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Weekend Getaway: A Guide to Austin, Texas

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Welcome to our Weekend Getaway series! While it’s our preference to discover a destination slowly and thoroughly, realistically time often only allows for a long weekend of exploring. Each week we’ll focus on a different city and highlight how to get the most out of a 2-4 day stay. Sometimes we write about the city ourselves, while other times we’ll have awesome guest bloggers giving us the low-down.

If you’re interested in guest blogging on this series, shoot us an email!  

What makes Austin a good place for a weekend getaway?

We love Austin specifically for its compact size. The downtown area is easily walkable, and you can get a lot out of your stay in just a few days. Almost everything you’d want to see is within a 30-minute drive and you may or may not be able to last longer than a weekend under the blazing Texas sun anyways (kidding!)

Austin has actually been such a popular place to visit and move to that the locals have been known to put out promos explaining how terrible the city is in hopes of keeping people from moving and overcrowding the small town!

One downfall to traveling within America is the lack of easily accessible public transportation. The best way to get to Austin from outside the state or country is by flying into Austin Bergstrom Airport and then renting a car to get around the city.

If you’re coming from somewhere relatively close (i.e. Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio) there is a Mega Bus you can take to transfer between Texas cities. I’ve used it several times and they have always been comfortable and reliable. They’re super cheap if you book a week or so ahead of time (around $5!)

Public transportation: Is it available in Austin and is it easy to navigate?

Honestly, we have never used public transportation in Austin as we’ve always had a car (such is the way of life in America). I know they have a pretty decent bus system especially if you’re staying near the University of Texas campus but it’s nothing compared to public transportation outside of the US, unfortunately.

What is the typical cost of a taxi to get from one side of town to the other?

A yellow taxi cab from the far west side to the far east side of Austin will set you back almost $40. That’s probably the most extreme you’ll pay, however, as normally you’d just want to go from one side of Sixth Street to the other. Compare that to Uber, which is a godsend. The same trip would only cost you about $8-11!

Recommendations on a luxury or boutique hotel in the area?

The Driskill Hotel is a must when visiting Austin. Built in 1886 it has become a historic Austin icon and is situated in the perfect location. It’s only a short walk away to the Texas State Capital, legendary 6thstreet, fine dining, and the convention center among many other sights. The inside of The Driskill has been restored to its original ornate opulence with glamorous marble, columns, and stained glass features. It is honestly one of the most beautiful hotels we’ve ever stepped foot in – it makes your jaw drop!

If you’re looking for an added thrill, book room 525 as it is rumored to be haunted by the original owner of the hotel. He lost the property in a bet only a year after building and died shortly thereafter!

As for a great boutique hotel we highly recommend Hotel St. Cecilia in SoCo (South Congress). It’s such a fun little hotel and each room has its own signature Austin style. The decor takes inspiration from its namesake St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music and poetry. Perhaps the best feature is the handmade organic beds built by Sweden’s most reputable bedding company, Hästens. Stay in one of the hotel’s 6 poolside bungalows to make the most out of the Texas heat!

A hotel in the downtown area will easily cost you between $100-200. Of course, the further outside of downtown you go the cheaper a room will be. There are four hostels to choose from as well, the most popular being Drifter Jack’s and Firehouse Hostel. Drifter Jack’s is located in the West Campus area near the UT Campus and is close to 6th Street, lots of quirky little shops and great places to eat. Firehouse Hostel is located directly across the street from the famously haunted Driskill Hotel and is literally half a block from 6th Street. Both are in good locations and are reasonably priced at around $29 for a dorm room.

Couchsurfing and Airbnb are also great alternatives!

One of our favorite things to do while exploring a new city is to take part in the outdoors scene. What are some adventure and/or outdoor activities (such as hiking, biking, waterfall rappelling, skiing, skydiving, etc.) to enjoy here?

Austin is a mecca for outdoor activities! There are plentiful hiking trails in Austin and the surrounding hill country to take advantage of. Jogging on Barton Creek Greenbelt along Lady Bird Lake is extremely popular for its nice views and well-maintained trail. There are also city bikes available to rent, which is another great way to explore the town!

One of our favorite things to do is go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding on Town Lake. There are multiple places to rent equipment by the hour or day and it’s a fantastic way to beat the Texas heat. We love that mixture of nature within an urban setting and you get a great view of the Austin skyline from the water!

If you have transportation, you can do some zip-lining over Lake Travis about 40 minutes NW of downtown. They offer five different zip lines, with some an amazing 20 stories high. You can even do these at night for that extra adrenaline kick!

Are there any local entertainment events that we should know about when planning a trip to Austin?

It seems like there is always something going on in Austin. The most notable and popular events (thus making it very hard to plan a last-minute trip here at that time) are Austin City Limits in October and South by Southwest in March.

Name one phenomenal attraction not to miss

6th Street – it’s definitely a unique experience and you’ll have missed a signature part of Austin if you skip it! The Texas State Capital is a pretty awesome building to walk around too!

Zilker Park is filled with students, hipsters, yogis, and other such Austinites at pretty much all times of the day. Hit up a coffee shop (such as Austin Java right down the road) and spend a day playing Frisbee in the park! The people-watching there can be quite entertaining all on its own…

What are your absolute favorite restaurants in the area?

Oh, the food in Austin. We could stay here forever just based on that reason alone. Firstly if you have never had “Tex Mex” we urge you to book the first flight out to Austin! It’s an incredibly delicious fusion of Mexican and American food – think fajitas, chile con queso (cheese dip with beef), and gourmet tacos. Kerbey Lane Cafe, an Austin original, has THE best queso we’ve ever had. It’s creamy, finger-licking good and there’s rarely a time when the bowl doesn’t end up empty. For tacos, you absolutely must try Torchy’s Tacos. It originated as a small food truck and has blown up into a notable Texan chain. They serve gourmet tacos and aren’t afraid to experiment with interesting ingredients to form some truly delicious and unexpected concoctions!

A few other notable Austin originals that shouldn’t be missed are Hopdoddy’s for an amazing hamburger, Homeslice for some rockin’ pizza, and Franklin’s for legendary Texan BBQ. If you’re looking for more health-conscious meals, Austin has plenty of amazing vegetarian and wholesome restaurants too. We especially like stopping at Whole Foods (a grocery store specializing in organic all-natural foods) for a quick lunch!

What’s one local dish you’d recommend someone to try while they’re here?

Queso, Taco’s and BBQ. In any order that you want, just please for the love of God try them.

What is the tipping etiquette in Austin?

Wait staff in Austin and the rest of the US rely on tips to support themselves as they make a ridiculously low hourly wage (approx. $2 and most of this only covers taxes). Be prepared to leave 18-20% of your bill as a tip. Anything below 15% is considered rude and an insult to the waiter!

It’s also worth mentioning that if you are dining with more than 5 people restaurants will usually add 18-20% gratuity onto the bill automatically.

What are some cool local spots we should check out at night?

6th Street is a pretty legendary road lined with bars upon bars. It becomes a pedestrian street at night and people are everywhere! It’s definitely the place to go if you’re looking for a wild night of bar hopping and clubbing. Hop on a pedicab (a person riding a bicycle towing a 2-3 person seat) and check out the bars on 5th and 4th street too!

If you’re more into low-key spots like us, then we’d suggest hitting up Rainey Street. It’s a more recent addition to the Austin nightlife and it’s essentially a more laid back, casual 6th street. It’s the type of place where you play games and chat while consuming a pint of delicious Live Oak Hefe.

Anything we should know about the local culture and customs (so you don’t offend people, or get offended by something!)

“Keep Austin Weird” is the official slogan of the Texas Capital so you should expect to stumble across cross-dressers (RIP Leslie), hippies, homeless cowboys, and lots and lots of hipsters. It’s all part of the experience 🙂

How much would a typical pint of beer cost or glass of wine cost?

A typical pint of beer will set you back about $6 in downtown Austin.

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