After a few fun and busy days in Las Vegas with work, I flew to Austin, Texas for Memorial Day weekend. Dan just got moved there for a four month project with his job.
I am so happy that he’s 1,000 miles closer to me in San Francisco (small wins for our long distance relationship!), which means shorter and cheaper flights. And now I have an excellent reason to explore more of this city.
I first visited Austin in March when I attended some SXSW events with work. It was a great first taste of the city but there was so much more to see and do. This time around the weather was a lot hotter and sunnier!
Fly into Austin–Bergstrom International Airport
I flew in Friday night. It was my first time flying Frontier and I was pleasantly surprised to find the service better than expected. I would normally avoid ultra low-cost carriers, but even after paying for a carry-on bag, the Frontier flight was less than half the price of my other options.
While the seats were miserable (and made me feel like I was flying on a giant public bus in the sky), the attendants were friendly. Oh and the agents weren’t heckling passengers on ever-so-slightly questionably-sized personal item bags, trying to get them to pay $100 for their bags gate side, like I saw once on Spirit Airlines!
Where to Stay
I was staying at Dan’s apartment in North Austin, but if I needed a hotel room I would have loved to stay at the South Congress Hotel, Hotel San Jose or Hotel Saint Cecilia. South Congress is a great neighborhood to be situated in, and there’s lots to do around there. Plus these hotels have lots of Instagram-worthy spots and local flavor.
Explore the Historic District Hyde Park
My first night we drove over to the historic district Hyde Park and for a dinner date at Hyde Park Bar & Grill. Dan got this colossal open-faced sandwich that was essentially a piece of thick Texas toast topped with a burger, fries and queso. The fries and queso were so good I offered to help him with those (not that he asked for it lol)! For my meal I got a salad and a side of the mac and cheese, which was so big (and delicious!) it could’ve been a meal on it’s own.
Afterwards we walked around the neighborhood checking out the mural on the side of the local grocery store and taking in the leafy jungle-like streets while we picked out which house we’d want.
Kick Off the Weekend with Breakfast Tacos
The next morning we kicked off the weekend with some breakfast tacos at Taco Joint in South Congress. I stopped by this spot when I was in town for SXSW and fell for the simple bean and cheese taco.
They also have this fun salsa bar, with every type of salsa and hot sauce you could imagine, and drool-worthy house made chipotle cream sauce.
Stop by Roadhouse Relics
Just a short drive from Taco Joint, we stopped outside of Roadhouse Relics where you can find the famous Welcome to Austin mural. I don’t think there’s a better way to capture your destination that this wall, and it’s definitely Instagram-worthy.
Cool Off and Enjoy a Swim at Barton Springs Pool
The only way to beat the Texas heat is to find a good swimming hole. There are lots around the city, but before we discovered some of the lesser frequented spots we wanted to visit the famous Barton Springs pool. The water was shockingly cold when we first jumped in (jumping is the only way to do it!).
The pool is a natural spring so it blends the best of natural swimming and the amenities of a pool. Its $3 for residents and $8 for non-residents (plus $5 for all-day parking in the nearby field). You can also bring your dog and hangout in the creek for free, outside of the tended portion of the pool.
Lunch at the Food Trucks
After Barton Springs pool we swing back down 1st St. hoping to grab lunch at the Elizabeth Street Cafe. It was so busy with brunch customers, even at 2pm, that we parked and walked over to the Torchy’s Tacos trailer instead.
Do you have a favorite taco spot in Austin?! 🌮🌮 There are so many I can’t keep track! We stopped by the @torchystacos truck after a morning @bartonspringspool. I ordered the veg-friendly fried avocado taco and street corn (so good!). Dan got the democrat and crossroads (👈 he couldn’t stop raving about that one). 😋
There is no such thing as too many tacos in Austin, but if that’s not what you’re going for there are so many other food truck options. Dan was a huge fan of the crossroads taco and I really loved the street corn. We devoured the chips and salsa, but next time I’m going to have to give the queso a try.
Have a Drink on Rainey Street
Although I would’ve loved to lounge by a swimming hole all day, we were tired from the sun and instead opted for a quick nap before cleaning up and driving over to Rainey Street. I read online that it was another historic district, so based on our experience in Hyde Park the night before I was expecting a quaint little section of Austin. I couldn’t have been more shocked with what we found.
While the houses lining Rainey Street are all adorable, they have been converted into some of the liveliest bars you will find in town. We laughed at our failed expectations and enjoyed a few drinks with friends (that also happened to be visiting Austin!) at Unbarlievable, one of the tamer options.
Dinner and Live Music at Hole in the Wall
From Rainey Street, were it funnily enough started raining on us, we moved to Hole in the Wall, a live music venue near the University of Texas campus. It was a quiet night there, but there’s almost always fun live music. They also have a great menu if you want to enjoy dinner there as well.
Brunch at Kerbey Lane Cafe
On my last morning I was torn. I wanted more breakfast tacos! But I had also had a fabulous brunch at Kerbey Lane Cafe when I visited for SXSW and wanted to take Dan there. I let him pick, and he chose brunch. This cafe, sitting in an old house on Kerbey Lane, is like an old-school, hyper local version of iHop in my mind (and I mean that in the best way!).
They have a big menu serving all things breakfast, brunch and lunch, and everything looks good! The first time I got migas topped with queso and it was heavenly. Cheesy heaven. This time I got the vegan platter, trying to give myself a break after all the mac and cheese I’d already consumed. It’s great that they have this option but let me be clear: the vegan queso can in no way replace the real deal. I’m just going to suck it up and dig into the migas again next time.
Walk around Downtown and 6th Street
After brunch we parked downtown and wandered towards the capitol building. It just so happened that there was a protest going on when we arrived, but we were still able to go inside and wander the building. Dan loves this sort of stuff (and admired the intricate terrazzo tile floors lol).
Did you know Texas had its first female governor, Miriam Ferguson, in 1925? She held the office twice and her portraits are hanging along the top rotunda walkway.
A trip to Austin wouldn’t be complete without a walk down 6th street. Since it was early in the day there wasn’t any live music playing but we did pop into the historic Driskill Hotel to explore.
Grab smoothies in Holly
Too full from brunch for a real lunch, we swung by Juiceland in Holly for some smoothies. Everything I’ve tried there has been wonderful and I liked having an excuse to drive through Holly, the neighborhood we rented our Airbnb in when we visited for SXSW. The piñata stores along E Cesar Chavez St make me laugh. There are so many and they all sell the same ones.
Lounge at the pool
We spent our last afternoon lounging at Dan’s pool, because like I said Austin in the summer time is hot! This would also be a great time to go explore nearby Jacob’s Well or Lady Byrd Lake if you want to enjoy a more natural swimming spot.
Barbecue at Terry Black’s
For dinner I let Dan take me to the most ridiculously barebcue-y joint, Terry Black’s Barbecue. I will admit I was a little less than excited, being a vegetarian and all. I was happy to find that most of the sides (save for the pinto beans and Mexican rice) were vegetarian-friendly. This was hands down the most creamy, amazing mac and cheese we had all weekend. Maybe ever.
And Dan said something about the meat being insanely good and not needing his knife to cut it. I nodded and pretended like I knew what he was talking about. Of course we had to get Topo Chico. I mean, when in Austin, right?
Watch the bats at South Congress Bridge at sunset
At sunset we walked over to the South Congress Bridge to catch sight of the famous bats of Austin. There’s a huge female colony that lives under the bridge. They fly out each night, right after the sun sets, to hunt. Can you see the cloud zig zagging above the boats in the distance?
At the end of spring and early summer they are all pregnant and eager to hunt. Then around July after they all give birth it’s peak season. With all the baby bats the population of the colony is double and the cloud of bats flying away from the bridge doubles in size!
Uber and Lyft are back in Austin. They came back on Memorial Day so I decided to give them a try for my ride to the airport. The local cab company, Yellow Cabs quoted me at $48 for a ride from North Austin to the airport. I used Uber to schedule an upcoming UberX ride and was quoted $25. The actual ride came out to $30. Not cheap, but it saved me nearly $20.
If you’re heading to Austin soon, follow my Austin Travel Guide Pinterest board for more ideas of what to eat, see and do in Austin.