Tons of things to do in Austin are totally free or really cheap. Austin is the land of tacos and Mexican Martinis, as well as some awesome live music and beautiful scenery. If y’all want to know what to do in Austin look no further. This weekend guide to Austin will have you seeing and doing some of the best things the city has to offer.
So where to start?
How about some tips before you go to Austin?
Things to know about Austin before you go
- Traffic is terrible in Austin. If you can avoid driving between 4-7 pm, please do.
- Take South 1st to get from South Austin to downtown to beat some of the traffic. It used to be my favorite way to drive downtown in Austin.
- A Mexican Martini is a famous drink in Austin. It’s a margarita served in a martini glass to class it up a bit. It may or may not have a splash of olive juice in it. I’m not sure what makes it special, it just seems to taste better!
- South Austin is the best, between downtown and Highway 71.
- Streets are divided East/West by the Capitol Building, which sits on Congress Avenue.
- Parking can be a nightmare downtown, but here are some handy parking tips I found.
Things to do in Austin – Outdoors
Take a hike in the Barton Creek Greenbelt
One of my absolute favorite things to do in Austin. When the creek is flowing it’s so beautiful and nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Take a hike, go for a dip, walk your dog, or ride a bike.
Barton Creek has many entrances along it’s length. My go-to entrance is back in a neighborhood along Spyglass/Highway 360. Be advised this is one of the more difficult entrances, as you are at the top of the hill hiking down. It’s fine going down, but remember that you will have to go back up and plan accordingly! This hill is called the ‘Hill of Life.’
Here is a handy map to find the closest entrance to you.
Go for a swim in a cold spring at Barton Springs Pool
2131 William Barton Dr, Austin, TX 78746, USA – Open daily 5 am – 10 pm
Austin is really hot. Barton Springs Pool is the classic place to go if y’all need to cool off (it’s 68 degrees year round.) For 2 or 3 bucks you can take the plunge.
If free is more your style, another option is just on the other side of the fence. There is a spillway that will be full of people and dogs, this is the free area of the spring.
- Watch over a million bats take flight
Sounds crazy right? Wait until you see one of the most unique things to do in Austin. It’s incredible. You have to do it at least once, even if it is the most touristic thing you can do in Austin. It’s worth it. Viewing is best in the warmer months. They fly at dusk, so get there a little early, you’ll see the crowd.
Pro-tip: if you are in need of parking, head just south of the bridge and park for free at the Austin American Statesman’s parking lot. It’s the closest spot to the bridge and also completely free after 6 pm.
- Canoe / SUP / Kayak on Town Lake
2101 Andrew Zilker Rd, Austin, TX 78746, USA – Open 9 AM – 7:15 PM Daily
Head over to Zilker Park Boat Rentals and rent a canoe, kayak, or SUP for $15 / hour. If you print out the coupon from closest entrance to you rentals are buy one hour get one free. It’s very relaxing and gives you a unique perspective on the skyline. Plus, the water is really beautiful near the spring, it’s crystal clear.
- Zilker Park
Big open green space located centrally in Austin. Have a picnic, play disc golf (the course is really easy compared to some others), or fly a kite. Enjoy the sunshine! Also Barton Springs Road is here which has some delicious restaurants on it.
- Walk down SoCo and check out the shops
SoCo stands for South Congress, which is a street that runs smack into the Texas State Capitol Building. South of that are a lot of really cool outdoor markets on the weekends, as well as a lot of good food.
Food Trucks, Pizza at Home Slice, Burgers from Hopdoddy, and Mexican food from Guero’s.
Things to do in Austin – Night Life
- Two Step at Broken Spoke
3201 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704, USA
Tiny, crowded, AWESOME. Broken Spoke is an institution in South Austin. Located at the same location on S. Lamar since 1964. One of our favorite things to do in Austin is to go and dance to some country music! They also offer country dance lessons before it really gets going at night. Y’all might even see a famous act there. Be sure and check out the museum!
Catch an improv show or play!
Austin is known for live music but the improv and theatre scene is just as vibrant and talented! Find a show that suits you, they also have excellent options for families and kids, and have one of the best experiences you’ll have in Austin! Check out Knuckleball for imrov comedy or Scottish Rite Theater for family shows. Also for the adults check out Trouble Puppet Theater.
- Go to 6th Street if that’s your thing.
If getting a drink and dancing is your thing, and you don’t mind a bunch of college kids or underage drinkers, head out to Sixth Street. I’d advise to be careful while out here, anytime you get around a bunch of people drinking, things can happen.
A more hipster idea (hipsters are way more relaxed) would be to go to East 6th Street. Less chance of a fight, and more moustaches and plaid shirts.
- Check out Rainey Street
A historic district near downtown Austin that has been converted into a row of houses, bars, and restaurants. It’s a really cool vibe over here, much more relaxing than 6th street. A lot of different styles of bars as well, not just dance clubs.
- Watch a movie at Alamo Drafthouse
If movies are your thing, Alamo Drafthouse is the best movie theater in town. Not only do they show the latest new releases, but you can eat and drink while you are watching! They take movies very seriously, so classic movies are also shown here. They have specialty showings, from sing-a-longs, themed dinners, and even unlimited cereal as you watch old school Saturday morning cartoons. No joke.
No cellphones or talking during the movie. They take this very seriously. Just ask Madonna.
Things to eat in Austin
Eat Mexican food and have a tasty beverage.
A weekend guide to Austin would not be complete without mentioning Mexican food and cocktails. As I said above, Austin is the land of the Mexican Martini which is just a margarita on the rocks served in a shaker. It may or may not have a splash of olive juice in it. For some reason, it tastes better than a regular margarita (usually). Keep an eye out for drink specials!
Try a local brew.
Austin has delicious beer brewed in it by some great breweries. Live Oak and 512 are just two, there are at least 10, and they are all awesome. 2 of my favorite beers are Live Oak Hefeweizen and 512 Pecan Porter.
BBQ is also a food that there is plenty of in Austin. You will hear the name Franklin’s, which some people swear by and will wait in line for hours to get it. We’re not about wasting a bunch of time. A place I really like is Terry Black’s Barbecue on Barton Springs. Uncle Billy’s is good for food and their house brewed beer is delicious! There are too many to list, so take your pick! Just make sure you get some before y’all leave.
- Eat at Whole Foods or Central Market
Austin is home to Whole Foods headquarters, so to check out what all the fuss is about head into the store. You will be blown away by the dizzying array of food and shopping that can be done there. Sure it’s expensive, but when you are on vacation in Austin, you have to try it once.
Another option is Central Market. Personally, I prefer Central Market over Whole Foods because it is run by HEB which is a Texas supermarket chain. You get the same amount of choices, same high quality of food and produce, but it is cheaper. Be sure and check out their counter service, where you can pick out some awesome food and take it to-go for a picnic at one of Austin’s beautiful parks!
Awesome places to eat in Austin
Tex-Mex / Tacos
- Chuy’s (Address: 1728 Barton Springs Rd)
- Trudy’s (901 Little Texas Ln C)
- Torchy’s Tacos (3005 S Lamar Blvd)
- El Chilito (4501 Manchaca Rd)
- Habanero Mexican Cafe (501 W Oltorf St)
- Guero’s (1412 S Congress Ave)
- Franklin Barbecue (wait in line for hours, might sell out.) (900 E 11th St)
- Terry Black’s Barbecue (1003 Barton Springs Rd)
- Uncle Billy’s Brew-B-Q (1530 Barton Springs Rd) (Try their house made beer!)
- Mighty Fine Burgers (5601 Brodie Ln #1300)
- Phil’s Ice House (2901 S Lamar Blvd) ***Our Favorite***
- P. Terry’s (404 S Lamar Blvd) Fresh, affordable, but a little small.
- Hopdoddy (1400 S Congress Ave) Gourmet burgers.
- Gourdough’s (1503 S 1st St) Burger’s with donuts for the bun! No lie!
Where to Shop in Austin
- The Domain
Located up in North Austin. Really classy shops and upscale shopping. Not my thing, but hey, if that sounds good to you, check it out!
- South 1st Shopping
Between the Texas School for the Deaf and Oltorf is great. Tons of shopping and restaurants, begging for you to explore. Record stores, secondhand shops, tacos, food trucks, even the Greetings from Austin mural at Annie and S. 1st. South 1st was my favorite street when I lived in Austin.
It’s also a secret way to get downtown with less traffic than some of the other roads and highways.
Things to do outside Austin – Day trips
- Hamilton Pool
Incredible natural pool to swim in with a waterfall. Check out the pics.
- Krause Springs
Looking to camp near a freezing cold swimming hole? Doesn’t get better than Krause Springs.
- The Alamo
San Antonio is only about an hour away without traffic. Go check out a historic Texas monument!
Think you can do it all in one weekend? Take the challenge. This is our weekend Guide to Austin. Did we forget something? Let us know in the comments.