bat bridge sunset

Weekend Getaway: How to Spend Three Days in Austin, According to a Local

Austin contrasts natural scenery and a creative spirit with tech innovation. The tech industry boomed after migrating from Silicon Valley, California, to Silicon Hills, aka Austin, Texas. Facebook and PayPal are here, alongside Tesla’s Gigafactory and Google’s building.

Apart from Texas’s generally conservative state, Austin is a liberal oasis. Its motto is “Keep Austin Weird,” with diverse neighborhoods and a quirky soul.

Austin is home to nature enthusiasts and some of the best restaurants north of the Rio Grande River. The self-proclaimed ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ offers many activities, but how do you decide what to do? This is your 3-day guide to having a Texas-sized time in the capital city.

Arrival

airport airplane
Image Credit: Peshkova and Depositphotos

If you’re flying into Austin, you’ll land at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport, about 7 miles east of downtown. If you’re not renting a car for your getaway, you’ll get to your rideshare by traversing through the terminal, out the main gates, and making about a half-mile trek to where you’ll be picked up. The way is well marked, but I’ll be honest, it is one of the worst-designed aspects of the newly renovated airport, so you’ll have to grin and bear it.

You don’t need to rent a car if you want to stay in town for your trip. However, if you plan to stay near Lake Travis or go on day adventures outside the city, I recommend renting one and not relying on Uber or Lyft. Texas isn’t known for its city transport, so expect to rely on something other than that while visiting. 

Areas of Town

greetings from austin mural
Image Credit: Julie Royce.

There are several different areas of town that are the best to stay in or be close to. These various parts offer casual to high-end shopping and excellent restaurants and are usually great for walking and people-watching. 

Soco/Sola

soco store
Image Credit: Julie Royce.

South Congress and South Lamar (SoCo & SoLa) are two thoroughfares that run parallel south of downtown. Both areas boast many new and vintage stores, excellent restaurants and coffee shops, and great people-watching while you explore. 

Downtown

downtown austin texas
Image Credit: Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock.

With a rapidly growing skyline, downtown blends historical architecture, such as the Driskill Hotel, with modern development, like the Independent Austin Condos, with a Lego-like appearance; this area has much to offer. Check out the fun retail, such as Hemline and UAL on 2nd Street, or catch a Jazz show at the Parker on 4th Street.

East

suerte bar at dusk
Image Credit: Suerte.

Austin’s fastest-growing neighborhood is a hotspot with a diverse blend of shops, food trucks/eateries, bars, and galleries. Whisler’s offers finely curated craft cocktails, while Suerte serves the best interior Mexican food.

Look for Ace of Cup Apothecary and Something Cool Art Gallery on Cesar Chavez and Charm School Vintage on 11th Street.

Central

atown shop austin
Image Credit: Julie Royce.

Central Austin has much to offer, including several neighborhoods like Mueller, Allandale, Brentwood, and Rosedale. Most of it is residential, but you can take advantage of the vintage shops on North Loop, fabulous spots in Mueller, such as Lila & Beth, Rebel Cheese, and L’Oca d’Oro, or ATown Gifts & More on Burnet Rd.

North

the domain austin
Image Credit: Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock.

Austin’s Northside is home to The Domain, an outdoor mall with chain stores and regional brands. Louis Vuitton and Neiman Marcus are there for some high-end retail therapy; for sneakerheads, there is always Golden Goose to check out.

Day One

street view south congress
Image Credit: Julie Royce.

I recommend the following itinerary for your first day in Austin. It’s a great way to taste the city and stretch your legs.

Shop

allen boots
Image Credit: Julie Royce.

Start the day by walking up and down the South Congress (SoCo) shopping district stretching from Music Lane to Mary Street. Here, you can shop at higher-end stores like Hermes or local shops like Feather’s Vintage Boutique. 

For men’s fashion, check out STAG Men’s Clothing. And don’t forget to get a pair of cowboy boots at Allen’s, the family-owned business that has hundreds of boots, cowboy hats, and clothing available. You can’t leave Texas without at least a pair of boots or a hat. 

Eat

aba restaurant
Image Credit: Julie Royce.

If you’re not already aware, getting a table at a popular restaurant as a walk-in has become much more difficult since the beginning of the pandemic. Reservations are a must, so ensure you secure those reservations at the must-try places before your trip.

For a great brunch or lunch, stop by Joann’s Fine Foods and enjoy its southern Tex-Mex-style menu while sipping a delicious cocktail on the patio or at its retro counter. After lunch, grab some Amy’s Ice Cream, make a reservation at Aba’s, the best Mediterranean food in town, and delight in its beautiful outdoor space.

See

willie for president sign
Image Credit: Julie Royce.

The Continental Club or C Boy’s Heart & Soul are Austin live music venues in SoCo. These rocking joints provide excellent nightlife entertainment for rockabilly, country and western, and Texas blues and rock. Dance the night away and hang out with some very cool locals and visitors.

As the sun sets, make your way to the South Congress Bridge, where it intersects with Cesar Chavez, to witness the incredible departure of the Mexican bats that fly out in droves from under the bridge to do their nighttime hunting of mosquitos. It’s an impressive sight to behold.  

Day Two

barton springs pool
Image Credit: stock_photo_world/Shutterstock.

On day two of your visit, head to the South 1st Street food truck park and enjoy brunch at Biscuits + Groovy. Their selections of the M.C. Hammer and the Johnny Hash will have you drooling for years to come.  Afterward, go to Barton Springs Pool to relax and rejuvenate in the natural-fed spring that stays a refreshing 68-70 degrees all year round. It’s located just south of downtown in Zilker Park and is fun for the whole family. 

If you’re lucky, judges will be there to rate your skills as you plunge off the diving board. When you’ve had your fill of sunshine and rest, grab some fall-off-the-bone BBQ ribs from Terry Black’s up the road, or hop across to the other side of the street and enjoy some delicious fried chicken at Lou’s.

Day Three

clarksville austin texas
Image Credit: J.Rangubphai/Shutterstock.

On your final day in my fair city, I highly recommend spending time in the historic Clarksville neighborhood, just west of downtown. Founded in 1871 by freedman Charles Clark, Clarksville is the oldest surviving freedman’s town west of the Mississippi. The historic district was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 to recognize its unique and valuable history.

Shop

waterloo records
Image Credit: Julie Royce.

My favorite locally-owned record store, Waterloo Records, is located in Clarksville. Often showcasing live musical acts and listening parties of popular musicians, this spot will have something for everybody. This neighborhood houses the original Whole Foods Market, along with the local boutique Good Company and the bookstore Book People. 

Eat

clarks oyster bar
Image Credit: Lynne Neuman/Shutterstock.

Two of the best restaurants in town are located in Clarksville, so you must reserve your spot ahead of time at either of them, if not both. They are that good. Clark’s Oyster Bar has the city’s best oysters and lobster rolls. 

However, if it’s Italian you’re craving, you must try Sammie’s for excellent family-style red sauce dining on West 6th Street. If you’re looking for a late night, pop into Howard’s Bar for one of their superb martinis and lively crowd.

See

west chelsea contemporary
Image Credit: West Chelsea Contemporary.

West Chelsea Contemporary and Wally Workman’s art galleries on 6th St are must-sees while in this neighborhood. Although they are two very different galleries, both are brimming with incredible work, from more raw urban pop art, like Banksy and Ai Wei Wei, to contemporary, fine art featuring the works of Ellen Heck and Patrick Puckett.

Honorable Mentions

austin texas skyline.
Image Credit: Roschetzky Photography and Shutterstock

There are so many fabulous spots to check out and dine at that there isn’t enough time in three days. If none of this sounds appealing to you, here are some other options to enjoy.

DeNada Cantina

denada cantina
Image Credit: DeNada Cantina.

DeNada Cantina, situated in deep east Austin, has been serving some of the most flavorful Mexican-style street tacos since it opened in 2021. 

Guests can choose from a variety of tacos served on homemade blue corn tortillas and accompanied by a selection of three fabulous salsas. Don’t miss out on the delicious queso and the killer margaritas they serve. And make sure to grab a “pink cup” before you leave!

Jo’s Coffeeshop

i love you so much
Image Credit: Julie Royce.

While exploring SoCo, stop by Jo’s Coffeeshop and grab an iced turbo. Be sure to snap a picture in front of the iconic “I love you so much” sign.

Bob Bullock Museum

bob bullock museum
Image Credit: GSPhotography/Shutterstock.

Located near the state capital at 1800 Congress Avenue, the Bob Bullock Museum is a fabulous one-stop shop for all things Texas history. The Texas Story Project offers first-person stories of the Lone Star state because the memories and experiences of its people, places, and objects contribute to a better understanding of the generations that came before us.

With a passion for travel, great food, and beautiful art, Julie put aside her 15-year career in the tech industry and dove head-first into a more creative sphere. Utilizing her degree in Communications, she is pursuing freelance writing. An avid traveler, Julie has experience writing and documenting the amazing spots she has visited and explored, the delicious food she has tasted, and the incredible art she has admired and purchased! When she’s not writing, she can be spotted around Austin, TX, at various art gallery openings, having a delicious meal with her husband and friends, and playing with her two dogs.