Your Three Days in Austin Itinerary

I’m not an OG Austinite, but I’ve been here long enough to have had dozens of visitors come through and ask, “what do I definitely need to do while I’m in Austin for the weekend?”

After having answered the question similarly each time, I decided to write down what I would consider an optimal weekend spent here.

Note, this is one man’s opinion, and my friends and I could have different interests than yours. Feel free to throw out any bad advice that follows, but keep the good stuff while you do.

Top 7 Things to do While in Austin for a Weekend

I tested this out on a recent trip my brother took down to Austin. If you can only do 7 things, do these things:

Of course, a summary like that could be missing a lot (and it’s only my opinion), depending on your interests and time allotment. Read the rest of the article if you’d like a better selection for your weekend in Austin.

Best Neighborhoods to Explore

Austin, in my mind, is separated North/South by the Colorado River, otherwise known in this part as Lady Bird Lake. North of the bridge, you can find downtown, which includes a few different neighborhoods:

Etc, etc. There’s also the University of Texas campus and a couple interesting post graduate neighborhoods like Hyde Park. To be honest, most of North Austin, apart from UT, is pretty boring to me. The Domain is kinda cool, and it has things like Topgolf, but The Domain seems like every other city in the states. It’s not very unique.

South of the bridge you have some interesting things, such as Barton Springs and Zilker park (and also an entrance into the Greenbelt hiking trail), South Lamar, South Congress, South First, and Riverside. There’s a lot of cool shops, taco trucks, music venues, etc. around here. This is where you’ll find a lot of the coolest places to visit in Austin, in my opinion. However, it’s also where you’ll find some of the most overrated spots.

I actually don’t want to dive too much into different neighborhoods, because there are merits to any of them. But your best bet is to stay around 78701, 78702, 78703, and 78704 neighborhoods. They give you the best walking access to everything you’ll want to see.

Getting Around Austin

Austin doesn’t have a great public transit system, so try to stay in one of the aforementioned neighborhoods with easy walking access. If you want to do a trip outside of city limits into hill country, Lake Travis, Hamilton pool, etc., then you’ll need to rent a car. Otherwise, you can get away using these:

  • Lyft/Uber – obviously
  • Bus – it’s not the best system, but if you want to save money it’s not the worst. Get the Capital Metro app and the day pass.
  • Bird scooters – 100% the best way to get around town. These things are awesome. Use my code to signup.
  • Car2Go – also very convenient if you want to drive around but not rent a car.

Alright, the basics are covered, now let’s dive right into things to eat/do/see.

Things to Eat in Austin

Two words: tacos & barbecue.

Eat as much of both as you can. They are both elevated to art forms in Austin.

Austin is a great place for fusion as well. We have places like Chi’lanto for Korean/Mexican BBQ fusion, East Side King for Asian Fusion with an Austin flair, and on and on.

Austin also has pretty decent gulf oysters, as well as crawfish if you’re here during the right season (definitely try to attend a crawfish boil if you can).

In general, though, the best spots you absolutely need to check out are:

Things to Do in Austin

You can’t climb a mountain or ski in Austin, but you can:

  • Drink/explore nightlife
  • Dance/See live music
  • Hike
  • Do things on the water
  • Play golf
  • Go to cool coffee shops

Drink/nightlife

Austin is a party city. The nightlife is great, which is probably part of the reason so many young people flock here every day.

If you’re not a drinker, no worries, there’s still tons of stuff to do here. But I actually believe that, if you don’t get good and drunk at least one of the days you’re here, you’re missing out on a big chunk of the cultural appetite here.

So, here are my tips on where to get liquor’d up.

Dirty 6th

Dirty 6th street is infamous, and it’s for just the reason you’d guess: it’s a dirty place. Shit gets weird there.

There are tons of cheap drinks, and it’s quite anarchic on the weekends. It’s not a place you want to spend a lot of time, but you should definitely take a peak just to see what it’s all about.

There’s a big guide on 6th street bars here, but I’ll save you some time and recommend the top 5 you should check out:

  • Shakespeare’s
  • Blind Pig
  • Maggie Maes
  • Easy Tiger
  • Jackalope (side note: best burgers in town).

Rainey Street

Rainey Street is a unique collection of houses turned bars. It’s great place to hang out, especially during the day time, and specifically on a Sunday. It’s filled with awesome spots, like Clive Bar (cocktails), Craft Pride (craft beer), Bangers (sausage and beer), and Bungalow (just a cool bar).

Just walk down Rainey and pop into whatever looks cool.

West 6th

West is in my neck of the woods. It’s not super unique, but it’s fun, and there are a few spots worth checking out.

  • Rustic Tap – classic Americana bar with blues/country bands, whiskey shots, and giant beer pong.
  • Kung Fu – video game arcade.
  • Dogwood – great food and vibe.
  • Buford’s – spacious bar with good beer selection and lots of bar games.

There are a few other bars worth checking out as well, some of which I’ll cover in the dance/live music section. Depending on your desires, you may also want to get Purple Ritas at Baby A’s. They’re super strong, though, so be warned. Also, Ego’s is a hilarious dive karaoke bar. Possibly worth checking out, though maybe on your next visit.

Iffff you have time, there are two great breweries worth checking out:

  • Jester King – my favorite spot. Out in the country and has some great stone oven pizza. They specialize in sour farmhouse ales.
  • Blue Owl Brewing – also sour beer, but closer to the city’s core, so easier to get to than Jester King (though less cool as a spot to chill).
  • Infinite Monkey Theorem – not a brewery, but a winery, but I added it because it’s not a typical watering hole. If you like wine, this is the spot.

East Austin

Some people like going on out the East Side, too. I’m not a big fan, but a few key spots over there are:

  • Hotel Vegas (nice backyard)
  • White Horse (actually a really cool place – I mention it below on dance spots)
  • Yellow Jacket Social Club (grimey)
  • Craftsman (chill spot)

Dance/See Live Music

Austin bills itself as the “live music Capital of the world.” As such, there’s a ton of awesome live music.

You couldn’t go wrong just stepping into a random bar on 7th and Red River or even on Dirty 6th on the right night. In my opinion, the best music is found on weeknights and is in bars and venues you wouldn’t expect (so not Stubb’s).

Here are some of the top spots:

  • White Horse – for two stepping & country.
  • Broken Spoke – same.
  • Rustic Tap – there’s always classic country or blues rock here.
  • The Mohawk (I love this venue).
  • Empire Control Room

Hike

You’ve got one real option: Greenbelt. It’s really nice.

Other than that, there are a few dispersed parks and trails, but nothing special.

It’s not really hiking, but you have to climb up some stairs to get to the top of Mount Bonnell, and that’s a big tourist spot (though I think it’s overrated).

Another good view that isn’t really hiking is the Pennybacker bridge. I think the 360 bridge view is actually pretty cool and worth it if you can make it out there.

Do things on the water

Water is really the specialty of Austin’s outdoors life. The big one is Barton Springs, which is a man made pool fed from underground springs. It’s probably my one “can’t miss” spot in Austin, regardless of the season:

Deep Eddy Pool is cool too:

Then, there’s Lady Bird Lake, right in the middle of the city, where you should definitely rent a kayak or stand up paddle board.

If you can make the trip, hit up Hamilton Pool. It’s 30-40 minute from downtown, but it’s beautiful:

Also, we have a super cool indoor surf park in Austin. I think it’s one of the only surf parks like it in the country.

Play Golf

Other than Topgolf and regular golf courses, Austin has two cool spots worth checking out:

  • Pitch and Putt (super fun! BYOB 80 yard holes).
  • Peter Pan’s Mini Golf (historic spot, less fun overall but still awesome).

Drink Coffee

Austin is the city where I became a coffee snob. Hit up these spots:

  • Caffe Medici (has tons of locations)
  • Houndstooth (best cappuccino in town).
  • Mozart’s (amazing views)
  • Radio (cool vibes, and a Veracruz truck in the back).
  • The Hideout (great chill spot + it’s an improv theater).
  • Alta’s (also awesome lake views and right downtown).

Things to See in Austin

For the most part, Austin is an active participation city; You do things, not just see sites. Though there are a cool things to just take in:

  • Bats on the Congress Bridge (take a boat tour if possible).
  • Street Art (it’s everywhere)
  • Graffiti Park
  • Capitol Building – straight Texas brownstone architecture

If you’re around for a UT football game, try to go (or at least tailgate). There aren’t any pro sports in Austin, so UT is treated like a pro team.

Things to Skip in Austin

There’s a ton of super touristy things in every city, some of which are actually worth it but many of which are frankly not. Austin is no difference. This section will probably get some heat, but here’s what I would skip.

Jo’s Coffee and the “I Love You So Much…” Graffiti

I think, if you want to grab a selfie or two, Austin’s murals aren’t a bad idea. But just be clear that you just want a quick selfie; there’s nothing really impressive about the most popular murals here, specifically the “I Love You So Much” one, which I consider pretty overrated. There’s always a huge line for it. There’s always a huge line for photos at Machu Picchu, too, but you know…

I actually like two murals better:

  • You’re My Butter Half
  • Greetings from Austin

Though there’s lots of great street art around. I recommend just exploring and snapping photos in front of the ones you think are cool, not just the popular touristy ones.

Hopdoddy’s and other restaurants with asburd lines

Hopdoddy’s sells burgers. Burgers! They’re tasty, but not even the best in Austin (Jackalope is better). Don’t wait in line for an hour for a burger. Also, don’t come to Austin to eat burgers (again, go for the tacos and BBQ)

Conclusion

Austin is an amazing city, full of great stuff to do and even more great stuff to eat. A weekend isn’t long enough to do it all, but it’s enough to fall in love enough that you come back eventually.

Alex Birkett
Alex Birkett is a Growth Marketer and Content Strategist based in Austin, Texas. He's a proud UW-Madison graduate and enjoys craft beer, lifting weights, and sailing.

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