What to do in Austin, Texas?

I love going back home to Austin. It’s a fantastic city with many things to do. Although I spend most of my time with family, I occasionally have the opportunity to go to my favorite nostalgic places. If you told me you were visiting Austin right now, here are my recommendations and why I love them so much.

Queso, tacos, and BBQ

One of my favorite things about Texas is the BBQ and Tex-Mex cuisine. Not only are the portions Texas-sized, but the prices are also affordable ( especially happy hour pricings)! They fall into the fast-casual field where a meal can take as much or as little time as you want.

  • Torchy’s Tacos: The queso is legendary. I always get both a republican and a democrat (it balances out the flavors)!
  • Rudy’s BBQ: My mom used to buy this for her coworkers when she went on business trips to California. Their BBQ sauce is my favorite and has a great mix of flavors that makes their BBQ delicious and makes any well-done steak I cook edible :). Don’t forget to try their breakfast tacos as well!
  • Chuy’s: This restaurant is classic tex-mex with delicious frozen margaritas. Do this after a hot day outside.
  • Kerbey Lane: This diner-esque place offers great brunch opportunities and late-night munchies. 
  • Tacodeli, Saltlick, Franklin’s Barbeque: Some will swear that these places are better, but not for me!

Other great places to eat.

Unfortunately, I am not a fan of the non-American cuisine in Austin. But there are still great restaurants in Austin. Here are some of my non-queso and bbq related recommendations:

  • What-a-burger: You thought In-and-out was the best burger place? Once you realize that everything is bigger in Texas, you’ll appreciate the meal that comes with this fast-food restaurant chain.
  • Jack Allen’s Kitchen: Maybe this was just big in my high school, but something that would always make me happy afterward.
  • Moonshine Grill: Classic American comfort food. I went for brunch and wasn’t disappointed.
  • Texas Roadhouse: If you’re looking for meat and fantastic bread, this is the place. I used to eat at this place at swim meets before I realized it was hurting my race times cause I’d always overeat for lunch.
  • Jim Jim’s water ice: a sweet shaved ice snack that I love after a day outside. It’s smooth and a lot more creamy than the usual shaved ice.
  • Texas Honneyham: One of my high school’s favorite stops for breakfast.
  • P Terry’s, Chick-fil-a, In-and-out burger: These fast-food restaurants can’t be ignored either :)

Being outside.

While I’ve never lived downtown, I often find myself by Lady Bird Lake when I come back. The entire “lake” (it’s actually a river) has a great walking trail, and the circular paths measure in nice whole numbers. There is a perfect three-mile run that I love to do, which is also walkable if I just want to catch up with someone. The trails are also covered by large oak trees that provide some shade in the hot summer months. You can also paddle-board or kayak on the river as well, or spend your time laying out in the sun on Zilker Park!

There are also great hiking trails further out of the city with waterfalls and other water activities. I spent most of my elementary school summers near Barton Springs, with summer camps and other activities. The water is super cold but can be a great way to spend a hot afternoon. It’s free if you go before sunrise for a quick morning swim. 

Capitol Hill is quite nice as well. South Lamar has many shops that one could walk around for a bit to visit.

Of course, Austin’s nightlife is one of the most vibrant in the country, or so I’ve been told. I can’t say I’ve fully appreciated it. There’s 6th Street (don’t go during the day), and more recently: Rainey street.

Other attractions near Austin

If you have a car (or a friend who has a car), there are places around Austin that can be a fun day trip.

  • Bucky’s: This Costco-sized gas station is only on the east side of Texas, but their gas stations are enormous.
  • Lake Travis: Not that great after the recent years of droughts, but visiting and swimming is still a good time. My parents once rented out a boat for a few families, and it was a good summer activity. 
  • Ink’s Lake: A lake with a nice spot to jump off into the water.
  • Enchanted Rock: This giant rock in the middle of nowhere is a great hike for a mediocre view, but it’s still rewarding. If it’s in the summer, arrive early and maybe bring some picnic food cause the weather will be great.
  • New Braunfels lazy river: It’s excellent; I’ve only gone once but would go again.
  • NASCAR or shooting ranges: These activities seem to be hit or miss for most people.

Photo by Alex George on Unsplash

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