Stretch your travel dollars with this three-day itinerary of budget-friendly eats, sips and sees.
The Contemporary Austin Jones Center. Courtesy of The Contemporary Austin.
Wake up with a migas breakfast taco wrapped in a homemade tortilla at Veracruz All Natural food truck, named one of the "Top 5 Tacos in America" by Food Network.
Head over to the Brush Square Museums, a trio of free museums in the East Sixth Street National Register Historic District. The Susanna Dickinson Museum is the stone home of the only Anglo adult survivor of the Battle of the Alamo; the O. Henry Museum is the Victorian-style former residence of the famed short story writer; and the Austin Fire Museum is housed in the still active Fire Station #1, built in 1939.
Stop for lunch at the Cesar Chavez Food Truck Park, home to Dee Dee, authentic Northern Thai street food, and la Barbecue, where the house-smoked specialties include pulled pork sandwiches lightly sauced with its signature Bobby sauce.
Start your exploration of the Texas State Capitol Complex at the Texas Capitol Visitors Center. Housed in the renovated 1857 General Land Office Building that was originally used to store state land records, the Center features fascinating exhibits on the history of Texas and offers free guided tours of the Texas State Capitol.
Head a few blocks south to The Contemporary Austin at the Jones Center to view modern art in a renovated historic building. The admission fee includes same-day entry to The Contemporary Austin-Laguna Gloria, nestled on the Lake Austin waterfront. Formerly a private estate, the Mediterranean-style villa features rotating art exhibits and an outdoor sculpture park.
In the evening, do some two-stepping at Broken Spoke, an old-fashioned honky-tonk that’s been known as one of the best dance halls in Texas since 1964. Willie Nelson has performed here, along with other country legends like Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks. Dig into the popular chicken-fried steak during a free dinner show with live bands Tuesday - Saturday from 6-8 p.m.
Barton Springs Pool.
Fuel up for the day at Paperboy, a popular food truck with early-morning eats like sweet potato hash with braised pork belly and a poached egg.
Take a jog on the leafy 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake, which winds along shimmering waters and has picturesque views of Austin’s skyline. Or amble over to Zilker Park, a 360-acre oasis in the heart of downtown that’s the site of popular festivals and free music at the Hillside Theater, plus it’s home to Zilker Botanical Garden, Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum and the spring-fed Barton Springs Pool, a popular swimming spot.
Grab lunch nearby at the roadside Sandy’s Hamburgers, open since 1946. Of course, burgers are the specialty (try the double cheeseburger with fries), but don’t miss out on the frozen custard and frosty root beer.
Or head over to East Austin, a hot destination for great restaurants and sexy lounges. Cool off with a craft cocktail at The Hightower, which offers a daily happy hour. In the West Sixth area, toast the man in black at the divey Mean Eyed Cat, a Johnny Cash-themed bar that has a happy hour Monday - Friday.
Once the sun begins to set, line up on the Congress Avenue Bridge to witness a staggering 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats fly into the night sky from beneath the bridge, which takes place nightly from spring through fall.
Afterwards, try the tacos with handmade tortillas and hand-shaken margaritas at Güero’s Taco Bar on South Congress, where its Oak Garden features live music Wednesday - Sunday nights.
Rainey Street Entertainment District.
Praise the lard during the Sunday Gospel Brunch at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, an Austin music institution that serves up lip-smacking barbecue brisket and a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar, along with some of the best live bands around.
Work off that barbecue with a shopping stroll along South Congress, known for its funky stores and chic boutiques. Check out the kicks at Allens Boots, affordable jewelry by local artists at Parts & Labour, and unique antiques at Uncommon Objects.
Keep caffeinated with an iced Turbo from Jo's Coffee and snap a souvenir selfie with the “I love you so much” mural painted on the coffee bar’s wall. Then grab a slice-to-go at Home Slice Pizza, specializing in New York-style pies with creative toppings.
Continue your shopping spree in the trendy West Sixth District, where you can wander the bookshelves or listen to an author reading at BookPeople. Discover hard-to-find vinyl and see an in-store music performance at Waterloo Records. Snap a photo with the large-scale street art at HOPE Outdoor Gallery. And be sure to stop in at the Whole Foods Market flagship store and sip a glass of wine in the bar.
Have dinner and drinks on Rainey Street, a charming block of residential bungalows transformed into hip eateries and bars. You’ll be sure to make new friends at Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden, where the tables are communal, 100+ craft beers are served and the menu consists of sausages (ranging from wild game to veggie) cooked on a sizzling grill.