Austin, Texas, is a small city well known for its big appetites. Whether you’re in town for business or pleasure, you’re sure to have your hands full deciding what local music, culture, restaurants, and attractions to take in. The city that coined the expression “Keep Austin Weird” (sorry, Portland) is awash in excellent things to do and see. Explore our Austin Guide for highlights, then book your Austin short-term rental to enjoy it all.
Top Restaurants in Austin, Texas
Much more than barbecue and tacos, but yes, barbecue and tacos!
In Austin, you could eat at a different and wonderful taco truck for every meal every day for more than a week without running out of great places. La Condesa, a sit-down restaurant in the 2nd Street District, serves modern Mexican food above and beyond what can be produced at any taco truck. You’ll find tacos on the menu, yes, but also ceviche, steaks, pork chops, octopus – and four styles of guacamole. 400A W. 2nd St.
Any list of the best restaurants in Austin should include at least one barbecue joint. After all, we’re talking about Texas here, and Texas is known for barbecue – brisket in particular. Franklin Barbecue in Downtown Austin is known for having what is arguably the best brisket in the whole state. This restaurant can have lines that stretch diners’ capacity for patients, with records in the five-hour range. Note: Franklin Barbecue is open for lunch only, 11 a.m. until they’re sold out. 900 E. 11th St.
If your idea of a dining experience worth talking about includes a multi-course tasting menu with an optional wine pairing, then Barley Swine is the place for you. This restaurant is known for a constantly evolving chef’s tasting menu (10 courses for $90 recently), adventurous cooking, technical consistency, and its commitment to local purveyors and growers. 6555 Burnet Road, Suite 400. (Note: Barley Swine is dinner-only; for something more casual for lunch or brunch, try its sister restaurant, Odd Duck.)
Kuneho was just opened in January 2017 by “Top Chef” winner Paul Qui in the same space as his former namesake restaurant. Kuneho turns out Japanese-style sushi and small plates with influences from Texas and the Philippines. From the grill, you’ll find dishes with clever names like “Unicorn en vaso” (uni with grilled corn – get it?) and “Yummy chicken parts.” 1600 E. 6th St.
Speakeasies to dives
This North Austin dive bar is primarily worth noting for the quality of its jukebox and its year-round Christmas decorations. Locals and regulars have been drinking in the atmosphere, such as it are, since the holiday season of 1972, when founder Frances Lala decided that the bar at Lala’s looked too bare without her Christmas decorations up. 2207 Justin Lane.
Located in the Sixth Street entertainment district of downtown Austin, this little bar is housed in a former massage parlor. Combining dark and lush ambiance with an extensive craft cocktail list, Midnight Cowboy is a great place to sip good drinks in a cozy leather booth or a private room. Reserve a spot on Midnight Cowboy’s website, unless the vacancy sign is on to signal that a walk-in table is open. 313 E. 6th St.
The Brew Exchange has more than 100 beers on tap. And while this is reason enough to visit, the supply-and-demand pricing scheme here merits mention as well. The more a specific beer is ordered at the Brew Exchange, the more money it costs, and the lower the price for other beers in that same category. Keep track of the prices on a ticker and TV screens around the bar. 706 W. 6th St.
Austin Music Festivals and Venues
They don’t call it the live music capital of the world for nothing.
South by Southwest
South by Southwest is an annual series of conferences and festivals, held in Austin in March, dedicated to new music, film, technology, and comedy. More than 80,000 people cram the city for 10 days of events. The SXSW music festival hosts more than 2,000 sanctioned acts, playing more than 100 official venues. Many more hopeful artists come to the city to perform at unofficial events and out in the streets. Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Austin City Limits
The Austin City Limits Music Festival put on in conjunction with the Austin City Limits public television series, is held on two consecutive three-day weekends in October. The festival, held in Zilker Metropolitan Park, offers eight stages and more than 100 bands. Past headliners have included Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar, and Mumford & Sons. The Austin City Limits shows are recorded at ACL Live at The Moody Theater, a 2,750-seat venue that host about 100 concerts a year. Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Road. Moody Theater, 310 Willie Nelson Blvd.
Live Music Venues
Austin is home to more than 250 venues, featuring every conceivable music genre. On any given night, the city has rock, blues, Tejano, death metal, jazz, country, Americana, indie folk, alternative rock, and every other possible genre coming from multiple stages throughout the greater metropolitan area.
Generally speaking, the city can be split into a handful of music districts, including Red River, the University District, Sixth Street, South Austin, East Austin, the Market District, the Warehouse District, and Downtown.
Just for a sampling, here are some of the more significant venues to check out:
Antone’s Nightclub, for blues. 305 E. 5th.
Broken Spoke, for country music and two-step dancing. 3201 S. Lamar Blvd.
Continental Club, for rockabilly, roots, country, rock, and blues. 1315 S. Congress Ave.
Saxon Pub, for singer-songwriters. 1320 S. Lamar Blvd.
Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, for alternative rock and a Sunday gospel brunch. 801 Red River St.
White Horse, for conjunto and country. 500 Comal St.
Austin Attractions and Museums
Get schooled in government, art – and bats!
Austin wouldn’t be Austin without UT and its 51,000 students. Visitors to the Forty Acres can take a guided tour most Wednesday afternoons or take a self-guided walking tour. Get a 360-degree view of UT and Austin at the top of the historic 30-story Tower. Sports fans: You won’t want to miss a guided tour of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, home of the Longhorns. UT-Austin Visitor Center, Walter Webb Hall, 405 W. 25th St.
Also on the UT-Austin campus, you’ll find two major museums worth visits:
The Blanton Museum of Art reopened its permanent collection galleries in February 2017 after a five-year renovation and reinstallation. With more than 17,000 works of art, the Blanton is the largest university art museum in the nation. The collection is especially well known for its Latin American and European pieces. 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
The Ransom Center is a premier research library, with 36 million literary manuscripts and 1 million rare books. Collection highlights include a rare Gutenberg Bible (c. 1455) and the world’s first photograph (c. 1826), which took eight hours of exposure to produce. 300 West 21st St.
The Contemporary Austin may be considered unconventional by some, but this modern art museum has become a huge part of life in the city. The Contemporary Austin covers two locations: the Jones Center downtown, and Laguna Gloria, a 14-acre “art-in-nature site” that includes a sculpture park. Jones Center, 700 Congress Ave. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St.
What started with a Day of the Dead festival back in 1984 turned into a museum that offers amazing cultural programs and art from the best of the United States, Mexico, and Latin America. The Mexic-Art Museum, in fact, is one of the only Mexican art museums in the United States. The permanent collection includes ceremonial and decorative dance masks. 419 Congress Ave.
The Bullock Texas State History Museum tells “The Story of Texas” over three floors displaying more than 700 original artifacts. A story you might not expect out of Texas is that of the 17th-century French shipwreck La Belle. The ship’s hull, excavated in the mid-1990s, is the centerpiece of the museum’s first-floor exhibition “La Belle: The Ship That Changed History.” 1800 Congress Ave.
The Texas State Capitol has housed the Lone Star State’s legislature since 1888, soon after the zinc Goddess of Liberty statue was placed on top of the dome. Guided and self-guided tours are available. The building is open from self-touring until 10 p.m. weekdays and till 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Trivia time: The terrazzo floor of the Rotunda features seals of the six sovereign nations that have governed Texas. Can you name them all? 1100 Congress Ave.
Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge Bats
Join the throngs gathering at the Congress Avenue Bridge every summer night to witness the emergence of the world’s largest urban ban colony. From 750,000 to 1.5 million bats fly out from under the bridge near dusk. The Statesman Bat Observation Center next to the bridge is a great place to watch from. 100 S. Congress Ave.
The LBJ Presidential Library houses 45 million pages of historical documents from the political career of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Exhibits include artifacts from Johnson’s transition to power when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson’s presidential limousine, and a 7/8th scale replica of LBJ’s Oval Office. 2313 Red River St.
Hiking, biking, and golf
One of the most enchanting things about Austin has to be its beautiful greenbelts, which flow throughout the city. One of the best in town is the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail, which saddles right up against the Colorado River for 10 miles. This is the perfect setting for biking, jogging or just taking a stroll.
Golf in Austin, Texas
Austin’s warm, arid climate makes it ideal for golfers, and the area has plenty of courses available where you can work on your long or your short game. There are six Austin municipal golf courses available, as well as dozens of private country clubs and courses located throughout the city.
Where to Stay in Austin Short-Term
Texas City Guides
Things to Do in Austin for an Extended Stay | Austin metro corporate housing