Local's Guide to Austin, Texas
Arts & Culture
Here are the best spots in the city.
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Where to stay around Austin, Texas
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South Congress Hotel
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Things to do around Austin, Texas
South Congress Avenue
Explore local restaurants and retailers on one of Austin's most famous streets. Find great Tex Mex alongside street performers, unique shops and retro signs. You haven't been to Austin until you've visited SoCo!
Odessa: Among Austin's many cultural scenes you'll find a community of crystal chargers, sound bathers and avid yogis. Odessa is a great spot to grab a unique souvenir that honors Austin's alternative medicine population. Crystals, jewelry, handmade organic scents and "ritual packages" with sage, candles and tarot cards can be found here.
Parts & Labour: Even Austinites love this Austin souvenir shop for its irreverent take on the city. P&L supports local artists and makers (100% of their shop consists of merchandise from Austin) and they have great stuff. Find fun t-shirts, beautiful screen-printed posters and one-of-a-kind knick knacks sure to be conversation starters when you bring them back home.
South Lamar is typically lower on the tourist list for Austin, given its tricky walkability, but don't skip it. You'll find some outstanding restaurants and some tucked away places that most visitors don't know about.
Book People: Located across the street from Whole Foods HQ, Book People sits on the original spot of the world's very first Whole Foods location. You can even still see the big fruit and veggie sculptures atop the Book People parking garage. Come in just to read staff recommendations and nestle into a corner for a couple of hours with a good book. There's a good on-site café for a quick caffeine fix, and there's a sizable local Texas author section.
Waterloo Records: You haven't been to Austin until you've visited Waterloo. Honoring Austin's original city name (Waterloo), Waterloo Records is chock full of vinyl, CDs, tapes and fun Austin-centric souvenirs. You'll even find VHS and DVDs in the back of the store, the last vestiges of which were formerly a separate, equally cool Waterloo Video located around the corner. Another good spot for celebrity sightings, Waterloo is ground zero for live in-store shows during SXSW and ACL Fest.
Downtown / Warehouse District
Austin Central Public Library: It's worth visiting a library on your trip. Even though you can't check anything out, visit one of the nation's best libraries while you're here. The open atrium is a can't-miss and the rooftop butterfly garden provides one of the best views of the city and Lady Bird Lake. Stop by Cookbook, the in-library café, for a quick snack. Everything on the menu can be found in one of the cookbooks in the library.
2nd Street: 2nd and Lavaca is the epicenter of the Warehouse District, a relatively new addition to Austin's downtown that's been slowly growing over the past 20 years. You'll find local shops and great restaurants along this tree-lined street. Don't miss the statue of Willie Nelson outside of the Moody Theater, where every ACL Live taping is filmed.
Lady Bird Lake: There are several ways to experience Lady Bird Lake, but the most low-key is simply to walk the path alongside the river. You can easily enter the path at the Congress / Caesar Chavez intersection and walk the path to see the city from a different vantage point. If you want to kayak or grab a stand-up paddle board, you can also find rental spots along the walking path.
Day trips from Austin
If you have an extra day or two in Austin, check out one of these nearby towns: Fredericksburg, Wimberley, New Braunfels, San Marcos and San Antonio.
Places to eat & drink around Austin, Texas
South Congress Avenue
Stop by Jo's Coffee to snag an Iced Turbo — an addicting iced coffee blend of cold brew, hazelnut and chocolate.
Pro Tip: While you're there, take a quick pic in front of the famous "I love you so much" wall. Now a well-known Instagram spot, this wall started as an apology letter between the managers of two Jo's Coffee locations and has been preserved to commemorate their relationship. Super sweet story to go along with an adorable coffee stand.
Güero's Taco Bar: Not the *best* Tex-Mex in Austin, but it's a great spot with a can't-miss atmosphere. Hang out at the inside bar for celebrity sightings (Pierce Brosnan and Matthew McConaughey are frequent visitors) and enjoy a frozen margarita, but don't call them "margs" or "ritas" unless you want to stand out as a tourist.
Neighborhood Sushi: A great spot with fish shipped in daily, and the bar can't be beat. Neighborhood has perhaps the most extensive sake menu in the entire city, and the service here is unmatched.
South Congress Hotel Bar: Come for the vibes and stay for the surprisingly delicious appetizers. Get the hummus platter (it's addicting, you'll want to order two), and chat with the friendly bartenders. Most beers are on tap and local and the cocktails are well-made. Check online for rotating happy hours to snag some great deals, even on the weekends.
East Sixth Street
Skip West 6th and "Dirty 6th" and head to the best part of Austin's (in)famous Sixth Street — the East Side!
Buenos Aires Café: A family-owned restaurant specializing in Argentinian food. Great for carnivores, not as great of an option if you're vegan or vegetarian. No matter your diet, this place has an open, airy atmosphere and an excellent, affordable wine list.
Whisler's: Don't sleep on this bar — it's smack in the middle of several other great East Sixth spots (hello, Lazarus Brewing) but is a can't-miss stop all on its own. Come here for the craft cocktails and indescribable interior bar, stay for the secret tequila tasting room upstairs. Ask your bartender for details on how to get in.
South Lamar Avenue
Tiki Tatsu-ya: Hidden behind Austin's best local ramen chain, Ramen Tatsu-ya, you'll find the city's best new tiki bar. This place is tough to snag reservations for, so be sure to book well in advance. Once you're inside, you're transported to the 1950s and surrounded by tiki culture in every nook and cranny. Order a punch bowl cocktail to share and watch how the tiki gods approve (or disapprove) of your choice. Set aside at least two hours for this experience. You're not going to want to leave once you settle in.
Loro: This counter-service spot is as if Austin's best BBQ and sushi places had a baby — because it is! Co-founded by the people behind Franklin BBQ and Uchi, Loro is the perfect spot to grab a chair, enjoy some frozen cocktails and sample a menu that will fit every palate, including vegetarians'.
Need to Know
Heading to Austin with your family? Be sure to check out this Austin guide: Family-Friendly Things to Do in Austin, Texas!
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