Top 13 Austin Spots You Must Absolutely Visit

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I headed out to Austin for a 4 day/3 night stay in the Hill Country.

I’ve always loved Austin and even though it’s only 3 hours away north west of Houston, I’m not sure why I’ve never gone more often.

In my opinion, it’s the best closest city to H-Town and the 3 hours is definitely worth the drive.

We had such an amazing time and I’d like to share with you these Top 13 Spots that you MUST absolutely visit when you go to Austin.

FOOD SPOTS

There’s no doubt that Austin is rich in delicious food spots. Whether you’re up for some tacos from a food truck or a nice lunch or dinner date by Lake Travis, Austin has these great places to offer. Foodie or not, these spots are on point.

1. SOUR SOP

Sour Sop is quickly creating a buzz amongst Austinites and came highly recommended. Located right at the St. Elmo’s Brewery, this infamous food truck that serves classic American dishes with an Asian flair, is the perfect match with the beer drafts served at St. Elmo.

Boy, we were not disappointed and we could see why the buzz was much-deserved. We especially loved the Sambal Wings. If you love sweet and spicy, you’d love Sambal Wings. The Thai chili, with the right amount of sweetness from the palm sugar, gives these jumbo wings a pop to remember! In fact, I can vividly remember the taste, even weeks after having it.

My husband also had their Water-Burger, which seemed like a satirical nomenclature from Texas’ famous Whataburger, but it’s really not. It’s called Water-Burger because of its ingredient called nam tok which means in Thai, a waterfall. Although I personally didn’t have this, my husband swears by its tastiness. The charred beef patty, nam tok, caramelized ranch, green leaf, marinated cucumber amongst all the other ingredients sound absolutely mouth-watering all together.

TIP: It’s better to sit inside St. Elmo’s Brewery, rather than outside at the designated tables, because it can be very hot.

Location:
440 E. Saint Elmo Rd. Ste. G2
Austin, TX 78745
512-522-7710
www.soursopaustin.com

2. THE OASIS AT LAKE TRAVIS

The Oasis is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner date. If you love watching the sunset with your beau, this is the place for you. The sight of the sunset over the Lake Travis horizon is breathtaking to say the least. That’s why they are called “The Sunset Capital of Texas.”

It is always packed exactly for this reason so be sure to arrive with plenty of time to catch the sunset and expect a long line and a long wait to get seated. Unfortunately, they don’t take reservations.

At the Starlight Terrace of the Oasis, a live band plays every weekend night, which turns the place into a dance floor and a live music mecca, especially when The Hot Tomatoes are playing. Be sure to check out their calendar to see who’s playing on your visit.

They have also recently opened Beau’s Backyard as another live music area.

As for the food, you can expect to see both classic American, Tex-Mex, and authentic Mexican dishes in their menu.

In our most recent visit, I just had to try the Fireballs. If you’re a big fan of Sriracha, then you’ll love Fireballs. They are Sriracha-flavored chicken shaped into balls with jalapeno ranch dip.

TIP: When you get there, even if you have a reservation, you might have to wait. Be sure to make an earlier reservation for dinner, with plenty of time to view the sunset. You can always still go upstairs to see the sunset while waiting for your table.

Location:
6550 Comanche Trail
Austin, TX 78732
512-266-2442
www.oasis-austin.com

3. BANGER’S SAUSAGE HOUSE AND BEER GARDEN

Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden is the meat-lovers haven. Located at the famous Rainey Historic District, this place has both indoor and outdoor seating and is dog-friendly. Banger’s is famous for its wide array of homemade sausage selection (about 30 varieties) and 104 beers on draft. They also host live music (a lot of times country) 2-3x a week.

I love the very casual, laid-back atmosphere – a great place to enjoy good food and good music. The price is very affordable as well, considering that the sausages they offer come in a very filling serving/size.

Their sausages come in a bun and normally come with toppings and sauces, depending on what you pick.

I tried their Spicy Italian sausage while my husband went for their Cajun classic Andouille. The Spicy Italian sausage, was just mildly spicy at first, in my opinion and the spiciness later on slowly kicks in. The pepper sauce that toppled the sausage I believe is what gives that spicy pop. Their French fries are so on point that makes the perfect side to whatever type of sausage you choose to go for.

If you have any vegetarians in your company or family, don’t let it stop you from visiting this place. They also have some great vegetarian meals on their menu.

TIP: You can either opt to sit inside or outside. But you’d still have to go through the front to sit in either or. The inside is self-serve while you’d have a server waiting on you if you choose to be outdoors.

Location:
79 & 81 Rainey St.
Austin, TX 78701
512-386-1656
www.bangersaustin.com

4. WALTON’S FANCY AND STAPLE

Without exaggeration, the moment I walked in Walton’s Fancy and Staple, I was in-love. Not only did I get excited to see all the sweet desserts showcased in the glass display but like a kid in a playground, the plants and flowers that decorated the whole place matched with some rustic decors made my heart skip a beat.

The place is so chic, lovely, and Instagram-worthy. Thanks to the Duck Adventures, we wouldn’t have known about this place if it wasn’t for that tour.

We came here for brunch before we headed back to Houston and I’m so glad that we actually had the time to do so. My husband and I both enjoyed our meals at Walton’s. I ordered their Biscuits and Gravy while my husband tried their Avocado Toast. While the Biscuits and Gravy were absolutely delicious, I wish that the serving was a bit bigger. Or the gravy would have had more sausage. Other than that, the meals were delicious and I still highly recommend checking them out.

TIP: Don’t come here when you’re in a rush. This is a great place to just relax and kill time a little bit. They have plenty of desserts to choose from that you will enjoy if you’re not in a hurry.

Location:
609 W. 6th St.
Austin, TX 78701
512-542-3380
www.waltonsfancyandstaple.com

5. STUBB’s BBQ

You can’t visit any Texas city without trying some authentic Texas BBQ! Let’s just say that if you didn’t have any BBQ while visiting, you’ve never been to Texas at all!

Austin offers several authentic Texas BBQ joints that will leave you craving for more. In fact, there are companies that offer BBQ taste tours throughout Austin. However, if you’d rather just go to one place to enjoy BBQ, you must check out Stubb’s.

We came here for their Gospel Brunch. My husband always loves a good brunch and gospel music and since we were going to miss church that day while we were traveling, we decided to go to Stubb’s.

Reservations are required to go for their gospel brunch so be sure to make one days ahead of time. I made a reservation a day before and unfortunately, by then, though it wasn’t fully booked, we weren’t able to get a table with a view of the band. We could still hear the music but would have loved to have had a view of the gospel singers/band playing that day.

They normally have two shows and if we had more time, we could probably have gone to the second show with a better seating. The brunch is a buffet and is $26.95 per person with a view of the band and $22.95 without. If you have a big appetite, just like any buffet, you will enjoy the gospel brunch at Stubb’s. They had 3 different kinds of BBQ meat for brunch: brisket, chicken, and sausage… There were about 6 sides and a couple of desserts to choose from. Also, there’s a make your own Bloody Mary bar available.

TIP: Make a reservation ahead of time if you’re going for their Gospel Brunch, especially if you prefer to have a view of the band.

Location:
801 Red River
Austin, TX 78701
512-480-8341
www.stubbsaustin.com

6. HULA HUT

When we got to Austin on Friday afternoon, this was our first stop. I’ve read wonderful reviews about Hula Hut and it sure didn’t disappoint.

I would describe Hula Hut as a Hawaii meets Texas kinda vibe. The Hawaiian interior décor and the outdoor hula huts sure gave this Tex-Mex restaurant a twist from a Mexican restaurant you might have frequently visited. The restaurant has a nice relaxing view of Lake Austin and has easy access to boat rentals and other water sports. They describe themselves as “Tex-Mex with a Polynesian” twist.

As for the food, you can expect to still be served with complimentary chips and salsa. We started off our meal with the Coconut Shrimp which I highly recommend. I’m not usually a big fan of coconut shrimp but I was pretty impressed with Hula Hut’s version of this dish.

TIP: Wear a cute outfit and take a photo by the patio with the huts in the background.

Location: 
3825 Lake Austin Blvd.,
Austin, TX 78703
512-476-4852
www.hulahutaustin.com

 

ATTRACTIONS

 There are so many things to do in and around Austin. I would recommend planning at least a 5 day/4 night stay if you’d like to have a good coverage of the attractions, dining, and activities in the area and do some hill country getaways as well.


Here are some spots I recommend that we actually got to visit.

  7. BARTON SPRINGS POOL

If you’re visiting within the months of June till September, when it’s close to 100 degrees in Texas, the Barton Springs Pool is a MUST visit.

A giant 3-acre natural spring-fed pool that is situated in Austin’s Zilker’s Park is really popular for both residents and non-residents alike. The spring water with an average 68-70 degrees is just the perfect way to cool down during the sizzling summer days. And how often do you find a natural spring-fed pool anyways?

This place is usually packed on weekends so plan to arrive early during the day than later. There is an admission fee of $3 for Austin residents and $8 for non-residents.

We got there before noon and it was already starting to get packed. Be prepared for a long line to find a parking spot and a wait to get your ticket for both parking and entry if you arrive later in the day. But however long the wait will be, Barton Springs Pool is worth it!

I loved seeing how vast this natural spring-fed pool is. Along both sides of it were lush hill sides where people spread their towels to lay down and sun bathe or rest.

Immediately right next to it was a spot for doggies. It’s entirely free but you won’t have access to the actual pool for humans if you decide to go that way. It was so much fun seeing the dogs jump in the water and play with each other and their owners.

TIP: Come to the pool early in the day. They accept credit cards and cash. Be sure to bring both so you have options to stand in whichever line is shorter. No outside food or drinks allowed.

 Location:  
2201 Barton Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78704
512-867-3080
www.austintexas.org/listings/barton-springs-pool/4687/

8. TEXAS STATE CAPITOL

Whether you’re a history buff or not, you can’t visit Austin and not check out the Texas State Capitol, even if it means just simply admiring its beauty. The majestic architecture is a picture-perfect background for your Austin souvenir photo!

They offer free tours daily, including Sundays! Be sure to check out their website for the schedule. You are also more than welcome to do a tour on your own if you wish to do it at your own pace. But the place is huge so be sure to get a map or mark your way in and way out so you won’t get lost.

We were amazed at seeing the House of Representatives and Senate chambers in person but my favorite part was standing in the middle of the dome, looking up above and seeing the star of Texas. It was pretty grand and I couldn’t help but be in child-like awe, especially when I learned that when you talk in that part of the building, there’s an echo!

While there was no senate or House of Representatives session when we visited, I heard that you can attend and sit in from the balcony if you wish to.

TIP: The guided tour has lots of information but can be longer than the time you’d want to spend at the Capitol so weigh your options.

Location:  
1100 Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701
512-463-0063

www.tspb.state.tx.us/prop/tcvc/cvc/cvc.html

9. DOWNTOWN AUSTIN 

Downtown Austin has a lot to offer and is best explored through a tour. We had a brief overview of it when we did the Austin Duck Adventures. It was so much fun!

It was about an hour and a half tour that started from the Austin Visitor Center. The guide drives you through some historical spots and streets in downtown Austin while narrating the stories behind them and then the vehicle turns into a boat on Lake Austin.

This is a tour that both you and your family will love. My husband and I enjoyed this tour a lot actually. The tour guide/driver was fun but the best part was turning the vehicle from a land vehicle into a boat that cruised alongside other boats on the lake, allowing us to sight-see some beautiful houses on the coast.

With the Austin Duck Adventures, you get the best of both worlds! Tickets are $28.95 per person plus tax.

TIP: If you would rather just do a straight up tour of Downtown Austin, there are some guided walking tours of certain areas or you can custom-design a tour for your party. For more information on that, you can visit www.austintexas.org.

Location: 
602 E. Fourth St.
Austin, TX 78701
512-477-5274

10.  RAINEY STREET HISTORIC DISTRICT

The Rainey Street Historic District is a street full of bungalows that turned into bars and restaurants. It’s a great area for bar hopping or just hanging out after kayaking, cruising, or bat watching at Lady Bird Lake, which is located nearby.

This is the street where Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden is located. It’s literally minutes away from Downtown.

Along with the bars and restaurants on this street are some food trucks as well, so you will never run out of choices. Many restaurants offer live music during the day and at night.

If you like the night life, The Rainey Historic District is a must check out. The bungalows-turned-bars are like no other in Austin. We didn’t find the place rowdy and it’s got a laid-back and casual atmosphere.

My husband and I enjoyed some mini donuts from a food truck and hung out for a little while in a patio nearby before heading back to our hotel.

TIP:  If you’re staying at a hotel in Downtown, I recommend taking Uber instead because parking is pretty pricey. On our last night, we stayed at W Austin and took Uber to Banger’s and only paid $5.95 on Uber one way. It’s definitely worth not having to worry about finding a parking spot.

Location: 
602 E. Fourth St.
Austin, TX 78701
512-477-5274
www.austintexas.org/visit/entertainment-districts/rainey-street/

11. HOPE OUTDOOR  GALLERY 

Hope Outdoor Gallery is the mural haven for mural enthusiasts. If you appreciate the arts and would like a fun, colorful background in your Austin photos, the Hope Outdoor Gallery is a must stop.

It’s basically an area with underutilized spaces and walls which local artists took over with their fun creations. It’s an open paint park and free to get in. However, not all artists can just paint on the walls. They need to acquire permission from the organization and show a sketch of their work to be eligible to paint.

It’s a pretty interesting place and worth a stop if you’re in Austin. If you’re following me on Instagram, this is where I took this LOVE photo.

TIP:  Parking can be tough. Be sure to park at designated parking spots only or you will get a ticket.

Location:      
1101 Baylor St.
Austin, TX 78702
www.hopecampaign.org/hopeprojects/hope-outdoor-gallery/

12. I LOVE YOU WALL AT JOE’S COFFEE

Whether you’re from Texas or somewhere else, at some point, chances are you probably have seen some photos with the “I Love You So Much” writing on the wall as the backdrop and originating from somewhere in Austin.

I’ve seen it in engagement photos, bachelorette party, couples, friends and singles alike. How could it be so popular right? I’ve seen it for myself. This wall never ran out of a line of people waiting for their chance to take a photo with it.

It seems like it’s become the “photo” capital of Austin. The famous spot is actually owned by Jo’s Coffee. It literally is just a wall on the side of the building with the mural.

Once you’re done taking a photo, you can grab some drinks and dessert from…where else, Jo’s Coffee!?  My husband swears by their Iced Turbo. I had a little sip of it and it was great. A great drink to cool down while you’re around town or waiting for your turn at the wall.

TIP:  Looking for a parking spot can be tough here as well. You might have to take a few rounds or just wait for some of the people waiting to take photos and see where they’re parked at.

Location:
1300 South Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78704
512.444.3800
www.joscoffee.com

13. BOTANICAL GARDEN

Across the street from Barton Springs Pool is the Zilker Botanical Garden. The admission fees are $1 for children, $2 for adult Austin residents and $3 for adult non-residents.

Inside the botanical garden are several different types of gardens: Japanese, Herbs, Cactus and Succulent, Rose, Children’s and many more. There are also some historical and architectural features.

This is a relaxing place to enjoy a nice hike and get away from the crowds downtown. There are plenty of spots that will make a beautiful backdrop for photos. My favorite was this gazebo.

My husband and I enjoyed the walk under the trees. Although it was hot, the big trees provided enough shade for us to cool down during the tour.

TIP: The Botanical Garden is across the street from the Barton Springs Pool, however, you should still take your car to get there coming from the pool, as you will be crossing highways with plenty of fast vehicles. They are open from Monday to Sunday from 9 AM to 6 PM.

 Location:
2220 Barton Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78746
512.477.8672
www.zilkergarden.org

 

OTHER GREAT SPOTS TO VISIT WHILE IN AUSTIN

Food:

Daytime Entertainment Districts:

Activities/Sights:

  • Umlauf Sculpture Garden (walkable from Zilker Park, Barton Springs, Botanical Garden, and Barton Springs Dr. dining)
  • Six Square: Austin’s Black Cultural District

Tours:

Shopping:

Swimming Holes in Hill Country (day trip):

For more information on hotel stays, dining, entertainment and other attractions, be sure to visit www.austintexas.org.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Visit Austin. The opinions and text are all mine.

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2 Comments

  1. August 16, 2017 / 2:50 PM

    14. Mozart’s Coffee, on Town Lake. My favorite downtime hangout.

    • Lynne Gabriel
      August 16, 2017 / 3:09 PM

      Awesome! Will definitely check it out next time. Thanks for stopping by!

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