since you only have one day after all), it is good to know that Uber and Lyft are once again permitted to operate in Austin after being banned in May 2016. As an Austin-exclusive option, you can download the app RideShareAustin, which subs as our alternative to a ridesharing service. Use code gyxlvyb4 for $20 off your first ride.
– The FBI has rated Austin the second-safest major city, so like, if you commit a crime in Austin, you are actually basic. It was rated the #1 place to live in the United States in 2017 by the U.S. News & World Report. In addition to its safety, Austin is a strict no-smoking city, so you may not smoke in any public spaces. Austinites like to breathe fresh air ‘round here. In addition, it’s home to a multitude of headquarters such as Whole Foods, IBM, Dell, and many more!
One day in Austin Itinerary
Top things to do in Austin, Texas
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Austin.
Mornings in Austin
Start your morning off with a cup o’ joe at the Blue Dahlia or any other boutique brunch restaurant on 11th street. These restaurants are transformed vintage homes and pharmacies. You’ll feel like you’re in a time warp. To make things more homegrown, all of the ingredients are made with local, organic, farm-raised everything, with gluten-free, vegan, GMO-free, and whatever other health nut options available. (Austin is really into that whole health thing.)
After breakfast, check out Castle Hill Graffiti Park, also called HOPE Outdoor Gallery. Bring your spray paint and add to the ongoing, ever-changing mural where anyone and everyone can be an artist. You’ll be dazzled by the omnipresent colors of the walls that shoot up in front of you. Climb up the walls and take a look at all the hippies below with a stunning backdrop of the city.
Afternoons in Austin
Should you not have a car, rent a bike for $8 a day at any local bike shop or at the bicycle stands scattered throughout the city. You’re bound to find one around Town Lake.
While you’re at Town Lake, go for a run around the 2, 3, 4 or 8 mile loops around the lake, and then cool off by renting a canoe or paddleboard at one of the many shops along the waterfront. If lakes aren’t your thing, ride your bicycle to Barton Springs, a natural made pool famous for topless sunbathing in the 70’s.
Should you have a car, you’re in luck! Who said Texas was flat? You’ll drive through rolling hills of green and look up at the limestone mountains as you make your way to the Oasis on Lake Travis for the most stunning cliff-side views overlooking the lake. The food here is actually awful. People come here mostly for the views.
If you do not care about the lake and would rather go see some down-home Texas things, take a drive out to Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas about 45 minutes away to see cows and an authentic smoke-grill where you can have all you can eat BBQ. If you’re just dying to go the rodeo, the Austin Rodeo takes place in March and you can plan your trip around that. Otherwise, that is as “Texas” as Austinites get.
As the sun sets, make sure you get to Mount Bonnell to get 360-degrees views of the entire city. This is an absolute must-see and arguably the most famous thing to do in Austin. However, if you’re into bats, you can also get to Congress Bridge and see thousands of bats fly out at dusk.
If you’re feeling like staying close to downtown Austin but still want an adventure, make sure to go check out the Escape Game. The games last an hour, so it’s a perfect activity that won’t take up too much of your day. And with five unique games to choose from, it’s perfect for any group or member of your crew. This will provide endless dinner conversation for your night on the town.
Nightlife in Austin
For an early night, walk along the bridge to South Congress and check out some live music at Continental Club or salsa the night away at Guero’s Taco Bar.
The most infamous street for nightlife is 6th street. 6th street is split into 3 parts: West 6th, Dirty 6th, and East 6th. East 6th is where you’ll feel like you’re back in high school crashing someone’s house party. You’ll be dancing to 90’s jams in someone’s living room or converted garage. Walk out to the backyard and chow down on some munchies being served out of a food truck like Chilantros, a Korean-Mexican fusion. Try the kimchi fries, you won’t regret it.
Dirty 6th is where all of the under-aged college kids go to party. It’s safe to say they probably have not learned their alcohol limit yet, hence the name “dirty.” From the spilled drinks, to the awful outfits, to the vomit, it is definitely college heaven.
West 6th is where young professionals go to let loose from a week of work. Bars get creative with free arcade games (Kung Fu), Capri-suns filled with vodka (Greenlight Social), and even a beer stock market (Brew Exchange) where once a beer gets bought too often, the stock crashes and beers drops to $0.
Rock Rose is a street of hookah bars, clubs, and restaurants in the middle of an outdoor shopping mall where people go to party away from the 6th street crowd.
Where to stay in Austin?
The most “Austin” place to stay in is South Congress. Here you’ll find all the original hotels that celebrate Austin’s quirkiness like the Austin Motel or Hotel San Jose. My favorite is the South Congress Hotel that just opened up and throws DJ parties the first Thursday’s of every month.
To stay with a local is the best and I recommend this AirBnB, which is in a gated neighborhood on the eastern edge of city hosted by a local artist with all the best tips she’s collected over the years. Her price is also equivalent to that of a hostel.
For the traveler who prefers to interact with other travelers, HI Austin Hostel is the cheapest hostel in the city with free wifi, breakfast, and parking.
Hold your horses! That’s not everything you need to know about booking a room in Austin. If you go and visit LockTrip, you can get some sensational deals which can keep up to 30% of the regular price in your wallet. So, look for all the aforementioned places over there too and see what you can get, but don’t forget to browse the website thoroughly because you may very well find a hidden gem among the thousands of accommodations listed there.
extra tips for visiting austin
– One-day isn’t a lot, but a weekend is enough in Austin. You’ll be sure to either love it or feel lukewarm about it. But there’s no way you won’t feel free. “There’s a freedom you begin to feel the closer you get to Austin, Texas” –Willie Nelson. So enjoy your day of freedom in the Live Music Capital of the world!
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