With a burgeoning restaurant scene and countless entertainment options, Austin makes for the perfect weekend escape almost any time of year. The city’s relatively recent exponential economic growth has attracted transplants from both coasts and everything in between, bringing big names in design, fashion, dining and the arts. Nevertheless, as the Live Music Capital of the World, the city stays true to its Keep Austin Weird mantra, and we’ve curated the best ways to experience its authentic swagger with its evolving cosmopolitan aesthetic.
Austin has its share of delectable cocktails, but the Chef’s Brand New Cadillac Negroni at Juniper is the smoothest way to slide into the weekend. Juniper’s elevated Italian menu uses central Texas influences from local farmers, and the restaurant’s award-winning architecture is a feast for the eyes as well.
After dinner, head to the Continental Club, an Austin staple since 1955. Hosting roots, rock, country, swing and blues music every night of the week, the venue often attracts a long line beneath its landmark neon sign. To skip the wait, head to the Elephant Room, a jazz bar in an underground speakeasy environment on Congress. Keep the groove going at late-night venues along East 6th street like Hotel Vegas and the White Horse Saloon.
With Austin’s recent restaurant boom, the city’s coffee scene has blossomed, too. Started in 2010, Houndstooth coffee now has seven locations across Texas, with four in Austin. The East Side location on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard blends excellent coffee with incredible design, and the Frost Bank location is convenient to SXSW and downtown events. Before 11am, the shops serve some of Austin’s favorite breakfast tacos, thanks to daily deliveries from Taco Deli.
Fully caffeinated, head to the Blanton Museum of Art for a mid-morning browse. Located on campus at the University of Texas at Austin, the museum is home to a wide range of ancient to medieval and contemporary art. In the atrium, the Stacked Waters staircase installation by Teresita Fernández is a highlight, and don’t miss Ellsworth Kelly’s final commission, Austin, outside the museum.
The Blanton is just one of many museums on the UT Austin campus, so leave room to view exhibits at the nearby Harry Ransom Center or simply explore the grounds by foot. Across from the Blanton, the Bob Bullock.
Experience Austin’s outdoor offerings with a bike ride or run around Lady Bird Lake, which is a local name for the Colorado River reservoir that weaves through downtown. The 10-mile loop of the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail provides a chance to connect with nature in the heart of the city and great views of Austin’s skyline. The best panorama is from the outdoor terrace of the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts, and be sure to seek out the statue of local music legend, Stevie Ray Vaughn.
For dinner, head to one of Austin’s award-winning eateries on South Lamar. For the last decade, the city has been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement with restaurants like Odd Duck, which serves innovative small plates from locally sourced ingredients. Committed to supporting Texas farmers, the rotating seasonal menu also includes delicious cocktails and unforgettable desserts.
Afterward, enjoy the intimate atmosphere of the Saxon Pub, another legendary landmark and gatekeeper of Austin culture since 1990. For a true taste of Texas, grab your boots and a beer at the Broken Spoke Bar and Dance Hall, which has offered live music and chicken fried steak for over fifty years. Learn how to two-step or dance the Cotton-Eyed Joe with classes every Wednesday to Saturday at 8:30pm. To make up your own moves or belt a favorite tune, the Highball features nightly dancing and private karaoke rooms.
With three restaurants, a rooftop pool, lobby bar, café, and its own retail, the South Congress Hotel is the perfect hub for exploring one of Austin’s favorite districts. Refuel with a golden milk latte at Mañana and brunch at Café No Sé before browsing boutiques and stores along South Congress.
Bookworms will love browsing used volumes at South Congress Books, and the luscious smell of leather at the iconic Allen’s Boots store is a scent you won’t soon forget. Local brands abound, ranging from menswear at Stag Provisions to the delicate designs at Limbo Jewelry. Along the way, stop for selfies at some of Austin’s favorite murals, like the I Love You So Much graffiti at Jos’s Coffee and the Willie for President mural on Elizabeth Street.
Where to Stay
Driskill Hotel: Located in the center of downtown, the Driskill Hotel is steps from both the State Capitol building and live music in Austin’s historic Sixth Street district. Built in 1886 by a wealthy cattle baron, the hotel was restored in 2013 and now offers 189 restored rooms in the heart of the city. Wander through the marble lobby and upstairs to the historic bar for a cocktail and daily live music.
South Congress: For a boutique experience, South Congress offers several swanky hotels in close proximity to shopping, dining and entertainment venues. Austin Motel, Hotel San Jose, Hotel St Cecilia and the South Congress Hotel are all great options.