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It’s been a while now that I’ve been hearing about how cool Austin Texas is. Frequently mentioned on lists of best places to live, the city is growing in population by the day. So when I finally had the chance to spend a weekend in Austin, I jumped on the opportunity.
My expectations were high, but Austin is one of those places that actually lived up to its hype. I had so much fun exploring the quirky neighborhoods, eating all the street food, finding secret bars, and cooling off in the natural swimming holes.
If you’re planning a weekend trip to Austin, I’ve got you covered. Here’s a jam-packed Austin 2 day itinerary to help you make the most of your time there!
Where to Stay in Austin
To compliment your weekend in Austin, you’ll want to find somewhere to stay in that’s equally as cool as the city, and there are plenty of options to choose from.
We stayed downtown at the heart of the city on 6th street in an Airbnb across from the Driskell hotel. This had its ups and downs. It was nice to walk out my door and have unlimited restaurants, co-working spaces, and bars. But on the flip side, it meant there was a lot of noise I could hear from the apartment. If you’re looking for something quiet, I’d recommend somewhere else or at least not directly on 6th street.
South Congress (SoCo), across the river, is a great area to stay. It’s quieter than downtown, but there’s still plenty to do. Another popular neighborhood to stay is East Downtown. It’s a district that has experienced a lot of growth in recent years and has some very cool bars.
Luxury: The Driskell Hotel – Where luxury meets Texas charm! This famous 1886 hotel is located right downtown on 6th, so it’s a good place to stay if you want to be in the heart of the action.You’ll fall in love as soon as you enter the grand columned lobby, which features marble floors and stained-glass domes. It’s worth checking out even if you aren’t staying here!
Mid-range: South Congress Hotel – this gorgeous boutique hotel features 3 unique restaurants, a coffee and bake shop, a lobby bar, and 2 locally-owned shops. The rooftop pool surrounded by lush gardens is the perfect place to cool off from the Texas heat! As the name suggests, it’s conveniently located in the South Congress neighborhood, so more shops and restaurants are steps outside your door.
Budget: Firehouse Hostel: Firehouse may be the only hostel in the central downtown area, but it’s also a solid choice. It’s within walking distance of everything you need and is in a funky converted firehouse. The best part about it is the attached speakeasy that you enter via a bookshelf. So cool!
Arriving and Getting Around Austin
If you’re flying into Austin, you’ll be glad to know that the airport is conveniently located just a 15-minute drive from the city. The quickest way to get from the airport into the city center is an Uber, which shouldn’t cost you more than $15.
Getting around Austin is relatively easy as the neighborhoods you’ll be spending time in aren’t that far from each other. And within each one, you’ll be able to walk to bars, restaurants, and shops. The easiest way to get between places is Uber, or a scooter which you can rent from Uber or Lyft. I was anti-scooter at first, but they are actually enjoyable and efficient to get around.
That said if you plan to do a lot of sightseeing it may be worth it to rent a car as some attractions are spread out from each other. Or if you know people in the city, you can just convince them to drive you around as I did! While having a car is convenient, I don’t think it’s entirely necessary for a short weekend in Austin.
Weekend in Austin Itinerary
Day 1 Weekend in Austin- Explore SoCo and See a Live Music Show
After landing in Austin, you’ll likely be hungry so head out to one of the food truck areas to grab a quick bite before exploring the city. It’s some of the best food and affordable! Food truck parks to check out are Rainey Street Food Trucks, East Riverside Food Trucks, and The Picnic, close to Barton springs.
For your first afternoon in Austin, take some time to explore the South Congress (SoCo), Austin’s most popular neighborhood. It’s a great place for shopping, with cute vintage shops, costume stores, and local boutiques.
SoCo is also a great place to snap some Insta-worthy pictures at the murals along the street. It’s home to the famous ‘I love you so much!” mural, which is on the side of Jo’s Coffee (1300 S Congress Ave). A short walk away is my favorite, the “Greetings From Austin” mural that looks like a postcard (1720 S 1st St.)
For dinner, check out one of the restaurants on South Congress. We stumbled upon Aba, which is a lovely Mediterranean restaurant. They have an awesome patio, and the artichoke hummus is bomb!
Before heading out for the night, take advantage of your first sunset in Austin and head to one of these three spots:
- If seeing thousands of bats fly out at once appeals to your interests, you can witness this phenomenon nightly on the Congress Avenue Bridge. It’s the largest urban colony in North America, so it’s quite a sight to witness.
- If bats aren’t your thing, there’s another bridge you can visit for just a sunset – the 360 bridge (you’ll need a car to get here). You can’t actually stop on the bridge as traffic flows through it, but you can park nearby and climb up a small ledge next to it for a view above.
- Last option for sunset – hike to the top of Mount Bonnell. It’s just a small hill that takes about ten minutes to climb up, with nice views of the city and lake.
For your first night in Austin, it’s time to see some music since that’s what the city is known for! There are always performances going on at the countless venues on 6th street and Rainey Street, or you can check out what concerts are happening at the larger venues. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Austin during October, you can attend the famous Austin City Limits music festival.
The Rainey Street Historic District was by far my favorite spot to go out in Austin. All the bars there are historic bungalow homes; it’s so charming to walk around.
Day 2 Austin Itinerary: Explore the Natural Side of Austin and Speakeasy Hunt
Cure your hangover from the night before with a greasy brunch! Austin has a great brunch culture and this is the perfect way to kick off the day. I loved the Driskell 1886 cafe – their eggs benny is amazing!
For day two, it’s time to embrace the natural side of Austin. Start off with a visit to Zilker Park, a huge recreational area with botanical gardens.
If the weather is warm, head to Barton Springs nearby. It’s a swimming hole filled entirely with water from nearby natural springs. It’s cold, but so refreshing in the summer heat. Tons of people come here with paddleboards, dogs, and drinks, so it’s a great vibe. It was my favorite memory of Austin!
If that’s not your jam, there are other water activities. You can go boating at Lake Travis, or paddleboarding on Ladybird lake right in the city! It’s a super popular among locals on the weekend, you’ll see hundreds of kayaks and paddleboards on the lake.
In case of rain (or if you prefer history and culture), head to one of Austin’s museums like the Bullock Texas State History Museum or Blanton Museum of Art. You can also check out the Texas State Capitol, which is the tallest one in the Untited States! It’s impressive just to see from the outside, but the building is open for visitors until 8pm on weekends.
For your second night dinner, embrace Austin’s BBQ scene. Franklin BBQ is one of the most popular spots, although they are only doing takeout right now. Since I don’t eat meat we went to a vegan spot, The Beer Plant, where I had the most delicious “pulled pork” sandwhich.
For your second night out, change it up and explore East downtown Austin. The vibe here is definitely more grungey, but I loved it. Start at Central Machine Works, it’s a microbrewery beer hall in a spacious converted machine works. Very cool vibe and great pizza if you haven’t eaten yet.
After leaving east downtown, we went on a speakeasy hunt throughout the city. They aren’t the easiest to get into, but worth the effort. My two favorites were red headed stepchild, which is fronted by the “floppy disk repair co” on 119 E 5th St. You’d never know it was a bar from the outside!
You’ll need a passcode to get in the door lock, which we eventually got after asking around at non-speakeasy bars. Another great one is Here Nor There (612 Brazos St), which also requires a password. I can’t tell you what they are because they change them frequently, plus what would be the fun in that?
I LOVED my weekend in Austin- it was so much fun. It’s well worth planning a trip there; the city really lives up to its reputation. I hope this Austin itinerary could help you discover some of the best parts of the city!
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