Take a quick stroll through the streets of Austin, Texas, and you’re guaranteed to find the city’s slogan “Keep Austin Weird” plastered across storefront windows and bumper stickers. While the saying was first coined by the Austin Independent Business Alliance to promote small businesses, it’s since become a full-blown lifestyle for natives and visitors alike. Of course, Austin is weird in the best possible way, with an eclectic mix of bars and restaurants, kitschy stores, elegant hotels, and a renowned live music scene. The city’s also home to some of the biggest events nationwide, drawing thousands of guests across state and national borders for festivals including South by Southwest, Austin City Limits, and the Texas Book Festival. For your reading pleasure, we compiled these spots in a guide to having fun—and, of course, keeping it weird—in the heart of the South. Enjoy!
What to See
Greetings From Austin Mural
Did you even go to Austin if you didn’t post about it? For a grid-worthy Instagram moment, stop by this colorful wall mural at 1720 S. 1st Street, inspired by a postcard from the 1940s. Snap a pic, then quiz yourself on whether you can ID famous Austin landmarks in the painting: Keep an eye out for the Texas State Capitol and the Congress Avenue Bridge.
Barton Springs Pool
Austin gets hot in more ways than one, and chances are at some point on your journey you’ll take up any offer to cool down. The locals love to swim, and when they do, they go to Barton Springs. The 900-foot-long outdoor swimming pool located in Zilker Park (where Austin City Limits is held each year) is filled with water from several underground springs. It’s an ideal place to unwind after dancing all day under the blazing Texas sun.
South Congress Avenue
South of Lady Bird Lake is South Congress Avenue, a buzzy neighborhood better known as SoCo to locals. A walk through this area is mandatory for some of the best shopping, live music, and sight-seeing Austin has to offer. Snap a photo in front of the iconic “I Love You So Much” mural, catch performances at Guero’s Oak Garden, or succumb to the Western trend and buy a pair of real-deal Lucchese cowboy boots at Allens Boots (you know you want to).
Where to Eat
An umbrella-shaded, fairy light-adorned patio makes Perla’s a must-see spot, day or night. Located on South Congress, the seafood restaurant is known for its raw bar and decadent lobster rolls, with La Grande Dame champagne to pair with both. We recommend stopping in during happy hour from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. to beat the evening crowd and cash in on deals (like oysters on a half shell for $4).
Matt’s El Rancho
You’ll find classic Tex-Mex fare and delicious cocktails at this low-key, no-frills eatery that’s been an Austin staple for 70-plus years. If you’re overwhelmed by the plethora of menu options at Matt’s El Rancho, order one of the combination plates, a Matt’s Knockout Martini (tequila, Cointreau, and fresh lime juice in an ice-filled shaker), and the signature Bob Armstrong queso dip for the table.
Terry Black’s Barbecue
If you’re looking for some of best barbecue in Texas, locals will say this is it. Owned by twin brothers and fourth-generation pitmasters, Terry Black’s serves up some mean brisket, giant beef ribs, mac and cheese, and, for the grand finale, banana pudding. Warning: Like most BBQ, this stuff is more filling than it looks.
Where to Drink
Soho House Austin
When a Soho House opens in a city, you know it’s having a moment. Although Austin has been gaining popularity for years, the latest addition to the cult chain of private members’ clubs, situated in the Music Lane shopping mall just off South Congress Avenue, has all the essentials: an elaborate wood-carved bar, a rooftop pool, and live music from local and visiting artists courtesy of its new concept, Dante’s Hi-Fi.
Located on the nightlife mecca that is Rainey Street, Clive Bar is casual yet scene-y, serving up local beer and cocktails on a sweeping outdoor patio and upper deck against the backdrop of live music.
If you’re looking for decadent craft cocktails in an opulent setting, stop by Goldie’s in the Austin Proper Hotel. Maybe it’s the sunken marble bar and velvet chairs talking, but something about it screams fancy.
Where to Stay
Austin Proper Hotel
Situated in downtown Austin, the sophisticated Austin Proper Hotel offers a host of amenities to ensure an unforgettable stay. Boasting views of the Colorado River and within walking distance of the famous 6th street, the hotel’s prime location is perfect for exploring the city on foot. The property features multiple restaurants and bars; we recommend the Crispy Shallot Hummus at the Mediterranean-inspired The Peacock. Additionally, guests can take advantage of the hotel’s fitness center, rooftop pool, and the indulgent full-service Verbena Spa. (The spa staff’s commitment to their clientele shows, as they offer treatments using the natural beauty brand Monastery, which prides itself on using organic and wildcrafted ingredients chosen for their ability to deliver the best results. Not to mention, the products’ scents are heavenly.) After a night out on the town, unwind with the spa’s signature “The Gua Sha Facial” or “The Proper Massage,” leaving you feeling relaxed, refreshed, and ready for your next adventure.
The Line Hotel
Located at the crossroads of Lady Bird Lake and downtown, this fun and trendy hotel attracts young crowds for its poolside DJ and bustling brunch at P6. Suites feature lakeside views and a stacked mini bar. For more to snack on, stop by Veracruz All Natural for authentic tacos and queso. (The migas breakfast taco is a must.)
A soothing retreat from the bustle of downtown, the gorgeous Miraval Austin property is nestled in the surrounding Texas hills, outfitted with sweeping rock formations and lush walking paths. The digital, device-free resort (don’t fret: designated areas allow the use of your cell phone) promotes rest and rejuvenation via fitness and yoga sessions; pools, trails, and climbing gym courses; guided meditation classes; and a full menu of massage, facial, and body care offerings at the Life in Balance spa. Nutritious meals, including smoothies and snacks, are included in the cost of your stay, and a nightly resort credit can be applied to spa services and fee-based activities. To make the most of the inclusive packages, get up early to attend one of the morning sessions in the Yoga Barn or Solidago buildings, then peruse the Sophia or Serenity Labyrinths before snagging a spot by the pool. Don’t forget to reserve a dinner slot at the Hilltop Crossings Kitchen—you won’t want to miss anything on the ever-changing menu.