Looking to plan a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend with your sweetheart? Hightail it to Austin, where the lively local culture comes with enough romantic ideas to fill a 10-gallon hat.
Jo's South Congress. Credit Allison V. Smith.
Morning: Start on South Congress for an uber-authentic intro to Austin. Get your morning go-go juice at Jo’s, an indoor/outdoor coffee shack. Since it’s V-Day, indulge with a house special Iced Turbo, an oh-so-sweet concoction of coffee, espresso, hazelnut, chocolate and cream (No sweet tooth? Opt for the Belgian Bomber). But there’s something even sweeter about Jo’s: it happens to be home to Austin’s iconic “I love you so much” mural, at the corner of South Congress Avenue and James Street. Get a quick pic, then go for a leisurely stroll.
Mid-Day: After breakfast, practice your putt at Peter Pan Mini-Golf, a nostalgic slice of Americana smack in the middle of Austin. This 18-hole course has been packing them in since 1946. If the weather’s good (and it almost always is in February), walk the half-mile west to Zilker Park for a romantic picnic along the Colorado River or at the edge of scenic Barton Springs.
Evening: With all the posing, putting and picnicking, you’re likely to have worked up a cowboy-sized appetite. Head down Barton Springs Road and snag a table at Juliet, a nostalgic Italian eatery with a shaded patio and interior mood lighting. For dessert, hop over to Halcyon for table s’mores, then ramble down to Rainey Street for a nightcap or two at the rustic-chic Half Step or Clive, a swanky saloon.
Morning: Begin the day with a pancake flight at Snooze, savory southern-style cheese grits or one of the best raw bars in town at Hillside Farmacy, or mimosas at Arturo’s Underground Cafe (on Sundays they’re just $3 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. for “Heathen Happy Hour”).
Mid-Day: Create your own art crawl and visit vibrant galleries like the recently re-opened Contemporary Austin - Jones Center and the Blanton Museum. Pop into smaller, funkier downtown galleries like Wally Workman on West Sixth Street or Mexic-Arte on Congress Avenue. Squeeze in a spa treatment for two at milk + honey spa.
Evening: Your day of high art continues into the evening with an upscale dinner at Driskill Grill or The Carillon, where the food is a work of art all its own. If you’re still standing, head to Speakeasy — a late-night bowling alley-slash-nightclub with a roaring ’20s vibe. LGBTQ travelers may want to make a special stop at the gay-owned Hotel San Jose for a Frosé or cool Tokyo Mule beside the pool, where a DJ plays most weekend nights.
Courtesy of Sway.
Mid-Day: Head into the Hill Country for an afternoon of tours and tastings at Austin’s many breweries, wineries or distilleries. Options range from Deep Eddy and Treaty Oak in Dripping Springs to Salt Lick Cellars and Wimberley Valley Winery in Driftwood. Definitely save a stop for Jester King, an only-in-Austin farmhouse brewery specializing in wild ales and spontaneous fermentation — plus from-scratch pizzas to soak up all the beer.
Evening: Back in town, dine a la française under chandeliers on the patio of Justine’s Brasserie, or spice things up at the Thai-hot eatery Sway. Share boozy scoops of Mezcal Vanilla and Signature Bourbon ice cream for dessert at Prohibition Creamery. Finish off the evening — and your weekend — with a romantic movie at the Violet Crown Cinema, where you can cozy up in spacious, comfy seats while watching the best foreign and indie films on the big screen.