What are the "must" See/Do/Restaurants? Should we rent a car? Drive and spend a day in San Antonio? We like visual and performing arts, culture, history, architecture, archaeology, wine, food, nature ...
There's plenty to do in Austin and it's surrounding areas. If you like BBQ I recommend The Salt Lick in Driftwood. Its a laid back joint where you can BYOB, hang out with friends and eat some good food. There are plenty of live music and theater events as well. Check out One World Theatre and Zachary Scott Theater Center. You can also take a day trips to many natural springs and state parks. Most are within 90 minutes from downtown. Krause Springs and Hamilton Pool are both nice. If that isn't enough, you can take a trip to Fredericksburg (Texas) for wine tasting, fine dining, picking your own fresh fruit from participating orchards, antique shopping and a bunch of other stuff.
Mentioned in this answer:
Hi Mary Ann,
My sister and I spent a week in Austin last April! We were looking to escape the chilly Boston spring but didn't want an island destination. Austin was perfect! We spent a few days by our hotel pool, and the others shopping, exploring, eating out, hiking and paddle boarding! We didn't rent a car, but I can see how it would be nice to venture outside of the city for a day trip!
My top recommendations are below and my full trip summary is on my blog BostonianBrit.
- Zilker Park One of my favorite days in Austin was spent hiking around Zilker Park. From the park entrance you can walk on trails for miles. When we were there last April there was a drought so the waterfalls and natural pools were fairly nonexistent but it was still very worth it!
- Texas Rowing Center Paddle boarding at Texas Rowing Club we had such a fun time paddle boarding down the Colorado River! It was an inexpensive cool way to get some fresh air and exercise and see Austin from a whole new perspective!
- S Congress Ave lots of fun shopping! A mix of nice boutiques, cowboy boots, ice cream shops and random Texas paraphernalia
- Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill My favorite Austin dining experience! Chicken & Waffles!!!! Moonshine & Homemade rootbeer!!! Very local seeming, very reasonable prices!
Tacodeli This random little lunch chain was one of my favorite meals in Austin! Tacos made with fresh healthy, tasty ingredients.
- Four Seasons- Nice for an early evening cocktail or Champagne on the lawn over looking the river
Mentioned in this answer:
SO many things. This is a unique city with a lot to offer.
Firstly, you should decide what you want your trip to be about - just Austin or a full South Texas experience? If you're just there for three days, there is plenty to keep you busy for the whole trip just in Austin.
1. Stay downtown. If you can afford it your experience is going to be worlds different (and more enjoyable) than staying anywhere else. There are some reasonable hotels and a lot of great Air BNB locations. Shoot for south of the Capital, north (or just south of) of Lady Bird lake.
2. Eat good food. Go to Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill, but get there early and try it on a weekday to beat the crowd. Another answerer recommended Salt Lick BBQ. It's fantastic, BYOB, but be aware that it is cash only. Get cash before if you don't want to be slammed by an ATM fee there. Also, try something from a food truck park. There are several good ones depending on your tastes, so a quick Google search will help you pick. I also recommend trying some Tex-Mex, like Matt's Famous El Rancho. You'll find that Texas' brand of Mexican food is quite a bit different (read: better) than that on the west coast. Someone recommended The Oasis on Lake Travis. This place is huge and exists for tourists, and you're definitely (over-) paying for the experience. The food and service is less than amazing, and since the lake has suffered through the last 5 years of drought, even the views are lackluster unless you get a great sunset (which, admittedly, are frequent).
3. See the sights. For nature, visit Zilker Park and Barton Springs Pool, or if you want some real hiking, you can take a trail through the Barton Creek Wilderness Park. If you stay downtown, you can take a morning walk, run, or bike ride on the trail around Lady Bird Lake (a must every time I visit). Also, kayaking the lake downtown is a fantastic way to spend a sunny afternoon. Drive out to the Lake Austin - 360 Bridge Overlook and snap some photos.
4. Experience the "Weird." Go to the show at Esther's Follies on 6th street. Walk down S Congress Ave and visit some of the local shops and get a burger at Hopdoddy, voted as one of the best in the country. See the Texas State Capitol and picnic on the grounds around it. If you want some nightlife Rainey Street is the more mature alternative to 6th Street, or there are several excellent hotel lounges, like The W Austin Hotel's bar.
5. Texas Hill Country. The only reason to go to San Antonio is to walk the Riverwalk and enjoy some food and drinks, or to go to SixFlags. If you really want that experience, it's a 75 minute drive without traffic. But if you're in to wine, I would suggest heading to Hye, Texas which is just outside of Fredericksburg. There are several wineries there that offer tours and you'll be able to get the small Texas town shopping experience in Fredericksburg. You can also stop by Texas' first bourbon distillery, Garrison Brothers Distillery which offers a fantastic tour.
If you do the Hill Country or San Antonio, you'll want a rental car. If you concentrate your experience in the downtown Austin area, consider Uber and Lyft, which are very active. There is also a great bike sharing program in Austin and downtown is very walkable.
As you can tell, there's a lot to do in Austin and the surrounding areas. Check out http://www.freefuninaustin.com/ to see if there are any special events in town that week. The city is also home to numerous festivals, so see if anything is going on while you're there.
Mentioned in this answer:
Zilker Park is a MUST SEE during this time of year!! Plan to have at least a drink and appetizer at The Oasis on Lake Travis on a pretty day in the evening to watch the sunset. Austin has so much to see and do, and is much better than San Antonio in my opinion. I lived in Austin for 13 years, and we go and visit once or twice a year every year!