Austin, Texas is a FUN place. There is so much to do, so much to see, and so, so much to eat. Austin is one of those places you need to visit several times to get your fill on everything there is to experience. Lucky for you, I’ve given my fair share of tours of the capital of Texas to give you the perfect first-timer’s guide to Austin. Get ready to keep it weird!
First-Timer’s Guide to Austin: What to Play Around
Austin is a city that LOVES to play. During your first stint in ATX, bask in the relaxed atmosphere + slower pace of living. Don’t worry, there is always a festival or event going on to keep you occupied. Austin is a great place to be if you like to have some outdoor fun. The Green Belt provides a gear hike + Zilker Park is an awesome greenspace to enjoy free time as long as it isn’t ACL If you can manage a hike, the 360/Pennybacker Bridge is a great photo op. If water is your idea of outdoor fun, Barton Springs Pool cannot be beaten. With water temps staying around 68º, it’s a great place to cool off. For a little more activity, rent a kayak or paddle board + enjoy Lady Bird Lake in the heart of downtown.
If your idea of outdoor fun is a little more casual, South Congress is for you. With cute, local shops + restaurants, this shopping district is always lively + a great time. Take a walk down the street + be sure to stop at the SoCo Hotel for a drink – it’s one of my favorite spots in the city. If shopping isn’t for you, release some of your creative energy at HOPE Outdoor Gallery. This graffiti park is a favorite of tourists + locals, alike.
No trip to Austin is complete without seeing a show. Check out the calendar at Stubb’s for a great outdoor venue. ACL Live tapings are also an amazing way to get your feet wet. Personally, I prefer to watch my friends play at Mohawk or The High Ball. If you’re in Austin the first Saturday of the month, you better get your butt to The High Ball to see Zoodust. Thank me later. If you’re craving a show authentically Austin, Ester’s Follies is for you. It’s also right by the Velvetta Room where you can get your comedy fix on Dirty Sixth. You can also get your dance down the street, but more on that later in this post.
First-Timer’s Guide to Austin: Where to Chow Down
Another thing about Austin that can’t be beaten is the food! Being from Memphis + with time spent in North Carolina, I am quite familiar with the barbeque scene. Texas has one all their own. If you don’t mind waiting in line for mind-blowing brisket, Franklin’s is a must try. If you’re not keen to wait too long, La Barbecue is a good alternative.
It wouldn’t be a conversation about Texas food without Tex-Mex. There are a lot of strong opinions on this, but the prevailing voices say you have to stop at Torchy’s for tacos. If it’s breakfast tacos you want (which you do) you’ve gotta go Taco Deli. Personally, I’m a Matt’s el Rancho kind of girl, but I’ve been known to venture out to El Arroyo for margs + a viewing of their sign. This Tennessee girl may miss margaritas the most.
You may spend your entire first trip to Austin enjoying BBQ + tacos. If you want a little variety, however, these are some trendy + delicious alternatives.
- Homeslice – If you don’t have time to indulge in this yummy pizza, they have a to-go restaurant right next door.
- Kerby Lane – Amazing breakfast served 24 hours a day!
- Frank – Get a basic dog or be a little adventurous + try rattlesnake or Jackalope.
- Hop Doddy – These burgers are worth the wait (they now have TWO Memphis locations)!
First-Timer’s Guide to Austin: Where to Get Down
A full belly is a sign of a good trip in Austin, but that isn’t all there is to do. One of the most Texas things you can do is learn how to two-step. If you aren’t familiar with this dance you can grab some lessons at Broken Spoke. Be sure to bring cash for cover. I hear Ryan Gosling has been known to pop-in, so there is always that possibility. The White Horse is another great place to wear-in your dancing shoes.
If you want a bar with a little more modern flair, head over to West Sixth. It’s just down the road from Dirty, but it feels miles + lifetimes away. This is where the young, professional crowd typically hangs. While there, you have to hit up Green Light Social, Kung Fu Saloon (think vintage games + amazing food), and The Ranch. Barhopping is the way to be in Austin, Texas.
An alternative to both Sixth streets is Rainey. Still downtown, Rainey Street is filled with old houses converted into fun bars, all with a unique identity. These bars are great for a fun night out, but they are also the ideal place for day drinking. They all have great patios + often feature live music. My personal favorites are Icenhauer’s, Parlor Room, and Bungalow. Banger’s recently expanded so if you want a braut + a manmosa, head that way.
For bar’s off the beaten path, check our Garage. This trendy spot is literally hidden inside a parking garage right by Frank’s. You don’t need a password like you will for the Floppy Disk, but it is still a very cool speakeasy. La La’s is another cool spot for a unique bar. La La’s is Chirstmas-themed all year round so you can get your dose of holiday cheer all year round.
While this first-timer’s guide to Austin is in no way comprehensive, it is a good place to start while planning your trip. If you need a little more inspiration, check out my Austin bucket list or keep an eye out for more Austin content to come. Subscribe to the Chatty Katty to keep up to date on posts + check out my Instagram to see my last trip to ATX.
Only have one day to spend in ATX? Check out this One Day Itinerary guide.