I often get asked for my ‘ideal day in Austin.’ While part of my perfect day is trying new places and getting outside to explore, here are some of my favorite tried and true stops if you have limited time, or are looking to get an all-encompassing feel for the city.
I live in South Austin, so you’re more likely than not to find me on South Congress Ave. at some hour of the day or night. Albeit touristy or crowded mostly on the weekend hours, it’s undeniably Austin and a special few blocks in this city.
FIRST STOP: SOCO HOTEL
Warm up at Mañana for a delish breakfast pastry (go for the cinnamon roll) and coffee with local nut milk from Fronks. Tucked inside the South Congress Hotel, enjoy your morning in their tree-lined courtyard for a quiet escape. They also have a great gift shop inside. If you need a cutesy, fancy donut shop walk over to The Salty Donut for their brioche and cake fried dough. I like the Horchata Brioche and def eyeing that winter Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter one!
A MORNING IN CLARKSVILLE
If you’re staying on the west side, or find yourself in Clarksville, Taco Flats makes my all time favorite breakfast taco. Traditionally, tacos are on corn, but opt for their insane, pillowy and doughy Green & Black which is a flour tortilla filled with fluffy eggs, creamy refried black beans, grilled jack cheese, and you don’t even have to add guac because most already come with it! One taco will do the trick as these tortillas are huge. West Lynn St. is the heart of Clarksville—head across the street to Medici for some coffee and good convo on their outdoor stone tables.
ON BOARD WITH TACO TRUCKS
If you’re looking for a true taco truck experience, Veracruz at Radio Coffee is known for their migas breakfast tacos, and it’s a great place to work and take your time on a sunny day, and El Primo on S 1st is more consistent, but less of a sit and stay place with just one or two benches.
WALK IT OFF
Keep things moving and head to Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake) for a nice, crisp walk. You can loop the lake at different lengths, so pick the distance you’re feeling whether it be the 3, 4, 7, 10 miles. My preferred route starts in the Austin High parking lot, crosses over the Mopac bridge, and takes you on a tree-filled, 3-mile loop over the Lamar Bridge. If you happen to come across a crazy 80 degree winter day, I love to hit the lake (river) via SUP or kayak (Texas Rowing Center and the Rowing Dock are my go-to rental spots). It’s a great way to see the city from a different vantage point and feel people and movement all around you.
After some fresh air, swing by Swedish Hill for a treat—the Kouign-Amann is flaky, sweet, and something you won’t want to leave without. It pairs nicely with their iced matcha and their awesome crushed ice. If you’re feeling bold, go for a polar plunge in Barton Springs. It’s the ultimate energy boost to send you into a night on the town or a quick pick me up in the morning to ease that hangover. Also, if you are looking for some professional prints of the healing water and Austin skyline, check out my prints here. Plus, the shop has my Austin Playbook which is a longer guidebook to hanging in Austin.
Swing by Take Heart & Kindred Spirits—two local sister-shops filled with beautiful, unique clothes, gifts, Japanese ceramics, oils, healing books, home goods, art you won’t find anywhere else. Miranda Bennett Studio is an Austin-based clothing studio with all plant-dyed apparel—it’s beautiful and worth a look just next door. Also, hop down to lovecraft for great gold and silver jewelry, vintage style clothes and and Apartment F for Moroccan rugs, coffee table books, teas, coffee mugs, and other apothecary items. End with a coffee, hibiscus aqua fresca, or seasonal lemonade at Paperboy’s walk-up window before they close at 3 p.m.
Get a drink at the Milonga Room, the speakeasy behind Buenos Aires Cafe, then make your way down the block to Il Brutto for their Italian fare, which just tastes better when it’s cold out. Order the lasagna made with béchamel sauce (the best I’ve ever had), the burrata pizza (the dough is fermented for 48 hours so it’s easier to digest, and a blend of crunchy and doughy), and a beet salad to meet your veggie quota. Plus, the complimentary homemade limoncello is a perfect ending after the hazelnut and pistachio gelato!
Now depending on your mood, some options for where they night may lead you—
WINE + CHILL
Head to natural wine bar, LoLo, and enjoy a nice, funky bottle on their cozy and hipstery patio. They also always have fun food pop-ups on Monday nights or producers in town every so often so stay tuned to their Instagram.
There’s a new Easy Tiger outpost with tons of seating, great pretzels and beer, and a chill vibe.
DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION
Swing by a local fave country bar, White Horse, for a two-step lesson and live music. It’s usually a local crowd there for a good time. Beers or whiskey, pool or swing dancing with strangers, there’s something for everyone. If you are ever looking to party post midnight, this place will always be hopping. Outer Heaven down the street, which has a DJ and more intimate brush up on your neighbor vibe, is also a worthy stop when you want to let it all out. Looking for more live music? Check out all the best places to listen to live music in Austin in my most up to date article here.
Head to Sahara Lounge for dancing and music. They host ‘Africa Night’ every Saturday with a buffet of African-inspired cuisine, music and dancing ‘til 2 AM.
Head to Justine’s Brasserie. It’s the perfect amount of bougie, but mostly just low-key cool as the staff and guests are all interesting—explains why it’s where I take my New York friends who visit Austin to hang. I’d save my best outfit for here (fur is for sure welcome in the winter, and they’ve got an amazing heated tent with gorgeous chandeliers that make the room pop). The burger is memorable and will put you over the edge, so go for mussels + frites for something lighter if need be. I’d also get the beef tartare and crab salad to share, and don’t forget the espresso martini for a nightcap.
Not on the east side, but not too far either, the Commodore Perry Estate has a lovely fire to cozy up next to with your cocktail of choice.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
Koko’s Bavarian is a new biergarten and restaurant serving traditional German fare with Texas smoked meats, beers, six brewed in house, and a full bar. So all you beer fanatics, rejoice, and all the others can still enjoy mixed drinks, good food, and great company. It’s authenticity reins from one of the co-owners Koko, who is the actual Prince of Bavaria as his 5th great grandfather is King Ludwig I whose wedding was the start of Oktoberfest.
Whisler’s on East Sixth St. has a nice and warm winter tent as well. Belly up to the bar inside for a look at their lodge-y holiday decor and seasonal cocktail menu with some variation of a hot toddy guaranteed. Feeling spicy? Sneak upstairs to Mezcalería Tobalá for copitas y mas. It’s intimate and feels like you are in fact in a speakeasy in Mexico City.
Because you can never have too many breakfast tacos…If you’ve got time, take a trip back to South Congress for Joann’s breakfast tacos and crazy good hash browns. Walk it off and visit some of the boutiques on the block or pop-up markets from local artisans selling fun jewelry, coasters, dog collars, branded Austin stuff, and the stuff you never knew you needed. If you’re in luck, Jo’s Coffee might be having their Sinner’s Brunch, a low key gathering of music and locals, so head over for a cup of joe and some live music. If not, Güero’s Taco Bar has live music on their outdoor shaded patio with tamales, tacos, queso, beer, and margaritas usually Thursday-Sunday.
We’ve hands down got the best airport food, and I’d recommend a Taco Deli taco to-go. More of a yogurt and granola type breakfast eater? Annie’s Cafe has plenty of tables to enjoy your meal outside the terminal. There’s also a Jo’s Coffee if you’re going for straight caffeine, and JuiceLand for smoothies and juices. (Their Recovery Punch is a beloved cure-all). Also, it’s never too early for Amy’s Ice Cream Mexican Vanilla with Oreos and M&M’s.