Last updated: August 15, 2019
Over the years, Austin has become one of our favorite places to visit for a short weekend getaway; it has a good balance between the stereotypical honky-tonk vibe you expect in Texas with lots of live music, a vibrant and emerging food scene, and plenty of things to do outside almost year-round.
A city of close to 1 million people in Central Texas, Austin has been dubbed by some as “the Portland of the South” and some may even argue that Portland was dubbed “the Austin of the North” due to their similarities. We have connected through IAH and DFW airports but Austin was the first place we actually visited in Texas and you can definitely sense the different of vibe on arrival at the airport.
Getting to Austin:
AUS – Austin Bergstrom Airport is serviced by a number of airlines from destinations all over North America and internationally by British Airways and Norwegian Air has announced service between Austin and London Gatwick in the spring of 2018.
For Canadians, getting to Austin really depends where you live. If you live in Ontario, Air Canada flies to Austin non-stop from YYZ – Toronto Pearson. Since we live in Vancouver, British Columbia, we’ve been flying here via SEA – Seattle Tacoma airport on Alaska Airlines flight # AS774 (red-eye) to maximize time and status/usable miles. Unfortunately for us, AS774’s departure has been moved to 17:30 to coincide with the Delta flight which makes it more difficult for us but more convenient for others.
To find the best flight options from your location, have a look at Google Flights.
Best time to visit Austin:
We’ve visited in the winter, spring, and summer and each season has its pros and cons. It gets very hot in the summer and not everyone can handle that, but we don’t mind since we love the sun and heat and it tends to be cheaper because less people travel here. The spring is a great time to visit because the temperature is more comfortable but the timing can also coincide with major events like SXSW which makes it very expensive and everything is super crowded and busy. While you’d think to would be warm in Austin in the winter, it can get a little chilly so this was our least preferred time to visit.
- Car rentals: It tends to be more difficult to find cheap car rentals in Austin than other cities so we usually end up splurging and renting an Audi A4 with Silvercar.
- Ride Sharing: Both Uber and Lyft are present in Austin and can pick up from the airport.
- Public Transit: There are busses in Austin but we’ve never used the system and cannot comment on it. There is no train that connects the airport to downtown either.
Where to Stay:
Austin has a wide variety of accommodations to meet your budget and personal tastes; from boutique hotels to chain hotels and AirBnBs, you’ll find something pretty easily, unless you plan on visiting during SXSW when everything is sold out and you need to book way in advance.
Our favorite place to stay is a boutique hotel called Lone Star Court about a 20 minute drive to downtown Austin. Lone Star Court captures Austin’s spirit with the rustic honky-tonk vibe; there’s live music, fire pits, an outdoor pool, picnic tables and rocking chairs. The rooms are also very nice and comfortable; it’s a rustic luxury hotel where you feel like you’re camping or glamping…think fancy hotel meets old school motel.
What to Do:
There is plenty to do in Austin and the surrounding area. Here are some ideas:
Live Music: Live music is really popular here and downtown Austin has many live music venues. You can either plan who you want to see or be spontaneous. For all things live music related, check out: https://www.austintexas.org/music-scene/ . We were even able to see Matthew Ryan, one of our favorite musicians play downtown.
Outdoor Recreation: The Colorado River runs through Austin and you can go kayaking, swimming, stand-up paddle boarding and walk by the river. In addition, Barton Springs is a spring fed pool by Zilker Park and is a great place to go for a swim.
Food: While there are tons of great places to eat in Austin and the surroundings, we tend to come for the BBQ. So far, we’ve visited 5 of Texas Monthly’s Top Barbecue Joints in the area and for the best and easiest experience in Austin, we highly recommend Micklethwait Craft Meats. We love La Barbecue and would have gone more often but we ended up waiting 45 minutes even when we pre-ordered. La Barbecue went from a food trailer to a brick and mortar concept when they moved in to the Quickie Pickie on Cesar Chavez Street to take over their kitchen. We haven’t visited since it moved, we can’t provide any further information about the experience and the wait times. While it’s more of a “fast-food” BBQ restaurant with multiple locations across Texas, we have a soft spot for Rudy’s and really enjoy their turkey, sausages, and lean brisket.
Locals and visitors rave about Torchy’s Tacos. Torchy’s is truly a local institution in Austin and they serve up tex-mex tacos so it’s worth a visit; their locations vary from trendy brick-and-mortar to their humble beginnings as a food truck.
Drinks: We abide by the “coffee until beer” saying and always make our first stop the Buzz Mill to sit outside and have coffee before heading over to line-up for BBQ”. Craft beer lovers will be in heaven in Austin as there are many breweries with great patios. We really enjoy Austin Beer Works, Southern Heights, Friends and Allies , Zilker, and the tap list at the Quickie Pickie, a convenience store for adults.
Outside of Austin:
While you can fill your days in Austin proper, I’ll share some of the things we’ve done within a 2 hour radius that were fun and worth checking out.
1) River tubing down the Comal River: We’ve driven to New Braunfels about 1 hour away to go river tubing down the Comal River. This is a great summer activity and we highly recommend it.
2) Exploring Hill Country: Austin’s hill country is quite scenic and you can combine going for a swim at Lake Travis with a visit to Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza for some pizza and beers. There are also a few breweries near Stanley’s, Jester King for those who like sours and Last Stand for those who enjoy more traditional beers and both have outdoor seating and games like corn toss. We’ve also really enjoyed Oasis Texas Brewing in Oasis Texas for the food, the views, the games and their delicious and refreshing session beers ( the Metamodern is our favorite). There are also wineries in the region but we’ve never tried them. If you like hard alcohol, head over to Dripping Springs and try some sotol, an agave based liquor at Desert Door Texas Sotol Distillery and perhaps plan a stop at Twisted X Brewing.
3) The BQQ Circuit: Have a look at Texas Monthly’s best barbecue joints and plan out which ones to visit. Since Snow’s in Lexington opens at 08:00, we drove to Lexington after we arrived on the red eye and waited in line to have BBQ for breakfast. On our way back after tubing, we checked out Valentina’s for some tex-mex BBQ. On our most recent trip, we stayed in College Station to check out Cavalry Court, another Valencia Group Hotel and went to Truth BBQ in Brenham on our way back to Austin and really enjoyed it, we’d add it to our top 3 BBQ experiences out of the 8 we’ve tried so far.
As you can see, Austin offers a good balance of an urban experience with options to venture out of town for a rural experience in nature. We’re looking forward to our next visit already!
Have you been to Austin Texas? Did you enjoy it? Are we missing anything in our list of recommendations and tips?
- Review: Texican Court in Irving Texas
- Hotel Review: Cavalry Court in College Station
- Hotel Review: Lone Star Court in Austin
- BBQ in Austin: Micklethwait Craft Meats
- Beer and Pizza in Austin’s Hill Country: Stanley’s Farm House Pizza