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  • Writer's pictureAmy Leggett

Best of Austin-The Ultimate Guide

Updated: Dec 7, 2022


Bats, BBQ and Breakfast Tacos? Must be in Austin, Texas. Austin has been on my travel bucket list for a long time. Austin is marketed as the "Live Music Capital of the World" and I love live music. I went expecting a Nashville vibe and was so excited because, as you know from my post about Nashville (which you can find here), I LOVE Nashville. However, I have to be honest and say I was a little disappointed when I first got to Austin. If there is a Nashville-type area with live music playing all day long, I never found it. There are a lot of different Districts in the downtown Austin area and it can be confusing to figure out where to stay and where to go if you are not familiar with the area. While our hotel was very cool and had a great location, I don't think we were in the best place for the live music experience. Despite my music letdown, we still had a great time exploring Austin and taking in all of the other things it has to offer like Bats, BBQ and Breakfast Tacos! I hope this blog helps you figure out what you want to experience in Austin and then find the best location to use as your home base to explore this very progressive and interesting city.


Best Places to Stay:


As I said, there are several different "Districts" in downtown Austin that each have their own distinct vibe. You should pick a hotel that is located in the District that is situated closest to the things you are most interested in. Here is a brief summary of some of the more popular entertainment Districts:

  • Congress Ave Historical District: Congress Avenue runs through the center of downtown Austin from Lady Bird Lake to the Texas State Capitol. Hotels in this area will be close to the Texas State Capitol and government offices as well as Austin's central business district. South Congress Avenue (or "SoCo" as the locals call it) will probably be on your Austin To Do List. See my description below under Things To Do for the reasons.

  • Sixth Street Entertainment District: This is the hub of Austin nightlife and has been dubbed "Dirty Sixth" by locals. There are many bars and restaurants and lots of activity nightly. Sixth Street is closed off to traffic from Thursday through Saturday night to accommodate crowds.

  • Rainey Street District: Rainey Street is a trendy party area with colorful historic homes that have been converted to restaurants and bars.

  • Red River Cultural District: Apparently this is the live music hub and where I should have stayed to check out why Austin is called "The Live Music Capital of the World"! I did love the hotel we stayed at though which I will describe below.

  • Second Street District: This area is known as downtown Austin's shopping hub and is filled with local boutiques and trendy fashion shops. If you are looking for a retail fix, this is your spot!

There are several other distinct Districts within the downtown area. I have just highlighted a few of the more popular ones. Check out Austin's Tourism site for a more complete description of all of the areas so you can determine which location is right for you!


We stayed at the Driskill Hotel which is the oldest operating hotel in Austin. The Driskill was built in 1886 and, just like the Biltmore in Providence which I talked about here, the Driskill is rumored to be haunted. The incident that is responsible for one of the hauntings apparently happened in a room right down the hall from where we were staying! Alas (or thankfully, depending on your perspective), we did not experience any paranormal activity during our stay. If I keep staying in old, haunted hotels, I am bound to have a ghostly visitor someday! In any event, the Driskill Hotel is a beautiful building with a prime location right on Sixth Street so it is only a few short steps to rowdy nightlife if that's on your agenda. It is also easy walking distance to Congress Street and the Texas State Capitol. I highly recommend The Driskill Hotel!


Best Things to Do:

  • Congress Street Bats: This is the most iconic thing to do in Austin. Every night at sunset people gather on or around the Congress Street Bridge to watch millions of bats fly out from beneath the bridge. You can also sign up to take a tour boat out on the water to watch the bat show from below. This actually may be a better spot because the tour operators shine a red light up to the bridge which helps to see the flurry of bat activity more clearly. It was a little anti-climactic because we couldn't see the bats that clearly from the top of the bridge, but we caught glimpses and it is an amazing spectacle nonetheless. And you can't go to Austin and say you didn't see the Congress Street Bats! Added bonus...you can get a great sunset selfie with the Austin skyline in the background.


  • Lady Bird Lake: The Colorado River runs through downtown Austin into Lady Bird Lake ("LBL"). LBL is not a true lake, but a damned portion of the Colorado River. In any event, it is a great outdoor space in the middle of the city where you can kayak, run, walk or bike. Swimming and motorized watercraft are not permitted on the Lake. The Ann and Roy Hike-and-Bike Trail makes a complete loop around LBL. The Trail is 10.1 miles long and mostly flat.

  • Texas State Capitol: Check out the Texas State Capitol and the surrounding grounds. There are free guided tours daily that last between 30 and 45 minutes. You can also pick up a free brochure at the Capitol's north entrance or the Information Desk and do your own self guided tour.

  • University of Texas at Austin: Check out the UT at Austin campus and keep your eye out for Matthew McConaughey or Brene Brown. They both teach classes here! You never know where you may bump into them. UT is proud to claim Matthew McConaughey as their own and even had a Christmas tree devoted just to him in the school bookstore!

  • South Congress Street Shopping ("SoCo"): I mentioned this above when talking about the Congress Street District. It is a great place to spend an afternoon strolling and shopping. It is one of Austin's trendiest neighborhoods and is known for unique independent shops, galleries and vintage stores. For those more mainstream shoppers, the Yeti flagship store is here as well as Reformation and Kendra Scott jewelry.

  • Esther's Follies: Located on Sixth Street, this comedy show has been described as a modern-day vaudeville mixed with political comedy...the "Texas answer to SNL". The windows open up to Sixth Street and the comedians utilize the outside and unsuspecting pedestrians to enhance the show! It usually sells out, so you may want to grab your tickets ahead of time here.

  • Bars on Sixth Street: There are many to choose from and several have some form of entertainment. We stopped in at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar and had a great time singing along to the requested songs.


  • Zilker Metropolitan Park/Barton Springs Pool/Zilker Botanical Garden: A great recreational area to spend the day. There are many park amenities such as picnic areas, volleyball courts, and a nature and science center. One of the premier features of the park is Barton Springs Pool which is a natural spring fed pool with year round average water temperature of 68 degrees. The Zilker Botanical Gardens are also nearby and provide a relaxing escape from the bustling city.

Best Places to Eat:

  • Jo's Coffee: As the intro to this blog suggests, Breakfast Tacos are a must have when visiting Austin and Jo's Coffee is a quintessential place to try them out. Jo's has a variety of breakfast tacos and coffee drinks, as well as burgers, sandwiches/wraps, salads and alcoholic drinks. Check out Jo's menu here.


  • Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ: Another thing you have to eat when in Texas is good ol' BBQ! There are many BBQ places to pick from and I am sure they are all fantastic. We went to Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ and really enjoyed the vibe and the food!

  • Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill: The motto for Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill is "Bootlegged & Bountiful" and you gotta love any place with a motto like that! Their website says they serve "Classic American Comfort Food" and I can attest to that. The vibe in the restaurant was really cool and the food was delicious! We left stuffed...uncomfortably so. This restaurant is always packed so reservations are a good idea.

  • 1886 Cafe & Bakery: This quaint Victorian-style cafe is attached to the Driskill Hotel. They are open until 2 pm and for breakfast and lunch. They serve traditional Texas comfort food made with time-honored recipes. They also use locally sourced ingredients. We had a delicious breakfast there one morning before heading out to explore Austin.



  • Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream: Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream is an incredible ice cream store with its flagship Austin shop right in SoCo. They have really unique flavors such as Everything Bagel, Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flakes, Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Gooey Butter Cake, and Brambleberry Crisp. You definitely need to stop here for refreshment after an afternoon of shopping in SoCo!

  • Austin Eastciders Cider: This last item isn't a place, it is a local hard cider that must be tried if you are a fan of ciders. I had the Blackberry Cider and it was amazing!

Conclusion:

All in all, even though I personally don't think Austin competes with Nashville as the "Live Music Capital of the World", it is a very fun place to visit with lots to see, lots to do and a lot of delicious food to eat. I highly recommend a visit to Austin to check out the Bats, BBQ, and Breakfast Tacos! If you venture to Austin, you should definitely combine it with a visit to San Antonio! San Antonio is only about an hour and a half drive away with some really cool stops in between. Check out my Best of San Antonio blog for tips on the best places to stay, the best things to do and the best places to eat in San Antonio. Y'all come back, ya hear?



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