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What are the must-sees in Austin?

My fiance and I are traveling to Austin for a 3 day trip during the last week of May. We like to do non-touristy activities that are usually known only by locals, and that give you a great feel for the city's culture. We enjoy indie rock, good food, and trying new craft beer. Any recommendations?

10 Answers

answered by

Check out Barton Springs Pool, a natural spring fed pool where the water comes out of the ground in at about 68 degrees.  I recognize going to a pool doesn't sound like a good use of time in Austin but it isn't like your typical city pool.  It was built in the early 1900's by pouring concrete into an old spring and feeds into the river.  It has large fish and water plants lining the bottom and is a favorite place in Austin when it gets hot.  Lay out under the trees on the grassy hill overlooking the pool and people watch.

For BBQ braving the line at Franklins BBQ is worth it.  They open at 11am but people start lining up around 8-830am and are usually sold out by 1030-1045 (if you want to be assured of trying everything get there by 9-915am).  By far the best BBQ in town.  You can avoid the line if you order large amounts to go a couple weeks in advance and this is a good idea if you have fiends in the area who can help you eat it.

Rainy Street for cocktails, Uncle Billy's for brewery and decent bbq.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Barton Springs Pool (attraction)
  2. Franklins BBQ (attraction)
  3. Uncle Billy's (attraction)
5 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Sean from Austin (Texas)

Red River District for live music - Cheer Up Charlies just moved over there, and they also have Mohawk, Holy Mountain, Swan Dive... Stubbs BBQ in considered part of this district as well, so if you want some meh BBQ before a show, it's as good as any. My favorite place to munch in Austin is Gourmands Neighborhood Pub. It's a pub off of East 7th, just sandwiches and soup, salads, etc. but mmm.... They have an excellent assortment of craft beer there as well, but if you want to try a brewery tour I would recommend Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company (ABGB) off of Oltorf, or Austin Beerworks in north Austin.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Red River District (attraction)
  2. Cheer Up Charlies (attraction)
  3. Mohawk (attraction)
  4. Holy Mountain (attraction)
  5. Swan Dive (attraction)
  6. Stubbs BBQ (restaurant)
  7. Gourmands Neighborhood Pub (attraction)
  8. Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company (attraction)
  9. Austin Beerworks (attraction)
4 thanks

answered by
Margot from Los Angeles

Good Food: Franklins BBQ is the best BBQ in Texas but eating there is a commitment; get in line at 9:30am for lunch (they sell out and then close for the day).  Torchy's Tacos has good breakfast tacos.  Kerbey Lane Café and Chuy's Restaurant have good queso.  Go to Hula Hut, a local favorite, for "Mexi-nesian" food.  The restaurant stretches out on a dock on the river - great place to relax with good food and beautiful scenery.  And, believe it or not, if you like sushi you should go to Uchi Restaurant and/or Uchiko.  Both are really excellent - order the Shag Roll.

Indie Rock: pick up a Chronicle and check out the music section for that week's recommendations.  It's a free weekly paper that comes out on Thursdays.  There are so many great places to see bands - the Chronicle will help you decide.

Craft Beer: I think you could go just about anywhere and order a good, local craft beer, but some of my favorite places are Little Woodrow's and The Ginger Man.

If you like to swim, check out Barton Springs Pool - it's a spring fed pool in a park downtown.  The temp of the water is always 68 so make sure you go on a hot day. 

Skip the bats - not that impressive.  If you must see the bats, bring an umbrella.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Franklins BBQ (attraction)
  2. Torchy's Tacos (restaurant)
  3. Kerbey Lane Café (restaurant)
  4. Chuy's Restaurant (restaurant)
  5. Hula Hut (restaurant)
  6. Uchi Restaurant (restaurant)
  7. Uchiko (restaurant)
  8. Little Woodrow's (attraction)
  9. The Ginger Man (attraction)
  10. Barton Springs Pool (attraction)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Aaron from Portland

In my opinion, the "touristy" things are also the things locals enjoy. There are a few hole-in-the-wall restaurants, but as far as getting a feel of the city, you should check out:

You might technically see tourists there, but you'll see just as many locals.

You'll definitely need to try some Tex-Mex.  Torchy's Tacos is a must. If you're looking to sit in the park and read, make it over to  Zilker Park.

Hope you enjoy your trip!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company (attraction)
  2. Barton Springs Pool (attraction)
  3. Hops & Grain (attraction)
  4. Torchy's Tacos (restaurant)
  5. Zilker Park (attraction)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Sami from Austin (Texas)

I will answer by giving walkable areas with lots of choices so you can explore on your own.  Suggest to pop in and out of places that look happening to you.  I wouldn't recommend doing Franklin's (why spend 4 hrs of your precious 3 days in line) or Salt Lick (way far South out of town). As sad as this is to say, I'd skip the Broken Spoke too unless you like to be treated like crap and pay a lot of a Lite beer served in a plastic cup.  It is typical-Texas honky tonk if you can overlook the rest. 

East Austin is really trendy now, park near East Side Showroom as center point. Rainey area is another trendy spot, start at Craft Pride if you choose this area (parking sux). South Congress is another area, Vespaio is great, but there are other places, let the crowds show you were to go. Super romantic hotel in that area is Hotel San Jose.  All three of these areas are uniquely Austin and are walkable so you can try a lot out.  Of course, downtown is always great too. Taverna has tasty food, but there are a ton of others to choose from plus bars for music.

Austin is a big, long city with lame infrastructure and with only 3-days, my suggestion would be to pick an area (you can Yelp the zip codes around the rally points I gave you above to get a feel) and just explore the heck out of it on foot before moving to the next area.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. East Side Showroom (restaurant)
  2. Craft Pride (attraction)
  3. Vespaio (restaurant)
  4. Hotel San Jose (hotel)
  5. Taverna (restaurant)
2 thanks

answered by
Brandon from Queens

Go to Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden on Rainey Street for good craft beer, cool atmosphere and great sausages

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden (attraction)
  2. Rainey Street (attraction)
2 thanks

top answer by
Luciana from Austin (Texas)

Hey Brent, I can't answer the music part of your question, so let me focus on the food and beer and a few outings ;-) 

I highly recommend the  Austin Eats Food Tour East side electric bike food tour, which is awesome. I've done it and we stopped at a bunch of amazing places to eat that none of us on the tour (all locals) had been to. Plus riding an electric bike is a lot of fun. 

For local beer, go to  Craft Pride They have 54 taps of Texas beers and they also have the best pizza in Austin on their backyard (the food truck  Via 313 which shares their patio, selling Detroit style pizza - try the Cadillac, my favorite). 

The best BBQ in town is at  Franklins BBQ hands down. The ribs are the best ever, the brisket is amazing, the sausage very good. The lines start at 8 am, they open at 11 am and they are usually sold out before they close at 2 pm. It's worth it though, I asked myself for years if I should go there and wait in line, recently did and completely understand why people do. 

I also like  Salt Lick BBQ (best BBQ sauce in my opinion and of course their meats are great),  Lambert's Downtown Barbecue which has great BBQ in a slightly fancier setting,  Rudy's is a very good local chain with awesome brisket, ribs and sausage - and don't forget the spicy chop and creamed corn. 

Best burger in town is  Hopdoddy, for great Japanese try  Uchi Restaurant or  Uchiko (both require advance reservation, Uchiko has a great happy hour deal with incredible prices). For Italian food I like  Vespaio, for seafood I like  Perla's (their oyster bar is famous, but I don't like oysters so I only order fish or seafood there). I don't care for tex-mex but  Torchy's Tacos and  Chuy's Restaurant are local favorites. Good coffee place with a view:  Mozart's Coffee

Famous food trucks in town:  East Side KingChi'Lantro BBQ Truck (korean tacos),  Way South PhillyHey Cupcake, there are lots of good options. 

Places to go because it will be hot (these are all things locals do) -  Hamilton Pool, beautiful natural setting, you should be able to swim in late May, depending on water level (we're having a bad drought). Need to go early in the day because they only allow a small number of people in. 

Go rent a SUP or kayak at the Zilker Park Rowing Dock and row on the Colorado river with a view of the downtown skyline (it gets pretty packed on weekends).

Austinites like to jump into  Barton Springs Pool when it gets really hot, especially after a hike or a run at the  Lady Bird Lake and Hike and Bike Trail.

Getting out of Austin into the Hill Country, there's  Jacobs Well, a famous swimming hole (and slightly dangerous). 

You can go river tubing in  San Marcos too.

Some different things to try:

Experience real country dance at  The Broken Spoke. This is not a fake touristy place, it's the real deal. 

Have the gospel brunch at  Gruene Hall in  New Braunfels, check the calendar on their website. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Austin Eats Food Tour (attraction)
  2. Craft Pride (attraction)
  3. Via 313 (restaurant)
  4. Franklins BBQ (attraction)
  5. Salt Lick BBQ (restaurant)
  6. Lambert's Downtown Barbecue (restaurant)
  7. Rudy's (restaurant)
  8. Hopdoddy (restaurant)
  9. Uchi Restaurant (restaurant)
  10. Uchiko (restaurant)
  11. Vespaio (restaurant)
  12. Perla's (restaurant)
  13. Torchy's Tacos (restaurant)
  14. Chuy's Restaurant (restaurant)
  15. Mozart's Coffee (restaurant)
  16. East Side King (restaurant)
  17. Chi'Lantro BBQ Truck (restaurant)
  18. Way South Philly (restaurant)
  19. Hey Cupcake (restaurant)
  20. Hamilton Pool (attraction)
  21. Zilker Park (attraction)
  22. Rowing Dock (attraction)
  23. Barton Springs Pool (attraction)
  24. Lady Bird Lake and Hike and Bike Trail (attraction)
  25. Jacobs Well (attraction)
  26. San Marcos (city)
  27. The Broken Spoke (attraction)
  28. Gruene Hall (restaurant)
  29. New Braunfels (city)
14 thankscomments (4)

answered by
Bo from Arlington (Texas)

One place I eat every time I'm in Austin is Hoover's Cooking on Manor Road. It's fantastic Texas-style home cooking. THIS is where locals eat. Hoover's

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hoover's Cooking (restaurant)
1 thanks

answered by
K from Texas

Most of the best local music in Austin doesn't fit into ANY category. So don't limit yourself to indie. Check out the Saxon Pub, ACL LIVE, Stubbs BBQ, the Cactus Cafe and the Continental Club--for starters.

For food, I hate to sound like a broken record, but Franklin Barbecue is the best Texas BBQ in the world. Do NOT miss the brisket--lunch only, and you'll have to stand in line for it. For something different, try Ramen Tatsu-ya. Also Uchi Restaurant, Olivia, Fonda San Miguel, and Barley Swine--all different, all great. And you should try at least one Tex-Mex restaurant. There are dozens of good ones, but I do love the chile rellenos and margaritas at Matt's Famous El Rancho.

Craft beers are all over. My favorite beer is Fireman's 4 Ale from Real Ale Brewing Company (available all over town), but good pubs with wide selections of local and non-local beers include Hops & Grain, Flying Saucer, and Opal Divine's Freehouse.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Saxon Pub (attraction)
  2. ACL LIVE (attraction)
  3. Stubbs BBQ (restaurant)
  4. Cactus Cafe (attraction)
  5. Continental Club (attraction)
  6. Franklin Barbecue (restaurant)
  7. Ramen Tatsu-ya (restaurant)
  8. Uchi Restaurant (restaurant)
  9. Olivia (restaurant)
  10. Fonda San Miguel (restaurant)
  11. Barley Swine (restaurant)
  12. Matt's Famous El Rancho (restaurant)
  13. Real Ale Brewing Company (attraction)
  14. Hops & Grain (attraction)
  15. Flying Saucer (attraction)
  16. Opal Divine's Freehouse (restaurant)
1 thanks

answered by
Liz from Austin (Texas)

If you are there on a weekend, see if  Austin Beerworks has an event. You'll be supporting a local startup while drinking great beer!  

And if you don't mind a 20 minute drive, check out  Moontower Saloon at Manchaca and Slaughter. Its a great outdoor honky tonk. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Austin Beerworks (attraction)
  2. Moontower Saloon (attraction)

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