Table of Contents
- 1 My Favorite 17 Things to do Austin – Understand
- 2 My Favorite 17 Things to do Austin – Get Around
- 3 My Favorite 17 Things to do Austin – Safety
- 4 My Favorite 17 Things to do Austin – Sights
- 5 My Favorite 17 Things to do Austin – Eat & Drink
- 6 My Favorite 17 Things to do Austin – Where to Stay
My Favorite 17 Things to do Austin – Understand
Austin is the blue dot inside a sea of redneck Texas; it’s easy to believe that this city is the best of both worlds. In a sense, it is – people in Austin are exceptionally friendly and warm and they combine the hipster-ish elements of Austin with the law and order appeal of the state.
Austin has become ground zero for food trucks and I have never seen as many of them in my life, spread all over the city.
Austin is blessed with a real city center and a magnificent river walk that provides a wonderful outdoors respite from the summer heat. There are plenty of dive bars and a good number of coffee meccas to keep you entertained as well.
This city is also relatively affordable; so what’s the hair in the soup here? Well, it can get boring quickly. Unless you have a job or a hobby that endears you to Austin, you will eventually become less excited about the small town attitude. However, for short-term visitors that is no concern at all.
I missed a bit of the drive to excellence in Austin – maybe it’s the size of the city (although SF is the same size) or the weather, but I wasn’t sure what was missing.
My Favorite 17 Things to do Austin – Get Around
Traffic is well-organized and runs pretty well outside the rush hours. Uber and Lyft are back in town now, since June 1st 2017. I visited just four days after the service resumed following a long hiatus and amazingly never waited more than 2 minutes for a driver. Since distances are small, Uber charges are small too.
It’s still a good idea to rent a car here, though, especially if you are sensitive to the 100+ degrees in summer.
My Favorite 17 Things to do Austin – Safety
This is still Texas and the state’s law and order principle has largely kept crime at bay. I would not worry about crime in Austin at all.
My Favorite 17 Things to do Austin – Sights
The jewel of urban living in Austin is the river walk that features shaded gravel paths on both sides of the Colorado River. Some sections have excellent views of the downtown area as well.
Combined with the constant summer weather, it does not get much better than this as an urban oasis. If you like, take a stand up paddle board or a water bike out for a spin here as well.
Barton Springs is a spin-off of the Colorado River and the pools are fed by the icy waters that the river features even in summer.
The pools are strictly watched; there must have been a dozen lifeguards on duty when I was there, making sure not a single kid ran too fast. It’s rather expensive at $8 for non-residents but if you say you’re a resident (just mumble) it is only $3. If you bring kids to Austin, they won’t get enough of this city sanctuary.
The historic Austin campus is a great place to explore by yourself but you can take a student-led public tour free of charge if you prefer. The 2-mile route takes in the iconic UT Tower, views of the Texas State Capitol and even inside a classroom.
Take a break at the Turtle Pond in the university grounds just north of the Tower. It’s a part of the Tower Garden memorial, which is dedicated to the victims of the 1966 tower shootings.
The Capitol building and grounds is a must-do while in Austin. You can explore nearly 22 acres of the park-like setting, including visiting the Capitol and Visitors Center, as well as various fountains and monuments.
This Texan cinema chain has been voted the number one theater in America and is famous for its delicious food and drinks, including fried pickles, cauliflower wings and adult milkshakes. However, Alamo is also well-known for its strict enforcement of rules. They will kick you out for using your phone while the film is on and refuse to show advertisements on the big screen.
This downtown location, the Ritz, is one of 26 cinemas to offer unique events as well as standard film showings. There’s Q&A sessions with directors, Quote-Along nights where you can shout out your favorite lines and Weird Wednesdays and Terror Tuesdays that cost an amazing $1!
My Favorite 17 Things to do Austin – Eat & Drink
If you think San Francisco has too many food trucks then prepare yourself for a deluge. Austin must have hundreds of semi-fixed food trucks offering everything under the sun. The trouble is that the movement has gone mainstream a bit too fast; many of the items I tried were less artisan than I expected (for food trucks anyways).
Patika was my favorite during my time in Austin. This small coffee shop in a VERY suburban location doubles as a lovely brunch place with a perfect patio.
It’s tucked in between two nondescript buildings but still exudes real atmosphere – oh and the coffee and pastries are heavenly too.
Fleet Coffee was one of my favorite places here as well. It’s hidden in a neighborhood that must have been largely forgotten a few years ago. The space is small but polished concrete and a fridge-cold AC give it an interesting vibe. The coffee is very sour but well done and the fast WiFi helps get work done.
Chi’Lantro is all the rage right now as this Korean-style eatery emulates Chipotle but with Korean ingredients. I did not have time to eat here but locals all swear by it.
Torchy’s Tacos (multiple locations)
Torchy’s Tacos was all the rage about 10 years before Chipotle and the more persuasive taco culture appeared. It is still a great place to load up on Americanized tacos that come in huge portions for small amounts of money.
Juan Pelota is the extension of a huge (yes, everything is bigger in Texas) bicycle shop in downtown Austin. It’s a similar concept to Rapha Cycling Club (though this is driven by memberships). The coffee was good and the breakfast tacos attracted huge crowds over the weekend.
The atmosphere here was a bit too neutral for me, though.
The Ginger Man will hook you up – no, not with gingerbread but dozens of beers on tap and in bottles. If you can name it, they have it.
La Condesa (named after the excellent DF district in Mexico City) gets rave reviews for its upscale Mexican food. I didn’t make it for dinner here but if you’re in town, give it a try!
Houndstooth Coffee has several locations in Austin. This particular downtown location does not have much of a vibe to offer in this uber-modern glass building. The coffee is decent, though expensive, and the pastries looked stale.
The best thing here is the big space and free, very fast WiFi.
Koriente is a bunch of hipsters gone crazy on Korean food. The results are VERY unique – veggies blown all over your plate in shapes you have never seen before. I ordered a self-made wrap that was so huge that two people could not finish it. I never had food like this before and to this day I’m not sure if I liked it or not.
Easy Tiger is the uber-typical Austin dive bar next to the river and it’s also a bakery. The result is a fantastic German-style pretzel that reminded me of my old home. Perfect Bavarian sweet mustard comes with it and there’s a wide selection of beer and whiskey. It is also incredibly cheap. Great place to hang out with friends and get wasted.
Pueblo Viejo has the reputation for Austin’s best tacos and it is well-deserved. It was likely the most artisan place I tried during my trip. All the tacos we tried were excellent and you could just about taste the desire to make them special.
Veracruz rules the city with its breakfast tacos. Now I don’t eat eggs so I need to take other people’s word for it but the long lines ordering breakfast tacos at 3PM speak for themselves.
The Salt Lick has history – it’s been a constant barbecue place in Austin for 50 years. The original barbecue pit is still standing but there are plenty of additions now.
Salt Lick features original Texan-style barbecue and has now become a huge attraction. It hasn’t lost its original atmosphere, though. Prices are decent and portions are huge, so consider sharing one.
The only annoying part – bring cash as no credit cards are accepted… What?!
My Favorite 17 Things to do Austin – Where to Stay
I spent a night at the Hyatt Regency Austin, which I thought was an awesome hotel in a pretty location.
There is an abundance of chains right downtown – you will be spoiled for choice but room rates approach San Francisco levels and it is easy to spend $200 on a hotel alone. If you have a car, stay outside the city center since parking is expensive and hotels just 10 miles outside can be had for under $100.