If you’re headed to the Texas capital on a quick getaway, read on for the perfect itinerary for a weekend in Austin. Get ready to rock in the city that’s known as the Live Music Capital of the World!
Two days in Austin is just enough to check out some of the sights and enjoy the great outdoors by day. Come nightfall, it’s time to dive into the city’s famous culinary and live music scenes.
While Austin is the state capital, it’s actually only the 4th biggest city in Texas. The fact that it’s not a huge city makes it easy to cover a lot of ground with just a weekend in Austin.
It’s definitely one of my favorite cities I’ve visited in the US and I’ve been all over the place! A city with a love for live music, tacos, and craft beer is basically my dream come true.
In keeping with the city’s unofficial slogan “Keep Austin Weird,” I also encourage you to improvise a bit with this Austin 2-day itinerary.
Hear some funky music from a bar? Pop in to check the band out. Smell something delicious? Wander over to that food truck. Meet some cool locals? See where they like to hang out.
Read on for a look at the best places to stay and a jam-packed itinerary full of recommendations for how to spend 2 days in Austin.
Table of Contents
Day 1 in Austin
With only 2 days in Austin, there’s no time to waste! On the first day, we’ll focus on the history and culture of the city during the day before indulging in the culinary and nightlife worlds.
I can’t think of any better way to kick off a weekend in Austin than with breakfast tacos. This is a city obsessed with breakfast tacos, and why wouldn’t they be?
Tex-Mex is king here, with a typical breakfast taco consisting of a flour tortilla stuffed with scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, melted cheese, and seasoned potatoes. Of course, each place has its own specialty tacos as well.
There are a million and one places to eat breakfast tacos in Austin, but some of the top choices include Cisco’s, Joe’s Bakery, and Rosita’s Al Pastor. Valentina’s is a bit of a hike but is worth it, as they’re often ranked the best in the city.
For a fun and informative introduction to the city, I recommend jumping on a free walking tour. One popular option is the downtown walking tour by Tipster. These run daily at 10AM and last about two hours, beginning at the State Capitol.
As with all free walking tours, it’s customary to leave a tip if you enjoy the tour. You can just show up if you want, or click here to let them know you’re coming and how many are in your group.
Another option is to just head to the State Capitol and join one of their free tours. These begin every 30-45 minutes from 9:30-3:30 on Saturday and 12-3:30 on Sunday.
Even if you don’t feel like taking any kind of tour, you should still check out the Capitol. It’s true that everything’s bigger in Texas —the State Capitol is bigger than the national one in DC!
While you’re over here, you might as well check out the Governor’s Mansion as well. You’ll have to book your spot at least a week in advance to take one of the free tours here, so click here to sign up.
Want to easily cover all of the above with a friendly and knowledgable guide, travelling by air-conditioned transportation and enjoying a food truck snack?! This tour is only 2 hours long, and $35, meaning you still have loads of time left to spend exploring all the fun things to do in Austin.
After exploring the Capitol grounds, a convenient lunch spot is Texas Chili Parlor. Not surprisingly, they’re known for their chili here. Try the XXX if you dare! They also have lots of tasty Tex-Mex options like tamales and enchiladas.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s definitely some room for improvisation when exploring Austin in 2 days. How you choose to spend the afternoon entirely depends on your interests, so let me give you a few options.
First of all, you can check out a few museums, the campus of UT, and the LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson) Presidential Library. Just a few blocks north of the Capitol is the Bullock Texas State History Museum.
With interactive exhibits, films, and an awesome IMAX theater, this is a good place to learn all about the Lone Star State. Tickets for the museum cost $13 and you can save time if you click here to book your tickets online.
Right across the street, you’ll find the Blanton Museum of Art. It’s famous for Austin – a stone building with colored windows designed by renowned artist Ellsworth Kelly.
Seeing that alone is worth the $12 price of admission, and there are 20,000 other artworks you can check out as well.
Perhaps you’re not really into museums and would rather spend more time outside. In that case, head straight to the University of Texas campus. It’s a beautiful place to explore, full of art and historical landmarks.
One thing you won’t want to miss is The Color Inside. This Skyspace from artist James Turrell is best viewed at sunset and is quite popular, so be sure to book your spot well in advance.
Other options on campus include heading to the top of the UT Tower to take in the views of this classic American campus. It costs $6 and only takes about 45 minutes to visit.
If you’re really into history, then a visit to the LBJ Presidential Library is a must-do on your weekend in Austin. Native Texan Lyndon Baines Johnson was the 36th President of the United States after the assassination of JFK.
There’s enough to see and do here to keep you busy for hours, including listening to actual phone calls LBJ had as president. It’s open daily from 9-5 and tickets are just $10. Click here to buy them online in advance.
After a big day of sightseeing, it’s time to transition into Austin’s famous nightlife. In this city full of college students and musicians, there’s no shortage of places to wet your whistle.
There are bars of all shapes, sizes, and styles in the Texas capital!
I recommend just heading to 6th Street for a stroll to see what catches your eye. You won’t find many Happy Hours on a weekend in Austin, but you can catch live music just about everywhere.
One place that’s definitely worth checking out is the Firehouse Lounge. It’s located just off 6th Street in an old fire station. Find the secret entrance to this cool speakeasy and enjoy Prohibition-era cocktails with live jazz and blues.
When spending 2 days in Austin, one simply must eat barbecue. This culinary art form is an important part of the culture here, and locals are proud of their legendary barbecue.
I haven’t spent enough time in Austin to try and proclaim what the best BBQ in town is. What I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed our meal at the famous Stubb’s. They usually have live music here as well, so it’s a one-stop-shop for a fun evening in Austin.
Other popular places to get your BBQ fix downtown include Cooper’s Old-Time Pit Barbecue, Iron Works, and Gebby’s. If you want to try the legendary beef brisket at Franklin Barbecue, you’ll have to get up early and wait in a long line. But, it’s worth it!
No matter when you visit for a weekend in Austin, there’s sure to be tons of live music going on. Whether you’re into rock, funk, jazz, bluegrass, hip hop, electronic, or just about any other style of music, there’s a place for you in Austin.
I recommend checking out this calendar of events in the city to better help you plan where you want to spend your time and money. The last thing you want to do is wait in line and pay a cover charge only to end up in a place where you hate the music!
Day 2 in Austin
Now that you’ve checked off many of the big sights, it’s time for some further exploration outside of Austin’s downtown area. I’ll give you some solid options for the end of this weekend in Austin.
But first, brunch.
You might be feeling a little rough around the edges after a big night out in Austin. That’s why we’re starting day two out with a leisurely brunch.
My recommendation goes to the area just south of the river known as SoCo (South Congress). Within a few blocks, you’ll find some of the city’s best brunch spots.
A classic choice is the South Congress Cafe. Try their famous short rib hash or eggs benedict with crab cakes. If you need a little hair of the dog, champagne bottles are 10% off on the weekend. Get those mimosas flowing!
Other excellent options in the area include Cafe No Se, June’s, and Magnolia Cafe. Wherever you eat, get ready for a little stroll around the area in search of street art and boutique shops.
Head up to Jo’s Coffee, where you can snap a pic with the “I Love You So Much” wall. Walk a block south to check out one of my personal favorites, the “Willie For President” mural.
You can also grab some chalk and scribble a message on the nearby Before I Die Wall. Write something that’s on your bucket-list then get to work checking it off!
While you’re in the area, make sure to see the Greetings From Austin mural. Go ahead and get your necessary shot for the ‘gram with this iconic mural. Show everyone just how much fun you’re having with your 2 days in Austin!
Down in SoCo you’ll also find plenty of nice cafes, galleries, and boutiques.
It’s definitely an area you can linger for a while. We’ve still got a lot of ground to cover on this Austin itinerary, though, so let’s keep it moving.
Note: If you’re really into street art, there are some fantastic pieces to see in East Austin. Explore on foot for a couple of hours to offtrack areas that you won’t find in your guidebook. Click here to learn more about this highly-rated experience — it’s one you won’t’ want to miss!
Enjoying the great outdoors is a must when traveling to Austin. Thankfully you don’t have to go very far to do so! Here are a few different options for spending an afternoon outside:
Zilker Metropolitan Park – This huge city park is the perfect place to go on a beautiful day in Austin. Here you can go for a stroll along one of the trails or just take a dip in the Barton Springs Pool.
The park is also home to a really nice botanical garden. It only costs $3 to visit, so you might as well go for it. Same for the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, which at $3.50 is a total steal for all the amazing sculptures you get to see.
Fun in the Water – You can also take in the sights from the water in a rented kayak, canoe, or SUP (stand-up paddleboard). If you’re in more of a “sit back, relax and drink beer” state of mind, go for some good old fashioned tubing down the river! Learn more about that here.
Lady Bird Lake – There’s a scenic 10-mile long hike-and-bike trail here that makes for a great outing. Just click here to download a map of the trail.
There’s also a mile-long boardwalk if you’re looking for something a bit more relaxing. Be sure to check out the interesting Belting It Out art installation here, which features belts engraved with lyrics from Texas musicians.
Whatever option you choose, you won’t have to go far to find a good lunch spot. If you visit the lake, you won’t be too far from the legendary Rosita’s Al Pastor.
Over near the park, there are plenty of restaurants on Barton Springs Road. There’s also the Picnic — a food truck park with several choices. Here you can find Italian, Thai, New Orleans style po’ boys and gumbo, and more.
If your weekend in Austin happens between March and November, you have to see the bats on your last evening in town.
About half an hour before sunset, over a million bats fly out from crevices in the bridge!
You can find a spot on the hill below the bridge to take in the spectacle or sign up for a tour to see them from a kayak or SUP. Austin even has an annual Bat Fest in August. I told you their slogan was “Keep Austin Weird!”
Another option for your final evening in Austin is taking a river cruise.
Capital Cruises has a few different cruises, including a bat watching and sunset tour for $12 per person. They can also set you up with a private dinner cruise. Head to their website to check out all the options.
If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for dining and nightlife to wrap up your weekend in Austin, head on over to Rainey Street. It’s famous for the many bars set in historic, bungalow-style homes.
A fantastic dinner choice here is Emmer & Rye. In addition to their innovative menu of seasonal specialties, they also have a dim sum cart rolling around.
If you’re into beers and sausages, you can head to nearby Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden. With 30 different homemade sausages and over 200 beers on tap, the possibilities are endless here!
With the remainder of your final night in town, just walk around Rainey Street and pop into whatever place looks and sounds good. On any given weekend in Austin, there are always tons of choices for live music and good times!
Insider’s Tips for a Weekend in Austin
There you have it. I’ve set you up nicely for an awesome 2 days in Austin. Before we wrap things up, here are a few tips to ensure you enjoy your weekend to the fullest:
Skip the car – While some people like to rent a car for their visit to Austin, I don’t find this necessary. First of all, having to be responsible for a vehicle limits your enjoyment of a weekend in Austin. You’ll have to worry about parking and won’t be able to indulge in the city’s famous breweries and bars.
It’s easy enough to get around Austin by catching the bus, calling an occasional Uber, and maybe renting a bike for a few hours. Let other people worry about driving and have yourself some fun!
Book a table – Austin is a pretty bumping place on the weekend. It’s a popular tourist destination and locals love going out here as well. Avoid disappointment by booking a table where possible at some of the places listed in this guide.
Check the calendar – As I mentioned, there’s always something going on here. Austin has festivals all throughout the year and there’s live music every night. Be sure to check and see what’s playing so you can make a game plan and buy tickets if necessary.
Pace yourself – It’s easy to go into a food coma or get a bit tipsy in Austin. You will want to eat and drink all the things here, but it’s key to pace yourself when doing so! Don’t forget that water is your friend and it’s OK to eat a vegetable or two in between all the BBQ and tacos.
Getting to Austin
Many visitors arrive at Austin–Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), which is 5 miles southeast of downtown. There are quite a few options for getting to your accommodation from the airport.
You know this city rocks when you walk out of the airport and see a giant neon guitar for a bus stop. This is where you can hop on the Capital Metro bus to reach downtown, the University of Texas campus, and Northeast Austin.
The bus runs 7 days a week and leaves every 15 minutes.
It’s only $1.25 for a one-way ticket, or you can grab a day pass for $2.50 that’s good on all other routes. If you need to transfer to another route to reach your hotel, be sure to grab the day pass.
Other options include taking a shared shuttle, getting a taxi, or using rideshare apps. A cab ride downtown from the airport costs around $30-35 these days.
It’s usually a bit cheaper to use Uber or Lyft if you have an account and a working phone.
Rent a Car
With just a weekend in Austin, it’s certainly not a bad idea to just rent a car. This gives you the freedom to move around the city as you please and more easily reach destinations outside of the center.
That being said, the city has solid options for public transportation. It’s also a great place for cycling and there are several shops renting bikes out as well as a bike-share program.
Arriving to Austin By Train or Inter-city Bus
If you’re already traveling in the US, you also have the option of arriving in Austin by train or bus. The Texas Eagle Amtrak line stops in Austin and continues as far as both Los Angeles and Chicago.
Megabus tickets early enough they’re super cheap. I think we went from New Orleans to Houston to Austin for about $10 each!
Best Places to Stay for a Weekend in Austin
There are a few solid choices when it comes to areas to stay for a weekend in Austin.
If you’re in town for a bachelor or bachelorette party (which are huge here), then the Rainey Street Historic District is a great option. This area is known for its many bars in remodeled bungalows.
Another popular area to stay in for 2 days in Austin is South Congress.
Located just across the river from downtown, the area called SoCo is full of amazing street art and performers. Your Instagram feed will be on point if you base yourself here for the weekend!
Just a few blocks west is the Zilker neighborhood. Home to the city’s massive Zilker Metropolitan Park, this is the place to be if you’re hoping to spend most of your time outdoors.
While all of these are quality choices, my recommendation for a weekend in Austin goes to staying downtown. More specifically, the few blocks known as the Red River Culture District gets my vote.
This small but tight-knit neighborhood is the epicenter of Austin’s live music scene.
There are several fantastic restaurants, bars, and clubs here, meaning you can bounce around to different places and have a short walk home at the end of the night.
During the day, you’re just a few blocks away from the Texas Capitol and a short stroll down to the river. In short, it’s the perfect home base for an Austin weekend trip.
I realize that being surrounded by live music bars isn’t for everyone. Never fear — there are plenty of places to stay downtown if you prefer a quieter evening.
Here are some of the best options for accommodation in downtown Austin — a budget, mid-range, and luxury choice to satisfy all budgets:
Now You’re Ready For Austin
As you can see, you’re in for a treat when you spend a weekend in Austin.
There’s always something going on in this city, which is home to a wonderful blend of students, musicians, artists, techies, and entrepreneurs.
From massive festivals like Austin City Limits to the annual Bat Fest, it’s an eclectic mix of events here. Whether you travel there during a festival or not, you’re bound to have a good time in Austin.
If you’ve been to Austin and have some recommendations on what to do, where to eat, and bars to party it up at, leave a comment and let us hear about it!
Images in this article are courtesy of Shutterstock.com.
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