48 hours in Austin, TX: Ready, Set, Go!
There is a freedom you begin to feel the closer you get to Austin, Texas.” -Willie Nelson
Austin’s a place like no other. It sports the confidence of a new, trendy city, rubbing shoulders with national hotshots like New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles, etc, and yet it maintains a small-town charm that the former long ago lost. It practically screams pride and acceptance in a state known for tradition and order. But, it’s also grounded in its Texan roots from the mouth-watering BBQ to the crowded honky-tonks. Austin is undeniably Southern. There is freedom the closer you get to Austin — freedom to express any side of yourself you wish to present and freedom to explore: the freedom to mix Tex-Mex flavors with Japanese classic or get bendy with a herd of goats. Austin is loud, beautiful, delicious, and most of all, weird. And, everyone’s Austin experience is different. While it’s impossible to capture the essence of the city in 48 hours, we’re willing to try.
Start off with a good cup of coffee either from Mozart’s, Alfred’s, or Jo’s. Mozart’s and Jo’s are local favorites; Mozart’s overlooks the Colorado River and offers an array of delicious pastries and drinks. There’s a great patio area that doubles as a picture spot, just in case you’re looking to bulk up your Instagram game. Meanwhile, if you stop by Jo’s, make sure to snap a photo in front of the famous “I love you so much” sign at the South Congress location. Also, try one of their signature drinks, the Turbo or the Belgian Bomber.
While Alfred’s is not an Austin-based coffee shop, the California-based chain has only one store outside of its home state and that’s in Austin! Alfred’s is definitely on the more expensive side, but it’s nestled inside the Line hotel which is right along Lady Bird Lake. The Line hotel also has a great spot for drinks if you’re looking to circle back for a happy hour later.
Next, Take Your Cup to Go and Walk Along Lady Bird Lake
Not only is this 10-mile trail visually pleasing, but it is also a great way to get your body moving at the beginning of the day. Stop in the dog park. Take some pictures by the lake. Whatever floats your boat. The Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail is an opportunity to see Austin’s skyline and really get to know the people of Austin. There are always bikers, runners, paddlers, and dog-lovers out and about no matter the weather.
The skyline is beautiful at any time, but I’d make sure to see it at night when the city lights up; there’s nothing quite like it. If you’re looking for an even better view (and great photos), purchase tickets to a sunset boat tour.
And, Of Course, Tacos
You really can’t go wrong here. Guero’s on South Congress, Ñoños Tacos, Discada, etc. The city is full of taco restaurants and food trucks on practically every corner. It would be a crime to not try at least one. I always take my guests to Guero’s. This local staple on South Congress “strives to balance tradition with modern improvements.” The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating as well as an outdoor taco bar where, on the weekends, guests are treated to live music. The tacos are phenomenal, and, if you’re looking for a little extra spice, they have salsa bars all around the dining room.
Paddle Around Lady Bird Lake
Circling back to Lady Bird Lake, head over to the docks and rent a kayak or paddleboard for the afternoon. There are hundreds of people — and dogs — on the water every day paddling around. It’s a great exercise and a fun way to cool off in the Texas heat.
Food is easily one of the highlights of Austin. There are great options for every cuisine and one trip is not enough to taste it all. Try narrowing down your meals to certain foods you like and, then go looking for locations. Here are a few favorites: Elizabeth Street Café, Ramen Tatsu-Ya, Juliet, Tiny Boxwoods, Red Ash, Oasis, etc. All of them have outdoor seating options, so you can enjoy the views of Austin while staying socially distant from other diners.
Watch the Sunset at Mt. Bonnell
End your night by climbing Mt. Bonnell to see the sunset and watch the boats pass under the 360 bridge. It’s a beautiful, peaceful way to close out the day.
Throw on your best brunch outfit and head over to East Austin where there are a variety of choices: Josephine House, South Congress Cafe, La Condesa, Launderette, Le Politique, Magnolia Cafe, etc.
Walk ‘Til You Drop
Now, it’s time for some exploring. Head back over to South Congress and go shopping. Take a walking tour around the Capitol building and get to know the history of Texas. Then, make your way towards the University of Texas’ flagship campus where the Longhorn pride is sure to excite every visitor. Go visit the UT Tower and walk down Guadalupe street. Take a look at the football stadium and interact with some students. You’ll be sure to be met with southern hospitality.
If brunch didn’t fill you up, stop at a food truck to grab a bite. There are food trucks all over the city. If you’re at the UT Austin campus, there are two food truck locations: one by Rio Grande St. and the other by 22nd street.
Picnic at Zilker
Since you can never eat enough, grab some food — you can never go wrong with pizza, maybe Home Slice — and head over to Zilker Park where the nationally renowned Austin City Limits is held. The park is full of characters and watching the sunset over the skyline is an unforgettable experience.
Dash over to Congress Bridge to see one of Austin’s strangest phenomenons, the bats. Each year from March to October, hundreds of thousands of bats fill the sky at night. You’ll see people start crowding around the bridge or underneath on paddleboards or boats around sunset.
Finally, as the live music capital, it would be criminal not to go listen to some live music. Stop by the outside area of Guero’s Taco Bar, Antone’s Nightclub, ACL Live, The Continental Club, etc. The music’s been a little quieter these days given the pandemic, but the soul of the city is still there.