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If you are planning to visit Austin and wondering what to do when you get there, this guide is for you! Austin is the State Capital of Texas, known mostly for it’s eclectic music scene, and the University of Texas, it also boasts parks and lakes that are popular for hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking (and more!) and some of the best BBQ and Tacos in the state. Add in outdoor art installations, great museums and the bonus of a couple of annual music festivals and you’re in for an awesome 48 hours in Austin no matter what time of year you visit! Keep reading for our run down of the top things to do in Austin, the best places to stay in Austin and a few suggestions of where and what to eat whilst you’re in the city to help you plan the perfect city break.
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A Guest Post by Yulia from The Foodie Miles
The moment I moved to Austin I started making must-do and must-see lists. Almost two years later, although I am constantly scratching points off, my lists have grown bigger, not smaller. 48 hours might not be enough to cover all the awesomeness of the capital of Texas, but it’s a good amount of time to get the first impression and feel the vibe of the city. I am going to help you choose the best things to do in Austin and the most delicious foods to eat so you’ll want to come back for more!
Table of Contents
- 1 Great Things to do in Austin
- 1.1 Take a tour of Capitol Building
- 1.2 Walk Down South Congress Avenue
- 1.3 Explore Hope Outdoor Gallery
- 1.4 Shop at Whole Foods Flagship Store
- 1.5 Take a Look at the City from Mount Bonnell
- 1.6 Watch Bats under Congress Bridge
- 1.7 Kayak on Lady Bird Lake
- 1.8 Swim in Barton Springs Pool
- 1.9 Listen to Live Music on Sixth Street
- 1.10 Austin Museums
- 2 Where To Stay In Austin
- 3 What and Where to Eat in austin
Great Things to do in Austin
Take a tour of Capitol Building
You’ll probably walk by or drive by Texas State Capitol on more than one occasion while in Austin, but I encourage you to go inside and take a free tour. It only lasts 30 minutes, but you are bound to learn a lot about the history of the city and see the hidden corners of the building you wouldn’t find on your own. Texas State Capitol is a National Historic Landmark and, at 302 feet, is actually taller than the US Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Once you’ve finished the free tour, why not hop on a Segway Tour of the area where you’ll get an overview of things to do in downtown Austin along with some epic photo ops of the Capitol Building, Congress Avenue and LadyBird Lake – to name a few! Or if you don’t think your balance is up to it, join a short, Best of Austin Bus Tour where you’ll learn about the art, music, culture, food, history, parks, and famous residents of Austin, and how the locals live up to the slogan ‘Keep Austin Weird.’
Walk Down South Congress Avenue
South Congress Avenue from Nellie Street to Mary Street is a lively part of town famous for its many boutique shops, local restaurants with comfy patios, and street art. Take a picture in front of the famous “I love you so much” sign on the wall of Jo’s Coffee. Try on cowboy boots at Allens. Eat every kind of candy imaginable at Big Top Candy Shop. Get lost in the many vintage shops. If you are looking for a place to eat, there’s a number of food trucks along the way like Burro Cheese, Hey Cupcake! and Crepes Mille. For a good cup of coffee head to TOMS Roasting Co.
Explore Hope Outdoor Gallery
Hands down, one of my favorite places in Austin. This outdoor street art gallery is located in the city center and overlooks Texas State Capitol. I can’t help but admire the owner of this land who chose to give the space to artists instead of building a property here. The best part is that murals are painted over and over again, so every time you come to the gallery you will see new art works.
Shop at Whole Foods Flagship Store
Austin is where it all started! Frankly speaking, you don’t even have to shop at Whole Foods (you might accidentally leave your whole paycheck there as the popular joke goes), just come in and wander around. This is the most amazing supermarket you’ll ever see. I don’t have to mention that it has all things local, natural and organic. What’s amazing is that you will find a BBQ restaurant, a taco joint, a sushi bar and a coffee shop inside. In summer months you might enjoy a yoga session, while in winter ice skating on the rooftop is available. As unbelievable as it sounds, Whole Foods Flagship store is the most photographed place in Austin!
Take a Look at the City from Mount Bonnell
Image c/o Flickr Creative Commons
Climb 106 steps up a historical staircase to reach the top of Mount Bonnell and enjoy the views of Colorado River. The gorgeous residences along its shores might make you slightly envious. Don’t listen to your inner voice, you don’t need a million dollar house overlooking the river. On the bright side, there are picnic tables on top of Mount Bonnell. Planning your visit around sunset time and bringing a couple of sandwiches or fruits is a good idea!
Watch Bats under Congress Bridge
Watching bats fly from under Congress Bridge is one of the most iconic things to do in Austin. What you should know is that watching bats is a seasonal activity. Season runs from March to November with peak being late July – early August when you can see 1,5 million bats at sunset. You can simply come to Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge around 8 pm and stand along the sidewalk of the bridge to see the bats. The Austin-American Statesman Park on the south-east side of the bridge is also open to public. The best view, though, is from the river boat that floats right under the bridge. You can buy a 1-hour sunset cruise from Lone Star Riverboat Cruises and enjoy the view without crowds around you; or if you want to really have some space around you – you can join a Sunset Kayak Tour! I just don’t recommend this if you’re likely to get panicky when the bats fly – you don’t want to start waving your arms about and end up capsizing!
Kayak on Lady Bird Lake
Do like the locals do! Rent a kayak or a boat and go swimming on Lady Bird Lake. This is one of the most favorite summer activities for Austinites. On hot summer days you will see hundreds of kayaks on the lake that is located right in the city center. And if you’re not a fan of the water, you can always join a bike ride around the lake to get your exercise fix.
Swim in Barton Springs Pool
Another way to have a refreshing swim right in the middle of the busy city center! Barton Springs Pool is an outdoor swimming pool that is filled with water from nearby natural springs. Non-resident fee is $8, but if you come between 5 and 8 a.m. or 9 and 10 p.m. no fee is charged. Food and drinks are not allowed inside, but you can pack a light breakfast and have a picnic afterwards in Zilker Park nearby, which is seriously one of the best parks in Austin TX.
Listen to Live Music on Sixth Street
There’s a reason why Austin is called “live music capital of the world”! Take advantage of the many bars, pubs and clubs on the Sixth Street at night. The most popular stretch of the Sixth Street runs from Congress Avenue to I-35. Locals refer to it as Dirty Sixth. You’ll be able to find live performances here pretty much any day of the week and if you want to know where they hottest acts are each night, consider joining a Live Music Crawl – led by a local musician it provides a great overview of the Sixth Street for first time visitors.
Austin museums might not be on the top of Trip Advisor list, but they are well worth your time! Learn more about the history of Texas at The Bullock Texas State History Museum, admire masterpieces from around the world at Blanton Museum of Art, or visit Harry Ransom Center at University of Texas in Austin. The latter is always free of charge.
Where To Stay In Austin
Luxury – Archer Hotel Austin ($240+ per night)
Experience Texas chic and Southern hospitality at Archer Hotel Austin, the newest boutique hotel near The Domain in Austin, Texas. All 171 rooms offer thoughtful touches like espresso makers and pillow menus, as well as comforts such as pillowtop beds and Egyptian cotton sheets. Other amenities available to guests include free WiFi, MP3 docks, and TVs alongside a full-service spa, a restaurant, and an outdoor pool and Free WiFi in public areas.
Book Now | Compare Reviews for Later | Read Trip Advisor Reviews
Mid-Range – Residence Inn Downtown ($150-$200 Per Night)
The southern hospitality, free breakfast and Wi-Fi, saltwater pool, full kitchens and evening socials welcome guests with open arms. The 12-story Residence Inn features 179 suites offering queen-size beds with premium bedding, sofa beds, desks, dining tables and full kitchens, as well as flat-panel TVs, free Wi-Fi and complimentary grocery shopping services
Book Now | Compare Reviews for Later | Read Trip Advisor Reviews
Budget – Hampton Inn & Suites ($80-$100 per night)
Boasting a rooftop pool, free Wi-Fi and complimentary breakfast on the long list of amenities, the non-smoking Hampton Inn & Suites Austin is located less than one mile from the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas State Capitol.
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What and Where to Eat in austin
It would be a sin to leave Austin without trying the famous Texas BBQ! There are numerous BBQ joints around the city. Which one to choose depends on your taste and priorities. If you want to try the most famous BBQ in the state and, perhaps, the whole country, head to Franklin BBQ in East Austin. Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain are only some of their famous customers. But be prepared to stay in line for at least 4 hours!
If you don’t want to wait in line, Freedmen’s is a great place for you. This BBQ restaurant and cocktail lounge was named one of the 50 best BBQ joints by Texas Monthly this year.
If you are looking for something creative, check out LeRoy and Lewis that serves unusual meats and cuts in South Austin. Instead of traditional brisket and ribs you will find beef cheeks and quail stuffed with macaroni and cheese on their menu!
Another must-eat food in Austin, especially if we are talking about breakfast tacos. Try migas taco at Veracruz All Natural that was named one of the 5 best breakfast tacos in USA. For local’s favorite head to Taco Deli or Torchy’s Tacos and order something off their secret menu. Pro-tip: their secret menu is not so secret and you can find it in Internet. To have the best combination imaginable – tacos filled with BBQ – check out Valentina’s in South Austin!
A few quick ideas/Recommendations of where to Eat in Austin:
Chuy’s @ 1728 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704
24 Diner @ 600 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
Kerbey Lane @ 2606 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705
Magnolia @ 1920 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
Coffee shop with Austin vibes: Spider House Café
- Groupon have awesome local deals for Austin and is updated all the time – from massages and beauty treatments, to dining deals and money off things to do. Check out their local deals and see where you can save some cash on things you already planned to do!
- Tour search engine Viator offers affordable organized tours to see different parts of Austin
- TicketNetwork and SeatGeek list the best events going on in Austin – see if there is anything special on during your trip!
So there you have it a full run-down of the Top Things To Do in Austin along with suggestions for where to stay and what to eat. I hope you now have loads of ideas for how best to spend your 48 Hours in Austin Tx.[table “27” not found /]
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Hi There! Thanks for reading our 48 Hours in Austin City Guide! I just wanted to let you know that this post contains affiliate links, which help support this site at absolutely no cost to you. If you enjoyed this article and are going to be searching for some of the things I mention anyway, I would love it if you could click through from the links above. These links help me keep this site online and updated – so thank you in advance! Read my full Disclosure here.
Yulia is a Russian food and travel blogger who is currently based in Austin, Texas. She is the kind of person who starts a research of the new country by googling “what to eat in…” instead of “what to visit in…” She will spend hours reading on the origins of pecan pie before trying it and she doesn’t consider waiting in line of 50 people to get a cronut a waste of time. She finds it hard to keep her delicious findings to herself and that is the reason why her blog The Foodie Miles exists.