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Austin Advice?

We’re going to Austin!!! Our friends just moved there, so we’re heading down for a weekend trip at the end of the month. (We figured we sneak in the trip before Toby turns two and we have to buy him plane seat.)

Everyone I know raves about Austin, and we can’t wait to see it. Most of all, I’m excited to swim in Barton Springs, the 1,000-foot-long spring-fed natural pool. It looks incredible! (This monthly full-moon party would be a trip:)

Have you been to Austin? Do you live there? We’d be psyched for any recommendations! xoxo

P.S. Ten tips for traveling with a baby, and our guide to NYC.

(Photos by Budget Travel, MagazineUSA and Jack Archer)

  1. And btw Barton Springs Pool is less than 5 dollars for adults and 3 for chidren…such a deal.

  2. I am from Austin and love this list of places to go to—I can never think of places and now I can just refer to this entry.

  3. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LT475.
    The image can be seen at wahooart.com who can supply you with a canvas print of it

  4. Anonymous says...

    Love Austin! Trying to get my husband to move back! I miss living there! Very family friendly! Lot to do and Barton springs is awesome but cold lol! Great hunting cheuys restaurant is great! God I really miss being there!!!!

  5. barton springs is fun but may be too cold for toby. i would check out the greenbelt and enjoy a hike and a splash in the river. Much warmer there. There is also Lake Austin where you can enjoy a coffee at Mozart’s or eat on the patio at Abel’s on the Lake.
    Couple of other must see’s:
    south congress
    jo’s coffee
    zilker park (not sure if the kids train ride is up but that would be fun)
    get a snow cone
    shopping at stag, arrow and arrow, jm dry goods (my favorite), mt bonnell, continental club, or broken spoke for some country western dancing!
    st. cecilia hotel
    san jose hotel
    eating: uchi (so yummy), 24 diner,kerbey lane, shady grove, stubb’s BBQ, salt lick, hopdoddy!

    we are heading up there saturday – wednesday! :)

  6. You are going to need to check out Uncommon Objects on South Congress…actually, just check out all of South Congress. And be sure your friends take you to walk around the hike and bike trail at Town Lake in late afternoon. Some of the best views of the city! Enjoy your trip!!!

  7. Austinite says...

    Barton Springs is cool, but I’ve lived in Austin my whole life and I prefer the green belt. Its a short (beautiful) hike, that is rewarded by a swim in a totally relaxed atmosphere. You meet the coolest people there.

    Side note, Barton Springs does have a little train to ride around for the little kids….

    Good luck!

  8. also, while i was at zilker park last saturday, there was a train – ‘zilker zypher’. check it out. might be fun for your little one.

  9. My boyfriend and I lived in Austin for about a year and loved it! They have AMAZING food-and the best part is, it’s cheap! No need to spend a lot to eat well!

    Must dos:
    -Food trucks! Austin has a plethora of food trucks offering all kinds of food. My favorites are: Jalopy, Gourdoughs, or any of the trucks on South Congress.
    -If you’re up for hole-in-the-wall food, here are a couple of Indian and Mexican places: Shalimar (Indian/Pakistani food), and El Regio (literally a hole in the wall mexican place-it’s SO good).
    -Tarka, excellent non-hole-in-the-wall Indian food, another fav.
    -For good coffee, head to Houndstooth. Also, Mozart’s is a fun coffee shop too, and it’s right on Lake Austin!
    -Yelp! Austin has a great community of Yelpers:) If you’re ever at a loss, we always found the reviews very helpful!

    Besides that, I always loved walking around Town Lake and South Congress. Mt Bonnell is a great place to go if it’s your first time-it provides a scenic view of the city.

    Enjoy it! It’s an awesome place!

  10. I grew up in Austin and have been trying to go back ever since. I’m in love with that city. There is live music everywhere. You guys need to try to eat at Kirby Lane or Magnolia cafe, Torchy’s tacos,chuys has amazing tex mex, .. Head downtown south congress area/ 4th, 5th street, umm.. zilker park would be amazing for Toby and they always have different things happeneing there. For good BBQ try Salt Lick. It’s amazing! Also, you can go to Hamilton pool for amazing natural pool and swimming as well. Oh, Barton Springs is FREEZING you pretty much go numb once you’ve been in a while, but super relaxing and amazing.

  11. Here’s our list:

    Mt bonnell
    Lady bird lake hike and bike trail
    Barton springs
    Uchi and/or uchiko
    La condesa
    Sno beach trailer
    UT campus
    A live music show
    Shopping South congress
    Hopdoddy
    Franklin’s BBQ
    Tiff’s treats
    Amy’s ice cream

    Hope you have an awesome time!

    -Trang
    http://www.benjaminandtrang.com

  12. I was in Austin a couple months ago, you’re definitely on the right track with Zilker Park and Barton Springs.

    We visited the State Capitol one morning, interesting if you have some time (there’s the option of a guided tour or just walking around by yourself – I would suggest the latter) and then for lunch went to the Texas Chili Parlor on Lavaca St., between W 14th and W 15th, which was amazing.

    If you want a fancy dinner, try Eddie V’s Edgewater Grill on the corner of 5th St and San Jacinto Blvd. The food was excellent, and I have never seen such god service in my whole life. If you decide to eat there definitely eat in the bar as they usually have live jazz music.

    If you want an adults night, check out Esther’s Follies at the corner of E 6th and Red River St. Sketch comedy, improv, magic, audience involvement, dogs doing tricks…it was very, very funny. The back of the stage is actually a window onto 6th St, so people will often stop and look through from the street, sometimes making faces or doing silly things.

    I hope you have a really amazing time, can’t wait to read all about it!

  13. I never go to Austin without staying at least one night over at the Hotel San Jose. For years I attended the Austin City Limits Music Festival until getting a room at the San Jose became impossible because all the musicians at the festival started staying there…. My husband grew up there and it’s just a coincidence that I met and married someone from a city I love so much (but cannot live there because the summer humidity is unbearable). But his favorite spot to eat is Juan In A Million in East Austin. Make a point to stop there!

  14. My husband and I are going to Austin for the first time on Tuesday! So all of these suggestions came just in time for me too! Thanks Joanna!

  15. Linda says...

    Ski Shores Cafe…we forgot to mention this outdoor diner in a gorgeous part of Lake Austin…access by boat or car…good place to people (and boat) watch!

  16. I’ve always wanted to go to Austin! Between the food and music scene, I’ve heard it’s awesome. (Found out a few years back that my parents were going to name me Austin if I was a boy.)

  17. Anonymous says...

    Hi
    Lots of good reco’s. Here are a couple of ideas that may have been missed
    1)My guess is your friends have a great backyard, deck etc. Plan a big breakfast/busy morning — and then retire to the backyard for the afternoon (and maybe a nap for Toby) Delicious local beers/margs for everyone else.
    2) Line up for Franklins right after breakfast. Enjoy the 2 hr lineup, get brisket /sausage /etc TO GO. Bring it home,and eat when your appetite is back. IT WILL STILL BE DELICIOUS!
    3)People eat EARLY in Austin. Like 6:30 restos will be filled.
    4)Places like East Side Drive In food trailer parks are dry -but you can bring your own beer and wine.
    5)Taxis are hard to find. Get the resto/bar to call you one before you leave
    6)Louis Meuller BBQ in Taylor Tx is about 1hr drive. Great photo ops and terrific food.
    7)On Sunday afternoons Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon hosts Chickenshit Bingo. Yup, exactly what it sounds like. If it’s a sunny day, the back parking lot becomes a great tailgate party where Toby can run around with real cowboys, bikers, hipsters – and everyone else while Dale Watson’s band plays classic country inside. Google it. And you can line up for a bingo ticket. RECOMMEND!
    8)Visit By George across from Whole Foods. Fantastic designer clothing selection. Google Cathy Horyn’s review from a few years ago.
    9)START TAKING CLARITIN or what ever anti allergy meds work for you BEFORE you go. I do this preventively. Serious.
    10)Y’all enjoy yourselves. And notice how FRIENDLY everyone is!

    Jennifer from Toronto, who visits Austin as much as she can. LOVE!

  18. Michelle says...

    As an Austinite, I concur with most of what has already been said. Though, avoid Matt’s El Rancho and Iron Cactus. Chuy’s or Polvo’s is where it’s at for some decent TexMex! Or head to Hula Hut to eat on the water of Lake Austin!

    Also, if you happen to venture to Alamo Drafthouse, I suggest the one on South Lamar. After the movie, you can head right next door to the Highball which is a restaurant, bar, vintage bowling alley, and karaoke spot. Super fun for a night out!

  19. barton springs is amazing, but water is freezing-go on a hot day! town lake “lady bird lake” for biking/running/kayaking. kerbey lane, uchi (sushi), taco deli, salt lick (the original for bbq)…so good!

  20. Ah you are going to love Austin! I have been here for 6 years now and I am in love with it. I actually just got back from NYC and was so thankful for your locals guide that I feel like I owe you…so here is a little locals guide to Austin :)

    EAT:
    Barley Swine: seriously the cutest little restaurant with killer food. it’s all small plates so you order a couple and share. they change the menu monthly which i love. http://barleyswine.com/

    Contigo: so good to sit outside on a pretty day. crispy green beans are nom nom! and they have a great brunch http://contigotexas.com/austin

    Garridos: on 2nd street downtown which i think is the best part. i go for the mexican martini and the tacos. http://www.garridosaustin.com/

    Franklin BBQ: I know everyone has said a different BBQ place, but really the other ones might be more texas, but this place just got ranked best bbq in the country. they have this coffee bbq sauce that i could inject into my arm. its so good. the end. http://franklinbarbecue.com/

    DRINK
    East Side Show Room: on east 6th. you walk in and feel like you have gone back in time. it’s similar to a speakeasy with old school (stiff) drinks. If you’re lucky a band will be playing in the corner to make the night perfect. http://eastsideshowroom.com/

    Any of the bars in the Rainey District, Clive Bar, Icenhaurs, or Lustre Pearl.

    ps you might be here during restaurant week, which would rock! so maybe look into that…

    There is my short list. Have fun!

  21. I live in Austin and love it.

    I’ll try not to repeat what others have said!

    1) Breakfast tacos! My favorites are from Julio’s on Duval St. in Hyde Park (cash only) or Maria’s Taco Xpress on South First (http://www.tacoxpress.com/#galleries/home/home001.jpg)
    2) Hopdoddy on South Congress has the world’s best burgers. Seriously.
    3) There is a nice playground and pond at the Mueller Development off of Airport Blvd. and 51st St. It’s not as scenic as Town Lake or Zilker or Mount Bonnell, but in case you’re staying in that area, it’s a great place to bring a little one.

    I hope you have a wonderful visit!

  22. Anonymous says...

    I live in Austin too and here’s my two cents:
    Polvo’s is a must! Best Mexican and not Tex-Mex.
    Hotel San Jose for an afternoon drink
    South Congress to walk around
    South Congress Cafe for their migas – my fave!
    Lady Bird Lake – for walking and/or kayaking
    And don’t forget the East Side!
    East 6th for night life (and not dirty 6th downtown, but 6th east of I-35)
    E 11th – Blue Dahlia Bistro happy hour is an awesome deal (two words: cheese plate!)

    Have fun!

  23. tons of awesome stuff to do in austin… check out tripgather (tripgather.com) for some fun events/deals going on while you’ll be in town!

  24. I live in Austin and you must eat at Easy Tiger on 6th Street – the new restaurant from Chef Andrew Curren of Top Chef fame! The pretzels are to die for.

  25. SOuth Congress Strip! …Lovely vintage shops and good food. if you want Mexican try GUEROS, if you want FIsh try PERLAS, if you want a cupcake try HEY CUPCAKE! :) …..have lots of fun!

    Caterine

  26. I’ve been to Austin and my sister lives there and we would both recommend Hamilton Pool over Barton springs. It’s probably best to try both to compare, but Hamilton Pool is a serene grotto with a waterall overhang that you discover after a quick and very easy 1/4 mile hike. They don’t hassle you for having a beer in a cup [you will get tossed out of Barton for that] there are precious few tourists, and it is to this day the most memorable swimming experience of my life.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpXDaXOu48s

  27. Evan says...

    First time I’m ever commenting on your site despite reading it daily for years. You’re going to love Austin as much as I love living here!

    Do as someone above said and get tex-mex brunch at Joe’s Bakery on east 7th street. Order the migas with everything and you cannot go wrong.

    East Side Cafe grows a lot of their food on site and very yummy. They have the best meat loaf ever. Ever.

    Salt Lick and County Line pretty damn good and I think you’d enjoy them both, but Franklin is life-changing Texas BBQ. Getting up a little early and waiting in line is a fun rather than annoying experience. Brisket and Ribs!

    There are a number of great beer bars in Austin, but I think my favorite is the Draught House. There’s also a Co-Op brewery up in north Austin called Black Star which I enjoy a lot.

    Many people above have mentioned Mozart’s which is a great place to go. If you want to buy some locally-roasted coffee, head to Anderson’s Coffee. The owner worked with George Peet in San Francisco and he makes incredible beans. Arabian Mocha is my favorite.

    If you find yourself craving a donut late at night, head to Mrs. Johnson’s on Airport. They’re open from 9pm to noon the next day, and their donuts are delicious!

    When you come to Texas, of course you want the beef. Incredible burgers can be had at the following places: Wholly Cow on South Lamar, Hopdoddy on South Congress, Nau’s Pharmacy and West Lynn (an old fashioned pharmacy soda fountain!).

    Finally, non-food related: Depending on when you’re going to be here, check out what’s on at the Alamo Drafthouse. Their special screenings and events (Master Pancake especially) are as Austin as Austin can be. You might also want to check out the UT campus, as it’s quite beautiful and the architecture on the original campus was one of the last beaux-artes-style projects in America. Make sure to take a walk around i Barton Springs. If you’re up for a day trip, head out to Fredericksburg for the WWII museum (the official museum of the Pacific Theater) and walking around the ADORABLE little village. You’ll also be driving through the beautiful Texas HIll Country to get there, and all of the wildflowers will be in bloom.

    You guys are going to love Austin so much! Have a wonderful trip!

  28. I lived near Austin for 10 years and my visits to the city were never complete without a trip to Allens Boot Shop on South Congress, Amy’s Ice Cream,and Salt Lick or Rudy’s BBQ. You guys might also enjoy riding the mini train at Zilker Park. So fun!

  29. I’m going to Austin in a couple of weeks, and honestly I’m MOST excited about our hotel: The Hotel San Jose https://www.sanjosehotel.com/index2.php. This place is AMAZING! Just love the vibe and the calm of the place. It’s also right on South Congress, so you can walk to all the restaurants and shops folks have already recommended.

    Even if you are staying with friends, they have a bar/lounge that’s open to the public in the evenings. You should check it out.

  30. Anonymous says...

    “Keep Austin Weird” –> I buy every toddler
    outside of TX this shirt and it’s a hit with my NYC friends. ;$

    Barton Springs will be cold…if your little man is up for it, go to a local pool store and get a “ladybug” or “bee” float. Basically, they’re floatable disks with an insert in the middle for your tot. Makes for an idyllic lake picture.

    Watch the weather…they’ve been deluged with rain this year.

    And plan for another trip… ;)

    ~Grew up in Houston, undergrad/grad at UT, live in Dallas bc of work :P

  31. Anonymous says...

    You absolutely must have brunch at South Congress Cafe at least once. The bloody marys, carrot cake french toast, and migas are delicious. I don’t know what cheese they use for the migas but it’s the meltiest yummiest egg dish ever. The carrot cake french toast is heaven. mmm.

  32. Anonymous says...

    I cannot get enough of Austin. Funky, earth-friendly, young, country, hip, fit, indie, and gastro tourism all help Keep Austin Weird! Hope you love it as much as I do! Reading everyone’s comments I have found more things to do- yay!, and my suggestions mostly reiterate those already listed, as there is so much to do in Austin!
    -Food trailers (crepes, Hey Cupcake, and anything else you could dream up) and shops along South Congress (including Uncommon Objects)
    -Hula Hut- Mexican restaurant out on the water
    -Kerbey Lane- go for breakfast. A few locations around town, some more eclectic than others.
    -Amy’s Ice Cream- because.
    -Zilker Park, Town Lake- canoes and paddle boats- be aware there is a slight current
    -6th Street is famous for all the bars. You’ll hear people talk about going out to “6th Street”- If you’re a Bachelor fan, Brad Womack has a couple bars in the area.
    -Get a picture of Toby in the bluebonnets on the side of the road; all mothers subject their children to it here!
    -The Domain- high end outdoor shopping, but nothing you don’t have there
    -The Oasis on Lake Travis- possibly too much hype, and the food isn’t great, but the views from the deck at sunset are superb.
    -May not have time, and there is so much worth doing in Austin itself, but the Prime Outlets in San Marcos are amazing.

  33. This may be a bit repetitive, but I live in Austin and I can definitely vouch for most of these comments. South Congress is a MUST. South Congress is the southern end of well…Congress which is the street that leads to the capitol but the area has become none as “SO-CO”. It would be an absolute sin to come to Austin without eating Tex- Mex I would def either try Chuys, Gueros, or Maudies…get ready to eat. Tiffs Treats, Hey Cupcake, or the chocolate area at the Lamar location of Whole Foods are all TO DIE FOR. Some other good options if you are not that in to Mexican food… Moonshine, Shady Grove ( I go for the atmosphere and sitting outside), unless you are REALLY dying for a lake view I would skip out on the Oasis, the lake is extremely low right now and the people above are not joking when they say you go for the view and not the food. If you are in a bit of a time crunch and really want an authentic Austin experience I might pass…..Hula Hut and Mozarts are on the water as well and are a lot more convenient if staying close to downtown. If staying in the more northern part of Austin, North by Northwest has good food and brews its own beers and the Domain Shopping Center has some nicer restaurants to pick from.

    Have an amazing time and be prepared for WARM weather!!

  34. Anonymous says...

    I don’t love Austin, but doing the following would make for a fun weekend:

    Drinks at Hotel San Jose and strolling South Congress

    Dinner at Ushi and/or Barley Swine

    Stroll/Jog the Town Lake trail and rent a paddle board or kayak and spend some time on the water

    Take a drive out to Lockhart for bbq at Smitty’s

    Pick any of the dozens of decent Mexican or Texmex places for Margs in the sunshine.