WHY MAKE AUSTIN, TEXAS, your choice for a weekend getaway? The Lone Star State’s capital and home to The University of Texas is the winner of the Scouted Cities Contest’s Weekend Getaway category, and as The Scout Guide Austin editor and owner Leigh Ann Kalman explains, while visitors come for the storied South Congress and Sixth Street areas, it’s the laidback lifestyle and culture of friendliness that’s quintessentially Austin that draws them in. From shopping to enjoying the active life on the greenbelts and lakes to taking in live music and some of the best food Texas has to offer, there’s always something going on and much to experience. So consider yourself warned: after a few days, Austin will get under your skin. “There’s a reason why visitors come for a weekend and quickly become locals,” Leigh Ann says. “You can’t help but fall in love with this place.”
Ready to plan your weekend getaway? Here, Leigh Ann shares her favorite local finds and activities for making the most of a weekend in Austin, Texas.
*Please note that due to COVID-19 some of these businesses might be closed or have specific guidelines in place. We recommend calling ahead and/or visiting their websites for the latest information on their status, offerings, etc.
WHERE TO STAY
Whether you’re seeking historic, elegant ambiance; a luxurious spa experience; or the hip vibe Austin is known for, you’ll find the perfect place to rest your head here.
Commodore Perry Estate (4100 Red River Street). Austin’s newest hotel darling, The Commodore Perry Estate, is a historic masterpiece. Once you arrive and take in the property’s stunning grounds and design—not to mention an action-packed event calendar for members and hotel guests—you may never want to leave.
Hotel Saint Cecilia (112 Academy Drive). Just steps away from the hustle and bustle of South Congress, Hotel Saint Cecilia is a beautiful oasis nestled under mature oak trees. Their generously sized bungalows and iconic pool are just a few reasons to stay at this gem of a boutique hotel.
Lake Austin Spa (705 S. Quinlan Park Road). “Where wellness meets the water” is their tagline and it perfectly sums up this slice of (lakefront) heaven. Located just 45 minutes from downtown, Lake Austin Spa will make you feel like you’re a world away from the buzz of the city. Come here to unplug and relax—or to detox after a weekend of eating and drinking your way through Austin.
South Congress Hotel (1603 S Congress Avenue). A gathering spot for locals and tourists alike, South Congress Hotel is stylish and incredibly convenient for exploring Austin’s most iconic neighborhood. I love all their food and beverage concepts on property, as well as their curated lobby shop.
The shopping opportunities in Austin are endless, as there are an abundance of unique, small, independent businesses. Here, Leigh Ann recommends her favorite spots in the walkable, highly concentrated retail areas of South Congress and South First and Downtown. If you’re looking for more shopping opportunities, check out Rosedale, Central, and North Austin.
South Congress // Shopping and strolling Austin’s most iconic neighborhood is the perfect way to spend the afternoon. My recommendation is to start at one end and wander up one side of the road and down the other. If you’re in need of a break or libation, Hotel San Jose’s (1316 S Congress Avenue) patio is our go-to (order the frosé).
Sunroom (1603 S Congress Avenue). High-end women’s boutique with a bohemian flair, featuring a mix of well known brands and indie labels.
Maufrais (1512 S Congress Avenue). Visiting Texas means that you have to at least try on—and likely be swayed to buy—a Stetson hat. Look no further than this chic retail experience.
Esby Apparel (1714 B S Congress Avenue). Women’s and men’s apparel designed in Austin and proudly made in the USA.
Cove (1318 S Congress Avenue). This beautifully designed two-story boutique with a bohemian vibe sells women’s apparel that will have you dressing like a local in no time.
Outdoor Voices (1204 S Congress Avenue). The preferred athleisure brand for locals recently opened a new shop on this iconic strip.
STAG Provisions (1423 S Congress Avenue). This hip menswear shop exudes Austin cool. Thankfully, they’ve recently launched a women’s line, Daughters.
South First, South Lamar, and Downtown // These shops focused in the Downtown/South Lamar area are just over the South Congress Bridge (the one of bat fame) and well worth a visit.
Criquet Shirts (1603 S 1st Street). Makers of the finest vintage-inspired golf shirts, polos, button downs, and sweaters known. Once you know, you’ll spot them on locals around town.
Noah Marion Quality Goods (2053 S Lamar Boulevard). This design studio handcrafts quality leather goods for ethically conscious consumers. I’m an especially big fan of their leather dog collars.
Wildflower Organics (524 N Lamar Boulevard). This well-known shopping destination offers high-end furniture, accessories, gifts, and a full line of natural bedding products.
ByGeorge. (524 North Lamar Boulevard). Operating since 1979, ByGeorge has been outfitting college coeds and locals alike with on-trend looks for decades.
One of the hallmarks of Austin is its robust outdoor options. Whether you choose to engage in sport or cruise with a cool beverage is entirely up to you.
Get on the lake. To get the real local experience, spend the afternoon on Lake Austin or Lake Travis (just a short drive from downtown). You’ll get a completely different perspective of the city and as a bonus, you’ll get to check out some of Austin’s most sought after real estate. Book a boat through Float On Rentals and leave the driving to the experts so you can enjoy and sip on one of our many locally made beverages.
Hit the trail. Before you dig into the breakfast tacos (no judgement if that’s every day of your trip), get your heartbeat up with a loop around the Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake. Or if paddle boarding is more of your thing, there are plenty of rental companies around the trail that can set you up with a SUP board or kayak. Short on time? Check out the boardwalk on the East Side for gorgeous views of Austin’s skyline.
VISIT A BREWERY
Austin is spoiled for choice when it comes to local beverages (and restaurants, too). Whether you want to tour breweries in town or take a short road trip to the Hill Country for laid-back vibes, here are a few of our favorite spots—which are perfect for the whole family (kids and dogs included).
In town // Easy Tiger (1501 E 7th Street or 3508 S Lamar Boulevard). Hit up one of these spots for the variety of beers (including non-alcoholic options). Stay for the delicious baked goods and German fare.
Central Machineworks (4824 E Cesar Chavez Street). Housed within a converted industrial building, this microbrewery beer hall with elevated pub food features a generous outdoor area and live music on the weekends.
Austin East Ciders Restaurant (1530 Barton Springs Road). If sipping cider is more your speed, head over to this newly opened restaurant where you’ll find an impressive selection of offerings (try the Blood Orange). They have a dog-friendly patio and plenty of space inside with A/C if it’s a toasty Texas day. Zilker Park is just a short stroll away if you want to walk off the calories and catch a beautiful view of the downtown skyline.
Just out of town // Treaty Oak Distilling (16604 Fitzhugh Road, Dripping Springs). A perfect place to spend a long afternoon with friends. Enjoy lunch from their onsite BBQ restaurant, Alice’s, and sample their beers, Treaty Oak Whiskey, or Waterloo Gin cocktails.
Jester King (13187 Fitzhugh Road, Austin). This world-renowned maker of farmhouse ales and barrel-aged wild ales is located on 165 acres of farmland on the outskirts of Austin.
Desert Door Distillery (211 Darden Hill Road, Driftwood). Try something new and sample Texas Sotol, a distilled spirit from wild-harvested sotol plants that’s hand-crafted in Driftwood, Texas.
Live music is prolific in Austin, with venues ranging from bars to coffee shops and restaurants. While it’s hard to narrow it down, these are three of Leigh Ann’s favorite spots.
Antone’s (305 E 5th Street). This iconic blues club is a part of Austin’s old guard and consistently showcases incredible acts, from lesser-known Texas troubadours to more notable big names.
The White Horse (500 Comal Street). Looking to two-step while you’re in Texas? Look no further than this dancehall on the East Side. The locals are friendly and would love to twirl you around the dance floor to some Texas country music. If dancing isn’t your thing, hang out outside and enjoy a cold beer and some popcorn.
C-Boy’s Heart & Soul (2008 S Congress Avenue). A short walk away from the South Congress buzz is one of my favorite live music joints—the music and the decor are top-notch. For a small cover, you can enjoy live R&B or soul in a cozy booth that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to another era.
GRAB A DRINK
There are lots of watering holes to choose from in this capital city, which can lead to a heated debate among locals about which are the “best.” But these three spots top Leigh Ann’s list for a real taste of Austin.
Donn’s Depot (1600 W 5th Street). A favorite amongst locals for good reason. Fashioned out of old railway cars, Donn’s is an iconic establishment that has welcomed Austinites of all ages for almost 50 years. This is our go-to spot to grab a drink, listen to some live music, and dance the night away.
Whisler’s (1816 E 6th Street). This spot has a little something for everyone. Hanging with a group of friends? Their outdoor, dog-friendly patio is the perfect choice. Going on a date? Check out their Mezcal Bar upstairs. They’ve got delicious food, too.
Garage (503 Colorado Street). Tucked away in—you guessed it— a parking garage, Garage cocktail bar is an intimate and dimly lit spot to enjoy craft cocktails and good conversation. Their menu is robust, but don’t be afraid to order off-menu; they always oblige when I ask for a spicy margarita.
ENJOY A MEAL
Herein lies one of the great conundrums of visiting Austin—there are simply not enough dining opportunities in a short weekend visit. Here are Leigh Ann’s picks for any time of day. For a more expansive list, check out her Restaurant Guide.
Brunch // Hillside Farmacy (1209 E 11th Street). Once a drugstore in the 50s, Hillside has been lovingly restored and serves thoughtfully sourced brunch favorites in a beautiful setting.
Suerte (1800 E. 6th Street). Suerte’s menu is rooted in traditional Mexican cooking techniques, using local Texas ingredients and fresh, house-made masa. I love this spot for all meals, but especially brunch.
Mattie’s (811 W. Live Oak Street). Nestled in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood in a converted 19th century house, Mattie’s southern menu and setting is always a treat. Be on the lookout for the wild peacocks that roam the property!
Lunch // Swedish Hill (1120 W 6th Street). The perfect spot for coffee and a sweet treat or a sit-down lunch, this beautiful spot is centrally located and a regular go-to for locals.
Fresa’s Chicken Al Carbon (1703 S 1st Street). A casual atmosphere serving up delicious and elevated Mexican food. I could spend hours on their patio shaded by mature live oak trees drinking spicy margaritas and eating chips and salsa.
Clark’s Oyster Bar (1200 W 6th Street). Sitting on Clark’s iconic yellow and white striped patio drinking wine, downing oysters, and enjoying other delicious seafood fare is one of our favorite ways to spend an afternoon.
Dinner // ATX Cocina (110 San Antonio Street). This hot spot features modern Mexican cuisine in a beautiful downtown setting. Order family-style so you can try a little bit of everything because it’s all worth tasting—trust me!
Kemuri Tatsu-Ya (2713 E 2nd Street). My favorite concept from the Tatsu-Ya restaurant group, Kemuri is an izakaya (a casual Japanese bar) that specializes in smoked meats with a Texas twist and a lively atmosphere
Uchi (801 S Lamar Boulevard). My go-to celebratory spot, Uchi is hands-down my favorite sushi in Austin and their Sake Social Hour (aka happy hour) is a great way to sample the menu for less. Book early, reservations go fast.
Late night // Justine’s (4710 E 5th Street). Not ready to wind down just yet? Head to Justine’s for elevated French fare and beautiful and unique art installations on the property.
Home Slice (1415 S Congress Avenue). There’s nothing better than a slice to soak it all up at the end of the night, and Home Slice’s South Congress window service is open late and always hits the spot.
Little Lucy’s (75 1/2 Rainey Street). Once you smell Little Lucy’s miniature donuts, you simply can’t say no (nor should you). I recommend getting an extra order to enjoy the next morning with coffee .
There’s always something going on in Austin (ever celebrated Eeyore’s birthday?), but these are the events that consistently draw big crowds. COVID 19 has events hanging in the balance, but as of publication, this is the most up-to-date information.
SXSW (March 2021). South by, as the locals call it, is a conference and festival that celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries.
Dell Technologies Match Play (March 2021). A part of the PGA World Golf Championship, this tournament draws golf pros and fans alike every March.
Austin City Limits Music Festival (October 2021). This multi-day music festival takes place on the shores of Lady Bird Lake at Zilker Park. Organizers are hopeful it can take place this coming fall.
Austin Food & Wine Festival (Typically spring, now November 2021). An annual festival celebrating great food and wine, where guests can sip, savor, mix and mingle their way through an impressively vast number of the country’s top wine, spirits, and culinary exhibitors.
University of Texas Football (August to September). In Austin, Texas Longhorns football is akin to religion. The atmosphere on a home game weekend is supercharged, and win or lose, a city-wide party lasts until the wee hours.
For additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Austin, follow The Scout Guide Austin on Instagram.